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To vote or not to vote?

Wednesday, 29 October 2008 / Published in Ads, Message Board / 3,901 views

Dharini Dasi, ACBSP:

When the government had become corrupt five thousand years ago, Krsna instructed Arjuna to get rid of the government for the welfare of the citizens. Although none of the current US candidates are Yadu-like or Krsna-conscious, an argument could be made that devotees who live and work outside temples have good reasons to vote. Government policies affect ISKCON and the lives of devotees in many ways. Philosophy is meant for its application, and voting can be a way to express principles we believe in.

The republicans’ pro-life position stands in clear contradiction to their promotion of violence through their pro-gun stance since the guns are used to kill animals; through their promotion of torture of political prisoners; and through an unprecedented pre-emptive war. The Bush administration blatantly lied to the world regarding the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which resulted in the many thousands of deaths and injuries of US, Iraqi and Afghan individuals. McCain supports this senseless war, and some ISKCON devotees, including one here in Portland, Oregon, have been drawn into the war. A whole generation of Moslems is growing up to despise westerners, thus reducing the opportunity to preach Krsna consciousness in several countries. The Iraq war is a major moral issue, and as a devotee, I want to voice my disapproval.

There is no question that ISKCON temples are affected by economic policies favoring corporate control and the shrinking of the middle class, as householders struggle to support their families and temple donations dwindle. The absence of a national health care results in a crisis for American devotees getting older. In addition to electing representatives, voters have a voice in many local issues, some of which may be important to devotees, like protecting mother Earth and reduce the suffering of animals.

Madhavananda prabhu’s points are well taken. Here is a good compromise: I would suggest that devotees who are thinking about voting Republican not get involved in mundane matters. All others, please follow Akruranatha prabhu’s lead and vote with your conscience… and for Obama. ;-)

Dharini Dasi, ACBSP Portland, Oregon, USA

8 comments

  1. 0
    Makhanchor Das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I’m with you Akruranatha!! I think it is at the very essence of Krsna consciousness to have integrity and to take a stand for what is best. That is what the Bhagavad Gita teaches. Not to sit it out and be guilty of “action in inaction”. In a democratic system we have some tiny modicum of power. Why not take that opportunity as Rupa Gosvami suggests and vote for the candidate who is the most favorable to Krsna consciousness.

  2. 0
    Pandu das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I heard some devotees have proposed that voting causes one to accrue karma that would not be accrued by not voting, so I searched the Vedabase for variations of “karma” and “vote” within 50 words of each other, and found only one result. [advanced search: “vot* karm*”/50] (The word “karma” appeared in the Bhagavad-gita verse that followed.)

    Prabhupada: “According to our Vedic civilization, first-class men’s vote required, who knows things as they are. One who does not know things as they are, what is the use of taking vote from him?”
    >>> Ref. VedaBase => Room Conversation with Dr. Copeland, Professor of Modern Indian History — May 20, 1975, Melbourne

    As I understand it, the problem with democracy is that the general population is ignorant of spiritual principles. People don’t know what’s good for them. If a person is knowledgeable but does not vote, he is contributing to the problem by allowing the ignorant to choose the leader. Of voting or not voting, it seems to me that avoiding one’s civic duty would be the way to accrue karma. The following verse comes to mind:

    “One who sees inaction in action, and action in inaction, is intelligent among men, and he is in the transcendental position, although engaged in all sorts of activities.” Bg 4.18

  3. 0
    Pavamana ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Mataji:
    I agree that the election we are about to have is a very serious one. ISKCON devotees are going to be affected by the outcome in one way or another. In this Kali Yuga, we can only expect calamity from a government that doesn’t know the goal of life or how to attain it.

    Whether George Bush lied or not is subject to debate. The web of lies and distortion that is propagated by various media make it difficult if not impossible to know what the truth is. We aren’t there for the discussions in the White House or the Pentagon. What we get is some reporter’s opinion from something he heard or read somewhere, all filtered by his personal beliefs and mode of nature. It’s easy to mislead people by writing articles and publishing them in the media. If you simply listen to the “mainstream media”, you’ll be imbibing the particular slant of those who write the articles.

