12 August 2009

The Gift Economy is HUGE

Preparing for a lecture in Lithuania I googled the phrase "spiritual economics". I was shocked to see that more than 170,000 hits were returned!! Ten years ago when I googled the phrase there were no where near that many - several thousand at best. I haven't yet had time to investigate very many of those hits, but I will soon and let you know what I find. But we want to know: What happened? How has the idea of the gift economy become so huge?
Well, on the negative side in those ten years we had the Bush administration with all of its ill-effects, and 911. On the other hand we had a number of extremely well-researched, well-written and shocking books such as Michel Chossudovsky's "The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order" and Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine". These books certainly have set people to wondering what the positive alternative could be. Catherine Ryan Hyde's book "Pay It Forward" came out in 2000, followed by a movie based on the book, and then entire movement of people who think it is a great idea to help others without being invited have followed. Check out the stories on that last link if you want to find some inspiration for positive living that changes lives. We also had the collosal economic crisis of 2008 - the Economic Chernobyl.  Apparently all of this has set a lot of people thinking about how the economic problem could be solved.
My son, who was studying in Paris several years ago told me that a number of French philosophers were writing about the gift economy as the solution to all of the funny-money business. Ain't that true. NO money, and no money problem.
But besides the philosophers a lot of ordinary people can understand that the gift economy has many, many advantages with very little of the downside that the money economy has. This has shown up in many ways. One of those is the "Really Really Free Market" explained in the video below. The RRFM is going on in at least four cities in America, and we will be doing our best to establish on them in E. Europe.
One gift at a time can lead to an entire economy based on the concept of gifting. Although this may sound utopian to some, its a very practical way to live for others. And it is a much more wonderful way to live. After we get it going and the naysayers see how wonderful it is they will want to join us. Then more will join us, and more, and more. And one day teh entire world "will live as one" to quote one of my favorite singers. Check out this Really Really Free Market. Maybe you will want to start one in your town.

25 July 2009

The Gift of Love

The gift economy is a wonderful solution to the many problems of the world. It is not a Utopia, nor something that only "pure devotees" can do. It is a culture, and everybody can learn to live that culture as the most natural thing in the world, just like we unconsciously have learned to live the culture of selfishness.
A friend recently sent me the link to the following video about "Dama", the gift economy in Mali - one of the poorest countries of the world. If these people, who have next to nothing, can gift to others, then what is preventing us, who have so much? Only our culture. And that can be changed.
It must be changed if we are to save the world. I will be posting much, much more about the gift economy and Spiritual Economics in the coming weeks.
Spiritual Economics promotes a gift economy based on the principles of the eternal religion. Everyone can take part, and everyone will benefit.

19 July 2009

Spiritual Economics - The Gift Economy Based on the Bhagavad-gita

by Dhanesvara Das 
Because of the nature of wealth and what it represents to people, and perhaps because of the confusion surrounding the subject, economics is a subject matter which very few people address either fully or directly, or attempt to understand beyond their own checkbook. In that regard those who are devotees of Lord Krishna are not much different from the population in general. Some relate well to and have the ability to acquire money in large or at least sufficient sums, others get by, and others struggle with it throughout their lives. For many devotees of Krishna attempting to live a pure life there is a dichotomy surrounding money as well. While they may prefer to engage in devotional service, in these times that won't pay the rent. Thus they are pulled in two seemingly irreconcilable directions. For those with family responsibilities the rent generally prevails, causing the man or woman to associate with people he would rather not be with, doing things he or she would rather not do. This is one problem which stems from our lack of understanding Spiritual Economics.
There are of course thousands of books with advice on the subject of money and economics and everyone has their own angle on how to get ahead of the game. Money is the focus for most people's lives because it represents the ability to satisfy one's desires. Although the title contains the word "economics" this paper is not about money, or how to raise money either directly or through others. Spiritual Economics instead refers to an economic system based upon the Bhagavad-gita and as such offers an economic system for a society established in transcendence.
It is certainly not for everyone. But it certainly will have its time and will be practiced by those who are the living examples of the Bhagavad-gita. It is for those persons who have achieved the full understanding that Lord Krishna is the Supreme Proprietor or owner of everything, that He is the Supreme Enjoyer of everything, that He is our most dear friend, and that the satisfaction we seek can come only from serving Him without motivation or interruption.

