The divine wisdom of the Vedas offers us a valuable insight into a vision of society based on selflessness and simplicity. It’s a tonic badly needed as we deal with the effects of economic beliefs and actions gone haywire.
In the following article, spiritual scholar Stephen Knapp gives us practical and enlightening perspectives on “Economics According To The Vedic Way”
The Dharma of Business
This is a simple explanation of how we should view economics according to the principles of Vedic Dharma. First of all, the higher vision of Vedic understanding is that we see everything as the energy of the Supreme Being. If we can see the Divine in all of life, meaning in all beings, we must understand that there is a way of conducting business between each other that upholds and advances our perception of this. Conducting business or managing economics in a way that deliberately cheats or exploits others will harden our hearts and our sensitivity so that we become unable to perceive the Divine in all living beings and even in ourselves.
The point is that there must be integrity in all transactions and business relations. If we use the above mentioned principle, then by seeing the Divine in all living beings we must realize we are not merely doing business with another person, but we are also doing business with the Divine within that person. This means that the Supreme is also observing our every act, not only from within us but from within the person with whom we are dealing. If the relationship has integrity, then that is fine. We will continue in our spiritual development even while doing our business.
But if there is dishonesty and cheating in our involvement, then the quick profits we make will only pave our way downward. This will not be helpful. So we must conduct ourselves, even in business, with the foundation of the Dharmic principles.
We have easily seen that companies with power may produce various foods, drugs, beverages or devices that are said to be of great benefit or are healthy for us, or help us solve our problems with no side effects or unexpected problems. Yet time and time again we learn that different kinds of products have indeed been pushed on the public and have caused harmful side effects, much to the dismay, suffering and frustration of the people. However, the company or even government may deny any such possibility of injury. However, you must always bear in mind that a story presented as factual from an entity or company whose purpose is power, control or profits is often a story not to be trusted.
THE GOLD STANDARD
For example, in today’s world, the use of paper currency, which only represents a value rather than being a tangible item like gold or silver coins, may be convenient to the user. But those in positions to set the value on such currency can also more easily manipulate it. This creates abstractions in the link between the paper representation and the actual gold it is supposed to be representing. At other times the combined confidence that people and governments place in a currency may fluctuate greatly, making it especially vulnerable to times of political upheaval or war. Such currency can then become completely worthless.
The fluctuating character of this type of currency also helps separate society from nature. Nature requires balance in the environment to operate properly, while currency that only represents what is supposed to be tangible values is more easily manipulated. It is the adjustments in currency and interest values which often create stressful fluctuations for the ordinary consumers and for the general mass of people. People who are most implicated in these fluctuations are less likely to advance economically as those who are in positions to claim profits from the same adjustments or manipulations in the markets and economy. This is the difference between those involved in the global monopoly game, which is artificially propped up, and those that depend on real value, such as the gold standard or genuine real estate values.
In this way, the gold-standard currency is based on falsehood because the currency does not accurately represent the reserved gold. Because the money value is inflated, prices on commodities rise. The only way to reduce inflation and have an honest currency is to use that which has intrinsic value, such as when trading something of equal value as in bartering or using real currency like gold and silver coins. That is an honest system.
REAL WEALTH IS A REAL NATURAL RESOURCE
Real prosperity flourishes on the natural gifts of nature. Villages and towns and their local economy will flourish when there is plenty of grains, vegetables, herbs, trees full of fruits, rivers flowing with fresh and clean water, and hills full of minerals. When this is the situation, there will be plenty for everyone. If society has sufficient natural resources in this way, then why should it endeavor for huge industrial complexes that require the labor of numerous men by sending them into dark factories where they spend their lives in exchange for inflated dollars, and then have to pay a sizable portion of their earnings for government taxes?
Industry produces so many items that are in demand only because of the advertising they show to convince people that they need to purchase the item in order to be happy. Essentially, the more society depends on artificial necessities, the more vulnerable it becomes to artificial crises. Thus, civilization suffers and the economy slows whenever there is not enough oil, gas, electricity, or when the prices of such modern commodities become too high. When there is a loss of oil, gas, and other such necessities, or when there is an electrical blackout, so many activities are forced to stop. So many machines and appliances are but recent inventions, but now we have become so dependent on them that without them we think we can no longer function. Thus, people become trapped ever more deeply in the struggle to earn more money to buy more things that they are convinced they require to live happily and comfortably. In this way, they are tied and enslaved to a system whose goal is profits rather than really benefiting society. In such a system, humanity loses its sensitivity for their finer intellectual development and has no time and no taste for any spiritual pursuits, except possibly for the most elementary levels of moral standards.
