Dr. Savaysachi dasa:
What constitutes prosperity?
According to the present-day worldview, prosperity is generated by industrial growth through its multifarious products. Nations are categorized as developed, developing, or underdeveloped based on industrial growth. On an individual level also, prosperity is judged by one‚Äôs ability to accumulate and use various industrial products‚ÄĒcars, electronic gadgets, bungalows, and so on. The promise of this industry-based prosperity is provide unrivaled happiness, peace, and freedom to humanity at large.
But has this prosperity afforded the general populace a life of greater contentment and peace, leading ultimately to achieve the nobler aims of human life? What exactly have we achieved by being thus prosperous?
Let‚Äôs compare today‚Äôs scenario with that which existed prior to the modern era, before the industrial revolution. Then the general mode of living was in loosely interconnected small towns and villages that were mostly self-sufficient, their economy based on agriculture and herding of animals. In that conventional village system, all the needs of a village community‚ÄĒfood, clothing, housing, and so forth‚ÄĒwere met locally. Each village was basically a self-sufficient unit, the work being divided among the villagers‚ÄĒsome would grow the food for everyone, some built all the cottages, others gave protection to all. By such cooperation within one village or a group of villages, all the people‚Äôs needs were met locally. Life was simple. No intercontinental import or export, no multinational companies, no industries. The criterion for prosperity was gavay√§-dhanav√§n dh√§nya-dhanav√§n: ‚ÄúOne who possesses cows and grains possesses real wealth.‚ÄĚ That prosperity further flourished on nature‚Äôs gifts: grains, vegetables, and fruits; hills (for jewels), rivers, and seas (for pearls).
Let‚Äôs compare the efficacy of the modern system with that of the conventional village system in the matter of providing the basic human necessities for a society‚Äôs happy and peaceful existence.
Food Compared to the conventional way, in the modern system relatively fewer people and less land are engaged for growing food. Farming is done by machines, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides. The produce must then be transported large distances because the consumers live far, far away from the fields, and due also to the intracacies of internationally linked food markets.
In the conventional village system, land was used for growing food. Machines were not at all necessary. Cow dung and animal manures were used, and were locally available, since farming was generally done in parallel with the herding of animals for milk and transportation. The produce was consumed locally, thus precluding any need for large-scale transportation or for a complex marketing system.
Today we face scarcity of food grains, milk, fruits, and vegetables. Yet up until only recently, pure drinking water was so abundantly available that it was never sold or purchased. Similarly, in the conventional village system milk was so abundant that no one had to purchase it. Everyone obtained fresh, nutritious, pure food‚ÄĒunlike today, when even a billionaire living in a city cannot get fresh fruits and vegetables that are free from poisonous chemicals.
Nowadays the food supply chain is so complex and unpredictable that the entire system of procuring food is very precarious. A war or strike happening thousands of kilometers away can suddenly result in a steep hike in prices of the food items even in a remote small town.
Gradually food supply chains (from the seeds to the crop) are being controlled by a few international companies who manipulate the market to fulfill their greed for money, resulting in more and more difficulties for the masses. Tractors and chemical fertilizers are ruining the land, thus ensuring that greater and more complex problems will arise.
Since more and more people are migrating to cities, land prices are touching the sky, and building materials very costly. Thus, after a life-long struggle, a man of the middle-income group is able to secure only a small flat high above the ground in a multi-storied building, with hardly any open space to breathe fresh air and enjoy sunlight. On the contrary, in the conventional village setup everyone owned a cottage (on the land) surrounded by open space for the kitchen and garden.
Traditionally, all a village‚Äôs cloth was procured form local weavers, who wove with better aesthetic sense than that produced today in a mill for mass production.
In traditional village life, lighting was necessary for only a few hours per day
(early morning and late evening), and that too was just enough to move about, not for performing work, since there were no night shifts for any jobs. Light was produced by burning castor seed oil, which is much easier to procure than the extremely laborious process of establishing thermal power stations, laying networks of electricity wires, and so much maintenance. Compare the benefit of an electric light bulb over a castor oil lamp for our need of light simply to move around for a few hours in the day, and consider the great endeavor required to achieve that benefit. Is it really worth it?
