In First Timothy, the Apostle Paul stated that, “Money is the root of all evil.” This verse has been interpreted in many ways, but as yogis, how are we to understand it? Does this mean that money is inherently evil and to be avoided at all costs, or is Paul referring to a certain state of consciousness which lusts over all the things which money can buy? Money, by itself, is neither good nor bad. It is simply a medium of exchange, or a measure of value. Money can, however, be used for evil purposes, as well as for good. If one applies the understanding that money can be used to improve the spiritual and economic welfare of the less fortunate among us, then let that person be filthy rich. On the other hand, if one uses money exclusively for self-aggrandizement, then he is probably better off without any riches.
Many multi-millionaires and billionaires have died alone, disheveled, niggardly, unloved, despised, malnourished, and racked with pains caused by stress and anxiety over their money. One fellow even got on his knees and begged his doctor to prolong his life at least for a few more weeks. Why? Were there loved ones in his life whom he was anxious to see one last time before passing away? No, he had a big deal in the works, and he couldn’t stand the idea of passing away before closing the deal. As if closing that deal would help him one iota at the time of death. So, when it came to money, these millionaires appeared to be extremely rich and played happy, but in other areas of life, they were poor beggars.
One definition of rich is: “abundantly supplied with resources, means, or funds.” In other words, wealth, or richness, is not limited to how much money one has. There are many other resources and means that we have at our disposal. To be rich and happy is to possess a multifaceted gem. The size of your bank account or the number of possessions you own are just two rather insignificant facets of that gem.
Below, are 10 other resources, or facets, which increase a person’s wealth? Yoga and meditation often makes it easier for us to cultivate these valuable assets.
- Focus and Concentration
Yoga and meditation help us develop our power to focus and concentrate. These are important skills in any endeavor, whether material or spiritual. Concentration allows us to visualize our goal, and the means to attain it. Focus gives us one-pointed laser like attention toward achieving that goal. Some people claim that if you are able to clearly visualize your goal, whether it be a mansion on the beach, winning the super bowl, or merging into the cosmic white light, then that goal will manifest itself. But have you ever noticed that it doesn’t work quite that way? Not only do you need to visualize the goal, you also need to visualize a means of attaining it. Then you need to get off your tail and go work it with one-pointed focus. After a lot of hard work, and a little good karma, your goal will be attainable. This applies to spiritual endeavor which involves gaining the real wisdom for life.
- Self-Satisfaction or Contentment
In his book Walden, Henry David Thoreau stated: “A man is rich and happy in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.” Similarly, the ancient Greek philosopher, Epicurus, stated: “Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” Yoga and meditation begin to open up a rich and fulfilling inner life. That inner life is connected with the all-satisfying, eternal, and infinite Source of Life. One who is feeling satisfied from within is called atmarama, and such a person has a stockpile of inner wealth, thus she will have few external wants.
- Patience and Perseverance
In an instant gratification society, patience and perseverance are good qualities to cultivate. John Quincy Adams said that they “have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” In yoga, impatience can very easily result in injury and/or frustration, compelling the practitioner to give up. Most of us have experienced that things are difficult before they become easy. Remember trying to walk as a toddler? With a little patience and perseverance, the seemingly impossible becomes possible.
The first time a friend tried the forward bend, she could barely get her hands beyond her knees. I was thinking, “Okay, we better find another form of exercise for her.” But she refused to give up. With patience, perseverance and time, she
gradually lowered her hands down to her ankles, then to the top of her feet, then to the toes, then to the floor, and finally she was able to place her palms on the floor. It took several months and a lot of effort, but she persevered and pulled off what appeared to be an impossible task.
So it is with the rest of life. Many good things will come our way. We simply need to be patient enough to allow them, and aware enough to recognize them. The chicken comes by allowing the egg to hatch, not by smashing it. Similarly, we don’t harvest a crop immediately after sowing the seeds. It takes time, and patience.
We’ve all heard the adage “Health is Wealth.” And many a debilitated millionaire would happily give up their bank accounts in exchange for good health. Yoga and meditation improve the health of our body mind, and spirit. Need we say more?
