|Publisher:||New World Library|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)|
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Artha: The Prosperity Imperative
A jewel fell into the core of the heart Unlike any God gave to the seas or the sky.
Do you have a dream? A vision of possibility that calls to you and returns again and again? A divine inspiration that is yours to bring forth? As spiritual beings, we all have nudges from the infinite, glimpses of life's greater potentials. This is life's prosperity imperative. Those nudges are life's invitation to be the growing edge of divine love, to rise up and contribute to the evolutionary thrust for planetary awakening. Each person's call is unique — perhaps it's the desire to be a good parent and raise a healthy family, to start a nonprofit to save the bees or the whales, to write a book, or to build sustainable housing. The inspirations and potentials are as infinite as their Source. The common factor is the imperative to prosper, to thrive in a way that fulfills our potential by actualizing the divine qualities within us. The prosperity imperative is the call of becoming, of expressing our true Self in its fullness.
Divine qualities wait within us in seed form until they can blossom forth. Like any seed in nature, these spiritual potentials wait until conditions are right. Every divine idea requires a means of expression. What is needed to bring it into manifestation? How will it happen? What is the instrument for life's prosperity imperative? That instrument is artha, or wealth. In the context of purushartha, the four goals for a fulfilled life, artha is the wealth that goes hand in hand with the call to awaken. Its shining role is to support life's inherent, irrepressible demand to fulfill our potential and contribute to the happiness and well-being of others.
Dharma is the expression of one's inherent nature. It is a thing being what it is — a river flows, an ocean breaks into waves, a door opens and closes, a fruit tree blossoms and bears fruit. For humans, being as we truly are is to realize our essential spiritual nature and express it. Expressing, bringing forth possibility, contributing, revealing the divine, glorifying its presence — however we want to say it, that prospering activity arises from the creative power of the soul, which draws to itself whatever is needed to fulfill its purpose. That is artha. Prosperity provides the means to fulfill our divine potential; it's the vehicle for the divine dream to manifest.
It's no accident that artha sits on the right hand of dharma — higher purpose and the means to fulfill it are inseparable. Yet, time and again, we try to separate them by imagining enlightenment exists on an otherworldly plane where wealth cannot enter. It's the age-old split between Spirit and matter, or heaven and earth, a split that is now ready to be healed in this age of conscious evolution. Not only is the time ripe for healing this error in our thinking, it is necessary. If we are going to fulfill our potential, it's time to understand, befriend, and put wealth to good use. If we are going to stop plundering the earth and going to war over resources with our myopic, small self–centered actions, we need a higher vision — one that puts wealth into its proper service role. It's time to lift wealth into its higher potential on a personal and global scale.
We can turn to the riches of the Hindu tradition for a profound and beautiful image that portrays this higher vision. Sri Lakshmi, traditionally revered as the goddess of wealth, is one of the most popular images of Divine Mother. She is often portrayed either seated or standing on an eight-petaled lotus with golden coins flowing forth from her outstretched palm. When we see that divine image of Lakshmi with abundant material wealth flowing forth, we should also notice the open lotus blossom in her other hand, symbolizing the purity of awakened consciousness. In one hand, wealth. In the other, enlightenment. It is also helpful to know that Sri Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is the consort of Lord Vishnu. Vishnu is the divine One, the nurturer and preserver of all life, the protector of dharma and universal order. Lakshmi's role is to aid in the restoration of dharma. In this image of the goddess who symbolizes wealth, beauty, and the significance of dharma, we can see prosperity and spirituality hand in hand. That is the vision for our time. It's an outrageous vision, one that demands we heal the so-called split between Spirit and matter that has been around for thousands of years. Yet it is obvious that we're on the brink of that necessity and that possibility. Where do we begin?
Dharma is the foundation of this world; and there is nothing of greater value than dharma. But undoubtedly dharma requires money. Always, dharma is a factor in wealth; but wealth is to be grasped for securing the ends of dharma. ... And money cannot be had by begging, or by cowardice, much less by concentrating on dharma alone.
Susan told me her story of going to India to seek the guidance of a holy man. She had been on the "spiritual, but not religious," path for many years, dabbling in yoga and metaphysics. Once her kids were grown and on their own, she enjoyed having more free time to study, attend classes, and go on meditation retreats. She was happy; everything in her life seemed to flow with grace and ease. That is, until her husband unexpectedly suffered a heart attack and died. She was suddenly unmoored — understandably shocked and grieving. She was at a loss. How would she live? A radical inspiration came to her. A friend suggested she travel to a remote village in India and meet with a holy man who could guide her. Why not? she thought. What do I have to lose?
