So apparently, some folks have made the long trek to Dharamasala, India, waiting for days to get an audience with the Dalai Lama to ask him this one question ("How do I become rich?")
And from what I've read, his response is a good hearty laugh and then the response of, "Give away everything you have!"
So that's the unadulterated dharmic perspective.
I can't speak for myself, but I watch my father who's made millions as a business man, and I see the same principle at work. He's one of the most generous people I know.
Upon retiring, he's spent the the past 10 - 15 years volunteering for the Japanese-American community with just about all his free time. From watching him, he spends about 40 - 60 hours a week volunteering his time.
When the Japanese experienced the earthquake and tsunami in 2011, he led a campaign that raised nearly 1.5 million dollars on behalf of the victims.
He's also donated blood every other month for the past 20+ years.
So that's what I see: generosity begets wealth.
There's also a different kind of wealth, right?
I've been inwardly rich. I'm at peace with myself most of the time. I attribute that to the fact that I've tried to be generous with whatever insights and learnings I've gained through my own spiritual pursuits and practices. I've freely given away and shared with others whatever inward accomplishments I am able to share and offer to others. Within reason, of course.
This kind of inner peace is a form of wealth. If you want to feel rich, you can either increase what you own, or you can decrease your desires. Or both. The latter is important too.
Another kind of "wealth" is a sense of emotional safety in this world.
Some people lose their temper easily. They dump and vent their frustrations on anyone around them that they feel they can. None of those people I know has any deep sense of emotional safeness in this world. In other words, they lack emotional abundance, if you will.
So sometimes I run into people like this. In just about every case, I think of getting angry back at them, and before, I used to. Or at the very least, I would try to argue back. Or "point something out" to them that they don't seem to be seeing.
But for the most part nowadays, I don't. I just let them vent, and if I can find fault in myself, I tell them about it.
If I sense that reasoning with them won't get anywhere, I don't bother. If I feel the need to say something, I will, but most of the time, they're just wrapped up in fear. So, I just try to think of something nice to say, and if I need to walk away, I walk away. I try to let them "win."
It doesn't feel good for me afterwards most of the time. I'm not a saint.
But I think of this as a form of generosity. Emotional generosity. They're basically scared and want to feel safe.
And my upset feelings pass anyways. It's not a big deal.
Almost always, they realize what they've done afterwards. Half the time, they apologize to me. Or I see their look of shame around me in the days following.
It rarely happens a second time. They know that I'm safe.
What I get in return is that my world feels safe to me. I live in an emotionally safe reality. That's part of my wealth.
So it's the same principle: (emotional) generosity begets (emotional) wealth.
So if generosity is the root of wealth (or one is willing to entertain that idea), a good starting question might be, how do I grow in this capacity for generosity?
I'm not sure the answer, actually, because I don't think it's simply a matter of brute-forcing one's way with generosity. And I can't just follow the Dalai Lama's suggestion, nor do I want to (yet).
But one important partial answer for me has been this: I try my best to surround myself with people who are generous and open-hearted.
Because (1) they inspire me to be similarly generous and open-hearted and (2) it feels good to give to them, which motivates me to further continue sharing what I have to share.
Without those people in my life, I think that I would eventually clamp down. Slow to a trickle.
An example: It sucks (to me) to keep opening and holding the door for people who don't seem to show any appreciation. If that's all there were, I'd likely stop doing it. But there are enough people in this world who say "thank you" and keep me motivated in doing that.
And that's what the people I hold close to me do for me. They receive what I have to offer, which keeps me motivated to giving and sharing, even if many others don't receive what I have to offer, or show any appreciation.
They remind me of the goodness of sharing. Of being kind. And so on and so forth. They're the constant reminders of a particular way of being.
Naturally, it's not simply a matter of the people around us.
Most of us are happier when we're able to find whatever talents and capacities we have to bear upon the world around us.
So it's important to look for that because things are constantly changing. We're changing and so is the world. The whole thing is in flux. And so one can't stay fixed on some form.
And yet the intent is to find ways to give, to help others.