Hindus, Dharmists, Devotees and Politics
by Stephen Knapp
Many Devotees, Dharmists and Hindus in general will say they are not interested in politics or getting involved with it or even in voting. It is a distraction from their normal activities or spiritual pursuits. Or they feel all politicians are crooked or corrupt anyway, so what makes the difference between one or the other. Or the voting system, especially with electronic voting machines, are rigged, so what difference will my one vote make. But actually it is indeed an aspect of our means of protecting, preserving and continuing the Vedic culture and its traditions. It is certainly a means of working to maintain the freedoms that we have that allow us to continue to observe our traditions. Other religions or other political parties will vote in large numbers for their favorite candidate, which is why the politicians will take those people and their vote seriously. But if Hindus and Devotees do not vote, then why should politicians be concerned with our vote, or with the issues that matter to us. Instead, they will place more importance on others and in doing what it takes to get their votes. In this way, whether we are in India or the United States, we watch as our opportunities, freedoms and privileges are taken away and given to others.
Once I was giving a lecture in a large hall in Mumbai, India. With the direction of the discussion, I asked the crowd of about 1500 how many had voted in the last election. Not one had went up. Of course, no one was satisfied with the political party that was in charge at the time. But how can we make a difference if we do not get involved? How can we have a say in what takes place? You must put your faith and the Vedic cause into practical use. Not merely sit back and watch what happens, or think someone else is going to do your part in all of this.
Vedic history in India shows so many fighters, warriors, or even rulers who stood up for the freedom of those who followed the Vedic traditions. So why would we not use their example? Why would we not help make their contribution remain relevant today by taking up some kind of action? The field of politics is one area in which we can make a difference. And here are some ideas in how we can do that.
First, we certainly need to be able to step up and learn which politician has our best interest at heart and then vote for that person. We need to understand which person will take our interests and work for those concerns? Who will most likely help to preserve our traditions? Who, for example, is most likely to work for better relations between the United States and India? Or, who is going to work to preserve the holy places and sacred rivers across India? We need to investigate these points in any person who is running for office that we can vote for. Then we should vote for that person. Therefore the most important duty is to vote for the right person. That is the first thing.
The next point is to share our database with other Vedic groups so we can help inform others of the best candidate and encourage them to also vote for the right person. There is force in numbers, and the more people who contribute their vote, the more possible it may be for that person to be elected. We have to work together. Other people from various religions work and vote as a block, and they get their way, too. Politicians will take them seriously if they want to get elected, or stay in office. Hindus and Devotees need to learn this and work in a similar way.
The third point is that we have to get behind the best candidate, show them our support. This also means to contribute in political rallies, or even fundraisers. This does not mean to merely work for the candidate in order to get your picture taken to hang on your office wall. Nothing much comes from that except a boost of ego. This is not what will contribute to our cause. What can make a difference is that Hindus and Dharmists can also volunteer in large numbers in political campaigns to show the force that we can have, so that politicians realize we are a great force that they will want on their side. But we should also vote as a block. We should look seriously at the issues any candidate is addressing, and then vote for the person who will be best for the interests of Hindus and Dharmists.
The fourth point is that the purpose of all this is not merely to show them that they should have us on their side, but once they are in office, if there are particular issues that we need help with, we can go to them and ask for favors. This is what many of us do not realize. After showing our support, and if they are elected, now is the time for them to show their support for us. Now is the time we can go to them as a group and discuss various issues that concern us. Naturally, if he or she is impressed with how we have helped them, they will want us to continue to be on their side. If he does not help us, he or she should know that we may also vote against them in the next election. This is where we can put our power and our culture to good use.
The fifth idea is to invite politicians to events at our temple. Get them involved, let them see what we do, especially things done for the benefit of society, such as free food distribution, medical camps, or educating others in cultural exchange, etc. We can also invite them for temples tours, or for dinner in their honor for something. They often like these kinds of things, and will gain a more favorable view toward us and our temple, organization, or our traditions if they are not Indian. Then they will be inclined to hear our concerns, or even politically or financially help us expand our temple facilities, or kitchens for free prasada distribution, or other programs.
