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Published on October 25th, 2000 | by


Spiritual Economics from Bhagavad Gita As It Is

This understanding of Spiritual Economics has come to me from more than twenty years of study of the Bhagavad-gita.

The Gita discusses five topics: God, the living beings of this world, material nature, time and karma. Through discussion of these things the Gita brings us fundamental spiritual knowledge which is non-sectarian, that is, it applies to everyone regardless of their religious beliefs. For example, the Gita informs us that the living being is a spirital being who never dies although the body dies. This is true for anyone, be he Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or Jew. The fundamental spiritual truths presented in the Gita inform us how to live in this world in such a way that we can attain the Spiritual Kingdom of God after our death. Part of those instructions are about how to conduct our economic affairs. The following paper explains the scriptural basis of Spiritual Economics.

This paper was originally written for the readership by members of the Hare Krishna Movement. Therefore some of the terminology may be unfamiliar to those who are not fully acquainted with the scriptures Bhagavad-gita or Srimad Bhagavatam. An abridged version for the lay person is in progress. Additionally, I am writing a full-length book of the subject. If you have any comments or questions regarding the Principles or Practice of Spiritual Economics I would be most happy to hear them. Please contact me:


An Introduction to

The Principles and Practice of Spiritual Economics —

An Economic System Based Upon the Teachings of the Bhagavad-gita

by Dhanesvara Dasa


Because of the nature of wealth and what it represents to people, and perhaps because of the confusion surrounding the subject, economics is a subject matter which very few people address either fully or directly, or attempt to understand beyond their own checkbook. Some relate well to and have the ability to acquire money in large or at least sufficient sums, others get by, and others struggle with it throughout their lives. For many people there is a dichotomy surrounding money as well. While they may prefer to engage in more attractive work activity often they are forced to engage in a higher paying activity to pay the rent. Thus they are pulled in two seemingly irreconcilable directions. For those with family responsibilities the rent generally prevails, causing the man or woman to associate with people he would rather not be with, doing things he or she would rather not do. This is one problem which stems from our lack of understanding Spiritual Economics.

There are of course thousands of books with advice on the subject of money and economics and everyone has their own angle on how to get ahead of the game. Money is the focus for most people’s lives because it represents the ability to satisfy one’s desires. Although the title contains the word “economics” this paper is not about money, or how to raise money either directly or through others. Spiritual Economics instead refers to an economic system based upon the Bhagavad-gita and as such offers an economic system for a society established in transcendence. It is certainly not for everyone. Perhaps not even for many devotees at the present time. But it certainly will have its time and will be practiced by those who are the living examples of the Bhagavad-gita. It is for those persons who have achieved the full understanding that Lord Krishna is the Supreme Proprietor or owner of everything, that He is the Supreme Enjoyer of everything, that He is our most dear friend, and that the satisfaction we seek can come only from serving Him without motivation or interruption.

In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna speaks more than thirty verses about economics.1 How many you may have recognized as such is more a matter of consciousness about economics than anything else, but they are nonetheless applicable to our economic activity—if we are to take the Lord’s statements to be explicit in their meaning. Generally if some idea is repeated three times we understand that we should take it as very important. How important then can this message of the Lord be when he says that same thing more than thirty times? The emphasis behooves us to understand it.

It is important to understand that Spiritual Economics refers to more than an economic system, it is a state of consciousness. That state of consciousness is the consciousness of an individual who is living the full tenants of the Bhagavad-gita, and the individual’s practice of Spiritual Economics is the visible hallmark of such.

Material economics promotes a consciousness of “lack” and the need to get. Spiritual Economics promotes a consciousness of completeness (om purnam idam purnam idam) and the joy of giving. Spiritual Economics also delineates the basis of Varnashrama Dharma, and establish the and place of genuinely brahminical men and women in society.

Part I – The Principles of Spiritual Economics

In speaking about Spiritual Economics my purpose is to distinguish it in character and application from traditional or material economics. Spiritual Economics is understood in light of spiritual knowledge, particularly the definitions and understandings of spiritual knowledge as found in Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition of India, and based principally upon the Bhagavad-gita As It Is and the Srimad Bhagavatam translated by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

Spiritual and material economics are to be distinguished by the same differences which characterize the qualities of matter and spirit. To summarize: the spiritual element is personal, eternal, fully cognizant and blissful, complete in every respect without lack of any kind, and is eternally connected with the Supreme Fountainhead of all that be. The material element is impersonal, temporary, existing in a state of ignorance and is without happiness or bliss. It is perceived to be incomplete in itself, due to it’s being separated from the Efficient or Supreme Cause.

All living beings are spiritual in nature and are complete with all spiritual qualities. However, when they are born into the material realm and identify with the material coverings of the material body and mind, that very identification causes them to assume the qualities of the material energy as described above. The material economic system presently used is so arranged as to aid those in material consciousness in their development of the material conception of life.

Economics deals primarily with the production and distribution of goods and services which are required or desired by people in their daily course, and those who are under the spell of material consciousness participate in and act according to the machinations of material economics. In its extreme the grossly materialistic consciousness is stated in the Bhagavad-gita: (16.11-15)

“They believe that to gratify the senses unto the end of life is the prime necessity of human civilization. Thus there is no end to their anxiety. Being bound by hundreds and thousands of desires, by lust and anger, they secure money by illegal means for sense gratification. The demoniac person thinks: ‘So much wealth do I have today, and I will gain more and more according to my schemes. So much is mine now, and it will increase in the future, more and more. He is my enemy and I have killed him, and my other enemy will also be killed. I am the lord of everything, I am the enjoyer, I am perfect, powerful and happy. I am the richest man, surrounded by aristocratic relatives. There is none so powerful and happy as I am. I shall perform sacrifices, I shall give some charity, and thus I shall rejoice.’ In this way, such persons are deluded by ignorance.”

However, when one gets the opportunity to understand his true spiritual nature, and begins to act according the principles of devotional service, he is then acting within the realm of Spiritual Economics. The newfound difference in how a person then lives their life has vast implications as we shall later see. It is important to demonstrate the contrast between material economics and Spiritual Economics, so I will begin with a brief description of material economics as understood through the Srimad Bhagavatam.

The Beginning of Material Economics

In understanding how our present economic situation has come about we turn to the pages of the Srimad Bhagavatam, which explains that the material creation takes place for two reasons: to give the living entities the opportunity to purify their consciousness and return home back to Godhead, and to give those who choose, the opportunity to live an illusion of their own making, enjoying different types of bodies and different varieties of sense enjoyment. In the matter of creation, Lord Brahma, creator of the material universe, had to provide the necessary environment for both of these situations.

“Brahma first created the nescient engagements like self-deception, the sense of death, anger after frustration, the sense of false ownership, and the illusory bodily conception, or forgetfulness of one’s real identity.” SB 3.12.2

Srila Prabhupada’s comments are particularly meaningful to our discussion:

“Unless a living entity forgets his real identity, it is impossible for him to live in the material conditions of life. Therefore the first condition of material existence is forgetfulness of one’s real identity. And by forgetting one’s real identity, one is sure to be afraid of death, although a pure living soul is deathless and birthless. This false identification with material nature is the cause of false ownership of things which are offered by the arrangement of superior control. All material resources are offered to the living entity for his peaceful living and for the discharge of the duties of self-realization in conditioned life. But due to false identification, the conditioned soul becomes entrapped by the sense of false ownership of the property of the Supreme Lord.”

