Leadership in the Kali Yuga by LaChelle Schilling


Since the U.S. has elected a reality TV show billionaire to represent our nation, we should be no longer be able to shy away from the ignorance, violence, and frivolity that is within us. Happiness and peace in humanity seem to be in short supply. How many of us experience continuing bliss, or do we only fantasize and find brief reprieves in our suffering? Even the more extreme privileged among us most likely share the same emotional landscape.

In Indian cosmology, Hinduism specifically, there are four stages (yugas) of humanity that occur in a cycle. They represent the ascending and declining spiritual, psychological, and physical well-being of humanity. The Satya Yuga is first (descending) and last (ascending) era, where people are without strife, disease, or fear. Satya means “truth.” Life increasingly deteriorates through out the Treta Yuga to the Dvapara Yuga to the Kali Yuga.

We are said to be in the Kali Yuga, the final age, a time of darkness and ignorance where a human being is 25% healing and 75% harmful, and most people cannot control their desires. Everyone is dishonest on some level, and the real wisdom of the scriptures is mostly lost. Humans eat dirty foods and the environment is polluted. Clean water becomes less and less available. Humans live barely 100 years, and at the end of the Kali age (if in descendence), they will die in their 20s.

Actually, yogis, sages, and interested parties disagree on exactly where the present age might be located (instead of descending Kali, some say ascending Kali or even Dwapara). But it certainly seems like we are in some era of intense dukha. Based on the acknowledgement of suffering and presence of violence and war in our oldest written records, we have been for a while. No wonder a cosmology like this was created by us to show our hope and our disappointment. Jainism has a cosmic wheel of time as well called the Kāla Cakra.

The question is, what kind of guidance might a leader in the Kali age benefit from? While detailing an apocalyptic war and leaders who are not afraid to decimate entire kingdoms, the Ramayana (set in a yuga previous to ours) has examples of two leaders U.S. politicians could learn from.

Briefly, the Ramayana is centered on the banishment of prince Rāma with his wife Sītā to the forest for 14 years due to the plot of his stepmother to have her own son, Bharata, become king. Towards the end of the royal couple’s time living as ascetics, the demon king Rāvana abducts the beautiful Sītā for himself, which causes Rāma to enter into an apocalyptic war with the demon world, after which he returns with Sītā to take his place in Ayodhyā, the political center of Kosala. King Dasharatha, Rāma’s father, is our first example of how wise leaders, followers of Dharma (basically the Way, the Tao), manage their kingdoms. In the Bāla Kānda, the first chapter, it reads,

For the king was humble in his greatness. Learned in the Vedas, truthful and pious, he had never broken his word. He had performed many yagyas, ceremonies to create balance in nature, and always gave generously to the pandits, saints, and wise men of the kingdom. [. . .] King Dasharatha was surrounded by eight wise ministers, who practiced right conduct with their families and friends, never speaking a word in anger. [. . .] Versed in economics, they kept the king’s treasuries full without unduly taxing the people. Experts in defense, they made friends with the neighboring kingdoms. [. . .] King Dasharatha also relied on the judgment of spiritual advisors [. . .]. Supported by benevolent ministers and enlightened sages, celebrated as the ocean of truth, King Dasharatha had no equal among all the monarchs on earth.

This text reveals the virtues of a wise leader: honest, generous, caring for balance in nature, and surrounded by enlightened and spiritual advisors who are able to maintain friendly international relations. Furthermore, the Ramayana says the society under his rule lived in a beautiful, lush place on earth where “no one lived in poverty, [. . .]. [. . .] Rice was plentiful and the water pure.”  If only this mindset were the standard for all of our politicians, the world might not be in the vulnerable state it currently is in. Who might be the best spiritual guides to take office in the White House instead of those permitting bombs and building walls?

The other example of a wise leader is that of Rāma. Throughout the story, he is not perfect, but he tries to accept good and bad news with equanimity and to control his senses in times of turmoil. And when he does return, after 14 years, we are told that

LIke his father, Rāma performed hundreds of yagyas to gain support of nature, [. . .]. Ever generous and magnanimous, Rāma used his power and wealth to bring peace and prosperity to all.

To have leaders who are nature-minded as well as wanting peace and prosperity for all will ensure that the earth and humanity have a good chance of surviving. Such leaders might seem too good to be true, but what is really unrealistic is if we expect a change doing exactly what we have been for the history of our capitalistic, for-profit, military-fronted nation where the gods are wealthy supermodels and CEOs and making America great again means . . . well I still don’t know what that means. I think we should make American completely different than it or any nation we know of has ever been. I want a peaceful, no-war nation where we start living more minimalisticly, mindfully, and communally. Where we realize that fear and hatred only generate more of the same, and our leaders show we are sane people not repeating this over and over. What do you want in your leaders and country? Your world?

 

LaChelle Schilling, Ph.D., graduated in 2014 from the Women and Religion program at Claremont Graduate University. She teaches composition from a contemplative pedagogical approach at Oklahoma State University. Currently, she is working on a book project titled Minimalism, Mindfulness, and the Middle Way, incorporating guidance from sacred wisdom literatures. She is also working on certification as a yoga instructor.

