Friday, October 2, 2009

A Flourishing Society

Lord Rama "There can never be a kingdom where Rama is not the monarch. That forest where Rama will reside will flourish into a monarchy." (Sage Vashishta, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 37)

In the modern age, the most popular style of government is the democracy. People hail a system where leaders are elected directly by the population through free and fair elections. Countries such as India, the United States, and many others have all adopted this style of government, or something very similar to it.

Most people are very proud to live in democratic countries. This style of government doesn’t come easy, for in India, the great Mahatma Gandhi went to great lengths with his nonviolence movement to secure the democratic style of government. Similarly in America, the colonials started a rebellion against the British monarchy, which led to the Revolutionary War. Even recent wars have dealt primarily with the issue of democracy. Democracy is generally viewed favorably since it facilitates the natural yearning of the human spirit to be free.

The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, say that the best form of government is that which has God at its center. The Shrimad Bhagavatam advises that one shouldn’t accept the role of a leader unless they can make their dependents Krishna, or God conscious.

“One who cannot deliver his dependents from the path of repeated birth and death should never become a spiritual master, a father, a husband, a mother or a worshipable demigod.” (Rishabhadeva, Shrimad Bhagavatam 5.5.18)

In this regard, any form of government that neglects service to God, or worse, rejects the notion of a Supreme Controller, that form of government will be doomed to failure.

Mahatma Gandhi Democracy may seem very appealing, but it has serious drawbacks. Since leaders are elected by popular vote, it is very easy for a spiritually ignorant person, a shudra, to be elected to high positions. If the people are led by shudras, then they will naturally inherit the qualities of ignorance. In essence, the blind will be leading the blind. This very situation exists today throughout the world. World leaders are completely focused on the gross material body, viewing sense gratification as the highest aim in life. This then leads them to focus all their policies around this principle. As a result, taxes become very high, with wealth being forcibly taken from one group explicitly for the purpose of giving it to another. This system of legalized theft and coercion leaves everyone unhappy. The victims of higher taxation naturally have reason to be angry, and the recipients of the redistributed wealth are no better off since they are living as dependents. Even in countries where there is great economic prosperity, the citizens are still always on edge, thinking that their comfortable life may disappear at any moment. In kingdoms and dictatorships, the situation is just as bad. Again, shudras run the government, this time forcibly imposing their will upon everyone. The citizens live in constant fear of the iron fist of government.

When Lord Krishna incarnated on earth as Lord Rama, He agreed to spend fourteen years in the forest as an exile from His kingdom of Ayodhya, which was ruled by His father Maharaja Dashratha. Rama was given the order to leave by Dashratha, which then led to an uproar amongst the citizens. The events took place during the Treta Yuga, when society in general, was very pious. They all recognized Rama to be someone very special, so they were greatly distraught upon hearing of His plight. Vashishta, Dashratha’s royal priest, declared that there would not be a kingdom if Rama were to leave. He declared that wherever Rama would go, that’s where the kingdom would be.

Vashishta is a very famous sage, so when He speaks, people should listen. Rama was God Himself, so naturally there will always be peace and prosperity wherever He goes. This notion held true as Rama traveled the forest with His wife Sita and younger brother Lakshmana. The trio travelled throughout India in their fourteen years in the forest, visiting hermitages of great sages. One sage after another declared that their penances and austerities had borne fruit since they were able to have darshana of the Lord. A pious brahmana or sage has their mind always fixed on God’s lotus feet. They devote their lives to performing tapasya, or voluntary austerities aimed at making spiritual advancement. For the great sages living in the forest, their service to the Lord didn’t go in vain, as they got to receive Rama personally as their guest in their homes. Forest life is meant for the wild beasts and other animals. Civilized people live in kingdoms or in areas with organized governments. Yet since Rama was in the forest, the real kingdom was with Him.

Rama giving His sandals to Bharata The lesson we should take away is that a particular style of government isn’t so important. Whether we live in a democracy or a monarchy, the key is to always be thinking of God, chanting His glories, reading books about Him, and offering Him our prayers. If a leader can follow this path, then his citizens will always be happy. Rama means “one who gives pleasure” and the Lord did just that wherever He went during His time on earth. Vashishta wasn’t able to convince the Lord to change His mind about living in the forest. The great sage and the rest of the citizens of Ayodhya would have to deal with separation from the Lord for fourteen years. Luckily for them, Rama’s younger Bharata ruled the kingdom during that time with great reverence for Rama. So even in God’s absence, the people were always thinking of God, dedicating their lives to serving Him, and for this reason the kingdom remained intact. Though the Lord isn’t physically present before us today, He has kindly appeared in the form of His holy name. There is actually no difference between God and His name, so if we always chant it in a loving manner, we can have direct association with Him.