by Promod Puri
From Mohammad to Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Jr. to Nelson Mandela and Dr. Ambedkar all had religious commitments grounded in humanism, love, compassion, and kindness to wage their political and social campaigns against slavery, apartheid, discrimination, inequality, and un-touchability based on color, class, and caste.
Gandhi’s crusade against evils in the society and his political discourse were derived from the Hindu scriptures of Upanishads advocating the concepts of non-violence, truthfulness, self-discipline, compassion, and virtuousness.
Obama, who believes in the power of faith, has sought a “serious debate about how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy”.
He argues, “more fundamentally the discomfort of some progressives with any hint of religion has often prevented us from effectively addressing issues in moral terms”. In a public address, he said: “secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square”. (“Obama’s 2006 Speech on Faith and Politics”, The New York Times, June 28,2006 edition).
“Before entering the public square”, what Obama is demanding instead is the infusion of true religion, without its symbolism, in the political environment to establish moral guidelines in its ideologies.
In a world, which is politically divided into two castes of Leftists and Rightists with sub-castes of Extreme Left and Extreme Right, ideological fanaticism runs high along with elements of power, ego, and greed, which are opportunistically embraced by all political establishments. In this “dirty game”, socialist idealism becomes just sloganeering.
The idiosyncrasy of the present sociopolitical left and the right mental constitution is that the leftists have a revulsion for religion. And the rightists are religious fanatics. The former ridicules and rejects religion and the latter is narcissustically illiterate about it.
And this is where the science of politics must step in to explore the true spirit of religion based on its universal teachings to find permanent residency in political leadership.
Deepak Chopra says: “Enlightened leadership is spiritual if we understand spirituality not as some kind of religious dogma or ideology but as the domain of awareness where we experience values like truth, goodness, beauty, love, and compassion, also intuition, creativity, insight, and focused attention”.
Paved with these divine and acknowledged values religion offers an ever-guiding relationship with politics in the service of humanity and its environment.
(Promod Puri resides in Vancouver, Canada. He is a journalist and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, and Traditions).