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The real cause of human poverty || Acharya Prashant, with youth (2014)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
10 min
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Question: Whenever I visit any temple, I see a lot of children begging on the roads, outside the temple. I give them some money, and also think, that what can I do for them. I often feel, that had they been literate, they would have not been begging like this.

If we are not literate, then what can we do to know ourselves?

Acharya Prashant (AP): First of all, the need for your normal, conventional education, and it’s relation to poverty.

Where does ‘poverty’ come from? Do you see anything in entire existence that is poor, except human beings? There is the grass on the ground, is it ever poor? When there is rain, it is green. And when the Sun would be beating hard, the grass would just hide beneath the surface, with it’s roots intact, only to emerge back again in the rains. There is no poverty. It does not cry, “I am short of resources.”

Birds, animals, trees – nothing is ever poor. Nobody needs to go out, fight, earn, save, secure the future; not at least as much as human beings do. Nobody has as much knowledge, as human beings have, and yet it is only the human beings that are dying of starvation, of poverty, of war, and of ten other things.

Hundreds of millions of human beings have died, because they did not receive enough food. You would have not heard of hundreds and millions of animals dying this way. They don’t.

So where does poverty come from? Poverty is not at all natural. Poverty is just the dual opposite, rather, the dual partner of greed.

If a few humans are seen begging, it is not because there is something wrong with them, it is not because they did not go to schools and colleges. If you pay attention, it is really because, there are few handful of other humans who have out of their greed, hoarded all the resources with them.

I do not know whether you are aware of this, but more than ninety-five percent of the world’s wealth resides in the hands of less than 1%, or 2% individuals. When all the resources have been taken over by just a few individuals, is it not obvious that starvation will be there, and rampant poverty will be there?

Trees and animals, and everything in nature, takes only as much as it really needs. Go to a jungle, and you would never find an obese animal, a fat animal, because no animal ever eats more than what it really needs. You will never find that a tree has saved, hoarded for the next fifty years, for the next seven generations.

It is only human beings that collect, hoard, and that they glorify as ‘savings’. And why is that so? Because there is deep security in the human mind.

Work has been done by economists who studied the famines and food shortages. And they found out, that the food shortages are not really from the supply side, they are more from the side of distribution. Enough food is there, enough food is there. It is just not reaching everybody. Why is it not reaching everybody? (Repeating) Why is it not reaching everybody?

Similarly, is there really shortage of space for kids to study? No. Every kid can have space in the school, but the school will not admit the kid. The school has enough space, but the school won’t admit him. Why would the school not admit him? Because the school must take the fee.

And why must the school management take the fee? Because it has to pay somebody else. And why must somebody else be paid? So that somebody else may be paid. And ultimately, where is the money going? In the pockets of the few greedy and insecure individuals.

It is because of these handful of people, that the entire world is suffering. But again, that does not mean that we are apportioning the blame on somebody.

Those handful of people are able to exist and prosper, only because the remaining ninety-nine percent of the population supports them. Not only supports them, it actually respects them, worships them.

Your great corporate icons, you do not understand that it is they, who are responsible for your poverty. And remember, poverty is of two kinds – absolute, and relative.

Absolute poverty is when your basic needs are not being met. Absolutely, not many of us are poor, because our basic needs are being met. We have food, clothing, shelter. But relatively, each one of us is very-very poor. Each one of us lives in a complex, that we have lesser money compared to somebody else. And that is why there is this thirst to acquire more and more.

You look at the large buildings and the great palaces that these people have raised. And what do you feel? “I must also have this.” This is called ‘relative poverty’. “Oh, I am so poor, compared to him.” Now, no animal is poor compared to another animal, at least not in the degree one human is compared to another human.

So, is poverty something that existence gives you? Or, is poverty something that you bring upon yourself? Is poverty something that existence gave you? Or is poverty something that society has given you?

Listeners: Society.

AP: If existence were to be blamed, then ask yourself, “Why is nothing else so poor?” The rose is shining so majestically, without earning anything. The animals are leaping and playing so beautifully, without going to work. And man is being told again and again, that unless you make a career, you will die of starvation.

We have not seen rabbits, and lions, and elephants die of starvation, because they don’t wear a tie and go to offices. In fact, they are so healthy. They live their full, natural life. They don’t get heart-attacks, they don’t suffer from aids and cancer.

They don’t have to go to psychologists to get treated for depression, unless they are in contact with human beings. They don’t do MBAs, and they have no bank accounts. Yet they are all so happy.

Look at the flowers in your campus, and look at your own face – whose face looks happier? And why is your face so sad? And not only not is it sad today, it is going to be remain sad till death.

It is so rare to find an really Joyful man. And it is equally rare to find a sad flower. The flower may be this small, but it would still be laughing. And man would be sitting in this large a car, he would still be sobbing that – “The car of the neighbor is bigger. That corporate honcho has a private jet, I only have a Mercedes. I am so poor.”

So, who gives poverty to you? Does existence give poverty to you? It is the society that gives poverty to you. *And even if absolute poverty is eradicated, relative poverty would always exist, because that is the nature of our culture, of our education, of all training and conditioning.***

Isn’t it ironical, the kids that you are talking of, are standing in front of a Temple? And that temple must have been built for a crore, or a five, or may be fifty. So, was there shortage of money? Money is there, but where is the money going? Where is the money going?

The kids are standing on the highway. Do you know how much does it cost to build one kilometer of the highway? So, is there shortage of money?

Poverty is the companion of riches. There cannot be riches, unless there is poverty.

Look at your corporate structures, for example. There are shareholders, then there is the CEO, and the COO, then there are the managers, and then there are the workers. Come what may, the workers would always be getting less than one percent share of the profit. Right? Who would always be getting a huge disproportionate share of the profit? The shareholders. Right?

So, the more this firm progresses, who will progress more and more.

Listeners: The shareholders.

AP: Whose poverty will deepen more and more?

Listeners: The workers.

AP: That is the nature of your economy. This fellow, the worker, will gain five rupees. This fellow, the shareholder, will gain five crore rupees. When he will gain five crore rupees, that five crore will be used to make things even more expensive. You see, when there is somebody who is prepared to pay fifty rupees for a twenty rupee thing, what will happen to the price of the twenty rupee thing?

You are there, and your neighbor is there. You are the worker, your neighbor is the shareholder. In front of you two is the seller. You can spend twenty rupees, but you cannot spend more than that. Your neighbor bought something, and the seller was selling it for twenty rupees. Now, your great neighbor, the shareholder, comes out and says, “I am prepared to pay fifty rupees for it.”

Now, what is the price of thing increased to?

Listeners: Fifty rupees.

AP: Now, can you purchase it anymore?

Listeners: No.

AP: Is this not artificial poverty? There was no poverty, but poverty has been artificially created by somebody, who has an obscene sum of wealth.

You are alright with a bike. But then you see a four-wheeler, and the bike is not alright anymore. And then the poor ‘Alto’ sees a ‘Corolla’, and it becomes ashamed. Then the ‘Corolla’ sees a ‘BMW’, and then ‘BMW’ sees a ‘Jet’. And then ‘Jet’ sees a ‘Spacecraft’ to Mars.


And everybody becomes poor.

Who suffers?

The poor kids in front of the Temple.

Because everybody must have his pound of flesh, so the one who is the most vulnerable, will be left begging.

A day may come, when out of economic progress, these kids may have enough to feed their stomachs. But, remember, with this kind of a system, they will never have enough to feed their souls.

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