Acharya Prashant on Brazil Elections


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(Following is an excerpt from an interview conducted by a Brazilian Journalist just before the last round of voting of Brazil’s Presidential Elections, from here onwards the interviewer is being addressed as Marcos, his first name)

Marcos: So, Brazil will be voting for who will be the President, on Sunday.

Acharya Prashant: On the 28th, Yes. And that would be the final round.

Marcos: Yes, the second round. We have, on the one hand, a candidate from the worker party. The left party of Brazil. And on the other hand, we have an extreme rightist guy, who is very aggressive and who is using the ancient tactics of causing fear to give a solution. And as the leftists have been making some mistakes in Brazil – they are accused of corruption etc – a lot of people are voting for this rightist guy. So, there is a very aggressive scenario and people are beating each other on the streets. Some people have died unfortunately. And I would like to give a message, or be the translator of the message from you, of consciousness, of peace, of better understanding, of the importance of this moment for Brazil, because there is a lot of anger, a lot of chaos and a very hazy consciousness and analysis of what’s really happening.

AP: You see, rightist tendencies are gaining prominence in all parts of the world. It’s not merely Brazil, we have seen that happen in the Americas, in Europe, in West Asia, in India. And, we must go into the reasons behind this surge. When the center, or the left of the center, promises a great deal, but that great deal does not include a true sense of identification, a deep peace of mind, then there is disenchantment from the left. To understand what is happening, we must go into the mind of the human being, for the human being is the voter.

What does the human being want? Does the human being want merely bread-butter, sustenance, houses, cars? Yes, obviously we need all these things, but we also need something beyond all this. So, beyond the material, does the human being want the grand concepts of equal opportunity, liberty, fraternity, secularism, justice, and other great concepts? Yes, these principles are all needed, but even these principles are not sufficient.

The human being in his totality obviously needs food for the stomach, and shelter and education. And going ahead, human being obviously also needs a secure society. Secure, in terms of providing employment, taking care of old-age, providing medical facilities and such things. Now, obviously we all want to live in societies where there is justice, where there is no oppression, where there is no racism or misogyny. So, these are definitely needed, but, let me ask again, do they suffice? That is one question that leaders, politicians, thinkers, well-wishers, the world over, must ponder upon.

The material alone does not suffice, and what do I mean by the material? By material, I mean houses, cars, air-conditioners, jets, and bread and butter, obviously. So, not only does the material not suffice, even great intellectual and social concepts and their realisation do not prove to be the final fulfillment.

Let us, hypothetically, consider the case of a person, who is living in a very affluent society, material goods are all being provided for, and that society is not merely affluent, that society is also humane, fair, just, secure. And it has taken care of political representation of all the sections. It has ensured that there is no discrimination on the basis of caste, color, creed, etc. It has ensured that any kind of bigotry has not struck roots. So, this person has affluence and he also has great social conditions around him. My question now is: does this bring him to peace? Would this fellow be contented? Because, if he is contented, then he will not want violent change. People want radical change only when there is a deep dissatisfaction. And the people I am talking of, are the voters. Who else votes? The populations vote. And the word ‘population’, is fundamentally nothing, but the unit of the population – the person. So, is the person alright? Satisfied with goods, and concepts and principles? Even though those principles might be high, lofty, as sublime as the human mind can go!

No, things and thoughts, however good and great, do not suffice. And that is where the center and the left of center policies and politics have failed.

The mind of the individual is looking for something beyond bread and butter, something beyond high ideals. One goes towards moderate governments, one wants to have centrist and liberal policies. And one gives them a fair chance. But when they fail, then there is an acute inner disillusionment. The voter then wants to revolt. The voter says: all the things that you said were so nice. What’s more, you more or less delivered them as well. But still, am I contented? The voter says: No, I am still not contented, though I do not fully know why I remain unfulfilled. So, now this fellow is unfulfilled, he has to do something, and what does he do? In his angst, he throws out the centrist government. And that is the opportunity for the rabble-rousers, the rightists, the fear-mongers, to cast their net.

