May 13, 2023 | Acharya Prashant
Questioner (Q): The richest of our society are the ones responsible for the most consumption and they take all the resources to themselves. Though they might be ethically and legally justified in doing so, at the end of the day, the large heaps of wealth make no sense to me, especially when I see the tremendous poverty rampant in our society. So, do you think that, just as there is the concept of minimum wage, there should be a concept of maximum wealth also?
Acharya Prashant (AP): Just as it is wonderful to have a minimum wage, the corresponding idea should not be maximum wage but proportional resources. Now we will go into that—proportional resources. When you say maximum wage, what you mean is that there ought to be an upper limit on how much wealth a single individual can own, right? No, there can be a better idea: the idea is proportional resources—resources proportional to what? Proportional to the importance of the work that you are doing. This would be the Vedantic view on that. This would be the right, deep, and informed view on wealth distribution or income distribution.
You see, who am I? Who are you? And what do we, therefore, want? We are conscious beings, right? Obviously. So, we are consciousness, and what do we want? We want this consciousness to rise, to be higher, to be better, and to be more free. If that’s what we want, what do we require? We require resources, because for whatever you want to do as an embodied being, you require resources of all kinds. And that’s the only proper use of resources: elevation of human consciousness. There is no other right use of resources. Resources are not meant to just feed you, fatten you, comfort you, keep you secure. No. That’s an improper, and if not improper, then a very secondary use of resources.
The right use of money or any other kind of resource is, it has to be used towards the elevation of one’s consciousness. And when I say one’s consciousness, I mean the entire mankind. So, how much money should you have? It should be proportional to your intention to use it in the right direction. If you are using your money towards the elevation of your consciousness and social consciousness and global consciousness, if you are using it towards the right reasons, if your objectives are correct and pure, then there should be no upper limit to the funds that should flow to you. Whereas, if you intend to consume wealth just for personal gratiation, then you do not deserve even a penny. Maybe all that you deserve is the minimum wage, lower limit.
Yes, there ought to be a lower limit, too, how much a person gets, because the body, just for its basic sustenance, requires certain resources. So, that much everybody is entitled to, and that much should be assured to everybody. So, the lower limit should definitely be there, but beyond the lower limit, the law of proportional entitlement should come into play. Now, how to do that? That’s another question. Even if it is difficult to devise a method or a formula, we have to try because it’s a very worthy goal.
Once resources, money, power, reach, start coming to the right people, the face of this Earth will change in no time. The entire problem today is that very, very undeserving people are hoarding billions and trillions of dollars, whereas the right causes are suffering for want of resources. This discrepancy has to be corrected. And there is no other way to correct it than by applying the law of proportional entitlement. The question has to be: if you have money, what are you going to use it for? That has to be the question.
Private property is just not a private concern, because the way one uses money affects the society in a huge way. So, it is not a personal matter at all. In fact, even the fact of the name of the person who has money affects the society in a big way. What if you know that a scoundrel is a greatly rich person? What impact does that have on everybody who has this knowledge? A youngster knows that a rascal has a billion dollars—what are you now pushing that youngster to become? Another rascal, no? So, money is not just a private matter. And remember, money can move a lot. Money has a lot of power; it moves things. If money is in the wrong hands, you know the kind of things it will move and the direction it will move.
Therefore, the very concept of private property has to be re-examined in the light of consciousness, in the light of the basic human requirement. When we do not know who we are, then we come up with such shallow concepts like private property. But once you know that you are not just the body but actually a suffering consciousness within, then you know that consciousness has no direct use for money. The body may have some use for money—well, you can eat food, you can buy clothes, you can buy a house, all that is mostly for the body—but it’s not money that the consciousness requires; it requires something else. It requires understanding, and it requires liberation. Money cannot get you that, not directly at least. Therefore, money has to be used as a right resource, not as an end but as a medium. The end is liberation. If liberation is the end, and if we all need to be liberated, then money has to go places that are aiding, facilitating liberation.
