I have a friend who’s a business coach. A few months ago, she published a series of affirmations over a period of forty days with a new, different affirmation for each day all of which focused on creating prosperity and wealth. Although they were all different, they seemed to revolve around five or six themes.
One of the themes that I found very meaningful and particularly stood out to me was the idea that prosperity doesn’t come from without, it comes from within. We all go through life looking for the right situation, the right people, the right venue, for us to prosper. She contended that prosperity really doesn’t depend on external factors. The crux of the theme is that it is really our connection to a Higher Power or G-d that creates our wealth.
This is a concept that is the focus of the Vedas. The Vedas—or “knowledge” in Sanskrit—are ancient texts that have been studied for hundreds of years and part of which is the basis of Hinduism. One of their concepts is that we all live in a physical world and therefore our focus is directed out. Part of the path to enlightenment is to turn the focus inward and identify with the big Self that is connected to the Universe.
The problem that humankind faces is that we are so focused on what happens on the outside that we get overwhelmed when situations don’t go our way. In fact, we can also get overwhelmed when things go well. We are so focused that we let anything that happens dictate our moods, thoughts, and particularly actions. In short, we react to our environment.
The idea in the Vedas is that we need to know that, as my business coach contends, it is really our essence that is connected to Hashem that dictates our lives.
One of the books of the Vedas is the Bhagavad Gita. This is an allegory that revolves around a crisis that the hero of the story, Arjuna, is facing. Arjuna is a great warrior, skilled in leadership and the bow. And he stands on the battlefield, in the midst of a tragic situation of having to go to war against members of his clan. While he is dedicated to doing what needs to done, he is troubled and indecisive. However, he has the advantage of being counseled by Lord Krishna.
The Gita focuses on Arjuna’s spiritual journey towards enlightenment as Krishna guides him to be in a perfect state of bliss in accord with the Universe and then perform action. Only when he realizes the true nature of his inner Self, can he be skilled in action. Part of this guidance, though, involves removing himself from the effects of action, or Karma.
This concept has created confusion for centuries. People felt that in order to be in bliss, one had to physically remove himself from the effects of karma, the results of our action. So people thought they to achieve enlightenment, in which one is not affected by the results of action, they had to go into a cave and contemplate their navel. People didn’t understand that one can achieve the right action of enlightenment through acting in the material world.
As we think about the conflict of Arjuna, we are reminded of something closer to home. Even though the Torah is called the Five Books of Moses, it is really in the middle three books—Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers—that Moses is active in establishing G-d’s Law. And especially now as we go through the latter of those books, Numbers, we see that Moses faces a very similar situation as Arjuna. In fact, Moshe Rabbeinu himself was a warrior. And like Arjuna, Moses is facing rebellions from his clan, the Levites, some of whom question his leadership and wisdom to the point of outright rebellion. And whereas Arjuna had Krishna, Moses has Hashem.
And like Arjuna, G-d gives Moses the commandments that are designed to help us act rightly and justly in this world.
We humans get so involved in our activity that it takes holds of our moods. The Torah, however, tells us what to do. The third paragraph of the “Shema” is very explicit as it tells us not to follow our hearts or our eyes, but ONLY G-d’s commandments. And thus we do right action.
And by performing mitzvot, we remove our Selves from the consequences of action because we only do right action. That action is to love our neighbor, help those in need, give to people who are needy, etc. The Jewish path to enlightenment is very clear.
Really, we don’t have to worry or let life’s little annoyances rule our lives. Of course, yes, it’s inconvenient when a large appliance or car breaks down, or our business situation or family changes; one can’t help but have feelings. But we know, as Jews, that G-d will take care of us as long as we’re true to the covenant.