October 1 2008

 money heart

“How much money does a man need in order to be happy?”

“Just a little more!” — Nelson Rockefeller

Nowadays the Indian economic ‘miracle’ is all the rage. Just this year alone entrepreneurs are building over 100 new malls in the major cities around the country. A few days ago the newspapers reported that India is making more new millionaires per year than any other country in the world.  India is in a get-more-money fever it has never witnessed before. Lust for money is spreading like meningitis in the minds of India’s citizens and the government is proud of touting its new found wealth and opportunities and its consumer society.

 Like the legendary lemmings, its populace is being urged to pursue a suicidal course — literally.

 lemmings

It is now witnessing its first financial suicides:

Kolkata Telegraph: The stock market crash claimed its first victims when Abhishek Banka, a sub-broker, committed suicide and, unable to bear the loss, his wife Sona threw herself from a highrise.

The bloated body of 22-year-old Abhishek, missing since Wednesday, was today found floating along the bank of the Hooghly.

Six hours later, Sona jumped to her death from her parents’ ninth floor apartment on Russel Street.

Police said Abhishek appeared to have been driven to suicide after suffering losses of Rs 86 lakh in the stock market collapse since the budget. They said the sub-broker with Suresh Kumar Fogla & Associates blamed himself for the losses.” -[end quote] 

And on the land, scores of farmers kill themselves every week. Unable to cope with the changes in the markets they have no control over, many get into overwhelming debt and the meagre earnings from cash crops fails to cover their repayments.

Kolkata Telegraph:

Kadegaon/Tasgaon (Sangli in western Maharashtra), Jan. 30: The scourge of traditional agriculture has spread to new-age crops with at least 86 debt-hit grape farmers killing themselves in Sangli and Solapur districts of western Maharashtra since January 2005.

In Sangli district, 400km from Mumbai, there have been 61 cases of suicide by farmers growing table grapes, a capital-intensive fruit, since 2003.

The suicides were not triggered by one failed crop: they were a result of five years of crop failure; unscrupulous middlemen who have kept the purchase price static at Rs 10 per kg; a prolonged period of rising input costs; and unremunerative prices for the produce.” [end quote]

Monetary despair is not just happening in the countryside either:

Kolkata Telegraph: Aasra, a Mumbai-based suicide prevention NGO, claims to have recorded a 30 per cent increase in 10 years in the number of people who call because they are in a monetary mess and are contemplating suicide. Most of these people are young, ambitious, high spending and impatient to get rich, says Johnson Thomas, director, Aasra. “As the avenues for spending increase, most young Indians have started living beyond their means. This leads to debt, depression and suicide,” says Thomas. [end quote]

 Srila Prabhupada was never enamoured by ‘economic advancement’. He always told us it was an illusion that would end in distress.

In December 1975 Prabhupada was visiting Sananda in Gujarat. On his first morning there he took a walk through the fields in the local district:

[TD1]  December 26th, 1975
At about 7:00 a.m. Prabhupada and his small yatra of devotees took a short morning walk in the countryside. It was a late start by his usual standard, but now that the winter season has set in, the sun is rising later.  Walking down a rough dirt track in the open country we saw that the entire district was flat, fertile, and green. Unfortunately almost every field for miles around was dedicated to growing tobacco.

Prabhupada expressed his amazement at the foolishness of modern economic systems. He explained that people can easily grow whatever they need in their own district, but instead they grow a product they can’t eat. Then they ship it somewhere else at great expense. With the money they receive they buy the very food they could have grown themselves. This system does nothing but make their lives more complicated. And by becoming dependent on just one crop, livelihood is jeopardized because of the fluctuations of world markets which they have no power to influence.

* * *

 In the afternoon the king and many local village leaders came for darsana. They discussed the need to educate the people in spiritual values. Prabhupada again brought up the point that growing cash crops such as tobacco was senseless. He informed them that he was prepared to travel to every village to preach Bhagavad-gita, perform kirtana, and distribute prasadam, if they were willing to organize it.

Right from the beginning of his preaching in America Srila Prabhupada was able to penetrate the illusory glare of its so-called economic advancement and point out that it leads not to happiness but to despair. He lamented that India was intent on following in its footsteps. India’s real asset is a different type of wealth, beyond limit or time:

Bhagavad-gita 4.34-38 — New York, August 17, 1966

 ”India is the land of religion. India is the land of philosophy. India has got many, good many asset of this science of Krsna and science of spiritual knowledge. So anyone who has taken his birth in India, they can fulfill the mission of human life. They have got very good asset. But unfortunately, they have rejected all this asset. They are now enamored by the glamour of material civilization. They are looking to Europe and America and they want this skyscraper building and industry. And in that way they want to be happy now. So…

But actually, that is not the way. That is, rather, misleading. The more we shall advance this material way of life, the more we shall be away from spiritual life. The human, human life, is meant for spiritual realization. Nothing more. We shall be satisfied whatever is supplied by nature, by the order of God. Nature supplies us many things for our maintenance. There are number of grains. There are number of fruits. There is ample supply of milk. So you can satisfy yourself. You can keep your body very healthy, and culture this spiritual knowledge. That is the plan. That is the plan of Krsna. But if we want to possess more, then, er… (sirens extremely loud in background)
So this is another example of punishment. (laughter) We are also punished and they, for whom they are going, they are also punished. So we are all being punished. As we are making progress, as we are violating the law of nature, the law of God, we are being punished in every step. But due to ignorance, we do not know how we are being… We have been accustomed. We have been callous, “Oh, let us be punished. Go on. Go on like this. Go on.” Oh, this is not human life. We must make a solution of this punishment. That is human life. Because I am put into jail, “All right, it is very good. Without working, I am getting three times food. Let me remain in the jail.” Oh, that is not very intelligent question. You see. We must get out of the jail. So this material world is just like a prison house. We must get out of it. We must get our freedom, the absolute freedom, sac-cid-ananda-vigraha [Bs. 5.1], full of knowledge, full of bliss and eternal. That is our mission. So this knowledge we must get. “Knowledge is the solution.” This is the subject matter of our speech today, “Knowledge is the solution.” This is knowledge, that everything belongs, it belongs to Krsna, or God.”

I used to think that Srila Prabhupada had come in the nick of time to save the western world from self-destruction by creating ISKCON. Nowadays I have come to understand that his mission has come in the nick of time to save India. If India loses its soul, there is no hope for the rest of the world either. If India is saved and can restore its spiritual culture, there is always hope for everyone else.

It can be done. Prabhupada once compared India’s spiritual culture to a dead elephant. He said an elephant is worth one lakh rupees alive, and it is worth one lakh dead. Similarly, although there is no more Vedic culture alive in India, it’s carcass is still there, and that is still valuable.

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