Those living entities who come to this world with the purpose of enjoying falsely take the material body as “I” and everything in connection with the body as “mine.” In attempts to enjoy, history has shown that there is no limit, even to the point of conquering the heavens, as did the demon Hiranyakasipu, declaring himself to be God. Hiranyakasipu is a more notable example of this vain attempt to become the Lord, but beings everywhere in this world engage in similar attempts according to their own power and capacity. Thus there are enjoyers on every level within this world, who perceive themselves to be possessors and controllers—of countries, armies or multinational corporations, or simply their children, pets, or machines. Yet from the highest to the lowest, though the scale may be different, the endeavor is the same—identification with the body and it’s possessions. This is the consciousness of “I and mine.”

Srila Prabhupada comments about the conception of “I and Mine:”

“The two misconceptions of life, namely “I” and “mine,” are verily manifested in two classes of men. In the lower state the conception of “mine” is very prominent, and in the higher state the misconception of “I” is prominent. In the animal state of life the misconception of “mine” is perceivable even in the category of cats and dogs, who fight with one another with the same misconception of “mine.” In the lower stage of human life the same misconception is also prominent in the shape of “It is my body,” “It is my house,” “It is my family,” “It is my caste,” “It is my nation,” “It is my country,” and so on. And in the higher stage of speculative knowledge, the same misconception of “mine” is transformed into “I am,” or “It is all I am,” etc. There are many classes of men comprehending the same misconception of “I” and “mine,” in different colors.”

The conception of ownership is the basis of the “mine” aspect of false ego, and ownership is a word that means different things to different people stemming mainly from differences in culture. As we have quoted Srila Prabhupada above: “there are many classes of men comprehending the same misconception of “I” and “mine,” in different colors.”

Our modern Western conceptions of ownership come to us from Roman thought which held that everything must to have an owner. The Romans didn’t recognize the ownership of God. They thought that everything should have a human owner, and a very select human owner at that. Roman law eventually came to decree that it was possible for a “free” man to own and possess unlimited quantities of anything which he found the means to acquire, including animals, land and other people. These concepts gradually spread around Europe and as the spread of western civilization gradually encompassed the globe, it has carried with it these same conceptions of ownership. As such, it would appear that the whole of the world commonly shares the same ideology of private ownership. While today that may be true, it was not that long ago that things were quite different, and history affords us many examples of cultures which have held a very different concept of ownership.

Cultural Examples of “I AND MINE”

Consider the kinsmen of the African tribe, the Nuer. Their culture held that they must assist one another, “and if one has a surplus of a good thing he must share it with his neighbors. Consequently, no Nuer has a surplus. No Nuer is expected to part with his cattle or household property, but were a man to possess several spears or hoes or other such objects he would inevitably lose the surplus.”2 2

Similarly the ancient Samoans would extend communal sharing to relatives even if not to more distant individuals. From a relative one could demand food, clothing and shelter, and assistance in a feud. Refusal of such a demand brands one as stingy and lacking in human kindness, the virtue most esteemed by the Samoans.

There are many other examples although they are beyond the scope of this paper. For now I simply wish to point out that indigenous cultures around the world, more often than not, held the possession of property in common rather than individually. In their conception the holding of wealth was not so much “mine,” but “ours.” It was not localized, or isolated to a specific individual, but would include a wide range of people, be they blood relatives or not. Their conceptions of ownership were a social arrangement which went beyond individual self interest to provide a sort of social security for every individual. The general agreement to share resources, which obviously would at times result on infringement of the wealth in one’s possession, also acted to insure that no individual would be without what they truly needed, especially the basic necessities of life.

In contrast, the conception of private ownership prevalent in the West also has significant implications on the social functioning of our society, but rather than insuring social security it instead promotes impersonalism and isolation (voidism). Private ownership implies a single individual who is the owner. What he earns is his, and his alone, to do with as he so chooses. In times of plenty and the individual has much to share, the isolation inherent in this social arrangement may not seem so apparent to him. Since they can provide for others people with wealth are not generally lacking for friends, and generally use their wealth in providing for those close to them. However, when times are hard and there isn’t anything to share he may find himself suddenly abandoned. That it is not unusual to see marriages splitting up over the sudden loss of income or change of fortune, or the huge increase in the number of homeless people who are left to fend for themselves is sufficient proof of this.

Because under the conception of private ownership what is yours is not mine, each person is automatically set against every other to compete for limited commodities and resources. While our government has made some arrangements to give most citizens an equal footing by providing for education, job training, etc., for the most part, every individual is left to his own devices to improve his lot in life. Obviously, more capable people, or those with more education, better connections, or greater resources are going to fare better than those less well endowed.

Significantly, and unfortunately, there is no prevailing ethic within our culture which obligates anyone to help his brother. Rather, the prevailing ethic is that the government should take care of the needy, and people are further encouraged to help those less fortunate by some charitable means. Now, as we approach the end of the millenium, the Clinton administration has altered the welfare laws which eliminate so-called “entitlements” for the less fortunate or able. After a maximum of two years on the dole, the government stops providing, and if the individual or family is unable to care for themselves they can then depend only upon private charity, which may not have enough to go around. Thus our “advanced” culture provides less social security for its people than the so-called primitive cultures of yore.

The Characteristics of Material Economics

The model of material economics under which our country presently operates defines each family as an economic unit who functions both as producer and consumer, and the economic success of the country as a whole is achieved when both of those functions are maximized for each individual citizen. This model uses as currency both cash and credit, commodities which are distinct from the economic unit itself. Further, it is assumed that people will be most happy or satisfied when they are able to maximize their level of consumption (which means achieving the utmost limit of sense gratification), that is natural for them to do so, and that they as individuals and the society as a collective whole will both achieve maximum benefit by orienting the workings of the economy to fulfill this assumption. Those who propound this scheme consider people to be nothing more than producing/consuming machines, whose best utility is found in the same, without ascribing any type of personal or spiritual qualities to them which go beyond these functions.

Another of the fundamental assumptions of material economics is the conception that each and every individual can possess and own unlimited amounts of material goods, including the natural resources of the earth, and as proprietor may use or dispose of these resources as they alone deem proper. No consideration is made as to the source of, or responsibility to replace those same resources or to bear the costs of restoration. Indeed, every attempt is made to “externalize” these costs to others who have no interest or gain from the consumption of the resources.

The Implications of Material Economics

The implications of this economic model are several fold. First each individual must necessarily seek something which is outside of the self to find the gratification they naturally desire. This creates an orientation of “getting” within the consciousness of the individual and a conception of “lack.” Due to this conditioning people believe that they can fulfill this lack by “getting,” that getting should be the object of one’s activity, and that its successful accomplishment will bring the satisfaction they seek. Thus we see the American public preoccupied with getting, racing to and from the workplace at break-neck speeds and erecting glittering tabernacles for spending which inflame their desires and artificially increase the demands of the body. Parents now spend more time shopping than they do in interaction with their children.

Because money, in the form of cash or credit, is the currency by which the objects of desire are generally obtained, and because it is inherently different from both the self, and the sense objects it promises, people in general are conditioned, indeed, hostage to, the act of getting money. And it by this very means that a small percentage of the population controls and exploits the vast majority without even their slightest understanding of the fact.

