Owing to Adhyatma being roots of Sanatana Hindu life, general impression gained currency with passage of time that Hindu-s have always been bereft of economic thinking or anything that may resemble economic doctrine in western eyes. Shyama Shastri of Mysuru was the first to challenge it in 1909 by publishing Kautilya Arthasastra. Then was published ‘Hindu Economics’ by Prof. MG Bokare, Convener of Svadeshi Jagaran Manch in 1993 that established Hindu economic thinking belonged to Vedic era itself. Trickle grew into a stream and soon Prof. Galbraith of USA conceded ancient primacy of Sanatana economic thinking and even assured to propagate the fact.
Kautilya Arthasastra enunciated so explicitly –
“Anviksiki Trayi Varta Dandanitisceti Vidya” i.e. one must study Anviksiki i.e. Tattva-Jnana, Trayi i.e. three Veda-s and Varta i.e. economics and Dandaniti i.e. jurisprudence.
Manusyanam Vrttirarthaha I Manusyavati Bhumirityarthaha ITasyaha Prthivya Lobhapalanopayaha Sastramarthasastramiti I
Survival of man is Artha. Artha is land inhabited by men. How to procure land, ensure its development etc. constitute Arthasastra.
Kretasangharse Mulyavrddhi I Competition among buyers leads to price rise.
Dedicating surplus for social upliftment was always commended with emphasis on Ista i.e. Yajna, Dana, Daksina etc. and Purta i.e. bridge construction, well digging, inn construction, deepening of ponds, running water-kiosks etc. Consuming only after sharing with others was emphasised in all discourses as Rg Veda expounds –
Kevalagho Bhavati Kevaladi I
Felon is the one who consumes without sharing.
Atharva Veda states –
Satahasta Samahar Sahastrahasta Sankir I
Earn with hundred hands and share with thousands.
Santi Parva in Mahabharata states –
Samvijya Ca Bhoktavyam Ca Dhanam I
Wealth must be shared with all.
Srimadbhagvad states –
Dharmaya Yasasearthaya Kamaya Svajanaya Ca I
Pancadha Vibhajanvittamihamutra Ca Modate II
Five ways of expenditure of wealth begets bliss in this as well in the other world. Those are public welfare, admirable tasks, investment and manufacturing, consumption, sharing with kin and friends.
Yajnavalkya Smriti states –
Arthasastrattu Balavaddharmasastramiti Sthitiha I
Dharmasastra always has an upper hand over Arthasastra. Artha and Kama must conform to tenets of Dharma.
Aurghonugrihakrtkaryaha Kreturvikreturevaca I
Price beneficial for buyer and seller is the fair price.
In every discipline of activity, self-regulation was the cardinal principle even though King held final authority. Kautilyas Arthasastra, Mahabharata,Smriti-s etc. laid emphasis on actual cost of goods followed by demand level. Universalism and comprehensive development of humanity constitute cardinal principles of the economic doctrine of Hinduism, not merely satisfying temporal necessities of man as an economic entity. Out of Purusa-Catustaya of Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksa, Artha and Kama have been placed between Dharma and Moksa. While adhering to tenets of Dharma, one is ordained to navigate through domains of Artha and Kama with the abode of Moksa to be attained to, ultimately. At the same time, welfare of all too is the second most important mission intertwined with Purusa-Catustaya albeit throughout ones life-span, optimum equilibrium among Dharma, Artha and Kama must be maintained. Excessive invocation of any one of them in isolation is regarded as felony in Manusmriti –
Dharmarthakamaha Samam Eva Sevyakaha I
Yaha Ek Sevi Sa Naro Jaghanyaha II
Kamandak so stated in his Nitisar,
“Ayataha Raksana Rajni Varta Raksanamasrita I
Vartachede Hi Lokoayam Svasampidam Na Jivati II” (1.12)
To protect economics is Kings Dharma lest the world dies even while breathing.
In Nitivakyamritam, Somadeva Suri has expounded economics as Sarvaprayojana Siddhihi Soarthaha i.e. that enables procurement of all necessities and essentials of living.
Sukracarya in Sukraniti expounded Arthasastra as under –
Arthanartho Tu Vartayam I How to procure Artha and eradication of its absence is Arthasastra.
Kusid Krsi Vanijyam Goraksa Vartayocyate I
Borrowings, interest, agriculture, business, cow conservation and cattle rearing make Arthasastra.
