“He is devoted to the truth and righteousness. He is glorious and seeks the kind treatment and favor of the people. He is cognizant of time and place, and speaks dearly to the entire world.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.21)
satya dharma paraḥ śrīmān samgraha anugrahe rataḥ |
deśa kāla vibhāgajñaḥ sarva loka priyam vadaḥ ||
Religion and politics. The recommendation is to avoid these two subjects in casual conversation, especially if you are amongst people you don’t know too well. Even with your close friends, the subjects can be the cause of immediate disagreement. People hold strong views, after all, and whatever opinion you utter, it is bound to clash with someone else’s. A famous celebrity has a high favorability rating, but as soon as they declare allegiance to a particular political party, they lose almost half of their support. Even a relatively benign statement like, “I enjoy eating pizza,” can invite scorn and ridicule.
When discussing politics especially, a good way to contribute to the conversation and avoid argument is to criticize across the board. Point out how most politicians are only in it for themselves. They don’t care about the welfare of the people. They are beholden to the special interests, the people who fronted the money for their campaign. Once in office, the politicians have to repay the favors done for them. They have to make good on the promises to their campaign contributors.
Truth and virtue are of secondary importance in this system. As an example, the country has laws. One section of those laws pertains to borders, namely in identifying where they are and who can enter and when. Due to many years of neglect, people have been entering the country illegally through a particular section of the border. Based on common sense, the action is illegal. Indeed, the people entering the country this way are identified with that exact term.
The job of the people in power is rather straightforward here. Enforce the law. It is not unfairly discriminating to enforce the laws of the country. Yet so many politicians ignore the transgression. They turn away from truth and virtue due to special interests. There is a powerful group that lobbies in favor of the illegal activity to continue. They promise many votes in the future election as a result of siding with them.
The issue doesn’t have to be about borders. It can be about any aspect of administration, and the same defects will be there. This flaw is inherent to the system of democracy. To complain that politicians are liars, cheats and thieves is akin to bemoaning how the players in professional basketball are tall or the players on the soccer field fleet afoot. The system is so built that anyone has the power to amass popular support, even if they are not righteous themselves.
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Shri Hanuman describes a person who is ideal for leading and protecting the people. Hanuman says that this person is dedicated to the truth and virtue, satya and dharma. A leader has to be truthful. You can’t depend on someone if they are not honest. Honesty is at the foundation of civilized society. If I put a letter in the mailbox, I expect the postman to be honest and deliver to the address listed. If they are not honest, then what is the point in sending a letter?
Truthfulness is one aspect to virtue. Dharma is all-encompassing. It is doing the right thing, even if what is right is not popular. The person Hanuman describes once voluntarily left His kingdom for fourteen years. This was to preserve the honesty of the father, who was the king at the time. This person protected innocent sages in the forest from foreign attackers, who used deadly force and unfair fighting means. This person carries His weapons with Him, even though His wife was concerned that the presence of bows and arrows might be the catalyst for conflict that went against dharma.
Hanuman says that this person is shriman, or glorious. Shri is opulence, and this person has it in great supply. He is married to the goddess of fortune, in fact. He seeks the kind treatment of the people, samgraha. Another meaning to this word is accumulation or collecting. This person is always looking out for the people by making sure there is enough to support their protection. He does not squander what is in the treasury for His own benefit. As He proved many times, He can live the most renounced life if the situation called for it. He is not in the occupation of leader for the perks.
This person also seeks the favor of the people. He sacrifices everything for them. If necessary, He would give up His life to save so many. The crooked politician sacrifices so many lives for his own pleasure. This person is the opposite in nature. He is the ideal ruler in every way.
The person of whom Hanuman speaks is Shri Rama. He is the husband of Sita, the recipient of these accurate and beautiful words. Sita is Lakshmi Devi, the person who resides eternally in the spiritual realm with her husband Narayana. Rama is that Narayana, and so He is non-different from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It makes sense, then, that when God descends to the earthly realm and chooses the role of administrator, He sets the example for everyone to follow. He is the best person to protect the citizens of Ayodhya.
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.66)
Extending beyond a single area, Rama plays the same role for the entire population. In His form of Shri Krishna He is truthful when He says that surrendering unto Him will protect a person from all sinful reaction. He is always virtuous, since He is the object of dharma itself. He has endless opulence to share with His devotees, and whatever advice He provides is for their ultimate benefit. The wise, therefore, always stay with God the person, thinking of Him and serving Him as their life’s mission.
For successful this life to make,
To service and surrender take.
To Rama, of others always thinking who,
Protection and considering their welfare too.
Like politicians with interests not,
Who no concept of virtue have got.
The truth, in right way administering,
Bhaktas from sinful reaction delivering.