In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna speaks more than thirty verses about economics. How many you may have recognized as such is more a matter of consciousness about economics than anything else, but they are nonetheless applicable to our economic activity—if we are to take the Lord's statements to be explicit in their meaning. Generally if some idea is repeated three times we understand that we should take it as very important. How important then can this message of the Lord be when he says that same thing more than thirty times? The emphasis behooves us to understand it.

It is important to understand that Spiritual Economics refers to more than an economic system, it is a state of consciousness. That state of consciousness is the consciousness of an individual who is living the full tenants of the Bhagavad-gita, and the individual's practice of Spiritual Economics is the visible hallmark of such.

Material economics promotes a consciousness of “lack” and the need to get. Spiritual Economics promotes a consciousness of completeness (om purnam idam purnam idam) and the joy of giving. Spiritual Economics also delineates the basis of Varnashrama Dharma, and establishes the place of genuinely brahminical men in society.

Part I - The Principles of Spiritual Economics
In speaking about Spiritual Economics my purpose is to distinguish it in character and application from traditional or material economics. Spiritual Economics is understood in light of spiritual knowledge, particularly the definitions and understandings of spiritual knowledge as found in Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition of India, and based principally upon the Bhagavad-gita As It Is and the Srimad Bhagavatam translated by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

Spiritual and material economics are to be distinguished by the same differences which characterize the qualities of matter and spirit. To wit: the spiritual element is personal, eternal, fully cognizant and blissful, complete in every respect without lack of any kind, and is eternally connected with the Supreme Fountainhead of all that be. The material element is impersonal, temporary, existing in a state of ignorance and is without happiness or bliss. It is perceived to be incomplete in itself, due to it's being separated from the Efficient or Supreme Cause.

All living beings are spiritual in nature and are complete with all spiritual qualities. However, when they are born into the material realm and identify with the material coverings of the material body and mind, that very identification causes them to assume the qualities of the material energy as described above. The material economic system presently used is so arranged as to aid those in material conscious¬ness in their development of the material conception of life.

Economics deals primarily with the production and distribution of goods and services which are required or desired by people in their daily course, and those who are under the spell of material consciousness participate in and act according to the machinations of material economics. In its extreme the grossly materialistic conscious¬ness is stated in the Bhagavad-gita: (16.11-15) 
"They believe that to gratify the senses unto the end of life is the prime necessity of human civilization. Thus there is no end to their anxiety. Being bound by hundreds and thousands of desires, by lust and anger, they secure money by illegal means for sense gratification. The demoniac person thinks: 'So much wealth do I have today, and I will gain more and more according to my schemes. So much is mine now, and it will increase in the future, more and more. He is my enemy and I have killed him, and my other enemy will also be killed. I am the lord of everything, I am the enjoyer, I am perfect, powerful and happy. I am the richest man, surrounded by aristocratic relatives. There is none so powerful and happy as I am. I shall perform sacrifices, I shall give some charity, and thus I shall rejoice.' In this way, such persons are deluded by ignorance." 
However, when one gets the opportunity to understand his true spiritual nature, and begins to act according the principles of devotional service, he is then acting within the realm of Spiritual Economics. The newfound difference in how a person then lives their life has vast implications as we shall later see. It is important to demonstrate the contrast between material economics and Spiritual Economics, so I will begin with a brief description of material economics as understood through the Srimad Bhagavatam.

The Beginning of Material Economics
In understanding how our present economic situation has come about we turn to the pages of the Srimad Bhagavatam, which explains that the material creation takes place for two reasons: to give the living entities the opportunity to purify their consciousness and return home back to Godhead, and to give those who choose, the opportunity to live an illusion of their own making, enjoying different types of bodies and different varieties of sense enjoyment. In the matter of creation, Lord Brahma, creator of the material universe, had to provide the necessary environment for both of these situations.
"Brahma first created the nescient engagements like self-deception, the sense of death, anger after frustration, the sense of false ownership, and the illusory bodily conception, or forget¬fulness of one's real identity." SB 3.12.2
Srila Prabhupada's comments are particularly meaningful to our discussion: 
“Unless a living entity forgets his real identity, it is impossible for him to live in the material conditions of life. Therefore the first condition of material existence is forgetfulness of one's real identity. And by forgetting one's real identity, one is sure to be afraid of death, although a pure living soul is deathless and birthless. This false identification with material nature is the cause of false ownership of things which are offered by the arrangement of superior control. All material resources are offered to the living entity for his peaceful living and for the discharge of the duties of self-realization in conditioned life. But due to false identi¬fication, the conditioned soul becomes entrapped by the sense of false ownership of the property of the Supreme Lord.”

