People tend to forget that both Gotama and Jesus were wandering ascetics. They were homeless and deliberately without property. “The birds have their nests, and the foxes their dens,” but not so Jesus or Gotama, and enough evidence suggests that they intended that their disciples should be likewise.

Yet even while householders and we moderns may not find ourselves able to follow the radical example of Gotama and Jesus, we recognize in their poverty and simplicity the truth that ultimately we own nothing, we control nothing, that nothing belongs to us. This is our identity with other beings in the universe, for does a tree or mountain or planet own anything? Even as we use the goods of this world (like a tree uses sunlight and rainfall and nutrients in the soil) we must admit to just temporarily borrowing things and having to give them up in the end. And we know that end, regardless of whatever individual tradition we follow. Are we not reminded facetiously that even the sun will expire in a few billion years?

Our lives should be a reflection on how we go about this “giving up,” little bits at a time, even as we go about our daily lives. Contrast modern culture, media, and self-help books that urge us to maximize our use of worldly goods and experiences, like insatiable gluttons. St. Augustine says somewhere that we should study how to die as much as how to live. Our lives should be a study on how free we can be if we do not cling to things, or at least begin giving things up now.