From Credit Crunches to Prasadam Lunches
By Praghosa Dasa
Sometimes there are words and phrases that transcend the language barrier, kamikaze, c’est la vie, karma and carpe diem come to mind. The latest and perhaps the most meteoric member to join this club is ‘credit crunch’. For a phrase to enter the world lexicon so swiftly is a clear indication that it has been born of exceptional circumstances.
While the shameless economic experts are now predicting when there will be an upturn in the global economy, those same experts suffered a collective blind spot when failing to predict the biggest economic collapse in the last 80 years, everyone and their pet dog can see, like the emperor, they have neither clothes, nor a clue as to what will or won’t happen with the economy. It is interesting that these experts concluded that the global downturn is as a direct result of the crisis in the US economy, the world economic superpower. However a very interesting landscape from yesteryear is expressed below:
“Those who labor on the land are the chosen people of God. Corruption of morals in the mass of cultivators of the land is a phenomenon of which no age or nation has furnished an example. Corruption is a mark set on those who, not looking up to the heavens for their subsistence (as does the husbandman), depend on workshops and selling to the caprice of customers. While we have land to labor, let us never wish to see our citizens occupied at workshops. Carpenters, masons, smiths [simple technology] are needed in husbandry, but for general operations of manufacture let the workshops remain in Europe. The mobs of great cities add just so much to the support of pure government as sores do to the strength of the body.”
I’m not sure which purport the above came from……… I guess that’s because it was written by Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd President of the USA.
As was the following:
“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies”
I’m sure you’ll agree these are pretty prophetic words spoken by a non devotee over 200 hundred years ago.
Dangerous as the financial institutions might be they are, like everything else in the material world including the economy, temporary, so it is not a question of if but rather a question of when our current economic system will cease to exist in its present incarnation.
One of Srila Prabhupada’s favourite topics was both the artificial nature of modern economics as well as the purpose behind it all. The purpose of course behind it all is our increasing and unlimited suffering via gratification of the senses and the artificial nature of modern economics adds to that suffering due to it being firmly under the influence of the mode of passion. As such it is the perfect breeding ground for stress and anxiety, the root cause of ill health of all varieties.
Hence the alternative that Prabhupada always promoted was designed to eliminate such stress and anxiety – simple living and high thinking. Reading many of Prabhupada’s quotes on this subject and in particular his conviction of what will result from the directionless basis of modern economics is very sobering:
“Consequently, although there is no lack of money in the world, there is a scarcity of peace. So much human energy is being diverted to making money, for the general population has increased its capacity to make more and more dollars, but in the long run the result is that this unrestricted and unlawful monetary inflation has created a bad economy all over the world and has provoked us to manufacture huge and costly weapons to destroy the very result of such cheap money-making. The leaders of the big money-making countries are not really enjoying peace but are making plans to save themselves from imminent destruction by nuclear weapons. In fact, huge sums of money are being thrown into the sea by way of experiments with these dreadful weapons. Such experiments are being carried out not only at huge costs but also at the cost of many lives. In this way the nations are being bound by the laws of karma. When men are motivated by the impulse for sense gratification, whatever money is earned is spoiled, being spent for the destruction of the human race. The energy of the human race is thus wasted by the laws of nature because of man’s aversion to the Lord, who is actually the proprietor of all energies. EK.2
From the above we can understand that the greater the facility that we create to enjoy separately from the Lord, the greater our fear that it will be taken away from us by whatever means. Even poor country’s, North Korea comes to mind, spend so much on defence even though they have scant resources to do so as, well as little of value that needs defending. In the Srimad Bhagavatam we learn from the personality of Dharma that defending is a futile pursuit but a pursuit that takes great integrity to detach ourselves from. When Maharaja Pariksit came to the aid of Dharma, after he had been mutilated by Kali, Pariksit Maharaja asked Dharma a very straightforward question – ‘whodunit’? However Dharma responds with I think seventeen different possible reasons for his plight, yet the easiest response would have been for him to have pointed over to Kali and said “There’s your man Maharaja”
The propensity to defend ourselves is very powerful one and it is directly related to the need for protecting our sense gratification and false ego, so logically if we can conquer the impulse to defend we will have more or less conquered our desire for sense gratification, in all of its guises. In the above previous quote from Srila Prabhupada the direct link is made between acquiring the facilities for enjoyment and fearing they will be taken away from us. So rather than being able to take advantage of those facilities created we become diverted and distracted into defending them, no doubt because we know that ultimately they will be lost and sense enjoyment will bring nothing but suffering.
“In the material concept of life, when one works for sense gratification, there is misery, but in the absolute world, when one is engaged in pure devotional service, there is no misery” Bg 18.54 Purport
So the illusion of the material world goes on and is ever, ever present. As we move from the Xmas season into the New Year and all the celebrations that come with it, it is interesting to note that even in the simplest and most innocent of attempts to enjoy, soon turns to misery.
One of the busiest flight destinations during the lead up to Xmas is Lapland (Northern Finland). Plane after plane are full of exited kids (the best ages are from 5 to 9 where the concept of Santa is well and truly understood but the real truth has yet to be revealed), as well as their equally excited and expectant parents. Seeing the wonderment in the children’s eyes is, for the parents, a joy to behold, so all the family members share sweet moments of happiness but only until the kids realise it is all a grand hoax. Therefore even in this innocent attempt to enjoy, kala intervenes and the inevitable moment arrives when the children become further hardened to the realities of the material world, learning that another ‘will of the wisp’ dream has gone up in a puff of smoke.
And so with all of our material pursuits – hard to obtain, difficult to sustain and guaranteed not to remain. They are both false and based on a negative and selfish premise, just like our current economy:
According to Srimad-Bhagavatam, gold encourages falsity, intoxication, prostitution, envy and enmity. Even a gold-standard exchange and currency is bad. Gold-standard currency is based on falsehood because the currency is not on a par with the reserved gold. The basic principle is falsity because currency notes are issued in value beyond that of the actual reserved gold. This artificial inflation of currency by the authorities encourages prostitution of the state economy. The price of commodities becomes artificially inflated because of bad money, or artificial currency notes. Bad money drives away good money. Instead of paper currency, actual gold coins should be used for exchange, and this will stop prostitution of gold. Gold ornaments for women may be allowed by control, not by quality, but by quantity. This will discourage lust, envy and enmity. When there is actual gold currency in the form of coins, the influence of gold in producing falsity, prostitution, etc., will automatically cease. There will be no need of an anticorruption ministry for another term of prostitution and falsity of purpose. SB 1.17.39 Purport
Who knows how long the phrase ‘credit crunch’ will remain in this world’s collective psyche? Hopefully though its impact will lead to an eventual flourishing of a more sustainable economy based on the principles of simple living and high thinking. Thus in the future, maybe, just maybe, when the world is sitting down and enjoying a sustainable prasadam lunch (as a result of voluntary austerity leading to happiness), we can all reminisce about the days of gloom and doom that spawned the term credit crunch but led to the realization and manifestation of the satisfying prasadam lunch.