Continuing our series on the Purusharthas (4 human pursuits), we dive deep into the concept of Artha (or material wealth). Can you be wealthy and spiritual? We explore:
- Why the pursuit of material wealth is important for your spiritual purpose
- Explore the Gunas (three qualities of action – Tamas, Rajas, Sattva) as you pursue material wealth
- Understand how money should always serve your Dharma
Debra Maldonado 00:28
Hello, welcome back to another episode of Soul Sessions with Debra Berndt Maldonado and Dr. Rob Maldonado. We are continuing our series on the purusharthas, the four human pursuits in Eastern philosophy. We will review about Dharma, we’ll talk about karma, artha, and moksha. But before we begin today’s topic, which is artha, I’d like to remind you to click on the button in the corner to subscribe to our channel. If you’re listening to us on podcast feeds like iTunes, Spotify, there’s a subscribe button, please click that button, so you can make sure you get every episode of Soul Sessions. Today’s topic is: Can a spiritual person pursue material success?
Robert Maldonado 01:25
Purusha is the supreme person. In this sense, though, the purusha is your personality, your individual existence. Arthas are the pursuits, so purusharthas are the pursuits of the individual human life. We’re approaching this as a spiritual psychology. The great author Houston Smith, author of World Religions, said “If we take the world’s enduring religions at their best, we discover the distilled wisdom of the human race.” We’re mining the wisdom that is there, in this case in the Upanishads, in the Bhagavad Gita. Last time, we talked about dharma, which is our sacred duty. We each have an individual dharma. It’s better to always do our individual dharma than to do another’s dharma and do it perfectly. Even if we’re missing on our individual dharma, it’s better to persist on our path. Now, artha is the idea of material success. It’s saying, we should pursue this. Obviously, everyone needs to pay the rent and do their work somehow.
Debra Maldonado 03:07
If you aren’t pursuing wealth, getting the money to pay your bills, buy food, have a home, someone needs to, you’re not contributing to your own life. You’re putting — I wouldn’t say a burden because some people can’t work — but think about all the people that don’t choose to work, they don’t choose to pursue wealth, they end up feeling almost helpless, when you’re pursuing a career, saving money, you can send your kids to college, you can live in a nice place, you can have that sense of fulfillment that you’re contributing to society in a way. We don’t want to say just pursue the material wealth, so you can have a number in the bank account that you can brag or have a certain status in the community. It’s more about how can this money serve me? Can it help me buy healthier foods? Can it help my family if they need help? Am I contributing to the world? How can I reach people? If you’re your own business owner, if you have more material wealth, you can do more with that, you can help more people. It’s not this bad thing, like “money’s bad,” but it’s how you use it in service of your duty and of your dharma.
Robert Maldonado 04:37
There’s a lot to unpack here. First of all, the connection to dharma. When you discover your personal dharma, your individual dharma, which is your higher purpose, you start to understand what the pursuit of success, material wealth means, now that material wealth can serve your higher purpose because without abundance, without money, or at least some level of it, you’re not able to carry out your dharma, you’re not able to do the things you need to be doing to fulfill your higher purpose. There’s also this idea that it’s connected to spirituality. A lot of spiritual traditions were developed and taught in the context of a monastic life, renunciation of the world. You gave up your plow, your business, your household, you went off to the monastery. It confuses a lot of people because they think “Doesn’t spirituality teach that you should not be handling money and working and doing your life in this material way?” Here is clarification of that. There is a way to stay in the world to work, to do business, to continue to participate in the world, in society, and still practice your higher purpose. Your dharma should be doing your sacred duty while you’re living and participating in the world. The idea of artha as a human pursuit, within the spiritual context, clarifies that.
Debra Maldonado 06:49
We’re molded by society, we’re molded by our parents, our grandparents, our culture, our community of what money means. We don’t have a clear image of it. It’s based on what they thought. I heard a lot as a Catholic growing up, money is the root of all evil. But what Jesus actually said was the love of money is the root of all evil. It’s taken out of context, rich people are bad, they’re stealing, robbing, leaving the poor people, they’re selfish, they’re unspiritual. We have this collective narrative that’s going on, not even consciously, but in the hums of our movies and media, that being rich is somehow a terrible thing, that you can’t be spiritual if you have money.
Robert Maldonado 07:48
That’s so well instilled in the culture, it’s hard to escape that. In Jungian psychology that’s considered part of your shadow work. You have to clarify the conditioning around money that we all get, so that we are not basing our approach to money and success from that old conditioning, that we’re free from those things. Then we’re able to choose that success and money can serve us because it serves our higher purpose, it allows us to do our higher purpose and facilitates that. It harmonizes our life, it no longer puts us at odds against ourselves, we’re able to do what we need to do in business and work and still see it as “I’m still doing my spiritual practice.”