It is widely recognized that within the context of material economics a large number of people will be competing for a finite quantity of goods, and that intense competition will drive many people to crime and corruption in an attempt to attain their desire. This paradigm further leads to the exploitation not only the earth, but to people as well, as both are seen only as a means to an altogether different, and pressingly immediate, end. Further, this conception of private ownership further acts to isolate and separate us from each other as we pursue our “own” self-interest. Against this bleak background people live their lives, and it has brought us to the deplorable state the world is in today. Incredibly, it is within this same context that people are searching for solutions to the problems which this system itself creates.

Contrast this conception to that of the Samoans mentioned above. The Samoans will rarely even feel abandoned and uncared for, let alone actually becoming so. If they are hungry they have the assurance that their neighbor will provide for them. Because at least some of their wealth is shared wealth rather than private wealth (and wealth of the most basic kind at that, i.e., food, shelter and emotional support) it is clear that a member of the ancient Samoan culture would always feel sheltered and protected within his community.

How can we reconcile the nature of the economic system we are functioning under in the West with the values of Vedic culture which Srila Prabhupada has taught? It appears that the Vedic system was somewhat more like that of the Samoans than the United States in 1992, or even 1952. We learn from Vedic culture that the householder would go to his door and call out to anyone who was hungry to come and eat before the householder would have his meal. Are the Western Vaishnava’s doing this? Few. How can we institute Vedic culture if we don’t (or can’t) practice it as we understand it? In my opinion we can not practice it easily in the economic context of Western culture, because the two cultures contain concepts of ownership which are diametrically opposed!

But perhaps we can practice it in a different economic context. That would mean redefining some of our basic concepts and social values. It requires that we abandon the economic system which isolates us from each other, and begin to understand and expand the economic system which Srila Prabhupada introduced to us. It requires that we redefine our relationship with the material things of this world. It requires that we seriously practice Krishna consciousness and come to the point of being able to live the Bhagavad-gita. That is what we call Spiritual Economics—an economic system for a spiritually advanced culture. Are we ready for it? Let’s take a look at what that might be.

The Economics of Bhagavad-gita

Given that the nature of this material world places all of us, at least to some extent, in the context of “I and mine,” we need to understand how to correct this consciousness. In the purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 2.9.3, Srila Prabhupada points the way to resolving the false conception of “I and mine:”

“So one must also give up this misconception of “I” by practicing the way of devotional service or firmly being situated in the transcendental loving service of the Lord…..Shrimad Bhagavatam and, primarily, the Bhagavad-gita are both meant for delivering a person from the misconception of “I” and “mine,” and Srila Vyasadeva transcribed them for the deliverance of the fallen souls. The living entity has to be situated in the transcendental position where there is no more influence of time nor of the material energy. ….The perfect process is to accept Lord Vasudeva as the Supreme in everything, and the best perfection in culturing knowledge is to surrender unto Him because He is the source of everything. Only in that conception can one get rid of the misconception of I and mine.”

Srila Prabhupada created his International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) for the purpose of training those interested in the way of devotional service. The centers of ISKCON are places for people to get help in making such a change of consciousness, and Srila Prabhupada arranged everything in his temples perfectly to this end. We learn from the spiritual master that Lord Krishna is the Supreme Proprietor, the Supreme Enjoyer and our most dear friend and that our real interest and happiness is to be found by engaging in His devotional service.

The spiritual master comes to this world to reclaim the fallen conditioned souls. Thus this training by the spiritual master is meant to qualify us for entry into the Vaikuntha kingdom, which is a realm available only to perfected beings. These qualifications, demonstrated by the character of the denizens of Vaikuntha, are described in the Bhagavatam:

“In the Vaikuntha planets all the residents are similar in form to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They all engage in devotional service to the Lord without desires for sense gratification.” SB 3.15.14.

Srila Prabhupada comments:

“In Vaikunthaloka there is no occupation but the service of the Lord, and this service is not rendered with a purpose. Although every service has a particular result, the devotees never aspire for the fulfillment of their own desires; their desires are fulfilled by rendering transcendental loving service to the Lord.”

Our individual endeavor in going back home, back to Godhead, thus requires that we sooner or later come to this consciousness of unmotivated and uninterrupted service. Our community with devotees should be an aid for us in this regard, and can be when we join together with this purpose in mind.

We learn from Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita how to engage in activities in such a way that they will bring us liberation instead of bondage. There, He tells us how to work (production), what kind of consciousness the work should be performed in, and what to do with the results of our work (distribution). This is in essence economics, Spiritual Economics.

The Lord states [please pay particular attention to the emphasis which I have added]:

“You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty. Be steadfast in yoga, O Arjuna. Perform your duty and abandon all attachment to success or failure. Such evenness of mind is called yoga. Dhananjaya, rid yourself of all fruitive activities by devotional service, and surrender fully to that consciousness. Those who want to enjoy the fruits of their work are misers. A man engaged in devotional service rids himself of both good and bad actions even in this life. Therefore, strive for yoga O Arjuna, which is the art of all work. The wise engaged in devotional service, take refuge in the Lord, and free themselves from the cycle of birth and death by renouncing the fruits of action in the material world. In this way they can attain that state beyond all miseries.” 2:47-51

Perform your prescribed duty, for action is better than inaction. A man cannot even maintain his physical body without work. Work done as a sacrifice for Vishnu has to be performed, otherwise work binds one to this material world. Therefore, O son of Kunti, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain unattached and free from bondage.” 3:8-9

“One is understood to be in full knowledge whose every act is devoid of desire for sense gratification. He is said by sages to be a worker whose fruitive action is burned up by the fire of perfect knowledge. Abandoning all attachment to the results of his activities, ever satisfied and independent, he performs no fruitive action, although engaged in all kinds of undertakings. Such a man of understanding acts with mind and intelligence perfectly controlled, gives up all sense of proprietorship over his possessions and acts only for the bare necessities of life. Thus working, he is not affected by sinful reactions.” 4:19-21

“The steadily devoted soul attains unadulterated peace because he offers the result of all activities to Me; whereas a person who is not in union with the Divine, who is greedy for the fruits of his labor, becomes entangled.” 5:12

“One who is beyond duality and doubt, whose mind is engaged within, who is always busy working for the welfare of all sentient beings, and who is free from all sins, achieves liberation in the Supreme.” 5:25

There are many, many more similar references which may be included, but these serve our present purpose of developing an understanding of Spiritual Economics. In summary, Lord Krishna is instructing us to perform our work, whatever it may be, according to our own nature, and without being attached to the fruits, or results to offer them to the Supreme. Such work is without reaction due to the consciousness behind it which transforms it into devotional service, pure devotional activity which has no reaction. Srila Prabhupada cautions us in the preface of his Bhagavad-gita to accept it as it is; by it’s literal meaning.

By taking the Lord’s words in their literal meaning, an economic system jumps out of the pages of Bhagavad-gita. Let’s take a close look at those instructions and the economic activity they refer to.

A Description of Spiritual Economics

Considering the verses above we note the following:

1. A person must always be engaged in some activity.

[never be attached to not doing your duty, (2.47); Perform your prescribed duty, (3.8); always busy working for the welfare of all sentient beings, (5.25)]. These are instructions for production.

2. The results of our activity do not belong to us.

[you are not entitled to the fruits of action, (2.47); Those who want to enjoy the fruits of their work are misers, (2:49); The wise engaged in devotional service,… free themselves from the cycle of birth and death by renouncing the fruits of action in the material world, (2.51); Abandoning all attachment to the results of his activities, (4:20); gives up all sense of proprietorship over his possessions, (4.21)].

