If we scrutinize all the religions come across, in some way, a mixture between spiritual teachings and money. Jesus tried to fight this mixture with all His strengths. Celebrated is the episode of the driving merchants out of the temple. The first serious tentative to arrest Him happened on the occasion of this circumstance.
The history is full of episodes which tell how people of church exploited religion for personal aims, in order to make money and get power. Before the Lutheran reformation the Catholic Church used to sell the “Indulgences”. People who could afford to pay money to the Church obtained the remission of sins and a ticket for going directly to the Paradise. If someone dared to oppose to the power of the Church would excommunicate and in the serious cases would send to the stake. They had changed Jesus into an inquisitor monk!
At the outbreak of the French Revolution the two main powers were the nobility and clergy. In the ancient Egypt the Pharaoh was revered as a God. The same happened in Rome where the emperor was considered divine. In the Middle Age kings, like Charlemagne, were crowned from the Popes. If they were not subjected to the Pope’s will were excommunicated. Famous is the case of Friedrich II of Swabia who was excommunicated twice because refused to go to the crusades.
All Religions, more or less, have been trying to take advantage from the wish of spirituality rooted in every human being, but no Religions, first of all the Catholic, have ever dared to prevent people from entering the churches if they did not pay money. They have been always open to the public, rich and poor.
I believed the Buddhist Religion was immune from the mixture religion-power-money. In fact the founder Lord Buddha was an example of purity. He gave up his wealth in order to search for something much more important than money. Furthermore I had visited many monasteries in Thailand, Nepal, and India, seeing how the monks live. In Thailand the monks do not cook their food, eat only once a day and beg food carrying a bowl behind their shoulders.
Unfortunately in the west countries there are some kinds of Religion where the teachings are given to people who pay for them. You are not allowed in the temple, for receiving the teachings, if don’t pay. If you want to meditate have to pay 12 dollars, if the teachings last all day long you have to pay 60 dollars. I have worked out that the amount of money collected in the span of a month is stunning. This is religion? I don’t think so. Someone could retort: “The monks and nuns have to live, so they need money for living”. “Yes” I would answer “they need money for living, but the way how they make money is wrong. It is not correct to sell the spiritual teachings. They might ask for money in a different way, for instance in the form of donation. Instead I have seen nuns placed behind a desk, in the forecourt of the temple for cashing money as if they were behind a counter of a supermarket. They have changed the Religion into a center of business!”
I don’t know if the problem of the mixture Religion – money – power will be ever resolved, maybe not, but, at least I hope nobody in the years to come will be crucified or burnt in the stake for having dared to raise the issue.
The book I have written is “Travels of the Mind”. My website is www.ettoregrillo.com