Hindu Philosophy of Prosperity and Sustanability: Swami Vigyananand



The Philosophy and inspiration for the World Hindu Economic Forum (WHEF) is Dharmasya MoolamArthah.” Kautilya, one of Bharat’ greatest political and economic realist, propounded a theory regarding the sustainability of an entire human civilization, sayingDharmasya Moolam Arthah which translates as “Economic prosperity is the basis to sustain civilization.” The greatest civilizations in history have all been strengthened by surplus wealth which has been created through economic resources.  This dynamic continues to be applicable in the modern world where a nation’s strength and prominence in world affairs is directly proportional to its economic strength.  This dynamic is equally true for the sustainability of the global Hindu civilization. The global Hindu community comprises sixteen percent of the global population yet its economic strength is limited to a dismal five percent of the global economy. This apparent gap has resulted in the struggles faced by many different parts of the Hindu community in recent times.

In the aftermath of the war in the Hindu epic Mahabharat, the newly crowned king Yudhistir visited the legendary warrior Bhisma Pitamah to learn the art of good governance and conduct. Bhisma in his discourse to the new king, described the crucial role that wealth plays in the successful functioning of a state.   Bhishma said “Arthe Sarve Samarambhah” which means that “All the work begins with wealth”. In other words any activity whether it is initiated by a Government entity or by private individuals requires wealth in the form of capital. A Government needs funds to fuel its development activities, whereas an individual businessman needs capital to start an enterprise.  Bhishma further states that “Arthen hi Vihinasya Purushasya Alpamedhasah.  Vichchhidayante Kriyah Sarva” which translates as “A man without means loses his intelligence leading to a disorientation of his actions.”  This saying is equally true in case of the economic policy implemented by nation-states.  In the modern world there are examples of unnecessary trade barriers being imposed by a nation struck with economic hardship as a way to alleviate its worsening economic condition. If the erosion of a nation’s wealth can lead to a disorienting action, it is not far-fetched to imagine what a nation’s economic policy when it is deprived of its wealth.  Further stressing the importance of wealth generation for a state, Bhishma asks how a weak State can have wealth.  Without wealth how can the State maintain an army?  Without an army how will a state be protected?  From these last lines of questions, it is clear that wealth is crucial for maintaining and sustaining a nation.

The Hindu epic Mahabharat is abound with pearls of wisdom for both statesmen and other decision makers to conduct their affairs in a manner which will lead to the welfare of all of the nation’s citizens. A shloka in the Vanparva epic  “Navo Na Santi Senaya Bahavyas tarayituam Yatha. Vanijamupdhatam Cha Kathm asmdwidhash charet. This translates to “State should not harm the business and business person”.  It advises the state to take care of its entrepreneurs by preventing any action which might be detrimental to the development of business and other entrepreneurial activity.  This line clearly illustrates the enterprise friendly mentality prevalent in that period and the importance accorded to people engaged in generating wealth.  Another related reference is observed in the Adiparva section which says that Vartayam Samshritstat Loko ayam Sukhmedhtewhich translates as “Promoters of business are always prosperous.”  This last notion should particularly be stressed to policy makers.

The epic of the Mahabharat is not only related to broad and generic topics but also provides minute details on various policy matters that are relevant today.  One example is a discussion on the rate of interest of the loan to be given to farmers. There is shloka in the section Adiparvawhich says thatPratekam Cha Shatam Vridhya Dadasyu Runam Anugraham which advises that a farmer should be given a loan on the annual interest of one percent. Similarly another shloka says “Utapattiam Danvrittiam Cha Shilpam Samprekshya Chaskrut. Shilpam Prati Karanevam Shilpinah Prati Karyet” which stresses that the cost of production, demand for the product, and type of technology should be considered carefully when determining taxes should be imposed on the entrepreneur’s efforts. Another discussion on taxation can be found in this shlokaVikrayam Krayadhawanam Bhaktam Cha Saprichchhadam, Yogkshemam Cha Samprekshya Vanijam Karyet Karan” which means that taxes should be imposed taking into the account and considering factors such as-sale and purchase, cost of the material, cost of transportation, salary of the staff, other expenditure including business man’s own survival.  The reason for taxation is also beautifully explained with a metaphor which is “Taxation is like the moisture of the earth sucked up by the sun, to be returned to the earth as fertilizing rain”.  At the same it cautions the state with an advice on over taxation with this shloka “Sa Shadbhagmapi Prags tasam eva abhiguptye which means that the state should not take more than 16 percent from the income of the citizen.  This discussion of tax policy is certainly to present day tax policy and should be actively promoted to policy makers, journalists, and academics alike.

This brief look at the lessons contained in the great Hindu epic Mahabharat for the viable sustenance of civilizations has profound implications for the future of the global Hindu society.  First it serves as an example that within the great traditions of Hindu Dharma there are many sources of knowledge on a variety of important and contemporary issues that correspond to the everyday concerns of Hindus.  Secondly the importance of wealth creation in regards to not only the survival of a civilization, but also its ability to flourish.  The challenge before the present global Hindu society is whether it can harness the wealth creation abilities of its members in order for the whole of the Hindu civilization to not only improve its global standing but also achieve its rightful place in the contemporary world.  The World Hindu Economic Forum (WHEF) has come into being precisely to achieve this goal.

This article was originally published in WHEF 2013 Bangkok Conference Directory.

Source: WHEForum