The voter is rushing towards rightism, in all corners of the world, because he is looking for something. It is a historical turn, it relates to the consciousness of man. And that which he is looking for is stoutly being denied by the centrists and the left liberals. He is looking for something that is beyond material. He is looking for a mystical peace. And if I have to use orthodox language, then I will say, he is looking for beyondness. Because, bread does not suffice. Knowledge and science and development and technology and military power, too, do not suffice. Man wants something more than these.

But the leftists, deny the existence of something beyond the material. We say, that after the Reform and the Renaissance, the Church and the State are separate. And if they are separate, then politics should necessarily exclude spirituality and meditativeness. And if politics is going to exclude divinity, then deep within the voter is going to be angry, because the voter is first and foremost an individual. And there is no individual whose heart does not yearn for peace. We may not want to use the loaded term ‘Divinity’. But we all do want a peace, a peace that cannot be provided to us by merely worldly stuff. And today, there is an overdose of the worldly stuff. All the worldly stuff that can be provided is already being provided. There are institutions, there are markets, there are universities, there are courts, and there is the internet. The world is more educated today than it ever was, the world is more affluent today than it ever was, the world is more informed today than it ever was. So, all the things that appeared just like a distant hope in the past, are now available to us. They are available to us, and yet there is so much inner misery. So the voters world over are angry. The voters are asking: we abided by all the liberal and intellectual principles, but they didn’t help, so we need something else. Now, what is this something else that the voters are turning to? The voters are turning back to the very primitive and rotten and basal formulae, of radical nationalism, ethnic superiority, even racism. As you said that even in Brazil, fears are tensions are been whipped up. It is because the stuff that the centrists and the leftists have to offer, is not delivering the goods, is not proving sufficient. And nothing will prove sufficient, if it does not include the Heart.

A Beyondness, a Greatness, is what the rightists are trying to sell. They cannot sell true godliness because really are godless. They are not lovers of Divinity. But at least, they are paying lip-service! The centrists, the leftists, are allergic towards anything of the Beyond. Beyondness, spirituality, is an anathema to them. There is too much mind and too little heart in what the intellectuals are offering. And that is why they are being rejected the world over: for their heartlessness.

Man will not be satisfied just by good living conditions, education, rights, and prosperity. This has to be clearly understood. Man needs something more. Something more! And if that is not available, man will remain perennially in a boil, in an inner state of misery and turbulence.

The rightists are opportunists. They are making use of the deep inner turbulence of man, to fulfill their lowly personal aspirations towards politics and power. Obviously they will not succeed for long. But then, they can do a lot of damage, even in a limited time. Military budgets in several countries, have started looking skywards, after a gap of many decades. You see, that very important treaties, pertaining to climate-change are not being honoured. You see, how countries are preferring cessation over integration. You know of Brexit.

Marcos: Yes!

AP: So, a lot of damage can be done even in a matter of two or three decades. Remember Hitler? And the world is greatly equipped today to destroy itself in a matter of even a few days. We do not even need to wait for catastrophic climate-change. Even a small war in some corner of the world, can snowball into a full-blown nuclear conflict, especially if fueled by chauvinistic hatred and militant nationalism or bleeding religiosity. And, a lot of that, I am afraid, has to be attributed to the reluctance of the intellectuals, of the liberals, to embrace the Heart. Religion has been a very disruptive force in the past. And man is so afraid of religion now — especially the intellectuals, the left-liberals — that he wants to keep religion totally away from public discourse. But if you keep religiosity away from public discourse, then man will rebel. And the result of that rebellion will power the rightists.

Marcos: Sure. Maybe, when you say that spirituality is necessary, that one of the main issues about leftists and center people is not offering a more spiritual view of politics. And following this, many people in Brazil will say that religion is causing a lot of problems. Because in Brazil, we have a lot of very conservative Churches. And people are almost obliged to vote on their candidates. And we have a very serious situation from that right now. And it’s interesting, because those who then got the approval of the Churches are most conservative ones. And they are against love, and against freedom. So, what do you have to say about that?

AP: That is because religiosity has been abandoned by all the people who have any intellect, any understanding. So, God has fallen into all the wrong hands.

