It is worthwhile to contrast this market-coordinated worldview with our Hindu worldview in which life is considered as yajna (यज्ञ: sacrifice ). In my assessment, nowhere in the world, humanity expressed its worldview with greater profundity and sublimity than what was done in the Bhagavad-Gita (III. 9-11): its shloka 9 that is rendered into English thus:
‘Save work done as and for a sacrifice, this world is in bondage to work. Therefore, O son of Kunti (Arjuna), do thy work as a sacrifice, becoming free from all attachment.’
Here Yajna means “any self-sacrificing work undertaken in a spirit of Self-dedication, for the blessings of all.” To conceive ‘human life’ as yajna is the greatest monument of human intelligence. We must develop the excellence of skill, and must work hard to earn wealth and protect it, but always for the weal of all. We are amazed observing the moral degradation of the West-dominated society of our day: all running after wealth alone. How it operates is best described in the Bhagavad-Gita itself: see Chapter II shlokas 62 and 63 the import of which can be thus stated in English:
Propensities of the flesh lead to consumerism (the objects of senses); and further the strong desires to acquire and possess such commodities more and more. Such desires beget ‘anger’; when it is evoked but obstructed, it begets sammoha (bewilderment, loss of focus of what is right). Bewilderment is sure to cause loss of memory that makes one indifferent to the lessons that history teaches; and if happens, one’s intelligence stands destroyed. And once there is the loss of ‘intelligence’, one’s sense of propriety is gone; and then one perishes.
Our tradition never rejected wealth, or condemned it. I brought this fact to my reader’s notice in Chapter 20 of the Memoir (at p. 270) by stressing on the following two principles:
- “Krishna held in the Bhagavad-Gita that ‘property’ acquired merely for acquisitiveness and greed is clearly a sinister ‘THEFT’.”
- Krishna insists that the acquisition of ‘property’ must not be greed-driven, and society must not be acquisitive, unmindful to the harm it inflicts on the earth and its environment. (by Shiva Kant Jha)
It can be noticed that most of the assumptions of the greed-driven capitalism are founded on economic fundamentalism. It is also worth noting that the technique of cognition that the ‘think tanks’ of ‘capitalism’ adopt, is unscientific. Scientific method is to draw conclusions from critically observed facts and factors, mostly on the predominance of probability. This process must be done with detachment, and humility. It is always essential to remain ready to modify its technique and assumptions in the light of the realities which emerge from moment to moment. The tragic trait of the economists working for ‘capitalism’ is that they “choose their assumptions to fit their conclusions”, and try to convince people, through ‘computer simulations’, the economic benefits of the structures they build without taking into account the immanent Uncertainty Factor that operates in all the spheres of thoughts and actions. This is the consequence of the fact that our technology has not been able to factorize MAN. Man is still an indeterminate equation. The tragic trait of the corporate capitalism is its failure to realize that its structure, and also assumptions, might break to pieces, as had happened to the image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream: Daniel says—
“The image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and thighs of brass, his legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.”
(by Shiva Kant Jha)
Veena with an earthen lamp
The learned neoliberal experts tell us to wait, and wait, and wait till great wealth accumulates with ‘the substantial people’. They feel that a little of that wealth can trickle down to the common people someday. I have often wondered: will these billionaires be ever satisfied with their billions, or trillions? My study and reflection tell us: they will never be satisfied with their treasures. Centuries back, our ancestors had wisely observed in the Sri Harivamsa Purana ( the ‘Harivamsha Parva’, Chapt. 30):
न जातु कामः कामानामुपभोगेन शाम्यति, हविषा कृष्णवर्त्मेव भूय एवाभिवर्धते
यत् पृथिव्यां व्रीहियवं हिरण्यं पशवः स्त्रियः, नालमेकस्य तत सर्वमिति पश्यन्न मुह्यति
[ Not all the wealth, not all the women can ever satisfy the lusty urge of a single man. Hence the right thing is to control desires as they have no end. Desires increase more and more when enjoyed with lust and attachment. They increase as do the flames of fire when ghee is poured on it. When desires wax untrammelled, one can never be at peace. ]
Greed is never satisfied, it feeds on itself, it deludes men to never-never land where cascading desires become limitless. This is the humanity’s tragic trait that Alfred Russel Wallace, a British naturalist and biologist, had once noted with great concern: his perception is well known as the Wallace Syndrome.
History proves: nothing survives except good deeds. All of us are lucky to have opportunities to do good for the benefit of all. The beauty and majesty of all our institutions last only to the extent the good work is done by them. None should forget that the world itself is the subject-matter of a continuing debate between Time and Decay. Ho perceptively Shakespeare said: to quote —
When I consider every thing that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment,
That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment;….
Then the conceit of this inconstant stay
Sets you most rich in youth before my sight,
Where wasteful Time debateth with Decay,
To change your day of youth to sullied night;…..
(a) In England: we know that the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and the Act of settlement, of 1701, led to the establishment of the supremacy of parliament. One of its committees evolved into the council of ministers from which grew another body, tinier in form but mightier in power, called ‘cabinet’. The institution of ‘Crown’ emerged to make the king and the ministers close friends and strong collaborators. The King was glad as the executive government’s activism on the globe enriched the country, and made the Crown glamorous by becoming a great imperial power. This domination by the executive government was initially resisted by parliament, but it got reconciled to its destiny under the new despotism of the cabinet. After the World War II, the grandeur of parliament further diminished when the executive government virtually sold itself to the USA where the corporations rule. The decline of parliament began with the fast onset of neoliberalism. Thatcher and Reagan were influenced by the ideas of Milton Friedman and Feldstein, and many others who shared the ideas that worked for the dominance of the market forces. Their thesis pleaded for the roll back of the activities of the State. Monetarist and supply-side polices came to dominate. The technocratic structure subjugated other institutions. All these increased the might of the international high finance, and the MNCs, and also of the ‘high net worth’ individuals. The idea of ‘social justice’ and ‘equality’ lost relevance. This process began in the forties, and acquired great momentum after the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom’ and a year later, of Ronald Reagan as president of the United States. Bertrand Russell had highlighted, in his letter to Maurice Amos, the decline of Parliament by adopting the principle of the proportionality with reference to the pages of a book on the British constitutional law!
“I am very much interested in what you say about your book on the British Constitution, and especially amused that you had written 46,000 out of the 50,000 requisite words before you reached Parliament. Parliament has become a somewhat unimportant body. In the 19th century the Prime Ministers resigned when defeated in parliament until Gladstone altered the practice; now by the threat of dissolution they terrorize Parliament.”
(b) In India: Writing about our Parliament in the early years of our Constitution, Granville Austin observes :
“Parliament has ‘immense powers’ and ‘functions within the bounds of a written Constitution’ …. True at any time in theory, the assertion’s accuracy as regards Parliament’s service to the seamless web depended upon the time it was made. The first Speaker, G. V. Mavalankar, built Parliament ‘as an independent institution not to be seen as an extension of government or of party’ — ideals running counter to a number of the nation’s cultural traits. Nehru supported him. .”
Nehru was assertive and dominant, but he respected our Constitution, and allowed Parliament to have its way as constitutionally conceived. Nehru wrote (Chapter193 of Glimpses of World History) on August 6, 1933 about the circumstances which wrought Parliament’s decline. He even quoted Harold J. Laski: “Our government has become an executive dictatorship tempered by fear of Parliamentary revolt.” Even other members of our Constituent Assembly carried this worry in their mind.