Srutismrtyavirodhena Rajavrttadisasanam I Suyuktortharjanam Yatrarthasastram Taducyate II
The Sastra wherein conduct of King and principles of governance are formulated conforming to Sruti-Smrti, is Arthasastra.
Yathakamatpadarthanamargham Hinadhikam Bhavet I As demand rises, prices rise too
Sukracarya had emphasised, prices must be guided by traditional considerations enshrined in Dharmaarghyaha.
Wealth creation is regarded as a blessing of Devi Laksmi and means of wealth creation are worshipped on festive occasions like Visvakarma Puja. Society has always been compassionate towards wealth creators with ownership of wealth always regarded as vested in divinity with only transient possession in human hands. First Sloka of Isopanisad expounded it so explicitly –
Isavasyamidam Sarvam Yatkincam Jagatyam Jagat I
Tena Tyaktena Bhunjitha Ma Grdhaha Kasyasviddhanam II
A man may be entrusted with ownership of wealth to meet his own as well as necessities of his family temporarily or on a long-term basis.
Concept of Arthayama is multi-faceted by not allowing excessive influence of wealth over society, paucity of wealth leading to penury, wealth under active control, not allowing fascination or contempt for wealth in society etc. as wealth is visualised to be a tool for betterment of human society. Our ancients always believed and pursued balanced life-style as the best one that does not reject carnal requirements outright. Self-torture in the form of suppressing natural instincts is unacceptable while pursuing that as the sole mission of life too, is equally unacceptable. Profit generation alone has not been the motivating factor as subtle constituents like Sva-Dharma, Karmaphala, Papa and Punya weighed heavily in all economic activities of wealth creation too exerted their roles significantly with the fundamental perception of utter detachment towards Karmaphala. Balanced life-style with self-restraint and conservation is also essential for environmental preservation. So is said in Santi Parva of Mahabharata too –
Adrohena Bhutanamalpadrohena Va Punaha I
Life-style may be such that subsistence is ensured with no expense on any constituent of nature. If that is not possible, it must be minimum possible.
Purpose of cultural inventions has been solely to develop dynamic rapport with nature and visualise all constituents of nature as live adorable deities, most effective statement on environmental conservation. With that sense of perception in mind, Bhrtrahari expounds how to avail of necessities of life –
O Rajan ! Dudhuksasi Yadi Ksitidhenumenam Tenagh Vatsamiva Lokamamum Pusana I
Tasminsca Samyagnisam Paripusyamane Nanaphalaiha Phalati Kalpalteva Bhumiha II
O Rajan ! If you wish to attain Go-rasa in plenty as your essential from Mother-earth like Gomata, you must first nourish and conserve all constituents of Mother-earth like her sons. So long as this son cares for her, she shall continue providing all to him like Kalpalata.
Now that the ball of Economism has been hurtling downwards unhurdled for long all over, our ancient economic doctrine may well be of great value. Holistic approach to all issues pertaining to human civilization has ever been a unique feature of Sanatana Dharma. Abhudaya i.e. economic prosperity and Nihsreyasa i.e. prosperity and well-being for all may continue to be practised as in past to strike a dynamic balance among various variables pertaining to all constituents of a nation. Given the axiomatic reality that every ordinary mortal is inclined towards extravagance and profligacy, intensive efforts to restore and sustain the right equilibrium among all factors must be undertaken in the overall interest of not only entire society but also at individual levels. As verticals of moral fibre emanate from elements of Dharma alone, doctrine of Hinduism holds Dharma supremely sacrosanct whose lost glory must be restored. “Checks and controls must be proportional to the nature and order of authority conceded” must be the guiding principle for writing all economic policies, programs and implementation thereof.
Ancient Sanatana economics is formulated in the form of political economy. According to Kautilya, King is ordained to protect and support deprived sections of society, construction of roads and religious centres, promoting agriculture and business. Even today such a policy makes sense however with certain modifications and role of government reduced to the level of a facilitator instead of being doer themselves. Doership must be undertaken by social groups and autonomous bodies with conduct of government open to scrutiny of social bodies and prominent individuals. Reservoir of experiences of past must be invoked in formulating such policies to minimise instances of errors. It has always been held dearly that responsibilities delegated to individuals and institutions must be accomplished to the best of abilities as a measure of Sva-Dharma. That’s the way to individual advancement, contribution to society and prosperity for all. Being a lone economic unit can never beget sense of fulfilment which may otherwise through collective actions and co-operation. Social harmony and joy are rooted in co-operation, not competition. Hence it is imperative that all social activities must be focused on overall prosperity of society, equitable distribution and emancipation from exploitation of individuals. Although all persons are different yet congruence on several issues among all does exist. Advancement of every individual must significantly contribute to development of society as a whole albeit excessive emphasis on individuality is detrimental to social advancement. Enrichment of an individual and accumulation of wealth must be guided by certain norms so as to assure all opportunities are equally accessible to all in a free and fair manner.
