“O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.14)Download this episode (right click and save)
Friend1: I know you don’t like to talk about this.
Friend2: Then why are you bringing it up?
Friend1: Because it was a topic for discussion at a recent satsanga, where there was chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Friend2: Because other people discussed it, now I have to weigh in, too?
Friend1: Come on, just this one time.
Friend2: What do you want to know? Is there any spiritual angle at all, or is this just trying to guess how I voted?
Friend1: People are upset. The election didn’t go their way. People are literally crying.
Friend2: Yes. I’ve seen.
Friend1: What is your take on that?
Friend2: What should be my take?
Friend1: Happy? Sad? Disappointed?
Friend2: Bewildered would be more like it. You’re crying over something that doesn’t make much of a difference. Plus, the tide keeps turning. Just look at history.
Friend1: I knew I could get you to open up. What do you mean about the difference?
Friend2: You should know everything I’m about to say. This shouldn’t be news to you.
Friend2: You understand that in the mid-term elections it is almost a rule that the party of the sitting president does poorly.
Friend1: You mean his party loses seats in the Congress.
Friend2: Exactly. Look at 2014, 2010, 2006, 1994, 1986, 1982. I can go back even further if you like.
Friend1: Wow, that is interesting. Why does that happen?
Friend2: Oh man, that is so easy to answer. Because people aren’t happy either way. Today you are crying over the election outcome, but in two years you will likely be happy with the change. In another two years you’ll be sad again.
Friend1: And we should tolerate these changes, like the winter and summer seasons.
Friend2: Exactly. Glad you found a way to bring in the Bhagavad-gita. Shri Krishna says these changes, the tide of happiness and sadness, arise from sense perception only. One should learn to tolerate them. In one sense, it’s no different than being sad that your team lost the World Series. Next year there will be another baseball season, and soon the memory of the past seasons will vanish.
Friend1: Okay, but can you explain further about the mid-term election phenomena?
Friend2: People elect a new president. They expect certain things. When things don’t go their way, they revolt in the next election. They blame the party in power for everything that is wrong. Since these “revolts” happen so often, we can deduce that people are not happy either way.
Friend1: I see.
Friend2: Moreover, democracy is so designed that people are guaranteed to be upset.
Friend1: How so?
Friend2: You have to look at these candidates like lawyers. They are simply arguing the side that supports them. The side is an amalgamation of interests. You don’t have to get too technical, either. You can think of it as one side liking pizza and the other liking ice cream. You hire the person you think will best represent your interest, to argue it in the public arena.
Friend1: Are you saying that character doesn’t matter?
Friend2: Success in democracy is determined by swaying public opinion, by winning votes. The more slimy the candidate, the better they are at representing your position and demonizing the other side, the more likely they are to win. In this style of government, the ability to lie and fool is rewarded. After winning a case, do people complain about how sleazy the lawyer was? Do they lament the different things that were said in the courtroom?
Friend1: No. They are just happy to have won.
Friend2: It’s the same way in politics. You’re crying today because a person you think is a monster just got elected and will run the country, but that person is simply playing a role. They are representing a group of different interests. In due course, the other side, with their competing interests, will go back in power. It’s like a swinging pendulum.
Friend1: Are you saying that elections have no impact? What about wars and the like? What about poverty? What about certain people getting kicked out of the country?
Friend2: I think I’ve reached my limit on this topic. You should know something very important. The real issue for the living entity in the human body is escaping the duality of birth and death and everything that comes in between. Devotional service, bhakti-yoga, is the soul’s dharma, its essential characteristic.
Friend2: And success in bhakti-yoga is not determined by who wins elections. That is the plain truth. In fact, success is not hinged upon anything except the sincerity of the worshiper. The Supreme Lord helps them. In no other endeavor is this true. Devotional service in its pure form is unmotivated and uninterrupted. You can have consciousness of God the person irrespective of which party holds office. Prahlada Maharaja lived under the greatest tyranny, with the full force of the government directly attacking him repeatedly. His devotion not only continued, it thrived. His bhakti grew stronger and stronger. Why can’t we do the same? Why are we going to cry over election results? We should be upset that we still take notice of such unimportant things. We should cry that we have been given the blessing of the holy name and yet still don’t appreciate its potency.
To move on from result trying,
But after election can’t help crying.
A new leader, like crazy and mad,
Over potential future of nation sad.
But like changing seasons coming and going,
Due to sense perception the wise knowing.
Like Prahlada who in devotion’s path stayed,
Success mine in bhakti by elections not made.