Dialectical Spiritualism: Niccolo Machiavelli, Part 2

By editor - 6.1 2017

Conversations wtih HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, excerpted from  Dialectical Spiritualism: A Vedic View of Western Philosophy.

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 - 1527)

Hayagriva dasa: Well, Machiavelli felt that evil in politics was a necessity. He writes: "A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must necessarily come to grief among so many who are not good. "

Srila Prabhupada: But if one is not good himself, how can he introduce anything that is good? Presently, in India, there are many people claiming to be big mahatmas, religionists, scholars, and politicians, but they cannot even protect the cows. Bhagavad-gita says:

vaisya-karma svabhava-jam

"Farming, cow protection, and business are the qualities of work for the vaisyas." (Bg. 18.44) It is at least the duty of the state to protect the cow, which is a special animal. It is the king's duty to protect the welfare of all citizens, including the cows. If the king or president does no more than sit in an exalted position, the people will not be happy. Even in America, the people dragged their president down when they were discontent with him. In any case, the head of state must be ideal and exhibit the ideal princely characteristics.

Hayagriva dasa: Machiavelli suggested that since the people usually desire peace, the prince should promote peace in his public addresses. On the other hand, the army always prefers war, which gives opportunities for promotion, and the prince should also appease the militarists. Although publicly promoting peace, the prince can break his promise whenever necessary to start a war abroad, especially when there is trouble at home.

Srila Prabhupada: No one can introduce peace unless he is educated in God consciousness. It is stated in Bhagavad-gita:

bhoktaram yajha-tapasam 
suhrdarh sarva-bhutanam 
jhatva mam santim rcchati

'The sages, knowing Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attain peace from the pangs of material miseries." (Bg. 5.29) The king should not think of his kingdom as his property or his father's property. Rather, knowing himself to be the representative of the Supreme Father, he must understand that the state belongs to the Supreme Father. He is a representative whose duty is to protect the state and the citizens. The proprietor of the state is God Himself. There is not a spot of land throughout the universe that is not owned by the Supreme Personality of Godhead ; therefore all property should be engaged for the satisfaction of God. Bhoktaram yajha-tapasam. Everything must be carried out for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord, and this is ideal activity for all societies.

atah pumbhir dvija-srestha 
svanusthitasya dharmasya 
samsiddhir hari-tosanam

"0 best among the twiceborn, it is therefore concluded that the highest perfection one can achieve, by discharging his prescribed duties [dharma] according to caste divisions and orders of life, is to please the Lord Hari." (Bhag. 1.2.13) According to the sastras, there are social divisions — brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, and sudra — and these divisions allow for proper management. It is the king's duty to divide human society according to the varnasrama-dharma. There should be genuine brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas, sudras, brahmacaris, grhasthas, vanaprasthas, and sannyasis. No one should cheat but should carry out his duty accordingly. The king must know what is sin so that he can take precautions against it. But if he supports sinful activities — for instance, if he maintains a slaughterhouse — how can he become sinless? The sastras say that the king attains political power by pious activities, but if he does not give security to the citizens, he loses his power automatically.

Hayagriva dasa: Machiavelli certainly believed that the people should be protected, but he also believed in the use of power and might. If there are internal difficulties, they must be put down by force. If this proves impossible, the prince should divert people's attention by starting a war abroad. He even felt that it was better to go to war than to remain neutral because a neutral nation is hated by the loser and not respected by the winner. Consequently, he praised power and war.

Srila Prabhupada: He praises war because he cannot manage internally. That is most inhumane.

Hayagriva dasa: "Trouble at home, war abroad" is one of his most famous points.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, and sometimes the governments create artificial restlessness and poverty. We have seen in 1940, when the Second World War was going on, that the government created an artificial famine in order to get men to fight. People who didn't work had no alternative but to join the military. The government increased the price of food, and I remember the price of rice jumping from six rupees to ten rupees. The very next day, the price rose to twenty rupees. Then it jumped again to fifty rupees, whereas formerly it was only six. This is all the results of politics. When the government is not pious or strong, this will go on, and the people will be unhappy.