If we take this literally, it means that we give up all claim to the fruits of action as our possessions – even for the purpose of selling or trading them. Where do they go then?

3. The fruits of our actions are to be given freely to others.

[One who is beyond duality and doubt…is always busy working for the welfare of all sentient beings, (5.25)] These are instructions for distribution. Just as in the temple we perform our service without consideration as to who receives the benefit, so it is within Spiritual Economics but in a different setting.

4. Our activities should be performed in the spirit of devotional service, for by working in such consciousness we will be satisfied.

[Work done as a sacrifice for Vishnu has to be performed,…perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, (3.9); The steadily devoted soul attains unadulterated peace because he offers the result of all activities to Me, (5.12)]. These are the instructions for the consciousness of our activity.

5. We should act only for the bare necessities of life.

[Such a man of understanding acts with mind and intelligence perfectly controlled,… acts only for the bare necessities of life. (4.21)]. These instructions regulate the consumption of a society in which life’s necessities are easily had.

All of these verses taken together describe an entire economic system which can lead to our perfection and qualify us to enter into Vaikuntha as described above. Beyond that, the characteristics of Spiritual Economics would have a wide influence over the quality of life on this planet. Let’s see what that might be.

The Characteristics of Spiritual Economics

Just as material economics are based upon the material conceptions of life, Spiritual Economics is based upon spiritual conceptions of life. One of the wonderful qualities of spiritual activities is that there can be no material impediment to them, therefore, they are always available. As such in Spiritual Economics the conception of abundance replaces the concept of scarcity so there will never be problems of lack and scarcity which are so prevalent in the world today.

Under Spiritual Economics the economic unit is not a producing/ consuming machine, but an individual spiritually conscious living being whose satisfaction is not derived from material sense gratification but from devotional service to the Lord. As such, consumption of earthly resources is minimized because more than the minimum is simply not desired or required by the humble Krishna conscious person as it is to fill the inflated ego and greed of the spiritually-starved materialist. Reducing the environmental impact of the human species upon the earth is thereby automatically achieved without any sense of deprivation or complex legislation or policing.

In Spiritual Economics the main feature is that everything is achieved by giving and not by getting. First of all there can be no “getting,” as we understand that Krishna is the supreme proprietor. Without His consent what is our power of getting? However, every living being has something to give, which is their energy in devotional service. Giving finds its perfection in devotional service , which is reciprocated in loving relationships.

This is demonstrated by the fact that Lord Krishna first of all gives to us all that is required for our sustenance—this earth and its elements, the air, sunshine, rain, even our ability, intelligence, and so on. In devotional service we reciprocate with the Lord by giving back to Him those same things transformed, as in food, clothing for the Deity, temples for his worship, and other things created in the spirit of devotional service. This reciprocal service culminates in the highest treasure of all—pure love of God. As this unalloyed devotional service matures, Lord Krishna gives Himself to His devotee and the devotee gives himself to the Lord. This loving exchange is the eternal activity of the spiritually perfected souls who reside in the spiritual world.

Under Spiritual Economics this reciprocation goes on between the participants as well, each engaged in the service of their choice, but giving the results to others freely and accepting in return those things which they require for living.

Life’s real pleasure is giving and not getting, but our present economic structure has made this natural pleasure so difficult to perform that we see ourselves developing into selfish people. So if we consciously reform the economic system in such a way to produce an environment which promotes the pleasure of giving, naturally this will awaken the spiritual values in the heart of men, ultimately finding fulfillment in giving to Krishna, and to all around us.

Just as material economics has a currency, so does Spiritual Economics. But the currency in Spiritual Economics is of a spiritual character. The currency is devotional service. It is not something separate from the economic unit, therefore there is no anxiety in acquiring it. Nor is it at all limited in supply. Quite the contrary it is unlimited. In fact, the more one uses spiritual currency, the more one will have, as demonstrated by Lord Chaitanya and His associates: “Although the members of the Pancha-tattva plundered the storehouse of love of Godhead and ate and distributed its contents, there was no scarcity, for this wonderful storehouse is so complete that as the love is distributed, the supply increases hundreds of times.” Cc, Adi 7.24

The individual economic units are most happy and satisfied when they are able to maximize their level of devotional service. Free from the influence of the deluding potency, maya, it is natural to do so, and they as individuals and society as a collective whole will both achieve maximum benefit by orienting the economy toward this understanding. People can be peaceful and secure when they know that they will be taken care of, and can then focus on giving their service.

Further, since Krishna is the Supreme Proprietor of everything, in Spiritual Economics the participants do not claim proprietorship over anything. Therefore, intense competition to become the biggest enjoyer, artificially increasing lust and envy is eliminated, and all persons who participate in such an economic system can live in cooperation, free from envy, strife, class struggle and political upheaval.

Considering that the main feature of all families who live under one roof is that there is no buying and selling between them, but sharing according to the need of each, then in showing the way of devotional service which includes Spiritual Economics, Srila Prabhupada has made us all one family that can dwell peacefully in one house—a house in which the whole world can live.

In the next section we shall discuss some of the practical aspects of implementing and practicing Spiritual Economics. In conclusion of this section we present a summary of the main features and results of material and Spiritual Economics in the table below. As you look at the two columns consider on which side you want to live your life. You can help to create a functioning Spiritual Economy by giving up envy and greed, and engaging your labor in the service of others in the spirit of devotional service.

A Comparison of Material and Spiritual Economics


Material Economics

Spiritual Economics

Self, currency, and objects of desire are always separate, creating consciousness of scarcity Self, currency and objects of desire are never separated, creates feeling of wholeness
Focus is on self Focus is on others
People are forced to “get” People are free to give
Competition, greed, avarice, graft, crime, and corruption become desirable means for success Requires and promotes cooperation with others; eliminates motive for greed, crime, avarice, etc.
Irresponsibility towards oneself, others and the earth results Encourages responsibility to self and others
Maximum consumption is encouraged Minimum consumption is encouraged
False sense of proprietorship develops; exploitation of the earth’s resources Fosters understanding of custodian/caretaker of nature; no impetus for exploitation
Encourages exploitation and slavery of others; the strong and wealthy exploit the weak and unable Provides no impetus for exploitation of people; Creates a strong social security system for all
Loss of self-respect due to irresponsible and sinful acts involved in getting or keeping money Promotes self-respect through giving of self
Creates unlimited toil and struggle in an effort to accumulate wealth Work and struggle minimized to what is appropriate
Gives the notion that money can solve all problems; also that problems exist outside of the self Helps to understand that problems are opportunities for spiritual growth and development
Isolates and alienates people from each other Establishes community—creates a house in which the whole world can live
Everyone can manipulate the economic system to their advantage at the expense of others; sudras inappropriately become the false leaders of society The brahmanas, as representatives of Vishnu, receive and distribute wealth, thereby minimizing inequitable distribution of wealth
Impersonal currency Personal currency



Part II—The Practice of Spiritual Economics

The implementation of Spiritual Economics would obviously be a great social experiment in an attempt to change the face of the world. However, it is nothing more than putting into practice the principles and precepts which Srila Prabhupada has given to us. That Srila Prabhupada had intended to alter the very course of human destiny on this planet is understood – he told us that “history will record how this movement has saved the world.”

However, our experience in ISKCON over the last twenty years in the United States has been a hard struggle to maintain that which was established in the first twelve years. By complying with the status quo of American culture we have also focused in getting, not giving, and the practice of our philosophy is compromised in the extreme. If we are going to be successful in the task charged to us, we must do it by following Srila Prabhupada’s instruc-tions in serving each other, not by following in the footsteps of the capitalists by trying to exploit each other.

