Spirituality & Economics: Rajiv Kumar of Niti Aayog (Part 1 of 3)

Spirituality & Economics: Rajiv Kumar of Niti Aayog (Part 1 of 3)

I am with Dr. Rajiv Kumar, Vice Chairman of Niti Ayog. He is no stranger to our viewers. Thank you for your time. -Hi, Rajiv. Good. Thank you for having me. -We had a few discussions before and it was a very big hit. Lot of people asked lot of questions. They got to know you, got to know what you do. I think this is very good and very healthy because the worldwide audience gets more familiar with your thinking. Good to know that and good to know that some people watched it. And thanks for coming back, coming this wonderful. -Yeah. -I enjoyed it last time. -Yes. And I wanted to start on the inner journey side because we talked a lot about the outside world. -Yes. -But towards the end we touched upon the inner journey and I think people were very interested in finding out your inner journey. -Yeah. -So, what I wanted to discuss is whether you agree with this premise that a nation has to have a spiritual foundation at the individual level in order of that this manifests externally in performance, in emotional ways, in stability and ethics and all of that. Rajiv, very much so. And let me explain also, how. I mean, it’s not just assertion or rhetoric, and for my own discipline, you see. I mean, the definition of economics that we have learnt from Lionel Robbins and others, is that it’s a science of unlimited wants and limited means. Which is why it’s called a dismal science. And, If you look at this definition of economics clearly, it’s completely at odds with trying to achieve an ecological balance. You know, and it’s and as you can see more and more, that this is not going to work. Right? Because if you are going to chase material wants endlessly, then the western model, even in the western model which thinks about conquering nature, and thinks about bending nature to man’s will and ego. You know, in Marxist term, you know, the last contradiction between man and nature, contradiction between man and nature with all of that you can’t, now it’s very clear that this planet will not survive if you had that sort of a thing. How do you change this? What is the way to change this is that in the Indian tradition, philosophical tradition you have had this thing about Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam which says that man lives with nature. And when man lives with nature, it is there is necessary that man needs to have a degree of satisfaction. So, you have to have what could be called rational wants and not unlimited wants. So, how do you get to these things about rational wants? Can you see the logic that I am trying to make? -Yes, yes, yes. Very clear. -You see, yeah? -Yes. -So, and rational wants or satisfaction can only come if you have an inner framework. If you have, you have an inner sense of what is ethically, you know, important or what is ethically permissible in your and you build that set of value and try to balance your needs, not just in material terms but also in, you know, if you like, also in spiritual terms. Also, in terms of ecology, balance in social being. And, you know, giving you one or two examples. Chasing material means might well mean that you want to maximise material, you know, objectives that you don’t look after your parents. -Right. -Okay? And because you know, that’s alright. I mean, my material benefits are met if I am a nuclear family. So, that’s it. Now, that’s a value which leads to a social breakdown. -Right. -Right? Material means might well mean that look, I don’t mind, I will just go, spoil the nature. I will convert everything into urbanization and urban sprawl. And I don’t know what happens to the nature. So, that would, so, that won’t work either. Similarly, if you, if we don’t have a inner spiritual awakening, -Right. -which says that every human being is as important or as good or as use, you know, the same as yourself. -Right. -and Carries the same, if you like, reflection of God almighty within herself, then you don’t respect the other. -Right. -And you therefore create a lot of dissonance and dissension in the economy. And that then gets reflected in all that you do. -Yes. -So, therefore, a nation which is based on some enlightened principles which comes from your… which comes from every spiritual tradition. -Yes. -forget the religions from it. -Right. -Every spiritual tradition emphasizes the same. -Right. -And if you do that then you can achieve, if you like, much higher levels of happiness with much lower spoilage of nature and ecology. -So, the ability to find anand within. -Yes. -Because meditation leads to that state. -Yeah. I don’t need to consume in order to feel joy, I just have a ability to find it within. -Yes. -And there are established techniques to achieve that. So, a community of meditators is happy without too much consumption. -Yes. Now, doesn’t the whole economic theory of consumerism go against this? In the sense that they are measuring success by how much more you are consuming. Now, it could be that some people who are consuming less are actually happier. -Yes. -But they would be considered, you know, a failure. Like Gandhi would be considered, you know, he doesn’t consume a whole lot so he is a poor guy and he is backward. So, is there an issue of the inner self, spiritual self versus the whole model of economics which is material based? -There clearly is a conflict here. And I would rather have, you know, what the Bhutanese call, -Happiness index. -The index of happiness. -Yes. rather than index of material consumption. -Right. -And GDP unfortunately measures only that. -Right. -So, even as an economist, by being an economist I am acutely conscious. that evolved human beings should have a multi variable objective function than a singular objective function which is measured just in terms of how much wealth you have in your bank