WEEKEND LIGHTER: SAVING ECONOMICS FROM ECONOMISTS
Saving Economics from Economists
(October 14/15, 2017)
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Saving Economics from Economists*
This refers to your editorial “A Nobel ‘nudge’’’(Business Standard, October 10). Nobel prize to Richard Thaler is, in a way, an effort to bring back the focus of economic research to its relevance to the masses. The recent times had brought economics and economists to disrepute because of a temporary diversion to jargon and an undeclared competition among economists on who will speak last on inflation, GDP and economic growth. The ultimate objective of economic research which is bringing maximum benefit to maximum people with available resources was somehow forgotten.
The book “Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness” which Thaler co-authored with Professor Cass Sunstein published in 2008 will now attract more readers, hopefully. Prize money may not mean much to Thaler, at this age (He is 72). But the audience he will attract in the coming years will become conduits for transmission of changes in policy, beneficial to society.
Some say, his theories on behavioral economics are already being experimented in India. Notwithstanding the veracity of this line of thinking, thanks to the revolution in communication, ideas are traveling faster than light these days. If the good work done by Thaler now being ‘showcased’ by Swedish Academy influences government policy and society’s approach to wealth and its distribution Richard Thaler will get a place in world history much higher than those occupied by many of his predecessors in the field he is active now.
M G Warrier, Mumbai
*Submitted version of letter published in Business Standard on October 11, 2017
The way of work*
The way of work is difficult to understand, says Krishna. Even the wise are confused in interpreting what is the right course of action, karma, as against wrong action, vikarma, and also what is inaction, akarma.
Generally karma is understood as sastra-approved works and this applies to worldly as well as religious activities, pointed out Srimati Rukmini Ramamurthy in a discourse. Though traditionally upheld through the ages, it is subject to change depending on the place, situation and people. This has led to uncertainties and doubts about its true nature. Vikarma is action that has to be avoided. Akarma is broadly translated as inaction, but its significance is in the work that is done without ahamkara.
So Krishna advises that one should not quit work, but give up ahamkara. Ahamkara is a Vedantic truth that refers to the “I consciousness” in beings and is not to be confused with the sense of pride or ownership over material possessions. Generally the “I consciousness” which has to identify itself with the atma tends to superimpose itself on the anatma, that is the sthula and sukshma sariras. This creates in one the sense of doer-ship and also prompts the desire to work and attain something in life.
Viveka is the sense of discrimination in beings when one is able to distance oneself with the body and abide in the self. The wise work in a detached spirit and are relaxed in their minds. Aligned in their thought, word and deed, their acts are not motivated by desire; in fact they act with a sense of duty with their inner awareness on God. So their internal tranquillity is maintained by their detached attitude to whatever they do though they remain committed to it.
So here akarma means a state where one transcends the bonds of karma that would otherwise bind one. It is not abstaining from work.
*Source: Faith column, The Hindu, October 7, 2017
Worldly Ego (Ahamkåra)*
Brahmalina Swami Ramsukhdas
When the aim of a person is directed towards unreality (Asat) viz., to gain pleasure and accumulation of worldly goods, then his ego is, ëI am worldlyí and it is called, worldly ego. When such a feeling gets intensified, a person always remains worldly. He certainly remains worldly while performing worldly actions and while practising spiritual discipline also he still remains worldly. Whatever devotional efforts he makes, are directed towards fulfilment of his desires and that spiritual practice intensifies his pride of being an aspirant. Pride is the gross form of ego. When a man is too much inclined towards pleasures and prosperity, this inclination leads him to selfishness and pride which are the demoniac traits. The Gitå says : (Gitå XVI. 18); ìThey are bloated by egoism, power, pride, desire and anger, (Gitå XVII. 5); They are imbued with hypocrisy and egoismí. Further, according to Gitå : ( XVI. 16); ìMisled by ego, which is demoniac nature, such persons sink into a filthy hell.î If it is assumed that on achieving enlightenment or salvation (Mukti), the demoniacal form of ego is overcome and the self-oriented (identified) ego is not affected, that argument is not correct. The reason is that by the wiping out of the demoniacal ego, one escapes hell, but it does not lead to salvation. The latter can only be achieved by destruction of the self-induced ego. The demoniac ego, is a subtle form of essential self-ego, which stays within every 11 living being. Keeping in mind this identified ego, Lord Krishna says to Arjuna : (Gitå XVIII. 58); ìBy fixing your mind on Me, you will by My favour, conquer all difficulties, but if your ego does not let you listen to Me, then you will be lostî. Again it is said : (Gitå XVIII. 59); ìIf your ego forces you to say that ëI will not fightí, it will be futile, for nature will compel you to fight.î The ego is created by ignorance. Yoga Dar‹ana says : (II. 3-4); Knowledge destroys ignorance, when no ignorance is left, how can ego persist? If knowledge does not remove ignorance, then that is not knowledge. That is superficial learning, but not true and experiential knowledge. If identified ego is not destroyed, then as a tree grows from a seed, so this ego with the contact of materials, people, actions and conditions etc., will become demoniacal ego. In the Gitå, where the means of knowledge have been discussed, Lord Krishna refers to the elimination of ego : ( XIII. 8). When an aspirant discards the ego, then on his salvation, how can it persist? No ego is left and there is complete destruction of the self-oriented (Tådåtmyarµupa) ego. Lord Krishna has explained further, the destruction of the self centred ego as follows: In Karmayoga, by the expression : (Gitå II. 71) Freedom from the sense of mineness and egoism. In Jnånayoga: (Gitå XVIII. 53); ìOne who gives up egoism, and the notion of mineness.î In Bhaktiyoga: (Gitå XII. 13)., it says, ‘One is free from mineness and egoism.’ All these expressions refer to the elimination of ego.
* Source: Article published in September 2017 issue of “Kalyan-Kalpatharu”, a magazine published by Geetha Press, Gorakhpur