In cultural heritage of Bharata, economics ever pursued holistic approach towards all issues challenging the society guided by elements of Catustaya i.e. Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksa.
Centrality of Bharatiya Sanatana doctrine revolves around all disciplines of life i.e. social, economic, political, educational, cultural, Adhyatmika as well as entire living kingdom. All human activities must be focused on these only and certainly not on transient gains. Every such activity must be closely monitored from the standpoint of its immediate proceeds and long-term consequences. Society and nation must chart out their way forward towards pre-determined mission and goals. Attaining balanced growth while traversing the charted path while realizing innate potentialities of all, is the genuine progress of advancement. Balanced growth on parameters of Catustaya i.e. Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksa is ones own growth that must be in sync with overall objectives of society and nation.
Sva-Desi means Sva i.e. harmonious to our culture and heritage. Core of Samskriti is Dharma with values of life core thereof. Dharma is dedicated to nurture a healthy society and its conservation, not merely exhaustive rituals. Values of life are Yama i.e. Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya,Brahmacarya, Aparigrha; Niyama i.e. Sauca, Santosa, Tapa, Svadhyaya, Isvarapranidhana; Samarasata, Sramanistha, reverence for environment, balanced utilisation of natural resources, Karmayoga, Matridevo Bhava, Pitrdevo Bhava, Acaryadevo Bhava, passion for Svadhyaya, Atmavat Sarvabhutesu etc. Conduct of a nation must reflect all these values in every action and decision, so is sanctity of Svadesi. Elements of Svadesi are eternal in attributes. Rational utilisation of ownership, resources, time and efforts, Svavalamban, Svadhinata, Svatantrata, obligatory Sthanikata and Svadharma constitute Svadesi. Svalamban and Vikendrikarana are being discussed as measures of economic conduct.
Sanatana economic doctrine had been hugely successful in yesteryears that led to prosperity of Bharata. Even now, it appears to be abundantly relevant for the main reason being failure of western economic ideologies. It is now all the more doubtful whether west will ever be able to attain their goals of sustainable prosperity and they too, happen to be apprehensive in this regard. Perception has now dawned upon them to the effect that dazzling milestones of science are not enough and the way they have been desecrating nature, is just horrendous. Scientific advances sans cultural enrichment have been indeed, pushing them towards calamitous destruction. Western civilization has been hitherto relying excessively on logical knowledge instead of inner awakening, science instead of Dharma, competition instead of cooperation, exploitation of nature instead of conservation leading to grave imbalances and disruptions.
What we need today to counter newer challenges are new norms, new standards and benchmarks. Westernisation is certainly not modernisation as they scripted the crisis and now are unable to tackle that. USA have been deeply under debt for long, Americans are frustrated and relentlessly attacking prominent symbol of capitalism, Wall Street. European countries too are deeply indebted, their financial institutions are unstable and their ‘Cradle to grave’ economies are in doldrums. Even Japan have been under recessionary depression with 0% rate of interest. Instability and volatility of western economies are mainly due to extravagance, huge expenses incurred on frivolous wars, excessive consumerism for profiteering leading to extensive social unrest. As capitalism and communism have collapsed, Ekatma Manavavada (https://niratishaya.wordpress.com/2016/04/30/ekatma-manavavada-vedanta-darsana-pt-deendayal-upadhyaya/)
i.e. Integral Humanism has assumed larger dimensions.
After decrepitude of capitalism and communism, all over the world third alternative is being avidly sought. Glory that Bharata commanded as number one nation in all respects till 1750 was direct proceed of Ekatma Manava Darsana, also affirmed by western scholars. In spite of 1200 years of invasions, destruction and plunder of the nation, old values and systems are still alive and functional. Model development villages at Chitrakoot of Nanaji Deshmukh and Ralegan Sindi of Anna Hazare are examples to illustrate efficacy of the doctrine. Past decades post-1947 have been frittered away in importing every commodity from west including ideologies too as we implemented communism and capitalism simultaneously in the name of ‘mixed economy’. Even after decades of western model of development being in force, we are still counted as a ‘developing nation’ like scores of other countries too.
