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Money is not Wealth

--by Alan Watts (Jul 14, 2014)



Money is a way of measuring wealth but is not wealth in itself. A chest of gold coins or a fat wallet of bills is of no use whatsoever to a wrecked sailor alone on a raft. He needs real wealth, in the form of a fishing rod, a compass, an outboard motor with gas, and a female companion. But this ingrained and archaic confusion of money with wealth is now the main reason we are not going ahead full tilt with the development of our technological genius for the production of more than adequate food, clothing, housing, and utilities for every person on earth.

It is not going to be at all easy to explain this to the world at large, because mankind has existed for perhaps one million years with relative material scarcity, and it is now roughly a mere one hundred years since the beginning of the industrial revolution. As it was once very difficult to persuade people that the earth is round and that it is in orbit around the sun, or to make it clear that the universe exists in a curved space-time continuum, it may be just as hard to get it through to “common sense” that the virtues of making and saving money are obsolete.

It is an oversimplification to say that this is the result of business valuing profit rather than product, for no one should be expected to do business without the incentive of profit. The actual trouble is that profit is identified entirely with money, as distinct from the real profit of living with dignity and elegance in beautiful surroundings.

To try to correct this irresponsibility by passing laws would be wide of the point, for most of the law has as little relation to life as money to wealth. On the contrary, problems of this kind are aggravated rather than solved by the paperwork of politics and law. What is necessary is at once simpler and more difficult: only that financiers, bankers, and stockholders must turn themselves into real people and ask themselves exactly what they want out of life — in the realization that this strictly practical and hard–nosed question might lead to far more delightful styles of living than those they now pursue. Quite simply and literally, they must come to their senses — for their own personal profit and pleasure.

Alan Watts was profoundly influenced by Vedanta and Buddhism, and by Taoist thought. In 1957 he published his bestselling Way of Zen, and in 1958 returned to Europe where he met with CG Jung. By the late sixties he had become a counter culture celebrity, and traveled widely to speak at universities and growth centers across the US and Europe. By the early seventies Alan Watts had become a leading interpreter of Eastern thought for the West. This passage was excerpted from 'Does it Matter? Man's Relation to Materiality.'

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On Jul 11, 2014 Kristin Pedemonti wrote:

Wealth is so much more the money. Wealth is friends, Wealth is health. Wealth is Experiences that bring you illumination, fulfillment, enjoyment. Wealth is not a big bank account, but rather being rich in doing what you love and loving what you do. I am fortunate to have understood this lesson early in life. At age 37 I left my full-time job to pursue being a full-time freelance Cause Focused Storyteller. About 30 days later, I sold my small home & most of my possessions to create a volunteer literacy project in Central America (upon invitation from a local who saw a talent in me I could not yet see) The project evolved into serving 33,000 students with free programs and training 800 teacher how to use their own cultural stories in their classrooms. It evolved still over time to volunteering in Kenya, Ghana and most recently Haiti, collecting real life stories from artisans, educators, entrepreneurs, farmers, fishermen, and students to break stereotypes and change the pity/poverty view of the developing world to the Potential and Possibility view. Until just a few weeks ago, i drove a 13 year old car until it died. I live simply, eat simply, but enjoy Deeply. It is possible, it is all about choices. Thank you for sharing Alan Watts, I LOVE his work. Here's to all of us realizing that indeed Wealth is so much more than money. HUG.



On Jul 11, 2014 Jagdish P Dave wrote:

 As I was growing up in a poor Hindu family, i knew the difference between money and wealth. Every morning, my mother used to chant in Sanskrit in her melodious voice. I loved sitting beside her chanting with her and deeply feeling the peaceful and joyful presence of my mother. The meaning of the chant has stayed in my heart. It means: When you wake up, hold your hand in front of your face and always remember: Laxmi, the Goddess of wealth, resides on on the top of your hand. At the bottom, resides Saraswati,  the Goddess of learning and wisdom and Govinda, Krishna, the incarnation of God, is in the middle. This chant has had a deep impact on me. In order to be happy, one needs to have the wisdom to earn and use the money and resources wisely. We did not have  a lot of money and luxurious things like our neighbors had but we were happy with what we had. We felt deeply connected with each other, cared for each other, were contented with what we had, and related to our neighbors like they were a part of our extended family. We were wealthy but not rich materially.

