By Dhanesvara Das
Excerpted from my forthcoming book:
Spiritual Economics â Creating a Culture of Satisfaction to Heal the World.
Economics With A Transcendent Purpose
The Beautiful Story of the Personality of Godhead, otherwise known as the Srimad Bhagavatam, is considered to be the post-graduate study of the spiritual sciences. Sometimes referred to as the fifth Veda, the Bhagavatam is said to contain the essence of all other Vedic literature. It continues our spiritual education from the conclusions of the Bhagavad-gita.
In its opening pages depicting the beginning of Kali-yuga, a group of sages foreseeing the degenerative influences to come gathered in the forest at Naimisaranya to perform a thousand-year sacrifice. Their purpose? To inquire about the absolute and ultimate good for the people in general during this difficult age. Their questions and approach operate from a level of understanding that transcends the body, and their intent was that people benefit in a future far beyond short the years of one lifetime. In responding to questions regarding the ultimate good of all people, it is significant that the discussion almost immediately considers activities of what today would be considered to be economic in nature.
The sages petition the most learned among them, Suta Goswami, thus:
âPlease, being blessed with many years, explain to us, in an easily understandable way, what you have ascertained to be the absolute and ultimate good for the people in general. O learned one, in this iron age of Kali men have but short lives. They are quarrelsome, lazy, misguided, unlucky and, above all, always disturbed. There are many varieties of scriptures, and in all of them there are many prescribed duties, which can be learned only after many years of study in their various divisions. Therefore, O sage, please select the essence of all these scriptures and explain it for the good of all living beings, that by such instruction their hearts may be fully satisfied . . . Knowing well that the age of Kali has already begun, we are assembled here in this holy place to hear at great length the transcendental message of Godhead and in this way perform sacrifice.
And Suta Goswami, after offering respect to the previous acaryas from whom this transcendental knowledge descends, replies:
âO sages, I have been justly questioned by you. Your questions are worthy because they relate to Lord Krishna and so are of relevance to the world’s welfare. Only questions of this sort are capable of completely satisfying the self. The supreme occupation [dharma] for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendent Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted to completely satisfy the self. By rendering devotional service unto the Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna, one immediately acquires causeless knowledge and detachment from the world. All occupational engagements are certainly meant for ultimate liberation. They should never be performed for material gain. Furthermore, according to sages, one who is engaged in the ultimate occupational service should never use material gain to cultivate sense gratification.â
There are several things worthy of note in this dialogue:
– the sagesâ inquiry is very broad and inclusive of all varieties of scriptures and by extension, all religious practices and all people.
– Sutaâs reply is directed to the ultimate aim of religion and human life: liberation from the material condition, and
– the stated purpose of occupational service is the very antithesis of the purpose of the modern dayâs economy.
Letâs consider these each in turn.
We note with interest that the sages inquiry is not exclusive to their own understanding of religion, but is very broad and inclusiveâtaking into account all varieties of scriptures and religious dutiesâand they appeal to Suta to ascertain the essence of all of them. From their perspective religion of any variety has but one aimâto bring one closer to God. And we note further that the reply does not limit or restrict the supplicants according to the external features of their worship, or a sectarian understanding of religious principles, meant only for the few âelectâ while excluding most others. The answers offered by Suta Goswami should not be considered a sectarian affair applicable only to one group. The spiritual truths of the Vedic literatures are universally applicable to people of all faiths, and are meant for the benefit of all the people of the worldâregardless of creed.
Next, Suta Goswamiâs reply to questions about the highest good for all people is immediately directed to the ultimate aim of religion and human life: liberation from the material condition of repeated birth and death. And the means he suggests for such an achievement? Our own occupational engagement, which in the parlance of todayâs culture can be considered economic activity.
Now for the modern person this is a startling response, and a far different idea than is usually thought of as the process of achieving spiritual perfection. In considering the serious pursuit of spiritual ideals people generally think it necessary to abandon all kinds of work and take up the monks way of life. We generally think that they are the holy people, the people who are really serious about spiritual perfection. Especially in pursuit of religion, we also generally think that we must abandon any ideas about economic development, which are generally thought of as being contrary to a spiritual life. But how many people can take up such a life today? And does our lack of ability to adopt such a life condemn the rest of us to an eternal material bondage? No. According to the statements of the main speaker of the Bhagavatam addressing our material needs need not be incompatible with a spiritual life.