or, you know, material assets. Because I think its… everybody will accept the fact that you will get quality of happiness, the quality of joy, the quality of satisfaction that you get from pursuing many different objectives in life is far better than having pursue only a single objective in life. And what you mentioned earlier, you see, that it’s an absolute fact and I know this from my own practice of meditation for last 30 or 30 odd years is that, if you get connected and if you feel a sense of, if you like, you know, the only word, sounds very big, but pardon my saying it but if you can get a taste of bliss while you are fully aware, then you very often you think of others as much, you know, quite meaningless in life and that gives you a great ability to do whatever you are doing but in a manner that you are sort of in some sense distance from it. -Yes. You know, so, you get, you know, what the Hindi very good word that to, one is that you would become tatasth and you become a witness. So that you can do what you like but recognizing that whatever you are doing is a bit your duty or dharma but not necessarily for giving you the sort of giving you experience of happiness or joy; Anand is the only word actually. -Right, right. -That you can get that anand. Then the rest in some sense becomes, you know, not materially relevant to you. -Right. -And yet you do it to the best of your ability. And actually, studies show that performance goes up, – Performance goes up. -for athletes because they are not so stressed. -No, absolutely. -And they are not so vested in their selfish personal pursuit and they are doing it spontaneously. -No, absolutely. And, you see, I think also, even Einstein and others said this that some of the best thoughts, some of the path breaking thoughts do not come out of pursuing a linear objective. -Right. -They in some sense drop to you, you know, while you are sitting there and if you are, you know, in meditation and if you are connected, then you can think horizontally much more -Yes. -than what you can think just sort of awakened, you know, rational and falling yourself in logic etc. I suppose some of the best path breaking thoughts in this, in world, in human history have come from, you know, meditation, contemplation, silence, you know, than has come from being hyperactive and probably have never come from people who are pursuing a material goal and exclusively that. -Now, If a nation pursues the happiness index idea of Bhutan, we live in a world, a realistic world, we have to look at is a kind of modern Kurukshetra with lot of warring going on, lot of competition for resources, lot of border disputes, people after each other. Do you think such a nation becomes vulnerable because it is too good and therefore others are not? Now, if the whole world were Bhutan like, and spiritual and if the whole world adopted Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, then, you know, we would be perfect. But if some people do, and others say, you know, I am hungry and I want to expand and take his territory and get his resources which has been much of history, you know, then, Is a unilateral approach to total spirituality at the cost of the external a kind of a bringing our guard down and become vulnerable and in that case is it better to be sort of balanced and do both? No, absolutely. Absolutely! Because you must safeguard, -Yes. -your own interest if you like. I mean, if you are trying to, if you are developing a new paradigm of, you know, of satisfaction or of enjoyment or happiness or what you know, then it is your bounden duty to make sure that external factors don’t come and devastate us. I mean don’t come and sort of take you away. -Right. -So that I think… and we must learn from our own history that we were perhaps somewhere there, you know, in our past, but succumbed to external pressures from people who didn’t think in our ways. So, I think it is a… you should say that we want a, you know, you should be Saksham along with being swasth and, you know, and spiritually, you know, awakened. And this… -Yeah, I think we became too introverted at the cost of not being vigilant, perhaps. Absolutely and also, we assume quite wrongly and I think and maybe a little bit of our own like yeah, just this complacency that everybody else must necessarily think like us. -Yes. -And, but, you know, there is a, there is disbalance as you said and in life everything has to be balanced. So, you must not let your guard down and yet you must make sure that everybody knows that you are a country which has never invaded anybody else. -Yes. -Because you have been in some sense quite satisfied with what you have because you have (1) you have enough and (2) you have had this whole philosophy of saying that look, I don’t need, not all of us need palaces to live in. -Yes. -Because our happiness accrues from somewhere else. -We should optimize what we have. -If you optimize what you have, -for ourselves rather than going out for grabbing. -But also guard it. -Yes. -In a sense that not, nobody should come and be able to, you know, take this away from that. -Yes. -And then moreover, should never come a situation when we are told that because we think we are the way we do that we are backward. And then marginal… and that utilitarian doctrine… -Yes. -Of John Stuart Mill is the superior one and what you have done so far is, you know, only leaving you into backwardness. Sure. -I mean that is sheer nonsense. -Sure. -You know, so, and I… you know, we did give to rest of the world a lot. -A lot of and still are. -We still are, you know. So, I… But you are absolutely right that we need to make sure that we are strong, we are not vulnerable, and we give enough signals to the rest of the world that we cannot be taken for granted. And I in that’s the … too. And, you know, this strength, your inner strength gives you this ability to be able to do this.

