With the first step in the primary election over, politics are on many Americans' minds. For the most part, I don’t think that politics in this country lends itself to the yogic path. Candidates often do not act with ahimsa, their policies sometimes hurting those that they are supposed to protect. They can act with greed toward themselves or those that support them and manipulate the desire of their constituents to gain money and material goods to facilitate their own progress.
While that may sound dark, all is not lost. There are certainly representatives who look to protect the vulnerable, to preserve the environment and to inject truth into an area of our culture that seems to be clouded by lies.
But what of a candidate like Donald Trump? This is a man who, from the image he projects to the public, does not follow the values of a yogi. A man who touts a life of excess; hoarding property, money, and people. A man who holds this excessive lifestyle up as a model of prosperity and happiness. A man who feeds on the fears of his supporters and uses this to encourage them to disregard the importance of the lives of vulnerable people like immigrants. Who uses the looming threat of violence to breed hatred toward entire groups of people. A man who puts money before everything else.
But how does a yogi respond to someone like this? I find it difficult to keep my emotions in check when reading yet another headline reminding me of the damaging and hateful words of this man who is poised to run for the position of leader of our country. Patanjali tells us in the yoga sutras that there are four types of people and one way to deal with each of them—fours locks and four keys.
By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous and disregard toward the wicked, the mind retains its undisturbed calm. Sutra 1:33
Into which category does Mr. Trump fall? I would argue that, through his campaign and in the view of the yogic path, he falls right now into the category of wicked. Should we disregard him? While it may sound counterproductive, this just might be sage advice from the ancients. We cannot control how others will vote. We cannot change the message that Mr. Trump is offering. We definitely cannot know the future. Becoming angry and upset when reading about him or seeing him on television only serves to disturb our own minds when we can do very little to sway those who might support a person like this. In short, we are the only ones who suffer when we allow his wicked ways to upset us.
Of course this is easier said than done, and classifying a person as “wicked” or “virtuous” denies the complexity of human nature. But I think looking to the four keys can certainly help us to maintain our own personal calm and reserve that energy instead for worthy pursuits. That may be assisting the candidate we feel is more in line with our yogic values. Or it may mean that, when met with people in our own lives who might support Trump, we can greet them with the keys that will help us maintain our calm—perhaps with compassion that they are unhappy enough with their own lives to believe that electing Trump will help them.