The Vision Of A New Society: 33 ►Mahavira's Economics

Published: 07.11.2019

Human beings can be divided into three categories: Those who think about the future, those who think about the present and those who think about the past. Looking at the past and thinking about it is nothing very great. Review of the past may be useful in giving a certain turn to one's activities or style of working. But being obsessed with the past dos not seems to bring any benefit. Anyone can see something lying at his feet. Whether someone is capable of thinking or not, it is natural for him to look at what is happening in the present. Not only can human beings, even animals live in the present. All activities regarding food, security, defence, etc. are done on the basis of one's immediate needs and circumstances.

He who looks to the future is regarded as a thinker. No one can start on a big plan without thinking in terms of fifty or a hundred years ahead. The words in the Upanishads that "One should take a long-term not a short-term view; he should think of the best, not the commonplace [1] inspires man to think about the future."

Kashaya and Nokashaya

All economists of the world, who have launched new economic policies, have probably tried to put into practice their long term thinking. Attempts made with a view to bring social reform or make man happy have been readily welcomed too. But we should not forget that so long as the feelings of passions (Kashaya) and semi-passions (Nokashaya) persist in human beings, he would not be able to find happiness.

Kashaya and Nokashaya are technical terms in the Jain philosophy. Kashaya means the combination of the four passions of anger, conceit, attachment and greed. Every living being walking on the face of the earth is in the grip of these four passions. There is no doubt a difference of degrees. One person may get angry very quickly and its impact may last a long time. Some persons may get rarely angry. The same applies to the passions of conceit, attachment and greed as well.

Nokashaya does not mean the absence of Kashaya but it implies emotions provoke Kashaya. Nokashaya is of nine types: laughter, interest in unrestraint and disinterest in restraint, fear, grief, disgust, feminine consciousness, masculine consciousness and imbecility consciousness.[2] These feelings are created and experi¬enced along with Kashaya. Feelings of Kashaya and Nokashaya are related to the mohaniyakarma [3], which does diminish and man is not able to experience absolute happiness.

Islam is good, but what about Mohamedans?

George Berard Shaw was addressing a public meet¬ing. In a particular context, he heartily praised Islam. At the end of his lecture, someone went up to him and said, "Shaw, it seems you are soon going to embrace Islam." Shaw asked him, "Why do you ask that, my friend? Who told you about it?" That man said, "No one told me. But I got that impression when you pointed out so many good things about Islam." To satisfy that man's curiosity Shaw said, "You are right. Islam is a very nice religion. I would have accepted that religion. But I have got one difficulty. Islam is good. But the Muslims are not good."

Religion and its practice are two different things. Religion is always good. But evils creep in when it becomes an established religion. Every religion has high principles. But man does not honestly follow those principles. Man cannot become good so long as he is not able to assimilate religion. In spite of everything being good, if man himself is not good, then no work can be done properly. Therefore, the primary need is to make man good. It is necessary to subdue kashaya and nokashaya.

Who are Poor?

The last among the four feelings included in kashaya is greed, which prods man into the activities of earning money. With the expansion of these activities, greed also grows. The wealthier the person, the more his desire for wealth is. This is an eternal fact. Some particular individuals who have lived contrary to this fact think otherwise. According to them:

The person with greater desire for wealth is poorer to that extent.
The person who is contented in every way is the richest of all.[4]

This definition of a poor and a wealthy person makes it clear that poverty and prosperity are related not the wealth, but to a person's thoughts and his natural feelings. That is why the refinement of feelings and thoughts is necessary, if there are dark spots on the canvas, the painting would not be beautiful. For such refinement, one should have a clear-cut view of life. In view of this, the pressure of kashaya needs to be minimized.

Happiness for Pauper and Sovereign Ruler

It is true that money provides livelihood. Had money been accepted only as a means, there would have been a limit to earning money. But the problem arises, when it becomes the need instead of remaining the means. Complications arise only when money is made the point of luxurious living and prestige. With money are also linked the unrealistic ideas of happiness and peace. But the basis of these ideas crumbles, when the happiness of a pauper is compared with that of a sovereign emperor. When such a comparison is made, the scale represent¬ing the emperor's happiness is higher and that of the pauper touches the ground. This difference is expressed in the following verse which means:

A sovereign emperor cannot imagine the happiness experienced by an ascetic who has conquered his feelings of attachment, pride and delusion, seated on a straw-bed.[5]"

According to Mahavira's philosophy, happiness does not lie in the material objects or in its abandonment or enjoyment. Happiness lies in the individual's own mental attitude. If man learns to live unto himself, statement he can find the greatest happiness available in the world. This statement is likely to suggest extremism. Most people would not believe in such a thing. Yet, it is certain that in the life of a rat race and opposite pulls, one can only have an illusion of happiness, not happiness as such.

Why Discussion about Mahavira in Economic Context?

The present age is the age of advertisements. Man is dazzled by the glare of the advertisement culture. Even an ordinary item, with the help of advertisement attracts everybody's attention. Advertisements appear in newspa¬pers, posters, and on the packets of the articles concerned. Those articles are advertised on Doordarshan in a very attractive manner. People see those advertisements with interest, are fascinated by them and try to acquire those articles somehow or the other.

Man by nature likes to live in ease and comfort. He likes to enjoy things. In the blind race to earn money in order to have those comforts and enjoyment, the distinc¬tion between the proper and the improper means is also forgotten. This is the economics of the modern world. It is on this basis that the worldly life is lived. But if Mahavira's economic views are not applied side by side with this, economic problems would not be solved. Purity of means is the basis of Mahavira's economic theory. Only when the deific of regulated wishes is erected on this foundation, man would be able to live in happiness and peace.

Some people may ask why Mahavira should be brought in while discussing economics. It would be relevant to quote a couplet in this connection:

Man boils milk, cools it, makes it into curd, puts it in a big earthen pot and churns it with a churner. Why? Because he wants to get butter.[6]There is only one purpose in this entire discussion in the economic context and that is, to enable the restless man to find a way which would bring him peace.


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Title:  The Vision Of New Society
Author:  Acharya Tulsi
Publisher:  Adarsh Sahitya Sangh
Digital Publishing: 
Amit Kumar Jain

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anger
  2. Conceit
  3. Consciousness
  4. Fear
  5. Greed
  6. Islam
  7. Jain Philosophy
  8. Karma
  9. Kashaya
  10. Mahavira
  11. Pride
  12. Upanishads
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