- Peace and Serenity
Plato once said that “no wealth can make a bad man at peace with himself.” People cannot be materialistic and selfish and, at the same time, expect to enjoy peace and harmony for themselves, their family, society or the world at large. For the world to be peaceful, its individuals need to be experiencing peace from within. Yoga and meditation techniques tend to reduce stress, tension and anxiety and promote a calm and tranquil mind. This is useful, but can be temporary. On a deeper level, however, meditation and compliance with yoga principles can bring us lasting inner peace by linking us with the Prince of Peace, the Cause of all causes.
We learned that one definition of rich is: “abundantly supplied with resources, means, or funds.” In other words, wealth, or richness, is not limited to how much money one has. There are many other resources and means that we have at our disposal. To be rich is to possess a multifaceted gem. The size of your bank account or the number of possessions you own are just two rather insignificant facets of that gem. Below, are 5 other resources, or facets, which increase a person’s wealth…? Yoga and meditation often makes it easier for us to cultivate these valuable assets.
We all know of at least a few movie stars and rich industrialists, who externally seemed to be happy and enjoying the “high life,” but who also had a nagging feeling that something was missing. Michael Jackson, Anna Nicole Smith, Elvis Presley, Howard Hughes, Freddie Prince, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Marilyn Monroe and so many others all struggled for many years with legal and illegal drug addictions.
Many of them ended up killing themselves, intentionally or through drug overdoses. These people firmly believed that money, fame, sex, mansions, and fancy cars and restaurants would make them happy. But it didn’t, so they became purposeless and despondent.
Yoga and meditation lifestyle teach us to find our happiness within, by linking up and uniting with the Source of all happiness. Additionally, they teach us that happiness is also found in caring and working for the welfare of others. Ironically, that happiness which eludes us when we seek it for ourselves, magically appears when we engage in selfless service of others.
In general, we tend to identify ourselves with our race, nationality, religion, gender, sexual preference, and other designations of our material body. We do not know that as spiritual living entities we are all of the same essence, and that these bodily designations have nothing to do with our real identity. Being in ignorance, we like to divide ourselves up, according to our designations, and hate the others.
But, actually, deep down inside, we all want to live in a peaceful, harmonious society where people respect each other regardless of their race or religion or other apparent differences. We’d like our children to peacefully roam the streets without any fear of getting hurt. We’d like to be friends with our neighbors, and peacefully interact with others in the community, to feel brotherhood with all of humanity. But, our strong identification with these temporary bodies, and a long history of hating those with different kinds of bodies, makes it extremely hard for us to break the mold. In this connection, a yogi once said that self-realization is the greatest service one can render the world, because it helps us rise above the stereotypes and sectarianism.
Many transcendentalists say we cannot attain self-realization from listening to others or reading books. We must apply the meditation and yoga principles that we’ve heard and read. With serious application and divine grace, we will, in due time, experience self-realization. This is true in most cases, but if we are fortunate enough to come in contact with a totally self-realized soul or guru who has dedicated 100% of his life to serving the divine, or if we discover pure, unaltered revealed scripture, and we develop unflinching faith in them, then it is possible for us to experience truth by the means of aural reception. In other words, we hear the truth from the proper authorities, the Super soul in our heart confirms those truths from within, and thus, those truths become realized.
Along with the experience of self-realization, comes knowledge of our spiritual essence, and of our position and function in the grand scheme of things. We will also experience a blissfulness that is beyond anything experienced in this world. This blissfulness, or Ananda, is independent of, and far greater than any worldly sensory experience. It satiates the cravings of the soul, allows us to experience the inner peace we have longed for, and gives us the vision to see the true spiritual nature and brotherhood of all living beings. Only with this kind of vision, can we successfully contribute to making the world a more peaceful and harmonious place to live.
When asked about wealth, a contemporary author stated, “Wealth is defined in many ways, yet freedom might be its best indication.” Freedom is loosely defined as a state of being where we can do what we want because we want, and not have to act out of necessity or coercion. Nor will our actions be limited or constrained in any way. Well, right off, that eliminates most of us, because we have to go to work out of necessity, not necessarily because we want to. But when you get right down to it, nobody is free in the truest sense of the word. At the very least, we all have constraints on what we can and cannot do. They are called laws. Thus, within the frames of the social and natural laws, we must choose the liberties which are most important to us.
