Mahavira's Thoughts On Economics

Published: 15.04.2003
Updated: 02.07.2015

Today, economic policy is designed to help us achieve a new global order with optimum economic configurations.
Earlier, output maximisation and mass-scale production was necessary to satisfy the escalating demands of a growing population.

But demands are motivated. Violence has bred stress and strain, seriously endangering world peace. With increasing demands, our problems have only multiplied. Does this mean that an economic system which gives rise to these tendencies is necessarily flawed? Is there an alternative compatible with globalisation?

Post-industrial revolution, developed nations acquired dominant control over world resources. But industrial pollution began to threaten the environment. Powerful nations became more of a threat than sources of strength, as they had their eyes on economic empire-building. Mahavira said that the one who rejects the people and the world, rejects his own existence; and the one who rejects his own existence rejects the existence of the world.

He said: “Do not reject the existence of the world and do not reject your existence as well. The most important principle of environment is that you are not the only element. When you do something for yourself you must know your action/s will impact the entire world.” So what can an individual do? How do his actions affect the rest of the world?

Mahavira observes from the perspective of anekanta that when a finger makes a movement, the entire world vibrates. All inter-linked atoms are activated. This concept of all life and matter being inter-linked has been explained by Jain acharyas: We are not alone. The principle of anekanta symbolises the fact that no element is either different or same as the total. It is both separate and integrated. A person is not entirely different from this universe; yet, he is not the same. We are undeniably connected - that is why we lead both dependent and independent lives.

As an intrinsic part of existence, we could influence the entire world. So one who tries to analyse and comprehend himself also understands the entire universe. The second parameter of Mahavira's economic policy is non-violence. Ancient scholars have said: Jeeven jeevasya jeevanam - Life is the basic element of any living being. However, this is only partially true; it is not right to take it as the total reality. But to live, violence cannot be given up entirely. So Mahavira said that unnecessary and aggressive violence should be discouraged - even the smallest of the small creatures deserve to be protected from violent acts.

Ved Vyas wrote in the Mahabharata that nobody is superior to man. Mahavira also said that. That might be so, but it is also true that nobody is more irrational than man. When we add these two truths, the whole truth becomes clear. Mentally and physically, human beings are highly evolved - man's consciousness and wisdom is superior to any other living creatures. But even this is only a partial truth. It is presumed that man can do almost anything.

He can kill animals and birds and does so on a large scale. Would he still qualify as a superior creature? The superiority complex has, in fact, misled him so much that he has become uncontrollable. In the process, he has become a creature of destruction. Material gain alone cannot provide protection.

Erictron observed: We should understand that mere material is no defence. When the feeling of non-protection is realised, a basic change will take place. Our capacity to control emotions would increase. With this, global policy based on national ego and the concept of national sovereignty would diminish and a balance would emerge.

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharyas
  2. Anekanta
  3. Consciousness
  4. Environment
  5. Globalisation
  6. Mahabharata
  7. Non-violence
  8. Times Of India
  9. Violence
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