57 Replies to “Spirituality & Economics: Rajiv Kumar of Niti Aayog (Part 1 of 3)”

  1. You can watch other discussions with Rajiv Kumar here: http://bit.ly/ConversationswithRajivKumar

    To donate to Infinity Foundation’s projects including the continuation of such episodes and the research we do:


  2. This concept of spiritual economy is antithesis to anglo saxon political economy which ingrains iis people to normalise concepts like collateral damage in thr name of 'national interest'. This is a very serious topic which should be part of our grand narrative.

  3. somebody has disliked the video but has not commented the reason for it. Rajiv ji is having a lot of dhristi.

  4. The truth of spirituality is that we must never think that we are separate from the existence. One must take care of the basis needs. But if one is after unlimited desires the mind will be always in conflicts.One must learn to face oneself then peace will prevail.

  5. The point is limit ur materialistic wants. Everyone wants to live luxuriously so that others should praise them. If u have a nice family and friends who respects you as a person regardless of ur wealth then u r a richest man in happiness and peace.

  6. Spirituality – whenever any person holding higher offices and the sadhus etc. etc. talk – they talk of values.

    I have the following questions to them.

    1. Compare spiritual values respected by common Indian citizens Vs respect the spiritual values followed by those who dominate the society i.e polticians / bureacrats.

    2. Spiritual values Vs Temples respected for generating revenue to the Govt. ( If they were not generating revenue to the Govt. I doubt whether they would they have been cared !!! )

    3. If you mean by spiritual values is equal to social values, then ignore. Otherwise,

    I f I say following spitual values give knowledge and ability of creating the equipment / machinery which are not existent in the creation – the equipment / machinery what we have in our houses / offices are created by some other countries are manufactured by some other countries. ( mostly the countries, in our opinion has no respect to social values )

    Why our spititual knowledge / values did not give us the ability to create equipment / machinery. Are these not so important to those who talk of spiritual economy.

