Baba Ramdev: A Sanyasin or a Politician?



India has recently been experiencing a huge wave of anti-corruption sentiment, namely on account of the once-again proposed Jan Lokpal Bill, which would introduce the position of ombudsman in India. The legislation would allow citizens to file a complaint of corruption against political elects, including the Prime Minister and other ministers of government.

The latest development in the struggle to pass the Jan Lokpal Bill gained steam on April 5, 2011, when prominent Gandhian activist Anna Hazare went on a hunger strike – a ‘fast unto death’ – in order to pass bill. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh subsequently announced the bill would be considered during the Parliament’s monsoon session; however, the issue did not end there.

Last month in New Delhi, Swami Ramdev, popularly known as “Baba Ramdev”, also initiated protests against corruption and pointed out the need for legislation to bring black money, presumably stored in foreign banks, back to India to address social causes. It is estimated that up to $1.4 trillion could be stashed away in foreign banks. While the protests themselves have no political affiliations, they are politically motivated to check rampant corruption in the Indian government that has robbed the country of a lot more than money over the past decades.

Though Baba Ramdev was later arrested for refusing to back down, he maintained his fast after being taken into police custody. Moreover, Baba Ramdev has been accused of having links to the BJP and stated in an interview last year: “I’ve become so powerful, I can uproot a government.”, a bold statement for any sanyasin to take.

In the Hindu tradition, sanyas is the order of life in which a person renounces all worldly and materialistic pursuits and dedicates his or her life towards spiritual activities. Furthermore, according the Arthashastra, an ancient treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy, a sanyasin is actually legally and socially dead and therefore cannot participate in any social or political aspects of life after entering that stage.

It seems that Baba Ramdev, who entered the stage of sanyas after his schooling, has conveniently disregarded or forgotten that he should be renouncing all worldly pursuits in favor of a life of spiritualism. Although he claims to have no financial power, his estimated worth is $220 million, giving him access to an incredible amount of resources and facilities worldwide and allowing him to conduct his yoga operations on a global scale.

Now he is involved in a politically motivated anti-corruption movement, using his spiritual influence to force politicians to make certain concessions. His involvement in modern day politics is disturbing, and it is furthermore upsetting that a spiritual leader, influential to so many Indians worldwide, has broken his vow of detachment and dispassion from worldly affairs. It would not be unwarranted to say that Baba Ramdev should remove himself from the anti-corruption movement altogether. Although he may be well intentioned, his involvement brings to question his dedication to his vow of renunciation, and it would be in his best interests – as well as those of his many followers – if he left the anti-corruption movement to Anna Hazare and the other worldly citizens of India.

Nikhil Bafna is a contributing writer to

  • DM Das

    Dear Nikhilji, Please go through the Hindu Mythology in detail into Mahabharat, Ramayan, Bishnu Puran etc and you can understand the role of Sanyasis during the crisis in the state. Even you go through different Vedas and Upanishads, there also you can see many materials regarding the role of a Sanyasi in the Statesmanship. Your knowledge is not sufficient to analyse the works of Sanyasis and Yogis. Thanks

    • Nikhil Bafna

      Rather than merely saying that I am wrong and that I don’t know enough about Sanyasis and Yogis, why don’t you point me to where I might see for myself that I am wrong?

      For instance, I can point to the Sannyasa Upanishad, Part 2, verse 66, which states that: “Discarding the idea of oneself and another, taking no sides in worldly happenings and clinging to the Atman, as an adamantine pillar I am steady.” Baba Ramdev, by participating in a worldly happening is necessarily taking a side, even if he hasn’t got a political affiliation. Instead of siding with the government, he is siding with the people (or at least with their ‘interests’), is he not?

      Furthermore, Sannyasa Upanishad, Part 2, verse 117 further states: “A being is bound by worldly action; he gets liberated by spiritual knowledge. Hence far-seeing ascetics do not perform worldly action.” Correct me if I am mistaken in believing that political activism is a worldly action…

      If you can demonstrate, despite what I have just cited from the Sannyasa Upanishad, that I am wrong, then I will certainly agree that I do not know enough…

  • sagar pilare

    Baba Ramdev is neither a sanyasin nor a politician. He is a businessman who sells spurious medicines and spurious yoga. That’s all. By running away clad in women’s ware and exhibiting inability to fast for more than 8 days when many old persons can fast longer than that, his so-called mastery in Yoga has been exposed by himself. His yoga shop seems to have closed down for the time-being.

  • Anand Chandwa

    ha ha. What a joke of an article. With the coming of internet and blogging culture, it has happened that anyone who can type in english and put some words together has become a blogger. Unfortunately the same effect has taken place among the so called and self proclaimed writers. They don’t know what their opinion is. Poor chap, grow up and analyze your thought before you penn it down.

  • Desh

    Can you name ONE Spiritual Guru who didn’t comment on Social Ills and the Polity of his time? Every Spiritual Guru has not only talked about the social ills of his time, but has done it forcefully! That today’s social ill like Corruption is being practiced blatantly by the politicians is just a coincidence. And today’s Politics is part of the social fabric of our community. So, lets take a look at those who spoke against Social ills and sometimes even participated in the political struggles –

    Krishna did. Ram did. Nanak did. Kabir did. Vivekananda did. Tagore did. Gandhi yes. Aurobindo? Guru Gobind Singh?

    Should I go on?

    And, if you don’t understand the meaning of being choiceless as the Upanishad verse speaks of, lets not subvert it! Choiceless action doesn’t equate to NO action! It means you do something because it has to be done and is needed.

    Before Mahabharat, Krishna tried his best to avert the war. Once in it, he was clear that one had to fight.

    Guru Gobind Singh fought Aurangzeb to save the Dogra kings.. but then he fought them as well when they stepped out of line and attacked him.

    If your interpretation of the verse had been taken, Spiritual people would have been no more than Handicapped invalids who shouldn’t have moved their limbs nor used their brains!!

  • Anon

    Bafnji, I want your babies.

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