    What is at stake here is whether the United States is going to be a socialist/communist state, or remain capitalist. As devotees, we should be most concerned about this because this kind of government promotes athiesm and tries to suppress the free exercise of religion. Whether you choose to vote or not, this election is about whether we are going to move towards socialism or remain a capitalist society. It is not insignificant or irrelevant, and the outcome of this election is going to affect our future. Srila Prabhupada warned us about the inevitable rise of Shudra government, communism, and asked us to try to stop it by our preaching. The current leading candidate will take us down the path to communism if he’s elected. We should be very concerned about the election of this person and the “change” that he and his cronies are going to impose on the citizens of this country.

  4. 0
    gkd ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Don’t Vote!

    I am surprised that Dandavats has posted “To Vote or Not to Vote” on this scrolling “Announcements and Ads,” for many less mature or simple devotees will misconstrue that Dandavats (and hence ISKCON) thus endorses the current Democratic, rather than the Republican, candidate for the U.S. presidency.

    If Dandavats does in fact endorse the Democratic candidate, then would it not be more proper to publish an official pronouncement to that effect–with sound reasoning supported by sastra-guru-sadhu as to why Vaisnavas should indeed vote for the Democratic candidate?

    But if Dandavats actually does not support either candidate, then we humbly submit that it is only fitting–i.e., fair and proper–to also post this announcement.

    Madhavananda Prabhu has already provided sufficient words of ISKCON’s founder-acarya on the subject of voting. For example:

    “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.”

    Since neither the Democratic nor the Republican candidate for the U.S. presidency is known to be Krishna conscious, we therefore humbly appeal to all readers of Dandavats to simply follow Srila Prabhupada’s advice and “not vote for anyone who is not Krishna conscious.” If it has not been factually ascertained that either the Democratic or the Republican candidate is Krishna conscious, then the only responsible conclusion–that which is faithful to the instructions of our founder-acarya–is therefore obviously:

    “Don’t Vote!”

    Thank you very much.

    humbly aspiring to become a genuine Prabhupdadanuga,
    this most unworthy servant called
    guru-krsna das

  5. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I can respect Guru-Krishna Das’s understanding that Srila Prabhupada does not want his followers to vote in the current U.S. presidential election. I can see how some of the quotes cited by Madhavananda could support that view.

    I have a different understanding. Madhavananda also stated: “[Srila Prabhupada] was asked several times if he wanted his followers to vote or not, — he repeatedly replied that the choice was up to them.”

    I can understand how a devotee might want to exercise the right NOT to vote.

    I can see how some devotees would prefer to write-in the name of a Krishna conscious person (like William Ogle, our Balavanta Prabhu, for president, and David Liberman, our Amarendra Prabhu, for vice-president). :-)

    I can also see how some devotees might believe that voting for McCain-Palin is more in keeping with some of our Vaisnava values. [E.g., McCain might appoint Supreme Court justices whose view of constitutional privacy rights would not go so far as to prevent states from outlawing abortion under circumstances protected by the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision (written by Justice Blackmun, a Republican appointed by Nixon)].

    But personally, I am glad I voted for Obama and believe he would be more receptive to Krishna conscious ideas than McCain would.

    I was very pleased to read kldd’s account of how Obama is close friends with the younger brother of a family in which kldd and her older brother are devotees. He has taken prasadam and had opportunities to review Prabhupada’s books. I *knew* there was something I liked about that candidate! :-)

    This election is about alot more than abortion rights, and the same commitment to personal freedom and diversity that upholds the privacy of medical-ethical choices, unfortunate as they may be, also permits us freedom to follow and proselytize Krishna consciousness, and actually gets people to listen to us.

    Four kinds of pious men surrender to Krishna, including the inquisitive. Kldd pointed out, Obama has the kind of inquisitiveness that could make him receptive to Prabhupada’s books and the needs of devotees.

    I also think he is basically right (or better than McCain) on the economy, foreign policy, and restoring some semblance of dignity to public discourse.

    No, I am not kidding myself that he is a devotee, but I am currently a householder lawyer working with laws and judges every day. I do not have to “abstain” from the political life of my country. Nor do you.

