By D. R. Kaarthikeyan December 2001 It’s like throwing the baby with the bathwater. Indeed, while trying not to have any truck with religion, the modern, secular state also keeps away from anything that smacks of spirituality. Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu is a rare ruler who has broken the mould. While giving his all to speedily develop Andhra Pradesh with his innovative schemes and unusual administrative measures, Naidu has also encouraged spiritual practices and organizations in the state. He gave an interview to D.R. Kaarthikeyan, LP’s Vice Chairman and Parveen Chopra, Editor, at his Jubilee Hills residence in Hyderabad. Excerpts: Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad in particular, is known for its composite culture. How has it been sustained? People from various religions have lived together for centuries in Hyderabad, and in Andhra Pradesh, and their cultures have merged to give rise to this composite culture. From ancient times, people have been docile and peace loving here. Of late, however, there has been a change in their attitude because of developments like communal violence, extremism, and factional politics. I would like to change all this. People need peace more than they need money. If you have money and not peace, life has no meaning. This is what I firmly believe in and have been promoting. I am happy to see a magazine like Life Positive because its message is the same as mine—positive thinking, always. I believe that half your problems will be automatically solved if you think positive. You have been in focus, for your push to information technology in Andhra Pradesh. But little is known about the spiritual side of your personality. How do you combine spirituality with the task of economic development? Basically, I want to eradicate poverty and give employment and prosperity to all. How to translate this dream into reality is the challenge. I am trying to meet this challenge by adopting the best technology and practices available in the world. This is what was done in Singapore, where they implemented latest technology for rapid economic development. I would, however, add that one needs mental peace and satisfaction as well. If everybody could be happy and satisfied with material things only, the world would be a very different place! To achieve true mental peace, we must know the true nature of our mind and how to control it. The mind is the root of all problems, so I strongly believe spirituality is important in so far as it helps us know and control our mind. Just as technology-related initiatives are important for earning our livelihood and for material development, the spiritual path is essential for true happiness. One should know what is life and how to live happily. That’s why I have been taking interest in and promoting spiritual movements like the Brahma Kumaris, Vipassana, Art of Living, Pranic Healing and TM. For real happiness, the health of both mind and body is vital. So, I focus on food, exercise, meditation and correct breathing. Moreover, I am promoting these practices among all those around me—my ministerial colleagues, officers, MLAs, and even at my party office where everyday, people can come and do yoga and meditate. A big hall there has been reserved for these activities. What practices you follow yourself? An hour in my day is reserved for yoga and meditation. Every morning, I do 20 minutes of breathing exercises, 20 minutes of meditation and another 30 minutes of walking. I am a vegetarian and follow naturopathy whenever possible. Politicians interested in spirituality are rare. How did your interest develop? I have always felt the need to maintain balance in one’s life and thinking. That is why I am interested in spiritual and holistic matters. You really can’t blame politicians for the stressful life they lead. They have to face pulls and counter-pulls and there are so many expectations from them. As a politician, if you really want to do something, you will obviously be under a great deal of pressure. As for me, I work round the clock except when I sleep. I am up at four in the morning. By 6 o’ clock, I finish my yoga and breathing exercises. I reach office by 6.30 a.m. From then on, I work till 9 p.m. and then have my dinner. For this sort of a grueling schedule, you need a positive bent of mind. Except during elections, I don’t talk politics. I prefer to focus on development, peace and happiness. What do people feel about your promoting spiritual practices? Do they feel that you are imposing these upon them? I never impose anything. I promote, I facilitate. If you impose anything, it will not go down well with anyone. There are some people who are quite receptive to what I am doing. You see, change is a vast process and nothing happens instantly. Change begins with a few and then multiplies. In Andhra Pradesh, I have taken the first step. The government has, for the first time, officially promoted practices for the spiritual well-being of the people. But you have opposed the Central Government’s move to induct Vedic astrology in educational institutions. I am not opposed to astrology, I am against imposing religion on education. Educational institutions must remain above religion as they are strictly meant for imparting knowledge. In fact, my father had introduced astrology in Telugu University a long time ago. Have you been able to make any difference in rural areas? As I said, it is just the beginning. Schools, development projects, and other activities like yoga and meditation, which we are actively promoting, are picking up now. Tension arises when people lose balance. If you act positively when somebody commits a mistake, the tension will not build up and that mistake will lose its impact. Do you have a vision for the rest of the country as well? As chief minister of this state and as President of the Telugu Desam Party, I am confined here. If I do good work here, it naturally might serve as a model for others to follow. You have come in contact with the richest and the most powerful people in the world. But you found that most of them are suffering from lack of peace. So we need a combination of both, materialism and spirituality. My own philosophy is based on this belief. We have to integrate both, only then can we have real satisfaction. Religion is personal, spirituality is about reality. I want to make Andhra Pradesh peaceful and for everyone here to have contentment. There are many vices, and we are all so greedy. We have so many ambitions that magnify our problems. Genuine ambition is good, over-ambition is the problem. You seem to promote all spiritual organizations equally. Wherever there is good, I follow it. If you say something good, I will immediately follow you. Every spiritual master is playing out his or her role. I want to encourage everybody. Life Positive also takes the good from everywhere. One man alone cannot do good things in this big country of ours or in the world. It is best to promote whatever good anyone is doing anywhere in the world. What is your message for the readers of Life Positive? Life Positive is a wonderful title and everybody should try and make their lives positive. This is possible through spirituality and good habits. Ultimately, being positive is the only way to go. Today, all over the world, there is so much tension and problems. To resolve them, everybody must live positively.
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