Economic Problems And Spiritual Solution

Posted: 07.09.2009

The question is: How can Mahavira and Economics be in conformity with each other? Mahavira is a dispassionate religious propounder, free from any attachment. How could he talk about Economics? We are not talking of Mahavira as a siddha (a person who has attained perfection), a propounder and a preceptor. We are talking of Mahavira as sadhaka (a committed devotee). Mahavira as a saint will not talk about money. While Mahavira is a Tirthankar (propounder and preceptor), he is performing sadhana (total dedication}. In that context, Mahavira is entitled to talk about anything.

Tirthankar Rishabhdev gave directions consistent with the times - how farming be carried out, how the sword be wielded, how any other work be done, one should one earn one's livelihood, how should marriage be organized. He knew that all these rules are known, but even accepting all these as known, he propagated the ideas with compassion in recognition of his duty. He made it clear that everybody is not a saint, they are not with all attainment. They are a part of the society. If he did not guide them, who else would do it?

For the societal persons, Mahavira did not talk about mahavrat (the supreme vow), he talked about anuvrat (small vows). He did not talk about renunciation either, but about limiting consumption, limiting enjoyment. It is his generosity. From this perspective, it is consistent to talk about Economics of Mahavira.

A scientist is a thinker, and Mahavira is also a thinker. Sometimes one wonders how far do the scientists extend themselves. It is no doubt that sometimes the inventions of scientists are astonishing. The only difference is that the thinking of scientists, even though very deep, is of contemporary fact, and not the eternal truth. Mahavira's thoughts are eternal. If the thinking of scientists were related to all times, refrigerators would not have been invented. The machines to maintain things cold or hot as desired would not have been designed. Today these limitations have become evident. These machines are only of momentary and not eternal use. All objects, which the scientists have invented, appear to be momentary, not eternal. After sometime, we see that they become dysfunctional.

On the other hand, what Mahavira said thousands of years ago is very useful even today and will continue to be so. He did not carry out his analysis based on machines, but did it on the basis of spiritual introspection, on the basis of inner perception. Machine is physical, inner perception is sublime. Inner perception is for all times, it is not momentary.

It was said that there should be control of desires. People used to regard this as an idle, meaningless talk. How foolish it is to say that one should stop thinking, visualizing. That would impede the development of the country. People say, "You do not inspire your shravakas (devotees). They would remain as they are and would stagnate. But today there is a perceptible and pervasive demand that there should be limits, restraints.

Mahavira harmonized spiritualism and materialism. In the ancient times, the issue Brahma satyam jagat mithya (Brahma, the eternal spirit is real, the world is an illusion) was debated. Should the world, which exists before us, be called an illusion? How can an object, which is visible, be non¬existent? Mahavira expressed the view that materialism is true and the soul is also true. Is matter not real? If life is real, is death not real? Both are real.

Whatever Mahavira said was said on the basis of experienced perception. He said that if one wanted to turn somebody spiritual all at once, he would not succeed. Make your move in that direction gradually, augment his yearning, sharpen his yearning for knowledge - then the work will get done automatically. In fact, there is a great need for showing the way to today's man who has gone astray? The entire world is becoming materialistic. It believes that wealth is the main thing. It is necessary to change this mentality. Continuous effort should be made in this direction.

Economic progress is also a form of development. Development has many manifestations. We cannot impose any rules on anybody. It is said that nobody should remain poor, but why should we become too affluent like Kuber, the god of wealth?

A person once went to a king and said, "Oh King! I have become a siddha, a possessor of all wisdom. I see everybody but nobody sees me."

Redaridrayan! namastubhyam, sidhkoh twatprasadat

Sarvonaharn cha pastvyami, man na pashyati Kashvan.

Oh poverty! My greetings to you. Because of your generosity, I have become a siddha.

I see everybody, but nobody sees me.

We do not want such kind of poverty. The poor would not perhaps be able to become religious. When there is no food to eat, what will religion do? We do not think in terms, either of economics of poverty, or of increasing wealth.

Basic needs of everybody should be satisfied. But when any economic prosperity is at the cost of the interest of others, it is never desirable. It ought not to be desirable. Opinions are different at different times, and the opinions refer to a specific time span. It is natural that contemporary thoughts are more attractive.

There are an important question is, what is money for? It is only for a happy life. It should make the individual, the family, the society and the nation happy. While this is the objective, yet all are becoming increasingly unhappy. Under these conditions, there is obviously a need for rethinking. We are not students of Economics, we are students of Theology. However, it is true that each and every scientific treatise is related with the other. As a result, while we examine any subject, we also think about wealth. However, nobody can become happy with wealth alone.

Two persons came to Bhagwan Mahavira. One was Emperor Shrenik and the other Shravaka Punia. Emperor Shrenik was the most powerful person of those times. He possessed abundant wealth. Shravak Punia was a person earning his livelihood by spinning cotton yarn. Mahavira was asked: "In your view, who is more important, Emperor Shrenik of Punia?" Mahavira said, "Both. Because of Emperor Shrenik, thousands of persons would come to me. On the other hand, Emperor Shrenik cannot acquire, even in his dreams, as much happiness and satisfaction as does Punia."

We all want that the life of a man should be as peaceful, satisfied and happy as that of Punia. From this point of view, Mahavira said that while earning wealth, everybody should keep five rules in mind:

• Nobody should be kept in bondage

• Nobody should be killed

• Nobody's limbs should be lost

• Nobody should be overloaded with work

• Nobody's livelihood should be disturbed

These directions are for a happy life; without these nobody can become happy.

Our concept of Economics acknowledges that man cannot live without monetary resources. At the same time, excessive earning also would not allow man to live happily. In this context, only the principle of few desires, modest works and small possessions alone can give the right view of life. Gandhiji very often used to experiment this. He was a practitioner, not only a preacher.

American journalist Louis Fischer came to Gandhiji and expressed the desire to live in Sevagram for a few days. Gandhiji's permission was obtained. After living there in the hot climate, Louis Fischer's condition deteriorated. Seeing his face, Gandhiji understood the position and said that he needed an air-conditioner. He would arrange one quickly. He asked for a big tub full of water and kept two stools close to it. Louis Fischer was made to sit on the stool. He experienced that the heat had subsided. He was delighted.

Thinking should be in accordance with prevailing times. In my view, everyone cannot be above wealth. But the current thinking about wealth will have to be changed. Then alone it would have meaning for all.

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