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Categories: Abuse of Power, Activism, Aging, American History, Ecojustice, environment, Ethics, Evil, Hinduism, Justice

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16 replies

  1. “I want a peaceful, no-war nation where we start living more minimalisticly, mindfully, and communally. And so do I, but it is becoming impossible to imagine such a world. Nature is under siege like never before. When we destroy our context we walk on air.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is why we must make radical change and truly take the advice for leadership for ourselves. A more abundant and healed world is very possible if humanity can just slow down and step back, start working with the earth through permaculture instead of against it/us. Even areas of radiation destruction begin to grow lush and teem with animals once it has been isolated from human presence for awhile. The paradise is natural if we tread lightly. But I do not think we ever have.

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  2. Still, four months into the election of the Troll-in-Chief, I wake up in the morning and ask, “How could this happen?” It’s never occurred to me that the world might be in a Kali Yuga, but that certainly makes sense and explains much. Circles and cycles and wheels like Card X of the Tarot Majors all bottom out before they turn and begin to rise again. I find it hopeful–sort of–to hold that image in my mind. Will we ascend into the Satya Yuga? When? When do we get a wise leader?

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    • Thank you, Barbara. I did a reading recently of our world in our times, and the Fool came up as the Major card. With the other cards, the reading showed a volatile mix of strong, controlling money, intense emotions, isolation, instability, and a deep sadness or grief. Yet, because of the fool, uncertainty and possibility. It showed me how much hard work we have to do.

      I didn’t know Card X meant that. Thank you.

      I have those questions. Then I think that we will have to be/we are the leaders. We cannot wait.

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      • I haven’t done any Tarot readings in a long time, but I think I remember that Card X, the Wheel of Fortune, means something is turning in the querent’s life. What I learned about that card is that everything is always moving, up and down and around.

        Your reading sound spot-on: control, intense emotions, and the rest. I am absolutely sure the Troll-in-Chief is NOT the Tarot Fool. He’s just a plain fool, not even Lear’s wise Fool. And, yes, I think you’re right that we have a lot of hard work to do. Just to get through this! I guess we can all be the best leaders we can be, probably in secret ways.

        Gee, I haven’t had a Tarot conversation in years. Thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you again, Barbara. I am just getting into the cards as a way to unlearn and cleanse myself of old thought patterns that no longer serve me and invite new, more healing and reasonable mentoring in. There aren’t a lot of places to find these guides as an adult, but my own intuition works with something strangely helpful with the cards that show up, and Tarot has been wonderfully therapuetic. I actually think I would love to teach a Tarot and Chakra class at a university. Maybe some day. They can help so many people. I hope you are well, and thank you again for the insight about the Wheel card. That is very helpful since I haven’t thought much about that one. I am using Tarot of Dreams because I was drawn to the imagery more than the Rider-Waite deck. Be well, my dear.

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  3. Thank you, LaChelle, for this insightful blog. I know it is a challenging time. I also think it is important to draw on the cosmic energy of individuals who are grounded, such as yourself. In this Spirit, I want to be centered in Rosemary R. Ruether’s cosmic energy.

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    • Thank you, dear. I LOVE how you articulate this. YES, drawing on the cosmic energy of individuals who are grounded. What an important second half element to this discussion. Thank you for including me in that group and count me in for Rosemary’s vortex.

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  4. It is a challenging time for all the countries and basically the world, it’s matialistic ways are destorying it slowly and internall while on paper we keep curning bigger numbers. Thank you for your post. I want to remind you that this waht you are doing is beigger than just writing a post, it’s doing your bit in helping the universe help us. Keep doing it.
    Cheers!

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  5. Even Satya Yuga wasn’t that much of an ideal time. According to Puranic scriptures, back then there was a demon named Hiranyakashipu. He attained magical powers after doing penance for Lord Brahma. And he used to torture and kill everyone who even thought about God. Though he was ultimately slayed by Lord Vishnu. But, that’s not the point. It’s that dukha has always been there, in one form or another. And it will always be there. And one way of tackling it is by being grateful for what you have. I know times are bad, but they are certainly not worst. Still we have something to be grateful for. Yes, we must fight the evil but we can do that with a more positive mindset. In India they say that you cannot overcome hatred with hatred, you can only overcome it with love.

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    • Thank you so much for reading and for your wisdom. Yes, I agree we must respond to hate and fear with love in hopes of generating a different existence. We must also be aware of how we might have caused the conditions for this hate and fear and begin to heal our ways. I still need to make my way to the Puranas. Currently I am in the first book of the Mahabharata. So if you have a suggestion of one that is your favorite, feel free to let me know. Thank you for your kindness and positivity. We absolutely need those who can to be mindful of the suffering in the world.

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      • Thank you. Sorry, but I can’t suggest you much. To be honest, I haven’t read that many books. And I heard that passage about ‘Satyuga wasn’t such an ideal time’ in some speech.
        I’ve seen many Television serials based on Puranic Literature, maybe that’s why I know about them.
        I really want to read Puranas in original Sanskrit, but right now it’s just a dream.

        Anyway, I recently read Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Commentry on ‘Patanjali Yog Sutra’. And I really liked it. You can try it if you like.

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