    ( remember when we sell land, if any valuables are found in that land, the valuables go to the buyer of that land. Similarly, when we use the equipment / machinery of other countries, the spiritual values OR social values are indirectly dictated by the countries of that equipment / machinery manufacturers. After considering this point, what is the status of spiritual values of india. )

  7. 9:14 onwards is the point to be taken seriously while going ahead with having a look into our history. PurvaPaksha is the need of hour from Bharatiya view of world

  8. for india best thing is going back to vedas religiously and have open debates who are anti vedas such as many scholars ( so called) call our vedas as mythology we need to challenge them clearly islam christianity capitalism communism as ideologies are failure they should be discussed and rejected out right there is no sense keep on clicking to corpses that they will have life again Indian civilization ( hindu) is knowledge ( veda) based and should be revived as knowledge based if any thing does not works should be abandoned

  9. The term better than "anand" at 7:57 can be "आत्म संपूर्णतया" , which means "fulfilled within thyself".

  10. That is why Chaturbarna was created according to the need of the society. Khatriyas were dedicated to protect the territory.

  11. A few lines from a poem:
    ओ भारत देशके लोगों अब जलदी से जागो ॥41॥

    अपना ईतिहास तो जानो खुद अपनेको पहचानो ।

    क्या शक्ति है तुममें क्या ताकत है तुममें ॥42॥

    अपना धर्म उठाकर जो कुछ चाहे ले लो ।

    धर्म पाओ कृष्णसे अर्थ पाओ धर्मसे ॥43॥

    भोग पाओ धर्मसे मोक्श पाओ अंतमें ।
    Source: hinduunation.com/2011/04/09/ओ-भारत-देशके-लोगों/

  12. Srimad bhagvat geeta and Chanakyaji give instructions…theory and practice…for progress both material and spiritual in Dharmic way including fight for Dharma and Defence.

  13. A society need to (must) remain prepared to maintain the freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of action, freedom of assembly, and freedom of movement. Without this freedom even practice of dharma and spiritual progress is not possible. Without spiritual progress (that comes by living per dharma) man becomes materialistic and destroys the eco-system; and peace is lost.
    jaya sri krishna!

  14. Rajiv-ji.. Let me congratulate and take my hats off for the phenomenal and prodigious amounts of work U have done and doing in the past. During the early 2000s, if U remember, I was not that agreeing with U in everything. But as the years have rolled on, U have proven Urself to be 25 Carat Gold. Thanks.

  15. What Rajiv Kumar has put forth is exactly what our 'shastras' recommend for a man's happiness.It is the pursuit for Dharma,Artha,Kaama and Moksha.

  16. So glad that both Rajivs have established that vasudaiva kutumbakkam must be backed up with strength. The prescription for this is the central message of the Gita.

  17. True!!
    West is the root cause of the destruction of environment, health, culture, society etc etc.
    Why doesn't the current Indian generation understands this??
    Though happy to see people who know this truth are a part of esteemed institution like the NITI aayog.

  18. Karma yoga states "We have to bear the consequences of the things we have set in to motion" and also the second part says "What you failed to address an evil that happens in front of you that is going to come back to you and bite you even more".
    For example Tamilnadu Govt is selling liquor in order to BOOST STATE ECONOMY and there are 3 liquor shops near my home. (12HRS-22HRS legal sales, the rest of the time illegal with the blessings of the cops and politicians, and their economy is also growing at 50% to 100% GDP, some times even more)

  19. This is one of the most stimulating conversation I had ever seen.Thankyou so much Rajivji! I am convinced West will be the cause for downfall of the world with the materialistic things and greed and lack of culture and values.It may sound like I am being a lazy Hindu here but there is not much we can do to guard ourselves unless we become like them and that will create lots of conflict for sure and this is Kaliyuga dharma spirituality and Kaliyuga are inversely proportionate to each other and good people will suffer unfortunately

  20. Recently came across a survey conducted by the western institution, which ranked India is one of the most unhappy countries, the yardstick of happiness shows purely on materialistic comfort as perceived by the westerners

  21. It's very funny to see those guys who dislike the video without recognizing that we'll get a clue about a group of people desperately wanting to challenge and put down Rajivji. Its advantageous to Rajivji though😂😅.

