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Srila Prabhupada on voting and vaishnavism

Tuesday, 14 October 2008 / Published in Articles, Madhavananda Das / 6,018 views

By Madhavananda Das

There is a lot of discussion right now, especially in America, about the latest presidential election. In a recent issue of Sri Krishna Kathamrita Bindu we put together a collection of statements from Srila Prabhupada regarding his mood towards voting in secular circles. As always, Srila Prabhupada’s attitude is purely Krishna conscious. I also found it very detached — he was asked several times if he wanted his followers to vote or not, — he repeatedly replied that the choice was up to them. For brevity, I’m only posting some of the most relevant quotes below. To see the complete article in issue 185 click here or go to:

Because of the importance of the Krishna consciousness movement, people should be Krishna conscious and should not vote for anyone who is not Krishna conscious. Then there will be actual peace and prosperity in the state. When a vaisnava sees mismanagement in the government, he feels great compassion in his heart and tries his best to purify the situation by spreading the Hare Krishna movement. (Purport to Bhag. 6.2.3)

We don’t very much like this so-called democracy. What is the value of this democracy? All fools and rascals. They vote for another fool and rascal and he becomes prime minister, or this or that. That is not good for the people. We are not for this so-called democracy because they are not trained. (Lecture in London, 24 July 1973)

The first teaching of Bhagavad-gita should be taken by the persons who are going to be elected in the government service. The public should be aware of this. If somebody comes to canvass for votes, you should first inquire, “Have you have read Bhagavad-gita? Mahatma Gandhi read Bhagavad-gita. Why shouldn’t you? Do you know what is Bhagavad-gita? If so, then I will give you my vote. Otherwise, get out.”… It is a great necessity that government men must study Bhagavad-gita. Otherwise, don’t give them vote. (Lecture in Bombay, 22 March 1974)

Devotee: Some of our devotees should run for office.

Prabhupada: No. If you can make the people Krishna conscious, then everything will come automatically. If they vote for a Krishna conscious person to be president and prime minister, then everything will be saved. So that means you have to create Krishna conscious voters. Then everything will be right. That should be one of the aims of the Krishna consciousness movement. The government is still under the control of the public. If the public becomes Krishna conscious then naturally the government will be Krishna conscious. But that is up to the public. (Lecture in Bombay, 6 November 1970)

Educate the people. “Don’t vote for the rascals. Just try to understand who is the real man, who is the real leader. (Morning walk conversation in Los Angeles, 11 December 1973)

Interviewer: Do you think most of the Hare Krishna members will participate in the election in November? Do you think they will register and vote?

Prabhupada: Personally I never give votes.

Interviewer: Will they follow your example and not vote?

Prabhupada: I do not know, but our principle is that I vote for this man or that man if there is some spiritual benefit. That is our point. (Interview with the religion editor of the Associated Press in New York, 16 July 1976)

I have never given vote. Since we have got this sva-raj, Indian independence, as soon as the vote question comes up, I go away. I think, “Why shall I give this nonsense person my vote? None of them are liked by me.” So I avoid it. I don’t believe in it. (Room Conversation in Bombay, 8 January 1977)

10 Responses to “Srila Prabhupada on voting and vaishnavism”

  1. The shading of the truth and outright lies and hypocrisy in the U.S. electoral campaigns is so sickening. In this election year it has been totally absurd. Unbelievable. Disgusting.

    All the cynical techniques of manipulative false advertising we are bombarded with daily to get us to buy things we do not need are employed in exponential proportions to obtain our votes. They have a whole cadre of “scientists” and handlers packaging the candidates and prompting them to say the things, and only the things, that are supposed to win the most votes. It seems there is no truth or sincerity in the process at all, and we are told that is okay because “that’s what it takes to win.”

    What is worse is, we are encouraged to buy into the process and sell our own souls to support our own team, party, candidate. We listen with sympathy to “our” party’s spokesmen, and discount everything the other side’s say. We take advantage of their mistakes and make excuses for (or deny) those of our own candidates.

    I am tempted to say “A plague on both your houses” and stay home. None of the candidates is really a devotee, and none of them seems capable of solving the many problems in the U.S. and the world.

    However, I have been so sickened by many aspects of the Bush administration that might well be carried on by a McCain-Palin administration, and Palin really takes political mendacity to new lows. (Can you believe she was found to have abused her power in “Troopergate”, the Branchflower report says she violated an Alaska ethics statute, and she keeps repeating that the report cleared her of any legal or ethical violation?)