She made the long journey from her home in the United States and was granted a coveted private audience with the guru. What happened next changed her view about spirituality. The guru asked her, "What do you want?" Having been on the path for a while, she responded with what she considered the right answer, the sure cure for anyone's pain and problems: "I want enlightenment!"
The guru paused, smiled gently, and replied, "No, you want money."
The holy man told her to take care of her finances! She was at first taken aback, then embarrassed to feel the sting of what she knew was true. When her husband died, he left her with more debts than savings, and she had no source of income. Next, she felt relief, then inspiration, as she realized that her practical needs could be an integral part of her spiritual journey.
Susan and the hundreds of similar students I've worked with over the years inspired this book about artha, the life goal of wealth. The beginnings of my own journey on the path of yoga inspired it, too. Like many others I have known, I came to the spiritual path looking for a way to end my sorrow. I thought that meditation and spiritual practice would transport me to a "higher consciousness" where I would transcend my worldly difficulties. I could stop worrying about work, paying the bills, or harmony in my relationship by learning how to rise above mundane concerns. I would do something more important. I would become "spiritual" — an out-of-this-world idea of enlightenment.
I discovered that the spiritual path and practice of yoga does take us out of the world as we once perceived it, then sends us back into the world with a profoundly different view. The transformed viewpoint includes understanding that the spiritual life is not otherworldly at all. It's about being awake in the world, not "rising above it." By engaging in the world fully, we learn how to live skillfully — meeting our difficulties with wisdom and compassion, and thriving without falling asleep or losing our balance. Enlightenment is not about "becoming spiritual." It's discovering the truth that we are already spiritual and we can find freedom from sorrow right where we are. While we are at it, we can thrive and help others thrive along the way.
In the context of spiritual awakening, learning how to prosper is a path of transformation. Not just a utility, and not an option, prospering is our necessity, our way of awakening. The great nineteenth-century yoga master Lahiri Mahasaya, whose life was widely introduced to the West through Paramahansa Yogananda's seminal book Autobiography of a Yogi, remarked that the world is an auspicious place for sadhana, or spiritual practice. The conditions in our life right now are exactly what we need to help us wake up, grow up, and show up — to learn how to live with higher purpose and to develop skillful means. Our learning curve is our vehicle for awakening. As we engage, we grow and awaken. As we thrive, we transform. It's a revolutionary approach to wealth, one that challenges the old paradigm that wealth is separate from spirituality and only for a select few. It's a universal life goal. It's life's imperative, and it's available to everyone. Prospering is so much more than we think, and its importance and potential are so much more than we realize.
The Ancient Question
The universal question found in sacred texts throughout time is one that resounds in every awakening heart: Does material prosperity enhance and support, or distract and destroy, our spiritual life? It's a question well worth asking. Both the ancient and present-day answer is: It depends.
There is a tension, an inner conflict, that arises alongside our innate tendency to thrive, as timeless as the impulse itself. This tension is reflected in the abundance of spiritual or religious teachings that either praise wealth as a demonstration of goodness or warn us of its evil nature. Many sources do both at the same time. Plenty of religious dogma touts the dangers of money, all the while praising those who give generously. Even the Vedic texts that shine a bright light on the value of wealth and the necessity to acquire and use it also point out its shadow side. One verse says, "Not to know the importance of wealth is to remain in darkness; to have knowledge of the primacy of wealth is to have the light of understanding." Then another warns, "The wise look upon wealth as productive only of pain, and neither aspire for it, nor do they grieve at the loss of it." It's confounding. What is the right relationship between prosperity and spirituality? Is there one?
We don't have to look far to see how wealth in general, and money in particular, has garnered a bad name. We live in an out-of-balance world, where massive, incomprehensible wealth is concentrated in a few hands while millions go without the most basic human needs for food, clean water, and shelter. Corporate greed, which could be defined as choosing unbridled economic expansion over the health and well-being of people and the planet, is only too familiar. The United States is measured as the "wealthiest" nation in the world, yet we are not the happiest.
We stand in awe of self-made multimillionaires who invent the latest technological breakthrough in their garage. We applaud the entrepreneurial spirit that successfully prospers. We are inspired by the talent and wealth of sports heroes, movie stars, best-selling authors, and TED-Talking CEOs. At the same time, we honor those, like Mother Teresa and Cesar Chavez, who choose lives of self-denial in order to serve others. As much as we admire wealth, we are inclined to see the latter as the path of genuine spirituality, further widening and reinforcing the gap between wealth and the spiritual life.
The question of wealth and spirituality is one we must answer. As we do, we can affirm and demonstrate the evolutionary potential of humanity. The unprecedented humanitarian and environmental crises we face today pose a critical path for awakening. It's time to change our consciousness about scarcity and wealth, time to open the floodgates of compassion and generosity. Time to foster a new distribution system, one that provides enough for all to thrive.