Those living entities who come to this world with the purpose of enjoying falsely take the material body as "I" and everything in connection with the body as "mine." In attempts to enjoy, history has shown that there is no limit, even to the point of conquering the heavens, as did the demon Hiranyakasipu, declaring himself to be God. Hiranyakasipu is a more notable example of this vain attempt to become the Lord, but beings everywhere in this world engage in similar attempts according to their own power and capacity. Thus there are enjoyers on every level within this world, who perceive themselves to be possessors and controllers—of countries, armies or multinational corporations, or simply their children, pets, or machines. Yet from the highest to the lowest, though the scale may be different, the endeavor is the same—identification with the body and it's possessions. This is the consciousness of “I and mine.”
Srila Prabhupada comments about the conception of “I and Mine:”
“The two misconceptions of life, namely “I” and “mine,” are verily manifested in two classes of men. In the lower state the conception of “mine” is very prominent, and in the higher state the misconception of “I” is prominent. In the animal state of life the misconception of “mine” is perceivable even in the category of cats and dogs, who fight with one another with the same misconception of “mine.” In the lower stage of human life the same misconception is also prominent in the shape of “It is my body,” “It is my house,” “It is my family,” “It is my caste,” “It is my nation,” “It is my country,” and so on. And in the higher stage of speculative knowledge, the same misconception of “mine” is transformed into “I am,” or “It is all I am,” etc. There are many classes of men comprehending the same misconception of “I” and “mine,” in different colors.” 

The conception of ownership is the basis of the “mine” aspect of false ego, and ownership is a word that means different things to different people stemming mainly from differences in culture. As we have quoted Srila Prabhupada above: "there are many classes of men comprehending the same misconception of “I” and “mine,” in different colors.”

Our modern Western conceptions of ownership come to us from Roman thought which held that everything must to have an owner. The Romans didn't recognize the ownership of God. They thought that everything should have a human owner, and a very select human owner at that. Roman law eventually came to decree that it was possible for a “free” man to own and possess unlimited quantities of anything which he found the means to acquire, including animals, land and other people. These concepts gradually spread around Europe and as the spread of western civiliza¬tion gradually encompassed the globe, it has carried with it these same concep¬tions of ownership. As such, it would appear that the whole of the world commonly shares the same ideology of private ownership. While today that may be true, it was not that long ago that things were quite differ¬ent, and history affords us many examples of cultures which have held a very different concept of ownership.
Cultural Examples of “I and Mine”
Consider the kinsmen of the African tribe, the Nuer. Their culture held that they must assist one another, “and if one has a surplus of a good thing he must share it with his neighbors. Consequently, no Nuer has a surplus. No Nuer is expected to part with his cattle or household property, but were a man to possess several spears or hoes or other such objects he would inevitably lose the surplus.”

Similarly the ancient Samoans would extend communal sharing to relatives even if not to more distant individuals. From a relative one could demand food, clothing and shelter, and assistance in a feud. Refusal of such a demand brands one as stingy and lacking in human kindness, the virtue most esteemed by the Samoans.
There are many other examples although they are beyond the scope of this paper. For now I simply wish to point out that indigenous cultures around the world, more often than not, held the possession of property in common rather than individually. In their conception the holding of wealth was not so much “mine,” but “ours.” It was not localized, or isolated to a specific individual, but would include a wide range of people, be they blood relatives or not. Their conceptions of ownership were a social arrangement which went beyond individual self interest to provide a sort of social security for every individual. The general agreement to share resources, which obviously would at times result on infringement of the wealth in one's possession, also acted to insure that no individual would be without what they truly needed, especially the basic necessities of life. 
In contrast, the conception of private ownership prevalent in the West also has significant implications on the social functioning of our society, but rather than insuring social security it instead promotes impersonalism and isolation (voidism). Private ownership implies a single individual who is the owner. What he earns is his, and his alone, to do with as he so chooses. In times of plenty and the individual has much to share, the isolation inherent in this social arrangement may not seem so apparent to him. Since they can provide for others people with wealth are not generally lacking for friends, and generally use their wealth in providing for those close to them. However, when times are hard and there isn't anything to share he may find himself suddenly abandoned. That it is not unusual to see marriages splitting up over the sudden loss of income or change of fortune, or the huge increase in the number of homeless people who are left to fend for themselves is sufficient proof of this.

