There’s a misconception that if you’re spiritually-minded, then you can’t be money-oriented.
Interestingly, Vedic philosophy states otherwise. Spirituality does not mean a life of asceticism or poverty. One of the four goals of human life, according to Vedic philosophy, is wealth. For the spiritually-minded who are contemplating their goals, aspirations, and motivations, these four aims of life can be quite helpful to understand.
Vedic philosophy–from which yoga, ayurveda, vedanta, jyotish, and vastu arise—is based on the foundational belief that each of us is a spiritual being. We have a soul that’s as inherent to our makeup as our body and mind. A human incarnation is a noble one, as humans are able to rise above their animal instincts. It’s our free-will that makes this incarnation so special.
With this free-will comes the potential to evolve spiritually. And essentially, a human body is the tool through which the spirit can engage in the world; growing and evolving with each human experience.
The ultimate goal of human life in Vedic philosophy is moksha, or enlightenment.
Yoga explains moksha as the ultimate state where one finally realizes his oneness with the world and all other beings. It is through achieving this state that he breaks free of the cycles of birth and death (as yoga and the Vedic sciences believe that the soul experiences reincarnation up until the point of moksha).
Moksha is sometimes referred to as self-realization. The Buddha achieved his enlightenment through intense and dedicated meditation and serves as an example for the ultimate in spiritual evolution.
For the average human being, a “householder,” as it’s called in yoga — someone who wasn’t born to and can’t renounce their life in society to meditate in a cave in the Himalayas or underneath a bodhi tree, moksha takes on a different meaning.
For most of us, moksha is the attainment of a state of peace wherein we’re not affected by the “good” or “bad” of the outside world. We are emotionally and mentally balanced, not taken down by an insult or inflated by a complement. We understand that all things in life are impermanent, and we’re able to enjoy life without being attached to people, possessions, and ideas about ourselves.
Whether we’re a super yogi or a common person, moksha is meant to be our highest goal. This is a spiritually-evolved state and no doubt takes self-discipline and introspection. As spiritual beings, all of our actions and decisions should come from this goal of spiritual evolution.
Despite this very significant objective, life can still be fun! We’re encouraged to discover our purpose—the work that doesn’t feel like work. We’re encouraged to make money, given that we spend it properly. And we’re also encouraged to enjoy life. These are the other three aims of life in Vedic philosophy: dharma, or purpose; artha, or wealth; and kama; or pleasure.
3 Aims of Life in Vedic Philosophy
Dharma encompasses both our purpose and our ethical choices.
Vedic philosophy believes that each soul is born into the world and a specific body and mind for this reason. This might be one’s work and vocation, or spiritual calling. For example, one’s dharma could be as a doctor or artist, or it might be as a yoga teacher or astrologer.
Whatever it is, finding our dharma can be one of the most difficult parts of life! How often do we think or hear from others that we don’t know what to do with ourselves; we’re not fulfilled in our work; or we feel like we’ve chosen the wrong path?
These kinds of thoughts and emotions are excellent guides toward our dharma. The soul will always choose joy and happiness. When we’re fulfilling our dharma, work is no longer work. It gives us immense pleasure and satisfaction, and great happiness. Time goes by quickly when we’re fulfilling our dharma; it doesn’t drag on.
If, instead, our work makes us unhappy or unhealthy, we can be sure that it’s not our dharma. Our purpose is something else. The soul would not choose a dharma that brings us down.
If you’re not sure you’re on your right path, reflect upon how your dharma makes you feel. Does it give you joy or distress? Does it promote your health or diminish it? These feelings can help guide you. It’s also worth consulting with a Vedic astrologer–someone who reads your birth chart based on jyotish. Our dharma is explained in our charts and an astrologer can help us to choose the right path, or one of the many right paths that might be available to us.
If you would like some more guidance on how to find fulfillment in your dharma, check out this video by the brilliant Vishen Lakhiani:
Dharma also includes behaving in a way that’s morally and ethically correct. It involves living harmoniously in society while pursuing all other Vedic goals.
Artha is the accumulation of wealth. That’s right, money and possessions!
This goal isn’t usually thought to be synonymous with spiritual goal-setting, but it is. Without money and possessions, it’s hard to fulfill our dharma. Perhaps you’ve experienced this before. While you’re so excited to open a yoga studio or study to become a dietician, you lack the funds to do so. Herein lies the role of artha.
Money, or wealth, can both fuel our ability to achieve our dharma and act as an energetic exchange when we fulfill our dharma.
For example, many yoga teachers feel guilt around charging their students for classes. They’re uncomfortable with asking for the amount they deserve, and may undercharge as a result. What they fail to realize is that energy must be reciprocated. Teaching yoga deserves compensation, otherwise the yoga teacher’s energy is taken without respect and acknowledgement of their education, talent, and time. The class may not be valued if it’s given for free. And worse, the yoga teacher who doesn’t ask for fair compensation won’t be able to teach yoga for long. They’ll have to look for other work!
Money is a form of energy exchange in this society. And we all know that we need it. Money is required for basic needs like food and shelter. And money is required for things beyond needs, too—like enjoying the pleasures of life, explained under kama.
All this being said, accumulating wealth should be done with dharma in mind. Money should be made in moral and ethical ways, and used for positive purposes. The same goes for possessions, and we should also avoid attachment to money or possessions.
Kama may be an even more surprising goal than artha. Kama is pleasure.
It encompasses enjoying this world, relationships, and even sex. Let’s be honest: this world is one pleasurable place, filled with gorgeous nature for camping and hiking, delicious food to please our tongues, orgasms to please our bodies, and all kinds of experiences to please our minds and beings.
In the spiritual realm of Vedic philosophy, we should enjoy pleasure within our dharma; following what is ethically and morally appropriate. And pleasure isn’t meant to be enjoyed to the sake of hedonism; keeping it within the realm of our dharma will prevent debauchery.
Kama depends on artha. Without wealth, we’re limited in the pleasures we can experience. Perhaps you’ve been there: when the bank account is near empty, saying no to a social life and unnecessary spending and activities are the remedy. On the other hand, when our fulfilling work is rewarded energetically, the world is ours to enjoy.
So, how do your personal motivations line up with the Vedic goals of life? It’s definitely worth some self-reflection. If your focus lies in only one realm, whether it’s work, money, or pleasure, think about how you can grow in the other realms.
By occasionally checking in with your own behaviors, you can create a spiritually-minded life that’s fulfilling, rewarding, and pleasurable. All the while you’ll inherently work on your spiritual evolution. Goal-setting and spirituality need not be exclusive; especially when the goals themselves combine both the human and spiritual realms.
Are you familiar with Vedic philosophy? How are you fulfilling your dharma, artha, and kama? Please share with us in the comment section below!