From Back to Godhead
To say that most politicians are incompetent, and in many cases downright dishonest, isn’t very controversial. We’ve all read about their blunders, their tricks, and their schemes. So the aim of this article is not to give proof of their failure to bring about world peace and prosperity; it is rather to show that the root cause of their incompetence is selfish materialism, and that the remedy is the re- spiritualization of society through the worldwide propagation of Krishna consciousness.
The following are some of the reasons why a self-centered materialist is incapable of bringing about a peaceful and harmonious world society:
He has no sense of spiritual brotherhood
The materialistic leader can never bring harmony to society because he fails to see the spiritual unity of all mankind. Preoccupied with superficial distinctions such as race, class, or nationality, he cannot understand that all living beings are his brothers, being children of God, the Supreme Father. As Lord Krishna puts it in the Bhagavad-gita (4.35)
And when you have thus learned the truth, you will know that all living beings are but part of Me, and that they are in Me and are Mine.
He has a one-sided view of life:
Instead of using his influence to bring about social conditions favorable for both spiritual as well as economic development, the materialist considers economic development to be the all in all. Thus he promotes the creation of an artificial environment that is far from peaceful, contemplative, or healthful. Devoid of spiritual culture, the people become alienated from God, nature, and each other. And the more alienated and materialistic the people get, the more frustrated, angry, and bewildered they become. Thus a materialistic leader takes the people on a “progressive” march to a hellish existence.
He’s ambitious and self-serving:
The materialistic politico, having neglected the spiritual side of life, is never satiated in his drive for power and position. Since his number one consideration is his own political advancement, he continually campaigns for office, and after winning the election, he’s afraid of being removed from his seat. He is so preoccupied with the fear of losing his job, status, power, and wealth that this fear itself—not love, or actual concern for the people—is the primary motivation for his activities. Materialistic leaders are merely merchants, trading empty promises for votes, and the people naturally distrust them. Everyone knows that a sly merchant must be watched very carefully: even when offering a “good bargain,” he ultimately has his own bank balance in mind.
He’s always disturbed and often irrational:
Because the materialistic politician is not at peace with himself, he cannot help others find peace, either individually or collectively. Unable to realize all his political ambitions, he is often subject to deep inner frustration, which may cause him to behave irrationally. A person in such a disturbed state of mind cannot have the clear intelligence needed to solve today’s complex problems. Even if his mind is razor-sharp, his decisions will never be clear if his heart is infected with selfish desires. A crooked politician may be intellectually astute, but an envious person with a sharp mind is like a poisonous snake with a beautiful jewel on its forehead. The snake is still dangerous, despite its fancy ornaments.
His perception is blurred:
Due to the pressures of power, many of today’s leaders try to forget their miseries by dimming their awareness with intoxicants like alcohol, amphetamines, caffeine, and nicotine. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times revealed that the highest rate of alcoholism in the United States is in Washington, D. C., and in Washington, D. C., the area most affected is Georgetown, the suburb where most U. S. senators and congressmen live. A true leader sharpens his awareness; he doesn’t blur it with a haze of intoxication.
He neglects God’s laws:
Today’s politicians are too busy wheeling and dealing to pay much attention to the laws of God. As Lord Krishna explains in the Bhagavad-gita (3.21):
Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.”
A good leader must be an ideal example for the people to admire and try to follow. If he is able to set the standard of perfect behavior, then the people will naturally be inclined to follow. Therefore he must obey God’s laws and possess godly qualities himself. Of course, many politicians go to church and publicly declare their piety. A person is known, however, not by his words, but by his deeds. Certain qualities must be present in a worthy leader, and certain ones must be absent. For instance, a spiritually enlightened leader is free from lust, anger, and greed. Although strong in his determination, he is gentle, compassionate, and ready to respect others. Above all, he actually follows God’s laws; he doesn’t simply proclaim himself to be pious and then act sinfully beyond the range of the TV cameras.
These are just a few reasons why a materialistic person is unqualified to be a leader of society. The list is endless, but they all point to the same conclusion: a materialistic politician, devoid of spiritual knowledge and ignorant of the goal of life, can never help bring about world peace and prosperity. Since the problem stems from ignorance, the obvious solution is education. Unfortunately, present-day educational institutions provide no information about our spiritual nature and our relationship with God. In a recent conversation with Dr. Thomas J. Hopkins of Franklin and Marshall College, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada expanded on this theme:
“People want material gain because they have no spiritual information. If I take care of my shirt very nicely, but I do not care for the person inside the shirt, then what is my position? Similarly, this whole material world is busy taking care of the body, not the soul inside the body. Therefore all these so-called educational institutions are blind. It is a society of the blind leading the blind. The solution is first of all to understand that you are spirit. Then find out what is your relationship with God and act accordingly.”
This, then, is the goal of human life. As long as we ignore our relationship with God and remain caught up in the pursuit of material wealth and physical comforts alone, we will always find ourselves alienated, confused, and anxious about the future. World peace and prosperity do not depend upon more sophisticated weaponry or increased productivity, but on the widespread propagation of genuine spiritual knowledge.
This knowledge can be easily acquired through the practice of bhakti-yoga,especially the hearing and chanting of the holy names of God. The result of chanting the name of the Lord is that the heart of the chanter becomes cleansed, and he sees his true spiritual identity as an eternal servant of God. God has many names, and they are given in the various scriptures of the world. Different names refer to His different attractive features: Jehovah means all-powerful, Allah means all-compassionate, and so on. The name Krishna, however, means all-attractive and thus contains all other names of God within it. Therefore the Hare Krishna mantra—Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—is especially purifying and can rapidly awaken our consciousness of God.