Because under the conception of private ownership what is yours is not mine, each person is automatically set against every other to compete for limited commodities and resources. While our government has made some arrangements to give most citizens an equal footing by providing for education, job training, etc., for the most part, every individual is left to his own devices to improve his lot in life. Obviously, more capable people, or those with more education, better connections, or greater resources are going to fare better than those less well endowed. 

Significantly, and unfortunately, there is no prevailing ethic within our culture which obligates anyone to help his brother. Rather, the prevailing ethic is that the government should take care of the needy, and people are further encouraged to help those less fortu¬nate by some charitable means. Now, as we approach the end of the millenium, the Clinton administration has altered the welfare laws which eliminate so-called “entitlements” for the less fortunate or able. After a maximum of two years on the dole, the government stops providing, and if the individual or family is unable to care for themselves they can then depend only upon private charity, which may not have enough to go around. Thus our “advanced” culture provides less social security for its people than the so-called primitive cultures of yore.

The Characteristics of Material Economics
The model of material economics under which our country presently operates defines each family as an economic unit who functions both as producer and consumer, and the economic success of the country as a whole is achieved when both of those functions are maximized for each individual citizen. This model uses as currency both cash and credit, commodities which are distinct from the economic unit itself. Further, it is assumed that people will be most happy or satisfied when they are able to maximize their level of consumption (which means achieving the utmost limit of sense gratification), that is natural for them to do so, and that they as individ¬uals and the society as a collective whole will both achieve maximum benefit by orienting the workings of the economy to fulfill this assumption. Those who propound this scheme consider people to be nothing more than producing/consuming machines, whose best utility is found in the same, without ascribing any type of personal or spiritual qualities to them which go beyond these functions.

Another of the fundamental assumptions of material economics is the conception that each and every individual can possess and own unlimited amounts of material goods, including the natural resources of the earth, and as proprietor may use or dispose of these resources as they alone deem proper. No consideration is made as to the source of, or responsibility to replace those same resources or to bear the costs of restoration. Indeed, every attempt is made to “externalize” these costs to others who have no interest or gain from the consumption of the resources.

The Implications of Material Economics
The implications of this economic model are several fold. First each individual must necessarily seek something which is outside of the self to find the gratification they naturally desire. This creates an orientation of “getting” within the consciousness of the individual and a conception of “lack.” Due to this conditioning people believe that they can fulfill this lack by “getting,” that getting should be the object of one's activity, and that its successful accomplishment will bring the satisfaction they seek. Thus we see the American public preoccupied with getting, racing to and from the workplace at break-neck speeds and erecting glittering tabernacles for spending which inflame their desires and artificially increase the demands of the body. Parents now spend more time shopping than they do in interaction with their children.
Because money, in the form of cash or credit, is the currency by which the objects of desire are generally obtained, and because it is inherently different from both the self, and the sense objects it promises, people in general are conditioned, indeed, hostage to, the act of getting money. And it by this very means that a small percentage of the population controls and exploits the vast majority without even their slightest understanding of the fact.
It is widely recognized that within the context of material economics a large number of people will be competing for a finite quantity of goods, and that intense competition will drive many people to crime and corruption in an attempt to attain their desire. This paradigm further leads to the exploitation not only the earth, but to people as well, as both are seen only as a means to an altogether different, and pressingly immediate, end. Further, this conception of private ownership further acts to isolate and separate us from each other as we pursue our “own” self-interest. Against this bleak background people live their lives, and it has brought us to the deplorable state the world is in today. Incredibly, it is within this same context that people are searching for solutions to the problems which this system itself creates. 
Contrast this conception to that of the Samoans mentioned above. The Samoans will rarely even feel abandoned and uncared for, let alone actually becoming so. If they are hungry they have the assurance that their neighbor will provide for them. Because at least some of their wealth is shared wealth rather than private wealth (and wealth of the most basic kind at that, i.e., food, shelter and emotional support) it is clear that a member of the ancient Samoan culture would always feel sheltered and protected within his community. 

How can we reconcile the nature of the economic system we are functioning under in the West with the values of Vedic culture which Srila Prabhupada has taught? It appears that the Vedic system was somewhat more like that of the Samoans than the United States in 1992, or even 1952. We learn that the householder would go to his door and call out to anyone who was hungry to come and eat before the householder would have his meal. This is Vedic culture. Are the Western Vaishnava's doing this? Few. How can we institute Vedic culture if we don't (or can't) practice it as we understand it? In my opinion we can not practice it easily in the economic context of Western culture, because the two cultures contain concepts of ownership which are diametrically opposed! 