The requirement for fuel was met by collecting the dried wood of trees‚ÄĒfree of cost and with no anxiety that the supply could ever be exhausted.
The same is achieved today through a very complicated and expensive system of gas pipelines or cylinders, and the whole foundaton is very precarious.
God-given automation‚ÄĒour legs‚ÄĒwas sufficient, because no one needed to travel hundreds of miles to an office. Bullock carts were adquate for carrying loads. Thus there was no oil crisis, no accidents, no pollution.
Today, how much human energy is required to maintain the transport system, simply to fulfill artificial needs created that we have created because of the industrial setup and globalization.
In former times there was no need of allopathy, homoeopathy, or even naturopaths, for people would naturally live close to nature. Locally produced herbs were sufficient to cure the rare occurrence of diseases.
In contrast, today everyone has to spend a substantial portion of his income for medical expenses. We feel proud of our advancement in medical sciences, but not shame for having created an unhealthy atmosphere whereby we have become dependent on exceedingly expensive modern medicine.
Today one cannot feed oneself and his family without education, whereas formerly eating was independent of education. Education was for building character. Peculiarly enough, this is the first time in history that persons must spend thirty years in school before starting to earn a livelihood. Even animals don‚Äôt need to struggle so hard for food. Nowadays one takes a loan to educate himself and then spends the rest of his life working to pay it off.
In the conventional village system, disputes were solved locally, at much lesser expense than today, when court cases continue for years, exhausting the assets of both parties (thus naturally bringing an end to the dispute). Due to widespread greed and unemployment, there are now many more cases of theft and robbery . Internationally, most nations use a major portion of their GNP for national security, which of course is a heavy economic burden on the citizens. ‚ÄúI advance in warheads, you advance in warheads, but ultimately both of us remain as afraid of each other as before.‚ÄĚ
The conditions under which one works in modern society are so taxing to the brain, and family relations so unpleasant, that one easily takes to wine and prostitution to relieve his distress. Partly because of economic constraint and partly due to cultural changes, generally both the husband and wife hold a job. Family members have less and less time to be together to enjoy familial relations. To fill the resultant emotional vacuum, television and the internet have come to the rescue‚ÄĒto incite people‚Äôs lust and greed, thus causing them to feel more and more empty.
√Č√ß√§v√§syam ida√† sarva√†
In a nutshell, the fundamental needs of humans were taken care of much more easily and simply in the conventional village system than today. Of course the villages were not utopia, but problems were fewer and less complex. The question may then be raised, If the conventional village system was nicely providing the basic needs of people at large, then why has the modern way of living superseded the previous one?
By the laws of nature, all the earth‚Äôs inhabitants are adequately provided for. Thus we see that there is no economic problem among any species‚ÄĒexcept the ‚Äúintelligent humans.‚ÄĚ Being less intelligent, the other species simply follow the laws of nature and are thus fully maintained. Humans have been given advanced intelligence for higher thinking, for solving the root problems of material existence, namely birth, death, old age and disease:
tasyaiva heto√Ļ prayateta kovido na labhyate yad bhramat√§m upary adha√Ļ tal labhyate du√Ļkhavad anyata√Ļ sukha√† k√§lena sarvatra gabh√©ra-ra√†has√§
‚ÄúPersons who are actually intelligent and philosophically inclined should endeavor only for that purposeful end which is not obtainable even by wandering from the topmost planet [Brahmaloka] down to the lowest planet [P√§t√§la]. As far as happiness derived from sense enjoyment is concerned, it can be obtained automatically in course of time, just as in course of time we obtain miseries even though we do not desire them.‚ÄĚ (√ár√©mad-Bh√§gavatam 1.5.18: ‚ÄúNarada Muni Instructs Vy√§sadeva‚ÄĚ)
If human intelligence is not used in pursuace of this noble aim, it will be misused for trying to exploit mother nature for our whims of enjoyment. Indeed, such misapplication of human intelligence is the cause for the transformation of society from the simple village setup to the present day industry-based, city situation.
