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The Quest For Truth: [04.01] From Religion To Vocation - Limitation Of Cravings (1)

Published: 04.03.2007
Updated: 06.08.2008

Bhagvan Mahavira said, "Wants are as infinite as the sky." As true as this statement is from the spiritual perspective, so true is it from the economic perspective also. According to economics, demand widens the area of needs. The area of wants is even larger than that of need. All desires cannot be wants whereas all wants can surely be desires. Need is less than desire and demand is even lesser than that.

Desire depends on the individual. material circumstances, societal traditions, physical requirements, monetary feasibility and religious sentiments decide wants.

  1. Wants on the basis of economic feasibility:
    A poor person's wants are limited and simple. He is able to meet only his life-sustaining wants. A rich man's wants are much greater than that. He not only satisfies his needs for essentials but also his indulgence in luxuries.
  2. Wants on the basis of religious thoughts:
    A religious man's wants are influenced by his principles. He defines his wants on the basis of his principles. His wants are few and simple. But in comparison, the one with consumerist tendencies has far greater and varied wants.

Wants are a bottomless pit, which can never be filled. Both economics and religion have recognized this truth. Mahavira said, "Profit breeds greed. As profit increases, greed too increases. If one need is fulfilled, another is born. On this special attribute of wants the rule of chaos (Ashanti) has been built. Because of the unlimited nature of man's wants, his peace has been destroyed. Even economics confirms the insatiability of human wants. The law of progress however says that because of its unlimited nature, wants foster innovation resulting in economic progress of society.

Man is a social animal and in society, wealth is very important. In this context economic progress is very important. If wants are limited economic progress does not get its impetus. So for economic progress the unlimited nature of wants is essential.

Against the background of this truth of the world of objects, ancient seers said, "A discontented ascetic gets destroyed and a contented king gets destroyed." When the ascetic controls his desires it goes to his credit. To add to his desires does him discredit. But for the social being, desire is a virtue and giving it up is detrimental.

"Man is a social animal"...against the backdrop of this thought, it is not unjustified for economics to adopt the policy of unlimited wants. But is man only a social animal? Is he not a person? Does he not experience the sensations of pain and pleasure? Do unlimited wants not cause him stress, physical and mental? Does not that desire, hiding behind the vast ocean of wants, upset hormonal balance and cause perversions of the mind? Only by ignoring these aspects can we accept, implicitly, the vastness of wants. When we see man with a humane perspective we cannot accept, implicitly, the unlimited nature of wants. From the humane and religious perspective, it is essential to control wants. Economic and religious contentions-both are true from their respective perspectives. Religious texts say wants should be minimized. We should not turn away from this view oblivious to the fact that it was expressed in the context of human dissatisfaction. Economics says wants should be maximized. We should not turn away from this view oblivious to the fact that it was expressed in the context of providing physical comforts to man. Mahavira did not talk of aparigraha or non-possessiveness to the man living in society. This is possible for a monk. He postulated the limitation of cravings to the man living in society. A householder cannot give up all desires and continue to live and yet by maximizing them cannot live peacefully. So he gave a via media.

  • The Quest For Truth: In the context of Anekanta by Acharya Mahaprajna
  • Edited by Muni Dulahraj
  • Translated by Sudhamahi Regunathan
  • under the guidance of Revered Munishree Mahendra Kumar.
  • Published 2003 by Jain Vishva Bharati Institute (Deemed University), Ladnun, Rajasthan, India

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Aparigraha
  2. Greed
  3. Mahavira
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