    I have already voted (by mail) for the Obama-Biden ticket. Obama has the charisma and charm to be a leader in the Kennedy-esque style. He communicates clearly and logically, and projects an air of confidence and optimism in the face of huge obstacles. He is smart (that will be a welcome change), and seems committed to ending the frighteningly unilateralist foreign policy of the Bush administration. It sure looks like Obama’s going to win, and he appears to me to be the better choice.

    He stopped smoking. Now, if we could only get him to chant Hare Krishna and stop eating meat . . . (I am not holding my breath, though)

  2. Gauragopala dasa says :

    Srila Prabhupada- “In this present day, people are very much eager to have one scripture, one God, one religion, and one occupation. Therefore,

    A – Ekam sastram devaki-putra-gitam: let there be one scripture only, one common scripture for the whole world-Bhagavad-gita.

    B – Eko devo devaki-putra eva: let there be one God for the whole world – Sri Krsna.

    C – Eko mantras tasya namani: and one hymn, one mantra, one prayer — the chanting of His name: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

    D – Karmapy ekam tasya devasya seva: and let there be one work only — the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Bhagavad-gita as it is Introduction)

  3. Amara_dasa says :

    Hare Krishna! These quotes from Srila Prabhupada were very interesting to read. It has always been my understanding that brahmacaris, vanaprasthas and sannyasis don’t vote since they are disconnected from worldly affairs, but that grhasthas may or may not vote according to their involvement in society. In one sense, the Vaishnava and brahmana (grhasthas) are the ones who should be voting since their opinions are spiritually enlightened and it is their duty to help guide society. As with Akruranatha Prabhu, I will be voting for Barack Obama this November and just about all of the devotees I’ve spoken with are doing the same, for various reasons.

  4. pustakrishna says :

    Sadly, we cannot find someone to vote for who reflects a sane conception of life. In the US, one protects abortion which results in the death of many millions of lives in the womb, causing interruption of human life potential for going back to Godhead. On the other hand, there are war-mongers who are intent on “winning one for the gipper”, having lost the Vietnam War. Of course, none promotes protection of cows, etc. We are indeed in the Kali Yuga, kalau shudra sambhavah.
    What Srila Prabhupad wanted to create is a class of enlightened individuals who could give guidance to political leaders. Would they come to Krishna conscious sages to take any advice? Srila Prabhupad used to consider that they might as things become worse and worse in the world. Who else can make sense out of all of this other than a Krishna conscious person. The other religions look forward to the “last days” as a sign that God will incarnate again and save “the faithful”. This is our proposal also, except that it will not take place for another 427,000 years when Kalki Avatar comes with a mission that we may not want to be around to see; not to save the faithful but to kill off the remaining animalistic miscreants, giving way to a new Satya-yuga.
    Until we recognize that Krishna is the creator and owner of everthing, the only enjoyer, and the dearmost Friend of all living beings, there can be no peace individually, nor collectively. And, the misguided activities or sins of the world create the debt or karma that results in further suffering in this world. Voting was won with the loss of many lives in the US. It is considered a great boon for people to vote people in or out of office. In the absence of an enlightened ruler/king, Americans take this all very seriously. The problem is not that there is some terrible act in voting, but that one becomes bound up in the karma of the unqualified politician who perpetuates a misdirected lie. “Bon Chance” Hare Krishna, Pusta Krishna das

  5. We criticize democracy because fools and rascals are cheated into voting for those who are not qualified. This criticism at least implicitly suggests that voters should be more intelligent, and that more intelligent people should vote. As Prabhupada says in one of the quotations above: “So that means you have to create Krishna conscious voters.”

    Srila Prabhupada says above that we should tell the politicians, “I will not give you my vote unless you read Bhagavad Gita.” This quotation may suggest we should not vote, if our only choice is to vote for a nondevotee. On the other hand it suggests we use our voting privilege to encourage those seeking our votes to become acquainted with the universal principles of spiritual life as set forth in the standard scriptures, especially Bhagavad Gita. In other words, we should hope to see some qualified leaders emerge, and should vote for those who demonstrate scientific knowledge of Bhagavad Gita.

    If we should only vote for devotees, the implication is that devotees may be politicians. It is not that one who is a devotee cannot be a politician, or it would make no sense to say we should vote for devotees. Thus, when Srila Prabhupada says devotees should not run for office but should try to make the public Krishna conscious, it appears to be a strategic instruction for our time. Later, when a significant percentage of the population is Krishna conscious, they will select Krishna conscious leaders, who will also be devotees.

