Document 210750

Perhaps it’s time to pay more attention to yoga’s concept of wealth and to learn how you may become a
By linda johnsen
Joyful Abundance
How to Create It—and Share It
If you travel through India you’ll see
images of Lakshmi everywhere you turn:
she’s the loving, smiling, generous goddess with gold coins
streaming from her hands. You’ll find her picture in the produce
stands, the sari shops, in banks, and temples—even painted on
the sides of trucks.Lakshmi symbolizes prosperity and well-being
in their myriad forms. Now may be a good time to get to know
this fascinating goddess and make a place for her gifts in your life.
Are you surprised to hear that building and managing wealth
is a solid part of the yoga tradition? No wonder. Many yoga students assume that spiritual practice leads to an otherworldly
state of renunciation and non-attachment. But in reality only a
small percentage of yogis renounce
the world in order to devote themselves exclusively to spiritual life.
The vast majority of us have to
make mortgage payments, put
our kids through college, or save
up for retirement.
LAKSHMI is the
goddess of wealth,
beauty, courage,
fertility, and wisdom—
the embodiment of
grace and charm.
Copyright © 2007 Yoga + Joyful Living.
All rights reseerved.
yoga + joyful living july - august 2007
steward and a source of prosperity. If so, welcome the goddess Lakshmi and what she stands for.
In India it is said that people who rapidly
amass enormous wealth must have been
yogis in previous lives who devoted themselves single-mindedly to Padmini Vidya.
There could be something to these
rumors. Keep in mind that before the rise
gems, spices, exotic textiles, and fabulous wealth. Even today, after centuries
of having been despoiled by Arab and
European invaders, the Indian economy
is bouncing back with vigor. According to
Forbes, India has 36 billionaires—more
Affluence should be respected because it’s a shakti, a powerful stream of energy that can
quickly reshape your reality in either positive or negative ways, depending on how you use it.
the realities of material existence, and
encourages us to skillfully cultivate all
four important components of a fulfilling
life: spiritual growth, meaningful work,
pleasure, and prosperity.
It is true that expansion of awareness
is the primary goal of yoga, but as consciousness expands, so does our ability
to deal effectively with the concerns of
everyday life, and a host of subsidiary
forms of yoga have evolved over the centuries to help us live healthfully and happily right here in the mundane world.
Hatha yoga helps us keep our bodies in
good working order, for example, and
karma yoga directs us to serve others
who may need our help. But there’s
another, less familiar branch of yoga
that’s designed for a very explicit and
eminently practical reason: making
money. It’s called Padmini Vidya.
Padmini means “lady of the lotus,” and
refers to Lakshmi, who is often portrayed
sitting in the open petals of an enormous
white lotus. Vidya means “yoga science.”
of the oil magnates, India’s numerous
kings controlled the greatest concentration of wealth in the world. It was no accident that India’s British conquerors
considered the subcontinent “the jewel
in the crown” of its empire. Huge sums
looted from India funded the expansion
of the British navy and made England
queen of the seas. From the Sumerian
period around 3000 BCE through the era
of Christopher Columbus, the Indian
subcontinent was synonymous with
yoga + joyful living july - august 2007
than any other country in Asia. (The next
runner-up, Japan, has 24.)
Understandably, many of the mantras,
meditations, and ritual techniques of
Padmini Vidya remain carefully guarded
secrets, but yogic texts like the Markandeya Purana and the Lakshmi Tantra offer
a few clues about the system. Let’s take
a look at what the yoga tradition says
about making money.
If you’ve been studying yoga for a
while, you’ve heard of the siddhis, psychic powers like the ability to heal others
or foresee the future. You may also have
heard of the riddhis, minor occult skills
like the ability to read thoughts. Padmini
Vidya is the science of the nidhis, subtle
forces used to attract large amounts of
money. (Nidhi means “container of treasure.”) Some people are born with the
ability to manipulate—consciously or
unconsciously—these intangible energies
and materialize vast tangible assets. Oth-
Previous pages: dollar bill: © StockAbcd / Alamy; Lakshmi: © World Religions Photo Library / Alamy; Hands: © Stockdisc Classic / Alamy; Johnson: © Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images; Winfrey,Waters and Gates: © Getty Images
Because the yoga tradition is so practical,
in addition to the practices designed to
help us explore higher consciousness, it
also recommends techniques that can
help us create a comfortable lifestyle.
