The Ideal Republic
A Transcendental Perspective
The governance of a nation involves the collective welfare of a great mass of people spread over a vast region with great diversity in culture, language, geography and aspirations. A government is meant to address the specific needs of each individual while at the same time unite them in achieving a common goal that will lead to both individual and collective satisfaction.
For a government to successfully achieve these goals, there is need for enlightenment on the part of the leadership about what can unite everyone and benefit them. It is quite a complex issue. Each person is different and is constantly transforming by the influence of his shifting circumstances. It can be safely asserted that an enduring good is not possible if the satisfaction of the evolving desires is taken as the basis of delivering happiness. Only when happiness is based on a stable identity of the individual, is lasting good possible. As a person develops from childhood to youth to old age, his needs and wants undergo drastic changes. While a government can conceive of welfare programmes based on age, gender or region based communities, the common good remains obscure in the diversity.
From the transcendental perspective, the individual is seen as an eternal, non-changing person, who inhabits a body for a period of time. The body transforms from birth to death, after which the individual takes on a new body and occupies that for some duration. In this way the eternal being keeps changing bodies. The eternal, unchanging, transcendent self is unaffected by any condition of the body. But, due to falsely identifying with the body undergoes the worldly suffering that the body experiences.Actually, bliss is the intrinsic nature of the divine self. The ultimate benefit for any person in any walk of life, is to progress towards attaining his original eternal and blissful nature and consequent freedom from inhabitation in temporary material bodies. This is the background of the ideal republic.
The ideal republic runs on the basis of transcendental principles. It targets the liberation of each embodied soul from material bondage. The SrimadBhagavatam, which is the ripened fruit of the Vedic tree (nigama kalpa taror galitamphalam), showcases the transcendental governance in the ideal spiritually oriented republic through the glowing example of enlightened kings. One such king was Prithu Maharaja. He ruled thousands of years ago and created the ideal republic on earth.
Prithu Maharaja ruled the entire earth. All the 7 continents were under his control. He was an empowered incarnation of Lord Krishna and a great devotee of the Lord. His sole aspiration for all his citizens was for them to elevate themselves to the platform of God consciousness. For this purpose he strictly abided by the principles of the Vedic scriptures.
In accordance with the Vedic principles the society was divided into four social and four spiritual divisions in a system called Varnashrama. The social divisions were Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra. They were divisions based on the quality and work of individuals in society. Brahminical principles involved sense control, mind control, austerity, cleanliness, tolerance, simplicity, transcendental knowledge and spiritual realisation and firm faith in the vedas. Persons with these qualifications and mode of work were classified as Brahmanas. It was not merely a matter of birth in a family of Brahmins, but actual possession of the Brahminical qualities. Naturally they were so respected in society that King Prithu asserting his power over all society exempted the Brahmins from his ruling. Another category of people who were highly respected was the acyutagotratas or descendants of acyuta or Lord Vishun. These were the vaishnavas or devotees of Lord Vishnu. The Vaishnavas were those whose lives were completely dedicated to the devotional service of Lord Vishnu. Not only were they strict in executing all brahminical principles, but had also dedicated all their activities for the pleasure of the Supreme Lord.
It was an intensely theistic state, which attributed to God all the great arrangements in nature. In accordance with Vedic principle, it was state policy that all the divisions of society perform their prescribed duties with the aim of satisfying the Supreme Lord. The SrimadBhagavatam states:
“O best among the twice-born, it is therefore concluded that the highest perfection one can achieve by discharging the duties prescribed for one's own occupation according to caste divisions and orders of life is to please the Personality of Godhead.”
Excerpt From: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. “Srimad-Bhagavatam – 1.2.13
So the ideal transcendental nation is conceived as a principled society divided into four divisions based on quality and work of the individuals, which works in perfect co-operation with the goal of pleasing the Supreme Lord.
In the Bhagavad-Gita, Lord Krishna indicates how He can be pleased:
yo mad-bhaktaḥsa me priyaḥ”
“One who is not envious but who is a kind friend to all living entities, who does not think himself a proprietor, who is free from false ego and equal both in happiness and distress, who is always satisfied and engaged in devotional service with determination and whose mind and intelligence are in agreement with Me - he is very dear to Me.”
Excerpt From: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. “Bhagavad-gita As It Is - Macmillan 1972 Edition – 12.13-14
What gives pleasure to the Lord is a character in which there is no envy for any living being, kindness, friendliness and such divine qualities as stated above. Therefore if all in society were to have a desire to please the Lord, they would manifest these qualities in their character and conduct. Naturally the whole society would be peaceful and harmonious.
The economic system is predominantly agrarian because it is clearly understood that food is the primary necessity for all beings. King Prithuexploited the earth for producing profuse food for all the citizens of his kingdom. Yet, all arrangements were being done in dependence on the Supreme Lord, for rain, which is critical for agriculture can only be obtained by offering sacrifice (yajna) to the Supreme Lord and hence in Prithu Maharaja’s Kingdom, the government facilitated the constant performance of sacrifices to Lord Vishnu.
Education, art and culture were strongly devotional. Students underwent austerities in their guru’s ashram and under strict discipline learnt the philosophy and science of devotion. Dance, music and art all revolved around glorifying the Supreme Lord. Even today the vestiges of that culture can be seen in the classical dance and music forms of India, which only glorify the Supreme Lord. By this constant cultivation of devotion to God in all walks of life, the citizens in King Prithu’s kingdom lead a very elevated life of divine culture and character. Consequently there was peace and harmony.
An atheistic republic, which neglects the spiritual injunctions of the Vedic scriptures only spawns a society which has selfishness, greed, disharmony, violence, chaos and wide spread suffering. Unless the citizens are educated, trained and controlled by an enlightened leader who is selfless and devoted to the Supreme Lord, the society will be infested with innumerable social, environmental, political and personal problems that create a degraded, hellish condition for all living beings.
Thus, an ideal republic can only be established under the transcendental principles that are enunciated in the Vedas and demonstrated by the powerful rule of great kings like Maharaja Prithu. Human society will do well to deeply delve into their divine instructions and develop itself into the purely devotional nation that alone can create a harmonious balance among people and with nature so that all living beings can be spiritually progressive and blissful.
In this fallen age, these goals can be easily achieved by the performance of SankirtanYajna in which large groups of people can gather in congregation and sing
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare
This sankirtana is already creating peace and happiness in the lives of millions of people all over the world. We can also create a great world simply if we all gather together and joyfully sing the Hare Krishna Mahamantra. This is the teaching of Lord Chaitanya, who is Lord Krishna Himself, who advented 500 years ago to provide the ultimate means of salvation for this age of degradation called Kali Yuga.