by Anantanand Rambachan, Advisory Committee Member, Sadhana
Hinduism has never given its blessings to involuntary poverty. It recognizes poverty to be a great cause of suffering. By including wealth (artha) as one of life’s four goals – along with pleasure, virtue and liberation – Hinduism recognizes the need of every human being for access to those material necessities, such as food, healthcare, shelter and clothing, that make life possible and that enable human beings to flourish and live with dignity.
It is important, therefore, that, as Hindus, we be concerned about those structures, social, political and economic, that impede and deny persons the opportunities to attain life’s necessities. These structures need to be identified and measures implemented to make these goals accessible and attainable by all.
We live in a world in which there are great disparities between the rich nations of the north and the poor of the south and between the rich and poor within nations, and in which too many children die each week from malnutrition and infection. We have a moral responsibility to call attention to these disparities and to the culture of greed that contributes to the perpetuation of such disparities. When considering greed, it is very important that we do not see it only as an individual human issue. Greed finds expression also in political, institutional and corporate structures that contribute to poverty and human suffering.
Any religious tradition which is today concerned about justice, peace, prosperity and freedom from poverty, violence, exploitation and fear is challenged to reach across boundaries and find common ground and values with people of other religions, and those without religious commitment. Together we must strive to confront and overcome the causes of human suffering. Our hopes for just and peaceful communities will only be realized together or not at all. The Bhagavad Gītā urges us work for the universal common good in everything we do. Today, the overcoming of poverty and the pursuit of the common good common cannot be addressed effectively without partnerships with people of other religions, secular organizations and state agencies.
The Hindu tradition calls us to see the joy and suffering of others as our own. Our identification with others in suffering requires that we properly inquire into the causes of their suffering with the aim of overcoming these. We cannot ignore the suffering of human beings when they lack opportunities to attain the necessities for dignified and decent living or when suffering is inflicted through oppression and injustice based on gender, birth or race. It is not acceptable to affirm the ideal of prosperity for all (artha) and life’s unity while being indifferent to inequality and oppression. Working to overcome suffering means identifying those political, social and economic structures that cause and perpetuate suffering. The unmistakable call to be one with the suffering other demands nothing less.
We affirm the fundamental principles of the Poor Peoples Campaign and especially its call for moral revival, non-violence and its commitment “to lifting up and deepening the leadership of those most affected by systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, and ecological devastation and to building unity across lines of division.”
We believe that the fundamental theological teachings of our Hindu tradition demand that we support and join this Campaign.
A well-known Hindu prayer, often used to conclude temple and home worship, expresses the desirability and hope of freedom from suffering for all beings.
Sarve bhavantu sukhinah. Sarve santu nirāmayah.
Sarve bhadrāni paśyantu Mā kaścit duhkha bhāgbhavet
May all be happy. May all be free from disease.
May all know that which is good. May no-one suffer.
Let us commit to making the hope of this beautiful prayer a reality in our nation and world.