The yoga tradition fully acknowledges
Jolie: © AFP / Getty Images; Corn and Judd: Jasper Johal -; Simmons: © Getty Images; Rogowski: Tom DiMauro -
ers may develop the mental powers necessary to control the nidhis after years of
intense concentration.
In the tradition of Padmini Vidya,
wealth isn’t thought of as the accumulation of material objects; it is the active
and willful manipulation of shakti, the
energy of consciousness. Wealth isn’t so
much a static possession as an active flow
of energy. Controlling the nidhis means
tapping into this flow and directing it to
one’s benefit.
The Markandeya Purana states that
although many people have the determination and ability to create wealth, their
attitudes and actions in doing so can create vastly different karmic consequences.
Developing nidhis can place a person in a
position to act as a blessing force in life,
or it can create karmic debts the person
will be paying off for lifetimes to come.
Saint Paul says in the Bible, “The love
of money is the root of all evil.” But it’s
not money itself he condemns—what he
warns against is a self-centered approach
to generating and hoarding wealth. The
love of money (“greed” in plain English)
can lead to ruin, he warns. We’re surrounded by dramatic examples of this,
such as corporate heads who undermine
their own companies with unscrupulous
accounting practices, or who lay off thousands of employees while hoarding millions of dollars themselves. We see business leaders who don’t hesitate to lay
waste to the land and air and water in
order to make a profit. The Markandeya
Purana has harsh words for this misuse
of shakti, and warns that it can lead to
ghastly karmic complications.
While modern culture seems to signal
it’s okay to get rich no matter what the
cost to others, the yoga tradition challenges us to look at money as a divine
force that we must handle responsibly. It
asks us to locate our desire for prosperity
within a wider spiritual context. The Lakshmi Tantra, a voluminous text devoted
to inner and outer well-being, encourages
us to earn a good living through honest,
lawful means. At the same time, it urges
us to live ethically, respecting our family
responsibilities and attending to the welfare of our community, while devoting a
{ lakshmi in the 21st century }
Here are eight modern-day examples of Lakshmi in action. Some practice yoga, and some don’t.
But because of their compassionate acts and earth-honoring activism, they represent the goddess’s reverence for beauty, prosperity, and generosity.
Oprah Winfrey, for her impressive gen-
erosity, and for encouraging people from
around the world to make a difference in
others’ lives. Among her latest accomplishments? A state-of-the-art school for
girls in South Africa, which is grooming
them to be the future leaders of their society. “If you are surrounded by beautiful
things and wonderful teachers who inspire you,” she says, “that beauty brings
out the beauty in you.”
Green gourmet Alice Waters, for her
work as a sustainable agriculture advocate—and for creating the Chez Panisse
Foundation to fund projects like her
Edible Schoolyard movement, which
teaches children to love growing and
eating fresh, local food.
Angelina Jolie, for leveraging her
movie-star status to raise awareness about
the plight of suffering people around the
world, especially through her on-theground efforts as a Goodwill Ambassador
for the UN Refugee Agency, and for lobbying for humanitarian interests in D.C.
Lady Bird Johnson, who made Amer-
ica more beautiful through the Highway
Beautification Act—which limited road
signs and encouraged the planting of
wildflowers along highways across the
country—and infused our nation’s capital with natural beauty.
Hip-hop guru and vegan yoga buff
Russell Simmons, founder of Def Jam
Records and cofounder of Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, which has
directed millions in funding for arts education to over 700,000 urban youth in
New York City, and is currently constructing an “Arts Oasis” in Brooklyn.
Bill and Melinda Gates, who give
multi-billion dollar donations to programs that address the world’s most
pressing—and most difficult to solve—
problems, including the state of U.S.
education, as well as diseases prevalent
in Third World countries.
MacArthur Genius Cheryl Rogowski,
a modern-day patron saint of CSAs
(community-supported agriculture), for
her awareness-raising mission to preserve family farms across the U.S. Farming, she told Yoga + last year, is an act
of “reverence for the very essence of life
in all its various facets and forms.”
