On Wealth and Poverty- lessons from the sacred texts of India

We live in a world full of inequalities. There are all kinds of inequalities, such as economic, political, gender etc. Some claim that the problem is too much greed. Others suggest that human nature is simply flawed. Yet, others claim that the system is corrupted. The recent financial crisis saw a backlash of the many against the few. The media illustrated the events by capturing the famous slogan ‘99% vs 1%’, that is, the few that own the world’s wealth vs the masses. So how to approach such issues? What is the right thing to do? The sacred texts of Indian traditions might have some insight on the topic.

Sri Isopanisad is a compilation of mantras (sacred sounds) that might shed a bit of light on solving the issues of wealth and poverty. The Isopanisad¸ agrees on the idea that humans are flawed, but not in a deterministic way. It claims that we have four defects-(1) we are certain to commit mistakes; (2) we are subject to illusion; (3) we have propensity to cheat others; and (4) our senses are imperfect.[1] However, it proposes a theological principle, which can help us overcome these four defects, and in that way, we can actually make a difference. The Isopanisad claims that all material elements in this universe are God’s property; therefore, one should accept only one’s designated share, or quota.[2] In other words, one can develop a vision of the world/universe through which, one sees all objects, both animate and inanimate, as belonging to the Divine, rather than to oneself. In this way, we can easily overcome the four defects of our lower natures.

As far as wealth and poverty are concerned, we can easily recognise the deep-rooted implications that come with the Isopanisadic vision of the world. Let us start with our bodies. If we accept that these bodies are God’s property, we first have to start taking better care of them. Next, all other embodied beings, be they humans or animals, are God’s property; therefore, they become something to be taken care of, as well. This would mean that we should stop our slaughtering of innocent animals for the sake of our senses. Furthermore, if money is not mine, but belongs to God, then I would have to somehow be more sharing, because the job I do also belongs to God, so I do not even own the means of acquiring this money. The land, the house, the country, the water, the air, the sun, everything belongs to God, therefore, anyone who gets more than it is required for his/her maintenance, becomes a thief. Ultimately, the message of the Isopanisad is to know the Ultimate Owner, and by having such a vision of the world, we can easily overcome our defects, and also address issues such as greed, that is at the core of economic inequalities.


[1] A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad- Sri Isopanisad- Purport- Mantra 1

[2] A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad- Sri Isopanisad- Mantra 1

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