The mainstream economy in the contemporary world is one of the most significant spaces that manifests and creates fundamental divides in the human society. The ecological divide i.e. the divide between human beings and the Mother Earth is most succinctly represented by the number “1.5”. Although we have only one planet earth, we leave an ecological footprint of 1.5 planets; that is, we are currently using 50% more resources than our planet can regenerate to meet our current consumption needs. The economy treats the sacred Earth as unconnected from human beings; resources as materials meant for the satisfaction of human material desires and pleasures, whereas their true use is the advent of new Consciousness upon Earth. The social divide is represented by the number “2.5”. Two and a half billion people on our planet subsist on less than $2 per day. The present economic system has in-built assumptions and levers that accelerate the existence of inequalities and by itself do little for poverty alleviation. Although there have been many successful attempts to lift people out of poverty, this number, 2.5 billion, has not changed much over the past several decades. Principles such as private ownership, self-interested humans, scarce resources, competition and debt are at the heart of creating this social divide (U.lab, 2015) Thirdly, the most important and the underlying divide is the spiritual divide.1It is the disconnect with our true selves, our true nature that is mirrored in our systems, structures and institutions. The assumption that human wants/desires are unlimited and the Earth is meant to fulfil them is Economics 101 today. The assumption is based out of a psychological understanding that sees the “ego” as the central point of operation for human beings. However, humans are capable of surpassing themselves, discovering who they really are and bringing it to life. Spiritual wisdom since years has known this Truth, and has well-charted ways of ascending to Higher Consciousness, as well as going deep within one’s Heart. In this journey, the freedom from desire and knowledge of one’s true needs is the first step to finding one’s true self. Thus, contrary to the basis of mainstream economics, human material needs are limited and there is abundance in Nature for their fulfilment.2
Collective Economy is the living space where a transformation of these three divides is possible from the very fundamentals. The Mother gives a flavour of how the shifts in fundamentals will look like in “A Dream”. She says,
“There, work would not be a way to earn one’s living but a way to express oneself and to develop one’s capacities and possibilities while being of service to the community as a whole, which, for its own part, would provide for each individual’s subsistence and sphere of action.” (The Mother in “A Dream”)
From work as livelihood towards work as a way of individual and collective progress and perfection,
From ownership to stewardship: “All wealth belongs to the Divine. We are trustees, not owners”
From a tit-for-tat exchange towards a living reciprocity between the individual and the collective,
From money as an aim towards money as a means goal for the Divine work on Earth, foregoing both attachment and asceticism.
... are few of the fundamental shifts in the principles of economy, differentiating the mainstream economy from the collective economy that is seeking to be born. In the 2017 Sourcing Our Oneness retreat, these shifts were acknowledged with Individual transformation as the foundation.
Collective economy was understood by the group as a way of channeling, facilitating the flow, sharing, utilising & circulating the resources with an aim of serving the Divine, and thereby enabling the full growth, development and potential for expression in life of all, as well as harmony with Nature and amongst ourselves. The group saw Environment, Systems, Resources and Contribution as four essential aspects of the Collective Economy that needed to be thoroughly worked out, and thus, within each of these aspects, the group deliberated on the universal principles, system shifts and solutions - looking at how these can work in perfect alignment.
|Universal values & principles||Systems Shifts||Visible, Measurable Actions|
- Collective progress
- Plasticity flexibility
- Divine beauty
- Full potential for all
|- From linear to cyclical economy - replace, repair, reduce, reuse, recycle, replenish & rejuvenate.|
- From wastage to fuller + apt utilization for growth
- From gross inequalities to equitability as the basis of unity in diversity
- From mechanical to dynamic systems
- From opaqueness and lack of trust to trust, visibility & transparency.
|1. Create a safe, trustworthy space where unit-holders can put all money as stewards – they can take when they need & they renew it will be safe (Auroville)
2. Real-time electronic mapping for unity, diversity, freedom & perfection & progress (not control)
3. Draw learnings from the circle experiment (Auroville)
4. Spiritual hierarchy for some expert decision-making, transparency, divine anarchy facilitation through decentralized processes.
