“And that understanding which cannot distinguish between the religious way of life and the irreligious, between action that should be done and action that should not be done, that imperfect understanding, O son of Pritha, is in the mode of passion.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.31)Download this episode (right click and save)
yayā dharmam adharmaṁ ca
kāryaṁ cākāryam eva ca
buddhiḥ sā pārtha rājasī
“The thing I don’t like about politicians is that they are so fake. They never tell us what they really think. They are generally dishonest also. On the campaign trail they tell us what we want to hear. Then once they get in office, they reward their big donors. Whatever new legislation the special interests want, that’s what gets passed. Whatever regulations they want removed, that’s what happens. It’s as if the people don’t have a voice. We get wooed by talking points generated off of focus group answers. Nothing is real.”
These complaints are common in nations that use the form of government known as democracy. It doesn’t have to be a pure democracy; anything where there are legitimate elections to appoint officials to lead the country features the same problem. From the Bhagavad-gita we learn the root cause of the complaints.
Chanakya Pandit, the famous statesman, said to never trust a woman or a politician. Based on the experience of recent history alone we can tell why the politician is generally untrustworthy. From Vedic philosophy we get the concept of dharma. The literal definition is “a defining characteristic.” In general conversation, dharma equates to religion, religiosity, virtue, or duty. In truth, all definitions are identical.
The defining characteristic of the individual is their propensity to serve. This quality cannot be removed from the individual; it is inherent to them. If you find a spirit soul, then you find a being who wants to serve. That dharma never leaves; therefore it is known as sanatana. Sanatana-dharma is the more accurate term to describe real religion.
Virtue, religiosity and religious principles help to reawaken and then maintain the dharma of the soul. Thus the means and the objective become identical, leading to the multiple uses of the word “dharma.” When you add the letter “a” as a prefix, you negate the word. Adharma is the opposite of dharma. It is unrighteousness. It is sin, or the wrong way of doing something. When dharma and adharma are paired together, we can think of them as right and wrong.
In the Bhagavad-gita we learn that when a person’s intelligence is in the mode of passion, they can’t tell the difference between dharma and adharma. The democracy perfectly illustrates this concept. The foundation is passion. The mode of passion means chasing after a desire to please the senses.
The perceptive person upon first hearing this truth realizes that practically everyone in the world behaves this way. The mode of ignorance is what we consider to be stupid behavior, doing things that bring no benefit at all. The mode of goodness is for advancing in consciousness, for becoming more enlightened as to your true identity.
In a democracy, everyone wants something. If stealing is generally unacceptable, you can still make it legal. The process is to go through the legislative body and have them craft a new law. If you get enough votes, you can turn adharma into dharma. The reverse holds true as well. If you don’t like that innocent children are protected in the womb, you can lobby the government to remove that protection. Everything depends on votes; there is no natural law.
This type of intelligence is in passion because dharma can never turn into adharma. You can never make two plus two equal anything except four. A governing body can pass a law saying that two plus two equals five going forward, but that doesn’t change the actual fact. In the same way, the natural laws of virtue can never be truly nullified. The person who thinks they can is fully under the sway of passion.
In passion, everyone has an equal right to meet their interest. Therefore clashes arise. One group curries favor with the existing government, and another group wants the same benefit. Thus they battle each other in the election process, with the politicians saying exactly what needs to be said to get elected. They do not speak in the mode of goodness, which will enlighten everyone.
vidhi-diṣṭo ya ijyate
yaṣṭavyam eveti manaḥ
samādhāya sa sāttvikaḥ
“Of sacrifices, that sacrifice performed according to duty and to scriptural rules, and with no expectation of reward, is of the nature of goodness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 17.11)
In a democracy everything is up for grabs. The politicians are essentially competing with each other to see who will control the vast amount of money in the treasury. In the mode of goodness, there is detachment. The individual works for the sake of virtue. They don’t worry so much over the outcome, since they know that the living entity is ultimately not the doer. The material nature facilitates the results to action.
Intelligence in the mode of goodness brings real progress, with the end result being increased happiness. The politician tells us what we want to hear to satisfy our senses in the short term, but they don’t know that sense gratification is not the ultimate aim of life. The chance to reacquaint ourselves with sanatana-dharma, our original occupation, is the true boon of the human existence. That potential gets met when intelligence is properly situated. The Bhagavad-gita, which is spoken by the supreme pure, Shri Krishna, teaches us how to elevate beyond even the mode of goodness into pure goodness, which is known as Krishna consciousness. Krishna consciousness and sanatana-dharma are synonymous, and any person possessing that consciousness has perfected their intelligence.
Politician saying whatever for office to gain,
But unaware sense pleasure not life’s real aim.
So happiness likely in the short term,
But then dissatisfaction later in return.
Know adharma and dharma difference between,
With detachment for guidance on shastra lean.
In this age chanting holy names stipulated,
Through it again in dharma situated.