  22. Something I wrote as a commentary to a chapter from an Economics text. Glad to see exactly these views being reflected here.

    Economics was defined as the art or science of being able to use the scarce resources available to man on Earth to produce useful products to satisfy man's insatiable desires. I have paraphrased the definition in the text but those were essentially the words in the book. Interestingly, this classic textbook on Economics by Samuelson acknowledged the fact that man's desires are limitless. And in such a situation, there is bound to be a discussion on how best to fulfill the desires of each and every human being. We have not even spoken of fulfilling the desires of each and every living entity on Earth yet! And thus was born the science of Economics which assists mankind in most effectively rationing out the resources available on the Earth. By further analysis and understanding human thought processes at a macro level, economics is supposed to help thrash out this seemingly insurmountable problem.

    But at this point, what I feel has been a failure on part of these brilliant economists is looking at the problem in a different way. If there are unlimited desires and limited resources and therefore to satisfy each and every desire would require some brilliant analytical solution by which we can drive more efficiency; what has been completely missed is an alternate solution: the reduction in the unlimited desires by which now there is a possibly a one to one match between desires and resources. This could also be a potential solution to the lack of resources to sustain life on Earth. Interestingly enough, the only group of people who recommend this solution are men of religion. This very fact repels the general public today as well as the intelligentsia from experimenting with this solution. If we reduce our desires by even a fraction, there can potentially be a perfect fit between the resources on Earth and what we all need to function optimally and to live happily.

    This is not an intangible solution. In fact, we may have heard variations of this principle in the financial sections of newspapers or in the essays of economists. A common variation might sound like this: "If China and India start consuming at the present rate of consumption of the West, there will be severe shortages of food, petrol and other essentials". Quite a powerful point! What's surprising is that people in India and China are surviving! An average North American uses so much more than the average Asian, yet the Asians survive just as well as the North Americans. What can be argued is that if the North Americans reduce their standards of consumption by a fraction, the rest of the world might be able to improve their standards by a corresponding fraction. This meet in the middle concept is the cornerstone of any standard negotiation process. What I am trying to say is that there is potentially an acceptable standard of usage for individuals globally and that if we all adhere to that standard, resources can be equitably distributed. Even though this is essentially a socialistic concept, I shall build on this point a little later and explain that I am not entirely talking about socialism!

    The textbook goes onto to talk about the essential problems addressed in Economics: The what to produce, how to produce and for whom to produce. Today, the what to produce is driven largely by human desires. A historical example is of the British forcing the farmers in Champaran district to grow cash crops like Indigo and tobacco as against food grains. Why? It only makes sense that to feed a nation comprised of an extremely large number of people, farmers should invest time, energy and resources in growing food grains! Yet, the British forced these farmers to grow cash crops. Why? I will leave this one for you to decide. The "how to produce" problem was and is addressed today by science and technology. The more technically advanced a society, the means of production of goods might be less labour intensive for the workers, cost effective for the producers and enables them to scale rapidly. The "for whom to produce" is a question which brings us back to human desires. Depending on the desires of a fraction of human society, goods are produced. We all desire to have the best! That has been drilled into our heads by the modern advertising industry. Every third good or product is marketed to us as being "Simply the best" or "Better than the best". We also desire to "live life king size" and are inspired by movies, the media and celebrities to "dream big". This has essentially served to create unrealistic expectations in most of us. Therefore, the focus of the "what to produce" is no longer on producing essentials, but desirables for these individuals seeking the best.

