Solution to increasing health care costs
It is well known that the aging population of the western world is increasingly placing a huge burden on all nations' health-care systems. Medicine is finding better and better (and more expensive) ways of stopping people from dying. As medicine finds new ways of curing the existing diseases, people's bodies find newer and newer ways of malfunctioning, costing evermore and more money.
I was listening to a panel discussion on what the heath-care issues will be in the upcoming 2008 US presidential election (wait, don't click that link, the discussion was pretty boring). Naturally, the issue of increasing cost and dilemma of how to ration health-care was a hot topic. Surprisingly, one expert explained, that the problem is not the evil pharmaceutical industry that many people like to blame. Drugs makes up just 8% of the total cost of health care in the United States (a "mere" $600 billion). The other 92% are the hospitals, ambulances, doctors, nurses, machines, administration, services, etc. So, even if all the pharmaceutical companies were to give away drugs for free that still wouldn't come close to solving the problem of health care costs spiraling out of control.
Professor Rustum Roy (amazing, the guy has over 1000 publications!) suggests the idea of "dying a good death", as presented in the spiritual teachings of India, as an idea that should be seriously considered (and, of course, everyone else in the panel discussion promptly ignored this idea...)
I certainly think that the Vedic knowledge of ancient India can provide some significant help for solving this global problem. Practitioners of Krishna consciousness could take an active role in advising governments on this issue. Here some of my thoughts as to what could be done:
- Take care of the body in this life: all too many people are abusing their bodies with drugs, intoxication, meat-eating, and sense gratification. Bhagavad-Gita explains that this is due to self-envy (BG16.18). Hate of the supersoul in one's own body and the bodies of others. A person beginning to practice Krishna consciousness will gradually stop destroying their body in order to squeeze some enjoyment out of it. They learn to relish spiritual pleasure, and no longer long for temporary material bodily enjoyment. The result: lots of people living a healthier lifestyle and not getting sick (i.e. less heart disease because more people are vegetarian, less cancer because fewer people smoke and more people have a good diet, fewer strokes because people are less stressed, less liver cirrhosis because fewer people drink, less homicide because more people value the soul in all living beings (SB5.5.26), less suicide because people are happier with themselves, less HIV/AIDS because of less illicit sex, etc. etc.).
- Death is not the end: Krishna describes in the Bhagavad-Gita the the consciousness lives on after the death of the body (BG2.20). Death is natural part of life in the material world. Everything that is born is sure to die eventually (BG2.27). Indeed, as the material body grows old, breaks-down and falls apart, the consciousness transmigrates into a new body, just like one might change out of some old clothes into new ones (BG2.22). Such a reincarnation is not a cause for alarm, but a natural part of life (BG2.11, BG2.13). The result: less bereavement and intoxication when a friend or loved one dies.
- The purpose of work is not to enjoy the fruits: practically everyone works to get money to get enjoyment. However, people are becoming more and more depressed and insane because of too much work. If, as recommended in the Bhagavad-Gita (BG2.47), one works and offers the fruits of such work to Krishna, not trying to enjoy them for oneself, then one can attain unadulterated peace (BG5.12). The result: mental illness is drastically reduced.
- Die in a sound state of mind: King Kulasekhara gave an example of how to die in a sound state of mind (SB 4.23.13). He wanted to die while he was still young and health, so that he could remember Krishna better at the time of death (note: he wasn't suicidal, he's primary concern was simply remembering Krishna, not forever clinging to his dying body). The result: more people choosing to die "naturally" and not be forever hooked up to an expensive life-support system (similar to a low-tech version of Darth Vader).
- Look forward to the next life: if one's life is filled with spiritual activities meant to produce a high-quality body in the next life (ideally a body of pure consciousness), then the next life is something to look forward to. Moreover, in such a case, even the current life is highly enjoyable. As stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (SB4.27.12), a sage practicing Krishna consciousness is blessed by saying that he may either live or die. It does not make a difference. Either way there is happiness. The result: less depression as disease and old age set in.