Indian Guru Swami Ram Dev has decided to take his assertion of radical transformation beyond the realm of physical and mental health and into the world of Indian politics. He has announced his plans to form a political party and offer candidates for all 543 seats in India’s parliament in the next general election, though he does not plan on running for office himself.
He plans to clean up India’s political body that he claims is awash with corruption and division and rebuild it upon the ancient principles of the Vedas and the Upanishads, the same content from which the science of yoga was derived. It is a bold aim of “revolution” but one from a guru who has already revolutionized yoga in the land of it’s birth. Through a well-branded presentation of television sadhana, web satsang and a strong foundation in ancient wisdom, Swami Ram Dev may just be the one to instigate change in a country that he says is too dependent upon the political system of British colonization and too detached from the possibilities inherent in its own culture and history.
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So what will this revolution look like? Swami Ram Dev has strong ideas about the new age of Indian politics. “Be Indian,” he says, “Speak Indian languages. Wear Indian clothes. Drink Indian drinks.” Ram Dev believes in the Indian culture first and foremost and disagrees with the inclusion of Multinational corporations within the country. He expresses opposition to American food and clothing as well as the World Health Organization. He even opposes the beloved Indian pastime of cricket because of its British origins.
He states that he plans to make corruption punishable by death and would force all of those “hiding” billions of dollars in foreign markets to bring it back to invest in India. Swami Ram Dev’s followers believe that Yoga can rescue India, and on this point I agree. As a philosophical model and a life practice, I believe that yoga in its most authentic form can rescue us all.
Entering the political forum is a move that is supported by many of Ram Dev’s Indian followers, a large majority of whom are seeking a change from the well-ingrained political culture of India, and the effort is supported by several Indian religious leaders. There are a handful of other religious leaders who are skeptical, foreseeing the move into politics a cross over from the gifts of God to the lure of Ego.
Without question, Swami Ram Dev is a popular teacher with a strong foundation in the philosophy and practice of yoga, but when any person of power and prestige talks about eliminating outside influence I become wary. Cultural cleansing has happened many times throughout history, and the results have always been quite dramatic and in my humble opinion not very yogic at all. I am very much in support of grassroots movements, and the effort to return to a space of respect for the culture that drives any country, but at the risk of offending, I urge caution in following the path of outside elimination as the platform of change be it in India, the USA, or Africa. Ideals of exclusion have large and sometimes frightening repercussions.