Lord Krishna, The Father Of Communism
Guest column in the Hindustan Times
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
June 13 2004
Long before Marx, Lenin and Mao, a historical figure in India fought
against oppression, championed the cause of the poor, denounced
religious dogma and empty ritualism, and sought to inspire a
righteous and selfless attitude in society.
The basic tenets of communism say that all are equal, and exploiters
and oppressors should be severely punished. The goal is to create a
society free from selfishness, autocracy, aristocracy and oppression
of people of any sort. The life and message of Krishna reveals that
he imbibed, taught and fought for these principles 5,230 years ago.
In fact, an objective analysis of the Bhagvad Gita too would reveal
that Krishna was a better communist than Karl Marx. One could go so
far as to describe him as the real founder of communism!
Krishna rebelled against dogmatic religious practices of those days.
Even today it is well known that the entire society stopped the
sacrificial puja they were doing to Indra, shifting over, on
Krishna's advice, to caring for cows (Govardhan Pooja) and honouring
the knowledge of the self. He also promoted Annakoot, where there is
food for everybody.
Krishna rebels against the people who are always arguing in the name
of the Vedas.
Krishna has said that people who are driven by little desires, who
are propitiating this deity or that, caught up in small rituals and
greed, are fools (moodha).
He also says, "Those who worship many devas and perform many rituals
are of lesser intelligence."
Finally, after a detailed exposition of all aspects of life,
knowledge and duty, he says, "Drop all the dharma and take refuge in
me", i.e. in the higher self. This is really a revolutionary thing.
Karl Marx said: "Religion is the opium of the masses."
But beyond religion is the quest for truth. Where does a man go
further? There Krishna leads Arjuna, leads the people into that
spiritual realm of experience, which is seriously lacking in
communism today. The confidence that builds up in a person who knows
the depth and the secrets of creation is something amazing, so
beautiful - without which life is dry. So make the transition from
religion to spirituality. It is what was missing in Karl Marx's
principle and which Krishna has very clearly demonstrated and given
to the world in the form of Gita.
Communism cannot reject Krishna at any cost because he stands for all
its principles in a much more meaningful manner. If we don't see the
reality, the truth, with an open mind, then we have merely replaced
an old religion with a new religion called communism. So we have to
be aware and wake up to adapt to changing times.
I wonder why the communists have not yet owned Krishna. Many times in
the Gita, Krishna says, "One who sees me in everybody, one who sees
oneself in everybody, is the one who sees the truth". This is the
basic principle of communism - See everyone as yourself.
He says the banana peel has a meaning as long as there is a banana
inside. But when you eat the banana, then the peel has no value.
Similarly religion can't take people to the final truth, final goal -
it can only go that far. But it is the spirit of self-enquiry, the
scientific temper in a person, that takes one deeper. Religion stays
behind and one moves into a realm of pure humanism or pure divinity -
this is the hallmark of Krishna's teaching.
Unlike the West, where scientists were tortured and questioning of
the religious scriptures was prohibited, India has always encouraged
questioning and contemplation. In fact, most of the scriptures in
India are in the format of questions and answers. After putting forth
his opinion, Krishna tells Arjuna to independently think and
question, and tells him that he has the freedom to accept or reject
his opinion. He never imposes his idea. Though communism advocates
rational thinking, we hear many communists do not give the freedom to
people to express a different ideology.
At the same time, Krishna also inspired Arjuna to fight and not
accept oppression, which again is what communists say. He advises
Arjuna to fight not with anger or hatred, but with intelligence, with
equanimity, with wisdom.
Another principle of communism is sharing. As a small child, Krishna
would share the butter with all the boys, all the youngsters. Later
he shared wealth. A salient feature of communism is work for the
community and it comes down strongly on consumerism or greed.
Krishna goes on to say that one who is really wise regards all men as
equal, and does not discriminate between a brahmin and an
untouchable, or a learned one and someone who is not so learned.
Communists often object to the caste system, but whether you like it
or not, this system has been in practice all over the world, in the
form of professional clubs which exist even today.
There are ample examples of people born in one caste, but belonging
to another caste by virtue of their profession. For instance, Veda
Vyasa, himself born to a fisherwoman, was considered the authority on
Vedas. The most astonishing fact is that among a thousand rishis,
only a handful were born in the so-called upper caste.
Many people talk about communism but they lead a capitalistic life.
However Krishna never did that. He never became a king, though he is
called Dwarkadheesh. He remained a servant of Dwarka, of the king of
Dwarka. He was an uncrowned king. He stood for the cause of the poor.
He saw that oneness in everybody and so he was remembered for
centuries. But nowadays it is suddenly fashionable to regard even the
Ramayana and Mahabharata as epics and not as something that really
happened. This is ridiculous, because just a legend cannot have such
an impact over the whole continent, and even beyond. The Ramayana and
Mahabharata have made such an impact on civilisation without any
modern technology or modes of communication. The Sanskrit word
itihasa means - "it happened like that/ it happened thus."
To see everyone as equal is a matter of the heart, and the heart can
be made to blossom only through spirituality. It is not just an
intellectual concept that leads to action. It is an emotion which
propels us towards action and emotion is the very nature of our
spirit. So you cannot be a true communist if you don't have that
spark of love and compassion in your heart.
Modern communism negates religion but leaves you in a vacuum. Devoid
of spirituality, frustration overtakes life, leading one to violence
and aggression or depression and suicidal tendencies.
You cannot serve someone if you don't see them as yourself or part of
yourself. Only spirituality can bring authenticity to caring and
sharing, and that is communism. What was missing in communism is the
very soul, that is spirituality, of which Krishna is an expert
Now communists in Kerala needn't feel guilty going to Guruvayoor and
those in Bengal can openly celebrate Durga Pooja!
(The writer is a spiritual teacher.)