SWAMI AGNIVESH contd..
His views on religion
are so unconventional that some even question his bona fides.
One journalist in Goa asked him: Why do you wear the saffron
robe at all? Who will do the religious work if swamis take
to social action or political issues? ‘Agnivesh stresses his
faith in spirituality, though he says this ought to be ‘social
spirituality’. In other words, it ought not to be of an
individualistic or escapist variety.
should be made into a resource for social transformation. Obscurantist,
ritual-ridden, superstition-mongering religion should be given
a prompt burial,’ he insists. ‘The kind of education I had in
the Arya Samaj persuaded me that the spiritual quest of an individual
is inextricably linked with his social life. Like two sides
of a coin, they complement each other. Religion should never
degenerate into an exercise in escapism.’
has for centuries remained individualistic. It now has to be
made to address social needs,’
says Agnivesh. He is unsparing in his critique of the ‘bankruptcy
of the political leadership’ of India. Issues taken up during
the freedom movement, like pledges to stop the proliferation
of liquor, have been fast forgotten. Communalism has raised
its monstrous head.
to Swamiji, ‘Our
real issues are poverty and the glaring socio-economic
inequality. These are the biggest issues, the biggest
challenges.’ Swamiji's understanding of religiosity is
in sharp contrast to that of the familiar custodians of
religions who thrive by getting different communities
to fight each other over communal issues. ‘Our spiritual
bankruptcy has also shown,’ says he. Agnivesh points out
that the values common to all religions have been neglected,
while the vaccum has been filled by communal politics.
servitude is perpetuating itself, and the bonded labour
situation is worsening in India notwithstanding official
claims, says the
articulate Swami. But should men of God actually enter
the marketplace of politics? What about leaving this to
Caesar who is supposed to handle this portfolio, in the
customary division of labours?
‘I have never
been able to compartmentalize religion, politics and social
action,’ says Agnivesh.
They all exist together in the web of social realities. Positive
elements from all religions should be integrated into mainstream
Further, he adds,
the task of the spiritually enlightened is not to promote one
particular religion; much less to pit one religion against another.
He repeatedly calls for identifying the good and the common
factors that exist within all religions. He dreams of a world
where religions interact in an integrative model as against
the present conflictual and competitive model.
‘Without a spiritually
liberated vision of life and of the human predicament we cannot
survive, much less progress. If we have to fight the cultural
imperialism or MTV, we have to launch a movement based on such
a spiritual vision of human dignity and destiny,’ says he.
‘Politics is meant
for the people. It is meant to be a sacred vocation committed
to maximizing the wellbeing of the people. No one who has spiritual
concerns or a sense of fellow-humanity can remain indifferent
to politics. Religious leaders are part of the society and the
servants of the people. I would like men of religion to play
a positive role in politics, and imbue in it the values that
nourish public culture and the art of governance.’