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Spiritualizing Politics
9th December, 1990
My dear Pranav,
Gopal Krishna Gokhale, a great statesman and parliamentarian was a prominent leader in the early part of the twentieth century. He was contemporary of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Their approaches to the betterment of India were poles apart. Gokhale was a "gradualist", and he wanted the constitutional way to be used for the improvement of life in India. Tilak wanted Swaraj. Once India were free she can take care of herself.
Mahatma Gandhi came under the spell of Gokhale who wanted to "spiritualise" politics. Gandhi followed him, interested not only in achieving Swaraj but was careful about the means. He was careful not only about ends but also the means. He insisted on Truth and non-violence and Satyagraha as the method of achieving independence. All political actions of Gandhi were consistent with his emphasis on using the right means to achieve the right ends.
Vinoba took this idea of "spiritualising" politics a step further. He said, "Politics assumed the semblance of spiritualisation before political power was gained. As soon as political power came within grasp, this semblance vanished....
"people tell me that treading the path of Gandhiji I should take up the task of spiritualising politics. I tell them that I want to end politics itself. I have no desire to turn a stone into Shiva and then worship it. Put the stone into your pocket, I say, and worship the God that dwells in you. There was a time for spiritualization of stone. That time is now gone. It will not do now to worship the stone with sandal paste and ignore the starving millions before us....
...While reflecting on the spiritualization of politics it occurs to me that in the process politics does not remain intact, it is destroyed. Its place is taken by Lokaniti (people's power). With freedom has come the rule of the people. Politics cannot survive its spiritualization. Just as when you try to ignite wood it burns up. You cannot apply fire to wood and at the same time make it retain its character as wood. It is not possible to retain both the processes of combustion and wood. Only in burning up will wood give light and warmth. When business in conducted by reference to majority and minority, we cannot spiritualize politics and at the same time keep it in tact. It is now appropriate to say, "that politics is outdated. The days of politics are over." (1)
As a student of Mathematics and a very consistent logician, Vinoba formulated the following proposition:
Science + Politics = Destruction or Annihiliation
Science + Spirituality = Sarvodaya (2)
More in my next letter.
With love,
L. N. Godbole