The feeling of debt or obligation, whether financial or otherwise, is also a psychological issue since it strongly effects the workings of the mind and disturbs the emotions. Since the mind holds the notion of debt, the mind must also be used to remove it. In an era when people have numerous debts and unfulfilled obligations, Vedic wisdom about the mind and Rina or Debt is critical for the right management of our debts and obligations and preventing them from getting out of control.

By Dr David Frawley with Mahesh Prabhu

Rina is the Sankrit term for debt in the broadest sense. Debts are of several kinds and not limited to financial or monetary issues. There are debts we have at birth: Matru Rina or Debt to our mother (including mother earth and mother nature, and our maternal ancestors and guides), Pitru Rina or debt to our fathers and forefathers (gurus, benefactors, and mentors moreso than the biological father). There are debts we owe to our family, Kutumba Rina, to our society, Samsara Rina and to our friends, Mitra Rina. 

Such Rinas though non-monetary, play a pivotal role in defining our career and finances as well. These relationship connections include education, inheritance and work associations. Such Rinas are only valid, however, when we have received something worthwhile, not otherwise. When a Guru gives a wealth of knowledge and wisdom selflessly, it is not a debt that can be removed through monetary rewards. Requires an inner giving as well.


According to the Artha Sutras, the main Vedic text on these issues, unless we acknowledge the contributions of the various individuals in our lives, there are no worthwhile gains that can provide us happiness in this world. Gratitude is the foremost quality that needs to be developed for a life of lasting peace and sustainable prosperity.

The greatest problem in the world today is that gratitude is rarely given, and thanklessness has become the hallmark of our social interactions. Our family, social, professional as well as personal lives rarely provide any sense of contentment thereby making thanklessness more likely. We think we never have enough and so cannot appreciate what we have received from anyway. On the contrary, we feel entitled as if the entire world had a debt to us simply by the fact of our existence.

This thanklessness easily gives way to greed, whereby we consider even unnecessary desires as our “need,” When these “needs” are not fulfilled by our existing resources we then borrow and incur financial debts in order to satisfy them. And since greed only increases when satisfied, our debts perpetually keep rising, leading to emotional as well as physical pain.

According to Artha Sutras, a person is never “rich” financially unless they have no real debts or unfulfilled obligations. The text states that, “A person who has little but remains satisfied is richer than the ‘rich’ who are ridden with debt.” We see today’s “billionaires” often have massive debts and over valuation of their assets, making their wealth illusory.

We flaunt an appearance of wealth or success even if we have none. We overspend based upon credit, not real income. We create social media images of success and an extravagant lifestyle that is beyond our means to sustain. A significant portion of the youth today lives on credit cards. By making ‘minimum payments’ on their card, they perpetuate their debts which can take years to clear.

Debts and Karma

The question is how can we get rid of our debts in a lasting manner? Debt is a Karma, more specifically a Vikarma or negative karma. It is easy to commit a Vikarma while getting out of it is hard. A Satkarma or positive karma will yield positive results in the long run, but a Vikarma causes detrimental consequences often right after the transient pleasures it yields have subsided.

Vikarma, which creates Rina or Debts, are like drugs. They give a phenomenal high at first, but eventually end up draining us. While there are deaddiction medicines for drugs, there are no panaceas for debts. If you have incurred debts, you have to repay them. Of course, you may have relatives or friends to pay your debts for you, but then you are indebted to them. And if you do not pay your dues to them by taking them for granted, you may lose your relationships as well.

There are no short cuts for removing debts. You must work with your knowledge and skills of body and mind to deal with them. And since the mind is the key to knowledge and skill, you must harness it wisely by ensuring you keep it engaged in good pursuits – Satkarma. 

Knowledge, Skill and Performance

Yoga, Ayurveda, Mantra, and Meditation give us great knowledge about harnessing the powers of our minds and bodies. Artha Shastras teach us how to understand others at a practical level in order to identify opportunities and mutually benefit from them.

Most people look at their clients as simply a source to gain money. But a wise professional relationship requires that the person who is purchasing your products or services from them benefits as a regular customer or client.

Most people also presume that changing external economic factors are opportunities or threats to ones’ earnings, and are frightened by economic downturns. Economic factors affect you when you have based your profession on the opinions of others, without continuing to develop your own knowledge and skillsets.

Vedic texts speak in depth about contentment. But contentment is not mere complacency. You must be content in performing your work, but you cannot be complacent about it. If you want the work to reward you, you must reward the work by updating your skills and applying a steady attention.

Most debt-ridden people have poor skillsets, though they may advertise achievements they have not really gained or applied. Their success is more a media construction than proficiency in what they do, and so seldom leads to lasting success.

When you don’t enjoy the work that provides your income, but are happier spending it, you are essentially enriching your debts. The easiest way to get rid of debt, is not by “restructuring” it but by ensuring that you are dedicated to your work and give your best to it. Rewards may come later in your work, but if you can enjoy it – from learning, application, and mastering it – you are certain to not just save money but to earn more.  This is the Karma Yogapropounded by Vedic knowledge.

Your work should first fulfill your dharma or inner purpose in life, not just attract the short term attention of others. You must have a commitment to and concentration on your work for its own inherent value. Then it will stand in its own light, and not require the approval of others, and not be subject to outer changes. Then debt and obligation will not be problem and you will contribute to the welfare of all as long as you live.

This article first appeared in and it belongs to them.