The Vision Of A New Society: 40 ►The Eternal Concept of Economics

Published: 14.11.2019

Truth may be based on direct experience or realization or it can be propounded in the scriptures. The Truth based on the former is eternal. It existed in the past, exists in the present and will exist in the future and is unrestricted by the limits of time and place. The Truth presented in the scriptures is the product of the intellect. That is why it belongs to a particular time. The intellect functions in the present. It can also cover the recent past and the immediate future. But its results are relative in terms of time and place. From that point of view, the experienced Truth is more reliable than the Truth of the scriptures.

The sadhaka lives in society. He experiences Truth with the help of his sadhana. If his experiences are socialized, then the Truth of his experience becomes, the Truth of the scriptures. The Truth based on experience, though it is eternal, is confined to the present time, when it becomes a scriptural truth. The person, who realizes Truth, disappears from the scene of the world after a specific period. From that point of view, the Truth of the scriptures becomes more important even than the experienced Truth.

There are several disciplines like social science, political science, psychology, theology, kamashastra, economics etc. These assume different forms in view of different kind of thinking and circumstances involved. In the present context, we are concentrating our attention on economics. Many people have written about economic theories. Hence, there are as many schools of economic thought like Adam Smith's Economics, Kautilya's Arthashastra, Marxian Economics, Keynesian Economics, and Gandhian Economics and so on. Did Mahavira also have an economic theory like these people? This is a very pertinent question. Had anything on this subject been said fifty years ago, people would not have liked to hear about it. But today, the people are so much misled and so much agitated that they need to be given a new outlook.

Relevant Discussion

However important a thing may be, its value is related to time. Even an ordinary thing mentioned at the appropriate time, can greatly influence a person. But even a matter of special importance if mentioned at the inopportune moment proves to be an influence. Hence it is said:

"If one uses abusive language in ordinary times, it may lead to a quarrel. But abuses in a lighter vein on occasions like marriage delight the listeners. People take great interest in body talk. But anyone indulging in erotic talk while fighting a battle will sound absolutely out of place and will not be relished. Hence, everything should be done at the appropriate time.[1]"

Mahavira's name may appear out of place with reference to the subject of economics. But looking at the incongruities and perversities in the matter of money, Mahavira's philosophy is becoming extremely relevant. Science of economics is misguiding people not only of any particular state or country, but people everywhere in the world. In that situation, if Mahavira's economic theory can shed some light, people can see their way clearly.

Need for the Religious Principle Along with Economic Theory

Indian Ethics discusses four types of endeavours, two of which relate to the ends and two to the means. Kama that is, gratification, is the end, artha that is, acquiring of wealth is the means. Moksha, that is salvation, is the end, and dharma, that is discharge of duty, is the means. Some Western scholars accepted the concepts of artha and Kama, but left out dharma and moksha. Regarding Kama as the basic human instinct, they gave it a free scope from every point of view. Artha is necessary for the fulfillment of Kama. Therefore, artha became the end for man. But how would there be purity in economic affairs if there is no consideration of propriety or impropriety in achieving that end?

From this point of view, Mahavira's thinking is quite independent in every way. "Kama is difficult to overcome,[2]"and it can never be ended. "A worldly man verily is desirous of gratifying Kama.[3]" If there is Kama, there would also be artha. But when it stops only with his attachment to Kama and artha, he finds any discussion about dharma and moksha meaningless. The individual who is attached to Kama and artha is always in two minds, always lives in the dilemma of memory and imagination. Hence, he behaves as though he is immoral. This alone is the root cause of all his miseries and all his problems.

 The individual who desires moksha, who wishes to be free from worldly unhappiness, can never forget thinking in terms of dharma. Life is incomplete without dharma. From that point of view, it is essential to accept the concepts of moksha and dharma along with the concepts of Kama and artha.

Doing Away with Incongruities

Mahavira accepted the path of moksha. He pursued dharma in order to attain moksha. It is possible to discuss about moksha and dharma with reference to him. But what a contradiction in terms it is to talk about Mahavira and economic theory. In what way could Mahavira have been concerned with economics? Such a question is natural. But there is no need to get entangled in it, because in this particular context, I am talking about Mahavira not as a siddha but as a sadhaka. It is indeed true that Mahavira generally maintained silence during his period of sadhana. But I regard Tirathankar Mahavira also as a sadhaka. Mahavira was born in a royal family and grew, up in the royal atmosphere. From childhood he entered his youth. He was married and thus was concerned with Kama and artha. He proceeded on the path of sadhana later on. If that as the case how can we insist that he had nothing to do with economics?