Which brings us to the third pointâthe purpose of occupational, or economic, activities. On this count Suta Goswami admonishes us that the results from our occupational activity should never be used for sense gratification. This is again startling since sense gratification is what the modern economy is all about. All advertising encourages us to look better, be better, achieve more and enjoy the material rewards of life. Sense gratification in its many shapes is what marketing promotes, and what so concerns Professor Jhally. It is the very foundation of todayâs economy. Underlying that entire effort is the implicit assumption that items from the marketplace will make us happy, or happier.
The difference is that the modern culture, having totally forgotten the spiritual aspect of our experience, focuses on the needs and desires of the body only; while the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad Bhagavatam inform us that occupational activities, in addition to providing for the needs of the body, can bring the happiness and satisfaction we seek if they are properly pursued. Many people of the West, having experienced all that modern life has to offer, have found not satisfactionâbut only frustration resulting from empty promises. The modern economic paradigm fails to deliver what it promises. Therefore so many Westerners are now looking to the wisdom of the East in the pursuit of personal, inner satisfaction that we find yoga more popular in California than in many parts of India. The satisfaction and happiness we all seek is available to us, and for the most part very little change is required on our part. We may continue in our occupational duty, but what is required is a change in our approachâa change of consciousness.
The Characteristics of Spiritual Economics
Just as material economics are based upon the material conceptions of life, Spiritual Economics is based upon spiritual conceptions of life. One of the wonderful qualities of spiritual activities is that there can be no material impediment to them, therefore, they are always available. As such in Spiritual Economics the conception of abundance replaces the concept of scarcity so the problems of lack and scarcity which are so prevalent in the world today are automatically solved.
Under Spiritual Economics the economic unit is not a producing/consuming machine, but an individual spiritually conscious living being whose satisfaction is not derived from material sense gratification but from devotional service to the Lord. As such, consumption of earthly resources is minimized because more than the minimum is simply not desired or required by the person who follows this system, as it is to fill the inflated ego and greed of the spiritually-starved materialist. Reducing the environmental impact of the human species upon the earth is thereby automatically achieved without any sense of deprivation or complex legislation or policing.
In Spiritual Economics the main feature is that everything is achieved by giving and not by getting. Spiritual Economics is thus a gifting economy, devoid of any need of artificial currencies such as cash or credit. Accepting Sri Krishna is the supreme proprietor of this entire creation we know that any âgettingâ is only an illusory endeavor that keeps us bound in the spell of material nature. Therefore the sane person gives it up. At the same time, every living being has something to give, which is their energy in devotional service. Giving finds its perfection in devotional service to the Lord and His devotees, which is reciprocated in loving relationships.
This is demonstrated by the fact that Lord Krishna first of all gives to us all that is required for our sustenanceâthis earth and its elements, the air, sunshine, rain, even our ability, intelligence, and so on. In devotional service we reciprocate with the Lord by giving back to Him those same things transformed, as in food and clothing offered to the Him as the Deity, temples for his worship, service to His devotees, and our efforts performed in the spirit of devotional service. This reciprocal service continues in a variety of ways that culminate in the highest treasure of allâpure love of God. As this unalloyed devotional service matures, Lord Krishna gives Himself to His devotee and the devotee gives himself to the Lord. This loving exchange is the eternal activity of the spiritually perfected souls who reside in the spiritual world.
Under Spiritual Economics this reciprocation goes on between the participants as well, each engaged in the service of their choice, but giving the results to others freely and accepting in return those things which they require for living.
Life’s real pleasure is giving and not getting, but our present economic structure has made this natural pleasure so difficult to perform that we see ourselves developing into selfish people. So if we consciously reform the economic system in such a way as to create an environment which promotes the pleasure of giving, naturally this will awaken the spiritual values in the hearts of men, ultimately finding its fulfillment in giving to Sri Krishna, and to all of His creation.
