Religion, The Sangha, and Politics by Aung San

The problems that face humanity today are all of a closely woven fabric. Internationalism and nationalism, economics and politics, politics and sociology, sociology and culture, religion and ethics and culture, they form parts of a whole.

Politics, in its true sense, permeates life. But some of us still say that ‘politics’ is dirty. Is that correct? Of course not! It is not politics which is dirty, but only those who choose to dirty it. And what is politics ? Is it something which is high above, beyond the reach of the common man ? Is it the profession of the charlatans who used to roam the country, playing to the credulous imagination of the peoples, preying on their simple minds ? Or is politics some dangerous ground on which the wise must be wary to tread ? Is politics slogan-shouting alone, ‘race, religion, language,’ as we used to shout ?

The truth is that politics is neither high nor lowly, neither magic nor astrology nor alchemy. Nor is it any dangerous ground to tread on. It is not a matter of narrow nationalism either. It marches with events, and is in every way a part of our daily lives. It is us. Man is a political animal, as Aristotle said,k and politics is in our being and our work. The worker wants to earn higher wages and better conditions of life. The peasant wants to improve his land and his lot. The clerk and official wants more than the drudgery of office, they seek freedom from want and worry. The trader and the broker want fair opportunities for trading and business. For all these people, their striving for the better life, their persuit of happiness, is politics.

Politics then is not dirty. It is not dangerous. It is not mysterious magic. Some say that politcs is religion. That also is not true. Only the dirty politicians say that to confuse the people, to hide or cover up the real issues of life. Those who say religion is politics are opportunists, not genuine politicians.

Religion is a matter of individual conscience, while politics is social science. We must see to it that the individual enjoys his rights, including the right to freedom of religious belief and worship. We must draw a clear line between politics and religion, because the two are not one and the same thing. If we mix religion with politics, then we offend the spirit of religion itself. Politics is pure secular science.

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