Meditation As A Political Act – OpEd


After spreading the venom of deceptive Hindutva politics during his election campaign meetings, the master propagandist, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, plans to meditate for forty-eight hours at the Vivekananda Rock Memorial in Tamil Nadu as the general election campaign comes to an end in India.  His choice of the Vivekananda Rock Memorial for meditation, a site of historical and spiritual significance, is seen by many as a strategic move, aiming to fraudulently convey an image of reflection and spiritual grounding amid the political turmoil. As the nation awaits the election results, Modi’s retreat as meditation raises questions about the intersection of Hindutva politics and Modi’s personal image management in the post electoral landscape of Indian politics. However, there is no spiritual sojourn in Hindutva politics of hate. Mr Modi can televise his meditation, but it can never erase the inherent Hindutva toxicity in his political praxis.

Meditation, rooted in the practice of mindfulness, assists individuals in concentrating on the present moment and navigating the complexities of daily life. It is a discipline embraced by various religious, non-religious, and spiritual traditions, each of which value’s meditation for its potential to provide self-help and spiritual comfort within inherently alienating capitalist society. In times of suffering, meditation offers a pathway to inner peace and resilience, allowing practitioners to find solace and strength. Whether through structured sessions or informal practice, meditation serves as a versatile tool for enhancing mental clarity, emotional stability, and overall well-being. Its universal appeal lies in its ability to foster a deeper connection with oneself and the surrounding world, making it a vital component of so called holistic health and spiritual practice. 

It is also claimed that meditation enhances cognitive processes, enabling individuals to think more clearly, contemplate deeply, devise effective strategies, and ponder complex issues. By fostering a calm and focused mind, meditation allows for greater introspection and creativity. This mental clarity can lead to more insightful problem-solving and innovative ideas. As a result, many people find that regular meditation practice not only improves their emotional well-being but also boosts their intellectual and creative capacities. Despite the public display of meditation, it remains challenging to discern what Prime Minister Modi truly thinks, contemplates, devises, and ponders in his everyday life. Such acts of public meditation can be seen as symbolic or strategic, but they do not necessarily provide insight into his private thoughts or intentions beyond Hindutva electoral engineering and personal image makeover. While meditation is a personal practice that can offer numerous mental and emotional benefits, the public nature of Modi’s meditation might obscure rather than reveal the deeper aspects of his inner life that offers any public good for Indian society and politics.  

The public display of meditation by Prime Minister Modi can be seen primarily as an act of propaganda, aimed at influencing public perception rather than revealing genuine introspection. Such meditative displays are strategically orchestrated to bolster his image as a thoughtful and spiritual leader. While meditation is typically a personal and introspective practice, when performed publicly by a political figure, it often serves more as a tool for managing public opinion than for personal enlightenment. Thus, the true nature and impact of Modi’s reflections during these moments appear to be geared more towards propaganda than sincere contemplation or problem-solving.

The practice of meditation as a public and political act has gained traction beyond the borders of India and the influence of Prime Minister Modi. In the United Kingdom, over 120 MPs and 180 peers have participated in meditation courses, reflecting a wider acceptance and integration of mindfulness practices within the political sphere. This trend underscores a broader recognition of the benefits of meditation, leading to proposals for the establishment of a dedicated meditation room within the British Parliament, akin to the facility already available in the Australian Parliament in Canberra. The corporate world is also embracing meditation, with many companies introducing meditation training programs for their employees. These programs aim to enhance mental well-being, reduce stress, and improve overall productivity. By incorporating meditation into the workplace, corporations acknowledge its potential to create a more focused, resilient, and innovative workforce. This growing trend illustrates the increasing value placed on mindfulness and meditation across various sectors of society. Whether in politics, business, or personal life, meditation is being recognised as a powerful tool for fostering mental clarity, emotional stability, and overall well-being. 

The marketisation, medicalisation, and popularisation of meditation represent significant trends within contemporary therapeutic cultures, driven largely by the pressures and alienation associated with worldwide capitalist societies. As individuals seek ways to cope with the stress, disconnection, and fast-paced nature of modern life, meditation has emerged as a widely accessible tool for mental and emotional relief. Marketisation refers to the commercialisation of meditation practices, where an increasing number of products, apps, and services are designed and sold to meet the demand for mindfulness and stress reduction. From guided meditation apps to retreats and workshops, the industry surrounding meditation is expanding rapidly, catering to a diverse audience seeking solace and improved mental health crisis created by capitalism. Medicalisation involves the integration of meditation into mainstream healthcare as a recognised therapeutic intervention. However, meditation cannot conceal the shortcomings of toxic Hindutva politics and failures of Mr. Modi’s leadership, nor can it revive the flaws of capitalism.

There are unverified claims that meditation can reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, leading to its adoption by medical professionals as part of a holistic approach to treatment. Hospitals, clinics, and wellness programs now frequently include meditation as a complementary therapy, validating its effectiveness through scientific studies. Popularisation, on the other hand, reflects the widespread acceptance and practice of meditation across various sectors of society. Once considered a niche or alternative practice, meditation is now embraced by people from all walks of life, including political figures, corporate employees, and the public. This mainstream acceptance is evidenced by initiatives such as meditation rooms in parliaments, workplace mindfulness programs, and the incorporation of meditation into educational curriculums. The growing trend of meditation within therapeutic cultures is a response to the feelings of alienation and disconnection that often accompany capitalist lifestyles. By promoting mindfulness and self-awareness, meditation offers a way to counteract the negative effects of a high-pressure, materialistic society, fostering a sense of inner peace and connectedness.

For working people, meditation has evolved into a practice of moral obligation, essential for navigating the daily challenges and ordeals presented by a market-led state, government, and society. In an environment where capitalist exploitation is normalised and justified by promises of prosperity, individuals often find themselves under immense pressure and stress. The relentless pursuit of economic growth and personal success can lead to feelings of alienation, burnout, and mental fatigue. Meditation offers a counterbalance to these pressures, providing a means for individuals to maintain their mental health and emotional resilience. By fostering mindfulness and inner peace, meditation helps workers cope with the demands and injustices of a capitalist system that often prioritises profit over people. It serves as a tool for self-care and survival, enabling individuals to reclaim a sense of control and well-being amidst the turbulence of modern life. The widespread adoption of meditation among working people signifies a collective response to systemic exploitation. It reflects a growing awareness of the need for personal and communal strategies to mitigate the adverse effects of capitalism. As a practice rooted in mindfulness, meditation empowers individuals to cultivate inner strength, focus, and clarity, helping them endure and resist the dehumanising aspects of their socio-economic environment. Through meditation, working people find a way to navigate the complexities of a market-driven world while striving to preserve their collective dignity and sense of self.

Bhabani Shankar Nayak

Bhabani Shankar Nayak works as Professor of Business Management, Guildhall School of Business and Law, London Metropolitan University, UK.

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