Following contemporary issues must be addressed now –
Belief that more consumption brings more happiness,
Global pollution along with trading in Carbon credits,
Glaring economic disparities defeating Percolation Theory,
Growing unemployment with working more attractive than unemployment allowance,
We as a nation have been languishing in the state of ‘Imitators will always be second rate’ by blindly imitating west in several aspects owing to lack of national self-esteem, nationalism and vision. Unless we have third option, we may not be able to advance smoothly and that option is absolutely relevant Ekatma Manava Darsana (EMD), so ignored hitherto. EMD comprises of all five essential elements of vision, policies, programs, action plans and implementation, always under review periodically. It is well accepted that effective policy can answer all questions i.e. as first step concede failure of western thinking, following right course of EMD, strategy formulation and closely monitored implementation. Ordinarily, there are three ways of economic advancement –
Segmentation of resources and wealth under authority,
Going by public mood and market forces,
By reforming public perception with balanced approach as the most effective way.
World peace and welfare of all can be ensured only with our philosophy and nation. We must strive assiduously to raise it to the level of highest glory.
Based on Sanatana Economic Doctrine, following strategic initiatives may be adopted under contemporary scenario –
Until social awareness is ubiquitous, development of society remains a pipe-dream. Beginning of national re-construction always coincides with rise of national dignity and sense of national esteem that are rooted in awareness, must be nourished through education and self-help. This awareness is defined as rise of an inborn insatiable desire to progress and march ahead consistently. If imposed from above, it’s destined to crumble and if left to market forces, large section of the populace become inactive.
Per Capita Income (PCI) and GDP are two important parameters to measure economic development albeit not the last word to reckon with. Human Development Index (HDI) that includes Life-expectancy, Literacy and Actual Gross Domestic Product must also exert itself prominently. National Happiness Index developed by Bhutan is worth serious consideration in this regard. It is now imperative to cerebrate over qualitative and quantitative aspects of growth that must reflect on well-being of all.
Benign GDP that excludes vices like gambling, drugs, liquor, lottery and tobacco must be included as an important parameter. Benign GDP is the realistic marker of growth and consequences of those vices must also be shared widely in public domain. A mighty nation capable of defending itself, philanthropic and surplus in possessions albeit zealously governed by verticals of Dharma has always been our goal. In this aspired nation, all are well-nourished, natives are mirthful, everyone is endowed with right Samskara-s, immoral conduct is eschewed and fair opportunities are equally extended to all to grow to their capabilities.
To prevent national security and economic health of the nation being jeopardized, self-reliance of the nation is a cardinal necessity with all basic necessities including armamentarium being provided for within the nation. Self-reliance demands technological sovereignty over all essential necessities and services with only non-essentials being imported to maintain trade relations.
Decentralisation to maximum possible extent must be zealously pursued with planning, execution and feedback generation etc. grounded to grass-roots and local views enjoying priority in entire planning process.
Savings must be encouraged through the ideal of austerity to promote capital formation.
National policy on knowledge system must feature appropriateness of knowledge, more weightage to labour-intesive system of superior quality, decentralisation of means of production, promotion of traditional and indigenous knowledge systems as much as possible, regulation of monopolies by overseas companies, restrictions on environmental pollution, appointment of technology ombudsman at national level and a comprehensive policy on knowledge systems to adopt, adapt, reject and develop technology verticals. Traditional knowledge system, knowledge under development in the country as well as being imported from overseas, all must be scrutinised before being adopted.
Bio-synergy between man and nature must not be disrupted by excessive use of natural resources. Policies must not be exploitative of environment, must nurture rejuvenation of environment through balanced use of nature so that nature replenishes itself. Excessive consumerism of today is certainly not sustainable rather calamitous for all.
We must ensure that money-power of haves does not grab opportunities for advancement that deprived ones are entitled to. Rules of conduct must be transparent and strictly adhered to. Economic inspirations alone are not sufficient to reckon with. Others like nationalism, self-actualisation, driving the nation ahead, commitment to the nation etc. too, are extremely significant. Mobilising this social energy for nations development is an important challenge for any leadership.
