Ellen Grace O’Brian returns to the roots of yoga to craft a do-it-yourself manual on prosperity
BY TARA KATIR, WASHINGTON
PIONEERING INTERNATIONAL YOGA teacher Paramahansa Yogananda arrived in Boston, Massachusetts in September 1920 following divine instructions directing him to begin his work in the West. His nascent teachings began at the International Congress of Religious Liberals, where he spoke on “The Science of Religion.” That same year he founded the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) to disseminate the ancient Hindu philosophy of yoga. His teachings emphasized the underlying unity of the world’s religions; he initiated serious students in the profound practices of Kriya Yoga.
Even after the guru’s departure from this world, the teachings of SRF continued to expand in the United States and around the globe. Devotees were inspired to create many centers that have sustained the tradition. One such center was particularly significant for Ellen Grace O’Brian, as it was established by her guru, Roy Eugene Davis. From his inspiration, she founded the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment in San Jose, California, a meditation center that “helps people learn to live from the inside out with practices and insights for developing life-transforming skills and cultivate a spiritually awakened, fulfilled life.”
Poet, writer and spiritual director, Yoga-charya O’Brian has written several books to inspire seekers in the ancient yoga practices. Most recently published is The Jewel Of Abundance; Finding Prosperity through the Ancient Wisdom of Yoga (Paperback and eBook, 320 pages, $16.95, ISBN 978-1-60868-1).
This latest book is crafted as a roadmap for abundant living utilizing the four purush arthas—dharma, artha, kama and moksha, while focusing primarily on artha. “The aim of artha is to prosper in every way—to develop the consciousness and the skills to attract whatever is needed to fulfill our dharma, or higher purpose. In this context, prosperity is understood as a spiritual goal—not for its own sake, but for the sake of the soul. It provides the means to live fully and freely.
“When prosperity is equated with material wealth attained for its own sake, the word prosperity loses its deep meaning. True prosperity is experienced in a spiritual context. Because this truth is frequently missed, the words prosperity and wealth are often narrowly defined or understood at the level of material accomplishment alone. But as you work through the teachings of this book with me, you’ll see that these words can rightly be applied and understood in the right way as spiritual goals. And that makes all the difference.”
Yogacharya divides her book into five sections: Higher Purpose: 1) Set the Foundation Upon Your Heart; 2) Insight: Road Map for Abundant Living; 3) A Skillful Way: How to Realize Fulfillment; 4) Clarity: Overcome Obstacles and Thrive; 5) Generosity: Live the Prosperous Life. Each section is filled with spiritual examples to engage and inspire readers to seek and express noble spiritual goals in their life.
One simple, yet sophisticated practice she encourages us to cultivate is to have a grateful and generous heart. “A grateful heart is a magnet that draws to us what is harmonious and good. This idea is reflected in a playful adage: not, ‘We see things as they are,’ but, ‘We see things as we are.’” Yoga charya admonishes us to be thankful, for “gratitude stretches us to be bigger, to expand our consciousness, to open our hearts and our minds more fully. When we begin the practice of cultivating gratitude, we often notice that it’s generally easier to feel grateful for what we like, for what we want or find pleasant. It’s more difficult to experience gratitude when what comes our way is unwanted.”
The essence of Yogacharya’s advice on how to achieve artha falls near the end of her book: “The real nature of abundance is realizing that the universe is self-complete and we are one with it. It is full; lacking nothing. Life will bring forth whatever is needed for its purposes. When we let go of clinging to any idea of lack and instead turn our gaze toward the all-sufficiency of Spirit, we can see that. We experience our own wholeness, fullness and abundance.”
Yogacharya O’Brian was ordained by Roy Eugene Davis, a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda, and has been teaching Kriya Yoga philosophy for three decades. She is the recipient of the 2015 Mahatma Gandhi Award for the Promotion of Religious Pluralism and Founder. Living in California with her husband, she is president of Carry the Vision, a community nonviolence educational project bringing meditation instruction to staff and school children, the prison population and others in society. She served on the Board of Directors of the Parliament of World’s Religions and is Vice Chair Emeritus of the Parliament Board.
The Jewel of Abundance makes for pleasurable reading, especially due to the author’s linguistic gifts. It’s full of inspiring quotes from great souls expertly woven into her compelling message of love, gratitude, surrender and how we can establish a spiritual foundation for our life. I found the glossary of Sanskrit words and endnotes delineating source materials useful. I believe you will enjoy this lovely book.