Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha. Words that are known to almost every serious Dharmic person, since almost birth. Perhaps the ultimate irony is that a spiritual and cultural tradition long critiqued for religious extremes of self-abnegation and fatalism on the one end and Kamasutra and Khajuraho on the other, has always been one of balance. This is where the criticism of knowing more and more about less and less becomes highly relevant, as those using the outsider (etic) lens have studied the tradition only from the basis of a specific external framework.  The result is not objectivity, but obtuseness. The theory is force-fitted to the data. Or the data itself is self-selecting, with research areas being divided and sub-divided into oblivion.
That is why it is important that a tradition first be studied holistically and systemically, before moving on to more specialized areas and sub-parts. As the core of Dharmahas to some degree been discussed, we may now move on to another central concept: Purusharthas – The Four Aims of Life.
Some of the favourite responses of youth of all generations have been “no one told me this before!”, “there is no guidebook to life!”, or my personal favourite “my body didn’t come with instructions!” [name that movie]. But the rejoinder is in fact “yes” to all of the above. You were told this before, there is a guidebook to life, and your body did come with instructions. You just chose to ignore all of the above because your motto to date has been “if it feels good, do it!”. In all fairness though, perhaps the channel or the communicator of these ideas may not have been the best or most effective.
The natural next query is “well, if we’re not supposed to do x, y, z, then why give it to us to begin with?”.
It is precisely this line of thinking that has been used by those with agendas and ulterior motives since the dawn of time. Through sophistry, casuistry, false equivalence, and half-information, they have sought to misinterpret and misguide (much like modern-day “indologists”) the naive or unschooled in order to advance their own purposes.
And there begins the importance of The Purusharthas.
It is not “see, but don’t touch”, but “touch, in the right circumstances”, it is not “touch, but don’ t taste”, but “taste, only if it doesn’t harm someone”. It is not “taste, but don’t swallow”, but “swallow, only if it doesn’t harm you”.
It is not that sensory pleasure is in itself bad, but when it becomes a fixation, when it becomes an obsession, then we become subject to it, we become a slave to it. And when we become subject or a slave to the dictates of our senses, then consideration for the safety and well-being or dignity or respect of others or our family name goes out the door. Without Dharma, Artha and Kama become subject to Asura, and Moksha goes by the wayside.
That is the brilliance of the chariot metaphor in the Bhagavad Gita. The Soul is Arjuna, the Charioteer is Krishna, the senses are the horses, and the body is the chariot. With Krishna (who not only represents God, but Dharma itself) guiding the chariot, the horses are properly reined in and we smoothly traverse the journey of life attaining our objectives and reaching our destination. But without a good charioteer, the horses (a.k.a senses) run wild, and the chariot overturns, and our life is ruined. That is how misery in this life and the next, and the next, is fermented.
This is the danger of becoming a slave to our senses.And this is why the root of all happiness is in victory over the senses. When we achieve victory over the senses (Indriya-vijayam), then we need not worry or feel guilty on those occasions when we do indulge in sensory pleasures. While other traditions treat sex as something dirty, in the Dharmic tradition, when done correctly, it is not. Even Acharya Chanakya wrote that:
Na jithendhriyaanaam vishayabhayam | 262
Those who have control over their senses are not afraid of their indulgence in sensual delights. [1,p. 160]
And that is why Dharma, both the spirit (inner) and the letter (outer), exists. With Dharma as the guide, with Dharma as the Rules of the Game, we can engage in play (in this material world via this corporeal birth) without self-harm and harm to others. And that is also why Dharma is the most important of the Purusharthas. This is because with mastery of Dharma, we then know how to handle artha (wealth) and kama (pleasure and love) when they come to us. And rather than moksha being something distant that we hurriedly and belatedly seek in our sixties or seventies, it becomes something we prepare for along the way, all our life. What’s more, through Dharma, we understand that our quest for moksha should not cause harm or neglect to others and lead to Adharma.
But of course, victory over the senses, and even practice of Dharma is far more difficult than it may sound here.The former takes many lifetimes for most jeevatmas, and the latter involves many falls even among the most disciplined and dharmic of souls. That is also why ahankar is the greatest impediment to enjoyment of the purusharthas. Aham kar(I am doing). Aham (the great, I am). This thought is in fact the seed of our destruction because it ignores the reality of “we”. When there is only aham, we are only accountable to ourselves and what we hold in importance. When there is hum, then “we” think of our obligations to others. That is why we take only what we need, or enjoy only what is proper.
Dharma is the foundational aim of life because it guidesall others. It provides us with the Rules of the Game of Life so that we may navigate it happily and attain the ultimate goal of liberation from samsara. Too often individuals believe they can either live a miserable but moral life, or a sinful but happy life. Dharma teaches us that happiness and morality are not mutually exclusive. Even Acharya Chanakya, proponent of Lokayata, and ruthlessly pragmatic, himself wrote “Sukhasya moolam Dharmah”, the root of happiness is Dharma. This is because Kama (sensory pleasure & love) and Artha (wealth/material gain) are not immoral. It is only when desire for either of those two becomes excessive, that we become immoral, and in the long run, unhappy. As Swami Vivekananda reportedly said
What is poison?— Anything in excess
Dharma is the compass that allows us to navigate the map of life.By following it, we can continue on the right path, while enjoying the pleasant sights and sounds and experiences of life. As per Dharma, sex is not wrong. As per Dharma, even enjoying sex is not wrong. Dharma in fact celebrates sexual union of husband and wife as a microcosm of the union of Shiva and Shakti. It only cautions against sexual excess, and advises both husband and wife to experience sex under the guidance of Dharma, and through the bond of matrimony. In fact, that is what the act is meant to create: pair-bonding.
Similarly, the once magnificently wealthy civilization of India did not condemn wealth, why would it? It merely advised against miserliness and greed. That is why Acharya Chanakya wrote “arthasya moolam rajyam, rajasya moolam indrivijayam”, the root of wealth is power, and the root of power is victory over the senses. Therefore, Dharma exists not to deny us pleasure, but only to ensure pleasure and wealth are enjoyed without harming others or ourselves. Do not take what is not yours, that is the essence of Dharma.
Artha is in fact very important to the functioning of society. It allows men (and women) to provide for their families, permits governments to ensure security, law and order, and well-being for the people; and above all, it allows individuals to finance dharmic causes.
Traditionally, Artha was to be pursued even before Kama, or at least the means to achieving it, to be secured before pursuing Kama. This is because as all men know, having a woman in your life can be very expensive! But beyond that, possession of Artha means being able to successfully undertake one’s duties and obligations. How can we run off and seek pleasure when our parents are unsheltered? How can we engage in reckless abandon when our children are starving? That is the value of artha.
So important is wealth, that Sanatana Dharma propounds the worship of wealth so as to not only acquire it, but to have the sense to use it wisely. That is why we worship wealth in the form of Lakshmi, so we do not lose wisdom (Buddhi).
Wealth comes in different forms. As embodied by the symbolism of Ashtalakshmi, there are 8 traditional froms of wealth: DhanaLakshmi (Money & Precious metals), Dhaanya Lakshmi (agricultural wealth), DhairyaLakshmi (courage), VeeryaLakshmi (valour), VijayaLakshmi (victory in life), VidyaLakshmi (scholarly wealth, i.e. education), RajyaLakshm i(political wealth, empires), GajaLakshmi (animal wealth), and SanthaanaLakshmi (family wealth & progeny) . This is why we worship the Goddess of Wealth, because she is the bestower of all these different forms of Artha, we ask for her grace so that we may value, and deploy wisely what we have. After all, “a fool and his money are soon parted”. Dharma ensures that charity begins at home, but that money is also used charitably. It is also why Dharma stipulates that women be respected, because women of the family, especially one’s wife, represent Griha Lakshmi (Lakshmi of the House).
As can be seen in the coin above, Artha when combined with Dharma, allows us to use wealth wisely. It also encourages us to spend within our means (unlike the current model of debt-financed consumption). Dharma teaches us the value of money. When we know the value of money, the real value of money, we use it wisely and for the benefit not just of the senses, but of society at large.
The man who spends wisely, but liberally, is the man whom others enjoy being around. The man who doesn’t pinch every penny, who doesn’t nickel and dime his friends, is the man whom others seek out as a friend. The woman who respects her husband’s earnings and who spends within the family’s means, is the woman who is in turn respected as the protectress and matriarch (present or future) of her family. This is because, as all honest and self-made businessmen and businesswomen know, business is not about a number.
Mahatma Vidura , the enlightened Prime Minister and half-brother of Dhritarashtra, himself noted this important fact that true profit is holistic and systemic, rather than extractive. Accordingly, he advocated a balance among the Purusharthas as can be seen below in a quote from his celebrated Vidura Niti.
He that followeth virtue, profit, and desire in proper seasons, obtaineth hereafter, a combination of all three.
He that desires the highest success in all matters connected with worldly profit, should from the very beginning practise virtue [Dharma], for true profit is never separated from Heaven 
Pleasure comes in many forms. Because the most literal meaning of Kama is defined as the act or aim of desire (iccha), Kama, like Artha, has many categories. There is of course the most obvious sensual pleasure. In fact, Kama has become so associated with the sensual that it is frequently conflated with Rati (the erotic). But Kama is greater than that and actually means much, much more.
In some contexts, it means Love, as we know from the famous Art of Love. What most do not realise, however, is that the Kamasutra is in fact a manual on how to win the affection of and marry a good wife. Therefore, Love or Affection too is a form of pleasure. In fact, due to its expansiveness to not just refering to the affection of a lover, or a mother, or our family, or even our fellow citizens, it is frequently the most addictive form of pleasure. The desire to be loved by all is a universal one for all normal people. While the erotic pleasures are primarily chemical in nature, the desire for affection is an emotional one. Therefore, affectionate love too is subject to Dharma as Prema cannot become Moha.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is said to be a digested form of Indic teaching. While this may in fact be the case, it is nevertheless instructive here to understand the pyramid of Kama.
