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TEXAS FAITH 56: How do we create a common good today?

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Dallas Morning News,

Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

President Obama made the case for the common good, as he saw it, in his State of the Union address. Jackie Calmes of the New York Times summarized his theme this way: "Government and citizens are responsible together for the common good, even as they celebrate individualism and free markets."

Of course, you might say. Shared responsibilities and creating room for the individual to flourish are major elements of our national creed.

But how do we build a common good today?

The president, for example, wants clean energy, better schools and housing opportunities for more Americans. Good goals, but they cost money. And we are $14 trillion in debt. Someone has to pay for all these new ideas, including the ones that Republicans offer. Often, it is the rich who are asked to pay, which leads some to wonder why they are singled out to pay for the common good.

I'm not here to ask you to give readers a balanced budget plan. Others can take on that unenviable chore.

But I would like you all to talk about how the country can create a greater sense of the common good. We hear plenty about how political bodies can shape it, but I'd especially like to hear what other institutions could play a role. And how they could shape the common good, or perhaps are shaping it.

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas 

Common good must be evaluated by understanding who is the benefitted party. The Bhagavad Gita teaches that we have an identity crisis, we misconceive the body to be the self. In all our endeavors for happiness through various means, such as either religious economic and so on, we fail to find it because we have committed the grievous error of misconstruing the body to be the self.

For example, people who do not understand this principle will approach God for the comforts of the body whereas the intelligent approach God for that which will conforts the soul. What comforts the soul is a spiritual connection with God. That is called yoga, union.

The first step in a journey is know where are standing. So in order for me to know what is good for me I must know what is the me that I am trying to benefit.