Therefore, I want to encourage my reader as we progress through this next section, to envision how this great social experiment can be successfully accomplished and how it is indeed capable of solving many economic and social problems.

There are two logical outcomes which can be considered when projecting the practice of Spiritual Economics into the future. First, in the long run we can envision the entire world employing the practice of Spiritual Economics. A grand vision, but not one which is likely to be realized soon. Alternatively, a number of people will practice Spiritual Economics while the vast majority of the population continues to cling to the material conception of life and the tools of egoistic development, cash and credit. This later scenario is obviously the transitional phase as well. Especially in the beginning, but also throughout the transition phase (until a significant number of people are practicing Spiritual Economics) there will obviously be unique problems.

In my opinion there exist certain conditions which are necessary to establish the foundation of and foster the development of Spiritual Economics. They are:

1. The implementation of Spiritual Economics begins with its application.

2. The use of cash and credit is eliminated for participants.

3. There must be a minimum number of participants who are spiritually capable people and are highly committed to simple living and the establishment of Spiritual Economics.

4. Genuine brahmanas must be engaged for social guidance and social harmony.

5. A rural setting is required.

6. Decision making should be done by group consensus.

We will discuss each of these points in turn.

1. The implementation of Spiritual Economics begins with its application.

In considering how to implement the practice of Spiritual Economics, it is obvious that an environment will have to be provided. If our pioneering participants’ concerns are to be limited to that of giving the results of their efforts, they must be freed from the task of getting money to pay for mortgages, etc. Therefore it is required that certain benefactors be found, who understanding theses precepts, determine to use some portion of the fortune which Lord Krishna has placed in their charge to provide the setting. This beginning then, is simply the application of the principles of Spiritual Economics—giving in the spirit of devotional service.

This same means was envisioned by Srila Prabhupada for the establishment of Gita Nagari – the city where Bhagavad-gita is lived. In his paper Interpretation of Bhagavad-gita, Srila Prabhupada writes that Gita Nagari should be founded thus:

In order to effect the program of the Gita Nagari, it is necessary that at least twelve gentlemen, picked from the families of suchis and shrimatis should form an association. And with the help of these gentlemen, arrangement has to be made to provide the fund of Gita Nagari with an income of Rs 10,000 per month for the expenses of Gita Nagari.”

2. The use of cash and credit is eliminated for participants.

There are many reasons why we want to avoid the use of, and eventually eliminate the use of cash and credit, which include the full list of undesirable results listed in the table at the end of the first section. The main reason however, is because it’s use binds one to the consciousness of I and mine which is antagonistic to our real interest as we learn from the Bhagavad-gita.

Critics may counter that Srila Prabhupada handled vast sums of money and that it did not have this undesirable effect on him, and that similarly many devotees may also progress spiritually without being hampered by its’ use.

In answer to this charge let me state that the intention here is to establish an economic paradigm based upon spiritual principles of Bhagavad-gita. Certainly there is no material impediment to the advancement of devotional service. But our intent here is to effect a significant sociological change, one which could have a tremendous impact on the whole world, and one which no other group of people in the world can implement besides the devotees! This concept provides us with the tools to lead the world out of their economic and social morass.

Look again at the table which summarizes the effects of both economic systems. The problems listed under the material economics column are the same problems for which all of society is searching for solutions – without finding any. The reason is that these problems are inherent in the way the economics of this country are handled.

These effects are not unexpected for those knowledgeable about the machinations of monetary systems. History has repeatedly shown these same effects when a culture makes use of credit and deliberate inflation. This is why usury (credit) is condemned in the Bible, and why the personality of Kali was given the opportunity to live wherever there is gold (and the gold standard).

Nor are these effects undesirable for those who actually control the money system. They serve their purpose well, transferring wealth from the poor to the rich with great efficiency, without the slightest knowledge of the general mass of people. Anyone who studies the history of money and monetary systems quickly learns of the evils and horrors which this “mechanism of convenience” has enabled the unscrupulous to heap upon an innocent and unsuspecting public. And that such rogues have arranged for the worlds’ governments to become their official agents, thereby giving such cheating a greater legitimacy, makes the situation that much more difficult, almost impossible, for the general populace to understand and correct.

Henry Ford is credited with saying: “It is a good thing that the public does not understand how their money system operates. For if they did, I fear, there would be a revolution before the next morning.” And there is almost always a book in the popular press which heralds the impending woes which will be visited upon us by our irresponsible fiscal activity.

In consideration of the economic and social problems which face our culture, there is a great body of knowledge which gives evidence of a larger problem that results from the use of cash and credit. While a sound fiscal policy of hard currency, and abandonment of the use of credit, and an honest population can solve these problems, the history of the Western world is that there has not been one single government which can avoid the temptation of these legerdemain tricks in an effort of trying to get something from nothing. Not one! And the advancement of Kali yuga only compounds the problem.

Whether we can become pure devotees and go back to Godhead if we use cash and credit is not the question. The question is how we can use our philosophy to its full extent and actually lead society in solving the problems which plague the world. Spiritual Economics is a tool which will allow us to do so.

3. There must be a minimum number of participants who are spiritually capable people and are highly committed to simple living and the establishment of Spiritual Economics.

Because of the disuse of cash and credit the participants in Spiritual Economics must necessarily divest themselves of the consumer lifestyle, with all of it’s even minor demands. In order then to provide for their needs, there must be a minimum number of participants whose activities are oriented toward fulfilling one anothers needs in a spirit of devotional service, much like we do in our ISKCON temples today. These needs must be minimized as far as possible, at least in the beginning to little more than food, shelter and clothing. As the number of participants increases all varieties of goods and services can be added as suits the nature of the participants.

The Defining Conditions of Varnashrama Dharma

We must understand that only those who are satisfied by dint of their spiritual activities can be peaceful under such circumstances, and that only such spiritually capable individuals can pioneer this effort. It should be further understood that this quality of devotional service represents the defining boundary for the participants of Varnashrama Dharma. As we mentioned earlier, it is unlikely that everyone will be able to participate in this degree of renunciation, both from the concepts of the false ego, “I and mine,” as well as from the material artifacts which are its manifestation. The advanced devotees are free from these demands of the false ego and are able to live a life which reflects that fact, and show the way to others. Those who are not advanced show themselves by their attachment to fruitive work to be candid-ates for the social system of Varnashrama Dharma, which together with the practice of Bhakti yoga will bring them to the stage of perfection.

4. Genuine brahmanas are required for social harmony.

By now the question as to how the distribution of goods or services would be effected must have arisen in the readers mind. This is among the tasks of the resident brahmana(s).

The brahmana is the representative of Vishnu, and the result of all acts done in the spirit of devotional service are offered to the Lord through his agency. The brahmana, a purified soul who can see things as they are by dint of being situated in the mode of goodness, is both qualified to receive offerings on the Lord’s behalf, and qualified to equitably distribute these fruits according to their need. Perhaps as the number of participants in Spiritual Economics increases distribution could take place in a more conventional and direct way without the brahmana “middleman.” Time will tell.

The person who fills this function must be a genuine brahmana in fact, fully renounced, maintaining himself in a nearly poverty-stricken condition, and qualified in every other respect. Such a person will be trusted by the whole community to see equitably to everyone’s proper maintenance.