The sixth point is to run for office ourselves. In the United States there are an increasing number of Indians who are running for public office. These may be high political positions, like a governor, or senator, etc, or run for other positions like city council, mayor, or for the board of education. All of these can be helpful to our cause, and will also bring notice to other people in the community of the presence of Hindus or Dharmists and the views that we hold, and that we are a growing presence in the community. There is no loss in this regard, except for maybe the funds needed to run for the office. Nonetheless, an increasing number of Indians and Hindus or Devotees are running for offices, and this can certainly be used to carry our influence and concerns forward. We should not be afraid to become more politically active.
I have a few friends who ran for public office. They did not win, but they used the platform to express their views and ideas based on the Vedic principles, which became very popular. So they lost by small percentages.
Of course, we now all know the example of Tulsi Gabbard who ran for office and is now holding an important position as a United States Representative for the state of Hawaii as the first Hindu congresswoman, being a devotee of Lord Krishna. She was also sworn into office using the Bhagavad-gita, and has so many opportunities to attend speaking engagements and promote her devotion to the Vedic cause and work to uphold the principles by which most Dharmists and Devotees live. So we should not think this is not possible.
The final point is: If we do not do it, someone else will. In other words, if Dharmists and Devotees are not willing to carry forward their cause and concerns, someone else from some other religion or political persuasion will do it. And it makes no sense to simply sit on the sidelines and watch things as they happen as mere spectators, or observe how politicians from other persuasions work to push their own cause forward. We need to be involved. We need to use whatever avenue we can to make a difference. That is how our force will gain momentum, and we can also then gain popularity as our views become more familiar to the rest of the community. And engaging in the political field in any of the above ways will help. We just have to know how to do it.
Another example of what can be done in the field of politics to increase an awareness of Vedic culture took place in America in the State of Michigan as described herein: The Michigan House Resolution no. 419 was adopted by the members of the Michigan House of Legislature in Lansing on September 24. The resolution “declares October 2014 as Hindu American Awareness and Appreciation Month.” Mr. Samir Singh, the representative from East Lansing was instrumental in spearheading this resolution. The full declaration reads as follows:
Reps. Slavens, Singh, Hovey-Wright, Geiss, Switalski, Barnett, Brown, Darany, Heise and Howrylak offered the following resolution:
House Resolution No. 419.
A resolution to declare October 2014 as Hindu American Awareness and Appreciation Month in the state of Michigan.
Whereas, There are 25 Hindu temples in Michigan, spread across the state from Grand Rapids to Detroit. Furthermore, Ganges, Michigan is the site of two prominent Hindu ashrams (retreats), including the Vivekananda Monastery and Retreat Center; and
Whereas, Michigan Hindu temples have been involved in numerous charity and community drives across the state, including, but not limited to, providing college scholarships for deserving students, serving Hindu refugee communities across the state, and providing free meals to all temple visitors; and
Whereas, Hindu Americans in Michigan are involved in the state's interfaith leadership. Hindu Americans currently serving on major Michigan interfaith initiatives include: Chandru Acharya on the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit, Padma Kuppa on the Women's Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue in Metro Detroit (WISDOM) and Board Member of Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion and Outreach, and Fred Stella as host of the NPR-syndicated radio show Common Threads and president of the Grand Rapids' Interfaith Dialogue Association; and
Whereas, The Bharatiya Temple in Michigan hosted the World Sabbath of Religious Reconciliation in 2013. This marked the first time that the Sabbath has been hosted outside the Judeo-Christian community;
Whereas, There is an estimated one billion Hindus worldwide, and more than 2 million Hindu Americans live across the nation; and
Whereas, Michigan and our nation have greatly benefitted from Hindu Americans, especially through the Vedanta philosophy, Ayurvedic medicine, classical Indian art, dance, music, meditation, literature, and community service; and
Whereas, The United States was officially introduced to Hinduism by Swami Vivekananda in 1893 at the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago: and
Whereas, Hindu Americans promote the ideals of tolerance, pluralism, and religious freedom, which are inherent to their beliefs and respect the diversity of all faiths; now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the House of Representatives, That the members of this legislative body declare October 2014 as Hindu American Awareness and Appreciation Month in the state of Michigan.
So let this be an example of things that can happen if Hindus, Dharmists and Devotees take an active role in various ways in the field of politics and public office, or in interacting with those who hold such positions.[From http://stephenknapp.info]