Now, in the light of this discussion, look at the world, look at the points that command money, look at the ideologies that govern money; the corporations that are the richest, the individuals with the highest net worths, think of them and ask yourself: if these are the people, and the powers, and the governments, and the organizations that are ruling money, what are they doing to mankind with the money that they are ruling?—because money is a great power in the material sense. Who should have that power? A dimwit who does not know whether he is speaking from his brain, or his hormones, his intellect, his consciousness, or just his animal instincts? Should this kind of a person be allowed to have tremendous money?
Remember, it’s not his personal matter. We need to reiterate that. It’s not his personal matter; it affects all of us. With that money he will definitely do things that push all of us deeper into darkness and ignorance, so why should he be allowed to have that much money? Only Truth should have power.
Q: So, money possesses a lot of power, and the way the rich use money makes a blueprint in the minds of the youth regarding what they would do if they were rich, and you are saying that this will give a wrong direction to their lives to some extent.
AP: You see, you have billions of dollars, and you very well know that if you wipe out a jungle, you will get access to a lot of mineral resources that lie in the soil beneath the trees. With your billions, you can buy out a government and then you can buy out that jungle as well and wipe it clean from existence. Now, that’s what money can do. That’s what money can do, and that’s what money is doing. So, should money be allowed to stay with those whose levels of consciousness are pretty dim?
Q: Westerners are showing an increasing interest towards Indian culture that has its roots in spirituality. But when it comes to Indian culture, a lot of it has been restricted to just rituals and ceremonies; the holy places have become mere centers of tourism for travel and enjoyment purposes, and nobody talks about spirituality itself. What are your views on this?
AP: No, that’s what. Unless you bring out the real spirit of religion—that is spirituality enshrined in Vedanta—why will people listen to you? The West over the last few decades has leaned towards spirituality because it is picking up only the pure spiritual part of religion. When Westerners come to India, do they come to participate in our hollow rituals? No, they don’t. When you talk of the Indic impact on the West, what is it that the West values and is influenced by? It is Advaita, non-duality. Nothing else.
The West, the intellectuals, don’t give a damn about all the superstitions and beliefs and nonsense that we carry in the name of Hindu religion; they are not bothered. To the extent the West respects Hindu religion, it is because of Vedanta; all else they are not interested in, all else they know as hogwash. They will not come here to enjoy crackers with you; they will not come here to participate in our superstitions and senseless beliefs. And that’s exactly what the young generation is also saying; it is saying, “We will not participate in the old nonsense.” But if you can bring Vedanta to them, they will be interested, just as the Westerners are interested.
And that’s the only way the Hindu religion is going to move ahead. If the Sanātana stream has to have a future, that future lies in Vedanta. All else will very soon become the debris of time. Science and critical thinking will not allow our useless beliefs and traditions to carry on. The new generation has effectively already jettisoned religion, because the form of religion that has been displayed to them is actually worthy of being jettisoned.
Most young people today do not want to have anything to do with religion—eight out of ten, I would say, or nine out of ten—and the remaining ones who still talk of religion are the ones who believe in archaic values and are with religion for the sake of personal aggrandizement; the ones who chant slogans on the streets and raise a big hue and cry and troll people in the name of religion.
So, you are seeing these two parallel trends: one, the big majority of the young population is clearly weaning away, and the ones who are remaining with religion are remaining as bigots, deluded zealots who know nothing of religion and yet keep shouting religious slogans in a belligerent way. For them, religion is something that you feed to your ego so that it becomes bigger.
The only way, therefore, to keep youngsters in the religious fold is by introducing Vedanta to them. And that is not about keeping Vedanta alive; that’s about keeping those youngsters alive. Every single conscious being needs Vedanta. You are not even a proper human being if nobody has brought to you even the idea that the mind is a conditioned thing and there is freedom beyond the mind. If you do not know of your own conditioning, then you are an animal driven by just the biological instincts and desires.
So, all youngsters, not only Indian or only Hindu, all youngsters need Vedanta. And a great mission is needed; a great demonstration of collective energy is needed.