5. In-depth communication by a network of groups about the larger idea as well as what each one needs to do to make it happen.3
- Mutual understanding
|- From Top down pyramidal hierarchy to participative + integral organization equality for all|
- Rigid systems à flexible systems
- Gross inequality & poverty to basic needs for all
|1. Planning organization of the resources
2. Step by step implementation of the plan
3. Transparent action and view (expression)
4. Create small group or suborganization to help facilitate growth or achieve a goal.
5. Gather knowledge educating oneself towards the perfection
| - From selfishness to selflessness|
- Abolition of desires for excess material comfort
- From an unhealthy top-down hierarchy to a healthy hierarchy and integral ways of organisation
|1. Collective understanding of the values and conscious execution of it.
2. Awareness of actual resources, land, potential and needs
4. Operate from love/simple living.
5. Data analysis for future needs
6. Distribution through a centralized body
7. Creating digital infrastructure. Awareness of resource income, production and consumption transformation
|- Family dependency -> welfare|
- Profit based commercialization & self-centered business -> community based & non-profit
- Narrow skill-specific role -> wider, holistic, humane work that encourages self-development
|1. Pickup one basic model from Auroville and share it with the world. Something that can be emulated
2. Give/volunteer your skill/money/time/presence for community service according to what a person can contribute
3. Encourage more diffusion of cultures and backgrounds
4. Wider education, make it more holistic
The sub-group on Collective economy consisted of five different contexts: Auroville, alternative communities in other parts of the world, Ashram (both Pondicherry Ashram, Delhi Ashram) and organisations operating in the mainstream world. Individuals from each of these contexts shared about the collective economic system and challenges in their context to facilitate peer learnings. Few of the insights that emerged out of this dialogue are:
- Basic needs are those when nothing is wasted,
- Equal-share system is a system of wastage by a few and denial of needs for others,
- When there is trust, not everyone needs to be controlling all decisions around resource distribution. There is no harm in a little bit of centralisation - provided there is transparency and trust.
- Dependence on regular jobs still form a huge part of funding alternative communities,
- There are two aspects to a collective economy: basic needs, and special needs. Basic needs are day-to-day needs for sustenance and what is needed for their sphere of work. Special needs are needs specific to a person or his life situation. They may occur in times of health urgencies, may be associated with travel or are required for the development of a skill (Such as a camera). This and many others can qualify as special needs. These two form the basis of a long-term sustainable living.
- The collective gift economy supports the flourishing of true wealth and abundance - a simple, rich life for all - through generosity and gratitude.
- All stewards have the power to spend from the common pot, provided they account for every penny.
- Even when trustees are appointed for resource management, they remain answerable to the community at all times.
- Conscious alignment of production and community needs is key for management without money.
With these insights and a collective presentation that powerfully demonstrated how the money-force has been captured by the forces of insecurity and greed, and shall have to be recaptured, the sub-group on Collective Economy was able to build a common ground and co-sense the collective possibilities to bring to fruition another kind of a living economic system not only within Auroville, which is the Kurkshetra for its birth, but also in diverse contexts around the world. The quest for bridging the gap within, between ourselves, and with Nature can no longer be addressed in isolation. We are called to source our oneness, and align all aspects of life to the lustre of the spiritual truth.
1 It is this divide that is manifesting as growing depression despite economic growth, which is merely an indicator for measuring growth in goods and services. These goods and services could very well be representing growth in the number of people who fell in and went to the doctor, or who consumed unhealthy food. When one looks at the concept of economic growth deeply, it is no surprise that mental health issues are increasing.
Scharmer, O. (2015). The three divides. Retrieved from https://www.presencing.com/ego-to-eco/3-divides
3 Individual actions: not waste, use eco-friendly products, support change in Auroville, live consciously & educate, make it happen, surrender...