As can be seen with the 7 chakras of traditional Yoga Philosophy, there are varying degrees of spiritual evolution. Most people are focused on the Muladhara, which is responsible for the primal drives to reproduce, etc. More spiritually aware beings are focused on the Ajna so that they may eventually open the Sahasraara Padma (Thousand Petalled Lotus), which is the topmost chakra, and connects us with the Divine. The mundane pleasures of the Muladhara far exceeded by the ecstasy achieved when the Sahasraara Padma is opened. But the Muladhara also contains the Kundalini, therefore, the same energy responsible for primal drives, when applied intelligently, rises up to open up the highest levels of spirituality–that is the logic of Tantra (or more correctly, Kaula). Rather than chasing after lower level pleasures for our entire lives, like children craving candy, we are told to exercise self-restraint and engage in moderation. That is also why we are told to guard our thoughts and desires. This is because as we desire, so we become.
Sa yathaakaamo bhavati, tat kratur bhavati, yat kratur bhavati, tat karma kurute, yat karma kurute, tat abhisampadyate. [4, 272]
The best known paraphrase is as follows:
As your desire, so your will. As your will, so your deed. As your deed, so your destiny.
This famous line from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (IV, 4, 5) discusses the importance of guarding not only our actions, but our thoughts and inner-most desires as well. That is why a good person can still do a bad thing. He may exercise self-control, but if he is mentally chasing after lower level or forbidden pleasures, he will eventually commit the acts to obtain them. If he continues to repeat the bad thing, that he ultimately becomes bad. As our deeds, so our character. As our character, so our destiny…
That is the Law of Kama. Because Kama is subject to Karma, it should be guided by Dharma. When this is so, we can happily engage in sensual pleasures without fear of sin.
But ultimately, even sensual pleasures have their time limit—that is why we age.There is nothing sadder than an octogenarian still clinging onto the pleasures of youth or lusting after one with youth. A life dedicated to only pleasure is one that is bereft of accomplishment. Looking back on one’s life, it is the achievements we count, not the individual units of utility we drew from each pleasure. What have we done with our life? Whom have helped? Where are we remembered fondly? That is what matters not only for a fulfilling life, but also for one that will ultimately takes us to the Ultimate Truth.
Veda, Dharmasastra, Bhagavad Gita, Dhammapada, etc, all of these guide us to ultimate Liberation. Jeevanmukti, Kaivalya.
Moksha is the highest Purushartha because it is the one that takes us to the Ultimate Reality. Artha and Kama are both fleeting and linked to the ephemeral material world. Dharma guides us through the material world, but Moksha is the ultimate aim for all living beings.
The endless cycle of births and deaths is the root of our suffering. Because we are attached to assorted pleasures, the attachment itself (moha) becomes bondage. It is the source of our grief, the source of our pain, the root of our troubles, because we mistake the fleeting for the ever-lasting.
Wealth cannot be taken with us into the next life. Youth and Beauty are impermanent. Even family moves on after we are gone. Therefore, it is best to pursue a life full of Love of and Prosperity, but also one that recognises the importance of spirituality and tapas (ascetism). By thinking of Moksha throughout our lives, rather than just at the very end, we we can be best prepared to attain it, as well as the sensory pleasures of life along the way.
Therefore, young or old, man or woman, Four Ashramas or Eightfold path, all individuals should aspire towards Moksha. It is Moksha that frees us from the bonds of samsara and the grief of moha. It is the path to Moksha, Dharma, that guides us through life so that we may enjoy Artha and Kama while ultimately attaining Moksha.
The concept of the Purusharthas exists to guide us through the ocean of life. Merely chasing after wealth and pleasure takes us through numberless iterations of births and deaths. The truly full life recognises that Artha and Kama are certainly important (after all, all work and no play…), but is also aware of the necessity of Dharma and the ultimate liberative quality of Moksha.
As stated by Mahatma Vidura, he (or she) that seeks out Dharma, Artha, and Kama in proper measure and season, ultimately obtains all three and attains Moksha–that is the fullest life of all. The one that wisely seeks out all four of the purusharthas rather than just one, is the life that breaks the cycle of endless births and deaths and reaches the Divine and everlasting. All work and no play makes Jack a Dull boy. But all play and no work makes Jack a dumb boy.
A life wisely spent is one that first learns Dharma (and Niti) at a young age, then obtains Artha (beginning with Vidya artha) from 6-16 or 26 (depending on our educational path), then Kama (from 18 or 28, etc), and then concentrates on Moksha (from at least age 50 on, if not sooner). Because none of us knows exactly how long we will be on this Earth, it is best to have all four in our mind as we journey through life. A life focused purely on Moksha may neglect the rest of society. A life focused purely on Kama, destroys it. Therefore, individuals must seek harmony among the purusharthas.
In summary, the Purusharthas are the Four Aims of Life because life is not meant to be aimless.Merely meandering through each ashrama (stage/phase of life) is no way to live and will merely lead to endless lives. Idleness, after all, is the mother of all vice. Idle minds lead to idle lives. For society to function, for the world to function, all must contribute. All must be producers of some sort, not just of produce, but of knowledge, or arts, or music, or good government, or wealth, or re-contextualisation of philosophy. When we consume the fruits without toiling to produce it (or something else), we do not know its value.
That is why Artha and Kama are both subject to Dharma.Dharma mandates not that all are subject to an unaccountable king or priest, but ensures that the king and priest perform their obligations and duties to society with humility. A king (or politician) who only believes he should enjoy wealth and pleasure, will inevitably seek to appropriate the Artha (wealth) of the state and prey upon prajas for pleasure. That is the root of corruption.
Corruption is not some black magic ailment that magically appears in society. Corruption occurs when The Purusharthas are not in balance. A life that pursues Artha and Kama while paying mere lip service to Dharma, will not, cannot, attain Moksha.
The best education is the one that is rooted in Dharma and informed by Niti. This grants us viveka (ability to distinguish between right and wrong) and allows us to separate bad information from good.
But the fullest life of all is one that seeks Dharma.
There is a famous story about King Vikramaditya of Ujjain. The ever vigilant king was also a famed adherent of the truth. One night, when he was silently guarding his capital incognito, he saw a beautiful woman, verily a Devi, clad in red, leave the city. He stopped her, asking, “Oh Devi, who are you and why are you leaving?“. She responded, “I am the Goddess of Power. I am leaving this city as the citizens have become criminal, and it is no longer a fit abode for me”. “I understand“, replied Vikramaditya .
Then, another beautiful lady, clad in gold, began leaving. Vikramaditya asked her too “Oh Devi, who are you and why are you leaving?“. She replied, “Oh Maharaja, I am the Goddess of Wealth. I am leaving your capital as the citizens have become corrupt, and it is no longer a fit abode for me”. “I understand“, Vikramaditya relented again.
Finally, a third beautiful lady, clad in white, began leaving. Vikramaditya asked her too, “Oh Devi, who are you and why are you leaving?” She replied, “Oh Rajan, I am the Goddess of Truth. I am leaving your people as they have become immoral”. This time Vikramaditya said “Oh Devi, please do not leave. I can live a life without Power and Wealth, but I cannot live a life without Truth. I beg you, please stay in my kingdom“. The Goddess smiled, and said “So, be it.”.
Soon, the Goddess of Wealth returned. Surprised, Vikramaditya asked “Oh Devi, why have you returned?“. She replied “I am the Goddess of Wealth, I reside where Truth resides”. Then finally the Goddess of Power returned. Amazed, Vikramaditya asked “Oh Devi, why have you returned?”. She replied “I am the Goddess of Power, I reside where Wealth resides”.
The moral of the story, of course, is that power, wealth, pleasure, all can be given up in the name of Truth (of which Dharma is the expression), because they are dependent upon it. This is because men and women of character can lose every material possession in the world, every opportunity for pleasure, every right of power, but keep their character is in their own hands. If character is lost, then all is lost. That is the thinking of the Dharmic Man and Woman, so they prize their character, their Dharma, above Artha and Kama, and even Moksha, because they know Dharma is the path to all three, and therefore, a balanced and harmonious life that is ultimately fruitful.
But if all this is not enough. If you still only care about acquisition of Artha & Kama. If you are not interested in Moksha, don’t have time for Jnana, and care not for the Adhyatmika, let me end with the Laukika for all you materialistic pragmatists. The essential reality of The Purusharthas was contained in the very same Epic Poem that contained the transcendental Song of the Lord you heard above.
The essence of the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and the Purushartha was summed up as follows by Maharishi Veda Vyasa himself:
Chaturvedi, B.K.Chanakya Neeti.Diamond: New Delhi.2015
Vidura Niti. p.150
Rangarajan, L.N.. Kautilya. Arthashastra. New Delhi: Penguin.1991
Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli. The Principal Upanisads. London: Unwin Brothers. 1968
Malhotra, Rajiv. “Insiders versus Outsiders: Who Speaks for Our Heritage?”. Infinity Foundation. 2016 http://rajivmalhotra.com/books/the-battle-for-sanskrit/insiders-versus-outsiders-who-speaks-for-our-heritage/
A version of this Post was published on Andhra Cultural Portal on July 9,2015
In the wake of the current and expanding global financial crisis (we mean 2015, not 2008–so hard to keep track these days…), an opportunity to revisit our Series on Dharma & Economics : Dharmic Development, has presented itself. And so today we continue with the second part of this set of articles: Dharmic Development II.
Long time readers may recall the quote from Maharishi Veda Vyasa we mentioned. When we last explored this topic we touched on how the composer of the Mahabharata, and indeed, the mighty compiler of the Vedas themselves, in uncharacteristic frustration, said the following:
Oorddhva baahurviromyesha na kashchit shrnothi me
Dharmaath artthasha kaamascha kim na sevyati?
I raise my hands up and say “The way to wealth and love is through Dharma—why doesn’t anybody listen?!”
But in our age of utility maximization, financial engineering, polyamory, and “gender as a social construct“, is this really still the case? Doesn’t science and technology, with all its robot girlfriends, myriad “pleasure” toys, and endlessly genetic engineered foods hold the key to transforming our society and meeting every single, possible craving?
Part II in our series on Dharmic Development evaluates how Modernity & Technology cannot be expected to be the magic wand to fulfill all our desires. Rather, we must evaluate whether our desires and needs are fit to have in a civilised society based on the common good. That is the path to sustainable wealth and sincere love.
How is Dharma the way to Wealth & Love?
Our previous piece may have left the contrarian in many of you wondering “How do wealth and love come from Dharma”? Since we live in an era where “There are no permanent friends. No permanent enemies. Only permanent interests“, let us turn then to the sage who verily wrote the book on Hita (“interests’) Acharya Narayana, and his Hitopadesa (Lecture on Interests/Book of Prudent Counsel).
