In her award-winning book, The Jewel of Abundance: Finding Prosperity through the Ancient Wisdom of Yoga, Yogacharya O’Brian discusses the connection between yoga and prosperity. The concept sometimes surprises spiritual seekers who may think of abundance and prosperity only in terms of material wealth. After all, focusing on material wealth hinders spiritual growth, doesn’t it?
Well, as Yogacharya explains in the book, it depends.
The key to living a spiritual life of prosperity may be to shift our perspective on abundance and what we need to do to prosper. When we draw out our individual potential—our dharma—we naturally become prosperous, Yogacharya says. The goal is to go beyond the individual ego and tap into the potential that has always existed, a potential we can clearly see when we connect with our higher Self.
Dharma, or purpose in life, is often confused with vocation, but fulfilling our purpose really is about who we are becoming. Once we are fully present to who we are in a spiritual sense, we expand into our potential and find prosperity, not just in terms of material wealth, but in terms of expanding into the potential that always been there. What we do may change over time, but who we truly are, does not change.
In the following Q & A, Yogacharya answers some questions about her book and the yogic view of abundance and prosperity.
Q: Tell us about the four universal goals of life that you write about in The Jewel of Abundance.
The four universal goals of life are drawn from teachings in the ancient Vedas. They are especially relevant today because they are about a balanced, fulfilled, spiritually awakened, purposeful life. The four goals are: dharma—to live with higher purpose; artha—to prosper in order to fulfill your dharma; kama—to enjoy life; and moksha—to realize true freedom, or enlightenment.
Here’s a short video in which Yogacharya explains what it means to fulfill our life’s purpose:
Q: The primary focus of your book is on the second universal goal of life, or artha, which is to prosper in every way. Can you tell us more about that?
Artha means wealth, prosperity, or abundance. Wealth is often a troublesome goal for those on a spiritual path in life because so many spiritual teachings warn the seeker of truth to not be derailed from the path by desire. All the scriptures touch on this, including the Vedas. However, they also include the teaching that we must learn to prosper to live a truly fulfilled life. We must look at what it means to truly prosper and how that is connected to dharma, or fulfillment of our life purpose.
Q: The subtitle of your book is “Finding Prosperity through the Ancient Wisdom of Yoga.” How are yoga and prosperity connected?
There is a specific teaching about prosperity in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the primary text for those studying yoga philosophy. It is found in the ethical guidelines for spiritually conscious living, which are called “yamas” or restraints. In the list of guidelines for right relationship with others is this promise about prosperity: When a person is established in nonstealing, the jewels of abundance appear.
We work with this promise by first inquiring: What does it mean to be established in nonstealing? Nonstealing is refraining from taking or appropriating anything that does not rightfully belong to us. We can explore that on many levels — physically, mentally, and even spiritually.
Most of us recognize outright theft, but using spiritual principles we examine it more deeply. For example, taking more than we need, can rightfully use, or even appreciate, is a kind of theft, even if we can afford it. Another example of “stealing” is taking credit for another’s work or creative efforts. At the end of the day, it all comes down to our ability to prosper from the inside out — to realize our own innate sufficiency. That consciousness of sufficiency is the jewel of abundance that draws to us what we need. It has far-reaching implications and offers profound insights into the nature of thriving ways that all may thrive.
Q: How can we balance spiritual striving, the aim of kama, with living joyfully now, and why is it important to find balance between the two?
Yoga can be defined as balance of body, mind, and soul. The goals for a fulfilled life we find in the Vedas mirror that call to balanced living. Austerity—too much spiritual striving—comes from a metaphysical error. It is based on trying to create a spiritual condition.
We are already spiritual beings. Our sadhana or spiritual practice is to align with the truth of our being, to live in a spiritually conscious way. Unrestrained desires for wealth or pleasure are a distraction to living a fulfilled life of higher purpose. Without the constraints or supports of dharma and moksha, we can get lost chasing after those things in life that are only temporary and will not ultimately provide the fulfillment we seek.
Q: Would you say that material prosperity enhances and supports or distracts from and destroys our spiritual lives?
I agree with the sages who say: It depends. How we understand material prosperity, how we approach it, and what we do with it, all make a profound difference.
