The “last of the buffoon dictators” was one correspondent’s take on the death of Muammar Gaddafi. With his numerous outlandish costumes, opulent palace, and corps of female Amazonian bodyguards, he certainly cut a colorful figure as he paraded on the world stage. But his record on human rights was a dark one. His sponsorship of terrorism and his brutality against his own people were well known, and in the end he met a gruesome fate that many say was well deserved.
Although Western leaders had previously been happy to do business with Gaddafi and his oil-rich country, they lost no time in condemning him after his demise. British Defence Secretary Peter Hammond said Libya had been liberated from a “forty-year tyranny,” while US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that his death “brought to a close a very unfortunate chapter in Libya’s history.”
Perhaps they are right, and surely we in the West should be grateful that no secret police prowl our streets and dissenters are not hanged from lampposts, but how much better is our leadership?
India’s ancient scriptures say much on the subject, since good leaders are critical to the welfare of the people. Leaders lead us towards their visions, but a vision should be based upon knowledge of where humanity should be headed for its ultimate good. Visions these days are all about economic success, but that is not the Vedic standard. Human life is meant for much more than material happiness. Leaders without this vision are described as the blind leading the blind. As in Brueghel’s famous painting, everyone ends up in the ditch, which in the case of poor Gaddafi turned out to be more than just a metaphor.
Today’s leaders are mostly just managers. Leadership guru Stephen Covey puts it nicely when he writes, “Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.” We all want happiness, and the right wall is the one where we find happiness when we get to the top, with no chance of any more suffering. That is the supreme destination where a truly qualified leader will take us. This is the vision of spiritually advanced persons who always look to the divine abode of Krishna. Only there does the hankering soul find ultimate peace and happiness.
The right vision means recognizing that no one in this world has independent authority. All authority derives from God and must therefore be exercised on His behalf. Without God’s sanction nothing can succeed.
Higher powers and indeed the highest power: God control everything, and until we recognize that power, we must inevitably fall foul of it by transgressing divine law. Following divine law means being led by the godly towards God. This brings about all benefit, both material and spiritual. The Puranas speak about a hierarchy of authority coming down from Krishna, through the devas (the powers behind nature), to the king or leader in human society. Aligning society with this hierarchy will create a heaven on earth. The Ramayana describes the famous Rama-rajya, “the reign of Rama,” as having brought this about. At that time there was no undue suffering anywhere not even from natural causes (controlled by the devas), bodily ailments, poverty, anxiety, or anything else. Everyone was peaceful, fully satisfied, and happy, and at the end of life they ascended to the Lord’s supreme abode.
Creating Hell on Earth
Conversely, a rule that neglects God’s laws will eventually create a hell on earth. Disease, want, war, depression, and miseries of every type will become rampant. No matter how well meaning and hard working the leaders may be, if they have no spiritual vision they will find all their plans thwarted and the people they are trying to lead dissatisfied to the point where they will eventually throw them out.
Genuine happiness will never come from mere worldly affluence. As spiritual beings we cannot be satisfied with that. We need to connect with the Supreme Spirit and experience supreme spiritual bliss.
We can find our own way into the ditch without the help of so-called leaders, but that’s not where we want to be. We want to be led back to Krishna and our loving relationship with Him. Let us look for such leaders and make our lives truly successful.
Krishna Dharma Dasa is the author of the world’s best-selling English editions of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. He lives in London with his family. You can find out more about him and read more of his writing at www.krishnadharma.com.