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Dharma of Finance

 

Dr. Atul K. Shah speaking at the Indian Institute of Management, Shillong, 16/9/2015

India, one of the oldest living cultures of the world, is currently being flooded by 'finance and its religion' harming much of its ancient and timeless wisdom and uprooting social life and individual happiness. This was the broad theme of my lecture at the Indian Institute of Management, India's premiere business school, in September 2015. These sentiments were echoed by Pope Francis when he addressed the UN, requesting nations and international financial institutions to curb greed, inequality and the thirst for power.

In my speech, I spoke about the 'bankruptcy of finance theory', the science which is destroying the fabric of global society, and rising in power and influence in spite of its fraudulent theories and hypotheses. Its growth as a field has also led to the training and establishment of more and more experts whose values are never up for question, and clouded behind the 'objectivity' of science. In reality, I have shown that the core basis of finance is ideological and fundamentalist, and totally 'acultural'. Finance is in denial of human culture and values, so how can its institutions and leaders suddenly become ethical? My research and writings on this theme have been strongly influenced by the work of Professor Prem Sikka of Essex University, himself being of Indian origin.

The talk covers aspects such as the Global Financial Crash, fundamental values and assumptions of economics and finance, market fundamentalism, tax avoidance and abuse, the role of the Big 4 global accounting firms in legitimising and endorsing such abuses, financial literacy and the impact on the common man. To the Indian audience, I am turning this collapse of the finance ideology into an opportunity for India to take a global leadership role in the science of finance. My new book for the international publishers Routledge, jointly with the social scientist Dr. Aidan Rankin, will explore these themes in detail. The timeless wisdom of the Dharmic traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism have shown very clearly that money can never bring lasting happiness, and that the core purpose of life is about sustainable living - living in harmony with people, society and nature. Here lies a huge opportunity for India to show what a sustainable finance is and how it could transform society and the planet. Such a work would show the limits of finance, and remove its curse on the planet, making it a servant to enterprise and not its master. The Jain principle of Aparigraha explains clearly that 'possesiveness leads to loss of freedom and inner happiness - when we possess, we become possessed.'

In my conclusion, I remind the young IIM graduates to take their future personally, and use their knowledge to make a difference to society. They can get ten jobs when they graduate, but what is it that they want to do to help India and the world? I asked them to make a choice knowing the consequences of their actions. Theirs is the freedom, and the opportunity.

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Article added on 26th September 2015 at 9:38am
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