When yoga and politics mix: Is corruption inevitable?

When a spiritual leader takes an active role in politics, is corruption and abuse of power certain to follow?

Recently, about 40,000 gathered in New Delhi to support Baba Ramdev’s hunger strike and protest against the corruption of India’s government.  Nearly 13 hours into the protest police forces broke up the gathering using batons and tear gas.

The leaders of Bharatiya Janata Party, the Congress Party’s main opposer, described the raid as shameful and a dark time for India’s democracy.  However, the government tells a different tale. There was a secret agreement that took place Friday before the protest between the Guru and the Congress Party stating that Baba Ramdev would call off the protest midday Saturday.

Individuals quickly began asking why he made an under the table agreement.  Ramdev responded to the controversy calling the signed letter a legitimate tactical move that fooled the government so that the rally would not be canceled.

The guru and his followers have become familiar with criticism.  Issues involving his morning television show in which he is known to advocate yoga and herbal medicine, and habitually attacks western lifestyle and homosexuality.  In 2009, when Ramdev launched his political movement against corruption, and began mobilizing citizens into his yoga camps questions of his legitimacy began to surface.

Many believe that there’s no one better than a spiritual leader to take an active role in politics, but unfortunately many so-called “spiritual” leaders abuse their status and those who trust them for their own personal gain and agendas. Throughout history charismatic leaders have appeared with seemingly benevolent ideals, but just as quickly as they gained popularity the dark reality of their intentions became apparent.

Both Hitler and Charles Manson were considered to be charismatic leaders who took on an elevated, even superhuman role among followers.  The charismatic leader often claims to be enlightened in some way and exploits followers’ faith convince them to carry out orders. Perhaps it is this excessive and ungrounded sense of power that ultimately leads them to become corrupt.

However, charisma can also be a powerful and beneficial characteristic to those in a position of leadership.  For example, Mahatma Gandhi’s charismatic style of leadership served a large number of people and brought peace to a country in turmoil.

While Ramdev’s intentions remain questionable, the events transpiring in India might inspire us to re-assess the intentions behind our own actions in politics. You may not think of yourself as a politician, but living in a democratic country we all play an active role in the political sphere. Every time you vote — or choose not to vote — in a governmental election, you help determine which type of leader will lead our government.

So, should spiritual leaders be political leaders as well? Is bringing yoga and politics together a set-up for corruption and abuse of power, or would it make for a more peaceful and compassionate world?

Posted by:

- who has written 21 posts on Yoga Modern.

Patience Steltzer is the Assistant Editor for the World Affairs Current at Yoga Modern. She spends her time drawing, painting, sewing, writing, and practicing/teaching yoga in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. After a lifetime of having no idea what to do with her creativity and energy, she discovered yoga allowed her to find the beauty and excitement in stillness. Since then, she has dedicated herself to sharing her love of yoga with others to help them find the joy she has.

6 Responses

  • Chris says:

    Ramdev Baba is a Superstar in India, who has disseminated Yoga-knowledge for free to the Millions of Indians, who had unfortunately, forgotten their own 5000-year-old Hindu Treasure, Yoga.

    He disseminates this Yoga- knowledge at Yoga-camps held all over India, and via a twice-a-day Yoga-program on TV.

    He has rallied the people of India to boycott the nasty sugar-water (aka Coke and Pepsi) that is dumped on India by evil multinational-corporations.

    Now, Ramdev Baba has taken on the corrupt Congress-Party, a Political Party in India which has, by hook or by crook, held on to the reins of Power for most of the 64 years that India has been independent from the British thugs.

    Post-Independence, Mahatma Gandhi, in a fit of King-Lear-like-senility, handed over the keys to the Prime-Ministership of Free India to his evil protege Jawaharlal Nehru, thereby tragically overlooking the just-claims of his good protege, Vallabhbhai Patel. Ever since then, the Nehru Clan has indulged in Dynastic Rule over the greatest Democracy of the World, with Nehru family members fraudulently inheriting the Prime Ministership of India. Thus :

    Jawaharlal –> Indira —> Rajiv –> Antonia Maino —> Raoul Maino

    Currently, a dubious , poorly-educated Italian woman, Antonia Maino, the widow of Rajiv is ruling India by proxy, with the current Prime-Minister being little more than Play-Dough in her evil hands.

    Meanwhile, her layabout son Raoul Maino waits in the wings to inherit his Prime-Ministership.

    Jawaharlal Nehru (some say Jawaharlal Khan, as it us rumored that Jawaharlal was born out of the dalliance of his Hindu father Motilal with a Moslem Indian woman) laid the groundwork for the patently anti-Hindu, pro-Moslem policies followed by successive Congress Governments of India. Thus, today, the Hindus of India find themselves marginalized in their own country, with the Congress Government bending over backwards to accommodate the twisted whims of the Minority-Moslems of India, at the expense of the Majority-Hindus of India.

    The Congress Party has over the last 70 years, scammed the People of India of more than a Trillion US $, and has spirited away this wealth to their private Swiss Bank Accounts. It is this massive scam that Baba Ramdev is currently bravely challenging.

    For your information, the BJP is the Indian political-party, currently sitting in the Opposition in the Indian Government, which speaks for the Hindus of India.

    • Don't get me wrong India's corruption is out of control, and India's people deserve a strong leader willing to take a stand against the forces that encourage corrupt behavior.

      That said my question is: is Baba Ramdev that leader?

      The reasons I asked this originally was due to the scandals surrounding the Ramdev Camp and the most recent hunger strike. Shortly after I wrote this I came across an article in the Washington Post that said:

      "Ramdev, who has called for the death penalty for those convicted of corruption, said he was arming thousands of supporters to block any police action to disrupt the fast."

      Death penalty? Arming the camp? I personally find this disturbing and violent.

      When we "hate" something we can be consumed by it. In my opinion I think Ramdev had the best of intentions, but I also fear this battle has taken over his heart allowing him to fight back with violent action.

      All that said thank you SO much for your knowledge I was unaware of the religious differences between BJP and Congress.

      I hope you will continue to share your thoughts and knowledge on this subject as this story continues to unfold.

  • Kashif says:

    He has the support of millions of Indians, but honestly, it's becoming harder and harder to take Baba Ramdev seriously.