Mahavira came much later. But what was it that Rishabha, the first Tirthankara had not done? He was the leader of the social organisation of his times. He gave training about managing the family and the society. Acharya Hemachandra has written:

"Rishabha was aware that the arts and organizations about which he was teaching were concerned with the worldly life and were not free from sinful activities. But he pioneered Karmayoga in the spirit of discharging his duty.[4]"

At that time, we are talking of Rishabha as not a siddha but, a sadhaka. Therefore, question of incongruity is automatically answered.

The Encircled Man

Man has created so many encirclements around himself. The smallest of them is that of unavoidability. There are some unavoidable needs for carrying on in life. These needs are related to the inner demands. Food, clothes, house, medical treatment, education, etc. are the minimum needs of life. The encirclement of requirements is somewhat bigger. Man extends the scope of his requirements in proportion to his social status. In this context, attention is paid to the quality of food, clothes, house, etc. Requirements are determined on the basis of individual and social environment. The third encirclement concerns the desire or aspiration. The desires of man are infinite like the sky. The end of the sky is nowhere in sight. Similarly, man's desires too seem to have no end. In this context, the following two lines from a verse are of vital significance:

"Breathing has its fixed limit, but there is no limit to man's desires. There is hardly a saint who has no desire at all.[5]"

The third encirclement does not look at the basic needs and requirements of life. It does not stop even at the expected comforts. They are such mental attitudes, which, while creating an illusion of happiness, create the situation leading only to unhappiness. All the things that encourage luxurious living are attractive initially. By using them one is fascinated for once. But that fascination is as momentary as the evening twilight. Man enjoys those things to the extent that he has accumulated wealth, and to that same extent he is also restless. Mahavira said: The person who is attached to Kama and artha is always in a state of affliction and is always worried about earning money in season or out of it. He looks for the opportunities and in his greedy desire for wealth, becomes a thief or a bandit. How can he find peace when that is the case[6]?

Mahavira's Economics Implies Truth of All Times

Luxurious life is the only aim of the person whose aspirations continuously grow. Luxury is not the necessity of life. It encourages Lasciviousness. Economic theories all the world over are revolving around this point. There is no place for restraint or regulation in them. Mahavira's economic theory is inspired by the concept of restraint. He said, "Restraint shall be as natural, as desires are natural. Otherwise the person engrossed in enjoyment of Kama pursues Kama more and ever more."

Scientists have worked a great deal in the field of physics. Man is astounded by their contribution. But the impact of materialistic discoveries is only immediate. Their futility is proved by and by. When the refrigerator was invented, people felt it was a miracle. When the film was shown on the screen, they felt that heaven had come down on the earth. Television went even beyond that. The discoveries of the computer and the robot proved the excellence of human intelligence. But today the thinking is changing. There is an increasing feeling of terror hovering over the achievement in the physical science. That is why voices are being raised against keeping them in check.

Scientists live in the present. They look at matter with the help of the machine. There is a limit to their knowledge. Mahavira was a trikaladarshi.[7] He realized Truth through his own experiences. His knowledge was not restricted. He recognized the power of matter and therefore described Truth in relative terms. He said, "We shall have to resort to spiritualism in order to reach the high pinnacle of development, but a being who, possesses the body, cannot ignore the physical world. It has its own use for living through life. But going beyond the limit would create the greatest tragedy. Therefore, one should distinctly understand inevitability, need and aspiration and then exercise restraint."

 The Ancient Vedic thinkers said, "Brahma is real, the world is unreal." They explained this by saying that the world is unreal because it is a maya. Clarifying Mahavira's view point on this subject, AcharyaHemchandra said:

"Is maya existent or non-existent? If it is existent, then the principle of advaitavada[8]would be repudiated. Brahma and Maya would become to realities. And if Maya is non-existent, then what is the point of argument[9]?"

Mahavira did not get entangled in anything. He answered all questions on the basis of relativism. His economic theory too is the relative acceptance of spiritual and worldly values. When other economic theories mislead by, providing him with a one-sided view, Mahavira's economic theory expresses the Truth pertaining to all times by providing an all-sided thinking.


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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. Acharya
  2. Acharya Hemachandra
  3. Artha
  4. Body
  5. Brahma
  6. Dharma
  7. Environment
  8. Hemachandra
  9. Kama
  10. Karmayoga
  11. Mahavira
  12. Maya
  13. Moksha
  14. Monism
  15. Rishabha
  16. Sadhaka
  17. Sadhana
  18. Science
  19. Siddha
  20. Tirthankara
  21. Vedic
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