Dharmena heenaha pashubhih saamannaha
One without Dharma is like a beast. 
What is the meaning of this maxim? Simply put, it means one without Dharma (i.e. righteous ethics) is a slave to his impulses and conceits, and thus, behaves like an animal. This is a particularly illuminating line in our “wondrous” age of moral relativism. After all, the favorite words of our liberal progressives are “natural!”, “liberty!”, “liberation!”. However, what they conveniently ignore is that the natural world is replete with animal behaviours—such as eating one’s own young or mate (as spiders do)—that humans would find, and please pardon the pun, distasteful. In fact, this modern leftist utopia is doing precisely that, if not literally then figuratively. Through laws such as498-A in India and “no fault divorce” in other countries, the modern spouse is being stripped clean, and devoured like an animal.
This applies to men as it does women, as males are increasingly finding no shame in fathering countless children without commitment, and frequently abandoning them or declaring bankruptcy. While it is true that powerful men in many societies famously father “bastards”, there was certainly stigma for a man of means not providing for them, and also for unceasing debauchery.
Sanatana dharma has always specified the importance of the Purusharthas, the four aims of human life. These are Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha (Righteousness, Wealth, Love/Pleasure, and Spiritual Liberation). It recognises that civilized life and its pleasures of wealth and love are only possible with responsible citizens guided by righteousness. This is because a society of greed, a society of selfishness, will always play a zero-sum game of winner take all.
Greed doesn’t work. How could it ever possibly do so. This is greed:
From the School of Greed back to the Gurukul
Dharmena heenaha pashubhih saamannaha
One without Dharma is like a beast. 
The reality, as taught by Dharma, is that Man and Woman must behave better than beasts.
Pigs are not always overweight. Certainly hippos and elephant—even tigers outweigh them—but it is the ravenous and selfish greed of a pig that truly makes that English idiom true. The clip is too gory to show here, but anyone who has seen the movie Hannibal recalls the scene of pigs eating. Those of you with intestinal fortitude can look up the clip on youtube yourselves, to see what I mean.
In fact, that is the entire rationale behind reincarnation: Those who behave like beasts whence in human birth, are reborn as the animals they behaved like. When, according to our Dharmic Scriptures, it takes many lifetimes to return to human birth—should it not be used wisely, rather than reverting to the behaviour of beasts?
The point is not that anyone who has ever caved in to their desires, or even momentarily fallen to their passions, must be stigmatised for life. Rather, it means only that individuals should hold themselves to standards higher than they hold for society…or animals. While the baseline of behaviour is set by law—which determines what is criminal and not—individuals must ultimately aspire to higher standards of behaviour rather than racing to the bottom of degeneracy.
We are all flawed humans, and all of us have our weaknesses. However, weaknesses should not be the norm, but the exception. The individual slips and falls, but he or she is expected to get up, correct the behavior, and set himself/herself on the right path once more. Challenges in life may cause relapses, but it is the will and commitment to improve that ultimately defines who we are.
The Wolf of [Dalal] Street (pun intended)
The average B.Com or MBA graduate may look at Wall Street (and its Indian Imitation, appropriately named “Dalal”) as the embodiment of prosperity and happiness. To them, cities are the source of real wealth, “because…more?“. But is that the definition of wealth? The wolf or pig always wants more. Are these animals wealthy or merely hungry?
There is a wolf in every man, the question is whether he decides not to kill the wolf, but rather, tames it, so it becomes an Alsatian or another such domesticated breed.
It is this wolfishness in modern man that causes him to see women as objects. Many naïve young women think laws—even unfair laws—will protect them from such men. But wise women—and there are many such online to the good fortune of our society—know that the best means to ensure safety, dignity, and well-being for women is to raise men who value dharma. Bhagvan Ram was called Maryada Purushottam precisely because he respected women. He refused to disrespect Sita by taking a second wife. He refused to cave in to the advances of Surpanakha because he valued love above lust. And he only had Lakshmana punish Surpanakha when she threatened to kill and eat Sita (we should not be surprised if Surpanakha’s modern daughters would call this “patriarchal interference in a liberated woman’s right to cannibalism” aka “my choice: my pleasure may be your pain”…but that is another matter…).
Many men today are rightly distraught at unfair marriage laws. It is for this reason that strong women, dharmic women, become all the more important—not paleo-puritan, bachelor men. The wing of women is needed to balance the bird of society, not only to voice their support, but to also raise a generation of men who know that being strong and manly and being respectful of women are not mutual exclusive. A gentleman treats a woman well not based on what it says about her character, but what it says about his. True, he may not marry a call girl (or her socially acceptable college equivalent), but unlike the wolves of wall street, he also won’t view her as “easy meat” either. While baseline laws must exist to have a safe society for women…and men, law enforcement/good police training, but above all, dharmic education will be foundational to taming the wolves in all of us. It forces us to think of the consequences of our own actions and desires. After all, rather than supply creating its own demand, it is demand that creates supply.
Many of you may now be wondering “wait, I thought we were discussing economists“. Well, the previous passage is relevant because of what one of the world’s most celebrated comparative economists had to say:
In the command of those appetites of the body consists that virtue which is properly called temperance. To restrain them within those bounds, which regard to health and fortune prescribes, is the part of prudence. But to confine them within those limits, which grace, which propriety, which delicacy, and modesty, require, is the office of temperance. [2, 28]
Rather than money being the root of all happiness, even the poster boy of capitalism–Adam Smith–recognised that virtue and temperance were the basis for a flourishing society. In his Wealth of Nations, Smith excoriated the British East India Company for its animal greed and ravenous oppression of once prosperous Bengal.
Why is this relevant? Because even the foremost capitalist of history recognised that one should not kill the goose that lays the golden egg.
Goose that Laid the Golden Egg
Our wiki-pontificating, HBO-watching younger generation may consider themselves too fashionable and “educated” to bother with the wisdom of childhood parables, but even the most over-credentialed rube at least remembers the story of the goose that laid the golden egg. The Panchatantra and Hitopadesa may be fictional tales, but as the title of the latter indicates, they are meant to educate people (especially princes of that era–and this one) on niti. The genius of these works was not in using cuddly animals to explain timeless wisdom, but to go so far as to provide deep insight into the tools and nature of statecraft itself. Adarsh Liberals may be easily put off by the Sanskrit language of the originals and the pre-Medieval origin of them, but they would do well to remember that their beloved Persians and Arabs also translated and appreciated these stories for their wisdom.
Wealth is good. But responsible use of it is better. The Bengal that laid the golden egg was reduced to a wasteland, with a capital city that became synonymous with human suffering. 
Our Kudlow and Cramer cultists may demur, dismissively braying “Vell, that was colonialism and monopoly, not real capitalism!!!”. After each crash and each financial crisis, recession or depression (1929, 1933, 1973, 1980, 1987, 1997 (East Asia), 2000, 2008, and now 2015?) like an indoctrinated fundamentalist “Vell, that was not real capitalism. Vee’ll get it right next time”. Interestingly enough, this is the refrain of the very socialists and communists they hate.
Our Kudlow and Cramer Cultists may squawk “DHIS ISS SOSHALISM!” in response to Dharma, but look what the poster boy of capitalism himself wrote:
“Where the necessary assistance is reciprocally afforded from love, from gratitude, from friendship, and esteem, the society flourishes and is happy” Adam Smith TMS. [2,85]
Reciprocal duties are the essence of virtue, the essence of Dharma. Indeed, that is the key difference between Dharma and Socialism. Dharma emphasizes duties of and to families and communities, while socialism emphasises rights of the atomised and isolated individual. Dharma exhorts the individual to do his or her duty as well as the government to do its duty. Under socialism, only the government has a duty to preserve the rights of the individual to the welfare state, to atomised citizens, to centralised bureaucracy. While dharma emphasizes a federal or even confederational approach to government and society, socialism (and its ultimate goal of communism) seek to onerously concentrate power at the national level. The final goal, in fact, is to even destroy national borders for a world wide proletariat governed by an unaccountable bureau. So no, dear recalcitrant moron, Dharmic Development is not “Dharmic Socialism”, it is Dharmanomics–its own standalone concept that seeks to be neither socialism nor capitalism, and critiques both.
Here are some of the differences:
Marginal Productivity of Teamwork
Capitalism lionizes competition. Socialism implies communisation. Dharma, emphasises teamwork. It asserts that we are not merely our own ego, nor are we personality-less, socialist drones. We are all fellow-travelers on the journey of life, and recognise that by working for family, community, state, and national interest,we work for our own interest.By improving ourselves morally, by giving to charity generously, and by sacrificing for the civilizational cause selflessly, we become better as a people and as a society.
Sva-Artha & Desh Hita rather than Nihith Svaartha & Desh Sarvanasha
Both capitalism and socialism emphasize selfishness, in their own unique ways. Capitalism accomplishes this with its winner-take-all, buccaneer corporate raider approach to selective “growth”. Everything, even knowledge is commoditised. Teachers teach to their salary rather than teaching to the truth. Socialism achieves this by creating in each individual an expectation for cradle-to-grave care/entitlements beyond all economic capacity and public welfare. The early retired old live off the over-worked, under-paid, and unrelated young. Creativity and local government are stifled.
In contrast, Dharmic Development draws upon dharma to train teachers who don’t alter their instruction for money, and value learning for its own sake, rather than for riches (compare our ancient Gurukuls and Universities to modern For-Profit Colleges that leave massive student loan burdens). True, individuals, workers, merchants, kings, and teachers naturally have sva artha (self-interest in mind), but one who practices dharma pursues self-interest in balance with family, community, and national interest.
Taking the unjustly gained throne of Ayodhya would have been in Bharata’s interest, but he knew it wasn’t in family, community, and national interest, and returned it to its rightful heir, Bhagvan Ram. That is what Dharma, Dharmanomics, and Dharmic Development represent: rejection of nihith svaartha ( unrestrained selfishness) for Sva-Artha (enlightened self-interest) and pursuit of the Purusharthas in balance with community and national interest. It means not buying theproducts of national competitors, because their slave-labour makes it a few rupees cheaper.
Above all, Dharmic Development rejects plunder. Plunder of natural resources, plunder of human life and dignity, and plunder of our heritage.