This arrangement establishes the need for qualified brahmanas and significantly, gives them a place in our society.

5. A rural setting is required.

Everything people need for their sustenance can be had from the land. Indeed, everything we use in our daily lives has its origin in the earth. Because in employing the concept of Spiritual Economics we seek to become as independent as possible, land is required. How much, it’s location, and other details are best determined for a specific application.

6. Decision making should be done by group consensus.

Because of the extreme interdependence of this community it is especially important that each and every adult be able to maintain their integrity. Consequently, most decision making should be done on a consensus basis. This process gives any one individual the power to veto a proposal. Because of this wide distribution of power the core group of participants must be selected with a view toward harmony. Additionally, others may be accepted as permanent members of the group, according to the group consensus, after a three to six month trial period. Individuals may also be asked to leave the project, again according to the group consensus.

The introduction and use of consensus decision making would bring an element of personal power into a communal process which heretofore was missing. As a result of this absence of personal power many members have left our ranks, who would perhaps have stayed on. This element could make the difference for many devotees who are looking for a way to come back to a devotional lifestyle, having suffered for years in the distasteful consciousness of getting.

Imagine a World Where Everyone is Giving

Imagine if you will how the world would appear if everyone participated in Spiritual Economics. What a wonderful world it would be!

Incredibly, in the U.S. today more than 80% of the workers do not like their jobs, yet they continue to submit themselves to this slavery because they need the money. What a terrible waste of their lives. Similarly, many, many devotees who would rather be doing devotional service are engaged in work which they don’t like. Why? Because they need the money. With a system of Spiritual Economics no one would have to do a job they didn’t like since everyone gives their service in a voluntary way. And consider how many of those unlikable jobs would be eliminated—accountants, tax-collectors, salesmen, and most of the lawyers—they wouldn’t be needed. Neither would there be any necessity or motive for producing cheap or shoddy goods which quickly find their way to the scrap heap. And no motive for drug pushers, pimps and other undesirables whose activity is to enslave and degrade weak and innocent people.

Of course there are many who would consider this a utopian dream which simply isn’t possible. But the skeptic should know that the concept of Spiritual Economics is not new. Before the advance of Kali yuga, the indigenous cultures of the world all practiced some form of Spiritual Economics—money as currency didn’t come into existence until about 800 B.C., and as mentioned earlier, possessions were generally held more in common than individually. The Inca Empire in particular had nothing which resembled money, and the effect upon the culture was profound:

“The Incaic establishment surely represents one of the most remarkable economic and social structures known to history. An outstanding feature of the system is to be seen in one of its outstanding lacks: it had no money, nor anything corresponding to money. Consider what this means: if you were a subject of the Inca, you would be unable to make any purchase or sale, or to engage in any speculating or investing; you could not shine nor think of shining through ostentation or display; you would have no hope of rising to power by means of wealth; you would have no incentive to thrust, scheme, and grapple in the marketplace, for there would be no marketplace in our sense of the term. Likewise, there would be no banks or brokerage houses, no insurance offices or agents, no salesmen or advertisers, no notaries or civil lawyers, no taxes or tax collectors. However, if you could not put anything aside for your old age, or provide against accident or disease, neither would there be any need to provide against such, since your needs were taken care of at all times.”3

Despite these “lacks” the Inca empire had tremendous wealth; but no one had locks on their doors. They had a brilliant administration; but no graft or corruption. Their two measurements of wealth were land and the family, and although every male had land to provide for his dependents the land was never subjected to private ownership. These people fulfilled their material needs in little more than four months effort and the balance of time was engaged in civic or social activities. This amazing culture lasted for centuries—until the Spanish conquistadors arrived, bringing with them the conception of private ownership, a mentality with which they plundered the tremendous stores of gold of the empire and destroyed the civilization by killing and enslaving the cultured natives who met them with gifts and praise. Mr. Coblentz concludes this section about the Incas by saying:

“…The fact that avarice won the day must not be taken to mean that avarice was a superior civilizing force. The truth is that the invaders, under the goad of the acquisitive complex, had destroyed something precious, which money could neither buy nor replace. The Incas, despite their tragic end, had proved for all time that it is possible for human society, under certain circumstances, to function efficiently and beneficently without an acquisitive spur. And all that the Spaniards proved is that acquisitiveness is capable of destroying everything, including non-acquisitive institutions and ways of life.”

These words echo the Srimad Bhagavatam which long ago warned of the problems which society will face by focusing so much energy on money:

“For human society, constantly thinking of how to earn money and apply it for sense gratification brings about the destruction of everyone’s interests. When one becomes devoid of knowledge and devotional service, he enters into immovable species of life like those of trees [and stones].” SB 4.22.33

And Srila Prabhupada comments:

“Therefore activities directed towards sense gratification are condemned herein. One who is constantly thinking of activities to earn money and gratify the senses is following a path which is suicidal. Factually all human society is following this path. Some way or other, people are determined to earn money or get money by begging, borrowing or stealing and applying that for sense gratification. Such a civilization is the greatest obstacle in the path of self-realization.”

A sane way of life can again become a reality under the command of the Bhagavad-gita if we can live our lives to it’s standard, and in so doing bring this light to the rest of the world—that all people who can give up their attachment to the consciousness of false ownership, and engage in the Lord’s devotional service need no longer be a slave on this earth.

Only the devotees of Lord Krishna have this capability, for it is only the devotees who, having tasted the nectar of devotion, can live peacefully and contented in the Lord’s service.

See the appendix for scriptural verses which support Spiritual Economics.


Some Questions Commonly Asked About Spiritual Economics

1. Who would determine what a person should do?

The individual should determine that. It would be effective for each person to have a group of counselors to help them evaluate what to do and how to make an effective contribution which is satisfying for them.

2. How can we make sure that all of our needs will be met?

Initially, participants will have to be chosen with this in mind, and there may not be a place for everyone. But as the number of participants increases there should be support for those who are interested in producing non-essentials.

3. What is to prevent someone from taking more than they need or abusing the system by not contributing their fair share?

There should be an ongoing indoctrination system which would remind us of the Lord’s instructions in the Bhagavad-gita. Additionally, a counseling system will help us in determining our genuine needs, and supporting each participant to contribute his or her best effort. Also, we may make use of the brahmana to help equitably distribute goods.

This is only a problem initially, later, after the consciousness of giving in the spirit of devotion is established, any individuals’ behavior would not pose any severe threat to the system. Additionally, all else failing, the community that uses consensus decision making may decide to reject the individual from their company. This person could then participate in the Varnashrama system, gradually rectifying his character until he can free himself of the false ego’s demands of I and mine.


In 1988, I had the first realizations about Spiritual Economics and how the application of the principles of Bhagavad-gita would allow the devotees to lead the world out of the slavery of getting and false ownership. Many of the people who I shared the concept with scoffed at the very idea, and interestingly many others with whom I shared the concepts became enthralled by the idea, and pleaded with me to let them know when my book would be available.

Just who will actually take up the practice of Spiritual Economics won’t be limited by a persons manner of dress but by their consciousness. However, I am confident that whether it occurs by design or out of necessity as a result of some economic catastrophe, it will one day be manifest on this earth.

We, the followers of Srila Prabhupada have the opportunity to make the difference. The practice of Spiritual Economics requires the participation of genuinely advanced devotees who can live simply in the happiness of devotional service. I believe that we have many such devotees in our midst right now, and I invite them to come together to demonstrate the practical success of this approach. As of fall 1997 we are in the process of forming a model community to demonstrate these principles in Colorado. Additionally, we are forming an organization, Partners-for-Life, to help with financial support in establishing Spiritual Economics.

