By Dr Dipak Basu
The Hindu view of life is that the personal life of an individual is ultimately subject to the same universal law as of all nature. The fundamental principle is the ‘theory of karma’, which says that each action eventually causes a certain effect. Everything in nature, from abstract thought to practical action, is determined and directed by this law. Man sets himself the goal of freeing himself from the bondage of nature. The meaning of a man'slife, according to the Indian culture, “is the awareness of the soul to its bondage and its efforts to stand up and assert itself” (Romain Rolland, 1944).
According to the message of Krishna in ‘Bhagawat Gita’, this freedom can only be achieved by karma yoga or selfless work and gnana yoga or pure knowledge (Bhagawat Gita, Ch. 3, Verse 3; 1983). Karma yoga recommends working for the sake of the work itself, not for the fruits of the work. Work without pay, absence of attachment to the result, generally to the point of complete disregard for one'spersonal interest, complete selflessness is the karma yoga. This is essentially opposite to the ‘utilitarianism’, which is the philosophy of ‘globalisation’.
Sri Aurobindo (1947) has explained it further. Principal contradiction of human life is that between the individual and society or aggregate, the essence of ideal law of human development demands that the individual should harmonise his life with the life of the social aggregate. Individualism, the ideal of Western culture, propagated by the ‘globalisation’ process, does not correspond to the ideal view of life according to this universal law of nature.
‘Economic, Reform’ policy & the Hindu view of life—II
Following the basic philosophical premise that the universe is subject to the action of identical universal laws, Vedantic philosophy, according to Vivekananda (Vivekananda, Vol. IV, 1946) says, “Society develops cyclically. With each cycle, society rises to higher and still higher stages achieving more and more perfection.” Vivekananda divided the whole of the Indian society into two classes: the rich (the upper class) and the poor (the lower class). The lower class, the Sudras or the workers are the people, the masses; the future is theirs. “The only hope of India was from the masses, for the upper classes were physically and morally dead” (Vivekananda, 1946b). The world at present is being ruled by the merchant class. However, the supremacy of the merchant class is coming to an end. In future, “…the supremacy of the workers must emerge. Under it, just distribution of material values will be achieved, equality of the rights of all members of society to ownership of property established and caste differences obliterated” (Vivekananda, Vol. IV, 1946).
Vivekananda did not specify how this can be achieved. However, he has mentioned the nature of that ideal State in future. “If it is possible to form a State in which the knowledge of the priest-period, the culture of the military, the distributive spirit of the commercial and the ideal of equality of the last (period of the workers) can all be kept intact, minus their evils, it will be an ideal State” (Vivekananda, 1946b). The first three periods, according to Vivekananda, have already occurred for the world and now the time has come for the fourth (Vivekananda, 1946b).
In order to achieve this ideal state, according to Vivekananda, one must understand the causes of the downfall of the colonised world. The causes are perversion of religion, tyranny towards the masses, absence of due education and instructions, underestimating the role of the women and physical and spiritual weakness and inertia (Vivekananda, 1946b). Down the centuries, the rulers and the dominant castes neglected the interests and the lot of the simple people and that was one of the greatest social evils. Without support of the lower class, there should be no question of serious reforms. Highly developed production and material well-being, cannot by themselves, make men happy if their ‘spiritual civilisation’ is low.
In capitalism, wealth is being concentrated in the hands of the few. The dominion of the capitalist class today is justified in the name of economic growth and production efficiency. The resultant deprivations are visible even in the developed countries. In the United States, about 12 million people are homeless, one-third of the people cannot afford even primary health care, 17 per cent of the children are living below the poverty line, about 23 per cent of the people are functionally illiterate, there is no security of either job or of life. Albert Einstein has explained, “The United States is fortunate in producing all the important industrial products and foods in her own country, in sufficient quantities. The country also possesses almost all important raw materials. Because of her tenacious belief in ‘free enterprise’ she cannot succeed in keeping the purchasing power of the people in balance with the productive capacity of the country. For these very same reasons, there is a constant danger that unemployment will reach threatening dimensions” (reply to Soviet scientists, 1948).
Individualism, the ideal of Western culture, propagated by the ‘globalisation’ process, does not correspond to the ideal view of life according to this universal law of nature.
Thus, capitalism has so far failed to maximise social welfare through the maximisation of the individual'sprofit. The resultant discontent will grow substantially due to the ‘globalisation’ process, which will intensify deprivation in the pursuit of efficiency across the globe.
If the economic system imposed from outside does not correspond to the national culture or the philosophy of life, it will collapse sooner or later due to its own inherent contradictions. According to the Hindu philosophy of life, we are in the era of the merchants or the capitalistic system. This system cannot last forever due to the tyranny, oppression, and degeneration it creates just like other systems that came before it.
Relationship between culture or the philosophy of life of a country and its economic and social system is important for all nations. Humanistic aspects of Indian national culture, i.e. renunciation, selfless work, sacrifice, work without any attachment to the results do not correspond to the acquisitive consumerism glorified by capitalism, which is the philosophy of the ‘globalisation’ process. The essential characteristics of national cultures can be traced on these basic human values signified by the Hindu philosophy of life, which suggests that the present acquisitive consumerism or the capitalist system controlled by the merchant class cannot last, but would be replaced by an alternative system.
It is unfortunate that views of the Indian people are not reflected in the economic system the government tried to impose since 1991. The ‘Economic Reform’ policy has the philosophy which is directly opposed to the philosophy of the life of Indian culture and the Hindu religion. Thus, the people of India have to live with an alien economic system, which they are opposed to. The results of the successive elections in India have proved, that those who have propagated for the ‘Economic Reform’ were defeated in the elections.
Thus, the people of India have already expressed their dissatisfaction very clearly. However, the inherent defect of the Indian democracy, where all-important decisions are taken without any referendum of the people, has now produced a government, which is anti-people. Those who are the agents and employees of the IMF-World Bank-WTO are now in the controlling position in India as the Prime Minister, Finance Minister, and Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission. This would only fuel discontent, which will ultimately bring down this government like every other government since 1991.
(The writer is professor in Economics at Nagasaki University, Japan.)