What qualities should one seek while electing a nation’s leader?
(Following is an excerpt from an interview conducted by a Brazilian Journalist just before the last round of voting in Brazil’s Presidential Elections, from here onwards the interviewer is being addressed as Marcos, his first name)
Marcos: When we think of qualities, what do you think one should seek in a leader, in a President, according to what you have been saying to us?
Acharya Prashant: First of all, people have to see, what kind of a person is he. Person before politics, person before policies. Politics are a function of the person and not vice versa.
Politics is about relationships. The President must truly relate to a large number of people. And the quality of one’s relationships comes from the quality of one’s mind.
If one is ambitious, aggressive, insecure, seeking to promote himself, then whatever be his stated policies be, he will end up exploiting everybody, just to further his personal goals and ambitions. It doesn’t matter which party he is contesting from. It doesn’t matter, what policies is he tom-tomming. If he is someone who has no compassion, if he is someone who knows no love, if he is someone who can use people to further his personal interests, then irrespective of his political affiliation, irrespective of his stated goals, he will be dangerous for both the country and the world in general.
What I am saying, sounds strange, because that is not the language of the political discourse. But I am saying that the voter must ask himself: Does my president know love? Does my president know humility? Is my president able to give up what shows up as false? Or is my president a very-very attached, a very possessive human being?
The President comes later, the human being comes first, obviously. And the president will not be able to supersede the human being. The president is first of all a human being.
Marcos: For most people in Brazil, it may not be very easy to understand the views that you expressed. Your approach is lovely and introspective.
Why do you think that people nowadays in the West have focussed on intellect so much, rather than meditative understanding?
AP: It is the old case of once bitten, twice shy. Just a few centuries back, religion, and tradition supported by religion, were proving to be a very depressing, debilitating, and mindless force. And that is why an intellectual uprising was needed. That is why the revolutions were needed, Reformation and Renaissance were needed. So, man has memory of all that. And that is why we are still very apprehensive towards religion. But just because a few ignorant people at one point in history misused the name of the divine, it does not mean that man can live without spirituality.
Man cannot live without spirituality. And the dangerous part, please understand, is that man will, on his own accord, usually not accept that it is the divine peace that he is looking for. Because that acceptance hurts the ego. So man will remain frustrated; man will remain restless and angry and violent but he will not admit what he really wants. Because that admission is a crushing blow to the ego.
So what will man do?
He is frustrated so he will vent his anger on the streets. He will ask for political change. He will go about bringing a fake kind of change that will not help. He will bring about radical changes in all the wrong places. And those changes are not going to suffice, so what will man do?
Man will say probably these changes are not sufficient so he will bring about more radical changes. It’s almost like having a break-up and telling oneself that I am not missing my girlfriend. It may happen sometimes: you may have a breakup and you may want to convince yourself that you were not missing your girlfriend because confessing, admitting that you are missing her makes you feel weak, makes you feel offended.
So you keep on telling a lie to yourself: that neither do you love her anymore nor do you miss her anymore. But within you are feeling angry, within you are feeling incomplete, within there is a hole now, within you are bleeding. Outside you are wearing a mask of calmness and composure; inside you are all ruffled up. So what do you do? On a small matter, on some pretence, you go and beat the neighbour up. You needed to release your frustration somewhere. That is the kind of thing that we are witnessing in the world and we are going to witness more and more.
People will clash, conflicts will grow because people are missing something. But they are not admitting what they are really missing. They are missing meditativeness, they are missing love. They are missing the surrender and dissolution of the ego. So they are trying all kind of stupid and aggressive ways to make up for what they are missing. Their ways are not succeeding, cannot succeed, but their ways will keep becoming more potent, more powerful, more destructive. That does not sound good at all.
Marcos: What is the message that you would like to give to Brazil at this moment? What do you think they should consider while voting? What do you think they should seek for their lives at this difficult moment with a word that would remind us.
AP: Reaction does not take anybody anywhere. Destruction, criticism, operating from a point of hurt, has never taken anybody anywhere. If you go out to vote as someone who has been hurt and offended and wronged, you will never cast your vote rightly. You cannot reach the right place if you are starting out at the wrong place, as the wronged one. Your very decision about the destination would be misplaced; path you choose will be misplaced. So do not operate from a center of littleness, aggression, fear.
When you decide on the one that you are supporting, see whether the arguments in his favor are the arguments of peace, understanding, innocence and love. If you are voting for someone with destructive arguments, egoistic arguments, violent arguments, then for sure your choice will hurt you.
Marcos: O, thank you very much….