In the natural form of economy, which is the Vedic system, the basic principle of economic development is land and its produce. Whoever controls land controls food. Whosoever controls food and fuel controls the world. This is why land should always be in the hands of local farmers, so everything is shared and all people can prosper. Once large industrial or national complexes take it, such large tracts of land are no longer in the hands of a local economy, but are controlled by large companies who have their own concerns and plans. Then land becomes another element to manipulate profits, resources, people, and even other communities and global markets. History has also shown that such companies are often connected with crooked politicians, or their networks that want more and more power.
By developing the land properly for vegetable and grain production, society can solve its eating problems. By producing enough cotton, wood, minerals, and additional resources from the land, humanity can work out its economic problems without depending on an artificial economic or political system.
Those who do become wealthy by honest means can more easily acknowledge his or her opulence as gifts from God. Thus, one’s business, if done morally, can be a way of invoking the principle of Dharma. Such gifts or blessings also come in the form of one’s own intelligence and ingenuity for devising wholesome ideas and needed products for the benefit of others, and from which one’s business will expand. Thus, without the blessings of God in every way, we cannot progress or be happy. All things, from wealth, health, good birth, beauty, good education, etc., are all examples of gifts from God. Therefore, we all must acknowledge our gratefulness, especially those who have become more successful. When a family or society offers such acknowledgment, their success and happiness can increase in a balanced and moral way.
AN ECONOMY THAT THRIVES ON COMPETITION
In conclusion to this line of thinking, we must recognize that one of the greatest forms of pollution in this world is that of competition-competition for position, power and money. It is natural to work at devising better ways of doing business and producing more effective products. Whoever has what is best will more likely succeed. Competition based on envy, jealousy, and deviousness, or simply for more money, makes individuals and companies resort to dishonorable means to get ahead, to get more market share, more customers, and ways of making products more cheaply. This also adds to social stress levels by forcing people to increasingly think in terms of growing profits and income, and lowering expenses. This takes away from the peace in the world, and often adds to the pollution in the environment by using resources in less eco-friendly ways.
Because we have forgotten our true spiritual nature, we are stressed and crying over small and unimportant problems that have little to do with our real identity as spiritual beings. Because such difficulties are not connected to who we really are, they actually have little relevancy to our spiritual nature. But because we are so attached to our temporary and bodily identity, we are affected so much by these ephemeral and superficial troubles. This is not how we are meant to proceed through life. We should not get entangled in such a way to this illusion. It wastes our time and distracts us from the things that matter most.
We may have made so much tech¬nological progress and have numerous facilities added to our comforts of life, yet we can still see so many people suffering in this world. This is primar¬ily because money, and people who are greedy for money, rule the world. Not everyone is cruel, but who cannot see how the misery of many people in this world is caused by the greediness of others? The perverted politicians and rulers in various countries have created so much trouble that most all of the torment of people who are poor, starving, or even being slaughtered or enslaved into prostitution to do the wicked bidding of others, has been due to the unending selfishness and greed for money and power. Do you think this is the way of a truly progressive world? We can plainly see that it is increasingly becoming more godless and more hellish. If this trend continues, society will lose its moral values and respect for life. People will become progres¬sively more desperate and the world ever more lost.
A new influence must rise to purify this world from the rulership of money, dirty politics, and a false and misguided economic system. We must feel the influence of spiritual knowledge, for only then can society know what is real peace and happiness, and live together cooperatively. It is knowledge and awareness of our spiritual identity and our connection with the Supreme Spirit that will fill our hearts with the deep inner peace and contentment that we are looking for. If we can progress in this way, our own happiness and peace can spread to others. That’s how we can become the peacemakers and help fill society with the tranquility of such self-sufficient happiness and contentment. Then our only concern will be how to relieve the suffering of others. The more people reach this state of conscious¬ness, the more society will be beautiful and the world will be wonderful. Then the tendency for war and the manipula¬tion over others because of greed for money and power will cease, and the world will live in peace. We have to be strong enough to make such a change.
Stephen Knapp is an esteemed author and scholar of Vedic culture and its relevance to our contemporary society