Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Dharma teaches us that human life is all about regulation. Morality means regulation. Children and young people getting an education requires regulation. Married life requires regulation. And driving safely on the road requires regulation. Why shouldn’t this apply to businesses? After all, as some proclaim, “businesses are people too.” So why do some politicians insist that de-regulation, or absolutely no regulation, is the best thing for business? Imagine the chaos if this unregulated dynamic were allowed to be played out by drivers on the road. It would mean pandemonium, pileups, meltdowns, and death.
But it’s become a cycle. Wall Street & big business demand deregulation. When they get it, like little children, they run recklessly after quick profits. Because of their foolish behavior, the investors become fearful and the stock market plunges. Regulation comes back and people feel secure again and stocks go up. After a short while, people forget, and the cycle begins again.
To govern properly, and to live peacefully, requires education. People need to be educated so they can understand and identify the qualities of good leadership. When uneducated voters elect unqualified leaders, it becomes a case of the blind leading the blind. The foundation of an honest government is an honest and informed citizenry. The main focus then must be on a higher and more profound level of education; an education that promotes the principles of honesty, compassion and sacrifice. This, in part, is the teaching of Dharma.
Most people have an intuitive sense of this. People make sacrifices to get an education, to raise their children and to protect the country. Why shouldn’t big businesses make sacrifices and practice self restraint to keep our economy solvent. If Wall Street and big businesses are people, then some of them act like bullies or spoiled brats who think they are entitled to special treatment.
My book, Mahabharata: The Eternal Quest, offers a contextual understanding of dharma and identifies the qualities of true leadership. Unfortunately, all to often our so-called political and business leaders find ways to exploit their positions for their own personal gain. But leadership must assume the greatest responsibility and make the greatest personal sacrifice in time of hardship. They must also be considerate of the most vulnerable citizens. The story speaks of a time when it would be a great embarrassment if leadership were remiss in giving proper protection. If citizens were robbed, it would be the responsibility of leadership to retrieve the stolen goods. And if they were unsuccessful in doing that, then they would have to replace the goods. When citizens are truly educated, they would demand more from themselves and their leaders.
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Monday, November 3, 2014
The founding fathers saw America as nation with a new outlook on government and a new attitude towards religion and the role it would play. George Washington invited a rabbi to his inauguration and as president wrote this to a concerned Jewish congregation in Newport: "The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy — a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship."
The founding fathers saw an America lead not by royalty or an elite class or any one religion, but by an involved and educated citizenry. They placed a special emphasis on small enterprises, farmers and shopkeepers. They equated liberty with library. The citizens must safeguard their liberties by being well read and informed. The new model would be a farmer who was comfortable behind a plow and the pages of a book. And as a century later, with the Statue of Liberty in New York's harbor, America invited people to come and take shelter here and follow their dreams.
This America could be equated with Yudhisthira's kingdom at Indraprastra, described in the epic Mahabharata 5000 years ago. After Yudhisthira's capital city was established, thousands of people flocked the roads heading toward the new city with great hope in their hearts. Numerous languages could be heard in their midst. And just like America, Indraprastra was established as a land of hope and opportunity. The common adage in Vedic times was that before starting a family, one should first find a suitable livelihood and a righteous king to live under. The Vedic paradigm establishes that the duty of leadership is to protect the citizens and provide order and opportunity for all.
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