This paper is but an overview of Spiritual Economics. These concepts are being assembled in their entirety in a book being written for the popular press. If you have any questions about Spiritual Economics, Partners-for-Life, or the model community please contact me.

Dhanesvara dasa

Vaishnava Community Development

Copyright 1992, 1997 by Don A. Rousse. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Dhanesvara Dasa began reading Srila Prabhupada’s books in 1972 while finishing his Masters Degree in engineering at the University of Florida, and became Srila Prabhupada’s initiated disciple in 1974. He lived at ISKCON’s Gita Nagari farm in 1977, and there developed an interest in the economic solutions to ISKCON’s unique farm lifestyle problems.

In searching for answers to these problems he undertook a study of economics, and particularly monetary systems beginning in 1978. In 1986 he became a registered securities broker and principal, and spent several years selling financial securities and becoming intimately familiar with the workings of finance. It was at this time that the realizations of Spiritual Economics were born.

Dhanesvara Dasa founded and directs Vaishnava Community Development, an organization which helps to establish and promote community by establishing ideology for rural communities based upon Srila Prabhupada’s vision, organizing support groups, forums for discussion, and the first Hare Krishna Directory & Resource Guide.



Verses from Bhagavad-gita Which Support the Concept of Spiritual Economics


2:39 Thus far I have declared to you the analytical knowledge of sankya philosophy. Now listen to the knowledge of yoga whereby one works without fruitive result. O son of Prtha, when you act by such intelligence you can free yourself from the bondage of works.

2:42-45 Men of small knowledge are very much attached to the flowery words of the Vedas, which recommend various fruitive activities for elevation to heavenly planets, resultant good birth, power and so forth. Being desirous of sense gratification and opulent life, they say that there is nothing more than this. (44) In the minds of those who are too attached to sense enjoyment and material opulence, and who are bewildered by such things, the resolute determination of devotional service to the Supreme Lord does not take place. (45) The Vedas deal with the subject of the three modes of material nature. Rise above these modes, O Arjuna. Be transcendental to all of them. Be free from all dualities and from all anxieties for gain and safety, and be established in the Self.

2:47-49 You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty. (48) Be steadfast in yoga, O Arjuna. Perform your duty and abandon all attachment to success or failure. Such evenness of mind is called yoga. (49) Dhananjaya, rid yourself of all fruitive activities by devotional service, and surrender fully to that consciousness. Those who want to enjoy the fruits of their work are misers.

Purport 2:48: … By Krishna consciousness only can one give up the sense of proprietorship. Purport 2:49: One who has actually come to understand one’s constitutional position as the eternal servitor of the Lord gives up all engagements save working in Krishna consciousness.

2:50-51 A man engaged in devotional service rids himself of both good and bad actions even in this life. Therefore strive for yoga of Arjuna, which is the art of all work. (51) The wise engaged in devotional service, take refuge in the Lord, and free themselves from the cycle of birth and death by renouncing the fruits of action in the material world. In this way they can attain that state beyond all miseries.

2:59 The embodied should may be restricted from sense enjoyment, though the taste for sense objects remains. But, ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness.


3:8-9 Perform your prescribed duty, for action is better than inaction. A man cannot even maintain his physical body without work. (9) Work done as a sacrifice for Vishnu has to be performed, otherwise work binds one to this material world. Therefore, O son of Kunti, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain unattached and free from bondage.

3:15-16 Regulated activities are prescribed in the Vedas, and the Vedas are directly manifested from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Consequently the all-pervading transcendence is eternally situated in acts of sacrifice. (16) My dear Arjuna, a man who does not follow this prescribed Vedic system of sacrifice certainly leads a life of sin, for a person delighting only in the senses lives in vain.

3:19 Therefore, without being attached to the fruits of activities, one should act as a matter of duty; for by working without attachment, one attains the Supreme.

3:21 Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.

3:25-27 As the ignorant perform their duties with attachment to results, similarly the learned may also act, but without attachment, for the sake of leading people on the right path. (26) Let not the wise disrupt the minds of the ignorant who are attached to fruitive action. They should not be encouraged to refrain from work, but to engage in work in the spirit of devotion. (27) The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.

3:29-32 Bewildered by the modes of material nature, the ignorant fully engage themselves in material activities and become attached. But the wise should not unsettle them, although these duties are inferior due to the performers’ lack of knowledge. (30) Therefore, O Arjuna, surrendering all your works unto Me, with mind intent on Me, and without desire for gain and free from egoism and lethargy, fight. (31) One who executes his duties according to My injunctions and who follows this teaching faithfully, without envy, becomes free from the bondage of fruitive actions. (32) But those who, out of envy, disregard these teachings and do not practice them regularly, are to be considered bereft of all knowledge, befooled, and doomed to ignorance and bondage.

3:39 Thus, a man’s pure consciousness is covered by his eternal enemy in the form of lust, which is never satisfied and which burns like fire.


4:13 According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me. And although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer, being unchangeable.

4:19-21 One is understood to be in full knowledge whose every act is devoid of desire for sense gratification. He is said by sages to be a worker whose fruitive action is burned up by the fire of perfect knowledge. (20) Abandoning all attachment to the results of his activities, ever satisfied and independent, he performs no fruitive action, although engaged in all kinds of undertakings. (21) Such a man of understanding acts with mind and intelligence perfectly controlled, gives up all sense of proprietorship over his possessions and acts only for the bare necessities of life. Thus working, he is not affected by sinful reactions.

4:23 The work of a man who is unattached to the modes of material nature and who is fully situated in transcendental knowledge merges entirely into transcendence.

4:32-33 All these different types of sacrifice are approved by the Vedas, and all of them are born of different types of work. Knowing them as such, you will become liberated. (33) O chastiser of the enemy, the sacrifice of knowledge is greater than the sacrifice of material possessions. O son of Prtha, after all, the sacrifice of work culminates in transcendental knowledge.


5:3 One who neither hates nor desires the fruits of his activities is known to be always renounced. Such a person, liberated from all dualities, easily overcomes material bondage and is completely liberated, O mighty-armed Arjuna.

5:10 One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results unto the Supreme God, is not affected by sinful action, as the lotus leaf is untouched by water.

5:12 The steadily devoted soul attains unadulterated peace because he offers the result of all activities to Me; whereas a person who is not in union with the Divine, who is greedy for the fruits of his labor, becomes entangled.

5:14 The embodied spirit, master of the city of his body, does not create activities, nor does he induce people to act, nor does he create the fruits of action. All this is enacted by the modes of material nature.

5:25 One who is beyond duality and doubt, whose mind is engaged within, who is always busy working for the welfare of all sentient beings, and who is free from all sins, achieves liberation in the Supreme.

5:29 The sages, knowing Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attain peace from the pangs of material miseries.

6:1-2 The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: One who is unattached to the fruits of his work and who works as he is obligated is in the renounced order of life, and he is the true mystic, not he who lights no fire and performs no work. (2) What is called renunciation you should know to be the same as yoga, or linking oneself with the Supreme, O son of Pandu, for one can never become a yogi unless he renounces the desire for sense gratification.

6:4 A person is said to be elevated in yoga when, having renounced all material desires, he neither acts for sense gratification nor engages in fruitive activities.

