Published in Speaking Tree, Sunday, August 21, 2011

Both Ganesha and Kubera are pot-bellied deities with short arms and legs. Both are Yaksha-murtis, and bring in prosperity. Kubera is the treasurer of the gods and a devotee of  Shiva, the hermit-god while Ganesha is the son of  Shiva. Despite many similarities, there is a fundamental difference between the two, which is why Kubera is a Gana while Ganesha is lord of Ganas.

Once, Kubera felt sorry for Shiva’s son, Ganesha who loved to eat. “Let me feed you,” said Kubera, “as clearly your father cannot afford to do so.” Ganesha accepted Kubera’s invitation, went to his house, and ate all that was offered. “I am still hungry,” said the elephant-headed god. Kubera had to procure more food using the money in his treasury. Ganesha ate all that was served and kept asking for more. Finally Kubera fell at his feet and begged him to stop eating. “You are draining me dry,” he cried. Ganesha then said with a smile, “Any attempt to satisfy hunger with food will never be successful. If anything, food will amplify hunger. My father, Shiva, therefore seeks to outgrow the need for food.”

This is the discourse of contentment, rejected by the modern secular world we live in.

The modern secular world today is dominated by two ideologies, both based on wealth and economics, broadly classified as Capitalism and Communism (or the latter’s more acceptable avatar, Socialism). Both seek to create a happy world, and both believe that happiness is a function of wealth.

Capitalism believes that generation of more wealth will create happiness; Communism believes that better distribution of wealth will create happiness. Capitalism celebrates individual entrepreneuship while Communism seeks governmental interventions.India has flirted with both – Communism for the first few decades after independence and now Capitalism. Neither has brought happiness toIndia. And neither seems to offer solutions to the near future. Both these theories are suspicious of the ‘discourse of contentment’.

Capitalists fear that this will destroy the market and prevent the creation of new customers. They float advertisements where people are mocked for being satisfied with their lot in life, and where mothers are advised to tackle scarcity not by celebrating sharing but by wishing for more wealth.

Communists view the ‘discourse of contentment’ with suspicion. They are convinced it is propoganda of the rich to ensure the poor stay poor and do not ask for their rights. Without discontentment, there will be no revolution.

Modern management is obessed with ‘growth’. But everyone refers to material growth alone.

Traditional thought also celebrates growth. That is why symbols of growth like mountains of food, cone shaped sweets, overflowing pots of milk are cosnidered auspicous symbols. But growth in the religious and spiritual framework is not material alone. It is also intellectual and emotional growth. When a man evolves intellectually and grows emotionally, he becomes content with his wealth, and starts to share his wealth. He includes others in his prosperity. Growth then is not at the cost of others; it is for the benefit of all. When this happens, there is no need for socialist revolutions or corporate social responsibility. Wealth flows through the pyramid of society rather spontaneously.

Intellectual and emotional growth are the two arms of spirituality. Unfortunately the latter word, spirituality, is deemed dangerous, impractical or theoretical by both Capitalists and Communists. In rejecting spirituality, these material discourses have willy nilly ignored intellectual and emotional growth. That is why 80% of the world’s wealth today serves only 20% of the world’s population. And this proportion is not going change in a hurry, new regulations, policies and laws nothwitshtanding. For currently there is intellectual or emotional stagnation both at the top and the bottom of the Capitalist and Communist pyramid.