How many worlds are there?
I guess the typical understanding is that we all live in the same world. Everyone is living in the human world. However, each one of us actually experiences the world differently. If you just won the lottery today, the feeling and experience of walking through a luxurious mall will probably be quite different from what you experienced yesterday, when you had only 10 dollars in your wallet.
The above illustrates how our emotions and feeling influence our experience in this world. I guess the question is, “how can we be unmoved by external conditions and be in control of our emotional health?” how can we feel unbeaten by having only 10 dollars?
This is where some Buddhist principles and beliefs can come in handy.
Foremost, Buddhists believe that “less is more”. This is duly demonstrated by Prince Siddhartha when he gave away all his belongings on the night of his escape from palace life. What happens here is that Buddhists are taught to celebrate owning nothing. We do not perceive “having less” as a form of shame. Instead, it is a noble virtue; especially if it is done for a noble cause.
The above shift our attitude towards material wealth and it is actually a very vital attitude for survival since 2500 years ago.
1. This gives Buddhists the courage to stand up after losing material things in life.
Most of us probably fear losing our wealth and that is why we admire prince Siddhartha for renouncing wealth and status voluntarily; But beyond admiration, it also gave us a basis to be proud of owning nothing. Should that day happen (touch wood), we can simply remind ourselves about renunciation and not be crushed by the thought of losing. In fact, we can imagine ourselves in the shoes of Prince Siddhartha, the renunciant. It’s self-comforting or self consolation.
By not hating ourselves for the situation that we are in, we will have then have the energy to keep calm and carry on. (with our heads held up high)
2. It prevents that hungry eyes
This is very important because most people are threatened by hungry eyes. Perhaps it is a survival instinct that is embedded in our DNA. A reminder from our prehistorical existence when we have to fight off hungry invaders trying to rob us of our food.
In a social experiment, strangers tend to willingly give 10 dollars to a well dressed person instead of a shabbily dressed one. The body language captured by hidden cameras seems to suggest a sense of repulsion or fear towards “hungry looking” beggars.
When we do not perceive owning nothing as a shame, we can walk with our heads up. That means we don’t feel bad about it. Buddhist renunciants walk around with dignity. Buddha’s composure was so dignified that a king came out of his palace just to know who He is. This happened while Buddha was begging for food. Can you imagine how a person begging for food can be dignified?
How can this be relevant to us? Well, imagine losing your job and having little savings left. Then you are attending an interview for your next job. Do you want to appear confident or desperate? You have your answer. In fact, many negotiators will tell us that feeling desperate and low is bad for business.
So how do we feel rich?
Foremost, don’t attach too much emotion to possessing material wealth. This can be done by reminding ourselves about impermanence or the great renunciation, etc. Not saying that wealth is not important for laypeople, but it is more about maintaining our mental well-being. We position our minds so that we do not equate self-worth with our material possession.
However, grasping and clinging are part of our mental DNA. It is not easy to overcome that. So when we teach our mind to let go of something, it wants to take up another so that it can validly “feel proud” (Aka self-worth). In this case, we position ourselves to feel rich about our spiritual inheritance. We feel dignified for having heard dharma. Moreover, Dharma is precious, right? We can also feel validated for being a good but HUMBLE person. Yeah, being humble is also important for that job interview.
In summary, we can learn to feel rich for owning Dharma or virtue, instead of material wealth. They are the stuff that cannot be lost in life unless we give them up ourselves. By doing so, our self-worth is based on our inner qualities. As explained previously, a sense of self-worth that is without desperation helps us in life too. Hope you find this relevant.
May all be well and happy.