But perhaps we can practice it in a different economic context. That would mean redefining some of our basic concepts and social values. It requires that we abandon the economic system which isolates us from each other, and begin to understand and expand the economic system which Srila Prabhupada introduced to us. It requires that we redefine our relationship with the material things of this world. It requires that we seriously practice Krishna consciousness and come to the point of being able to live the Bhagavad-gita. That is what we call Spiritual Economics—an economic system for a spiritually advanced culture. Are we ready for it? Let's take a look at what that might be.

The Economics of Bhagavad-gita

Given that the nature of this material world places all of us, at least to some extent, in the context of “I and mine,” we need to understand how to correct this consciousness. In the purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 2.9.3, Srila Prabhupada points the way to resolving the false conception of “I and mine:” 
“So one must also give up this misconception of “I” by practicing the way of devotional service or firmly being situated in the transcendental loving service of the Lord.....Shrimad Bhagavatam and, primarily, the Bhagavad gita are both meant for delivering a person from the misconception of “I” and “mine,” and Srila Vyasadeva transcribed them for the deliverance of the fallen souls. The living entity has to be situated in the transcendental position where there is no more influence of time nor of the material energy. ....The perfect process is to accept Lord Vasudeva as the Supreme in everything, and the best perfection in culturing knowledge is to surrender unto Him because He is the source of everything. Only in that conception can one get rid of the misconception of I and mine.” 

Srila Prabhupada created his International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) for the purpose of training those interested in the way of devotional service. The centers of ISKCON are places for people to get help in making such a change of consciousness, and Srila Prabhupada arranged everything in his temples perfectly to this end. We learn from the spiritual master that Lord Krishna is the Supreme Proprietor, the Supreme Enjoyer and our most dear friend and that our real interest and happiness is to be found by engaging in His devotional service.
The spiritual master comes to this world to reclaim the fallen conditioned souls. Thus this training by the spiritual master is meant to qualify us for entry into the Vaikuntha kingdom, which is a realm available only to perfected beings. These qualifications, demonstrated by the character of the denizens of Vaikuntha, are described in the Bhagavatam:

“In the Vaikuntha planets all the residents are similar in form to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They all engage in devo¬tional service to the Lord without desires for sense gratification.” SB 3.15.14.
Srila Prabhupada comments: 
“In Vaikunthaloka there is no occupation but the service of the Lord, and this service is not rendered with a purpose. Although every service has a particular result, the devotees never aspire for the fulfillment of their own desires; their desires are fulfilled by rendering transcendental loving service to the Lord.”
Our individual endeavor in going back home, back to Godhead, thus requires that we sooner or later come to this consciousness of unmotivated and uninterrupted service. Our community with devotees should be an aid for us in this regard, and can be when we join together with this purpose in mind.

We learn from Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita how to engage in activities in such a way that they will bring us liberation instead of bondage. There, He tells us how to work (production), what kind of consciousness the work should be performed in, and what to do with the results of our work (distribution). This is in essence economics, Spiritual Economics.
The Lord states [please pay particular attention to the emphasis which I have added]:
 "You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty. Be steadfast in yoga, O Arjuna. Perform your duty and abandon all attachment to success or failure. Such evenness of mind is called yoga. Dhananjaya, rid yourself of all fruitive activities by devotional service, and surrender fully to that consciousness. Those who want to enjoy the fruits of their work are misers. A man engaged in devotional service rids himself of both good and bad actions even in this life. Therefore, strive for yoga O Arjuna, which is the art of all work. The wise engaged in devotional service, take refuge in the Lord, and free themselves from the cycle of birth and death by renouncing the fruits of action in the material world. In this way they can attain that state beyond all miseries." 2:47-51

"Perform your prescribed duty, for action is better than inaction. A man cannot even maintain his physical body without work. Work done as a sacrifice for Vishnu has to be performed, otherwise work binds one to this material world. Therefore, O son of Kunti, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain unattached and free from bondage." 3:8-9
"One is understood to be in full knowledge whose every act is devoid of desire for sense gratification. He is said by sages to be a worker whose fruitive action is burned up by the fire of perfect knowledge. Abandoning all attachment to the results of his activities, ever satisfied and independent, he performs no fruitive action, although engaged in all kinds of undertakings. Such a man of understanding acts with mind and intelligence perfectly controlled, gives up all sense of proprietorship over his possessions and acts only for the bare necessities of life. Thus working, he is not affected by sinful reactions." 4:19-21
"The steadily devoted soul attains unadulterated peace because he offers the result of all activities to Me; whereas a person who is not in union with the Divine, who is greedy for the fruits of his labor, becomes entangled." 5:12

