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Politics v/s spirituality – are they compatible?

“My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right”– Abraham Lincoln

A friend was particularly disturbed by the current political situation in the country, and wryly remarked, “Politicians and diapers have one thing in common- they both should be changed regularly and for the same reason”.

While I laughed at his wisecrack, he confessed, “I love politics but I see all of you are always chanting the Holy Names of Krishna and discussing scriptures and worshipping God. Am I eligible to advance in spiritual life and also practice what I like?” I encouraged him and shared my thoughts that if his interests would help him improve his service to God and other living entities, his absorption in these subjects is welcome. Politics is a reality and could be important and useful. But it’s as beneficial to you as any other subject of this world- History, Medicine, Engineering and Politics and you could also have another area of study and interest.

For a practicing spiritualist the subjects of this world are a tool to connect to God, Krishna. If a Bhakti Yoga practitioner likes history, he would study his subjects and remember Krishna gratefully. He would also ensure the study would help him come closer to Krishna. And the key element here is remembrance and connection.

For example hearing a political scandal or reading about the Second World War could help a devotee connect to the Krishna conscious philosophy as revealed in the Srimad Bhagavatam or Bhagavad Gita. Then based on this connection he remembers his dear Lord and offers a silent prayer of gratitude. A devotee has his recommended spiritual practices and through his occupation- be it as a doctor or a politician- he sees the bigger picture of Krishna consciousness. He tries to understand how everything is included within the broad gamut of coming closer to Krishna.

And what is the test that a Bhakti yoga practitioner’s absorption in politics is not mere material bickering?

The results would be seen both externally and internally. You could gauge the internal evolution of your consciousness- if you feel your love for the Lord increase over the period of time that you were absorbed in politics, then go ahead and continue your politics. Let’s say someone’s mind cheats; he imagines and claims he loves Krishna more after he’s got involved in the politics of the state. After all the people who know best to run the country aren’t in politics; they are the barbers, taxi drivers and you and me. Therefore our weakness for material gossip could very well camouflage as service to Krishna. So we need another indicator- the external result- as well.

Externally, a devotee of Krishna would also increase and improve his service to devotees of God and develop better friendships with them. If as a result of absorption in political discussions he’s lost devotee friends then the whole purpose is defeated. Krishna is the Supreme Lord of all living entities. As we connect to Him more we’d want to serve Him lovingly and make friendship with His devotees.

Since every subject of this world is potentially contaminated by material energy, to purify our consciousness the devotees of Krishna chant a fixed number of rounds of Hare Krishna maha mantra on their beads and hear and glorify the Lord. Then as a part of their service and duty, they engage in various studies and occupation.

But at the end of the day you could know of your advancement in spiritual life by how you relate to other human beings who are all children of the same God. Politics is healthy for you if it helps you love better. But if politics takes us away from the love principle, then we better abandon it and seek another pursuit.

 

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