Marcos: Yes.

AP: Why don’t the intellectuals, with their superior mental abilities, delve into the question of man’s yearning for peace? Why don’t they come up with ways and organisations to fulfill that need? Why are they shying away from that responsibility, that challenge? See, today, once you realize that spirituality is the deepest human need, then you have to ask: where does a fellow go to fulfill that need? In absence of a genuine organisation to go to, the fellow will have no option but go to the nearest church, or temple, or mosque. And he will be indoctrinated and radicalised there, and made a fool of.

If spiritual organizations have been deserted by people of intellectual calibre, then what is the quality of the people who would be found controlling, manning, running the spiritual organizations? Spirituality, the greatest force of peace, will instead become a tool in vile hands. Are the deserters of spirituality – our liberals and intellectuals – not responsible for the right wing surge?

After all the scientific and economics progress, man is still hungry for something more. Spiritual-religious organizations now are very important. You see how there is a fresh wave of their proliferation across the world. But who is in charge of them? All the rascals. Why? Because the intellectuals are very afraid of religion. So, the intellectuals have all run away. All the people who had some depth, some comprehension, are nowhere to be seen. So, all the temples, mosques, ashrams, and all the religious denominations have been occupied by people with very little understanding, dwarfs. And, obviously if someone has very little understanding, he is bound to be ambitious, corrupt and violent. And that violence will then spread, from the church, to the masses. If you leave only people with small minds to manage all the spiritual affairs, then what else will they do? They will spread all kinds of smallness in the society. The society will become a loveless society. Then the society will become deeply fragmented. The society will not be prepared to embrace any diversity. And why would that happen? I am repeating that for the third time! Because, all the well-meaning people have abandoned and deserted spirituality. They have said, religion is a quondam affair, and if religion is such a useless and dirty affair, then why do we need to be in the religious fold? They have gone away somewhere.

But then, the masses do need Beyondness. It is a genuine need. And that need is now being met by all the undeserving people. Why have the priests and preachers been allowed to monopolize religion?

Marcos: When you say that humans need God, what do you intend? I know that you work on a very conscious way, telling that we leave the mind behind. And when you say that, people respond. But a lot of people who pray to God here, are ignorant a lot of times, and they have no real connect with God. They only talk about God. But they do not practice the principles and so on. So, what kind of God do people need?

AP: To me, God is just the conventional and orthodox word. When I say God, what I mean is not something conceptual, not something figurative, not something that is a result of any tradition, not something organized or planned!

When I say God, I simply mean, the simple peaceful centering of the mind. To me, God is a peaceful mind.

Marcos: Great!

AP: And if someone claims that he is God-loving, but his life is full of violence and disturbance and ignorance, then obviously he has no God. He is just lying.

Is there any human being who does not need peace?

Marcos: I don’t think so.

AP: That’s what I mean, when I say that every single human being needs God. To me, God is peace. We may as well do away with the word God, and substitute it with peace.

Marcos: Good, good, good. And how can we achieve that Peace?

AP: That peace, is our very center. Our Heart. Our nature. That peace is not something of an achievement. In fact, we have to look into the tendency of the mind to treat everything as an object of achievement. And then we will realize, that all that which we have effortfully achieved till now, might itself be the blockage against peace. We are anyway trying to achieve all the time. And that is why, when it comes to peace, we want to achieve peace as well.

Man has achieved so much – as a result of his intellect and labour, and the organised society. It is in all the achievement that man’s restlessness lies. Then what is the way to peace? To look into the achievements man has had so far. And to look into the insatiable tendency to achieve more and more. And there, man will discover that a lot that sits on his mind is totally unnecessary. When you discard the unnecessary stuff sitting on the mind, that is Peace.

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?

AP: 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, as a person, one is ambitious, aggressive, insecure, self-promoting, then whatever be his stated policies, 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 talking

If one is ambitious, aggressive, insecure, seeking to promote himself, then whatever be his stated policies, 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 favour 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….

Excerpts from a Shabda-Yoga Session. Edited for Clarity.

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