Politics and Leadership in the Vedic Way
By Stephen Knapp
In applying the Vedic principles to our lives, the way we view politics and the system of leadership we choose will also be affected. There will be certain standards that we will want to maintain. When people who are not spiritually inclined, such as those who are atheistic, enter politics and become leaders by hook or crook, the whole atmosphere becomes increasingly covered with nescience and confusion. Such politicians may pose as having affiliations with some religion, but this is often done with a motive of getting in favor with people for the purpose of acquiring votes. Their real agenda is often hidden away and revealed much later. With such politicians in charge, beneficial programs meant for helping the poor or assisting with educational systems or the environment, often become reduced, cut back or are under-funded. Such funds that could be used for the benefit of the taxpayers are then diverted toward military development with the promise that it will make everyone more secure. Not knowing the duty of a good leader, such politicians engage in threatening and fighting with one another at the expense of the common people’s well being. Then in their distress, society may take spiritual life more seriously as they search for ways to find peace and solutions to their problems and help from God.
These unqualified politicians then mislead people by saying they are providing a brighter and more secure future through military engagement, but the damage done through such violence and destruction often leads to increased expenditures and years of difficulties that are spent recovering from wars and rebuilding what was damaged or destroyed. If society elects such political or religious leaders, they will not experience the relief and bright future they wish for. Such a leader is building a stone boat that is bound to sink along with everyone that follows him. Thus, he and his supporters create a dark future for everyone. In this way, they create hell on earth and are bound for hell after death. When determining your choices you must consider your own future, not merely in this present life, but in the hereafter as well.
We can see in this world that there are those who lead people down the road to trouble. They present their untried and unbalanced theories as if they are providing definite answers to problems, but their inner rebellious nature, revolutionary ideas, or plain stupidity, often merely increase the difficulties we already have. These disruptive thoughts arise in the minds of those who are already so discontent, envious or foolish. But how can happiness arise from discontentment? They plant their ideas in the minds of others who are also restless and dissatisfied, and then try to gain influence. We have seen this happen in the world of politicians as well as in various religious organizations many times, and thus misguided people become all the more ill-advised. It leads us farther away from a peaceful and divine life. It prevents us from reaching the real goal of human existence. We often become ever more trapped in a world of divisions. Then our consciousness focuses on our differences rather than on spiritual unity, and thus the world weakens into a planet of chaos.
Many civilizations on the planet that have prided themselves for being advanced are not genuine civilizations. This means that they are not as civilized as they think. A true civilized society will hold love, compassion, cooperation, wisdom, and freedom as its basis and foundation, and not mere technological, economic or military superiority to dominate others. This sort of emphasis in advancement does not solve all the problems of life. It does not promote true peace in the world, nor does it make a society truly civilized. It mostly perpetuates the differences between the members of society as well as the selfish idea that the privileged can control all situations by the notion that might is right, and thus continue to dominate the weak.
Society must pick a true leader, and not merely elect the lesser of the evils among the candidates running for office. But, they must know what is a real leader. A real leader must also know the Universal Spiritual Truths. Then such a leader can make programs that use a foundation that is universally applicable to everyone. In this way, the leader must use a complete philosophy for his or her politics. Otherwise an imperfect leader will not be able to create an ideology that is acceptable to everyone, but he will continue to speculate on what might work and suggest ideas that are untried, untrue and that continue to create confusion. This goes on while hiding the real agenda, which is often to trick people into working hard to pay large amounts in taxes that are funneled away from truly benefiting the people and the planet. If the leader is a fool, the government becomes a fool’s paradise.
A real leader must be ethically fit and strong in order to subdue disturbances properly. Before a leader can affect the world, he must take care of things locally, in his own domain. He must first curb whatever sufferings his own subjects and citizens endure. They are supporting him, it is their taxes he is overseeing, and thus they should be the first to reap the rewards of proper leadership and government funding. So first, all thieves, rapists, kidnapers, murderers, and dacoits of all kinds must be stopped and apprehended. This will help create peace for all honest citizens. Also, programs that benefit the people, such as securing employment opportunities, natural resources and the environment, must be established or people will lose hope for the future.
Dishonest miscreants and criminals in society flourish because of cowardly and impotent heads of state. If such leaders cannot manage their position properly, criminals make use of the situation to terrorize honest citizens. But, when heads of state are strong enough to curb all sorts of criminals in any part of the country, then they will not be able to flourish. When miscreants are punished in an exemplary and immediate manner, then good fortune follows. Crime goes down, the expense for law enforcement decreases, and then the citizens in general do not need to live in fear. This will affect their confidence in government and the way they contribute to the country. However, when laws are passed that protect criminals and force honest citizens to become incapable of defending themselves, or where law enforcement is slow and ineffective, then thieves and rogues become prominent in society due to an incapable government. Such a country soon becomes a dangerous place in which to live. Misfortune is then bound to follow.
Thus, a leader’s priority is first to his or her land and citizens. Only after his own area is secure and beneficial programs are firmly established should there be any engagement for large expenditures or military action outside of defending his own jurisdiction, beyond his borders, and only then if such military ventures do not unnecessarily tax the economy. Once local problems are solved and adjusted, the leaders and people will have a stronger base from which to tackle challenges and difficulties in other parts of the world.
