The enlightened Eastern masters were characterised by multi-dimensional personalities. It is no surprise that they also came up with thoughts on upliftment of the society. Be it Rama, Krishna, Buddha, or Tulsidas, they all had economic thoughts for the welfare of the society.
Kautilyaâ€™s economic tho-ughts are well presented in his Arthshastra. We find
the reference of spiritual economics in several religious texts such as the Vedas, Upnishads, Ramayan and Mahabharat.
In Srimad Bhagavadgita, Chapter 3-20, 25, Krishna presents his spiritual economic thoughts in one single word lokasangraha, which literally means organising people. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan defined lokasangraha as â€œspiritualising societyâ€ in his 1948 tome on Bhagavadgita.
Since lokasangraha symbolises the path of action (karmyoga), it represents the â€˜wholesomeâ€™ approach, the thrust of which is on the â€˜prosperity of all,â€™ â€˜peace to all,â€™ â€˜positive outlook towards all,â€™ and â€˜inflicting pain to none.â€™
This concept of spiritual prosperity is also imbibed in the philosophy of atmbat sarbbhuteshu (visualising our own self in all) or basudhaibakutumbakam (treating each person in the
globe as our own relative). As economy is one of the important aspects in the
life of the global relatives, basudhaibakutumbakam has its thrust on unrestricted movement of goods and services for the global welfare.
However, modern economists seem to have failed to plumb such depths. Of the various definitions of economics, for example, that of Lionel Robbins (â€œThe science which studies human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative usesâ€) is treated as standard. But this definition of economics, too, is not free from limitations. There is only one â€˜endâ€™ in life and that is happiness or more appropriately the feeling of â€˜blissâ€™ or â€˜moksha.â€™
In order to avoid exploitation, Isha Upanishad makes reference to the word â€œtena tyaktena bhunjeethahâ€ in Sanskrit, which means utilising or consuming the objects without any sense
of attachment, believing that they belong to the Supreme God. The centrality of spiritual economics is not on relinquishing wealth, but on its possession to the extent it is needed for achieving bliss and using it for the welfare of all.
The Helsinki-based World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University (UNU-WIDER) in its study has found that the richest 2 per cent of the adults at the global level own over half of global household wealth. And the richest 10 per cent of adults have in their lot 85 per cent of worldâ€™s total wealth. On the contrary, the bottom half of the worldâ€™s adult population own merely 1 per cent of global wealth.
Practice of spiritual economics might control extravagance. The more the growth in spirituality, the less the negativity and magnitude of violence, wars, terrorism, criminalisation and corruption in the world. With the reduction in these activities, expenditures on security at the national and global level would decline significantly. Resources, thus, saved on security might be spent on peopleâ€™s welfare, which is in tune with the basic concept of spiritual economics.
Jha is executive director, Centre for Economic and Technical Studies (CETS)