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Our philosophy of wealth is unsound and disabling and is the root cause of many ills at the socio-economic and political level, says Rajyogi Brahmakumar Nikunj
In many countries, modern life has improved people’s standards of living. However, people generally do not seem to be very happy with their lives. This can be regarded as a surprise given that the level of prosperity is at a historic high. There is no doubt in the fact that every human being has the right to live and, therefore, the right to feed, to clothe and to house himself as well as his dependents. Besides these three, one has to fulfil some other needs as well with an aim to avoid pain and to have a reasonably comfortable life. The trouble begins at the point when one adopts the economic philosophy, which states that multiplication of money and fulfilment of wants leads to a higher standard of living and eventually, greater level of happiness. Due to this, one tends to accumulate as much as he can by fair and foul play. This economic philosophy is basically erroneous and self-defeating and is the cause of many social, economic, political and moral maladies of our times.
To begin with, happiness is hard to define as different people may have different concepts of happiness, but directly correlating standard of living with happiness is likely oversimplifying their relationship. While good life conditions certainly contribute to happiness, people in poor countries frequently express a surprisingly high level of happiness in opinion polls. For some people fulfilling work and social relationships probably add more to happiness than being able to afford luxury goods. We should also understand one thing that happiness is not the same thing as pleasure. Happiness depends more on the mental state of a person than on the fulfilment of desires and the gratification of senses. A man who is fabulously rich may have all sorts of comforts and yet may remain worried. By no stretch of imagination can such a man be called a happy man. On the other hand, a person not living in luxury, or even in comfort may be found to be happy as well as contented. So, there may be a man whose hands are full but whose soul is empty.
Also, it would be wrong to measure one’s standard of living on a scale of luxury goods. It would also be wrong to dissociate this term from the intellectual, moral and cultural aspects of a person. There may, for instance, be a person with high moral character, who leads a life of voluntary non-possession or minimum possessions. He may be an intellectual of a high order, contented in mind and refined in the cultural sense. Hence, it would be wrong to say that his “standard of living” is not high. We should remember that just as food sustains the body so does the mind find sustenance in happiness.
So, the saying goes: There is no food as good as happiness. And, to be happy, you have to be contented. Just as, for bodily well-being, man seeks food, so should he maintain the state of contentment to ensure happiness of mind. As Alfred Nobel rightly said, “Contentment is the only real wealth.” We should, therefore, not run after securing another kind of wealth. Hence it can safely be concluded that, beyond a limit, the multiplication of wants and their satisfaction does not promote happiness and certainly not in that proportion.
Writer: Chahak Mittal
Courtesy: The Pioneer