What Does Thriving Require?
Some say wealth, and the power it brings, corrupts the human heart. Yet wealth is the necessary means for accomplishing good works, for turning possibilities into actualities. Like the spiritual path itself, our relationship with wealth is a razor's edge. Approached selfishly, without necessary insight, prosperity becomes an avenue of difficulty, taking us further away from the goal of liberation and leaving suffering in its wake. Approached consciously, and in the right way, prosperity becomes an avenue of freedom, a way to get beyond the limiting confines of our ego-based self, even as we sow seeds of happiness for others.
What does thriving require of us? What does it take to prosper and be successful in harmony with spiritual principles? It requires these five attributes, which correlate to the five parts of this book:
Higher purpose: We realize the essential connection between prosperity and purpose — why it's important to thrive and commit ourselves to it.
Insight: We know who we really are — the unfailing Source of our innate abundance, unconditional happiness, and divine destiny.
A skillful way: We discern how to live a prosperous, spiritually awakened life through contemplation, meditation, and joyful self- discipline.
Clarity: We use spiritual principles to overcome obstacles and optimize success.
Generosity: We discover how radical prosperity, generosity, and spiritual generativity can foster lasting fulfillment and positive change for generations to come.
Take heart. You are holding in your hands an artha manual — a time-tested guide to wealth with a spiritual perspective, wealth with the wisdom of the ages illuminating the way.CHAPTER 2
The jewel of abundance comes to those who are established in nonstealing.
— YOGA SUTRAS
What is true wealth, wealth that is real? In contemporary society, the definition of wealth usually defaults to material prosperity measured in economic terms — factors like money, socioeconomic status, investments, ownership, and inheritance. The wealthy are those who have money and the power that accompanies it. However, on a deeper level, most of us know that material wealth is incomplete or insufficient by itself. Financial wealth provides an easier or more comfortable life in certain respects, but it cannot buy health, lasting happiness, or love. Who can be truly wealthy without those life essentials? No one.
The great yoga master Paramahansa Yogananda defined wealth more broadly when he said, "Prosperity doesn't always mean having what you want, but having what is needed when it is needed." The measure of our wealth is our ability to be in the prosperous flow of resources that allow us to readily and abundantly do what we need to do, have what we need to have, and experience what we need to experience. True wealth is access to resources on all levels — physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. It is the expression of a harmonious relationship with Spirit, nature, and all of life. Those who know how to work with the spiritual laws of prosperity discover that lasting, sustainable wealth is not only possible, it is the natural, easeful expression of an awakened life.
The Basic Law of Wealth
Prosperity comes to us when we are established in nonstealing. This is the succinct guidance for thriving found in the Yoga Sutras, the primary text for yoga philosophy and practice compiled somewhere around the first to second century CE by the sage Patanjali. Throughout the centuries, gurus and scholars, both ancient and modern, have translated the Sanskrit aphorisms of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and added their commentaries. For this text, I have drawn from several different translations and added my own versions as well. You can find references for sources in the endnotes. Although most translations of the sutras are similar, they differ slightly in ways that reflect a particular teaching emphasis or writing style.
For example, sutra 2:37, quoted at the beginning of this chapter, is also translated, "When a man becomes established in abstention from theft, all wealth comes to him." In the two versions, prosperity is described in different ways — as "jewels" or as "wealth" — but it comes down to the same principle. That principle is nonstealing, the basic law of wealth. What are we to make of this? Not many of us seriously consider ourselves thieves. Bank robbing, shoplifting, or even fraudulent financial deals are not the norm. Why then is abstention from theft the pivotal point of prosperity? It takes deeper consideration of its basis, as well as contemplation of the subtle nuances of what can be considered theft, to discover its essential tie to our abundance.
The heart of the spiritual principle of nonstealing is Self-sufficiency. It rests on realizing who we are as spiritual beings — fully cognizant of our essential wholeness. Nonstealing practice proceeds from awareness of our innate fullness as expressions of the one, omnipresent Ultimate Reality. As spiritual beings, we are inseparable from the Source. Its wholeness is our wholeness. Its sufficiency is our sufficiency, and its wealth is our wealth. Aware of our own wholeness and our ability to attract necessary resources, we have no compulsion to steal or take what is not rightfully ours. This awareness illumines our relationship with others and with the world. It expresses itself in all levels of interaction, from the subtle realms of thought and feeling to the gross material expression of things.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Jewel of Abundance"
Copyright © 2018 Ellen Grace O'Brian.
Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
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