Srila Prabhupada on voting and vaishnavism
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: http://gopaljiu.org/Bindu/Bindu_back_issues.htm
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)