Chapter 10: Spirituality, Religion and Politics
Questioner: Krishna was essentially a spiritual man, but he freely took part in politics. And as a politician he did not shrink from using the tricks of the trade. In the battle of the Mahabharata he got Bishma killed by deceit - a naked woman was made to stand before that venerated old sage, who was a vowed celibate. In the same way, deception was used to kill Dronacharya, Karna, and Duryodhana. The question arises: should a spiritual man take part in politics, and if so, should he behave as ordinary politicians do? And, was Mahatma Gandhi wrong in laying stress on the purity of ends and means? Is not purity of means important to politics?
Let us first understand the difference between religion and spiritualism; they are not the same thing. Religion is one avenue of life, like politics, art and science. Religion does not contain the whole of life; spiritualism does. Spiritualism is the whole of life. Spiritualism is not an avenue of life; it encompasses the whole of it. It is life.
A religious person may be afraid of taking part in politics, but a spiritual person is not afraid. A spiritual person can take part in politics without any fear. Politics is difficult for a religious person because he is tethered to certain ideas and ideals which come into conflict with politics. But a spiritual person is not bound by any ideas or concepts. He accepts life totally; he accepts life as it is. So he can easily participate in politics.
Krishna is a spiritual man, he is not religious. Mahavira is a religious man in this sense, and so is Buddha; they have opted for one particular avenue of life, which is religion. And for the sake of religion they have denied all other avenues of life. They have sacrificed the rest of life on the altar of a part. Krishna is a spiritual man; he accepts life in its totality. That is why he is not afraid of politics, he does not shrink from going headlong into it. For him, politics is part of life.
It is important to understand that people who have kept away from politics in the name of religion have only helped to make politics more irreligious; their non-cooperation has not made it any better.
I repeat: Krishna accepts life with all its flowers and thorns, its light and shade, sweet and sour. He accepts life choicelessly, unconditionally. He accepts life as it is. It is not that Krishna chooses only the flowers of life and shuns its thorns; he accepts both together, because he knows thorns are as necessary to life as the flowers. Ordinarily we think thorns are inimical to flowers. It is not true. Thorns are there for the protection of flowers; they are deeply connected with each other. They are united - members of each other. They share common roots, and they live for a common purpose. Many people would like to destroy the thorn and save the flower, but that is not possible. They are parts of each other, and both have to be saved.
So Krishna not only accepts politics, he lives in the thick of politics without the least difficulty.