Actress Ashley Judd and yoga teacher
Seane Corn, who serve as ambassadors
for YouthAIDS, an organization that
raises funds and spreads awareness about
HIV/AIDS in Hollywood and in U.S.
yoga and wellness communities, and
offers lifesaving education and prevention services in over 60 countries. As
Corn explains, “This is our opportunity
to align our strength, mindfulness, compassion, and love—all that we have been
learning in the yoga room—and activate
it outward into our communities, and
—The Editors
into our world.”
ROGOWSKI july - august 2007 yoga + joyful living
portion of each day to focused, heartfelt
spiritual practice. For many yoga students, though, our interest in cultivating
the inner life is so keen that we find it
difficult to get our financial act together
at all! It is only when we start to work
with the nidhis that making money is no
longer something we do in addition to our
spiritual work. Now it becomes a valuable part of our spiritual work.
Lakshmi is a popular deity in India. If the
coins streaming from her hands represent
money, the fact that she’s a deity reminds
people that money is not just something
to be enjoyed; it should also be honored.
Affluence should be respected because
it’s a shakti, a powerful stream of energy
that can quickly reshape your reality in
either positive or negative ways, depending on how you use it.
Creating substantial wealth takes
exceptional focus and ability. That’s why
the yogis say you need the nidhis (which
include clarity, desire, and willpower)
to make your financial dreams manifest.
But you also need punya. In yoga, punya
means merit earned in previous lives.
(Westerners who don’t believe in reincarnation can translate punya as “good
luck.”) Even today, if you spend time with
orthodox Hindu families you’ll find the
concept of karmic merit very much alive.
Although individuals can generate
their own merit, karma is also seen as a
advanced or materially fortunate soul into
their home.
It is also traditional for wealthy families in India to sponsor large public works,
such as digging wells and bathing tanks
for villagers, or making generous contributions to the local temple. They are consciously working with karmic principles
which dictate that if you want prosperity
to continue flowing toward you, you need
to keep it flowing out toward others. This
keeps the stream of karmic merit running.
Unfortunately, as Western norms increasingly penetrate Indian culture, some children of wealthy parents have turned away
from the traditional concept of building
merit across generations, and are squandering both the money and merit they’ve
inherited on self-indulgent lifestyles.
Then the flow of punya stops, “luck”
dries up, and the family goes financially
and morally bankrupt.
Most of the powerful techniques of Padmini Vidya remain concealed, passed on
like advanced yoga practices only to carefully screened disciples. This keeps the
knowledge from falling into the hands of
unprepared students who might abuse its
powers. However, there are a number of
methods commonly used throughout
India to enhance punya, or as we’d put
it in the West, to build prosperity consciousness. These work with the shakti
or “divine energy” of prosperity personi-
ing tenderness, who is supremely generous to everyone without fail.”
What you can do: Every morning, as part
of your yoga practice, honor the blessing
force of abundance throughout the universe with the words above. By focusing
intently on Lakshmi’s qualities, you are
invoking the very beauty, prosperity, and
generosity she represents.
Some traditional Indians perform a
daily puja (ritual) before a statue or painting of Lakshmi or her yantra (geometric
form), which involves waving lit candles
and offering gifts such as incense, fruit,
flowers, and purified water to the image.
This symbolizes their loving respect for
the divine forces that create health, abundance, and success.
What you can do: Place a picture, poster,
or statue of Lakshmi (or another sacred
image representing prosperity) in a special place in your home, such as a meditation altar. Mentally honor that image
every time you look at it. This simple
ritual can align your subconscious mind
with the powers of prosperity and awaken
your latent ability to manifest abundance
in your life.
Because Lakshmi also represents
beauty, devotees spend time each day
cleaning and beautifying both their own
bodies and their surrounding environment. They aim to keep their homes and
their own frame of minds in such a state
The yoga tradition asks us to locate our desire for prosperity within a wider spiritual context.
collective force. A whole family creates
good karma through their combined spiritual practices and altruistic deeds. Some
parents and grandparents do hundreds of
thousands of mantra repetitions, or fast,
or go on pilgrimage, not for their own
sake, but for the sake of their children
and grandchildren. They believe that
exceptional souls, such as saints or multimillionaires, don’t incarnate in a particular family out of the blue. That family
has probably been doing japa (chanting
mantras) for generations in order to purify their karma and invite a spiritually
fied as a goddess, to make the practice
more vivid and personal. Let’s take a look
at the practices India’s householder yogis
perform to invoke material abundance,
and how you can emulate them.