When we came to the USA, we kept the art of living the same way we were living in India. Living from within in accord with the core values of life has been a guiding light for us. How to relate to the human and natural resources wisely, unselfishly, lovingly, compassionately and gratefully is a challenge for all of us.Money driven life does not create the inner affluence and wealth, the joy of living and sharing our gifts with others and living a fulfilling life. It is my observation that we value achievement more than fulfillment. Achievement is outer directed, fulfillment is inner directed. Achievement is other dependent, fulfillment is inner dependent. I am striking a balance between these two orientations. The two do not need to be opposing each other.  Every morning as I wake up wake up, I hear my mom's loving voice. The voice that has guided me to be  contented, peaceful and joyful-happy. To me, this is an ongoing journey and I am happy to go through it. How wonderful it is to feel the presence of some one who gave birth to me, nourished me and is still lovingly guiding me! I bow to you, my dear mom!
 
Namaste to all.

Jagdish P Dave



On Jul 11, 2014 Kristin Pedemonti wrote:

 Namaste and HUGS to you, thank you so much for your thoughtful response and how & what your mother spoke of; powerful. Here's to us all finding balance and in realizing the inner fulfillment is deeply important to how we exist in this world. May we all serve each other to the best of our ability. HUG



On Jul 13, 2014 Abhishek wrote:

 To me. economics and our skewed understanding of it is at the heart of our challenges....we have locked up value, as well as our capacity to create it by attaching a 'price' to it, while, in fact, it is the most human thing to give and create value for others, and enjoy the process....

WIth gift economy, parallel currencies and generosity, this system can be hacked! :)



On Jul 14, 2014 david doane wrote:

Financially, wealth means having a lot of money.  Other than financially, wealth means 'having' or being in love, peace, and good health.  Dignity is a sense of self worth, recognizing and honoring that one is an expression of the Divine.  Elegance is to live true to my truth and to behave and carry myself as such.  Beautiful surroundings means a healthy natural world, which we take care of because it is us, it is beautiful, and it too is sacred.  I've come to realize that the real profit or wealth in life is living with that kind of dignity and elegance in an environmentally healthy world.  What I want out of my life is to abide in dignity and elegance in the beautiful surroundings of a healthy world, and for my children and all others to do the same.  I and we have a long way to go. 



On Jul 14, 2014 Cindy wrote:

 How lovely all the shares I have read....I feel wealthy because I am alive.  May I always appreciate the grace of being alive.  So many are not fortunate to feel alive, healthy, free.  Free to be me.  Money is a protection of sorts.  Faith and a trust that goes beyond material assets is the sweetness of a child's love and appreciation of waking up to a new day.  This is wealth!  Being aware of the moment and thankfully grateful ... This too is wealth!



On Jul 14, 2014 Nihal S Agar wrote:

 How lucky have you been Jagdish ji. I have similar background. My mother and father knew no Sanskrit slokas; they were uneducated simple village farmers in India; they taught me by their living examples the moral, cultural, religious and spiritual values that are still keeping me going in Australia. That is my real wealth; my achievement in society is secondary and temporary.My other wealth is a good health and a circle of friends.



On Jul 15, 2014 Barb wrote:

 Beautiful commentary and reflections.  Thank you for sharing your memories.



On Jul 15, 2014 Vik wrote:

Try living a day without wealth and you will see you need wealth to try to live without wealth. 



On Jul 15, 2014 Marlene wrote:

 
Although we need money to live, we cannot let it be the sole focus point in our lives. Rather strive to live from the heart, show that you care, give some your time/love/laugh because it doesn't cost anything. When someone dies, no money in the world can bring him back or fill that empty space.



On Jul 15, 2014 Miranda wrote:

 I like it except, the part where Alan write that a man needs a woman companion... that's pretty limiting and assumptive on his part...  might it have been more inclusive to write "a person needs love".  Namaste.



On Jul 15, 2014 Kinjal wrote:

 Thank you for sharing the reading of the week with me. Before I went to bed last night, I set this as my morning (first thing after I wake up) reading. Of course we've heard it before - Money is not wealth. But just like many other things we hear, we read and it gets lost in the myriad of other real meaningful things that we should know and practice in order to leave a truly wealthy life. Today I shall carry this thought with me everywhere I go, keep it with me while I meet everyone that I do today. And at night I am going to reflect on it again.