Ironically enough, the reader might be flummoxed to realize that Bastiat’s critique above was actually centered on socialists, but he too acknowledged the rich man’s plunder . As one can see today, capitalists and socialists are two sides of the same coin, only a different “moral” code: one for the bureaucrat and the other for the banker.
Whether it was the British East India Company or Bain Capital (or Bureaucrats de EU) plunder by men in suits is still plunder. They take the treasuries of prosperous lands or companies, pay themselves massive/unjustifiable dividends, engage in actions emphasising short-term gains (opium crops/outsourcing to China) rather than long term national interest, and leave citizens and employees out to hang. In the end, shareholder benefit is worshiped–but who is the shareholder?
The operative point is that the same myopic perspective of individual corporate interest, without respecting community or national interest, results not only in the destruction of once healthy companies, or prosperous middle classes, but even entire nations.
Greece is exhibit A here. The bailout money that the dishonest continue to point to as emblematic of Greece’s “dissipation” mainly goes toward paying off Greece’s international loans, rather than making its way into the economy. The ancient European country may indeed have an underfunded welfare state, but if the so-called free-market capitalists don’t take steps to promote manufacturing and agriculture growth, how can this small nation be expected to grow itself out of debt?This point is all the more valid in the wake of economic crises in comparatively more responsible Spain and more dynamic Ireland. It is easy to repeat media talking points like a parrot when the game is rigged in favour of the “German Export Machine”.
1 minute analysers may tout more FDI favourable “rahforms!” in all the vague, misunderstood myopia they represent. But is FDI the solution–let alone the only solution– for everything? If foreign investors merely want to turn Greece into a tourist trap where everything–even national territory like the famous Greek Isles—are for sale, is this in the national interest of that country? What about manufacturing? What about agriculture? What about local entrepreneurship?
Another critical area in which Dharmic Development differs from Capitalism and Socialism is in the approach to agriculture.
Food economy is the building block of not only wealth but civilization itself. But as we’ve touched on previously, export-oriented economies such as South Korea, are now purchasing agricultural land in poor, malnourished African countries. The same capitalists who spoke on how Africa is “under-polluted” naturally support this under there free-market fundamentalism.
Our hyper-modernists also tout the stock market as the solution for upliftment of impoverished farmers, with reduced options due to these financial “rahforms!”. But look at what is transpiring before our eyes in China:
At a different broker’s office in Beijing, Liang Shuang said he had invested $100,000 into the market and lost at least third of his investment. He said: “The stock market is like a casino. But in a real casino you know the rules of the game.”
In the rural village of Nanliu two hours drive outside of Xian, villagers huddled around a mini stock exchange center watching their portfolios shrink with much dismay.
Farmer Liu Jianguo said, “I have lost confidence in the market. I’m waiting desperately to see if my stocks will return to the level where I bought them. It looks as though the government has done quite a lot but the impact is limited.”
These trends are now expanding to the rest of Asia, all this in the midst of the European Crisis involving Greece. Is this the model of food insecurity and economic instability people in India want for themselves?
Failed models are being imported in alternating fashion. First socialism and now capitalism. Our salvation, however, lies not with the fashionable or failed, but in taking inspiration from the traditional to adapt it to present conditions.
“Surprisingly, the marginal and small farmers are no less efficient than large farms, but more productive. They cultivate 46 per cent of the farm land in the country but produce 52 percent of grains, 70 per cent of vegetables, 55 per cent of fruits and 69 per cent of milk.” 
Rather than cash crops, single crops, or prestige crops, it is traditional crops that are proving more sustainable and more healthy for ourselves and for society.
Some of you may be wondering “arey, vee are advanced. Vee have the capitalism and the soshalism and the english, vy do vee need the rural and the farming?!! Be progressive!! Be productive!!“ But read what an actual, rooted scholar (versus foreign credentialed, foreign parrot) has to say:
“The world realised late, very late, that economics of scale does not apply to agriculture. In the 1920s, Russian economist Alexander Chayanov was the first to find that small and family farming was more economic than large ones. For telling this truth and insisting that family farms were neither socialist nor capitalist, he was first tortured by Lenin and later killed by Stalin.” 
When farming and rural life are made difficult first by socialism and finished by capitalism, how can farmers prosper? A society operates on many levels, not just one. Neither complete urbanisation nor complete rural life are advisable. What’s more, science-tards have been shopping around their green revolutions heavily premised on chemical fertilisers and pesticides. While it is true that temporary productivity gains may be seen in the short term, the long term result is soil degradation and dustbowl. Incidentally, the Oklahoma dustbowl was one of the contributors to the Great Depression.
But hey, what can we “caste, curry, cows” types know right? Ok, here’s what Adam Smith wrote about agriculture.
“According to the natural course of things, therefore, the greater part of the capital of every growing society, is, first directed to agriculture, afterwards to manufactures, and last of all to foreign commerce. This order of things is so very natural, that in every society that had any territory, it has always, I believe, been in some degree observed. [3, 55]
In fact, here’s how America originally became wealthy, per the Wealth of Nations:
It has been the principal cause of the rapid progress of our American colonies towards wealth and greatness, that almost their whole capitals have hitherto been employed in agriculture. [3, 366]
And rather than over-emphasising foreign trade (which he supports), he emphasises the opposite:
The great commerce of every civilized society is that carried on between the inhabitants of the town and those of the country. [3,376]
As such, it is obvious that neither complete urbanisation of Indian society nor communisation of farming (a la Stalin and Mao) are desirable. The traditional structures of family, village, state, and nation all have their place, just as Smith saw the relationship between the countryside, town, and city. Rather than a second “Green Revolution”, India needs a traditional agricultural revival.
If agriculture is the backbone of the economy, entrepreneurship is its blood.
Dr. Kanagasabapathi is a professor of finance (and former Director of the Tamil Nadu Institute of Urban Studies, Coimbatore). He did his thesis on the stock market. His expertise is in financial capitalism. However, he notes it’s seen as too risky in India. 1.2% invested in stock markets only.42:00. “[T]hey consider the security of the family, the welfare of the children, being more important than higher return”. “There is a failure in the educated circles that there is not investment taking place”—“This is absolutely not correct”.
India has 85 million entrepreneurs, which is the highest among major countries at 17.9% of population. It is 12.3% in the US, and 10.5% in the UK. He asks, “how do the successful Nadars of Tamil Nadu finance? They were not mbas or professors. They evolved mahamai system to generate funds. This system helped them to grow economically. Today they are one of the powerful community in India “. Here are the stats for their Tamil Nadu Mercantile Bank: Capital 28 lakh capital, 1200 crore reserves. 185 crore profit. 48:00
We do not need experts from outside to tell us how to generate funds
Cost of capital is less, making cost of production less, making sales price less. Capital is borrowed below market rates from family and friends (some times zero interest) making selling price less. As a result, society drives business not government (as in socialism) or corporate fat cats (capitalism). This is because individual, family and community savings, rather than taxes (socialism) or debt/strange equity (capitalism) becomes the source of investment.
53 percent of Indians are self-employed; America, 7%. 52:00. Social capital, therefore, is the actual reason for business success in India. It is the ability to move and work with others.”Faith, goodwill, values, norms, etc.” 1:08
The culture of this country, the foundations of this country…all play a huge role in deciding the economic functioning (as stated in the above video). But the breakdown of the familyis not something that concerns our free market, techno-utopians.
Unlike socialists and communists, however, Dharmanomics and Dharmic Development celebrate the role of entrepreneurs. But unlike capitalists, they are aware that entrepreneurs too have a responsibility, entrepreneurs too, have a dharma.
Dharma of Entrepreneurs
Many of our bipolar types assume because I have been so critical of free market fundamentalism, that I am anti-wealth. Nothing can be further from the truth.
But as I’ve written before, there is adifference between being pro-market and pro-wealth creation . There is a difference between big business and small and medium sized enterprises. There is a difference between a corporate fat cat and the up-from-the-boot straps entrepreneur.
I have a world of respect for people who start their own businesses. In fact, the vast majority of job creation is driven by SME’s (70% of jobs in India come from SMEs [Kanagasabapathi], and 50-70% in the US, with 65% of new jobs created ). But why do wall street walruses (and their never-will-be wannabes) get the credit as “the job creators”, when it rightly belongs to the mom and pop store or the local garage or the brand new computer manufacturer? What’s more, small, home-based business alone need not be the only Dharmic form of entrepreneurial organisation. Ancient and Medieval India famously had various guilds in place of modern corporations. These were known as sreni .
There is a difference between hard assets and monopoly money. That is the reason why we have stressed community (and even family) finance over venture capital. One of the great examples of the disaster of the corporatisation of investment was the tragic case of SKS Microfinance. Ostensibly it began as a well-meaning venture to help impoverished families. Trouble began when foreign institutional finance barged in and began demanding impossibly high returns from the founding managers. Even the Nobel Prize-Winning head of Grameen Bank, which was a microfinance pioneer, said that local community finance must be the driver. SKS became a cautionary tale in the issues associated with FDI.
Some may argue that all big business started out as small business. True, but the moment they go public, the moment they lose their community roots, the moment they stop caring what happens to their countries, that is the moment the character of their venture changes. That is why neither socialism (which stifles entrepreneurship) nor capitalism (which perverts entrepreneurship into monopoly) fit the bill.
Entrepreneurs too have a Dharma. Without it, industry and commerce takes place without thought to the consequences and a sense of responsibility to the commons, to public/shared goods.
And therein lies the ponzi scheme of the socialist vs capitalist binary. We see how “family has been nationalised and government has been privatised” [S.Gurumurthy]. In having two diametrical opposed camps fight each other, we see the worst of both worlds.
“In 1965, the divorce rate in America was very small. Today, 55 per cent of the first marriages end up in divorce there. As much [as] 67 per cent of the second marriages end up in divorce. If someone marries for a third time, 73 per cent of such cases end up in divorce. Nearly 51 per cent of the families are led by single parents. That is the result of the hyper-individualism practiced over the father, mother, family, neighbourhood and society. You produce a shameless society” 
Our neo-colonised, neo-liberals may not see it, but the West has already recognised the intellectual cul-de-sacs that both capitalism and socialism represent. The West is already seeing the need for a third way, and is beginning to trial balloon the label “holism”. A genuine alternative, however, is required–not a mere mix of capitalism and socialism (any serious student of economic history knows there was never a pure laissez faire economy (Victorian Britain with its child labour is considered the closest)). Rather than always playing catch up, isn’t it time to lead? Rather than merely following their way, is it not time to show the way?