"One who is beyond duality and doubt, whose mind is engaged within, who is always busy working for the welfare of all sentient beings, and who is free from all sins, achieves liberation in the Supreme." 5:25

There are many, many more similar references which may be included, but these serve our present purpose of developing an understanding of Spiritual Economics. In summary, Lord Krishna is instructing us to perform our work, whatever it may be, according to our own nature, and without being attached to the fruits, or results to offer them to the Supreme. Such work is without reaction due to the consciousness behind it which transforms it into devotional service, pure devotional activity which has no reaction. Srila Prabhupada cautions us in the preface of his Bhagavad-gita to accept it as it is; by it's literal meaning.
By taking the Lord's words in their literal meaning, an economic system jumps out of the pages of Bhagavad-gita. Let's take a close look at those instructions and the economic activity they refer to.

A Description of Spiritual Economics
Considering the verses above we note the following:
1. A person must always be engaged in some activity.
  [never be attached to not doing your duty, (2.47); Perform your pre¬scribed duty, (3.8); always busy working for the welfare of all sentient beings, (5.25)]. These are instruc¬tions for production.
2. The results of our activity do not belong to us.
  [you are not entitled to the fruits of action, (2.47); Those who want to enjoy the fruits of their work are misers, (2:49); The wise engaged in devotional service,... free themselves from the cycle of birth and death by renouncing the fruits of action in the material world, (2.51); Abandoning all attachment to the results of his activities, (4:20); gives up all sense of proprietorship over his possessions, (4.21)].
  If we take this literally, it means that we give up all claim to the fruits of action as our possessions - even for the purpose of selling or trading them. Where do they go then?
3. The fruits of our actions are to be given freely to others.
  [One who is beyond duality and doubt...is always busy working for the welfare of all sentient beings, (5.25)] These are instructions for distribution. Just as in Iskcon's temples we offer our services without consideration as to who receives the benefit, so it is within Spiritual Economics but in a different setting.  This is a gift economy.
4. Our activities should be performed in the spirit of devotional service, for by working in such consciousness we will be satisfied.
[Work done as a sacrifice for Vishnu has to be performed,...perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, (3.9); The steadily devoted soul attains unadulterated peace because he offers the result of all activities to Me, (5.12)]. These are the instructions for the consciousness of our activity.
5. We should act only for the bare necessities of life. 
[Such a man of understanding acts with mind and intelligence perfectly controlled,... acts only for the bare necessities of life. (4.21)]. These instructions regulate the consumption of a society in which life’s necessities are easily had.
All of these verses taken together describe an entire economic system which can lead to our perfection and qualify us to enter into Vaikuntha as described above. Beyond that, the characteristics of Spiritual Economics would have a wide influence over the quality of life on this planet. Let's see what that might be.

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 there will never be problems of lack and scarcity which are so prevalent in the world today.
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 humble Krishna conscious person 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. First of all there can be no "getting," as we understand that Krishna is the supreme proprietor. Without His consent what is our power of getting? However, every living being has something to give, which is their energy in devotional service. Giving finds its perfection in devotional service , 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 sustenance—this 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, clothing for the Deity, temples for his worship, and other things created in the spirit of devotional service. This reciprocal service culminates in the highest treasure of all—pure 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 to produce an environment which promotes the pleasure of giving, naturally this will awaken the spiritual values in the heart of men, ultimately finding fulfillment in giving to Krishna, and to all around us.

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 economic unit, 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 Lord Chaitanya and His associates:
“Although 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.” 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, maya, 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 secure when they know that they will be taken care of, and 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 anything. Therefore, intense competition to become the biggest enjoyer, artificially increasing lust and envy is eliminated, and all persons who participate in such an economic system can live in cooperation, free from envy, strife, class struggle and political upheaval.

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 showing the way of devotional service which includes Spiritual Economics, Srila Prabhupada has made us all one family that can dwell peacefully in one house—a house in which the whole world can live.
In the next section we shall discuss some of the practical aspects of implementing and practicing Spiritual Economics. In conclusion of this section we present a summary of the main features and results of material and Spiritual Economics in the table below. As you look at the two columns consider on which side you want to live your life. You can help to create a functioning Spiritual Economy by giving up envy and greed, and engaging your labor in the service of others in the spirit of devotional service.