Just as material economics has a currency, so does Spiritual Economics. But the currency in Spiritual Economics is of a spiritual character. The currency is devotional service. It is not something separate from the âeconomic unitâ, therefore there is no anxiety in acquiring it. Nor is it at all limited in supply. Quite the contrary it is unlimited. In fact, the more one uses spiritual currency, the more one will have, as demonstrated by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates: âAlthough the members of the Pancha-tattva plundered the storehouse of love of Godhead and ate and distributed its contents, there was no scarcity, for this wonderful storehouse is so complete that as the love is distributed, the supply increases hundreds of times.â Cc., Adi 7.24
The individual economic units are most happy and satisfied when they are able to maximize their level of devotional service. Free from the influence of the deluding potency of material illusion it is natural to do so, and they as individuals and society as a collective whole will both achieve maximum benefit by orienting the economy toward this understanding. People can be peaceful and feel secure when they know that their needs will be met, and they can then focus on giving their service.
Further, since Krishna is the Supreme Proprietor of everything, in Spiritual Economics the participants do not claim proprietorship over this earth or its resources as their private property. The âcommonsâ which have been privatized in the 20th centuryâs frenzy of accumulation will be returned to general use of each according to his need. All attempt to artificially increase lust and envy, and conspicuous consumption would be practically eliminated. In the world of Spiritual Economics those who would want to promote oneself as the biggest or most important man, the wealthiest, the most beautiful, etc., will be looked upon with pity; their inflated ego needs signaling the need of spiritual hospitalization for recovery from the material disease of âI and Mineâ, while all persons participating in the system of Spiritual Economics could live in cooperation, free from envy, strife, class struggle and the political upheaval caused by inflated greed, need, want, and debilitating disparity.
Considering that the main feature of all families who live under one roof is that there is no buying and selling between them, but sharing according to the need of each, then in practicing the way of devotional service which includes Spiritual Economics, all of mankind can live in harmony as one family, all sons and daughters of the Supreme Father. It is said of Bhaktivedanta Swami that he created a house in which the whole world can live. Indeed, this concept of Spiritual Economics, founded on his teachings, can provide such a wonderful home for everyone.
The above is excerpted from my upcoming book: Spiritual Economics â Creating a Culture of Satisfaction to Heal the World. It is a study of economics based on the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad Bhagavatam and it is the fruition of inspirations bestowed upon me some 20 years ago. I am very happy to see it now becoming manifest as a bookâespecially in the current time when economic calamity headlines the news almost every day.
I offer this book to fulfill the desire of Srila Prabhupada that: âWe have to prove that for the solution to economic problems, agriculture and cow protection are the topmost programs â not industry. For all aspects of society â religion, economics, politics, etc., â the foundation is the Bhagavad-gita. That is a fact.â*
In this book I explore how that is possible. As well I explain:
- How various economic methods are created by people according to the influence of the gunas
- The catastrophic results of the economics of ignorance and atheismâthe modern dayâs economic methods
- Why modern economic methods can only lead to further unhappiness, strife, suffering and impoverishment for greater numbers of people
- Why people cannot find satisfaction from material prosperity alone
- What karma is and how it functions; why it is important to our understanding and practice of spiritual economics
- The nature of material and spiritual love and why that is important to economic behavior
- A complete explanation of Spiritual Economics based on the instructions of Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita, the Srimad Bhagavatam and Sri Isopanisad
- Spiritual Economics as the only possible and practical solution to the many problems facing the world today
- Varnashrama dharma as a process for uplifting the masses to self-realization as described in the Bhagavad-gita
- How everyone can find the satisfaction they desire, and be happy in this life living in harmony with each other, nature, and God by following the methods of Spiritual Economics and the chanting of the Maha Mantra. In this way the suffering of all people can be ended and healed, the suffering of the earth can be healed, and the suffering of the animals can be healed.
The book is just about finishedâonly one chapter remaining to writeâso I am looking for a few people to help make the book ready for publication. I will self-publish the book on lulu.com initially while looking for a regular publisher. To finish the process I would like several people to read it and offer critical comments and suggestions, both those un-familiar with Srila Prabhupadaâs teachings as well as ISKCON devotees. Additionally, there is need of an editor, proofreader and indexer. Any help that could be offered for those services will be greatly appreciated, remuneration possible in kind or from sales. If you can assist with any of these services please contact me at dhanesvara (-@-) pamho.net (I spell it like this to avoid picking up spam, but use the standard format when you write)
*(from Srila Prabhupada’s Vision for the Bhaktivedanta Institute by H.H. Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja)
Copyrighted material Â©Dhanesvara Das (Don Rousse)