Newly-minted Neo-liberal nitwits act as though history and classical Indic economics has nothing to teach us. But why do Westerners still study their classics (whether Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides, or Livy), albeit, at declining rates? It is because there is such a thing as time-tested wisdom. Rather than having lemmings leap after the next “NEW ECONOMY” every 10-15 years, only to have a bubble and crash, it is far better to have people soberly understand economics and the root of wealth itself.
Dharmic Development is driven by culture. Not a culture of handouts (like socialism) and not a culture of cutthroat monopolists (like capitalism), but a culture of responsibility, a culture of duty. What do our beloved libertarians have to say about this? Let the market take care of itself? Is this the path to real wealth?
The Origin of Wealth
A question that has plagued many a society, and in our era of certified debt obligations and dubiously-tranched derivatives, it has become increasingly difficult to define. Is wealth a digitised number on an LCD screen, a piece of fibrous inked paper with a fiat symbol and number, or a certificate from a mercantile exchange? Is the root of wealth found in the arbitrage of currency traders or the casino gambling volatility of day traders? Or is it merely pieces of rare metal? Since according to Adarsh Liberals, wisdom can only come from the West, here is what one famous Westerner had to say:
Labour, therefore, is the real measure of the exchangeable value of all commodities…The real price of everything, what every thing really costs to the man who want to acquire it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it. [3, 47]
So who wrote this, any guesses? Karl Marx? Friedrich Engels? Perhaps Nobel Prize Winning “quasi-socialist” Paul Krugman? Nope. You would be wrong all three times. This is a verbatim citation, again, of none other than Mr. Adam Smith, and that too, not even from his Theory of Moral Sentiments but from his celebrated An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.
His views on agriculture:
Food not only constitutes the principal part of the riches of the world, but it is the abundance of food which gives the principal part of their value to many other sorts of riches. [3, 192]
Time and again, our Ayn Rand and Kudlow and Cramer cultists presume that only they have read economics texts and understand economics. What is quite apparent, is that they don’t even have a basic comprehension of it. The word capitalism never appears in the Wealth of Nations. While Smith was indeed a proponent of the Free market, he also notes its limits, mentions market failures, and speaks out against the joint-stock exchange firm–would these Friedmanites do the same? Moreover, the word capitalism itself only privileges one factor of production: Capital. There are in fact four factors of production: Land, Labour, Capital, and Entrepreneurship. A complete economic philosophy stresses the importance of all of them, rather than merely privileging one. But our Kudlow Kool-Aid drinkers continue stupidly and self-assuredly tout capitalism as the cure for all evils and the heart of progress.
What is “progress”? Even a path off a cliff is also progress…followed by steep fall. Objectives must first be spelled out for progress to follow. What is the society we are working towards? Vague words like “equality. reform. libertarian. gender-neutral” are bandied about like visiting NIRs and newly acquired sports team affiliations. But what do these mean and what society are we working towards? This must be spelled out clearly rather than having the West work towards something ambiguous (whether economically, politically, or sexually) and have NIRs and Adarsh Liberals ape them like suited simulacra.
Not everything new is good. Sometimes, the old way is the correct way. And Greed is not good. Greed for more and more of what is resource-intensive strains scarce resources. In fact, therein lies the irony of New Economy/Brave New World/Free Market Technologists: Economics is the social science of understanding how to allocate scarce resources. The Fundamental laws do not change, so where’s your Web 2.0 & 3.0, now? What of the new, new economy?
The commonly held belief is that with hard work and a good education, a young person in America can get a good job. But despite falling unemployment, college grads age 22 to 27 are stuck in low-paying jobs that don’t even require a college degree. 
“In 2008, a shock of high magnitude came, from which the West has not recovered yet, but Asia survived. That is because Asia follows market economy, but has not transformed society into a market.” [7 ]
Readers may have read the quote from America’s Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, and think that slavery is a thing of the past in the West. What historical illiterates forget is that the British ended slavery of Africans in the Global West only to capitalise on the indentured labour of Indians in the Global South. It is why today, Indians can be found in Guyana, South Africa, Mauritius, and Fiji. And now, rather than debt taking Indians elsewhere, it is coming to India.
External debt increased from $290 billion to $427 billion in just three years between 2010-2013 http://t.co/HFRlm8lmA9
What’s more, slavery in the West, of the West has also metastasised into new forms: the New Jim Crow, crushing student loan and mortgage debt, and credit card debt have blurred the lines between free man andindentured wage slave. As mentioned above, even prisons have become privately run. Our Adarsh Liberals may soon even exhort the merits of private armies all in the name of “rahforms!”, “efficiency!”, “cost-benefit!”. But this is what happens when you rote-memorise economic ideology without properly studying political history, political economy, and moral philosophy. The Roman Republic too also evolved (devolved?) from citizen-soldiers to private armies, with the net result being Julius Caesar. Perhaps our “mimic men” may soon tout the efficiency of a dictator in perpetuum.
Naysayers may posit that this is what the “educated” “elite” in our society believe to be in our interests, ergo it must ipso facto be intelligent and well-intentioned. But can a so-called elite that prides itself in educating its best and brightest in “phoreign” be really rooted in the national interest? Can a so-called elite that laughs at scientifically verified and historically confirmed Indic accomplishments, truly be Indic? By propping up dying colonial-financed foreign institutions in return for plum jobs in MNCs, are they really incentivised to pursue national interest?
Perhaps all of this simply underscores how the time has come for a new elite. A rooted elite. A Dharmic elite.
A New Elite
Ram Raj was not built in a day. Nevertheless, it remains a perennial and even millennial aspiration throughout India. But such a selfless elite, such duty-bound/self-sacrificing leaders who verily gave us the definition of Tyagi, require more than 1 giant personality. Whether Maharaja or Mukhya Mantri, such a leader requires secondary leadership to back him up (as Bharata did for Rama) and loyal lieutenants who rejected ambition for service to the leader (like Lakshmana), and more importantly, his cause (Dharma). But where are such lieutenants today? Every nitwit with some basis for ahankar (birth, gotra, education, money) sees himself as the saviour and will tear down any putative rival with a viciousness he doesn’t even show to national enemies. That is why Dharma is needed, as it rejects ambition in favor of duty and aspiration. Duty must come before self-interest–then and then only is the national/civilizational cause served. Ask yourself “is there someone better qualified?”–if so, politely step aside, and if you have it in you, help (that is, after all, what a true leader would do).
Our modernism zombies may laugh instinctively that any elite in any time could be politically (let alone morally) superior to their own. But in an era when selfishness and greed itself have become virtues, perhaps the time has indeed come to review aspects of Aristocracy that indeed made them aristos (or the best) as opposed to the current crop of kakistos. Perhaps there is indeed a way to imbibe the self-sacrificing and rootedness of the old elite in our democratic framework without restoring monarchy’s dictatorial worst. To do that, we must first understand what the purpose of an elite really is.
Real men don’t follow poodles, they follow patriots
And therein lies the problem. When an elite looks upon its own people, its own flesh and blood, the sons of the soil, in disdain and contempt, how can they possibly represent common interests? If you pride yourself in doing poodle tricks, if you fight for scraps from the tables of foreigners, if you mimic their ways instead of reviving (and improving) your own, are you fit to lead?
Whether such an elite, that feels more in common with its own sons of the soil, will ultimately be drawn from them, is an open question. However remarkable the accomplishment, a single “chaiwallah” cannot change a degenerate delhi durbar or lutyens ordo . It is the system itself that must either revive or be replaced. If farming and labour, the very sources of societal wealth, are not treated with respect, then perhaps it is indeed time for a new elite.
Ancient elites, whatever their faults, were close to the land.Great Kings and Emperors– our real Kings and Emperors–would hold sabhas in the countryside periodically, and would even symbolically plough the land. Unlike the current crop of kakistocrats, for them it was not a mere publicity stunt, but as aristocrats, their duty, their Rajdharma.
Irrespective of whether there is a new elite on the horizon, we must begin to not merely learn and adapt ganimi kava where appropriate, but take inspiration from within as well–like another great son of Bharat once did. Rather than birth, family connection, school, and “IQ”, it is Guna, Competence, Character, and Courage that must define our leadership. The great kshatriyas and true brahmanas of yore may have left behind far too few competent heirs (though some are still around), but their gunas and ideals live on to inspire the nara and naari of this era… of whatever Bharatiya background…
Over the course of this essay, we have described the differences among Dharmic Development, Socialism,and Capitalism. Socialism is having your cake & eating it too. Capitalism is having your cake & eating someone else’s.
Naysayers may counter that capitalists are merely having and eating their own cake. If so, please explain all the 0 capital gains tax advocates, all the flat tax fanatics, and all the starve-the-government radicals. They benefit from necessary public spending (defence, infrastructure), but do everything to avoid paying proportionally (if at all) into it. What they are really asking for is not to eat their own cake, but for Big Fish to Eat Little Fish (matsya nyaya). For those mental slaves of libertarianism, please remember the national highway system in the US was a public project—not a private one…and so was the internet. Those who hate government, cannot possibly advise it, let alone lead it or comprehend the nature of its duties to citizenry: raksha, palana, yogakshema.
Mental slaves steeped in binary thinking may counter, “vell, you are a socialist!”. But we have spoken out against socialism repeatedly as well. Encouraging generation upon generation to live on the public dole not only destroys productivity and work ethic, but also destroys citizenship. Government dependence, excessive centralization, statism,over-emphasis of urbanisation, all sound good on paper, but are exceedingly corrosive to individual responsibility and liberty. This isn’t to deny the importance of economies of scale and urban technology clusters as needed for defence and health, but it doesn’t mean 100 smart cities either.
All elements have their position in any polity, not just the individual and government. The intermediate levels of family, community, and state/province all provide additional layers of cohesiveness to society, so that if one level becomes weak, the other can act as a buffer and take the weight. If government goes bankrupt, how will the individual survive? Family, community, and state all have their respective roles.
Capitalism accomplishes the same not by encouraging over-dependence on government, but by encouraging over-consumption by the individual. This leads to social atomisation from the other end. Greed and selfishness become virtues, and everything, even human life and dignity, is put on sale. Instead of crushing people under the unsustainable weight of bloated government, society is encouraged to eat itself out by making temperance unfashionable.