    If devotees can be doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, etc., can’t they also be school superintendents, judges, mayors, congressmen, senators, cabinet ministers and presidents? Srila Prabhupada seems to be saying he prefers his disciples to be preachers and convince people from all walks of life to become devotees, rather than become distracted by taking up material occupations.

    “[o]ur principle is that I vote for this man or that man if there is some spiritual benefit. That is our point.”

    The guiding principle appears to be that whatever we do, including voting (if we do voting), should be done as service to Krishna, and if there is no service to Krishna involved in voting for this or that candidate, why should we bother?

    Simply staying home on election day does not free us from our collective social karma. Finding out how to dedicate our every thought, word and act in devotional service will save us, even if we are working householders and voters.

  6. Kulapavana says :

    If you are not satisfied with either of the two front runners in the US presidential campaign, why not vote for somebody else? There ARE other choices. If you vote for a third party candidate at least you will be sending a message that you are not happy with voting for the ‘lesser of two evils’. With time more people will consider that option.

    While the democratic process of voting leaders into power is far from perfect, so are the alternatives. If we look at the history of authocratic systems of government and the horrific abuses they generated, one must wonder which system is less risky. That analysis applies to our own society as well.

  7. For those U.S. voters living in California, there happens to be an initiative on the November 4th ballot imposing regulations for more ethical treatment of farm animals.

    [For those unfamiliar with California politics, we have a “super-democratic” process, left over from the “Progressive Era” of the early 20th century, in which we not only vote for representatives of the State Assembly who make laws like an ordinary legislative body, but we also get to vote directly on laws that are placed on the ballot by getting enough signatures on a petition and complying with certain rules. This can cause some mischief because it is easily manipulated by monied interests and the voters can be duped into voting for complex changes in law without really possibly being able to grasp the details. On the other hand, professional legislators can also be duped and are so busy worrying about getting reelected that they also often vote on legislation written by lobbyists without knowing the details, either.]

    Anyway, those who are already registered to vote in California (the deadline for registration was Monday) can vote in favor of a law that requires farmers to treat their animals more humanely before they slaughter them.

    There are also initiatives for amending the California Constitution (democracy is really out of hand in California, when you can amend the Constitution by a simple majority on a ballot initiative): One would amend the Constitution to prevent gay marriage. Another would amend the Constitution to require minors to inform their parents before getting abortions. These are efforts to overrule judicial interpretations of California’s constitution by just amending the constitution. (The abortion one probably will have the effect of significantly reducing the number of abortions, according to those who have studied the effect of similar laws elsewhere).

    I won’t bore you with some of the other issues California votes will be directly deciding via the initiative process (high-speed rail bonds, children’s hospital bonds, creation of a bipartisan commission for redrawing legislative districts, law enforcement changes, a confusing welter of energy policy initiatives, changing the system of funding 9-1-1 emergency calls, etc.)

    I thought primarily the farm animal initiative would be of interest to devotees.

  8. Srila Prabhupada said in an famous interview on July 9 1975:

    Prabhupada: Well, people election… Just like you elected Nixon and then you wanted him to come down. So this kind of election has no value. Sometimes you elect and sometimes you pull down. So what is the value of this election?

    Woman reporter: So a leader should not be elected.

    Prabhupada: Elected, but not by this general public. They have no intelligence. They sometimes elect a wrong man, and again they try to drag him down. So what is the use of such election? Because that election is not sober, not mature. If the election was mature and sober, then there was no need of dragging him down again.

  9. kldd says :

    Barak Obama, known to my family as Barry, has been a childhood friend of my younger brother and they still get together to shoot hoops, etc…only now they are surrounding by ‘men-in-black like’ security! Barry stays at my brother’s place when in Hawaii. As my oldest brother and myself became devotees back in the late 60s and early 70s, I know that Barry has taken prasadam that either my brother or myself brought to our parent/s home at the time. My younger brother often visited the temple, sometimes with his mates, so there is a chance that Barak also visited the temple, Mckinley Steet or Coehlo Way…don’t remember (Hey, I didn’t know he was going to run for president!) Not much, but something…he might have even picked up the Bhagavad Gita or Necter of Devotion that was usually lying around somewhere to try to understand the signifigance; he was/is that sort of guy: inquisitive. Doubt either McCain or Palin (can she read?) would ever show any interest.

  10. Bhakta Randy says :

    That thought, of Mr. Obama being sympathetic to the Hare Krishna movement, I find quite exciting. I don’t know if anything would ever come of it, but it would certainly make him the most honestly intelligent President there has been in many many years.
    Hari Bol!!!

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