The formula for living in the best possible situation of peace and harmony, in a way that is most conducive for all to achieve the ultimate goal of human birth‚ÄĒto understand God‚ÄĒis stated in the Vedic text named √ár√© √Č√ßopani√Īad:
√©√ß√§v√§syam ida√† sarva√† yat ki√Įca jagaty√§√† jagat tena tyaktena bhu√Įj√©th√§ m√§ g√•dha√Ļ kasya svid dhanam
‚ÄúEverything animate or inanimate, that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the lord. One should therefore accept things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong.‚ÄĚ (√ár√© √Č√ßopani√Īad, mantra 1)
By God‚Äôs arrangement, the human being should easily subsist on the gifts of nature‚ÄĒmilk, vegetables, fruits, grains, minerals, and jewel. If we are not satisfied by this natural prosperity and instead endeavor for artificial, manmade prosperity, not only will we suffer from problems generated by our childish attempts, but we will also be punished by the stringent laws of material nature and thus suffer due to scarcity of the above-mentioned gifts of nature‚ÄĒwithout which earth is converted into hell.
Life is never made comfortable by artificial luxuries, but by nature‚Äôs gifts. When there is ample supply of food grains, milk, vegetables, minerals, and jewels by mother earth, what is the need for creating artificial necessities in the form of cinemas, prostitution, hotels, cars, machinery, slaughterhouses, and so on? The consequence of industrialization is that while only a few enjoy so-called luxuries, thousands of men and millions of animals are deprived of their natural right to avail of the gifts of God. Those few who enjoy are governed by insatiable greed; thus they misuse their God-given power to exploit the weak. But this greed prevents them from experiencing any contentment, the result being that they only feel empty in spite of possessing all paraphernalia for enjoyment. The modern civilization that thrives on lust and greed simply increases the suffering of one and all.
Therefore, if we wish to establish peace, harmony, and prosperity in society, we must understand this important law of nature enunciated in √Č√ßopani√Īad, cited above: everything that exists is God‚Äôs property and is meant to be used solely in His service; for maintaining the body, one may take only as much as he requires, neither more nor less. Exploitation of natural resources for extravaganza invites reactionary punishment in the form of inadequate and irregular rainfall‚ÄĒthe God-given gift necessary for the production of sufficient grains, fruits, flowers, trees, plants, and minerals‚ÄĒand also in the form of natural calamities. Thus industrial development, the expression of the sinful exploitative attitude of the greedy man, has simply resulted in converting mother earth into hell. Nature‚Äôs gifts do not depend on man‚Äôs technological advancement, but on the mercy of God. Disobedience to His laws will simply bring our devastation.
Calling all leaders
It is imperative that the leaders of society stop encouraging the common person toward the exploitative mentality epitomized by industrial growth, and instead work to reestablish the sane mentality of living on the lap of mother nature and depending on God. Complete guidelines on how to achieve this are elaborately explained by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhup√§da (the founder-√§c√§rya of ISKCON) in his books, especially his commentaries on √ár√©mad-Bh√§gavatam, wherein he has lucidly explained the infallible teachings of the Vedas in a way suitable for implementation in today‚Äôs world.
√ár√©la Prabhupada also established many farm communities around the world for demonstrating how to practice the above-mentioned law of nature cited in √ár√© √Č√ßopani√Īad. The members of those farm communities obtain all their basic necessities from the land and cows, and lead a simple life on the lap of material nature, fully depending on God.
We invite your queries or challenges.
Savyasachi Das Hare Krsna Farm Kathvada-Bhuvaladi Road Kathvada ‚Äď Ta. Daskroi, Dist. Ahmedabad Ph. +91 9428103247 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
About the author
Savyasachi Das, assisted by one other devotee, is presently working to establish a farm community on ISKCON‚Äôs 100-acre land in Ahmedabad.