In an autonomous society, every task must be undertaken by social organisations on initiatives by the society. Government is certainly a social organisation but their involvement must be minimal. More the governance by a government, more decline and degradation of Dharma. When writ of government runs too large, entire population turns government dependent with burgeoning governance-deficit and multiple vices. Government are mandated to frame right policies and legal framework, training of people, raising organisations to facilitate development, creating right ambiance for development and maintaining a vigil over all activities in the country.
Distribution policy must be based on ethical values entailing wealth in excess being distributed among deprived sections of society by inspiring conscience of those who possess the surplus. Manusmriti, Mahabharata and Sukraniti espouse the cause of deprived ones by mandating to compulsorily collect surplus from those who possess and redistribute among deprived ones. With such active efforts, inequalities prevailing in society may be addressed effectively.
Agriculture is foundation of economic activities, must be assigned appropriate priority and everyone must hold onto such a mindset. Natural resources like water, ground, sunlight, air etc. must be used to maximum extent. Organic farming must enjoy highest emphasis with all required inputs barring chemicals while mechanisation of farming or any methodology that may uproot farmers must be discouraged. Agriculture policy must envisage overall net development of farmers with entire village visualised as one family as prosperity of farmers is indeed, bedrock of prosperity of nation. Farmers must also be motivated to participate in value adding farm activities viz. managing Mandis, running cold-storages etc. too. Cottage and medium industries based on agricultural inputs must also be established.
Industrialisation of the nation is a cardinal requirement yet we must not blindly ape western model of industrialisation. Some basic principles may be followed as –
Public sector undertaking may be raised only to meet strategic requirements of the nation.
Larger units must decentralise into MSME units.
Complete knowledge of systems and eco-conservation must be emphasised.
Realistic approach may be followed vis. a vis. ownership of manufacturing units whether in public/cooperative/private/joint sectors. Ownership in hands of workers too may be a model of ownership in varying patterns as ownership of wealth must overlap ownership of sweat and tears because sweat is as important an input as capital investment and equal stake-holder.
Every industry must develop ‘Udyog Parivar’ involving all stake-holders of the industry, meet often to deliberate over outstanding issues.
In a bid to decentralise manufacturing, there should be greater emphasis on shifting production base from factories to homes with 3-D manufacturing, Nano techniques, IT, blockchain technologies having enabled manufacturing processes at home. Such a decentralisation has several benefits appended to it –
Raise large number of manufacturers,
Experience and know-hows may be shared widely,
Industry friendliness within family shall develop enabling women to contribute liberally,
Disintegration of families shall be retarded,
Maximum application of local skills,
Distribution of income shall be fair and equitable,
Reduction in pollution,
Cities shall be less crowded,
Lesser pressure on civic amenities in cities.
All Visvakarma-s of ancient era very much exist in villages and town even today as carpenters, ironsmiths, leather-workers etc. They all must be recognised by authorities, honoured suitably and skill upgradation programs must be conducted for them so that their business acumen and competitiveness remain intact. NGOs may be roped in for that purpose.
Service sector contributes almost 60% of GDP hence Government must constitute a National Services Sector Commission to nourish this economic sector through pragmatic policies run hitherto mainly through private initiatives. The sector has enormous employment potential as it is inclusive of all types of service-providers viz. skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled.
Our IT sector is capable of providing services to entire world hence, our embassies and high-commissions must always be on alert in providing necessary information inputs to the sector. All such international service providers must be abundantly sensitized to project right image of the nation in their respective client countries.
All those sectors that play crucial role in crystallising national narratives, ethos and consciousness viz. education, media, entertainment, opinion making etc. must remain insulated from foreign interventions and intrusions.
We must not be vulnerable to be trapped in any unfair treaty with respect to service sector like WTO albeit now on decline.
Economics must be wedded to welfarism and not reduced to the level of marketization, stress, alienation, disaffection, mental emaciation etc. Economic policies must be holistic in view, must not promote profiteering by neglecting necessities that do not command lucrative market prices.
Comprehensive growth involving every section of society, long term prosperity and security of the nation constitute crux of the Sanatana Ekatma Economic Doctrine. Is there any other nation or community that can boast of such a comprehensive and exhaustive economic doctrine dating back into centuries ? And westerners claimed, Hindu-s never had any economic philosophy !!!!
Note of acknowledgement –
I am deeply grateful and indebted to Shri Rajendra Koppikar, a senior Svayamsevaka from Puna who provided invaluable inputs in completing this article. May Ishvara bless him well-being.