If a ruler or government is effective in curbing crime in its own country, keeping the citizens free from disturbances of cheating businessmen, corrupt politicians, terrorists, thieves, etc., by virtue of such a strong leader, he can more easily collect taxes. More citizens will be honest and willing to pay. However, if a leader or government cannot protect the citizens from such dacoits in public or government affairs, such an ineffective leader should not be so ostentatious as to think he deserves the right to continue to collect heavy taxes from his subjects. If the leader is ineffective and allows criminals to occupy his jurisdiction, then he will share in the reactions of the evil deeds that are conducted under his regime, and his future will become very dark. Thus, a bad ruler perpetuates the spoiling of the whole country.
What is worse is when rogues themselves are elected to office. Then such cheaters, taking advantage of their situation and position, will enjoy life by living off the high taxes that are taken from the citizens. Or, they will engage in political or financial intrigue that will put large profits into their pockets at the taxpayers’ expense. This in turn makes the people more dishonest by trying to hide their income from being taxed by crooked politicians. Then, as this criminal mentality spreads, trickling down from the politicians, the whole country becomes increasingly corrupt.
The hierarchies and regimes that operate according to self-serving methods that are in fact vicious and unjust, especially toward honest people, cannot remain in place. The ultimate force of Truth in the world will see them fall sooner or later. We must bring forth the power of transformation, not by force or manipulation but by genuine concern and spiritual love.
However, it is not enough that leaders try to provide peace through military domination or force. There needs to be funds that will support educational projects that will spread genuine spiritual knowledge that can invoke a real change of consciousness in humanity at large. This does not mean simply to spread a particular religion, but to spread that spiritual information that can be applied by anyone, anywhere, regardless of religious affiliations. By providing the means for a genuine change of consciousness, and an uplifting growth in perceptivity of our spiritual unity, there can be peace by the deliberate choice of society as opposed to mere military might. There can be harmony through intellectual and spiritual growth. Otherwise, real peace will not be possible. It will only be a strained peace since the underlying cause for disunity and trouble remains, waiting for the opportunity for conflict to break out again.
Naturally, there may be times when military force is needed to put an end to unnecessary conflict or to subdue criminals, but it can never be a means to lasting peace.
Our disrespect toward one another is nothing but a reflection of our disrespect toward God, or at the very least our disconnection from God. Whereas the more our relation with God is established in a mature manner, the more we can see God in everything and everyone. In such a state of mind, war, being a vehicle in which we try to kill as many of the enemy as possible, is like blaspheme in itself. As we continue to lose our connection with God we lose our moral values, our civility, our care and concern for each other, and then the basis for quarrel and war escalates.
The point to understand is that the elite or criminally minded who live at the expense of others will never bring forth or promote the will of God, especially if it means a change in their own status quo, position, wealth, influence, etc. They will never reflect the unconditional love of God on others but will relentlessly devise the means for manipulation and exploitation of the weak. However, we can change whatever elitist structure there may be, not by ordinary revolution or militant activism, but by merely choosing to not participate in it and by selecting the path of light and love. This is an alternative based on spiritual realization and recognition of the Divine in all beings. The polarization between good and evil will bring forth the distinctions of harmony and balance for those who choose such a path, and darkness and torment for those who choose selfish methods. The path of truth and love has always prevailed in spite of the trials that may have to be endured to reach the goal.
A ruler should be the representative of perfect morality. He should exhibit exemplary behavior in his actions, directions and speech. Thus, as it is most beneficial for society in general to work toward spiritual advancement, so it is also beneficial for a ruler to work in ways that enhance his or her own spiritual development. He or she should see to it that everyone has an equal opportunity to do the same. This is proper leadership.
Furthermore, proper leadership should arrange things in such a way so there is cooperation between God, nature and humanity. If we act in a way that pleases God, then He will oversee us and supply what we need. But, that also means we should respect and honor the blessings the Supreme has given us and continues to give us, and exhibit thankfulness by honoring and cooperating with nature. Thus, we will not spoil or overuse our natural resources, and there will be harmony between humanity and all aspects of nature. If our land is full with natural assets, the nation and world can be economically well to do. If we do not honor our resources, or if we spoil them through pollution, or overuse them through bad management, there will be scarcity and high prices. This gives way to apprehension, fear and difficulties for people who must conduct their lives at increasing expense. Thus, the economic status of the country and the confidence of the people will begin to plummet. This is why there must be proper cooperation between God, mankind and nature, which is another aspect of understanding the principles of Vedic culture.
If people cannot progress spiritually and see things according to such universal Vedic standards, they will not make any advancement toward the higher goal of human life. This is beyond moralistic principles and is the foundation of real spiritual perception and realization. It is a duty of the government that the facilities are provided so this can go on nicely. Thus, if any fanatics from any religion become terrorists toward another spiritual path, and make things difficult for all, the ruler should apprehend such fanatics immediately and make arrangement for such people to have minimum access to their jurisdiction. Such a consideration may be unfortunate, but it is nonetheless necessary to establish and maintain peace for the honest citizens, and those who sincerely try to advance spiritually.
Also check Purpose and Function of Government According to Mahabharata for more information on this topic.
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