As we progress on the path of yoga, our perception of people and things begin to change a little. We start viewing the world differently, and gradually we begin to think outside the box which had confined us for so long. Different options, different opportunities, different freedoms unfold before us. Then we begin to feel a new higher purpose for life and a vest and vigor to fulfill that purpose.
The advanced yogi considers the greatest freedom is to link up with the Supreme in will and purpose. As we surrender ourselves to the love and mercy of the Supreme, the reactionary bondage (karma) of our past activities begin to fade away. Burdens which once seemed insurmountable evaporate into nothingness. Compulsions, addictions, unreasonable fears, despair and anger pass away, and joy comes back into our lives. But, there is one requirement for all these things to come about—we need to attain a humble state of mind, be able to admit our faults, act sincerely, minimize anger and receive forgiveness from the Supreme. Then, having been forgiven of our faults, we become tolerant of the faults of others and thus live in peace and harmony with all people.
In the Vedic literatures, this world is sometimes compared to the mud and muck of a dirty pond. The mud represents the common ground that all humans share, whether we are filthy rich or dirt poor, we all are confronted with the miseries of sadness, pain, loss, disease, old age, dying and death. Miraculously, though, perhaps the most beautiful flower of all grows up and thrives in the midst of the mud and muck. The long stem of the lotus flower rises above the muck and the flower opens its pedals one by one. Thus, this wonderful flower thrives in the midst of the muck, but is untouched by it all.
Similarly, beautiful white swans gracefully glide through the pond’s mucky water, untouched by the filth and contamination. They approach the lotus flowers and have the capability to discriminately suck nectar from its stem, rejecting all other substances.
A yogi is sometimes compared with a lotus flower. Although he lives in the world of muck and misery, he begins to separate himself from the selfish actions which lead to more miseries. Instead, he tries to develop a caring and compassionate attitude towards others and engages in selfless service for their benefit.
The swan is compared with the topmost of all yogis. Such a person is called a Paramahamsa, or swan-like devotee. He travels through the material world untouched by its attractions, allurements, traps and miseries. Instead, he is able to extract and freely distribute the nectar which we are always anxious. He feels pain, but his pain is caused by compassion for the suffering of others and he wants to relieve their suffering condition. But, he also understands that compassion for the material body alone does not provide a lasting solution. As long as we misidentify the body as ourselves, we are destined to repeatedly endure the sufferings associated with bodily awareness. Therefore, in addition to compassion for our bodily suffering, the enlightened Paramahamsa compassionately teaches us our real identity and how to transcend this world of pain and suffering.
After losing all his wealth, a worldly man once said, “The wealth in wisdom far outweighs any amount of monetary wealth. You can only be robbed of one.” Knowingly, or unknowingly, his words ring very true. And who is the greatest thief? Death! At the time of death, we lose all our material acquisitions, including the material body we temporarily inhabit. Wisdom gained, however, travels with us wherever we may go. “A person who understands that one day the body will cease existing, and that he himself will not cease existing, naturally becomes less interested in material gain and material pursuits which he knows will be taken away one day and becomes more interested in making spiritual advancement—advancement in wisdom, love, and compassion.”
Aristotle says that, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” Therefore, the person above, described has already accumulated a fair share of wisdom. This kind of wisdom is not academic; it comes from within. Usually, the more academic knowledge we acquire, the more confused we become. Especially when it has to do with spirit and the soul. As Voltaire and many other philosophers and scientists have observed: “The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.”
The realization that “I know nothing,” is not a bad thing. In fact, it is a requirement for obtaining transcendental knowledge. The yogi must wipe his mind clean of preconceived ideas and empty his so-called cup of knowledge. A full cup cannot receive more juice. Similarly, if our mind’s cup is full of preconceived ideas, then it cannot receive the truth as it descends from the spiritual realms.
This is a long subject, but for now, suffice it to say that yoga and meditation teach us how to receive knowledge and wisdom. Once we know the process, then it’s simply a matter of sincerely listening and diligently applying it to our lives.
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