But facts don’t matter for binary-bitten ideologues. If we don’t represent socialism, they don’t have any talking points and insist we don’t know economics and they do…just cause! Rather than behaving like poseurs casting aspersions on the intellectual capacity of others, they should evolve and mature from the mental state of the juveniles they mimic.
Take a deep breath. Recognise that you’re not the only one who studies economics. And use logic to understand and critique others—rather than exploding in a petard of boorish and bombastic buffoonery. Have the humility to listen and learn.
To bring things full circle: Greece did spend beyond its means—true—but who enabled it? Germany’s overcapacity had to be absorbed (one of the dangers of supply-side economics “i.e. supply creates its own demand”), and so Greece was given overgenerous financing and encouraged to consume beyond its means. In the process, Germany benefited through increased exports and market share abroad and increased employment and prosperity at home. Had individual Greeks been encouraged to locally manufacture—rather than depend merely on tourism like so many brothel madams—they could have consumed locally manufactured goods. True, not everything can be manufactured locally (especially if you are a small country)—but essential items and products should be provided for at home. Of course, there is nothing more essential than agriculture. That is why in the West, food miles have become a trend, but India is going in the opposite direction. Locally grown produce not only reduces transportation costs, but encourages healthier food that is less dependent on chemical preservatives to maintain and prevent natural rot. The absence of this can be seen in the health crisis in the United States—which is now increasingly plaguing India. Obesity, diabetes, early baldness, hormonal imbalance—all are symptoms of artificial food that is being tampered with and over-medication which has been tinkered with.
The over-confident, but under-read may proclaim that even Gregor Mendel engaged in genetic engineering—but this is moronic. There is a world of difference between cross breeding via a natural process and interfering in the process itself at the genetic level.By respecting nature, we protect ourselves from unintended consequences. After all, there is a world of difference between putting a horse and donkey in the same room and encouraging them to breed, and creating from genetic scratch, a whole new animal. Science-tards should also be mindful that the net result of a horse and donkey is a mule—incidentally, a sterile animal, aka genetic dead end.
So before getting caught up in the faddish “rationalism” of the brave new world of “surrendering to science and technology!”—actually be rational and use your brain to think about the consequences. Science is not the solution to everything—how could it be? Science gave us the internet, but also gave us Hiroshima. Science surely has its place—to help us understand the material world so that we can better our material living. But what does it have to do with spiritual living and harmony? Science axiomatically cannot provide us with a way of life or a moral code by which to live. That is the place of philosophy: be it secular humanism or Dharma. Rather than prematurely signing up for a Star Trek future, they should try to preserve their It’s a Wonderful Life present—assuming they even can.
Ultimately, all this is emblematic of Western man and increasingly Global man (davos man?) and his juvenile need to dominate his fellow man and conquer nature. But nature is no more meant to be conquered than women are meant to subjugated. After all, can nature not hit back and wipe out civilization itself, like Draupadi annihilated the Kauravas through Bhima? When her wrath is upon you, to whom then will you turn for succour citing the Dharma and decency you previously ignored?—The God in “scientific” atheism you previously rejected?
A version of this Post was published on Andhra Cultural Portal on October 14, 2014
“Grohwth, grohwth, vee need grohwth, increase our grohwth, vee must have grohwth”—And what will you do with all that growth, eat it?
The fact remains that while modern infrastructure development is important and educational advancement is good, they must not be done at the expense of destroying the environment, pillaging nature, and most importantly, losing culture.
Culture should improve, culture should progress, and culture should innovate—but all should be done in a way that makes timeless values relevant in a changing modern context. Just as we have Sanatana Dharma (Timeless Dharma) and Yuga Dharma (Dharma as per the Yuga or Era), so too should core aspects of our Samskruthi be eternal while others adaptable.
Why “Debelopment” above all is not a Strategy for Success
China has made a great many strides over the past 30 years—clearly well ahead of India on the development front. But it has also paid a heavy price, not merely in the widespread decline in air quality due to coal power plants (India is not far behind here), but also in the depletion and degradation of its water sources. Indeed, so disastrous has the decline in the PRC’s environmental quality been that the Chinese themselves have been calling it“low quality growth”.
The rapid push for rapid and lop-sided urbanization and unaccountable industrialization has resulted in a slow motion catastrophe that has not only impacted the quality of the land and the quality of life, but life itself. Many pictures are too horrifying and tragic to show (particularly the human toll), but the ongoing health disaster due to cadmium rice and other such gifts of globalization should be cause for pause.
Is the massive deluge of humanity into rotting cities and under-piped settlements a humane let alone dharmic existence for its denizens? Are smart cities the solution for every citizen? Wouldn’t balanced development seek to enhance life in the village, town, and city alike rather than simply constructing gigantic megalopolises conceived as smart but ending as slum? But why take the word of an Indian on China, when a Chinese person himself speaks on the topic:
Due to increase in the “Landless and jobless”, the vibrant traditional culture of China is dying in favor of the supposed greener pastures of materialism and hedonism (India not too far behind here either). Let me clarify. Preserving rural lifestyles does not mean promoting the primitive. Villages and even smaller towns can connect to the modern world without disconnecting from the holistic and symbiotic lifestyles they frequently offer, as opposed to the current parasitic model of our vastly mushrooming urban agglomerations. But why should the word “farmer” be perceived as a four letter word? There is great dignity in the life of the kisan, for civilized life is dependent on him and his hardwork. Rather than be viewed with contemptuous eyes, the agriculturalist should be thanked for making city life possible at all.
What’s more it is industrial life and commerce that is driving not only the consumption of resources but the pollution of our natural resources, even our sacred rivers.
Living in harmony with the land is not the hallmark of the barbarian but the callsign of the civilized, for the highest form of civilization is not material but spiritual. Understanding and recognizing that all life is interconnected, and that we too have duties to Mother Earth and her other children, is essential.
It is this ahankar (false ego) mentioned previously that creates the sick desire in men to dominate others and all other life. Man does not have dominion over the Earth, how could he? Did he create it? Is his “conquest” of it so secure that a simple frown fromBhoomidevi could not overthrow him like many ants upon a hill?
No, my brothers and sisters, the human being is merely a tenant, a guest in this vast resort of Life, here to improve, and even perfect himself/herself, not through artifice and robotics, but will to restrain the senses. The earth is merely a life-estate at best, and there are restrictions on what can or cannot be done before it is passed on to the next generation, and evento its Ultimate Owner.
It is svaartha(selfishness) that ever-present evil, that root of all evil that drives man mad in the desire to conquer other people and other things, rather than conquer himself (the first and noblest form of conquest). It is for this reason Mahatma Gandhi said the world has enough for every person’s need, not every person’s greed. He even decried the Industrial model of the West, saying
Recent estimates have concluded that for the developing world to consume and live like the developed, we would need 3 and ½ Earths. In fact, “urbanisation is accompanied by unprecedented consumption of natural resources”
Despite ongoing efforts to tarnish his name and legacy, looks like on this count, Gandhiji was right after all.
It is the fundamental conceit and hubris of man to attempt to rule over the Earth as slavemaster rather than protect and safeguard it as steward.
The unsentimental and pragmatic Chanakya himself stipulated that “The root of Happiness was Dharma (Righteousness), the root of Dharma was Wealth, the root of Wealth was Power, and the root of Power was Conquest of the Senses”:
Thus the key to our prosperity and happiness comes not from greed, but from good. Greed is not Good–how could it be? Goodness is good, virtue is good, self-restraint and consideration for others is good. Dharma is good. Therefore, it is incumbent on humanity to channel its energies within rather than be pulled by its appetites without.
Unrestrained, shoddy infrastructure projects exacerbated the problem in the tragic flood of 2013. Thus, as the geographic focus of AP’s development plan shifts back to our ancestral towns and cities on the coast—let us keep this ideal in mind.
It also means not turning each and every town into a new urban conglomeration. Specifically, we must find a way to balance life at different levels—village, town, and city. We must be mindful to encourage prosperity at all levels. Some of our sarcastic saviors of society have posited that village life has retained many of the worst elements of casteism, and mass urbanization is the remedy.–But to get rid of the bathwater, do we throw out the baby as well? No, the answer therefore, is to combat casteism while preserving the village.
After all, agriculture is the backbone of civilization. Only when there is surplus crop is urban society even possible. Yet urban society today is driven by the big business urge to profit unethically from everything, whether its farming or mining. The Gali family of Bellary is the perfect example of the type of crony capitalism that should not be acceptable and certainly not respectable. The natural wealth and inheritance of all Indians was mercilessly and selfishly mined and sold to India’s neighbor to the North—without national security considerations. Does it make sense to sell strategic resources like Iron and Copper to a strategic competitor that actually has more of it than India does? (Does it make sense to buy telecom equipment from the same point of origin for that matter?—“IT superpower” indeed…)
What was done in Bellary was not entrepreneurship or responsible commerce, but national plunder. Commerce with Conscience should be a prime directive for modern India and society in general. Business as usual should no longer be acceptable. Becoming rich should not be the main criterion for respectability—and how one becomes rich should also matter.
Having effectively put all their eggs in one basket, the people of new Andhra Pradesh state are now questioning the old models for development and economic growth. Given the continuing farmer suicides in not only Andhra but the rest of India as well, there are serious questions about whether the current model of development is ultimately sustainable and beneficial to all citizens.
Thus, an opening has now presented itself for a new paradigm: Dharmic Development.
To date, growth and wealth has been an either-or proposition. Poverty or Riches, Backwardness or Development, Communism or Capitalism, Agriculture or IT (we can also add Communalism or Pseudo-Secularism to that list–but that is another matter…). Perhaps it is time for our people to take a page out of the book of Andhra’s own Nagarjuna. No, not this Nagarjuna, butthis one. The legendary Buddhist monk hailed from our region and presented the philosophy of Madhyamika, or the middle path that ultimately originated from the Buddha himself. This third way, in between ascetism/deprivation and sensuousness/greed, if you will, offers a new approach to development–a Dharmic one.
Regular readers are familiar with the excellent article composed by Krishnarjun gaaru called Dharmanomics. This post attempts to move forward the foundation he laid with it and I want to thank him for giving his generous encouragement in this endeavor.
Read now the wisdom of Maharishi Veda Vyasa, who wrote the following at the end of the Mahabharata (Svargarohanika Parva, S.5):
Oorddhva baahurviromyesha na kashchit shrnothi me
Dharmaath artthasha kaamascha kim na sevyati?