But yes, just like the sailor, Ive found myself "poor" at times when what I really want is to be around family and all I am surrounded by are four empty walls. The photo frames and the art work will do nothing in making me feel better even though they add to my wealth or esthetics of my room.

Thank you all for taking the time to read my reflection. Have a great day.,



On Jul 15, 2014 Suellen wrote:

 Namaste,thank you for  all the beautiful 
posts, as my first teacher by book, Leo Buscalia,
I have am living , learning and loving from each of u .



On Jul 15, 2014 adamsmith wrote:

 I like the intent, but have to disagree with the presentation. You are absolutely right that money is not wealth. Your definition of wealth is spot on, however your definition of money is as flawed as those that you accuse of confusing the two. The liberating definition of money is: “a medium to store and exchange value”. The beauty of this definition is that it becomes clear that wealth (the things that we have, seek and value) can be saved and exchanged to allow everyone the chance to become and stay wealthy throughout our lives. The problem in the current world is that the medium of money is of no intrinsic value (essentially as valuable as a small nicely printed piece of paper at most, a couple of micro-watt hours in a computer at least). The current medium is corrupted by governments and financial institutions that assume the authority to create it at their own discretion. The more they create and inflate the supply the less its value. Money must be returned to a real and incorruptible medium – gold. Yes the shipwrecked sailor can’t eat gold on a deserted island – but that’s a facetious analogy. Money only exists in the context of human society and there is no society on a deserted island. The young (full of energy and health) gather and use money to build wealth, and the old exchange their wealth to support them as their energy and health declines.



On Jul 16, 2014 Vik wrote:
You are so right. We have not evolved overnight. You are a big talk and it will sell. Please keep doing it. If you are making money with these ideas- more power to you. I will take a good health, smart education and blessing by having kids over money anytime. You have a good audience and I hope they pay you for your beautiful thoughts. 
 

On Jul 16, 2014 Leena Desai wrote:

 very beautifully expressed and so true



On Jul 18, 2014 David Pearlman wrote:

Absolutely beautiful. While I was born and raised in the US-I did go to India. On the flight home, I was sitting next to an Indian Gentleman who reminded me of my grandfather. He mentioned that in India, (Hindu particularly), doing things they way they are done in the west, such as earning money are fine, but in Hindu-they are also taught to look inward.  



On Aug 13, 2014 me wrote:

 Upon news that a "favorite actor' of ours  took his life recently, our son (16) remarked, "Why would a man take his life like that when it "appears" he has it all?"   Wealth, for some, would simply be to HAVE mental health.  Rich and famous I would not like to be!   (Oh the price one pays to walk a path he/she shouldn't be on in the first place.)
Heaven is the "wealth" I seek.  Praying for this special man . . . and all suffering the effects of depression.  Amen. 



On Aug 20, 2014 Rebecca McCarty wrote:

 Wealth is a word whose history is long, entomology tells us it is akin to the words..."well", as in "well-being", to feel good,  or to "well-up" in abundance, a "well" of water; to the word "will"...meaning to desire or want, and to the word "weal" as in the common-wealth or common-weal or "good". Wealth is a word analogous to the word health, which is related to the words..."whole" and  "hale" both of which are related to the word "holy".

We understand by this, do we not, that wealth then, is different than money. That wealth, at least in it's origins, meant "that which is good", "that which makes one feel whole, complete", " that which gives satisfaction to one's desires".

Wealth, by this definition, can be measured, but surely, only subjectively, personally. Contrary to popular belief, there can not any standard unit of measure for wealth, but must be as many units of measure, as there are different solutions rendering satisfaction to our collective personal desires. Money could be a unit, if getting a lot of money is the object of desire, a lot of it would satisfy (theoretically). However if money is not what I desire, if acquiring money does not satisfy desire,  if it does not bring me well-being, does not engender in me a sense of wholesomeness, it is an unsatisfactory unit of measure for wealth. The question I find I must ask myself, is this: by what standard do I, personally, measure wealth?

