Yogis (practitioners of yoga) believe in (and live by) a few principles, if they truly follow the path of yoga (as more than just a different type of workout). We base our practices first on non-violence, which simplifies candidate choice immensely. In fact, it eliminates the ‘Big Two’ (Democrats and Republicans), whose platforms obviously and loudly promote war and militarism.
It’s quite simple…either we are for peace and non-violence, or not. It is impossible to vote for candidates who start or promote wars in sovereign countries and still tell ourselves we support non-violence and non-harming.
As yogis, we also believe in the unity of people, the inclusion and consideration of others in our thoughts and actions (and voting decisions). Thus, parties who exclude others are easily removed from our consideration. This effectively eliminates the Libertarian, Constitution Party, and the ‘Independent’ parties.
That is quite simple as well. Any party or group that does not allow the rights and privileges we claim for ourselves to others is beyond the pale of humanity, beyond what we as people aspiring toward decency (if not divinity) could accept.
What is left? What choices do our yogic values leave us? They leave us only with minority, mostly progressive parties. These are parties people say are for the dreamers, for those who look at the world through rose-colored glasses. These are the parties with few votes or seemingly few chances of winning.
Do we care? No, we are dreamers, in a world that seems bent on killing each other. Yes, we look at the best in the world, try to see (and invoke) the best in ourselves and others. Call us stupid and naive, but we follow the Higher Path, one pointed out by sages throughout the ages, and by our own hearts.
Do we stick to our beliefs? Yes, if we are truly yogis and not just people out copying the latest fad. Our confidence comes from knowing that some things are indubitably right, such as consideration, compassion, and understanding (and the political parties that promote -and act out- these values).
Yogis ascribe to other values, values I suggest we all could benefit from using as a compass or guideline when dealing with each other (and politics is all about dealing with each other). These observances and prescriptions (yama and niyama) are our basic ‘Bible’ (and as we can see, they do not interfere with the sacred literature or beliefs of any truly non-violent and peaceful belief system. They are:
Restraint, observance, posture, breath-control, sense-withdrawal, concentration, meditation-absorption and enstasy.
These are mostly internal observances, and merely help us to discern clearly between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, to help us see beyond the unreal to what is Real. They are not directly related to politics, but help us to discern clearly (as reasonable and peaceful political decisions require).
Non-harming, truthfulness, non-stealing, chastity (in ways different than you think), and greedlessness (or non-coveting).
These restraints can and do help us in choosing political candidates and parties.
Violence: How can we support people who advocate violent means to solve problems? How could we possibly support candidates who espouse these (violence-begetting) solutions? Wars on drugs, wars on terrorism, wars on crime have all proven to be futile, and have caused (and do cause) more problems than they solve. How could a yogi who believes in non-violence support such things? The clear and easy fact is…they cannot.
Honesty: How can we vote for candidates that knowingly and willfully lie to us, those they are supposed to represent? How can they engage in ‘shady’ affairs and still hope to get our support? How could we support candidates who play semantical games with the truth? How could we support them when they do such things?
Non-stealing: When we invade sovereign countries, when we use power to force others to do our bidding, we attempt to steal their liberty and freedom. When we live richly, a nation of fat people while others starve (or promote policies that seek to continue this madness) we effectively take food out of the mouths of others to feed our own gluttony. How could any yogi support such things? How could any Buddhist or reasonable person?
Chastity: How could we support candidates who speak in sexual terms, award or seek outward appearances more than substantial realities? How could we support a empire-building paradigm that seeks to impose our own vices and lack of modesty and respect on other cultures?
Greedlessness: How could we support policies that put people out of their homes, result in massive numbers of refugees, or otherwise marginalize others, policies which seek to gain ascendancy over them to support our own greed?
These basic guidelines of yoga (and I contend of all reasonable people worldwide) can definitely help us in discerning who (and who not) to vote for. ‘Pragmatic’ considerations, and other justifications cannot be used to dilute the undeniable truth of these core principles we believe in. If it is wrong to harm others, then it is always wrong. Saying we need to put aside what our hearts and consciences tell us to gain some ‘practical’ or ‘tactical’ (or even ‘strategic’) goal are nothing but situational morality…essentially immorality, as convenience dictates.
The idea of ‘preemptive strikes’, ‘collateral damage’, and ‘justified war’ are insanity to us, the mere justifications of madmen and warmongers. The idea of imposing our might on others, loss of civil rights for our own ‘security’, and many of the other things promoted by the Big Two parties has proven to be pure and unadulterated madness.
Choices are simplified by yogic guidelines, and obviously inappropriate candidates can be eliminated, but still hard choices remain. We might ask ourselves ‘would one of the sages vote for one type of madness to avoid another?’ Would they accept a little bit of war, but merely because we just had to? We must ask ourselves these questions, and decide if we truly believe and live by yogic principles, or if they are just ‘guidelines’, to be conveniently altered at our convenience.
Only yogis can ask these questions, each individual yogi, in the confines of their hearts. Only they can ask…does this candidate or platform reflect my yogic values? Only the individual yogi can know the truth of their own heart, and the answers that come naturally from them.
We must decide if we want to use our votes to reflect our consciences and beliefs, or to achieve the political goals of someone else. We must decide if our votes are commodities, to be bought by the highest bidder, or if they are reflection of our vision for ourselves and our nation. In the case of the latter, we vote not to win, but to be right…according to our own hearts and convictions, to our own ideals. It doesn’t matter if our votes serve to make someone else win or lose, for we know what our own truth and thus duty in this matter is.
It’s like the tales of the Great Epic: the warrior (Arjuna) had to simply perform his own duty, as he saw it, without regard to imagined consequences. He had to do only what was right by his lights, and let the chips fall where they may. That’s all we as yogis (and humans) can hope to do. We vote what we believe, and let the chips fall where they may. Dang the durn torpedoes and straight ahead, as they say.
So our beliefs can undoubtedly help us in our political decisions, but even so, many good options exist. Among the choices, a yogi can hope to discern, take action to help them discern more clearly. Read the platforms of the remaining parties. Feel the truth of what they stand for in your heart, and pick the one which resonates best. Does Green seem a bit more humane and conscientious than socialist? Do their voting records seems so? Or does the opposite seem true to you, feel true to you? Then vote that way, in confidence that you have evaluated the candidates and platforms, given thought, consideration (and heart) to the issue, and done your best as you know it.
This will relieve us from political arguments, concerns, or divisive ‘debates’, and allow us to focus on the things that matter, the things dear to us: life, our practices, those we love, the things we can do to help make this a better planet, to help make us better people. If we vote by these guidelines, we can’t go wrong.
Yogi brothers and sisters, friends, New Romans, fellow countrymen (the three who might read these words), lend me your ears and hearts, give me the boon of your true consideration. If you feel my words resonate, or are merely worth considering, please share them with your friends.
(c) 2016 Mark Francis Mullen. Please do not reproduce without permission. Publication on Facebook or other social media are not intended to (or able to) assign any rights to the same.