Artha Sādhana as a Spiritual Pursuit

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Editor’s note: What is sādhana of wealth? How does a householder’s purusharthā of earning money take the form of a sādhana? What is the role of inner purification in this? Shyam Krishnakumar writes a reflective piece addressing these questions while outlining the Vedic vision of life which valued abundance and prosperity as it helped individuals and collectivities move towards higher pursuits of kshātra, jñāna, vidya, kalā and transcendence.


Sri Aurobindo’s mahavākya “All life is yoga” applies across more facets of life than we imagine. Today, when I was doing upāsana I had this realisation that what I was pursuing is Artha Sādhana.

In yoga sadhana, we make ourselves fit to open ourselves to higher divine influences and allow them to flood through the body-mind complex. This shakti transforms our body-mind complex and makes it a fit instrument to perform its divine function through us, making us bhāgyashāli-s who have the good fortune (suhrita) of being instruments of the divine. This enables both Nishreyasa (personal upliftment) and Abhyudaya (wellbeing of all and lokasangraha).

With the yogic approach, the pursuit of wealth is also sadhana.

We open ourselves to the infinite blazing golden shakti of Mahalakshmi and try our best to be fit instruments. Gradually as her katāksha falls on us, external circumstances rearrange themselves and abundance flows. This is the point where many say mission accomplished and go on to live their desires.

However, a yoga sādhaka sees this as the mere beginning of the process. She gives you a little to test your ability to handle the abundance shakti and see if you will align your body, mind and life around the blazing golden light of Mangala. She sees if you act as an appropriate custodian of the wealth that flows, both in terms of keeping yourself well and channelling wealth to auspicious purposes including dharmic causes. As you begin to show fitness along these lines and deepen your sādhana, more of Her shakti and more abundance flows in.

This is where artha sādhana becomes crucial.

If pursuit of wealth is one’s chosen path and svadharma, even if temporary, one must perform it with the sacredness and diligence with which he performs sādhana. Because the pursuit, management and handling of wealth, dispersal in appropriate measure to appropriate people and purposes at the appropriate time, being constantly in alignment to the higher shakti of abundance in every facet of mind-body-life and constantly rising within is nothing but Artha Sādhana. It is the sincere inner and outer effort you put in as part of your aspiration to be an instrument of the supreme.

Most important in this path is antahkarana shuddhi  — purification of the inner instrument. There must not be the least trace of greed, kārpaṇya (avarice, meanness), comparison with others or any other vikāras, if one is to be a fit holder of the Mahalakshmi shakti. One must and will feel a sense of abundance, of overflow, of sattva and of having the good fortune to live in abundance and contribute abundance to worthwhile dharmic causes.

You must neither turn with an ascetic shrinking from the money power, the means it gives and the objects it brings, nor cherish a rajasic attachment to them or a spirit of enslaving self-indulgence in their gratifications. Regard wealth simply as a power to be won back for the Mother and placed at her service.

~ Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 32, p. 10

Yajña Karma

The Vedic vision of life was not of sparseness but of abundance. Abundance flowing out of abundance creating unimaginable prosperity and wellbeing for everyone.

To become fit for a soma yajña, the yajamāna must possess at least three years’ worth of stored grain. Only then, he qualifies for the rigour of these yajña-s. And what does the soma yajña do but please the devas and confer abundance, prosperity, wellbeing, and higher loka-s on the yajamāna and everyone around?

Artha Sādhana offers you the opportunity and mandates upon you to joyously direct the abundance received towards yajña karma. Towards fostering dharma and propitiating the devas. Through yajña, abundance creates more abundance and this abundance creates wellbeing for everyone around. The abundance of wealth supports the yajamāna in doing a yajña or building a temple, which in turn pleases the divine forces and creates overall wellbeing and spiritual uplift for everyone around.

Artha allows the creation of rest houses and wayside traveller houses where yātris can stay near temples in temple towns. The yajamāna gets a fraction of the punya of every yātri who visits and the anugraha of the deity. The yātris are enabled in their pursuit of dharma.

Finally, the entire temple ecosystem is benefitted simply because this institution exists. Yajña is abundance creating more abundance, wellbeing and spiritual uplift. A key part of Artha Sādhana is directing abundance towards yajña karma.

Abundance and Civilisational Richness

It was Vedic Vision of the cultivation and growth of abundance that allowed a civilisation where Yajnavalkya walked home with a thousand gold rimmed cows after an Upanishadic debate. This vision led to the system of brahmadeya where tax-free gift of land or villages were granted for the sole pursuit of the Veda, Vedangas, jñāna and moksha.

It was abundance that allowed us to possess among us the infinite marvels of Brihadeeshwara and Srirangam. It was abundance that could support the Kerala School of Mathematics to gaze at the sky and perform abstract calculations that eventually led to calculus. The same abundance could support a Kalidāsa; while a lack of it ultimately impoverished and killed Subrahmanya Bhārati.

As Britain rose in power and influence, the massive abundance resulted in the rise to prominence of Oxford and Cambridge. An abstract philosopher like Bertrand Russel was a national icon because the society had abundance. Similarly, the economic rise of America saw the rise of Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford and whatnot where abstract thought and complex mathematics were encouraged for their own sake.

Lack of abundance on the other hand creates scarcity, deprivation, poverty and small mindedness.

Daridram. Amangala. Alakshmi. These are the root of pettiness, of dark shady behaviour and a hundred mental vikāras. It creates a grab mentality where you are constantly trying to grab as much as you can from everyone in every interaction, instead of being a contributor.

Artha/abundance is critical for a society or civilisation to transcend the intrigues of sheer survival and move towards higher pursuits of kshātra, jñāna, vidya, kalā and transcendence. The Vedic idea was transcendence, a movement of those satisfied with the high material abundance and prosperity all around to the infinite abundance of the Infinite.

It was not without vision did the Vedic mantra say:

Sarvamangala Māngalye Shive Sarvārtha Sādhike
Sharanye Triyambake Gowri Narayani Namostute

She, the bestower of unsurpassable mangala/auspiciousness is also She who enables one to fulfill all ends, accomplish the charturvidha purushārtha (fourfold pursuit of life).

It was Her Grace that supported the abundance of the Vedic civilisation of Bhārata and it is Her Grace that will again support our rise.

For a grihastha the pursuit of Artha is a purushārtha. For a yogi, with Her Grace, it can become Artha Sādhana.

May She guide our lives and fill us with inner and outer abundance. May we become fit instruments of her katāksha and her anugraha.


About the author: Shyam Krishnakumar is a technology policy consultant and a sadhaka.

~ Design: Beloo Mehra and Biswajita Mohapatra

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