Thursday, September 6, 2012

Getting By In The Kaliyuga

The race for the presidency of the United States is in full swing and many politicians are making promises and saying that they know what is best for the country. Five thousand years ago Grandfather Bhismadev lay on a bed of arrows at Kurushetra. And just as he gave Yudhisthira good advice in managing the kingdom, the modern day politicians would do well to listen to him also. The thing is that people usually can’t or won’t listen to good advice, especially in the Kaliyuga.

Bhismadev offered many elegant points to Yudhisthira on how to be a proper king, or leader. One of the first points Bhismadev makes is that the leader must be devoted to the truth. Unfortunately, there is a wanton parade of half-truths, misleading information, and outright lies emanating from so-called leaders today, and, it seems, especially from those of the Republican persuasion.

A leader is a man of action. For instance, Bhismadev gives the example if someone’s property is stolen, the leader (i.e. the government) must be able to retrieve it. If he cannot, then the leader must replace that property. Bhismadev also mentions that a leader should not neglect the needy, the children, the widows, the elderly. The leader (and government) must provide protection and well being for all, and not just for the privileged. Nowadays, a family’s savings could be wiped out if a family member becomes gravely ill or is born with health problems.

Bhismadev explains the many responsibilities of a leader. Above all, the king must be concerned about the happiness of his citizens and act in a way that will benefit and protect them. He also gives special attention to protecting the brahmanas. The modern leaders are guided by self-interested lobbyists seeking favors for their banks or corporations. Real guidance comes from qualified brahmanas who offer a clear understanding of proper behavior (Dharma), of what is to be done and what is not to be done. Brahmanas, conversant in this Vedic knowledge, understand how to maintain the well being of society and secure a future for all the inhabitants of the land.

The Mahabharata shows us that Yudhisthira, throughout his career, sought guidance from the brahmanas and also from well-wishing elders like Vidura and Bhismadev. This is the proper way to absorb oneself in the Dharma. It’s not that we go to school in our youth for an education, and when we receive a diploma our learning is finished. Students of the Dharma never tire of studying it and seeing how it applies in their lives and in their particular circumstances.

The highest understanding of Dharma is found in the Bhagavad Gita and also the Bhagavat Purana. Krishna states in the Bhagavad Gita (15:15 ) that He Himself is the author and the knower and the goal of all knowledge. And at the end of the Gita (18:70) Krishna explains that “One who studies this sacred conversation (the Gita) worships Me by his intelligence.”

Leading up to the election, I’ll provide an occasional commentary – a mix of Krishna’s Gita, Bhismadev’s instructions to Yudhisthira, and the modern political process, along with the challenges we face today.