Relating Spirituality and Politics: Love, Marriage or Friendship?

  • Vasanthi Srinivasan (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


In India, we often hear that "Hindu spirituality" ought to inform and energize the Indian enactment of liberalism, secularism and democracy. In this paper, I examine the diverse ways in which three less-known Indian thinkers such as Ananda Coomaraswamy, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Chakravarti Rajagopalachari relate spirituality and politics. I argue that there are at least three visions of what spiritualized politics might look like; the first variant, amplified in Coomaraswamy, argues for a "traditional" theory of government as an imitation of cosmic order. The ruling metaphor is of a marriage between the spiritual and temporal powers with the Brahmin-priest as the exemplary spiritual figure. The second variant, exemplified in Radhakrishnan, proceeds from an experiential account of spiritual life and argues for a deepening of modern ideals of freedom and democracy through emancipatory political praxis. The ruling metaphor is love of the whole and the exemplary figure is the saint-activist. The third variant, based on Rajagopachari, proceeds from spirituality as ordinary devotion that ensues in moral virtues. Unlike the priest-husband or saint-lover who aspire to anchor politics in first principles, the mature devotee works for a "spirited" politics where reasonableness, courage and friendliness may prevail.


India, Political Science, Political Theory, Spirituality, Hinduism