6:10 A transcendentalist should always try to concentrate his mind on the Supreme Self; he should live alone in a secluded place and should always carefully control his mind. He should be free from desires and feelings of possessiveness


The Supreme Lord said: To give up the results of all activities is called renunciation [tyaga] by the wise. And that state is called the renounced order of life [sannyasa] by great learned men.

9:23-4 Whatever a man may sacrifice to other gods, O son of Kunti, is really meant for Me alone, but it is offered without true understanding. (24) I am the only enjoyer and the only object of sacrifice. Those who do not recognize My true transcendental nature fall down.

9:27-28 Son of Kunti, all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me. (28) In this way you will be freed from all reactions to good and evil deeds, and by this principle of renunciation you will be liberated and come to Me.

12.3-4 But those who fully worship the unman-ifested, that which lies beyond the perception of the senses, the all-pervading, inconceivable, unchanging, fixed and immovable–the imper-sonal conception of the Absolute Truth–by controlling the various senses and being equally disposed to everyone, such persons, engaged in the welfare of all, at last achieve Me.

12.6-7 For one who worships Me, giving up all his activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, who has fixed his mind upon Me, O son of Prtha–for him I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death.

12.13-15 One who is not envious but is a kind friend to all living entities, who does not think himself a proprietor and is free from false ego, who is equal in both happiness and distress, who is tolerant, always satisfied, self-controlled, and engaged in devotional service with deter-mination, his mind and intelligence fixed on Me—such a devotee of Mine is very dear to Me. (15) He for whom no one is put into difficulty and who is not disturbed by anyone, who is equipoised in happiness and distress, fear and anxiety, is very dear to Me.

The sixteenth chapter of Bhagavad-gita is titled The Divine and Demoniac Natures. These verses from the sixteenth chapter are included to give an understanding of the mentality of those who are adverse to the Lord’s direction.

16.6 O Arjuna, in this world there are two kinds of created beings. One is called the divine and the other demoniac. I have already explained to you at length the divine qualities. Now hear from Me of the demoniac.

16.7 Those who are demoniac do not know what is to be done and what is not to be done. Neither cleanliness nor proper behavior nor truth is found in them.

16.8 They say that this world is unreal, with no foundation, and that there is no God in control. They say it is produced of sex desire and has no cause other than lust.

16.9 Following such conclusions, the demoniac, who are lost to themselves and who have no intelligence, engage in unbeneficial, horrible works meant to destroy the world.

16.10 The demoniac, taking shelter of insatiable lust, pride and false prestige, are always sworn to unclean work, attracted by the impermanent.

16.11-12 They believe that to gratify the senses is the prime necessity of human civilization. Thus there is no end to their anxiety. Being bound by hundreds of thousands of desires, by lust and anger, they secure money by illegal means for sense gratification.

16.13-15 The demoniac person thinks: “So much wealth do I have today, and I will gain more according to my schemes. So much is mine now, and it will increase in the future, more and more. He is my enemy, and I have killed him, and my other enemies will also be killed. I am the lord of everything. I am the enjoyer. I am perfect, powerful and happy. I am the richest man, surrounded by aristocratic relatives. There is none so powerful and happy as I am. I shall perform sacrifices, I shall give some charity, and thus I shall rejoice.” In this way, such persons are deluded by ignorance.

16.16 Thus perplexed by various anxieties and bound by a network of illusions, they become too strongly attached to sense enjoyment and fall down into hell.

16.17 Self-complacent and always impudent, deluded by wealth and false prestige, they sometimes proudly perform sacrifices in name only, without following any rules or regulations.

16. 21 There are three gates leading to this hell–lust, anger and greed. Every sane man should give these up, for they lead to the degradation of the soul.

18.47 It is better to engage in one’s own occupation, even though one may perform it imperfectly, than to accept another’s occupation and perform it perfectly. Prescribed duties, according to one’s nature, are never affected by sinful reactions.

18.54 One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman and becomes fully joyful. He never laments nor desires to have anything. He is equally disposed toward every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.

Sri Isopanisad

Invocation: The Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete, and because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as complete wholes. Whatever is produced of the complete whole is also complete in itself. Because He is the complete whole, even though so many complete units emanate from Him, He remains the complete balance.

Text 1: Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong.

Text 2: One may aspire to live for hundreds of years if he continuously goes on working in that way, for that sort of work will not bind him to the law of karma. There is no alternative to this way for man.


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4 Responses to Spiritual Economics from Bhagavad Gita As It Is

  1. Rohit says:

    Hare Krsna Madhudvisa dasa prabhuji. What is the difference between needs and wants. Needs are food, water, clothing and shelter. And luxury is like television, big house or big house like 4 bedroom room, big car. Like in modern society a lot of people have/desire luxury items like television or like specific like of food, stylish clothing and all.

    And prabhuji in one sense television seems like a need. Especially for one who will feel very uncomfortable or bed if television is taken or gone away from them. Like me i have a hard time without television. I feel the need to go and watch television. In that sense it is a need. Do you agree? along with that what do you have to say in regards to the view of idea of things like television and internet and other things being a need in today’s society.I heard from my father that if these vanish or go away they will be chaos or great uncomfortability in today’s society. I also agree that television is not a need. But i am said by my father that if i don’t feel television is a need then should live 10 days without it. i really did not say anything but talked about other examples of people having need of expensive car vs cheap car that if people don’t have expensive cars it is not that they can survive without it. But people feel the need to. Even in television i said i want it and like watching television that is why i watch it.

    Anyways he seems to have a point that i seem to have a need because i can watch tv instead of eating food for hours. So in some sense television is a need or seems like it? What can you say prabhuji regarding television being in terms of need espcially or along with the aspects of what i mentioned including addiction or taste or really addiction. And what do you say about all the other questions i posed.

    • Hare Krishna Rohit

      I say you should forget about watching television and forget about all this nonsense you are writing and start chanting the Hare Krishna mantra at least 16 rounds a day and strictly follow the four regulative principles: no illicit sex, no meat eating, no gambling and no intoxication and read Srila Prabhupada’s books at least 1-2 hours a day. Otherwise you will remain bewildered and confused forever.

      Devotees only need the bare necessities to keep their bodies healthy so they can engage them in the service of Krishna. They need practically nothing and only want to serve Srila Prabhupada and Krishna. That is all. We don’t need much and we want to serve Krishna.

      Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!

      Madhudvisa dasa

  2. Sripadidas adhikari says:

    Hare Krsna,I have had read this artikle twice ,it more help me to know economic spiritual, as people know only economic concept form western philosphy, thank for send more news letterr about it

  3. Sumukhi Dasi says:

    Dear Madhudvisa Dasa, please accept my humble dandavats. Thank you for a very informative article. It is more than timely. I want to offer just one succinct example of how we do not practice what we preach if we do not use all we know as our utilitarian principles in day to day life, thus making hypocrites of ourselves by our own behavioral connections. This is a most simple eg from back in the 1980’s. My husband and I together made well over $2,000,000 for Iskcon projects through the entire 80’s. Yes, a large amount in those days. But when problems came after 20 yrs and our ‘match fixed’ marriage broke up and money was not coming in any more, immediately all of our children were made to leave the Gurukula on the farm we had contributed personally to with over $1,000,000 on the premise that we could no longer ‘pay the fees’. Capitalism at its worst we experienced, this mosern scenerio to it’s enth in attitude, behavior, actions and from hearts of those ‘in institutional power’.

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