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A Yogi’s Rules on Money and Happiness

Here is an article I read recently that was written by Paramhansa Yogananda – of Autobiography of a Yogi fame – during the Great Depression in the US.

Not surprisingly, the principles laid out by Yogananda remain relevant even today, 80+ years after he wrote about them…and that’s why I am sharing them with you.

You see, the old rules of life or money never change and they only become tough on you when you ignore them. Like these golden rules laid out by Yogananda (the emphasis is mine), which if you continue to ignore, would make your life extremely tough.

Over to Yogananda…

Most people spend thirty dollars a week when their income is only twenty. The extra ten dollars is acquired by borrowing, or by buying with promises to pay in the future, on installment plans, and such systems. You must not always feel that you have to “keep up with the Joneses.”

To try to own more than your purse will allow is to live in constant mental worry, and under such conditions happiness, like a will-o’-the-wisp, has to be chased foolishly all over the boggy surface of bottomless desires.

To spend more than you earn is to live in perpetual slavery. To spend more now in the hope of making more later on is the harbinger of all material suffering.

An expensive car, together with a good dress-suit, and a beautiful home are very pleasant to have, but the loss of your car because you cannot meet the so-soon-recurring installments due; foreclosure of the mortgage on your home, built and paid for by many years of labor and saving; the publicity, dishonor, and heavy heart that comes after such occurrences—all these are very unpleasant.

Is it not better to have an inexpensive car all paid for, a cozy cottage, a low-priced, clean suit, and a comfortable bank account than to have a big outward show with only borrowed money in your pocket?

Remember that along with the art of money-making it is well to learn the art of money-saving, for a large income is of no lasting good to you if it creates only habits of luxury and no reserve fund.

Think for a moment. If you should get sick suddenly, how would you continue your luxurious habits, without the usual income, if you have no savings put away?

It is a bad thing to cultivate luxurious habits if you have only a small income. Is it not better to live simply and frugally and grow rich in reality?

You should use one-fourth of your income on plain living, save three-fourths, and be at ease in your mind with a feeling of future security. Keep what you earn legitimately, and don’t gamble or lose it in trying to “get rich quick.”

The present depression has taught you to buy lower-priced things, to save for a “rainy day” and not to spend on mere material comforts more than you are earning.

Happiness can be had by the exercise of self-control, by cultivating habits of plain living and high thinking, by spending less even though earning more.

Make an effort to earn more so that you can be the means of helping others to help themselves, for one of the unwritten laws decrees that he who helps others to abundance and happiness, always will be helped in return by them, and he will become more and more prosperous and happy himself.

This is a law of happiness which cannot be broken.

The crux of Yogananda’s thoughts on money and happiness that I get from this article is – Stop keeping up with the Joneses, for they are broke which you should not aim to be.

You shouldn’t worry about what other people have. It’s your money, so spend it wisely.

Finally, to reiterate Warren Buffett – “If you’re in the luckiest 1% of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99%.”

Earn it, then save it, so that you can give it.

That will be your way to financial nirvana.

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About the Author

Vishal Khandelwal is the founder of Safal Niveshak. He works with small investors to help them become smart and independent in their stock market investing decisions. He is a SEBI registered Research Analyst. Connect with Vishal on Twitter.


  1. This is an interesting piece of thought for focusing on simplicity and to save money and lead a dignified life. The inner happiness you gain by being a smart money manager is several times more valuable than the false sense of pride you get buy showing off. Aiming higher is good when you do it in terms of ambitions and thinking, not just in terms of material stuff. Good article Vishal, and the points are very apt and the message is relevant to people who are falling in to this false sense of pride.

  2. Calisto de Souza says:

    How very true this passage is. But how very hard it is to follow. In this age of instant gratification , we are tailormade to keeping up with the Joneses. Woe towards him who will not keep up. You are looked down upon, ridiculed and subjected to enormous pressures. Hence , the easiest things in life are the hardest to follow.

  3. Reni George says:

    Dear Vishal

    Good Morning to you,

    The crux of Happiness or for that matter,The pursuit of Happiness,here is where people link it with material upliftment and collection as the Happiness point,it is later only when this material valuation dawns on them that they understand that instead of creating Happiness,it has created a sense of worry and stress for them.

    Just a couple of days,I remember one of my close friend calling me and asking my whereabouts,I told him that I am on a scenic site enjoying the sunset with a cup of tea in my hand,and he was ruing that,”You are a lucky fellow,you do not have a housing loan,a personal loan or a car loan,I have all the three and I have to worry about that,and I am still in my office trying to meet my targets,” I tole him,”Dear friend ,it was my decision,to not take a loan,though i had my car loan,I diligently completed it and i have not missed a single Installment,as the loan was not a drag on my finances,”I am enjoying this sunset because it was my decision to find happiness in the earthly things,rather than scourging it in the material things.

    You might have seen people earning a lakh rupees per month then also they are unhappy stressed out,because they have to fulfill 2X of the earnings in installments of various kinds.As shown in the advertisments,A loan can never give you happiness,it can just generate enough stress for your mental and physical health.

    Paul Coehlo had said something like this,
    “Ester asked why people are sad.
    “That’s simple,” says the old man. “They are the prisoners of their personal history. Everyone believes that the main aim in life is to follow a plan. They never ask if that plan is theirs or if it was created by another person. They accumulate experiences, memories, things, other people’s ideas, and it is more than they can possibly cope with. And that is why they forget their dreams.”

    As you have seen from the above writing,people become prisoners of other people’s habits,My car should be bigger than his,My house should have more rooms than his,My mobile should be Apple,because he is using Samsung,and ultimately to fulfill all this things,he gets into the CHAKRAVYUUH OF CREDITS,People become the abhimanyus,they easily get into this,but find it hard to get out of it.

    Unnecessary possessions are unnecessary burdens. If you have them, you have to take care of them! There is great freedom in simplicity of living. It is those who have enough but not too much who are the happiest.

    A good Post Vishal
    What a wonderful Monday

    Thanks and Regards
    Happy Living

    Reni George

    • Sudhir Bhargava says:

      Wonderful post by you too, Reni. Thanks
      I like the sentence “It is those who have enough but not too much who are the happiest.”
      So indeed true, the madness in today’s world is mainly to do with “how much is enough” to which there is no answer till we strike peace with ourselves. And that is tough, very very tough.

    • Reni, you are amazing as ever! 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Nelson Christian says:

    Brilliant ideas and the fact that they were written during the great depression and hold true even today signify their importance. Some things never change regardless of time. What has been mentioned is simple in nature but yet extremely practical and impotant.

  5. Sudhir Bhargava says:

    A superb post as always.
    The book “Autobiography of a Yogi” is a wonderful book.
    I read and was mesmerised.
    If the things he says are indeed true it seems a wonderful unexplored world, the mere thought of which is uplifting.

  6. Vishal,

    Excellent pickings from Paramhansa Yogananda’s quotes. I read the book, but couldn’t complete it. Are the above quotes from this book?

    Yes, I’m totally against loans and currently have only home loan and planning to finish it ASAP. I can easily buy a brand new car on loan. But, simply, I don’t need it now. Whenever I need it, I will buy it without loan.

    Thanks for this post.


  7. Hi Vishal,
    Thanks for sharing awesome quotes.

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