Friday, November 21, 2008

Spiritual Upliftment vs. Economic Betterment

Which of these is the higher goal? This was the discussion between my mother and I, a few days ago. While the discussion started off with this we discussed couple of aspects of both goals. Our discussion was more of the nature of an enquiry rather than of a debate. Both of us have almost similar thoughts on a lot of things. Here are some points that came out from that discussion -

At an individual level -

We agreed on this. At an individual level, for ordinary people, its better to be grounded in reality and focus on improving financial security for self and family, first, and take up spiritual pursuits later. However, assuming a spiritual bent of mind does not have to wait for the financial security and can go hand in hand. In fact, in some cases that we came across as Reiki Masters, the spiritual bent of mind helped people get clarity of thought and aided in building up the financial security. Even when Swami Vivekananda was going to take up Sanyas, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa is said to have asked him to provide for his parents and fulfill his worldly responsibilities. This also ties to another potential topic of future blog posts from me - swa-artha vs. swa-dharma .

At society level -

In some societies there is still a lot of economic downtroddeness. There are people who don't have access to proper economic opportunities. There are needy out there. These needy are not just poor people (sometimes, the so called 'poor', at least in India, have some of the best opportunities), it is also such people who might be part of non-poor families, mostly women, who might be looking out for opportunities for financial independence, for their own compelling reasons. It might also be such teens who are caught in the age old career options of medicine and engineering and are frustrated by being in an education area that does not interest them (I often question myself, how many Viswanathan Anand's, Sachin Tendulkar's and Siddhartha Basu's would we have lost to this 2-career-option-syndrome). It might also be various other cases. Unless these people receive economic opportunities, to fulfill their immediate needs, how can they take up spiritual pursuits. If there are a lot of such needy people in a society, at a society level, the higher goal should be Economic Betterment. This also puts a spiritual responsibility on corporate citizens, to provide such economic opportunities to the needy. This does not have to mean philanthrophy but might mean social entreprenuership. I am sensing another potential blog post in this - social entreprenuership and big business - I see that social entreprenuership can also be big business.
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