  6. 0
    ccd ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Prabhus,

    I strongly feel that institution in general should not support vote one way or another. We did a huge mistake to support a particular party with all the brahmacaries voting for them in some Indian elections – well they did not win, in historical perspective other missions to the West did a mistake of supporting a particular government in 1930s. Again a brutal mistake that ended that saga in a PR disaster after the war was over.

    There will always be individuals who will decide one way or another, to vote or not and whom to vote. But the main thing is not to come across one way or another on the whole. I am very happy to see a good spectrum of devotees’ views. That is such a healthy sign.

    ys Caitanya candrodaya

  7. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    One thing all the devotees agree on is that the mundane efforts for peace and prosperity without Krishna consciousness will fail, and that the real panacea for the ills of modern society is the chanting of Hare Krishna.

    The danger of devotees voting is that they may get overly invested in the mundane controversies over various public policies and begin to neglect their spiritual practices. It can be a serious distraction.

    As far as I can tell, the same danger exists for devotees (like myself) who are engaged in some mundane occupation or business. We have to learn how to keep our core Krishna consciousness strong (best is to have a strong morning *and* evening program full of hearing and chanting), and then we can deal with the material energy during the day (if we have to) without becoming overly distracted.

    I actually agree with Pavamana that it is easy for us to be bewildered by the modes of nature when we try to understand what is going on in the corporate boardrooms and halls of political power.

    Maybe I am buying too much of the Obama “hype”, and maybe Pavamana is buying too much of the McCain “hype”. The idea that an Obama administration is going to take the U.S. down the road to atheistic communism seems almost silly to me, although I admit I am prone to be fooled by the material modes, and the only real certainty is Krishna’s lotus feet. It seems to my conditioned mind that Obama is just going to be a conventional liberal Democrat, sort of like a Clinton on policy but with (I hope) more personal integrity and truthfulness. I am curious why Pavamana thinks otherwise.

    When devotees analyse the political and business situation they sometimes express ideas that are way out of the mainstream of mundane discourse in newspapers and cable TV. Not that I repose much faith in our mass media, but it worries me a little that devotees can be so unreliable in sizing up the situation.

    I can count at least 4 times some devotee has predicted with “certainty” that a nuclear holocaust was going to occur on or before a specific date, only to have been proved wrong. I have been told without a doubt this election on November 4, 2008 would never happen, that some national catastrophe would be engineered to facilitate a Bush dictatorship under martial law or something, but here we are today and they were wrong. Devotees seem prone to wild conspiracy theories. I think it is worth discussing why.

  8. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    It seems to me that devotees, being aware of our conditioning, of the fact that we have imperfect senses and commit mistakes and can be bewildered and even sometimes tend to lie and cheat (if we are introspective most of us will admit to these four defects), should be *more* skeptical than the general population. We should be less prone to believe in far-fetched conspiracy scenarios without solid grounds (pramana).

    Granted, as devotees we do have ideas that are far out of the mainstream. Our political ideals are neither those of capitalism nor of mundane socialism, but of spiritual communism based on the religious principles of varnasram dharma. That automatically makes us less inclined to accept the average TV commentator’s views. It makes it easier for us to accept certain explanations that would seem strange to a typical news reporter or so-called “pundit”.

    [For our varnasrama system to work there must be some very high-grade intelligent people to give good guidance and to organize things properly. Even in our own ISKCON spiritual communes, many devotees experienced difficulties and have chosen to live more independently as congregational members. If we could build spiritual communities that were real utopias in every respect, we would expect to see our communes grow and thrive more than they do. I am sure we will learn and improve over time.]

    But our ability to accommodate unconventional explanations (not just in politics, but in our whole view of God and the soul and the physical world and its purpose) should not make us prone to wild speculations and inaccurate predictions about historical events. On the contrary, we are supposed to become more and more free from speculation and cheating (i.e., pretending to know what we really do not know). Our analysis should be more accurate, but more circumspect, than that of mundaners.

    It may be, strange as it seems, that for responsible grhasthas, interacting in a suitable way with material energy, in mainstream schools and jobs and PTA or even city council meetings, learning to keep a proper proportion between our all-important spiritual life and our external economic and civic life, we may actually learn to value our spiritual practices more and keep a more realistic and healthy perspective about what is really going on in the world around us.

    On the other hand, the danger is that we may become more mundane and fall away from Krishna consciousness due to bad association.

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