Politicised Spirituality or Spiritualised Politics

By Prabhakar Timble
15 November 2011 02:38 IST


The pro-active involvement of the yoga guru Baba Ramdev and the Art of Living pundit Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in politics has brought to the fore a debate on whether spiritual leaders should stay upbeat in this arena of democratic theatre.  If politics is the science of reaching out to improve the quality of life of the people through people’s empowerment, theoretically, there cannot be any two opinions on spiritual leaders participating in political affairs.  Practically, spiritual leadership is different from political, military and religious leadership. A spiritual leader is one who has attained high level of spiritual awareness and accomplishment to guide people toward spiritual awakening.

Desmond Tutu, Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Sri Aurobindo, Swami Vivekananda have left indelible impressions and profound impact on social movements and public policy. They still and will continue to influence progressive thought, social and economic inclusiveness and democracy. Many times we link godmen, conmen and businessmen in camouflage as gurus to spiritual leaders. It is such people who could be a threat to democratic and egalitarian politics along with the spinners of money, muscle and greed capturing political thrones. We know the exploits of Swami Dhirendra Brahmachari and the likes. We see many regional versions of multiple Swamis on the ‘Astha’ channel holding sway over the gullible followers. The danger could be from these godmen. There is also a possibility of solutions pouring in once the muck and sludge of these godmen stands exposed in the transparent skies of Indian politics and democracy.

Godmen v/s businessmen

Godmen are politicians of a different kind. Both have their constituencies and would keep their supporters in good humour. But, politicians are many shades better. Politicians have to deal and manage voters who remain alert and awake. Godmen rule over followers who prefer to remain blind once injected the sedative of god and faith. Politicians are finally accountable to people and institutions. Godmen are liable to none, including their conscience because all their actions are voluntary and conscious.

There is a visible similarity between godmen and businessmen. Both are investors. Businessmen bear risks and expect reasonable returns on investment. Godmen are in non-risky and super profit business. Consumers of business products and services are generally not investors in these businesses. But, in the godly business, all consumers of godly services are also investors and provide fixed and working capital without expectation of returns. The more they experience failures or fears of failures or threats of failures in their personal life; their investment in the business of godmen tends to increase at geometric rate.

There cannot be untouchability in Indian politics and the floor is open for spiritual leaders as it is for all others. As spiritual leaders they will not enjoy any special privileges and would be subjected to the same laws and rules of politics. There is dirty politics in the ‘ashrams’ and palaces housing the ‘bishops’ as in political parties. There are also clean tiles and transparent roofing in politics as in the abode of so called swamis and godmen.

Brokers to participants

Godmen, swamis, bishops and mullahs have always maintained strong links with politicians and are not free from flirtations or romances with election politics. From the Janmabhoomis of Gods to Tirupati and the frequently visited “jagrat devasthans” and ‘Babas” by politicians, the religious leaders have provided peace and guidance to all politicians at prices. The so called spiritual leaders have received political blessings by the heap to play fiddle to their greed for money and vices. The first stage was when religious and spiritual leaders were contented by acting as power brokers and gratified with the brokerage.

The same was the earlier situation with the criminals and gangsters of different sorts. They were hand in gloves with politicians and each satisfied the need of the other. Now, these same elements have realised that they can usurp political power through the political parties and the ballot-box. Probably, this unwise wisdom has dawned on the leaders in spiritual camouflage. They no longer want to remain within the precincts of their respective houses providing for atonement of sins of the people through contributions in coins, properties and the yellow metal. They feel restless, by only supplying the tablets of de-stress and mental peace. They now demand visible power in the political democratic space. They already enjoyed invisible power.

Recognising contributions

Though the negative contributions of godmen as a group outweigh the positive, many individual contributions have been stunning and magnificent. One such is the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust (Puttaparthi) spearheaded by the late Sai Baba. Mata Amritanandmayi Ashram is another such example. But, at the same time when a person of the stature of P. N. Bhagwati, former chief justice of India maintains that “Sai Baba, my god, dictated my every single judgment”, we should know the possible pitfalls of spiritual leadership in democratic politics. To quote from an interview of the former CJ “Every single one of my judgments has been guided and inspired by a divine hand….As a professional, each time I would sit down to write a judgment, I was only writing what my god dictated, Bhagwan held my hand as I put pen to paper”. We also consumed the news of unaccounted gold, jewellery and currency worth thousands of crores stacked in the so called pious rooms in the divine abode of the Sai Baba.

The issue is when such spiritual gurus desire to dance and hold “satsangs” in democratic politics. The sin qua non of spiritualism is compassion. The spiritualists give the message of love and the message of truth. They do not tie people to rituals and make them victims of outdated practices. Spiritual leaders are those who have imbibed the essence of life to the core and as they preach, they themselves serve as models of love, truth and compassion. Simply because, a person has a following and hence a leader and sprinkles some religion in his preaching but subtly communicates violence, hatred, prejudiced values and amasses wealth in coins and properties running franchisee based operations we cannot consider such to be spiritual leaders. It is proved they are not spiritual in flesh, blood, thinking and content. Spirituality for them is a clothing to be worn outdoors and thrown out indoors. It is such people who would love to wield political power and sway over the mind of classes or masses. If compassion and empathy is absent, such leaders cannot bring spiritualism in politics. They would succeed in politicising spiritualism and create fragmented plots of religion, caste and money bags in their laughter clubs.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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Previous Comments

According to me, I may pardon a politician if he is corrupt since he accountable even if it is once every 5 years, Godmen are never.

Further for Ramdev bab his capital is gullibility of faithful. Trick them and build uip your business empire example 1000+ crore Rs + one island off Scotland. All this at no taxes, no auditting and questions asked.

I used to ridicule these Babas even when I was in teenage and got admonished by the family as an over smart guy

- Kalidas Sawkar, Panaji Goa | 16 th November 2011 17:04


Justice P.N.Bhagwati's confessions are really shocking & seriously dangerous.How can a judge allow some so called hand of god, guru or, any religious or spiritual thought whatsoever dictate his verdicts n judgements?

Does tbis not amount to CORRUPTION of some sort ?

What has team ANNA to say on this?

- Elston Fernandes, Margao/Curchorem | 16 th November 2011 16:58


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