Politics Should be Governed by Religion
By Acharya Chandanaji
The importance of politics has increased as it has extended its sway into every field of life. In ancient times the government exercised jurisdiction only over law and order. Other fields like education, health, literature, culture, art, science, architecture and social welfare were independent of government control. They were carried out under the guidance of religious leaders. Nowadays, however, politics has invaded all these fields. The government decides everything from what we eat and how we are educated, to our conditions of work and what we wear. In other words, every facet of our personal lives has come under the scope and direction of the government, rather than remaining in people's own hands. Power is centralised. Concepts like the raising of people's consciousness, moral and ethical conduct, character development, honour and purity have lost their meaning.
People nowadays talk of globalisation, but what does that mean? You are forced to buy, whether you like it or not, the products of those multinational companies that have struck deals with the politicians. It is difficult to find out how these products are made, or what they contain and to what extent they might affect your feelings or your religious observances.
Although it is said that we have a democracy, in reality there is a large gap between the people and those who govern them. Every aspect of people's lives, their aspirations, character development, education, food and individual tastes, even their religion and culture, has been taken over by the government. The people are puppets and the State the puppeteer. Motivated by their own selfish interest, those in power, whether in the different states or at the centre, appropriate every facet of national life into private fiefdoms. The ballot boxes decide the character of the country. This is a mockery of democracy. It is a clear transgression of the people's fundamental rights and a heartless repression of their wishes.
Every citizen of India wants a good government implementing worthwhile programmes for the development of the country. Government should also do something about solving the problems that beset people every day. People want to live safely and in accordance with their beliefs and ideals. But when and how do they have the opportunity to lead an independent life? What is happening and why it is happening is no longer a secret. Anyone can read about scandals, corruption, deceit, violence, murder, covert sales of import-export licenses and other such chicanery in the daily newspapers. Each new administration promises 'open' government, matters are taken to court, enquiries are made and commissions set up - all to no avail.
When we analyse the situation, we find the main cause of this decline is that politics has become devoid of religion and morality. It has lost its ideals and become an arena for greed. Historians, economists and sociologists may advance various theories, but spiritual thinkers and seers are unanimous in declaring that the departure of politics from the path shown by religion is the reason for chaos in government today.
A religion is not a cult or a sect. It is the art of living. The science of living is religion. Religion teaches us how to live life along proper lines and how to improve ourselves and help others to lead an ethical and spiritual life. It teaches us how to discipline ourselves and live our lives full of love and free from fear. Politics on the other hand is limited to external systems governing life and society. To ignore the primary principles that regulate human, moral and spiritual evolution is to construct a politics that turns its back on all that is most essentially human. Love, trust, benevolence, empathy and mutual help are all thrown overboard in contemporary politics. Politics today plays no active role at all in improving the character of men.
No system of politics can be worthwhile if it remains indifferent to the principles of religion. The word 'secular' was introduced to describe something as being unbiased towards any particular religion, but secularism today means indifference to truth, knowledge, trust, love and compassion. Such secular politics is no more than a specious type of diplomacy, a base manipulation of caste and class voting blocks, and undeserving of the name 'politics'. It is far from concern with the fate of polity, which depends, as Aristotle showed, on the cultivation of civic virtues. In India today, instead of Yudhishthira's statesmanship, we have Dhritarashtra's diplomacy. Instead of Vidur's jurisprudence, we have Shakuni's electoral game of chance. By becoming indifferent to religion, politics has lost its way.
In ancient times religion held the reins of power; power was exercised in accordance with religious principles. Even if the ruler was hedonistic by nature, he had a religious leader to keep him on the straight and narrow. The religious gurus would apply their wisdom and pull in the reins to regulate the course of events. If the ruler became corrupt or did wrong, the senior members of the religious establishment would admonish him and set him back on the right path. As a result, the monarchy could not rule the country according to personal whim. History shows monarchs constantly seeking guidance from religious gurus, literally sitting at their feet till their doubts were resolved. The leaders of the Vajji and Licchavi republics went to Buddha and Mahavir to have their problems solved. Whenever conflicts, struggles and problems arose in those times, they were resolved, not out of self-interest, but on the basis of empathy and mutual agreement.
Emperor Ashoka, who had shed the blood of millions in his war against Kaling, became a ruler beloved of the gods, once he submitted to Buddha's religious teachings. His cruelty turned to compassion. Greed for an empire was converted to concern for people's welfare. The powerful and energetic Emperor Chandragupta always took advice from his guru Chanakya. Even a fierce warrior like Kumarpal devoted a quarter of the royal treasury annually to social welfare programmes at the behest of Acharya Hemchandra Suri. He ended the old feudal system and turned Gujarat into an ideal state. In his youth Akbar was a terribly cruel, fanatical and pleasure-seeking ruler, but when he came into contact with a great guru like Acharya Hiravijay Suriji, kindness and compassion towards his subjects took root in his heart. He launched a new religion called Din-e- Illahi that expressed love for all and an equal respect for all religions. History clearly shows that when politics has been guided by religion, it has worked for the welfare of people but when religious guidance ceased, wilfulness, cruelty, oppression and caprice ruled the Universe.
Nowadays people say that religion should keep out of politics and politics should ignore the influence of any religion. 'We are secular' has become the popular political slogan. But can the two remain indifferent to each other? While it is clear that religion ought not to hanker after power or meddle in its exercise, equally politics should keep away from sectarian prejudice or any controversy involving theology. It should not get involved in sensitive issues like religious ceremony, different beliefs or the performance of rituals. However, religion and politics cannot remain indifferent to each other; because if this happens, religion loses its brightness, its spiritual electricity and its capacity to exert a beneficent influence on the community, and politics will not be able to advance the cause of justice, morality and social welfare within the polity. Today's polluted politics is a glaring example of the consequences of indifference to religion masked by the slogan of secularism.
Why has today's politics become so corrupt? It seems that those at the heart of power have completely lost their direction, they know neither history nor have they any genuine experience of dealing with people. They do not recognise education or culture, or have any dream for social betterment. They simply don't think about things like mutual trust and sympathy, national pride or the enrichment of people's lives. These precepts are at the core of every religion. Religious gurus have knowledge, feelings, ideals, character, inspiration and above all, they are unselfish. They have no hidden agenda.
People who have these qualities should stay away from the seat of power and take an active role in promoting an ethical mode of life. Politics should look to such people for guidance, inspiration and support. Gandhiji greatly influenced politics and guided the nation, but he never sought a position of power for himself. The extent to which he was honoured, loved, and trusted by the people will remain unequalled even in years to come. He was called a politician and a saint, a great soul and the 'Father of the Nation'. He brought about a historic change in the country and broke the chains of slavery. Such role models are needed today to take the lead in formulating policies and propagating ethics and morality in the realm of politics.
Source : "The Jains Through Time"
Veerayatan's Silver Jubilee A Commemoration-An English Translation of' Samay Ki Parto Mein' published to celebrate the Twenty-sixth Centenary of the birth of Tirthankara Mahavira, English Translation By Sadhvi Shilapiji
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