I raise my hands up [in frustration] and say “The way to wealth and love is through Dharma—why doesn’t anybody listen?!”
The Dharma of Development
“business number nahin, business log hai” (business is not about numbers (i.e. profit/growth), it’s about people)
What is Development and what is its purpose?
Too often our newly minted college and MBA grads rote cite assorted theories on GDP and manufacturing capacity without understanding the underlying definition and purpose of development. Development does not mean merely commercial development of a country.
Development also means national development. It is the ability of a country to provide for its citizens’ material, economic, political, and social needs through the harnessing of nature for technological purposes to responsibly meet the challenges of modernity.
Thus, at its core, development is about meeting the needs of a society’s citizenry. Our current era of technological advancement has necessitated not only financial and infrastructural capital, but human capital. For far too long the assumption has existed that farming and rural life is somehow the driver of poverty. Lack of resources to meet one’s needs is the cause for poverty. When far too much emphasis is placed on the needs of only one factor of production, the others suffer. That is the current state of affairs in a global economy that is staring at the precipice.
Land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurship are all the textbook factors of production for productive economic activity (and of course, the over emphasized “growth”). What is the value of each of these? Land provides terrain for agriculture, mining, infrastructure, and housing. Labor (over-emphasized by Marx and Engels) provides the ability to harness and manufacture. Capital, alternatively specie (i.e. gold, silver) is a means of exchange acceptable to others allowing for investing in productive enterprises and storing value. And lastly, entrepreneurship, which is the expertise and drive in conceiving, building, and managing organizations and endeavors (whether commercial or societal) that productively and usefully apply the previous three. But all four of these factors are finite. While new ways can be devised to productively apply or leverage them (also a function of entrepreneurship), total productivity, and more importantly, total utility to society will eventually level off. As such, unceasing growth is simply not possible and will be increasingly diminishing in returns. So how can it be the basis of value and the basis of the modern concept of wealth? How can it be the basis for all economic decision-making?
It is the height of folly and adharma that India is now joining the bandwagon of countries like China and the Gulf states to rely on African agricultural land for Agro-business. When India has the second largest supply of Arable landon the Earth, how on Earth can its business interests join the Adharmic rush to have Africans supply food to the rest of the world? A continent whose countries such as Somalia have become synonymous with famine and starvation cannot possibly be expected to supply food to wealthier nations when its citizens have vast numbers of empty bellies to fill. Proponents argue that it is a more efficient use of resources (presumably they come from the same school as this “genius”). But before citing David Ricardo and comparative advantage, MBA automatons would be well-advised to study Adam Smith–no, not his Wealth of Nations, but The Theory of Moral Sentiments (yes, he was a moral philosopher as well–imagine that!). There is no moral or ethical or dharmic basis for countries like India and China to lay claim to agricultural lands that would better serve an African.
It is imperative that business and political leaders see not only what is profitable or efficient–but also what is ethical. Even Bentham spoke of “the greatest good of the greatest number” in his theory of Utilitarianism. Does it make any sense to deprive Africans of arable land so that India and China can allocate theirs to manufacturing and IT sweatshops?! That is the importance of Dharmanomics and Dharmic Development.
“Dharmanomics is about blending natural economy, natural justice to the modern situation”
“Food economy is the root of prosperity.”
” balancing food economy and high-end manufacturing is critical for prosperity and to defend that prosperity from external threats.”
“farmland shouldn’t become an instrument of investment for profit. Only professional farmer have to be allowed ownership of farmland and the community.”
“The Panchayat has to certify him as farmer ”
“Harmony of self and environment is the essence of Dharma and to see the possibility of such harmony in the economy is Dharmanomics”
Dharmic Development Corollaries:
State shall adhere to Dharmic mandates of Raksha, Palana, and Yogakshema of the land and its people
Sanctity of Spiritual places must be observed/preserved
Development must be Sustainable in nature with fair, productive, and ecologically harmonious distribution of resources
Emphasis on renewables/caution with permeables
Any drastic changes to or transformations of ecologies only at utmost to dire need
Decentralized development should be premised on responsible & preferably decentralized ownership
Agricultural and Manufacturing Cooperatives for economies of scale
Life cycle planning-Corps have responsibility to not only plan end user marketing, but also end user goods disposal/recycling
Prioritization of agriculture and the needs of agriculturalists
Arable land should be should be used primarily for agriculture
Individual farms the building blocks, not big business
Organic food & Community Ownership seed banks to preserve bio-diversity
Emphasis on societal/national interest and the family unit
Due consideration for weaker and vulnerable sections of society: i.e. pregnant women, children, the elderly, infirm, and disabled.
Corporations are not citizens…citizens are citizens
Prioritization of the needs of children in marriages
Protections against exploitation of human beings, whether through means of force, finance, or enterprise
Humane treatment of animals, especially livestock, whether for products or byproducts, in line with Bharatiya Dharma
Balance of rights and duties. Duties come first.
Dharmic Development Corollaries Explanation:
1.State shall adhere to Dharmic mandates of Raksha, Palana, and Yogakshema of the land and its people
The Arthashastra emphasized Raksha (protection from external threat), Palana (internal law and order) and Yogakshema (welfare of the land and people) as the three obligations of Government. Thus, rather than brainless parroting of vacuous nostrums such as “reform”, “globalization”, “economic liberty”, public officials must bear these in mind when instituting and implementing policy. India’s telecom blundering is a textbook example of violating all three. Government is not subordinate to business, business is subordinate to government and the Yogakshema of the citizenry.
2.Sanctity of Spiritual places must be observed/preserved
I know some long time supporters may not like it (but healthy disagreement and civil discussion is good anyway), but I have to differ with the current push to turn spiritual places like Tirupati andPrayag into IT hubs and Smart cities). Opponents may argue that Tirumala is not Tirupati and Prayag is not what is called “Allahabad”, but the reality is the spiritual suburb itself is dependent on the greater urban area for supplies, workers, and atmosphere.
If the sanctity of Harmandir Sahib (Sikh Golden Temple) can be preserved cooperatively by even an Amritsar Domino’s pizza reportedly refusing to serve alcohol within 1km of the sansthan, then there is no reason not to expect Tirupati or Greater Prayag’s sanctity to not be similarly respected. After all, pilgrims themselves stay in Guest Houses that are very frequently outside the Devasthanam, etc, should they not go with spirituality in mind rather than pubs and clubs?
3.Development must be Sustainable in nature with fair, productive, and ecologically harmonious distribution of resources
Resources such as water and other essential commodities for life are part of the common wealth. After security from external threat and internal disturbances are taken care of, priority shall be on ensuring fair and reasonable distribution to the public. In particular, treated waste water (grey water) should got to industrial use. Priority for clean water should be for personal consumption, then agriculture, and then only industrial use. Furthermore, the citizenry and the business community should be educated on how not to waste water and how to harvest it.
Next, there should be an emphasis on renewables & caution with permeables. Accidents with nuclear power in Japan (as well as gas in the US) are well known, resulting in countries like Germany preventing the construction of new plants and the phasing out of old ones. As such, while there may be a basic need for strategic reasons, India should proceed with utmost caution with respect to emphasizing nuclear power and mining of its required resources. While renewables such as solar, wind, and hydro come with their own host of issues, responsible use of them (coupled with R&D) may offer better alternatives.
Third, any drastic changes to or transformations of ecologies should only be at utmost to dire need. China has come under the microscope for its penchant towards giant dams (such as the Three Gorges). Hydrologists have established that smaller dams are better for ecosystems, displace fewer people, and better integrate with the land.
4.Decentralized development should be premised on responsible & preferably decentralized ownership
No state more bitterly learned the lesson of putting all its eggs in one basket than Andhra Pradesh. Investors and common middle class citizens alike focused on the development of Hyderabad as synonymous with the development of AP. The net result was not only neglect of other cities, but also the tragic and ongoing agrarian crisis that continues to plague farmers in both Telugu states. Thus, decentralized development is imperative. Furthermore, this should be premised on the notion of decentralized ownership.
Economies of scale has long been the sacred incantation of international economics. Joint Ventures, Corporate mergers and unrestricted FDI are pointed to as panaceas for society and “necessary reform” without proper evaluation or discussion. While productive and fair business should be encouraged, anti-trust measures must not only be firmly in place but firmly applied. Even the most famous among them can get eroded through disuse, carelessness, and misguided zeitgeist.
Agricultural cooperatives should therefore be encouraged as should artisan and manufacturing guilds like Ancient India’s Srenis. This will provide the necessary economies of scale (through collaboration) while ensuring that profits are fairly distributed among farmers themselves, rather than corporate fat cats.
R&D and innovation intensive strategic industries can of course continue with the corporate model, but with appropriate government oversight and accountability. Particularly for industries involving the use of harmful or polluting resources, Life cycle planning should be mandated by government. Byproducts and waste cannot simply be discharged untreated into rivers. Moreover, corporations have a responsibility to not only plan end user marketing, but also end user goods disposal/recycling. Corporate interest should not be allowed to harm national interest, in the name of “profits” & “economic efficiency”.
5.Prioritization of agriculture and the needs of agriculturalists
Arable land should be used primarily for agriculture. As already touched on, counties like India should be more than capable of supplying their own food needs. Rather than having farmers mis-educated into emphasizing cash crops and questionable chemicals, organic farming should be encouraged instead. India instituted impressive land reform at Independence. As a result, rather than stumbling back to feudal, share-cropping farming under big business, the individual farmer should be able to stand on his own two feet as the building block of society.
6.Emphasis on the family unit and societal/national interest
Due consideration for weaker and vulnerable sections of society: i.e. pregnant women, children, the elderly, infirm, and disabled should be pursued. While India already has legislation to protect these segments of society, law alone without promotion of societal interest in our culture and every day behavior cannot be relied upon. While India is woefully under-policed, who in turn are under-equipped (as 26/11 tragically demonstrated), it has nevertheless managed to have lower crime rates in general.
