Put a spoonful of spirituality in politics
Three ways to make the vision a reality:
1) Every elected politician should spend at least a month in a monastery and be trained in spirituality. Without spirituality, one can become greedy and overambitious.
2) We need minimum qualifications and the retirement age for ministers. If a driver or employee has to retire at 58, why not a minister?
3) Treat delays in development projects as corruption. They increase the project costs many times over.
Every night I fall asleep, my heart weeps for the bad state of my country. When we were liberated from the Rana regime in 1951, all of Asia was at roughly the same level of development. Instead of making progress, Nepal has stepped backwards over these 70 years. Forget North America and Europe, compare us to our South Asian neighbors – every year we get relatively poorer. Bhutan, which was poorer than Nepal a few decades ago, now has a per capita income of $ 3,300, while ours is around $ 1,000. Look at China – our per capita income used to be higher than China’s. And can you imagine that in 1950 Singapore was poorer than Nepal?
I feel humbled to see my country. I don’t know why our politicians aren’t even a little ashamed.
God gave us everything. We have six seasons while some European and North American countries only have two – summer and winter. We have the Himalayas, Lumbini, Pashupatinath, Muktinath and so on. Check out Singapore – there are only coastlines. But 20 million tourists go there every year. Every year 40 million tourists travel to Tibet and 40 million to Thailand. And we have a proud goal of two million a year! Even our tourism minister knows we will never meet him. Any educated Nepali should be ashamed to read this.
Millions of people visit Mansarovar in Tibet every year. Our own Rara lake is no less beautiful. It’s more accessible and you won’t experience altitude sickness there, unlike Mansarovar. Our government proudly says that 215 foreign tourists visited the lake last year. Isn’t that shameful? If you manage Lake Rara properly, it can feed the entire Karnali Province on its own. If you manage Lumbini properly, it can feed the whole country.
First, we need a stable government and responsible ministers. In other countries, when things go wrong, ministers resign on moral grounds. A train wreck occurred in India and Railway Minister Nitish Kumar resigned although it was not his direct fault. In Korea and Japan, concerned ministers have committed suicide in even minor corruption cases. But look at our ministers – audio recordings are posted where they can be heard asking for bribes. And they walk around with full confidence as if nothing is wrong!
Young people should get involved in politics. There is a retirement age in every profession. Shouldn’t that also be the case in politics? Because they make laws, they have given themselves complete freedom. The minister’s driver has to pass an exam to get the driver’s license and he has to retire at 58. But the ministers who drive the country don’t need training, they don’t have to appear for an exam, and they don’t retire. You want to go to her funeral in the ministerial chair! Isn’t that ridiculous? How can you say that a driver or employee is incapacitated at 58 and the minister is fit to the deathbed? We need a ministerial retirement law.
The next topic is their qualifications. They have to be qualified for their job. In Canada, the Minister of Health must be a doctor, the Secretary of Defense must have served in the army, and the Secretary of the Treasury must be an economist. But here someone without health knowledge becomes Minister of Health and someone who has no idea about transport technology becomes Minister of Transport. To become a police inspector, one must complete all studies, go to university, take an admission test and complete two-year rigorous training. But the Minister of the Interior doesn’t need any training or qualifications except some politics! That’s why we’re poor. Politicians must be qualified in a related field to head a ministry. Only then can you deliver professionally. If you’re the minister and you’re failing 100 percent, shouldn’t you be a little ashamed?
The Pokhara International Airport project started in 2016 with a two-year deadline. But five years have passed and the work remains unfinished. Who is responsible for the delay? To give an example of how things work elsewhere, when I went there in 2005 there was a tiny airport in a Russian city that looks like a bus station. The next year I was surprised that it was converted into a thriving international airport.
Check out the Melamchi water project. Due to the long delay, the project costs have increased many times over. Shouldn’t you consider that? Look at the price you have to pay the consultants, project staff and materials and how much money you are losing to corruption. I say the CIAA should seriously consider time delays as serious corruption in such projects; it is more dangerous than monetary corruption.
We must encourage our political leaders to spend at least a month in a religious location or monastery to learn and practice Buddhist teachings, Hindu Upasanids, Ashtavakra Mahagita, and the like. How many Nepalese politicians know that Ashtavakra Mahagita was composed in Nepal? They should know that and be proud of it. You need basic training in Hindu and Buddhist scriptures.
In Thailand you cannot become king if you have not spent a year as a bhikkhu in a monastery. In Myanmar and other Buddhist countries they did something similar: one had to be a bhikkhu to hold a responsible public position. In Nepal too, one should learn some spirituality after winning an election and before taking office or even before a nomination. This opens you great insights, you can learn to compassion, learn to calm your mind, to control your ambitions. Without spirituality one becomes too greedy or too ambitious. That fuels corruption.
Just as a spoonful of sugar can add good taste to a cup of tea, there should be at least one spoonful of spirituality throughout the political system. It can make the whole system beautiful.
I asked the government to propose the Jayanti Buddha as a national meditation day. It only takes two minutes for the Minister of Education to propose him to the cabinet meeting and the cabinet to approve him. If we have a National Meditation Day, we can propose the United Nations for an International Meditation Day. I am sure that most of the Buddhist countries will support Nepal’s proposal. I mentioned it to the Sri Lankan ambassador once and he was so excited he hugged me. We lost International Yoga Day by postponing the proposal; let’s not delay this. Everyone needs meditation. Here we go.
When was the first time you sat cross-legged in meditation?
When I was in school, in 8th grade.
Who is your favorite political leader of all time?
Lee Kuan Yew. Not only did he transform Singapore from a poor to a highly developed country, but he also changed the face of Asia through inspiring leaders like Deng Xiaoping and Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.
Why do politicians lie? Do you have to lie in politics?
Instead of welfare, politics has become power-centered. Just to stay in power they have to compromise a lot, so sometimes they have to lie too.