Our expression of the term “Spiritual Economics” encompasses many concepts that are based on the Vedic worldview. This worldview, or way of understanding the world, is not known to most Westerners. The readers of the website are therefore encouraged to first read this background material.
Consider please, that the ‘tools’ that we have to think about and understand things are limited by our language. Our language is comprised of words that convey meaning, and thus we are quite restricted not only in our concepts of life, but also in our ways of thinking of and our ways of approaching problems. It is extremely difficult for most people to conceive of new or novel ideas for which there are no words to express. As a consequence of this we often see that a so-called solution, created from the same set of ideas and concepts that generated the problem, creates more problems than it solves. And this certainly seems to be born out in our collective economic experiences.
Sanskrit—A Different Language
In this regard the Sanskrit language stands apart from the majority of the languages of the world. Because Sanskrit is the language of an ancient spiritual culture it contains words with corresponding concepts and ideas that have no counterpart in Western languages. Not only does it have very specific and concrete explanations of spiritual subjects, but it also possesses words and corresponding concepts that give us a different way of seeing and understanding this material world. In other words, it provides a vastly different perspective on all of life that is totally absent from the Western approach.
The consequences of this are profound.
A mouse running through a maze offers a good example. The perspective of the mouse is only walls and corridors going this way and that. But the perspective of the laboratory technician who designed and placed the mouse in the maze is vastly different. The technician knows the beginning point and where the cheese is located. The mouse, through repeated trial and error, has to learn where the cheese is. If one’s goal is to get the cheese, it is certainly more easily accomplished from the perspective of the technician.
According to the Vedic worldview, the ‘technician’ who arranged this world and placed us in it, is God. Further it is God who gave us the Vedas, the knowledge that explain how and why the entire creation has taken place, how this world works, and why we are in it. That is to say that the Vedas provide us with a different perspective from which to understand our situation, how to live without creating unnecessary problems, and how to solve the problems that we have created through ignorance. Our concept of Spiritual Economics approaches the subject of economics from the wisdom of the Vedic worldview. The Vedic worldview may similarly be applied to all other subject matters such as psychology, the behavioral sciences, education, the arts, etc.
The Evolution of Economics is an Evolution of Consciousness
In the first volume of our work: “Lessons in Spiritual Economics from the Bhagavad-gita” we analyze the various economic behaviors of this world from the Vedic spiritual perspective. From that perspective all living things are spiritual beings at their core, although wearing different suits of material energy, or matter. In that sense a rabbit, or dove, or tiger, etc. is spiritually equal to a human being. Indeed, the same spirit, or jiva, that occupies the animal’s body will have a human body at some point in its spiritual evolution. The rabbit has its own economic problems: where to find food, shelter, and community, which it solves with the abilities it was endowed with by nature—it’s instinct. The same holds for all other living things who go through a process of spiritual evolution, progressing through birth in all of the various life-forms before arriving at the human level.
The human being is considered the pinnacle of this evolution in that humans do not behave on the basis of instinct, but are instead given free-will with which they may choose from many courses of action, each having their corresponding consequences. Further, the choices made are dependent upon the consciousness they have developed. Once arriving at the human form of life further spiritual evolution is the evolution of consciousness. This evolution takes place through an unlimited number of births and life experiences. Over the course of many, many lives the person, or soul, or jiva, will achieve full realization of their spiritual nature, or their spiritual existence independent of and beyond the body, or self-realization, after which they will transfer themselves to the spiritual plane of existence, far beyond this temporary world of matter.
This evolution of consciousness is expressed in various ways of thinking and action, prominent among which is economic behavior, or the methods chosen to solve economic problems. (On this website I generally use the word ‘economic’ in its simplest expression of how the needs of the body, such as food, clothing and shelter, are met, and not the way it is commonly used today to refer to more abstract behaviors and ideas such as financial dealings, currency exchange, interest rates, derivatives, etc.)
The Influence of Material Energy on Consciousness
As explained in the Bhagavad-gita the consciousness of the living being is affected by contact with the material energy. These influences are collectively known as the gunas. We translate this word as ‘consciousness determinants,’ but in his translation of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is Srila Prabhupada uses a more general expression, simply calling it ‘material nature.’ In any case the material energy influences the consciousness of the pure spiritual being causing him to perceive, think and act in various ways. This is explained on this website in our discussion of the gunas, and how these changes in consciousness are reflected in various economic behaviors and activity is the primary subject of our book.
Briefly, the forward, progressive evolution of consciousness and corresponding economic behavior is that from taking to giving, from exploitation to protection, from selfishness to selflessness, from me to our, from mine to ours. Note that this is not at all a one-way street. Indeed, in our book we point out that over the period of the last several millennia, and especially over the course of the past sixty years, the trend is decidedly, and rapidly going in the other direction. The whys and wherefores for this are also explained in detail in our book.
On this website we will be giving many examples of economics in its various forms: goodness, passion and ignorance, in articles and blog posts, but it is likely that we will see a preponderance of writing on the economic problems due to the influence of ignorance (tamo-guna) since it is now so common.
We like to focus on the gift economy and how to establish it as a living reality since we see the gift economy as a startling method of challenging people’s perceptions as to the way things ‘should’ work. Of course we also repeat and support the spiritual solution to the economic, and all other, problems.
To summarize, the contents of this website will include:
- Examples of economics in goodness, passion and ignorance
- The gift economy as a way of waking people up, and
- The spiritual solution to the economic and other problems of material life
We hope you will find the website interesting and provocative. You are invited to respond to the articles with questions for clarification if needed.