Of course, it is not possible to present even an adequate summary of the sublime process of bhakti-yoga in a few short pages. The inquisitive reader is referred to the works of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. In his books, especially the Bhagavad-gita As It Is,the Srimad-Bhagavatam,and the Sri Caitanya-caritamrita,he has presented a crystal-clear picture of the bhakti-yoga process.
By reading these books and chanting the holy names of God, the people of the world can become spiritually strengthened and convinced of the need for genuine spiritual leadership. Then, when the time comes to choose their leaders, they will naturally select a person with the qualities necessary to guide human society on the path back to home, back to Godhead.
Three Examples of Perfect Leadership
Maharaja PariksitEven armies of bodyguards can’t protect today’s political leaders, but King Pariksit was such an exalted personality that he was always perfectly protected by Lord Krishna Himself. Even as a child in his mother’s womb, Lord Krishna shielded him from the searing heat of a nuclear weapon hurled by his father’s enemy. Later Pariksit was trained and finally enthroned by his grandfather, King Yudhisthira.
King Pariksit followed the Vedic system of consulting a council of brahmanas (learned and saintly philosophers) on state affairs. While today’s “think tank” experts sell themselves to the highest bidder, the self-realized sages who advised Maharaja Pariksit gave their services freely, without salary. Thus they were above suspicion of any special interest, and they guided the king purely and flawlessly in his administration.
Maharaja Pariksit was very vigilant in protecting the citizens. When the four symptoms of sinful life so prominent in modern times—illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating, and gambling—began to appear, he undertook a tour of the world to vanquish them from his kingdom. He came across an abominable low-class man torturing a cow and severely chastised him with the following words: “Whoever causes offenseless living beings to suffer must fear me anywhere and everywhere in the world. Any upstart who tortures the innocent shall be immediately uprooted by me, no matter who he may be.” Foreseeing the future degradation of human society, Pariksit then said that if an unqualified, sinful man is allowed to act as an executive head, “certainly irreligious principles like greed, falsehood, robbery, incivility, treachery, misfortune, cheating, quarrel, and vanity will abound.”
Although King Pariksit was certainly famous for his impeccable administration, he is better known for his spiritual activity after leaving the post of king. Early in his reign he was cursed to die by a young brahmana boy due to a misunderstanding. Although he could have nullified the curse, King Pariksit accepted it as God’s will, and decided to fast until death. He seated himself on the bank of the Ganges River, and an assembly of the greatest personalities of the day soon gathered to witness the wonderful event. During the seven days of life remaining to him, King Pariksit neither ate nor slept nor moved from his seat. His only activity was to ask Srila Sukadeva Gosvami questions about transcendental subjects and to listen intently to his answers in the form of Srimad-Bhagavatam, The Beautiful Story of the Personality of Godhead. The Srimad-Bhagavatam is the culmination of all Vedic knowledge and simply by hearing it, the king achieved the highest goal of life—ecstatic love for Lord Sri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Maharaja PrthuUnlike today’s leaders, Maharaja Prthu considered it his primary duty to enlighten the citizens with spiritual knowledge. He knew that any leader who simply exacts taxes from the people, but does not inform them of the mission of human life, is thoroughly condemned. Indeed, he is liable to suffer for the impious activities they perform out of ignorance. King Prthu advised the citizens: “Dedicate your minds, your words, your bodies, and the fruits of your labor for the service of the Supreme Lord. Then you will surely achieve the final objective of life [love of God].”
In addition, under the king’s firm hand all law-abiding citizens were perfectly protected from both internal and external dangers. Everyone was pleased by his practical activities, and all the citizens were very satisfied to have him as their ruler. When he traveled through the world on his victorious chariot, appearing as brilliant as the sun, all thieves and rogues hid themselves, and all other kings recognized his supremacy.
However, King Prthu did not present himself as a royal authority empowered to command everyone. In fact, he was renowned for his humility and impartiality. He ruled so impartially that if the son of his enemy was innocent, he would not punish him, but if his own son was punishable, he would not hesitate to punish him. Even though he was very opulent due to the prosperity of his entire empire, King Prthu was never inclined to utilize his opulences for the gratification of his senses. He remained unattached, exactly like the sun, which remains unaffected in all circumstances.
Like all saintly kings of the Vedic age, King Prthu voluntarily gave up his rule before death or infirmity overtook him, and he retired to the forest to completely immerse himself in God consciousness.
Maharaja YudhisthiraKing Yudhisthira was famous as “the king whose enemy was never born” because he was so pious that no one hated him. Indeed, his qualifications were so glorious that his fame spread all over the universe and his pure devotional service induced the Supreme Lord Krishna Himself to become his intimate friend.
Another epithet for King Yudhisthira was “the personification of goodness,” for by continuous service to Lord Krishna, he was freed from all desire for sense gratification and personal wealth, fame, or power. This complete selflessness made him a worthy emperor of the world. “All good for the citizens!” was his motto, and he lived up to it by always seeing to the social, political, economic, and spiritual upliftment of the citizens of his kingdom. Due to his perfect administration and his pure devotion to God, even the rivers, oceans, hills, forests, etc., were all pleased with him, and they supplied their bounty profusely. Thus during the reign of King Yudhisthira the citizens of the world were never troubled by a lack of any necessity, or by mental agonies, diseases, excessive heat or cold, or any other disturbance.
Like all saintly kings of the Vedic age, Yudhisthira renounced his kingdom at the end of life to devote himself exclusively to spiritual practice. After enthroning Pariksit as emperor of the world, Yudhisthira gave up his regal dress and left for the North. His devotion to Lord Krishna was so pure that even before relinquishing his body he achieved the highest spiritual abode.