Yes We Can! That was the famous slogan of 2008. Obama charmed America with his slogan Yes we can and sure he made it to the presidency by constantly reminding everyone Yes we can. Eight years down the lane here we are as we remember the slogan yes we can but what really changed in the past eight years. Obama Care ? Obamas Dream Healthcare plan Apart from that there was really no tectonic change in the land scape of American Politics. And again in 2016 we now hear all type of slogans “Make America Great Again”. Is it that simple make a catchy slogan and make your way to the white house. Its promises galore but when the push comes to the shove all promises are buried under the carpet.
Rewind 2014 the savior of Indian Politics Narendra Modi bulldozed his opponents with the slogan “Good days are round the Corner” and made promises plenty to a frustrated Indian electorate. But two years later the Good days round the corner don’t seem to be around the corner as he promised. Well is that how political maneuvering works? Relentlessly attack your opponents and promise a utopian pipe dream to the gullible electorate who vote just for a dream of a better future. When politician’s are out there campaigning do they really say things which they can really accomplish or just say things which they have no clue how to accomplish. This election cycle as Donald Trump , Hillary and Bernie are slugging it out there are all types of promises being made to their core constituents but who in their sane mind believes they will follow through all their promises once they are elected. As much every politician who is trying to get elected promises change accomplishing change is never the real objective but maintaining the status Quo is the real alternative.
Do Politicians really try to keep up with their rhetoric once they are voted to power? Not totally discounting the true intention of the politicians to keep up with their promises the political system is inbuilt to thwart change. The recent happenings in American and Indian Politics two most important democracies in the world highlight immense resistance to change with political parties sticking to their core ideologies and refraining from cooperating with the other party in passing any worthwhile legislative action promising a tectonic change! So In spite of all politicians promising Great change before they assume office often face hurdles in the name of partisan politics stifling their efforts to implement their promised agendas leading to the so called political stale mate or status quo.
In the deeply rooted ideological divide all politicians during the election cycle try their level best to strike an emotional chord with their core constituents and resort to a populist agenda for if they can arouse the populist sentiment and convert the sentiment to votes they have accomplished their first mission “Getting Elected”. Every politician knows that the key to winning elections is to make great promises. Campaigners promise to cure the ills of society including taxes, war, government corruption, and pollution. Instead, if elected, they will bring about vast improvements in education, employment, infrastructure, and the economy. But once elected can they do justice to their populist agenda as Donald Trump has promised to build a Great Wall and Take China to task? Well we have to wait and see.
In many ways, voters are the eternal optimists who can’t learn from experience. Voters want to believe that politicians will improve their lives. As much the role of the politicians is to provide a stable government and provide an ecosystem for a stable society it’s unrealistic to expect that government policies would improve the lives of the people. At the least politicians and government can provide a safety net to the people and ensure their security but beyond this if the voters expect that politicians are in the game to improve their lives they better accept the reality politicians are in the game to win elections and not to disturb the status quo and get reelected if they can resell their Promises.
People of India origin take Bhagwad Gita for Granted as they are all fed with tidbits of the postulates of Bhagwad Gita right from their child hood in various forms as bed time stories to the regular folk lore. As such I myself never read the book Bhagwad Gita Verbatim but knew in a nutshell what Bhagwad Gita stands for as the defining book which epitomizes the importance of a man’s duty and self-less action without expecting the fruit of his actions. Interestingly I joined a new job recently and have the pleasure of working with a Russian colleague who really impressed me with his well-rounded knowledge on any given topic under the sun. He for the past few weeks used to carry a book of Bhagwad Gita written by Eknath Eswaran and used to read it during his daily morning commute to work. As the book Bhagwad Gita lay on his desk I asked him a question. What the Essence of Bhagwad Gita was all about. He answered back with the more technical Hindu terms. Be true to your Dharma and find a way to free yourself from samsara. He asked me back what Dharma and Samsara mean. Well I said Dharma has many meanings and samsara is all about the cycle of life and death.
What Intrigued me is as my Russian colleagues interest in Bhagwad Gita and I borrowed the book myself after he finished reading to finally started reading the Bhagwad Gita finally in a book format rather than as a compilation of information from various sources. For all what went on between the discourse between Krishna and Arjuna. Bhagwad Gita in its distilled form only emphasizes on a few golden facts. I myself want to pose a few questions to the basic tenets which from my point of view are not always applicable from a practical view.
Gita’s Emphasis on soul’s eternal existence and the devaluation of death in a battlefield is meant for Arjuna not to see death as a permanent phenomenon but a transient phenomenon and in turn motivate Arjuna to fight relentlessly not thinking about the consequences of death. Does this mean the body has no significance when compared to the soul? The very essence of bodily existence seems irrelevant when compared to the souls eternal existence. The bodily existence does have a purpose and soul needs the body to reach the higher realms of consciousness. However Lord Krishna dismisses the bodily existence to justify war.
In the midst of the discourse Lord Krishna emphasizes on the nature of karma and its pivotal role in the cycle of life and death and also mentions it’s the last thought which is very important and the last thought before death sets the scene for the pre conditions of the next life. This is sort of counter intuitive because it negates the law of karma itself for the last thought is given such pivotal importance. KRISHNA further adds one who truly surrenders to him is liberated from the cycle of karma. This tenet is no different from the principles of Christianity where belief in Christ is of primordial importance for one’s salvation. This only means divine grace overrules karma and true surrender to God is the only way to salvation. At the same time Krishna emphasizes the role of mediation and acquisition of knowledge of the true self also as true means of salvation but at the same time implying that seeking his grace is a better option. This is a bit difficult to comprehend
Gita says is that work itself is more pleasurable than the results. Do not let the fruit be the purpose of your actions, and therefore you won’t be attached to not doing your duty. In our modern world the fruit of our work is a hard earned pay check. I admit I myself work for a pay check so we do expect the fruit for our actions. There is a saying there is no free lunch. This means we have to work to earn our lunch. So the saying that don’t expect the fruit of your actions can only be applicable in situations when it does not work out it more works out in a fatalistic setting. I mean it’s like a fallback plan when things don’t work out
More over the concept of working relentlessly and not expecting results is like working like a slave who is not entitled to any fruits of his labor. So does this mean human life is nothing but servitude to God who expects us to work relentlessly and don’t expect the results and are we all at his mercy to enjoy the fruits of our labor?
To me after reading Bhagwad Gita it seems Lord Krishna was more playing the role of a counselor to Arjuna or more playing the role of a psychologist trying to persuade Arjuna to go ahead with the War. He is constantly prodding Arjuna to realize his inner self and do justice to his duty. But the discussion takes a detour and includes all topics ranging from the nature of the Soul, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga to the role of meditation and lord Krishna himself revealing to Arjuna as the Lord of the Universe. Does Arjunas confusion at the start of the war mandate such a divine discourse? Hard to debate but It has been pointed out that it could be the work of the author to incorporate the teachings of Upanishads as a divine discourse by lord krishna to explain the metaphysical in a family folk lore called Mahabharata to bring the message to the masses.