    This brings me to an important point discussed in the textbook which is the difference between Positive Economics and Normative economics. Positive economics as the name suggests has been viewed in a positive light by the authors: positive economics deals with facts whereas Normative economics involves value judgments. Without being an expert, I would put the modern study of economics and in fact the focus of economists to be Positive economics. By the above definition however, my interpretation will be largely normative in nature. Why are value judgments today seen to be oppressive in nature? Yes, the judgments could be far from the truth; yet that does not necessarily give a negative connotation to every value judgment. The challenge I see with values are that there are too many of them. Today, "to each is own" is a fashionable concept bandied about by many. Obviously, that is not going to work in society where everyone has their own opinion. Whether we like it or not, we do not follow the "to each his own" paradigm. We follow the ideas of what the majority of society follows. And these ideas may or may not necessarily be the best for us. In today's world, ideas, seemingly ours, might not even be our own!

    – Anirudh Iyer, 2nd January, 2015

  23. He was recently issued with a notice from EC of India ,how such a biased person can talk about economics and spirituality ,both are animicslly Against each other.

  24. Yes, it's certain that in our spiritual scriptures, "Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam" have given prime importance. It has emphasises on Universal Brotherhood
    however, we Hindus should understand the difference of thin line between universal brotherhood and self-destruction as taught in our great spiritual scripture that is : "Bhagwat-gita". Our all authenticated scriptures also taught us Wisdom. I appreciate both Rajivji for putting/taking such very important subject which is needed to be revealed under present adverse situation. Thank you very much Rajivji…!

  25. This is the first time to get to know about Dr. Rajiv Kumar’s philosophical aspect. It also gives some hope and relief that somebody like him, who thinks/believes that way, is heading NITI Ayog. Being a student of economics, when dealing with some issues based on economic theories, which we were taught in our colleges and universities, does not allow to reach a conclusion where 'win-win' situation is feasible. It always led to a greater conflict. This makes us pessimist, even though such theories exist but not nurtured for several centuries for some “Reason”. Thank you for interviewing him and choosing this topic for discussion.

  26. This is a unique concept that how spiritual foundation for any Nation would be a boon for planning economic development. Luckily, our Nation already has had a very long heritage of spiritual foundation. However unfortunately, whatever imposed government we had since Independence, that too for about 70 years had ruined our entire culture by imposing adverse Constitution which have been changed the entire mindset of large portion of our Hindu society.

  27. Around 9:40 on the time scale : Rajiv ji , your observation and question is very relevant as to the reality of the way the rest of the world is in this Kal-Yug ! In other words, while we playing nice guys, according to the teachings of our Dharma, others, according to their ideologies, want to dominate or destroy.

  28. Rajiv Kumar has to be admired for his deep understanding of the the Bhagvad Gita; and how self-realisation should be the goal rather than fulfilment of material needs as per Maslow' hierarchy

  29. Thanks for the nice discussion about spirituality and economics. There is limitation of resources on this planet. The legitimate minimum needs of all inhabitants have to be met. Therefore this objective has to be achieved on the basis of exploitation of resources sustainably. Otherwise this planet is bound to be destroyed by its own inhabitants.
    May Paramatma bless all with good sense to exploit the resources on sustainable basis. May Shree Rajeev Kumar and Rajeev Malhotra be blessed to continue the good work

  30. Naman to both the gyani,
    We do indeed need spiritual upbring simultaneously with our regular upbringing…unless we have that feeling towards mother nature her animals her people we will not develop peacefully…

  31. We need to come out from material values based society. Join spiritual society.

  32. 1) Rajiv Kumar is 100% correct, it's high time meditation becomes an integral part of day to day life of an individual
    2) Rajivji is also 100% correct, Territory and resources must be protected from both external and internal threats
    3) All this will work only when one is not hungry and minimum basic needs are fulfilled, the common man has a family to sustain, Government and bureaucracy must fully understand this fact
    4) Recent events like, in the state of Andhra pradesh and Telangana will give the opposite effect, if people in such states start feeling the heat, they will defend their dharma( to live in dignity and doing their bread and butter work)

  33. Why don't you take the world leaders of most nations and their first ladies or just Trump Family on a week long spritual awakening trip to justify your point and let rest of the world follow to justify your approach.

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