By asking devotees to vote, why are you dragging Prabhupada’s pure legacy into dirty politics?

by Chaitanya CharanApril 23, 2014

Answer Podcast

Transcription by Santosh:

Firstly this notion that “Prabhupad’s legacy to be pure has to be separated from dirty politics” is not substantiated by shastra.
The Bhagavad Gita says that everything in this world is covered by fault.
sarvarambha hi doshena
Just as fire is covered by smoke, similarly every endeavor is covered by faults.
So politics is naturally covered by faults, and like that everything is covered by faults.
People consider politics dirty because there is hunger for power, there is sometimes violence, there is corruption.
At one level if you see what Arjuna was doing was, there is a bloodbath that is going to happen, there is going to be a massive bloodshed.
Now Arjuna could have said this is all dirty, I don’t want to get involved in this, I will just go and live in a forest, so Krishna did not approve of that.
So the idea that for something to stay pure, that it has to stay disconnected from this world, that is a non-scriptural idea.
So scriptural idea is that Padma patrameva ambhasa
That one stays in this world but one is not affected by the world, that is like a lotus which is in dirty water but does not become dirty.
So that is the whole principle of karma yoga and it is also the principle of bhakti yoga and that is what the teaching of Bhagavad Gita is.
So by this terminology of dirty politics, Arjuna was entering dirty politics.
Obviously somebody may say Arjuna was not a dirty person, yes but Duryodhana was and if Arjuna would have left dirty politics then what would have been with that, the whole world would have become dirty.
So Arjuna did not do that because that was his responsibility as a kshatriya to counter that.
Now I am not saying here that devotees have to enter politics or fight somebody like Arjuna did fight, I am simply saying that the idea that devotion and spirituality and dharma has to be disconnected from this world in order to maintain its purity is wrong.
Its not scriptural and the purity of the legacy depends not on its staying aloof from the things of this world, the purity depends on maintaining the purity of ones intentions.
So if one goes into this world and engages in the mood of service, service to God, service to God’s children the living beings, the people in general that itself maintains purity, so Prabhupad himself wanted political party to be formed and he had a party called ‘In God We Trust’, but at that time it did not work out, so Prabhupad did not tell the devotees “dont get into dirty politics”.
No. So again the point here is the separation is wrong, but there is underlying point in this that, is it that Prabhupad wanted devotees to take sides in or ISKCON to take sides in political scenario and take side of one party or another party and go against another party, isn’t it dangerous for our spiritual movement to do that, Yes that point is well taken but spirituality does not mean that we have to be disconnected from everything in this world.
So spirituality is generally practiced better when there is mode of goodness, so any political party which has relatively the mode of goodness as compared to modes of passion or ignorance which has principles and values which are favorable towards the mode of goodness that is relatively better, much much better than the lower modes.
So now in today’s political scenarios what would goodness, passion and ignorance translate into? So good governance requires some level of goodness, if there is selfish/indifference/corrupt governance that is a sign of lower modes of passion and ignorance.
So as devotees where we can choose transcendence we will choose transcendence but where we have to deal with the material mode and if we have to choose among the modes naturally we will choose goodness because that is the most favorable, most anukul to bhakti.
So its not that devotees are permanently identifying with one particular political party or another, what devotees do is primarily recognize values that are in harmony with the scriptural values, scripture has transcendetal values and scripture has material values which are satvik which are in harmony with scriptural values and then support the party that has or exposes those values or supports those values. So infact, if ISKCON had opportunity to call upon political parties, we would encourage all the political parties to embrace satvik values and to help in bringing a better government so that we can have a better world where there can be eventually a better dharma, happier people.
So that is what we would encourage, it is not a matter of this party or that party, it is a matter of values.
Values are talked about in scriptures and whichever party comes close to those values, that party will be supported.
Now again by asking devotees to vote, it is important to understand that when we talk about voting, clearly in my previous talk it was mentioned that it is a social responsibility.
Social responsibility does not have the same mandatory force as spiritual responsibility.
Spiritual responsibility is like our saadhana, regulative principles, they are extremely important but thats almost we take a vow at the time of initiation.
But Social responsibility is not like that, and I also gave an example of yukta vairagya, that using what can be used in Krishna’s service not to renounce that.
So when we talk about yukta vairagya, that means it should not be renounced, it can be used in Krishna’s service but that does not mean everybody has to use.
For example, technology can be used in Krishna’s service but that does not mean somebody who does not know anything about a computer or about internet just learns computer and internet so that one can find some service for Krishna in that field, No. If one already has a service which will be better done using some technology, then one can use technology. So like that if we are already having political inclinations, political interest, not political inclinations in terms of political aspirations but in terms of interest in politics and you already have these issues which are matter of concern to us, and they are for everyone because we are living in a society and that society’s state is often determined largely by its leaders. So then this is something which we can do, its not that we have to do it as a spiritual mandate, no it is a social responsibility, based on the principle of yukta vairagya it is something which we can use in devotional service in the way that is best possible.
Another point is that when we talk about Prabhupad’s pure legacy, Prabhupad also had tolerance, so Prabhupad talked to christian priests or when he encountered islam, he was respectful of those religions and their rights to practice.
So when we talk about supporting a particular party, we are not talking about taking sides in a religously surcharged or religiously fanatical discourse in today’s society.
No, as devotees of an international movement, we ourselves are aware that we are minorities in other parts of the world, all of us are at different situations in different places, so now devotees in India maybe a part of majority but in most other parts of the world they are minority and just as we would not like devotees to be persecuted in parts where they are in minority, similarly we do not at all support the minorities getting persecuted here.
So now if there are forces which do that, then that is something which is to be not approved by devotees, and of course often the extent of this and even the existence of this is widely exaggarated or fabricated by the media to polarise public opinion.
So the important point is that there are values, the values of satva guna, satva guna includes good governance, it includes a favorable attitude towards spirituality, satva guna includes tolerance, satva guna includes fairness/broad mindedness, so these kinds of values are what are supported by the spiritual culture of the BhagavadGita and these are the values that are being exposed by the Krishna consciounsess movement for a social level apart from its directly spiritual outreach and its a part of that broader social outreach that devotees can be socially active, socially aware and participate in elections.


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Chaitanya Charan

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