“Heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity, and leadership are the qualities of work for the kshatriyas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.43)Download this episode (right click and save)
Friend1: What is the one thing you would say today’s leaders are lacking?
Friend2: Leaders in society or those officially in charge of the government, of overseeing everything and everyone?
Friend1: Oh, that’s a good question. Let’s just stick with the government. They are the official leaders. They are the acknowledged caretakers of the people.
Friend2: Hmm, that doesn’t make things any easier. You could say “honesty.”
Friend1: That’s true. It’s practically impossible to find an honest politician.
Friend2: An honest politician is a losing politician. They all have to lie to some degree.
Friend1: What else is lacking?
Friend1: Really? You think these leaders aren’t brave enough.
Friend2: By the way, I’m getting this list from the Bhagavad-gita, where Shri Krishna talks about the qualities of the kshatriya. These qualities are part of their nature.
Friend1: So a person is born a kshatriya? They can’t become one.
Friend2: If the qualities aren’t there to begin with, no amount of training will suffice. You can try to teach me to jump higher, to increase my hang time, but I’ll still never be able to dunk a basketball.
Friend1: So the kshatriya race is entirely hereditary?
Friend2: Not necessarily. There is the training period from the guru, or spiritual master. They are able to tell if a person is fit for a specific occupation.
Friend1: I see. So the kshatriyas are important because they should rule.
Friend2: They have the qualities to make good administrators. I don’t believe honesty is one of the qualities listed, but you would think that is important for any person. Heroism and courage are vital, though.
Friend1: So why are today’s leaders lacking these qualities? No one is training them?
Friend2: A lot of it has to do with the system. You’ve heard me ask this before, but what is the definition of success in the modern day style of government?
Friend1: Oh, I know this one. Swaying public opinion.
Friend2: Exactly. Honesty, courage and heroism don’t take you very far in that. In fact, dishonesty and timidity will help. You can stay in office for years and years with these two qualities.
Friend1: But why? Isn’t democracy a safeguard against tyrannical rule by a single person?
Friend2: It is, but let’s go through an example to see how this works. You know about the deficit, right?
Friend1: I think so. I always get that confused with the debt.
Friend2: The deficit is the amount of money borrowed by the government for a fiscal year. The debt is the total of all deficits, the amount of money owed by the government to the investors.
Friend1: Right. It seems like every election cycle people complain about the debt being out of control.
Friend2: There is a reason it continues to grow. The example here took place some twenty years ago, but the principle is basically the same each year. Do you know about the current services budget?
Friend2: It’s also known as baseline budgeting. Basically, it’s a way to have built in increases to various spending programs. This one year the control of Congress changed. The new party in charge was trying to be courageous and tackle the deficit and debt problems. One thing they targeted early on was the school lunch program.
Friend1: Is that where the government provides free lunches to less affluent children?
Friend2: Free or reduced cost. Yes. So the party in charge of the new Congress decided to simply curb the growth of the program. Instead of an increase of two percent in the following year, the increase went down to one percent. My numbers aren’t completely accurate, but the idea is the same. The program’s expenditures were increasing.
Friend2: So the opposition party went nuts. They called press conferences, where their members brought ketchup bottles.
Friend1: You’re not serious?
Friend2: Absolutely. I’ll never forget it. They accused the majority party of wanting to starve children.
Friend1: But the proposal was just to reduce the rate of increase?
Friend2: Ah, but remember about success in a democracy. The key is to sway public opinion. Who out there is going to take the time to listen to an explanation of baseline budgeting? They hear the accusation and that’s it.
Friend1: That’s crazy.
Friend2: Right there is an example of where you get punished for courage. Basically, every major political party is like this. You can’t blame the opposition for choosing that line of argument. Politics is a blood sport, after all.
Friend1: I understand.
Friend2: The deficit grows precisely because the easy way to stay popular is to keep spending money. Don’t worry about whether the government has enough. Just borrow. Push the problem along to a future generation. Kick the can down the road.
Friend1: What about raising taxes?
Friend2: Yes, that is the other gutless choice. Find a group of people that no one will have sympathy for. The rich. Increase their taxes. Of course, that never solves the problem. Taxes are high, and so people have less incentive to earn income. There is less commerce. This leaves the government to raise taxes even more, targeting other unpopular groups, like smokers.
Friend1: Don’t the Vedas say something about taxes being especially high in Kali Yuga?
Friend2: They do. They predicted everything that is happening. Anyway, in a sense there is no reason to be angry with the leaders. They are simply working with the system that exists. They are playing to win, after all. But yeah, if you want a true leader who gets things done, they have to be courageous. They can’t be afraid of the changing tides of public opinion. The right choice isn’t always the most popular.
Friend1: Do you have examples of real kshatriyas doing things that were courageous?
Friend2: Look at Arjuna. He was the recipient of the teachings on the four varnas and ashramas by Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The easy way out for Arjuna was to give up the fight, to quit and retreat for the forest.
Friend1: But that’s not what Krishna wanted him to do.
Friend2: It was Arjuna’s duty to uphold justice, dharma. He could have punted, but enough was enough. He showed courage by following a path where the outcome is never certain: war. He was successful because he was a strong leader, whose strength was sourced in confidence in the guiding hand of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is the way to make any occupation perfect. Do your duty, don’t be attached to the results, and always remain conscious of God the person. He will sort out the rest.
Politician today the best,
Is who can lie better than the rest.
Honesty certainly not encouraged,
Strength of conviction also discouraged.
Leaders to kick the can down the road,
Like with how much in debt is owed.
Arjuna example of kshatriya real,
Followed dharma, not by what to feel.