A recent survey of the world economic situation published in the Los Angeles Times (Oct. 24, 1984) concludes, "Today despite 12,000 years of technological progress, an enormous increase in material production and consumption, bloody revolutions aimed at redistributing wealth, and well-intentioned reforms aimed at ameliorating the effects of inequality, human society remains divided between haves and have-nots."

The disparity is readily apparent in the distribution of the world's food resources. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the world is growing enough food to feed its 4.7 billion inhabitants; yet 460 million people are going hungry. In Africa, millions are on the verge of death from starvation, while American granaries are bursting with surpluses.

To help deal with the immediate effects of hunger, the Hare Krsna movement is providing relief through its worldwide Hare Krishna Food for Life program and regularly cooperates with private and government relief agencies. But beyond this, members of the movement are convinced that unless world leaders recognize certain fundamental truths about our planet, its resources, and human nature, there can be no permanent solution to the problem of scarcity in the midst of abundance.

A Question of Quotas

The Vedic literatures of ancient India provide some key insights. "The Supreme Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete, and because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as complete wholes." So states Sri Isopanisad, one of the classic works of the vast Vedic wisdom. This important truth can help us understand the root cause of the unbalanced distribution of resources that results in the rich few getting richer and the many poor getting poorer. God has provided enough for everyone, but because of a deficiency of spiritual knowledge we are creating imbalances that result in widespread deprivation and suffering.

When American scientists launch a space vehicle like Challenger into orbit, the crew can safely assume that their physical needs have been anticipated and provided for. Biomedical specialists have doubtlessly calculated the requirements of the crew members for food, air, and water and have supplied the spacecraft with adequate amounts of these necessities. But just imagine the havoc that would result if one or two crew members began using up the supplies that were intended for the other astronauts aboard the spacecraft. And then let's further imagine what would happen if all the have and have-not crew members completely forgot about their mission and instead began to devote all their energies to fighting over the spacecraft's resources. That would be a very accurate picture of what is going on in the world today.

Having lost sight of life's real mission, namely self-realization, most of spaceship earth's crew members are engaged in a purposeless struggle to amass material assets. We tend to forget that our stay on this planet is brief and temporary. When we leave, all that we take with us is the amount of spiritual realization we have acquired. If that realization is complete, we attain liberation from material existence and return to our original position as associates of the Supreme Lord in the spiritual world. But if our spiritual realization is incomplete, then we must return for another lifetime in the material world.

If we are to avoid this unwelcome prospect, society should be arranged so that all members are aware of life's spiritual goal and can peacefully devote themselves to attaining it. It will then naturally follow that the unrestricted competition for material resources that leaves some with plenty and others with not enough will be alleviated. The Isopanisad gives a simple formula for economic well-being for everyone on the planet. "Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong."