by His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar...
Both spirituality or religion and politics deal with human beings. A politics devoid of spirituality is infested with corruption and creates an unethical atmosphere of manoeuvred situations, circumstances and people. If you do not recognise the individual or universal spirit, there is no reason for you to be ethical. Politics without ethics and human values would result in chaos, crime and corruption.
The goal of politics is to bring good governance and increase material, emotional and physical comfort of people. The aim of spirituality is to boost morality and human values. Both politics and spirituality need to go hand in hand.
For good governance, spirituality is necessary. Only spirituality can invoke commitment, care and confidence. Spiritual people live the values, which are absolutely essential for those in governance. A leader has to be a samadarshi , one who sees everyone as being equal; satyadarshi , who moves with the Truth; paradarshi, who is transparent in action; doordarshi, being broad-minded and a visionary; and priyadarshi, embodying love and compassion.
On the one hand, religion has been the cause of many wars on this planet. On the other hand, religion and spirituality have thrived only because of the patronage of the state. If a society is chaotic and has no spiritual values it is difficult to govern and if there is no official patronage, it is difficult for spirituality to survive.
Spirituality makes people honest and committed and this is necessary to create a crime-free society. State patronage makes spirituality spread faster to all sections of society. While many wars are fought in the name of religion, spirituality has given courage, confidence and commitment to people even in the toughest of times. Many saints, prophets, Sufis and sanyasis have been victimised due to lack of political patronage. For example, many Sikh gurus were persecuted by the state. This affected the morale of society and resulted in bad governance.
Religion has created conflict, but irreligious societies have created chaos and corruption. Did not millions suffer in Russia, China and Cambodia in the name of freeing society of religious beliefs? Today, both religion and politics need reform. Religion has to become more spiritual to allow freedom of worship and broader to encompass all the wisdom in the world and politicians have to become more righteous and spiritual.
When spirituality and politics don't coexist, then you have corrupt politicians and pseudo-religious leaders. Spirituality is ingrained in the Indian polity. Since ancient times rajgurus have guided and counselled rulers and in turn rulers have supported religious and spiritual leaders. Rama's guru was Vasishta and Krishna's guru was Sandipani. Jainism and Buddhism flourished under the patronage of the rulers of their time. Shivaji gave patronage to Samarth Ramdass.
M K Gandhi appealed to people across the board because of his spiritual approach. Spirituality brought freedom to India. Indian spirituality has given a secular ethos to the world.
The need of the hour is a prejudice-free political system. Consensus can emerge only when politicians learn to drop prejudices of religion, caste and gender. To be able to drop prejudices, politicians need to widen their sense of belongingness. This can happen only when they are free from stress and gain a spiritual perspective.
Politics is mainly about caring for people, providing for their welfare. Spirituality gives you a broader vision of life, teaching all to share, care and nurture each other selflessly and with equanimity.
The writer is founder, the Art of Living and the International Association for Human Values.
Source: TOI-6 Apr2009