Recently, I had the good fortune of attending a Dharma Talk by Aadil Palkhivala at Moksha Yoga. He talked about the four Purusharthas – the purposes, aims, desires, goals of human existence. The four Purusharthas are Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. (Described in the Vedas – sacred text and the oldest existing text in the world.)
Dharma – life’s mission in this physical world, vocation, our heart’s desire
Artha – means, prosperity, wealth (material and financial)
Kama – pleasures of the body
Moksha – pursuits of the spirit
The lecture focused on Artha, and the goal was to encourage us to step away from the notion that” money is the root of all evil”, and recognize that money is simply a means of exchanging of energy. (I’ll get into that more a little later.) According to Aadil, we can bring the energy of our spirit to the acquisition of wealth, then let our spirit guide us as to where to spend it. I’m going to do my best to summarize his talk.
The last three purusharthas are indented above on purpose. These are conditioned by the first, dharma. In other words, how much of the last three desires are we to pursue? We are to pursue as much as is needed in order to live our dharma.
There are four ways in which we are controlled. We are controlled when we are sick, poor, unhappy and fearful. In order to be free we must be healthy, wealthy, joyous and powerful.
The problem is not the acquisition of wealth, but rather greed. Greed is taking for myself without consideration of its effect on others and my spirit. The creation of wealth for dharma is not greed.
Money is just a flow of energy. You build a house. This takes energy. I cook food. This takes energy. You give me the house, and I give you money for it. I cook you food, you give me money for that. Money is nothing more than the energy flowing back and forth between us.
So why are we afraid of wealth and why do we jeopardize ourselves in acquiring it?
- We are insecure – we feel we don’t deserve it
- We are afraid it will alienate others. “I will become one of THEM.”
- I will not get it. I’m setting myself up for failure.
These fears are patterns of thinking, records that may have been playing in our heads for years. Often we reject or misuse artha, kama and moksha. The reason is because we don’t understand or do not recognize our dharma (our true heart’s desire). The positive side of our desires is when following them takes us in the direction of our dharma.
Well, there you have it, an abbreviated summary of an interesting lecture (essentially, my notes transcribed). I would add a fourth reason that we jeopardize our acquisition of wealth. We do not want to take responsibility for the place we currently inhabit. We want to blame someone else for it. Typical objects of our blame – bosses, capitalism, republicans, democrats, the Man, parents, children, friends, lovers, spouses. Realizing that there is no one to blame is one of the most empowering experiences a person can have. The energy I put out there is what comes back to me. Since moving back to Chicago, I’ve begun to put a laser focus on my yoga practice. Yoga, and what it brings to me and others, has shot my energy level through the roof. It hasn’t been easy, and there have been setbacks, but it just feels right, and so here I go.
There are so many questions when we get down to the nitty gritty decisions we make every day. How do we acquire wealth if our dharma is something that does not get compensated well in this world? What about our 401k’s and other investments? How do we invest consistent with our dharma and still make money? I find that as I sit with the ideas talked about above, and allow myself to change old patterns of thinking, the answers to these tricky questions begin to reveal themselves.