A noted professor of cooperative law gave an inaugural address for the Prout Research Institute in Venezuela, stressing the need for economic democracy, a cooperative economy and spirituality as the basis for transformation in Venezuela and beyond.
by Dr. Carlos Molina Camacho
First of all I wish to thank the board of directors of this respectable foundation, the Prout Research Institute of Venezuela, and especially its president, José Albarrán, and the director, Dada Maheshvarananda, for the kind invitation given to my wife, Clarita, and I to attend today. The inauguration of this beautiful new headquarters in Caracas is very important for those who want the success of Prout.
At this time we should remember the founder of Prout, the great Indian spiritual teacher Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar. Dada Maheshvarananda, in his magnificent book "After Capitalism", reported that when Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar visited our country (which, by the way, was the only Latin American country he visited during his long and fruitful life), he said:
"Venezuela needs good spiritual political leaders. If Venezuela can produce good spiritual political leaders, it will be not only the leader of Latin America, but also the leader of the planet. Venezuela is a blessed country.
"My sons and daughters, it is your duty to accelerate the process of creating spiritual political leaders. I depend on you."
Those of us who have devoted long years to the work of promoting cooperatives in the homeland of Simón Bolívar must admire how visionary was Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar. Through deep meditation he had the intuition that the cooperative economic system was the best way to reconcile the differences of the two well-known economic contenders, that is capitalism and state or bureaucratic socialism: social justice with freedom.
This sublime spiritual guide observed that the principle that governs capitalism is profit, the desire to make money at whatever price, ignoring the most elementary rights of workers, consumers and users. In companies that produce goods or services, the most significant contribution is by human beings, that is to say, their manual or intellectual work. Yet the owners do not allow any interference in the administration of their companies, allowing only those that have contributed the capital to control them and receive the biggest earnings. In general the wages given to workers are low, and many times they hardly cover the basic necessities of the workers and their families.
In capitalist companies that distribute goods or services, the merchants are actually middlemen between those that produce and those that consume. Their purpose is to obtain the biggest profit, even at the cost of sacrificing the quality of the products for the least expense. In more than a few situations even deceit and swindling is done, raising the prices of their articles, so they are paid much more than their actual costs.
All this exploitation takes place because consumers are not organized economically in cooperatives. This is the only practical way to escape their bondage. Consumer cooperatives do not have profit as the goal, rather they only strive to put within reach of their members the goods and services that they specify at fair prices with high quality.
Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar also wisely warned about state socialism, which is bureaucratic in nature. Practically all enterprises, both production and distribution of goods or services, belong to the great proprietor, that is the State. It has been unable to implement authentic economic democracy, because neither the workers, consumers nor users participate properly in the administration of the enterprises. Instead the State is the great boss and those that work in them are simply wage earners. Sometimes these regimes also ignore the most elementary human rights, allowing intolerance, sectarianism and discrimination to reign.
Fortunately these two socio-economic-political systems are gradually disappearing from the face of the planet. Their inefficiency from the economic perspective and their inequity from the political perspective have been exposed.
Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, today a wide horizon opens up for the implementation of cooperative socialism, which is another way of saying economic democracy. Political democracy has been very successful in the world, but truly it is not enough. What is needed is the participation of the workers, consumers and users in the economic universe, in both the enterprises of production and distribution of goods and services.
In this way an economy can be built in the service of humanity and not of capital, as is the case today of capitalism. That system has extended its tentacles to the whole planet by means of the huge transnational corporations that do not respect the environment, causing great ecological destruction that threatens humanity's very future. These are unforgivable crimes.
We are one human family, Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar reminds us, without distinction of race, religion, political beliefs or gender.
How then can we not admire the extraordinary visionary capacity of the founder of Prout, Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar, when he predicted the fall of the Berlin Wall, and with it the collapse of the socio-economic-political system that prevailed throughout Eastern Europe? This outstanding spiritual guide for humanity passed away just one year after the fall of the Berlin Wall, in 1990.
Latin America is searching for its road to development, just as the African and Asian countries are. It is a golden opportunity for cooperativism. Perhaps this is the reason why people like Dada Maheshvarananda, who made big contributions before in Brazil, are now working here for the benefit of Venezuelans, in Bolívar's land. We should take advantage of this mission of Dada and the other brothers and sisters of Prout, to bolster the cooperative system in this dear homeland of Venezuela.
But there is another feature of the mission that the founder of Prout, Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar, came to this planet to complete, and that has to do with humanity's spiritual development. The new cooperative socio-economic system requires a new human being, without which it is very difficult to successfully implement. That new human being can progress with the help of meditation, to overcome his or her passions, aggressive instincts (don't we come from the animal kingdom?), very deeply rooted negative emotions, and untamed selfishness.
The purpose of meditation is nothing less than to discover God inside us. Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar said, "The purpose of human existence, of evolution and of life itself is to find the Infinite Conscience inside us." Understanding that we are the Infinite Consciousness that we usually call God.
Dada Maheshvarananda, in his well-written work already mentioned, lists for us the benefits of meditation: "overcoming anger and aggression; cultivating willpower and self-control; improving self-esteem and mental health; increasing memory and concentration; surmounting insomnia, depression and loneliness; overcoming inferiority, superiority, fear, guilt and other complexes; calming the mind; expanding understanding and tolerance; developing a balanced, integrated personality; and awakening wisdom, compassion and love."
Then we realize that humanity is one and we all are members of the same family. The happiness of one is the happiness of all, and the sorrow of one is the sorrow of all. The wrong that we do to another we also do to ourselves. When we realize this reality, this truth, it is much easier to build cooperative socialism.
Therefore we should work on two fronts at the same time: on the socio-economic and on the spiritual if we want to achieve success.
Without a doubt this spiritual vision of Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar is also the vision of the Advaita Doctrine, born many centuries ago in India, that proclaims non-dualism, offering us the possibility to believe in a God-like Universal Energy that interacts with all, permeates all and sustains all.
This is not the vision of God separated from humanity. A God that in front of the human being on the sidewalk. No, this is the belief that the human being is a perfect expression of God, just as a butterfly and a flower and everything that exists on the planet are perfect expressions of God.
The human being's great tragedy, according to Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar, which causes unspeakable suffering, is to feel separated from God; to see God as something outside of us, whose purpose is to watch and punish us for our faults. Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar proposes an entire spiritual revolution. Meditation, the technique which silences our mind and silences our thoughts of "me" and "mine", is the starting point of that great personal transformation. This is what the brothers and sisters of Prout invite us to try, moved by their love for others. Let us graciously accept their cordial invitation.
Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar reminds us that the Creator is not separated from the creation, but is present and resonates in each particle. The world, he tells us, not only needs new social and economic structures that are fair and democratic, but it also needs people who are better, with more strength and less selfishness.
To conclude, all of us present here wish that in this new headquarters you, the brothers and sisters of Prout, receive enlightening inspiration, the noblest ideas and the best thoughts, so that you continue being successful in your mission for cooperativism and for the human being's spiritual development.