Debra Maldonado 08:48
I see so many people who reach a certain amount of success, then something happens where a bill comes in, it’s never consistent, it wipes it all out. It’s almost thinking about it as more of an unconscious rejection of money because of all that conditioning and opinions and beliefs around money. Let’s turn this around and think of it from what the Eastern philosophy says. It tells us that it’s part of our duty to make sure we have enough, so that we can live, feed ourselves, even if we are a teacher, we can have the resources to teach. A lot of people feel bad charging their coaches or any person in the service profession, like, “I shouldn’t be charging for this because I’m helping others.” I think “So you should work full time in a job you don’t like, make money, then do free stuff on the weekends and be drained doing the work you love.” It just doesn’t make sense that it shouldn’t be something we can be abundant through, not to steal from people, but to actually use that in service and being paid for that service in alignment with something higher. You’re serving humanity much better probably doing what your dharma is, doing what you love and making money than sitting in a cubicle, in a job you hate just to pay the bills, so you can do what you love. Think about it in that context, “Maybe I want to pursue what I love and get paid for what I love.” It’s such a hard thing. People have a hard time because the whole society says, “You can’t do what you love, you have to work hard for money.” The things you do to earn money are not enjoyable, are not spiritual.
Robert Maldonado 10:47
Then there’s the opposite side of it. Often we’re given these mixed signals that we should pursue money, money is going to give us everything we want, it’s going to make us happy. That itself is a damaging message as well. Then people think, “If I get the money, if I get success and prestige, I’ll be set, I’ll be safe, it’ll make me happy, it’ll solve all my problems.” You see it over and over again. Money on its own does not lead to peace of mind, does not lead to happiness, does not lead to solving all your problems. On the contrary, if you approach it from that perspective, as “It’s going to give me everything I need”, it’s going to give you the opposite most of the time, it’s going to make you miserable, it’s going to wreck your life.
Debra Maldonado 11:50
If you approach it from the ego perspective. Then also the a lot of people will reject money saying, “I’m not going to pursue money, money doesn’t matter to me,” and not pursue it at all, have some sort of abdication from it. That’s also off the mark, this “I don’t want to deal with money, I don’t want to think about money, money doesn’t matter.” It does, because it’s the way we work in the world. We have to basically find a way to work with it.
Robert Maldonado 12:24
That’s the idea of this philosophy, it’s showing us how to approach it. We need to live in the world, we need to pay the rent, we need to eat and help others. How do we do that in a sane way that doesn’t lead us to greed, grasping, causing more suffering in the world, and still be abundant, have plenty, be able to help others, our families, friends, society in general, do our proper dharma, our higher purpose?
Robert Maldonado 14:00
We do it through the practice of what’s called sattva. Sattva can be translated as clarity, purity, goodness. That state of mind when we cultivate it in our pursuit of abundance, of success that leads us in the right direction because we’re approaching now this pursuit with the mindset of clarity, of higher purpose, of equanimity and non-attachment. We’re not projecting, we’re not thinking money or external success is going to save us or give us happiness. We understand we have to generate that first within our mind. We’re happy, we’re already fulfilled, then our work for success and money or to acquire and generate money becomes a useful service to us, a useful practice. It is reflecting the inner mind we have of clarity and purpose.
Debra Maldonado 15:21
It’s almost as if you have a garden, this soil that’s rich, you plant a few seeds, you’re like, “Those flowers are pretty, why not plant more seeds? Why not create a beautiful garden?” Why would you limit that if you could think of that wealth and money as more of a beautiful expression of abundance, just like the garden is abundant. It becomes less of that conditioning and society’s pressures around what it is, but more like “I’m cultivating a garden of abundance”, it just puts it in a new perspective.
Robert Maldonado 16:01
Guna means quality. Quality of mind, quality of action, quality of nature. It exists in every aspect of existence. There is another quality called rajas, which is action, activity, the belief, the state of mind that is active, moving, always grasping. If you notice, that’s how the world operates. Most of the time, most people are taught and conditioned to take action in order to get what they want. If you want something, if you want success, if you want to succeed in business, you got to take action, you got to work hard. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that it’s not the state of mind of sattva. It’s not the quality mind of sattva, clarity, tranquillity, higher purpose. It’s the mindset of “I got to work really hard in order to get what I want.”
Debra Maldonado 17:07
It’s like a grasping, lack mentality. I don’t have wealth, so I have to go and find it. It’s like a gerbil wheel, you keep getting whacked back because you’re so attached. Then if you do happen to get it, you get that high, then it crashes again. It’s not that equanimity. It’s not that equal “in poverty or in wealth, you’re the same.” That’s what sattva is, that mind that you can take action, you can apply sattva through your action and purify the action versus if you’re just leading with action, “the more I do, the harder I work, the more money I can make.” We see it in culture right now, everyone is exhausted, everyone is stressed out, because they’re thinking action is the key, “I’m gonna act.”
Robert Maldonado 17:59
Thirdly, there’s another guna, another quality of mind, called tamas. We don’t see it much around us, or perhaps if you see people that are extremely poor or homeless, that’s the quality of tamas. They have given up. There’s no motivation to work or to generate abundance for themselves. They are uninspired, depressed, unmotivated, the pursuit of abundance and material wealth now has become such a burden to them, it depresses them, it sends them into a downward spiral where they reject it completely, or they neglect it altogether. Those three states of mind, three gunas, are important to understand in the pursuit of material abundance. Tamas, which is lack of motivation, lack of understanding of what material wealth is for. Rajas, which is an overly anxious attachment to grasping more, to getting more, chasing the carrot, which is never enough. The best is sattva, the sattvic mind is able to have clear goals that are in alignment with dharma, the higher spiritual laws, therefore the actions you take in work and creating material abundance are benefiting all: yourself, your neighbors, your family, your friends, other people you’re serving. That’s the way to approach this human pursuit, through the sattvic mind.
Debra Maldonado 20:14
Let me summarize here, and correct me if I’m off base. What I hear you saying is that we need all three qualities, because there is also a benefit to tamas, which is that lack of motivation, because sometimes we need to rest. Sometimes we need to pursue and take action. But if the sattva is dominating, which means we’re doing it in service of our higher purpose, we’re doing it with a clear mind, we can still take a lot of action, we can still rest when we need to, but the sattva is ruling. Instead, if you take the sattva away, what most people do is they rush, move into tamas, get exhausted, try to re-motivate themselves and rush, then tamas. They’re going back and forth with this overexertion, then collapse in exhaustion. What the sattvic mind does is bring more balance to those two qualities of action. We need rest, we need action, we need to move in the world. But the sattvic mind is that pure awareness, that pure clear thinking, as we’re pursuing the wealth, we are in more balance. We know when we need to stop. We know when we need to act. There’s no attachment to either way.
Robert Maldonado 21:33
Ultimately, in psychological terms, it is a way of getting the ego out of the way. There’s nothing wrong with the ego, it’s a good function the mind has. But it’s designed to help us survive. We’re in survival mode when we’re in ego. If we don’t know how to transcend it, it keeps us in the survival mind. The survival mind can’t generate and enjoy physical or material abundance. Because as long as it has enough to survive, it says, “That’s enough, why do we need any more?” or if it gets more, it’s not enough, it always says, “Let’s keep on working on this because I still feel in danger. We’re in danger of losing this, therefore we need to keep on working really hard to keep getting more and more money.” That’s not a good way to live either.
Debra Maldonado 22:33
If you think about what’s wealth, what’s abundance, if you ask hundred people, you’ll get hundred different answers. For someone, receiving $100 in cash could make their week, a millionaire would think of it as a tip for a valet. It’s all in context of what your needs are for your life and to create, the sky is the limit. There could be lots of opportunities, there’s no wrong in having access and being able to use it for good, donations, charities. But we use it and dedicate it all to moving the world forward, helping the world, helping ourselves become enlightened, “Is this going to lead me to something?” When I was struggling with money, I didn’t have money to invest in a coach, I didn’t have money to do certain things, my mind was consumed with lack and worry. When I started creating my own business and living on my own terms, understanding that I am seeing my mind here, I was able to create the opportunities I needed to get that higher knowledge, to be in the right communities, to be surrounded by people like me. It takes investments to do that. To create a business you need a website, you need recording equipment, all these things take money. Where’s that coming from? There’s nothing more powerful than generating it yourself, through your creative mind, through your visions, having a dream, being able to create the resources for you to support your dream. That’s really what artha is, having the resources to live your dharma, to live your purpose.
Robert Maldonado 24:25
Combined, we see dharma, your higher purpose, in combination with material success, connected. When you connect those two, both start to make sense, now you have a way of enacting your higher purpose. You see the purpose and the reason why you need to be successful. Instead of thinking as that’s the end goal, just to acquire more material, more money. That’s not a proper way to live, you’re hurting your mind, you’re creating more suffering for yourself.
Debra Maldonado 25:05
Leave today thinking, “What is the higher purpose for me having material wealth?” Just think about it, contemplate on that. Notice how your ego feels like it needs security, needs to prove something to other people, needs to build your confidence. But what is that higher purpose? What’s the spiritual purpose? When you find it, meditate on that and connect with it in your heart, you start pursuing it, then you can cultivate that sattvic mind and dedicate everything you’re doing to that. Next week, we are going to be talking about kama, which is the pursuit of pleasure, which is your favorite one, Rob.
Robert Maldonado 25:50
One that is very misunderstood.
Debra Maldonado 25:55
We look forward to seeing you. In the meantime, don’t forget to subscribe to our channel if you’re watching us on YouTube. If you’re listening to us on our podcast, click on the Subscribe button. We’ll see you next week. We reached a milestone on our YouTube channel, we have over 50,000 subscribers. Keep coming, we want to see more of you on our channel every week. Go live your dharma.