Love and Power

By Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji, originally published at the Jiva Institute.

In Bhagavad-gita, Krishna says that those influenced by rajas take birth on earth (14.18), which indicates that human birth is predominantly rajasika. Rajas inspires action (Gita 14.12). To perform any action one needs sakti, energy or power. Therefore, human life is a struggle for power.

Everyone desires power. No one likes to be powerless. A child wants to grow because it feels powerless in front of the elder members of the family. We want good health because we feel powerless when we are sick. This is also why we do not want to get old. The civil rights movements for women, Africans, and Dalits, and social movements like the Marxist or French revolution all exist to empower different classes of people.

If we look carefully, we find that everyone wants power—be they spiritualist or materialist, theist or atheist or agnostic. Life is a power game; without it, life is useless. Thus, human beings are worshipers of power. In India, there is even a class of people, called saktas, who literally worship personified power, sakti or Devi.

Knowledge, physical strength, wealth, social position, beauty, artistic talent, renunciation, character and yogic siddhis are all different types of power we can possess to varying degrees. We can use power either for our own benefit or to help others. Unfortunately, most people chose the former, and use power to increase the extent to which they can exploit others. The powerful tend to force others to do their bidding.

The struggle for power is seen everywhere: between nations, in corporate offices, or even within a family. If we disobey the powerful, they punish us. If we obey, they may reward us. This carrot and stick dynamic is everywhere: Police, politicians, parents, teachers, managers, and even religious leaders use it. Sometimes individuals rebel against those in power authority, but this tends to merely change the names of the exploiters. The human psychology of using power to exploit others remains fairly constant.

This makes one human being the worst enemy of another. Humans have no greater predator than themselves. Ferocious animals may hunt and even eat us when they are hungry, but humans beings lay inescapable and elaborate plans to keep each other perpetually trapped in their power-plays. This destroys human relations, even in families, and is thus at the root of all emotional dysfunction, which in turn is at the root of all social problems.

Misery due to external control continues relentlessly not because we have thought it over and decided that controlling others is best—it continues because we know no other way. We inherit the psychology of our ancestors, teachers, and leaders. The modern human defaults to coercion, mostly because we think it is the only way.

Another reason we do not root out coercion, despite the fact that it obviously causes so much misery, is that it works. It works for the powerful because they get their wishes fulfilled. It works for the powerless, too, because they feel secure with it; it gives them a way to avoid upsetting the powerful and a hope for being rewarded. The powerless also embrace the coercion system because they think that to do anything else would invoke wrath and destroy them. Thus, people continue living in abusive relationships, because they think that leaving the relation would make things worse.

Less powerful people feel weak and rely on the acceptance and validation of powerful people to give them a feeling of self-worth. This weakness is an irresistible pheromone for the powerful, attracting the predator to easy prey. The powerful rest assured that the weak will continue to serve them because the weak believe they actually need the powerful.

What, then, is the way out?

Sri Krishna gives an alternative to power: love, which provides choice and freedom. An exploitive person keeps their dependent weak and powerless, but a loving person empowers their dependent. Krishna, for example, never forces anything on anyone. He explains the pros and cons of various choices and then leaves it to us to decide. He demonstrated this in His teachings to Arjuna. After answering Arjuna’s many questions in Bhagavad Gita, He said (18.63): “Thus, I have declared to you knowledge, more secret than all secrets. Reflect on it fully and then do as you wish.”

Love, indeed, is the most powerful thing. There is no power higher than love. It is so powerful that the most powerful person, Sri Krishna, comes under its sway. He becomes controlled by the love of His devotee. He openly admits his submission to the love of the Gopis (SB 10.32.22).

Exploitation of power creates distance between the powerful and the powerless, while the power of love unites and empowers them both.

Powerful people are always afraid of losing their power, and so try to eliminate their competitors. No matter how powerful, everyone is jealous of someone and worried about some competitor. In love, however, such dynamics do not exist. One in love is not afraid to see another becoming powerful. Sri Krishna and His devotees are the best examples of this. Thus in Vraja, there is no formal power structure to manage society. Everything runs on the principle of co-operation and love, without need for regulation, and devoid of any jealousy.

According to Srimad-Bhagavata, (1.3.28) Sri Krishna is the original form of Bhagavan. The practical proof of this is that He deals with His associates with love, not authority. This makes Him more powerful than all other forms of Bhagavan. And it is for this very reason that raganuga-bhakti is more powerful than vaidhi bhakti.

Although love and control are totally opposite values, they can co-exist. The coarser the consciousness, the more pronounced the need to exercise control. The more refined and subtle the consciousness, the lesser the need to control. When you are coarse, you demand authority and when you demand authority, love recedes. Asserting authority indicates lack of confidence and a lack of love. The more evident one’s control, the less sensitive and effective it will be. The less the love, the more obvious the control. So, the subtler you become, the more control you gain. The greater the love, subtler will be the control.

Now the question may be raised that if love is so simple, attractive, empowering and free of jealousy, then why do people not practice it? Heavy power politics is seen even among spiritual societies and asramas that claim to teach, preach and practice love. Why is it not seen in practice? The answer is that our material ahankara gets in the way. It becomes a big obstacle to pure love. The ahankara is so cunning in nature, that it works together with our buddhi to convince us that, “I am humble, surrendered and loving. I do my seva with a pure heart. I offer my heart to Sri Krishna and guru. It is others who have the problems.” Most practitioners may think this way. If it were not for this deep and thick anartha, what a wonderful, harmonious community of devotees we would have, free from competition and jealousy.

Unfortunately, hardly anyone truly operates in this mode of love, even though we all think we do.

What is really going on under the fake smiles and pranams is control. The powerful ones amass an army of less powerful co-dependents, which is the perfect magnetic match. The powerful have an inflated ahankara and they need people below them to keep it inflated. The bigger the ahankara, the more ability to steamroll and push away others to get to the top. Therefore, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu advised to be humble like grass, tolerant like a tree, and continue with the seva. In such a mood, there is no possibility of power control.

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