Vedanta can help young politicians become better leaders, believes spiritual master SRI M. He spoke to MONA MEHTA in New Delhi
There is lack of leadership in politicians today. Is there a remedy?
Sri M: Not just politicians, anyone who wants to do good for society has to have some leadership qualities, for which the basis ought to be prioritising public welfare. But, most politicians have selfish interests — for their party, their group — but that’s not the function of a real politician-administrator. Of course, he will be grateful to the party for helping him win the elections, but beyond that, he should treat everybody equally. Vedanta says that in every human there is divinity, so, at the deeper level, everybody is equal, perhaps not in the socialist way.
Karl Marx wrote Das Capital. He had exposure only to western religions. Had he been exposed to the Upanishads, for instance, his own theory would have panned out differently. From his theory of dialectical materialism, he may have dropped materialism. Swami Vivekananda would also say that he is a socialist, not because it offered complete solutions, but because “half a loaf is better than none”. Vivekananda was not in politics, yet he was a good leader. A leader should have nothing against any ideology; to him, all are equal. Second, he should be disciplined, not let adulation get to his head.
This applies to gurus, too. My master Maheshwarnath Babaji used to say, it does not matter what people think about you, but if you begin to believe what they think about you, you are sunk. This is not easy, but there should be eternal watchfulness; that is why I say, welcome criticism, because it balances the adulation.
What is your advice to younger politicians like Rahul Gandhi?
Sri M: What Rahul Gandhi needs is a little more grounding in the essence of Indian culture and philosophy and ethos of the average Indian. We cannot completely divorce Indian minds from religion, because this has been going on for thousands of years. When I talk about religion, I mean its spiritual side, not the organised system. And if you try to remove it and say that we are secular, nobody is really secular, it is just a word.
Somewhere you are following something. Instead of saying ‘secular’, we should look at the ethos of Indian culture and philosophy and Rahul Gandhi can just bring it up a little bit, now that he is more mature. Many things can happen. I have not lost hope. There are young people in all political parties. They should be allowed to function with more responsibility, because the future is in their hands. And they can come up with fresh ideas, fresh energy.
What kind of scriptures would you recommend that young politicians read?
Sri M: Vedanta attempts to instantly, intimately, in the present, understand reality. And fortunately for us, this reality is all-pervading, it is in us, too. As opposed to animals, humans have a special capacity to be conscious and also be aware of it. But, politics has moved away from all this. If politics had imbibed some of the essence of the Upanishads, you would have a different kind of politics. You would have leaders who see supreme reality everywhere and work for common welfare instead of being only self-serving.
Krishna, in the Gita, talks to Arjuna about the qualities of a yogi. He is actually addressing leaders. Arjuna was no politician; he was a prince, a leader. Krishna tells him that a great yogi leader, should have control over his senses, because if emotions are controlled, your thinking becomes clear, and you will be unbiased. Second, maintain equanimity in both good and bad circumstances. These things are not taught in political science. We need to create an indigenous political science totally in tune with the Indian ethos, focusing on character.
According to the Gita, the leader-teacher should be a person of equanimity, so there is less likelihood of his taking wrong decisions, as he would be unswayed by emotions. Leadership is a big responsibility; so you need to stay focused. Third, a leader should look to common welfare. If these three things can be somehow integrated into leadership, we can have wonderful leaders. They don’t have to change their ideology. No ideology is perfect; so they should focus on character.
Should yogis and gurus participate directly in politics?
Sri M: Now you have Adiyanath Yogi as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. It may appear that there is a religious man in politics, but the fact is, he has been in politics since a long time. He wears saffron robes because he belongs to Gorakhpur, Nath Sampradaya, also my sampradaya. I do believe that it is not a good idea for spiritual people to be in active politics because active politics has its own compulsions.
It is better to stay in the background and try to guide people so that they do better things. A spiritual person cannot take political sides, because all people come to us, and we should not differentiate among them, for all are good.
How do you see good in all?
Sri M: I do that constantly. When I meet people, I say to myself, there is in me a spark of the Divine, it has to be in this person also, let me see that, I won’t look at anything else in him. When this relationship begins, slowly all negativity falls off, we begin to see the good things; then if you see the negative things, you will be able to sort it out. But if you see only the negative things, it is not possible to get along. Everybody has their compulsions, if someone is looking unhappy all the time, maybe it’s because he has an unhappy family life. You have to check.