A Comparison of Material and Spiritual Economics

Material Economics
  1. Self, currency, and objects of desire are always separate, creating consciousness of scarcity
  2. Focus is on self
  3. People are forced to “get”
  4. Competition, greed, avarice, graft, crime, and corruption become desirable means for success
  5. Irresponsibility towards oneself, others and the earth results
  6. Maximum consumption is encouraged
  7. False sense of proprietorship develops; exploitation of the earth's resources 
  8. Encourages exploitation and slavery of others; the strong and wealthy exploit the weak and unable
  9. Loss of self-respect due to irresponsible and sinful acts involved in getting or keeping money
  10. Creates unlimited toil and struggle in an effort to accumulate wealth 
  11. Gives the notion that money can solve all problems; also that problems exist outside of the self
  12. Isolates and alienates people from each other
  13. Everyone can manipulate the economic system to their advantage at the expense of others; Low class men inappropriately become the false leaders of society
  14. Impersonal currency
Spiritual Economics 
  1. Self, currency and objects of desire are never separated, creates feeling of wholeness
  2. Focus is on others
  3. People are free to give
  4. Requires and promotes cooperation with others; eliminates motive for greed, crime, avarice, etc.
  5. Encourages responsibility to self and others
  6. Minimum consumption is encouraged
  7. Provides no impetus for exploitation of people; Creates a strong social security system for all
  8. Fosters understanding of custodian/caretaker of nature; no impetus for exploitation
  9. Promotes self-respect through giving of self
  10. Work and struggle minimized to what is appropriate
  11. Helps to understand that problems are opportunities for spiritual growth and development
  12. Establishes community—creates a house in which the whole world can live
  13. Wealth is distributed by the desire to serve others
  14. Personal currency

12 July 2009

Spiritual Economics - The Karma-Free Gift Economy!

Spiritual Economics teaches a gift economy based on the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita. Work done for the satisfaction of God is a purely spiritual activity that is free from all karmic reaction. The results of such work are offered to the Lord for His pleasure and then distributed as a gift to others with no consideration of compensation. The work itself is its own reward, and because it is completely spiritual it gives the performer genuine happiness and satisfaction that cannot be gained in any type of material activity or sense gratification.

The Vedic literature teaches us that God has created this world in such a way that we can take care of the economic problem with very little effort. If we use the world according to His design it will function with full harmony and abundance for everyone. The simple fact is the more we deviate from the Lord's arrangement the more problems we introduce. This is why the modern world is such a mess. The easy solution to all the problems of life is to abide by the order of the Lord. In doing so we will not only be prosperous, but we will be happy as well. Learn more about Spiritual Economics and the gift economy from my website and books. Om Shanti

12 June 2009

Review of Spiritual Economics- An Economic Eyeopener, A Spiritual Masterpiece

A review of HG Dhanesvara Das’s “Lessons in Spiritual Economics from the Bhagavad-gita – Part 1 – Understanding and Solving the Economic Problem” by Chaitanya Charan Das.

Srila Prabhupada once told Satsvarupa Maharaja to write a book showing how all the problems of the world can be solved only by Krishna consciousness. Satsvarupa Maharaj eventually wrote an illuminating small book, The Daily News: All Things Fail Without Krishna, in which he analyzed various news stories to show how the problems therein arise from a lack of Krishna consciousness. In the foreword of that book, Maharaj stated how this instruction of Srila Prabhupada is a huge mandate, which will require enormous research and effort to fulfill.

Dhanesvara’s Spiritual Economics book fulfills Srila Prabhupada's instruction in the somewhat unlikely (from the perspective of what is ordinarily thought of as spiritual) field of economics through its comprehensive research, penetrating analysis, scriptural and unambiguously devotional call to action.

Spiritual Economics marks a historic leap forward in the scholarly preaching of Krishna consciousness. In what is probably the first time in modern world history, the concept of the three modes is applied to analyze various economic systems throughout human history as being either in goodness, passion or ignorance. This analysis, presented in chapters three, four and five, of the book, constitutes the heart of the book - and gives us an endearing glimpse into the dedicated heart of Dhanesvara.

