Vol 13: Chapter 9: Devotees and Politics

March 30, 2013


Dear Sir,

I hope you are the right person to address my concerns. I am an associate of Iskcon and follow various devotees. I was following Indradyumna Swami on Facebook and noticed that he was in South Africa. On the 23rd day of March, 2013 I noticed that the photos placed onto his Facebook profile are obviously promoting the ANC and President Zuma. I feel very aggrieved by the fact that Indradyumna Swami/ Iskcon is promoting a Political Party and feel that no Spiritual Person should be preaching from the Podium of a Political Party or Promoting them. The Promotion of the ANC is very blatant.

Feedback would be appreciated.





Dear Sir,

Thank you for your letter. I am writing to address the concerns you have raised.

In ancient Vedic culture, a king—who was the essence of government at the time—always had an advisory council of brahmana priests to help him in his decision making. These brahmanas were not politically aligned. They were present simply to remind the king of his ultimate duty: to facilitate the spiritual emancipation of the society he governed. In contrast to the situation in the secular governments of today, these priests assisted the king in making sure that the principles of religion (cleanliness, truthfulness, mercy and austerity) were being practiced in the kingdom. The brahmanas did not tell people which religion to follow, but encouraged the universal principles of religion. Without such principles human society becomes divested of its real purpose in life.

Spiritual personalities are required to help guide human society. Therefore, to some degree, they are involved in politics. Politics means to govern and, in Vedic terms, governing entails two basic responsibilities: helping people to live in this world and helping them to get out of it and to go back to their original home in the spiritual sky. The kings understood this but had to be reminded of the principles of spiritual governance.

This is evident in Lord Krsna’s words in Bhagavad Gita:

evam parampara praptam

imam rajarsayo viduh

sa kaleneha mahata

yogo nasta parantapa

“This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.” [BG 4.2 ]

In this light, my association with the ruling party (ANC) should be not seen as having any political ambitions or as an endorsement of a particular political agenda. Rather, following in the line of Vedic culture I was present at their recent meeting in the mood of acting as a “brahmini-cal council.” In my opening prayer I stated:

“We stand before You ( God ) today as one people. Though diverse in our appearance as black, white, Indian and colored, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jew and those of African spiritual traditions we share a common bond in that we are all Your begotten children. Let this ultimate spiritual truth be the way forward for achieving social harmony, thus uniting us as one nation with democratic freedoms and equal opportunities for all.”

This brings up another important point: the government is presently trying to resolve the ongoing issue of social cohesion without any success to date, despite many long years of endeavor. This is because the solution to the problem cannot be found in politics. However, there is an ideal spiritual solution: stop fighting over our obvious differences and try to see what we have in common. What is it that we have in common? It is that we are all created by the same God. God is one with many names. Because we are all—each and every one of us—created by Him, we are essentially all brothers and sisters. If we have the same Father, we are brothers and sisters.

The politicians need to hear this. They are making and dissolving laws. But without knowing and understanding the universal laws of God from the brahmanas how can they effectively rule? This is the general problem in modern day politics: people have chosen to ignore God for the most part. So regardless of who is in power or which party is ruling, the duty of those who know these truths is to guide the leaders. If that means attending their rallies to openly share these spiritual truths, so be it.

I have shared these truths with democrats, socialists, communists and kings. I am not partial to the ANC. But I am duty-bound as a devotee of the Lord to mix with these people and to humbly try to persuade them to understand how to remedy some of the social evils we face in modern times. My spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, once said to a godbrother of mine: “Write a book called ‘Spiritual Solutions to Material Problems.”

The leaders will not come to us, so we must go to them. That is a clear instruction from my spiritual master. In 1972 he wrote:

“So far your ideas about influencing the leaders of society, yes, that must be done. If such leaders of society can be influenced to preach on our behalf, help us to spread Krsna consciousness in some practical way, that is the best service.”

So in essence I was using the podium of the ANC meeting to share ideals of spiritual governance with those present. And I must add that we devotees were well-received by the members of that organization and were treated with all due respect and kindness, for which we are grateful.

As a result of my association with the ANC, the local Durban City Council gave us permission to hold our Festival of Chariots on the prestigious Durban beachfront. This allows hundreds of thousands of people to be introduced to Krsna consciousness.

The photo album that followed my speech at the ANC function was simply to highlight the fact that we were there to share spiritual ideals, to remind the leaders of their highest responsibilities and to encourage them to support our festival on the beachfront. If ten years from now there is another political party in power I’ll do the same thing. Please don’t see it that devotees who meet with politicians are promoting a political party—be it the ANC or anyone else. We are promoting Krsna. We can’t do that by sitting at home. We have to go out and be active for Krsna.

“I am glad that you are entering politics. This will be a good opportunity to preach widely and sell our literatures, so take advantage.” [Srila Prabhupada letter to Balavanta das, 1972 ]

Hare Krsna,

With affectionate regards,

Indradyumna Swami