Q: How would you describe the awakening process to someone who isn’t sure what you mean by that?
In the yoga tradition, spiritual awakening or Self-realization is seen as the primary task for all humanity regardless of time or place or even tradition. To be Self-realized is to know the truth about what we are as spiritual beings through direct experience. Not just to know about our essential nature, or even to intuitively grasp it, but to have a clear, immersive, direct experience of it that is Self-revealing. There is usually a progression where we hear about the Self, then contemplate its existence, intuitively perceive it, then experience it directly. This conscious immersion is the mystical experience that is beyond conceptualization. It clears up the error of identifying with the body, mind or ego-self. We are not someone who has a soul. We are the soul. Awakening is realizing that.
In the video clip below, Yogacharya speaks about the process of spiritual awakening:
Q: In The Jewel of Abundance, you say learning how to prosper is a path of transformation in the context of spiritual awakening. Tell us more.
To prosper and fulfill our highest potential requires developing a consciously cooperative relationship with the Infinite, learning how to work in harmony with the power that runs the universe. This expands our thinking, degree of receptivity, and awareness beyond the boundaries of the ego. As our awareness expands, we are naturally transformed.
Watch the clip below to hear Yogacharya describe this process of transformation:
Q: What’s the biggest mistake people make when they try to prosper?
Forgetting that it is natural for them.
Q: You say in the book that as spiritual beings, we all have nudges from the infinite that offer glimpses of life’s greater potentials. Can you give us an example or two of how those nudges might show up in our lives?
Nudges from the infinite show up as yearnings within us to be fulfilled, glimpses of possibilities connected to what we care most deeply about. They are very often a call to fulfill our own potential.
Q: What is the most important thing that someone who wants to live a prosperous life needs to know?
Changing our mind from lack to abundance based on the awareness of our innate wholeness makes the most profound difference.
Q: What is true wealth?
True wealth is soul wealth, conscious awareness of our innate fullness that can be expressed in all areas of our life—health, relationships, work, creativity, finances, or more. We all have access to spiritual resources. Knowing that and knowing how to draw on our spiritual resources makes all the difference.
Q: What is the connection between surrender and true prosperity?
Surrender is how we open ourselves to infinite good, infinite support, and possibility. Otherwise, we are insisting we are on our own. We might be successful on our own but not to the extent that is possible with the greater openness to possibility that surrender brings. And, likely not as joyfully, either.
Q: You say that nothing contributes more to unfolding our divine potential than “stepping out of our little corner” and opening to abundance for uplifting others. Tell us more.
Divine potential by its very nature is beyond small self-interest. There is no limit to divine potential. Therefore, it is not individual in nature; it is comprehensively whole. When we commit ourselves to be an instrument for the infinite, for making a positive difference in the lives and well-being of others, we take a step toward cooperating with that unlimited divine power. It naturally expands us.
Q: Is there a core spiritual principle that relates to having a prosperous life?
There is One Life, One Source, One Power, One Presence. It is infinite, unbounded, unlimited. The ancient Vedas proclaim: That Thou Art! Each one of us is an expression of that infinite Power and Presence. The unbounded, unlimited potential of that Reality is within us and is ready to express through us. We only need to learn how to cooperate with it.
Q: You encourage your readers to turn their minds from worry to worship. Do you have any practical advice to offer for how to do that?
Learn how to meditate superconsciously, how to consciously abide in your essence of being beyond words and thoughts. Do it every day.
Q: What advice do you have to offer those who are having a hard time finding their life purpose?
Consider that it is not far from you, not something that is going to be other than who you have always been. Our life purpose is the unfolding of the divine qualities that have always been with us. Think of what you have always cared most deeply about and what divine qualities have been evident with you, even in childhood.
Q: What do you most hope readers will take away from your book The Jewel of Abundance?
To thrive and to prosper is the nature of the soul. When understood as the companion to dharma, or living with higher purpose, wealth becomes a profound avenue of both personal and planetary transformation.
Are you intrigued by the connection between yoga and prosperity? If you want to learn more about how to prosper in a soulful way, you can find The Jewel of Abundance on Amazon. There’s so much more to this ancient wisdom!