When the world was more agrarian in nature, where one way wealth was measured, was by the size of the manure/ compost pile, accumulated, behind the barn in winter... because the fertilizer it represented, equaled the amount of food a person could produce in the next season. Being a farmer, I tend to measure my material wealth this way, by the size of my hay pile, by the size of my garden...however I count my total wealth as being much more than just material "things"...the spiritual side of my nature takes measure of it also, and not by material standards.That part of me feels wealthy ,when I have a realization that helps me on the path of inner development. I feel wealthy when I am able to forgive others for actions that have offended me, or to help others, when I am able to work together for an abundant and peaceful way of life. This aspect of my life gives me more satisfaction than accumulating "things".

What has happened to us human beings, that we so covet money? Does it seem to satisfy? How have we, slowly, overtime, been conditioned to so closely equate money with wealth?  To think if we lack money we lack wealth, Isn't there is a difference between money and wealth for you?  There is for me. I suspect there is a difference between money and wealth for many people. How can we begin to notice this difference, separate the two from each other,and in our daily lives...and begin to govern our thinking and hence our actions, according to this understanding. Saying to a dollar: "this is money", and to saying to that which truly gives us a sense of fulfillment: "this is wealth".



On Aug 20, 2014 Rebecca McCarty wrote:

 Wealth is a word whose history is long, entomology tells us it is akin to the words..."well", as in "well-being", to feel good,  or to "well-up" in abundance, a "well" of water; to the word "will"...meaning to desire or want, and to the word "weal" as in the common-wealth or common-weal or "good". Wealth is a word analogous to the word health, which is related to the words..."whole" and  "hale" both of which are related to the word "holy".

We understand by this, do we not, that wealth then, is different than money. That wealth, at least in it's origins, meant "that which is good", "that which makes one feel whole, complete", " that which gives satisfaction to one's desires".

Wealth, by this definition, can be measured, but surely, only subjectively, personally. Contrary to popular belief, there can not any standard unit of measure for wealth, but must be as many units of measure, as there are different solutions rendering satisfaction to our collective personal desires. Money could be a unit, if getting a lot of money is the object of desire, a lot of it would satisfy (theoretically). However if money is not what I desire, if acquiring money does not satisfy desire,  if it does not bring me well-being, does not engender in me a sense of wholesomeness, it is an unsatisfactory unit of measure for wealth. The question I find I must ask myself, is this: by what standard do I, personally, measure wealth?

When the world was more agrarian in nature, where one way wealth was measured, was by the size of the manure/ compost pile, accumulated, behind the barn in winter... because the fertilizer it represented, equaled the amount of food a person could produce in the next season. Being a farmer, I tend to measure my material wealth this way, by the size of my hay pile, by the size of my garden...however I count my total wealth as being much more than just material "things"...the spiritual side of my nature takes measure of it also, and not by material standards.That part of me feels wealthy ,when I have a realization that helps me on the path of inner development. I feel wealthy when I am able to forgive others for actions that have offended me, or to help others, when I am able to work together for an abundant and peaceful way of life. This aspect of my life gives me more satisfaction than accumulating "things".

What has happened to us human beings, that we so covet money? Does it seem to satisfy? How have we, slowly, overtime, been conditioned to so closely equate money with wealth?  To think if we lack money we lack wealth, Isn't there is a difference between money and wealth for you?  There is for me. I suspect there is a difference between money and wealth for many people. How can we begin to notice this difference, separate the two from each other,and in our daily lives...and begin to govern our thinking and hence our actions, according to this understanding. Saying to a dollar: "this is money", and to saying to that which truly gives us a sense of fulfillment: "this is wealth".



On Aug 21, 2014 AJVB wrote:

 Lovely Rebecca!  Amen.
My thought, simply: When I see a person with oodles (in terms of earthly "wealth") but poor in faith (as in Jesus) my heart aches.  Give us this day our daily bread . . . Jesus.  What an eternal investment!  Without JESUS, we have absolutely NOTHING.



On Aug 26, 2014 Paul wrote:

True wealth in my own view is a deep connection to all beings and all things. It cannot and should not be purchased. It is obtained and not bought. It is given freely and not sold. True currency is our connection to people that value the same things. It is an agreement that says I will be there with what I have and who I am to assist you in whatever you need. If I cannot do this then hopefully I have a connection to someone who can. It means we have to value our relationships more than we value our money. Because if money is the only thing that binds us, we will be lost to each other when the money is gone.