Many devotees chant the Lakshmi
Sahasra Naman, “The Thousand Names
of Lakshmi,” every day at dawn. This
beautiful practice includes chanting
phrases like, “I bow to Lakshmi who is
the very essence of beauty, who is the
exquisite form of the unthinkable vastness of the universe, who brims with lov-
yoga + joyful living july - august 2007
that if Lakshmi walked in the door at any
moment, she would feel pleased and comfortable.
What you can do: Keep your home and
work place beautiful and clean, decorating with attractive colors and fragrant
flowers, and purifying the atmosphere
with soft, uplifting music. And to keep
your body and mind pure, bathe regularly,
wear fresh, clean clothes, and practice
regular yoga and meditation. By maintaining a clean, clear environment—both
internally and externally—you invite the
blessings of Lakshmi into your life.
What you can do: Sign up for karma yoga
at your local yoga center; volunteer at a
homeless shelter; donate money to a
charity or humanitarian project that truly
makes a difference in the world. By selflessly and cheerfully using your energy—
and your earnings—to support good
causes, you transform the mundane act
of making a living into a valuable spiritual practice.
Lakshmi is not just
the energy of abundance;
ultimately she is pure
consciousness itself.
© Vidura Luis Barrios / Alamy
The Lakshmi Tantra suggests that
if we wish to never suffer from a lack of
resources, we should respect the living
energy of the earth, which is the concrete
form of Lakshmi herself. In India, the
earth goddess is often visualized as a nurturing cow. Just as a cow provides us with
milk, butter, ghee, and yogurt, the earth
selflessly provides for all our needs. Honoring the earth means never taking anything
from it without giving something back.
What you can do: If you use wood to build
a home, plant new trees. If you grow
flowers or vegetables in your garden,
add compost or organic fertilizers to
keep the soil rich. You can also celebrate
the earth’s bounty by supporting CSAs
(community supported agriculture) and
farmers’ markets; lobbying for environmentally friendly legislation; and reducing
your ecological footprint by following the
tips at websites like Al Gore’s As Rumi said, “There are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”
It’s said that the goddess of prosperity feels most at home in a generous
and compassionate heart. Those who
eagerly watch for opportunities to help
others and make liberal contributions to
charity, without expecting anything in
return, are sure to receive the benefits
of Lakshmi’s grace.
There are many different yogic lineages.
Some of them are deeply ascetic. But the
earliest surviving yoga text, the Rig Veda,
was meant for householders, not renunciates, and is filled not only with prayers
for spiritual illumination but also with
requests for ample food, physical safety,
longevity, success, and healthy children.
Yoga students should never feel they’re
not good yogis if they pray for—and
work for—things they genuinely need to
survive and thrive in today’s expensive,
demanding world.
At the same time, the Lakshmi Tantra
reminds us that the goddess of prosperity has much greater gifts to offer than a
beautiful home or a hefty savings account.
After all, death won’t let us take these
things with us into the next world. The
text explains that Lakshmi is not just the
energy of abundance; ultimately she is
pure consciousness itself. “This goddess,
whose beautiful face radiates grace, fulfills
every desire. She gives wealth, success,
and love to those who ask for them sincerely. But to those who ask for enlightenment, she grants Self-realization.”
It is a wonderful blessing to be a humanitarian, a philanthropist, an activist,
a karma yogi, or a spiritual leader. If we
keep the first three aims of life—fulfilling
work, pleasure, and wealth—in the context of the fourth—spiritual growth—
then we don’t shortchange our souls. The
gifts of the spirit are the ones that travel
with us from life to life, and they are by far
our most valuable asset. +
Linda Johnsen, MS, is the author of Lost Masters:
Sages of Ancient Greece. Her most recent book is
Kirtan! Chanting as a Spiritual Practice. Visit
her at july - august 2007 yoga + joyful living