De-linking Religion and Politics
Question: In the past we have seen the mix of religion and politics has caused havoc. How can we dissociate politics from religion?
Sadhguru: The way religion is practiced today, you cannot really dissociate it from politics because in a way, today religion is politics. So it is not the question of dissociating the two but bringing more awareness into people so that we do not empower these divisive forces.
Unless we bring a new sense of awareness into people’s minds, this problem will persist. Unless the saner voices in society speak up, we will end up handing over the country to the street goons. In India, we are faced with such a situation today. This is not a one day’s job. Every generation has to continuously work on it.
This is why in the East, spirituality or religion was never an organized process. Organization was only to the extent of making spirituality available to everybody—there was never an organized conquest. People worshipped whatever aspect of life they related to most and that was perfectly fine. Essentially in the East, religion is about you, it is not about God. Religion is about your liberation, and God is just one more tool to find your ultimate liberation.
What you worship is not important. It is just that you learn to bring reverence into your life.
So in indigenous cultures, religion was never juxtaposed against the state. In the past, religion was far more important to people than it is now, but still there were no theocratic states; the ruler had his religion and the subjects had the freedom to follow theirs. There was no conflict because people did not look at religion as an organized process. Today, organization is coming even in these cultures because of the examples of very ambitious and conquering religions that came from outside. This has reached a point where unfortunate electoral politics and national interests seem to be poised to oppose each other to a point that our very nationhood is threatened.
We must understand that nationhood is just an idea. If we want to make this into a living reality, we need to work sufficiently on inculcating the sense of citizenhood at all levels in people. People must realize that they are citizens of a nation first, and their religion comes much later. Only then can the people be agile and respond to any challenging situation. Otherwise every time we are challenged as a nation, people will not know which way to go.
We have a situation where politicians are openly and proudly calling themselves as ‘Hindu leaders’ or ‘Muslim leaders’ or ‘Christian leaders.’ Once this is the situation, religion becomes a matter of number games and another disguise for politics. If this is encouraged or even allowed, this will lead to all kinds of organized and unnatural attempts to change the demographics of the nation. Whenever attempts are made to change the fundamental dynamics and the complexion of demographics of a nation—religious or otherwise—there will be large-scale violence in the country.
When the basic issues and aspirations of large groups of people are not addressed, it is not far that most religious groups will turn themselves into active political forces in the process of seeking access to power as the only solution for their grievances. This will spell doom not only for the political stability of the country, but also for the spiritual possibilities for individuals.
We as a nation are right now facing the possibility of such a situation in the coming decades. It is very important to approach this with sensitivity, and long-term vision. If we fail to handle this without the needed balance, polarization of the nation on religious grounds will become a widespread and ugly reality, for which we as a nation will pay a heavy price.
May all of us have the necessary sense and wisdom to prevent this beautiful, vibrant, and all accepting culture of ours from mayhem caused by religious bigotry and conflict.
|Named one of India’s 50 most influential people, Sadhguru speaks before millions annually around the globe, including to prominent leadership forums such as the United Nations, the World Economic Forum, TED, and the World Peace Congress. From ground-breaking yoga programs to projects for rural communities and the environment, Sadhguru’s Isha Foundation (www.IshaFoundation.org) serves as a thriving model for human empowerment, which is reflected in the Foundation’s special consultative status with the UN.
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