To ensure that they are lower still, this emphasis of society and Dharma must be promoted at all levels. After all, the common Dharma was not only for the proverbial Brahmins (scholars, teachers) and Kshatriyas (leaders, administrators), but Vaisyas (merchants) and Sudras (workers) as well. Modern day equivalents of Vaisyas, whether from Infosys or Bharti also have responsibilities to society. Thus business must be pursued in harmony with the common Dharma–which means billionaire businessmen whether born a Murthy or a Mittal must be expected to ply their profitable trade in harmony with the national interest–rather than gainsay andundermine it. And political leaders, whether Rajput or a (D.) Raja cannot give in to graft, and must uphold the national interest. Corporations are not citizens…citizens are citizens. Much ink has been spilled on this already, but as discussed immediately above, business interests cannot be allowed to stomp all over the rights of the average citizen. While the opinions of business leaders must be solicited to ensure their needs are taken into account while pursuing national interest, they cannot be permitted to outweigh the voices of the national citizenry. In a democracy, the ultimate sovereign is not the money-minded peddler, but the people.
Finally, for development to properly take place, the needs of children, elderly parents and stable marriages must be prioritized above individual caprice. Legal protections are in place to ensure individual rights are preserved, but national development can only truly take place if responsible adults act in the interest of the next generation (as well as the previous one) to ensure they grow up in happy, healthy homes to become productive and emotionally healthy citizens of the future. Though there are certainly exceptions to the rule, the ultimate purpose of marriage is to form a stable, healthy environment for the raising of children. Aged parents as part of the Indian joint family have historically facilitated this process. While elders surely should pass on the torch to the children once they retire (as Kings should abdicate at the right time), our young modern couples should be expected to look after their mothers and fathers, not dump them off in a retirement home or ship them off to Vrindavan. Our laws and civil society should reflect this through incentives–but respectable elite and middle class society and culture should also frown upon the selfish men and women who care only about themselves and their supposedly “progressive” lifestyles.
It also means worker hours should be reasonable and work life balance promoted to prevent exploitation. Corporations should not seek to squeeze every last drop of productivity out of their workers, but motivate them through a good work environment. A happy worker is a productive worker & strong families make happy workers & healthy societies.
7.Protections against exploitation of human beings, whether through means of force, finance, or enterprise
The 2008 crisis is now a well-known facet of economic debate. Less discussed is the private debt crisis plaguing the average person in many countries. India must not replicate the same mistakes. Exploitation takes place through many means, whether socio-religious or socio-economic, thus it is imperative that India’s development not mortgage the futures of its labor force by driving to them graduate with the equivalent of mortgages on the backs of new graduates.
Furthermore, corporations, social enterprises and non-profits must also be checked from taken advantage of their role. Here is a classic example of a good idea with good intentions,gone wrong due to corporate greed. Finance and capital must be harnessed to support society rather than exploit it through usury and debt. Therefore consumer protection must be in place to prevent the illiterate or unsophisticated from being taken advantage of. The freedom of contract must be balanced by laws against exploitation and unjust enrichment. Just as a pirate has not right to argue that his plunder came from “entrepreneurship”, neither can a corporate buccaneer with respect to employees and citizens.
8.Humane treatment of animals, especially livestock, whether for products or byproducts, in line with Bharatiya Dharma
Whether its the living conditions of animals, the cruel methods used to acquire their products, or the manipulation of their nature, it is imperative that science and profit be tempered by the ethics of Dharma. The production of milk and meat should not be dictated by bottom lines but by the natural capacity of the animal for providing, the humanity of collecting, and the tempering of the human rapacity for consuming. It is not merely a spiritual stretch-goal but a matter of human health as well.
While vegetarianism is the ideal, it should not and cannot be legally mandated. At the same time the traditions of Bharatiya culture have spanned ages, and should be respected. This means respect for all animal life, and special protection for the Gau/Avu/Cow . The native species must be preserved as far as humanly possibly rather than employing unethical means to tamper with their nature and population.Most of all, adharmic means to extract their milk in a way that causes them or their calves distress should not be employed. At the same time, this must be balanced by ensuring that meandering members of the bovine species aren’t plodding down main roads of modern cities or their various flyovers.
9.Balance of rights and duties. Duties come first.
While the modern liberal state is founded upon Individual rights, individuals must also be mindful of their duties to society. As such, law and cultural expectations must ensure that individuals not engage in crass materialism that jeopardizes national interest and society itself. This means that while individual rights should be protected, the individual must be educated to think about society and his or her dharma to it. Far too many people are still obsessed with caste privileges, but who remembers societal duty? Without duty there can be no privilege, and without society there can be no rights. Rather than get people to obsess about their caste, whatever their caste, let them be concerned about what obligations their privilege and modern wealth brings.
In sum, development must be conducted in a way that safeguards the preservation of Saamanya Dharma–the Common Dharma irrespective of varna/jati/occupation.
How to Implement
In a recent post, we wrote on how the well known adageCleanliness is Next to Godlinessmust be our watch-word for our habits and neighborhoods, but it should also be the foundation for our approach to development. Economic and even strategic needs should not be pursued without due consideration for the impact on the heath and pavitrata of the environment and its people. More than just corporate social responsibility, it means economic and national responsibility, which axiomatically necessitate not destructive development, but dharmic development. So how to implement all this?
Contrary to many of the alarmists, the objective of this proposal is not to turn the clock back 500 or 5000 years. Rather, the purpose is to take inspiration from our own native philosophies to fill the vacuum left behind by a society with only the steel frame of law sans cultural coherence or ethical mooring.
One of our greatest and yet most pragmatic political thinkers was a dasiputra (i.e. son of a servant woman). Yet Vidura was the most astute politician of his era and second in temporal wisdom only to Lord Krishna himself. Read now what this brilliant minister of Kings advised:
He that desires the highest success in all matters connected with worldly profit, should from the very beginning practise virtue [Dharma], for true profit is never separated from Heaven
He that followeth virtue, profit, and desire in proper seasons, obtaineth hereafter, a combination of all three.
Thus wealth and profit should never descend to lobha (greed). However, only an ethical culture and dharmic education can enlighten businessmen and businesswomen to think this way. Our business schools and colleges must train students to balance their quest for profit with virtue/dharma/obligation to society. This lays the foundation for ensuring a grassroots commitment to Dharmic Development.
Second, laws should be reviewed to establish a regime that keeps both business and government accountable in commerce, infrastructure, and general policy.
Kautilya provided principles for Fair Trade to ensure that business was conducted dharmically by merchants. Examples include injunctions against the creation of artificial scarcity and prevention of hoarding against the public interest. As we previously wrote in the foundational piece on “Cleanliness”, nuisance to the neighbors/public/and society in general should be punished. Industry cannot expect to continue its irresponsible behavior of build and dump. Furthermore, laws to impose punishment for cruelty to animals should also be examined and implemented where applicable. More importantly, however, was the emphasis on agriculture.
He wrote that “Cultivable land is better than mines because mines fill only the treasury while agricultural production fills both the treasury and the storehouses“. Thus the ruler “had to ensure that agriculture was protected from harassment“. Our politicians must therefore evaluate the needs of the farmer and reorient the top-down IT economy so that it starts from agriculture at the bottom before moving up to smart cities.
Above all, is the creation of a culture of responsibility and dharma.Law and stern law-enforcement can only do so much; it is the culture of a society that drives responsible, ethical, and dharmic development. Therefore, all sections of society must be educated on the common societal Acara and the common societal Dharma. That will create the ethical citizenry needed to properly develop India and the ranks from which moral leaders can be drawn.
Some may argue that many of Kautilya’s laws were antiquated, but the point is not to implement his laws or teachings verbatim. Rather, the purpose is to infuse his spirit of pragmatic Dharma while discarding whatever may be deemed casteist or illiberal. Much as the religious aspects of Dharma change from age to age, so too do the practical aspects of Rajdharma.
One of the most common, even cliche, concerns about Dharma is “caste” (misnomer for varna/jati). Indeed, it is a matter of Debate even within the various Indic traditions. As such, the implementation of Dharmic Development and Dharmanomics should be under the precepts of Saamaanya Dharma, i.e. “The Common Dharma”. It is for this reason we have emphasized the importance of Bharatiya Dharma rather than Dharma as interpreted by a single religion, because Dharma transcends the narrow definition applied to religion (i.e. 1 book, 1 way, etc). In fact, religion more correctly translates to Panth, thereby demonstrating that Dharma transcends religion, and why it is asserted that Indic Civilization is the home of Dharmic civilization.
Naysayers may argue by stating that this is just a ploy to “implement a brahminical conspiracy”, but this is patently motivated falsehood, as Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism all propound the importance and benefits of the common Dharma, only interpret it without caste. It is for this reason that this article is not called “Hindu Development” and ostensibly why the foundational article by Krishnarjun gaaru is not called “Hindunomics”.
Saamaanya Dharma in action means living our principles, which, more than any green technology could ever hope to do, create a society that lives frugally, selflessly, and prosperously, and all without ravaging the Earth. But rather than take our word for it, see what current research has to say on the topic.
“India, which has ranked first in food sustainability in every Greendex, came out far ahead again, thanks to its culturally dictated eating habits. Nearly one in four Indians is a vegetarian, and those who aren’t tend to avoid beef, the most environmentally damaging meat. Indians have reduced the amount of imported food they eat and increased their consumption of locally produced, homegrown, and organic foods.“
Rebuilding Andhra…and India
Swacch Bharat is a great step forward for creating a clean, livable, and modern India. But the foundation for this vision will come not from a campaign for civic sense, a change in habits, or even sufficient infrastructure, but rather, from a fundamental shift in our philosophical outlook.
Colonialism left what was once the richest and most developed country & civilization of the world in ruins. Worst of all, was the mental and cultural colonialism perpetrated that left naive Indians thinking they were always economically backward and culturally inferior–and that a foreign “savior” had to routinely present himselfor herself to save India from superstition,caste and now (the modern reincarnation of this) “communalism”.
Rather than looking to the Middle east, Europe, or even China (we have seen how all these regions have fared–especially since 2008), perhaps it is time to look within for inspiration. It is time for a paradigm shift. Rather than continue to argue ourselves hoarse about the virtues of capitalism this, humanity that, or Confucian harmony there, it is time for the Indic concept of Dharmic Development to present itself as the middle way.
India was once the legendary land of not only philosophers and damsels, but righteous men and untold riches…with the right philosophy & guiding principles, it can be so again.
Oorddhva baahurviromyesha na kashchit shrnothi me
Dharmaath artthasha kaamascha kim na sevyati?
I raise my hands up and say “The way to wealth and love is through Dharma—why doesn’t anybody listen?!”