Spiritual Economics is simultaneously enlivening and disturbing. It is immensely enlivening to see the principles of Krishna consciousness, which we are all dedicated to practicing and preaching, presented so expertly, comprehensively and cogently in a field that has not been done, or even attempted (to my knowledge), by any devotee till date. For the intellectual rigor and spiritual vigor that Dhanesvara Prabhu brings to work in this book, he deserves a place among the likes of Sadaputa Prabhu, Drutakarma Prabhu, Satyaraja Prabhu, Garuda Prabhu and Devamrita Swami, who have all brought laurels for Srila Prabhupada by their scholarly writings.

At the same time, Spiritual Economics is profoundly disturbing; it documents in scary and gory detail the extent to which the exploitative and destructive mentality, characteristic of the mode of ignorance, has gripped the whole world - especially including the economic big shots. This contemporary research powerfully demonstrates Srila Prabhupada's statement that the world is being ruled by the demonic and drives home the crying necessity to vigorously preach Krishna consciousness. Spiritual Economics concludes that the solution to the prevailing global economic (and social) mess is to raise our consciousness individually and collectively through chanting the mahamantra and building a God-centered economy.

To fully solve the economic problem we must understand Krishna’s instructions for a spiritual culture. This focuses on the unfinished second-half of Srila Prabhupada's mission -- establishing working models of varnashrama dharma, with economics in the mode of goodness. This will be elaborately explained in Part II of the work.

Being myself an author of several books, I am impressed, even astounded, by the exhaustiveness of the research that has gone into making this book. Dhanesvara has toiled for more than two decades, pouring over hundreds of books, to gift all of us - and the whole world at large – this ripe fruit of his devotional intellect. In the true spirit of the gifting economy that he advocates, he has made his book freely available to all in electronic form from here. The book should soon be available in print from www.lulu.com.

Dhanesvara deserves great credit for painstaking scrupulousness in study and unflinching faithfulness in preaching. By applying the principles of Krishna consciousness that Srila Prabhupada brought to the world and that Dhanesvara powerfully presents in this book, we can all do our respective parts, small or great, in assisting Srila Prabhupada's mission to save the world from its present suicidal course.

Spiritual Economics Book Available Online

Spiritual Economics is Available Online

The first volume of my book on Spiritual Economics -- "Lessons in Spiritual Economics from the Bhagavad-gita - Part I - Understanding and Solving the Economic Problem" is finished and available as a pdf ebook from here

The book is written for those who are fed up with predator capitalism (or predator communism, or predator anything for that matter), who are tired of being robbed by their very own governments, have had it with the IMF, the World Bank, and all their hucksterism, and who are sick and tired of the way the modern world works and want to find a permanent solution. It explains what makes economic man tick, and with that insight explains THE solution to all economic problems. Beware: this is not an answer that most people want to hear! They think that they can have the kingdom of God without God, but sorry folks, that’s not gonna happen.

Spiritual Economics explains the varieties of man’s economic behavior according the gunas, or modes of material nature. Why does modern man engage in predator economics and vulture capitalism? Because his consciousness has become crippled by the mode of ignorance. Why does modern society encourage lust, envy and greed as though these were desirable qualities? Because of the influence of the mode of ignorance. Why does 1% of the population own 40% of the wealth in the world while 50% of the people own 2% of the wealth? Same reason.

The consciousness of modern man has become crippled by killing, intoxication, illicit sex and cheating (gambling), and the effects of these activities spill over into his economic affairs. Here’s a heads-up: LIFE IS INTEGRATED. WHAT WE DO IN ONE SPHERE OF ACTIVITY WILL AFFECT ALL OTHER SPHERES.

That being the case there is NO solution to our modern economic problems unless we clean up our consciousness. In the last chapter of the book I explain scientifically how this can be done.

Actually the book was finished almost a year ago -- last August -- then the economic crisis hit and I thought that I would add something about that. That was a bad decision. As you may recall, the crisis dragged on for months. During that time there was lots to read and muse on.

Finally in January I had written another entire chapter, more than 35 pages, but there was a problem. I couldn't use it. The conclusions were sinister and would bring a mood to the book that I didn't want. But in the process I had the opportunity to massage the the last chapter further and am much happier about it.

In the book I list this livejournal account as my blog, but there are some things that I don't like about Livejournal so I have got this blog going also. There are almost innumerable things to comment on in relationship to the ideas under the heading of Spiritual Economics, and many of these could be book length, so maybe they are not too appropriate for a blog. In that case I will get them loaded onto my website, which is www.spiritual-econ.info (soon to be spiritual-econ.com too). BTW, that is where you can look for that chapter that didn't make it. The title is "Economic Chernobyl - The Economic Crisis of 2008".