Founder Acharya His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

facebook twitter instragram Threads Youtube
facebook twitter instragram Threads Youtube
Varnashrama Dharma and the Debt Ceiling
By Sankirtana Das (ACBSP), ISKCON News Guest Contributor   |  May 26, 2023

Photo by Laura Tancredi

If the Hare Krishna movement wants to be relevant and if they are serious in establishing varnashrama in one way or other,  than it is imperative for devotees to offer Vedic solutions according to time, place, and circumstance.  It’s time for devotees to speak up and weigh in on timely issues. When there are injustices, economic problems or wars, what type of solutions can the Vedic path of varnashrama dharma provide. The varnashrama process can then lead to a more effective and impactful presentation of Krishna Consciousness. When people see the practical value of establishing a peaceful society, they can more readily open themselves to spiritual life.

One essential premise of the varashrama system is that a civilized culture is based on regulation. There is self-regulation, and also imposed regulations. The former are regulations which intelligent people voluntarily accept for themselves for both their material and spiritual welfare. The latter is meant for those who allow their greed to run amuck, and use their abilities and resources only to create havoc in society while attempting to amass fortunes for themselves.

We are in the midst of an economic dilemma at the time of this writing. The debt ceiling is at $31.3 trillion. A lot of money could be saved by paying off some of the debt and lowering the interest payments.  The interest paid last year amounted to $475 billion. The politicians are simply too busy catering to lobbied interests that they refuse to identify the root causes and listen to more rational voices.

Benjamin Franklin warned us, “When you run in debt, you give to another power over your liberty.” George Washington urged Congress to dissolve debt as quickly as possible: “No pecuniary consideration is more urgent, than the regular redemption and discharge of the public debt: on none can delay be more injurious, or an economy of time more valuable.”  The Vedic conclusion is consistent with these statements; that the father who puts the household into great debt is certainly an enemy of the family.  Srila Prabhupada, the founder of ISKCON, quotes Caṇakya Paṇḍita when he says that fire, debt and disease must be tended to immediately – “They are always dangerous.”  (Morning Walk, LA, April 26, 1973)

But the so-called leaders in our modern era have kicked the debt can down the road and allowed the USA to wind up with such a ponderous amount. $31.3 trillion! The debt ceiling started to rise precipitously in the 1970s and 80s, and spiked radically in 2019-20. For almost 50 years we’ve been spending against our future and giving the tab to our children. The burden must lie with the leadership of all stripes, and with those companies, individuals, and lobbyists who have gained the most from such a corrupt financial fandango.

It’s time to impose restrictions on banks and corporations from damaging the economy any further.  Srila Prabhupada explains that the leaders are “to see to the welfare of the citizens from all angles of social, political, economic and spiritual upliftment.” (Srimad Bhagavatam  1.9.49,  Purport) According to the Vedic system, the leaders must lead by making the biggest sacrifice. We have the examples of Rama, Sibi, Ranti and other Vedic kings. Those in leadership positions and those who have the greatest power and wealth must make the greatest sacrifice in times of difficulty. But the national debt has risen for the last 50 years to such an enormous amount because there no real leaders.

The politicians continually bicker and blame one another but never lead by example. Some prefer to keep people focused on the crimes and riots happening on the streets. But the more insidious crimes, threats to our economic foundations and liberties, are taking place high above the streets in the offices of politicians and money movers and shakers.  When politicians allow government regulators to become impotent, it is a severe threat to the public.

It is inevitable that cheating becomes rampant when regulations become loosened.  This also has a detrimental impact on the environment and the health of citizens. Regulations should  insure that an entity does not become “too big to fail,” otherwise they have to be continually propped up by public money. Of course, bankers and CEOs are working diligently  behind the scenes,  donating to their favorite politicians to enable them to downsize the government, and thus greatly benefit from the deregulation. If  ordinary citizens want smaller government, they also have to work toward establishing smaller banks and  corporations.

America’s Founding Fathers claimed the strength of our country lay in small businesses and farms.  It seems James Madison understood the nature of the Kali-yuga when he wrote this: “The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.” Thomas Jefferson was also cautious: “I hope that we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

Srila Prabhupada explains that varṇashrama-dharma is society’s “steppingstone for spiritual understanding.” (Bhagavad Gita 2.31, Purport) The devotees have to take the initiative  by showing that  the principles of varnashrama-dharma are authentic and indeed relevant. By helping citizens address societal issues, devotees can also especially help them realize the true meaning of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Sankirtana Das, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, is a longtime resident of New Vrindaban Community and an award-winning author and sacred storyteller. His most recent book, Hanuman’s Quest, has received a Storytelling World Resource Award. For more info about his work visit at