Q: I had a followup question on the distribution of income and resources. So, there is this social impossibility theorem that says that no two people in the society can agree on how to distribute resources, and somehow we have come up with a mechanism in which the resources go to their highest use or, in other words, where the profit is maximum. So, this seems like an amazing idea—that resources should be distributed according to the capability of raising consciousness in the society—but how can we start thinking about a formula which will incentivise people to distribute resources in such a manner? You also said that money is powerful because it has the power to generate prosperity. So, if I start giving people money to start raising the consciousness in the society, will money remain powerful? Probably not, right?
AP: That’s true, money will lose a lot of its charm. But till it is money that carries charm, you need to use money and its accompanying charm to drive people towards the right place. People are driven by money, right? Even if you want to drive them away from money, you will need to use money, because right now it’s only money that moves them.
See, money is a figure conveying value, right? When you say something costs a hundred rupees, it is a declaration of value. Now, value for whom? There is a valuer behind the value, right? The valuer is a madman currently; the valuer does not know what should be worth rupees hundred and what should be worth rupees crore. So, therefore, that which is worthless is carrying a tag of one point five lakhs, and that which is actually worth billions finds no takers, is not being sold even for five rupees.
So, that’s the thing that happens when consciousness is not awakened. When you do not know who you are, and therefore what is it that you should value in life, all kinds of nonsensical things you will buy at high prices.
So, it’s not that money itself will evaporate in an awakened society; money will still remain, but money will value the right things. The right things will carry the right tag. So, the entire economic structure will change; the deserving industries will come up and flourish, and a lot of the existing industries will simply vanish because there will be nobody to value them. The cosmetics industry, for example; the animal flesh industry, for example—they will be obliterated. Nobody would want to buy animal flesh even if you sell it at rupees ten/kg, because now you know it is not nearly valueless but actually harmful. And great new industries will come up.
It’s not as if in a realized world economic activity will stop. No, economic activity of an awakened kind will happen. Economics will still be there, entrepreneurs will still be there, trades will still happen, schools will be there, hospitals will be there, colleges will be there, industries will be there, probably even armies will be there, but all from a different center. The center would have changed. In everything you would be considering, “How is it helping me internally? I will buy this thing, it’s available in the market—is it really going to help me? If it’s going to help me, then I will spend as much as possible. And if it’s not going to help me, I will not even take it for free.” So, we are talking of a new kind of economic order.
See, think of a really mad man, think of the kind of price he is prepared to pay for narcotic substances; just for a little cocaine he is ready to pay a fortune. That’s what. When somebody pays a lakh rupees for a few grams of cocaine, or even less than that, then you say this person is mad, he is an addict, right?
Now, extend this example. Is that not what all of us are doing, on Amazon, in our shopping malls, everywhere? Now, cocaine is blatantly obvious; it’s declared as something harmful, so it does not require much mental effort to see that this person is valuing the wrong thing. He is spending money at a false place. But think of what is happening, as I said, on the online portals and in shopping malls. Where is our money going? What are we doing with our money? Money is chasing all the wrong kinds of things that do us no good. Why? Because we are living in a deluded, dreaming, dimwitted society. That’s what needs to change. And to change it, currently, money is needed.
Q: So, which comes first here, the hen or the egg? Does the money come first, and then…
AP: You have to start from where you are, no? You have to speak the language of the patient, even if you want to teach him another language. You have to start from how things stand at this moment.
Q: One last question. Do you have a Guru? And if yes, who is he?
AP: How will I survive if I don’t have a Guru? How will I speak if I don’t have a Guru? It is the Guru who talks through me.
Q: I mean a living Guru.
AP: Only the Guru is living. I said I was dead long back.
Q: Would you like to tell us who he is?
AP: The one who is talking.
Q: You are hiding!
AP: It’s so obvious you cannot see it! There’s nothing hidden here.
One could call him the best contemporary representative of Advait Vedanta. Or one could simply call him a teacher beyond any tradition. Equally, one can see an abundance of compassion, love and reverence in his being. But the most appropriate way to know him would be through his work. Know More