Monday, October 5, 2009

Chief of Staff

Lord Krishna “In some of the palaces He (Krishna) was found consulting with ministers like Uddhava and others on important matters of business.”  (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 14)

In modern day politics, pollsters and campaign advisors play a pivotal role in determining the fate of a candidate. Winning or losing an election can hinge on the quality of a candidate’s trusted aide and their ability to sway the electorate in their favor.

Unlike previous times, today’s governments are primarily democracies, or some of form of them. The United States is a democratic republic, where representatives, elected by popular vote, run the country. Members of the House of Representatives are up for election every two years, the President every four years, and Senators every six years. Obviously, the way to win an election is to get more votes than your opponent. Campaigns today invest full faith and trust in advisors who conduct numerous focus groups and polls to get a pulse of the voting population and how they stand on various issues. The information gathered is then used in shaping the message of the candidate, which in turn determines the strategy for the targeted advertising campaign. In essence, the campaign advisors serve as the guru for the campaign.

Dick Morris was one such example of an effective campaign advisor. A pollster and strategist who worked for both Republicans and Democrats, Morris was hired by President Clinton in 1995 to help him recover from a disastrous midterm election in 1994. After two years in office, Clinton, a Democrat, lost control of both houses of Congress to the opposition party, the Republicans. He needed help in shaping his image and boosting his poll numbers. Morris immediately went to work, crafting a strategy that included year-round negative advertising directed towards the Republicans, along with policy changes involving the adoption of many Republican ideas. Clinton was up for reelection in 1996, so he wanted to make sure his popularity increased just in time for the vote. Late in 96, Clinton signed the Welfare Reform bill pushed by Republicans. This was much to the chagrin of Democrats, who opposed the legislation, but Morris thought it would be very beneficial for the upcoming election. The gamble paid off as Clinton easily won reelection, in large part due to the efforts of Morris.

Dick Morris and Bill Clinton While these advisors are definitely helpful in garnering votes, they fall short in actually helping a leader govern properly. According to Vedic philosophy, one shouldn’t be a king, a spiritual master, or parent unless they can deliver their dependents from the repeated cycle of birth and death. The Vedas tell us that we don’t actually get one life, but as many as we choose until we realize that our true happiness lies in God’s spiritual kingdom. It is thus the duty of the king or leader of a country to provide protection to his people and to impart on them this spiritual knowledge. The political arena is filled with career politicians and advisors. Mostly lawyers by trade, their expertise lies in being able to bend and shape the laws to the limit, almost to cheat in a sense. The most successful lawyers are the ones that can cheat the best. While cheating may be okay when practicing law, it proves very harmful when governing a country. A ruler should be the most upstanding citizen, completely dedicated to dharma, or religiosity. Presidents are role models since they spend so much time in the public eye. Every newspaper around the world chronicles the day to day activities of presidents. They cannot utter a word without it appearing in a newspaper or on television. For a ruler to govern properly, he requires the help of a spiritual guide, someone who knows right and wrong and the proper course of action under any and all circumstances.

Narada Muni speaking to King Yudhisthira "A king is not alone. He first has his spiritual master, the supreme guide. Then come his ministers, kingdom, his fortifications, his treasury, his system of law and order, and his friends or allies. If these seven are properly maintained, the king is happy. (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 6.14.17 Purport)

The Vedas declare that society should be divided up into four groups based on the qualities naturally found in people. We see that certain people are more pious than others, while some are more brave and courageous than others. We also see that certain people are more apt to be good businessmen, while others are better suited for performing difficult manual labor. These are all qualities found in people, so the scriptures tell us to have a society where these four divisions function fully and equally. The highest division is the brahmana, or priestly class. Brahmanas dedicate their lives to studying religion and imparting that knowledge to others. A bona fide brahmana is one who is a devotee of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. These devotees are the only people fit to advise the kshatriyas, the administrative class. All the great kings of the past had brahmanas in their court that served as their advisors. Advice given by the priests was always followed by the kings. One of the most famous royal dynasties was the Ikshvaku, which had the venerable sage Vashishta as its royal priest. There were many other famous brahmanas as well, who were all respected by the royal order. Since their only business is to serve God, their knowledge is perfect. A king or a president isn’t required to know all the ins and outs of governmental affairs or public policy. They simply require the counsel of these pious men who can solve all their problems. If a leader follows the proper course of action, the rest of the citizens will follow, and there will be peace and prosperity.

If a king doesn’t have a proper advisor, chaos ensues. We see this situation in place today. Our leaders today are constantly on television decrying the profits earned by businessmen, while they themselves are millionaires. They pit one group of people against another, declaring that over half the population is racist or bigoted. This sort of ignorance trickles down and eventually pervades society. What you are left with is a country where each person is suspect of one another.

Those who are God conscious should preach the message of peace and love found in the ancient scriptures of India, especially those found in the Shrimad Bhagavatam. All the information on how to properly run a government and make people happy is found in this book. For those not interested in reading, God has been kind enough to summarize all Vedic knowledge into one short phrase, the maha-mantra: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

Lord Krishna Sixteen simple words represent our path to peace and prosperity. The best advice any president can be given is to always chant this mantra with faith and reverence, and all the world’s problems will soon disappear.