The Bhagavad Gita says that we are spiritual beings. Our material body is in an antithetical position to our spiritual nature. This has a great deal to do with our economical problems. A problem cannot be solved at the same level of understanding at which it was created. We need another way of looking at our situation, and that other way is given to us by other cultures. We are limited by our own culture, while other cultures see the world in different ways than we do. The Sanskrit language is the language of a spiritual culture far back in history. It gives us a way of looking at our situation which is very different from the way we see our situation ourselves.
What we eat, what we drink, the time of the day that we are active - all of these different influences - act on our consciousness and we develop a particular way of seeing and understanding. A gift economy is indicative of sattva (goodness). In order for one to even appreciate participating in a gift economy, there must be some measure of sattva. Our modern world is characterized by rajas (passion) and tamas (darkness). Rajas means more. How much is enough? There is no limit. Tamas is the economics of exploitation.
Indigenous people all practiced gift economy. We have moved from a gift economy (sattva) to an exchange economy (rajas) and finally to an economy of exploitation (tamas). The economy is trying to maximize efficiency, but efficiency for whom? Productivity goes up, but not wages. The present economy is constructed by people with the consciousness of rajas and tamas and set up in such a way that they can benefit from the labor of others without people even being aware of it. This is called the capitalist system. There is a certain fraction of people, perhaps 1%, who know. Their wealth increases at the same time as the income of the 99% stays stagnant.
This consciousness is prevalent only in sattva. In sattva, we have an egalitarian way of seeing things. In rajas, we see people as different. In tamas, we see other people simply as someone to exploit. Right now, there is a predominance of rajas and tamas in our society. Therefore, most people don't have much choice other than to figure out how to simply make a go of it in this system, although they may not like it. There are not many alternatives for them.
If we want an economy that works for everyone, we have to lift up the consciousness. If a high fraction of the people who participate in the economy lift up their consciousness then we can shift the balance towards more sattva. There are several ways to do that. One way is to change what we eat. Flesh is tamas. Switching to a vegetarian diet will influence us as individuals and also help us save the environment. Other ways are to practice yoga and mantras.
Gandhi said, be the change that you wish to see. We each have a role to play and a responsibility to make the difference. What is going to make the difference is us. These shifts are already beginning to take place today.
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