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Your most important asset || Acharya Prashant, on Vedanta (2021)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
7 min
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Questioner (Q): One of the main objectives of Economics is to figure out how to distribute resources in society. Could you please shed light on how this ‘distribution question’ will shape a spiritual economy?

Acharya Prashant (AP): No, first of all, what do you call a resource? When you say, “I want to distribute resources,” what do you mean by a resource? A resource is a sadhan and a sadhan is meaningful only when there is a sadhya. What is sadhya ? An objective, a target. So, when you say these are resources, what do you mean by resources? You are saying, you want to distribute resources but what exactly for? Do you even know what you are going to use those things for?

Distribution comes way later. You have five knives and you have five kids and you are saying that there must be equal distribution of resources. Are you distributing resources or misery? First of all, have you taught those kids what is worthy of having in life, what to use any resources for? Or do you just want to put knives or money in their hand? Without teaching a person what to do with the money if you just redistribute money, I am asking, are you distributing money or misery?

People are poor for several reasons; lack of opportunity is just one of the reasons. You can have that kind of mindset that I'll either print more money or I'll tax the rich and then I'll redistribute everything. And the underlying reasons that made those people poor are still very much there. And you have put money in their hands. Will the money last?

When you understand that the most important thing in life is consciousness, then your first priority is not the distribution of resources or any such thing. Then your first priority in compassion is to create conditions where the entire population can have an elevation of consciousness. The kids must know what to value. The adults must know what to live for. And when you know what to live for, then the tendency to accumulate is far lesser.

There is this metric called the Gini Coefficient in Economics. It measures the skew in wealth distribution. Typically, across the world, the top two to three per cent of people have ninety to ninety-five per cent or even more of the wealth. Why does a person need to accumulate so much wealth? Because he does not know what to do in life. And when such a thing happens, then you start talking of redistribution and such things. Now, redistribution is not the answer, the answer is education. You have to educate those who indulged in accumulation. Had those people been spiritually educated, in the first place, the accumulation would have not happened at all.

But instead of addressing the root cause, what you are saying is, “We will take money from those people and distribute it to the poor, or we will generate money in some way. And you know, we will borrow from overseas donors or from the Central Bank, and will put cash in the hands of the poor,” without firstly understanding why the poor are poor and why so much money has been held by just a few people. You do not want to address that faulty human tendency. Address that tendency, and so much else that you are forced to do today will not be needed anymore.

The world over, we have been crying aloud saying, “Let's remove poverty, let's get rid of poverty” and such things. What has happened? On average, yes, the world is today more prosperous than it ever was in its history. But at the same time, the gap between the rich and the poor has immensely widened, and so, relative poverty today is as deep as it ever was.

In an absolute sense, on a per capita basis, people today have more money compared to their fathers or grandfathers. That is good, but then people live in their minds and the mind lives in comparison. In a relative sense, probably even those who are in the middle-class today are poorer than they were a hundred years back, in spite of having more money, because the upper classes have just moved into stratospheric economic zones.

So, tell me, have we been able to really get rid of poverty? And the process is only accelerating. With each passing day, more and more money is getting concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. Why can't we address the root cause? Why can't we address that hollow in man's being that he tries to desperately fill with money and keeps failing? And the more he fails, the harder he tries, the more he accumulates.

Money can buy you stuff; money cannot tell you what to buy. And that's the entire thing. There is so much you can have with money, but not even all the money in the world will be able to tell you what to do with that money. That wisdom can come only from spirituality. Only spirituality can tell you to what extent money is useful to you and what is it that money cannot fetch you. When you know what it is that money cannot fetch you, then you do not indulge in money beyond a point.

Now you know that money is useful to this extent, so you must have this much money. And beyond this point, money is anyway not going to help. So, there is no point in making efforts to have money beyond this point. Beyond this point, something else helps and I’ll go after that.

All the economic theories and all the economic systems are predicated on this premise, they are based on the assumption that the goal of man's action is to have more money. This they call as welfare or even luxury. In some theories, they say, “Maximization of luxury is the objective of man's efforts.” But even this luxury that they are talking of is just money, material things. So, all the economics that we see is inherently faulty, because it assumes that all that man wants is material comforts.

No economic theory takes into account that what man really wants is Liberation and not monetization. All the economic theories start from a fundamentally flawed assumption and therefore, all that they say is very limited and often harmful, and leads to the kind of inner deprivation that we see all around. When your very system is founded on the idea that man must live for money, then you are compelling man to live for money. And when man lives for money, then he lives a very poor life.

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