That king (ruler, leader etc.) should sit upon the throne (occupy public office, etc.), who
is worthy of it. Those who have realized the Truth (the True Lord), they alone are
the true rulers. These mere earthly rulers are not to be called rulers; because they
are in the love of duality (Maya etc.), and thus already suffering (sggs 1088).

Subjects of a country are bound to suffer if the ruler (leaders, politicians, ministers etc.) compromised strict adherence to Dharma. Therefore, for justice, peace and harmony to prevail, the rulers must have a healthy approach towards their subjects and govern according to principles of Dharma. This, we sadly note, is very rare indeed in today's world where power and wealth seem to be the prime motivation for the ruling elite. They are generally corrupt, suffering from falsehood, although probably not all. Even in democratic systems, people are left with the choice to vote for the lesser evil. If rarely a decent person takes office, he later either becomes a crook himself (along with his family members, relatives, ministers and officers) or does not do much to make the difference or control his corrupt associates in order to keep his power. We often hear people discussing and complaining as to how the rulers are crooks these days. Surprise! Surprise! In reality it should not come as a surprise at all only if we knew what the Gurbani has to say in this context. The Gurbani says that the power corrupts people, particularly those who are spiritually ignorant, deluded and illusioned (i.e., ego-, Maya- or duality-stricken). For example, in the Gurbani, five things are compared with Thags or great thieves — power (of a ruler or a leader), wealth, beauty, pride or madness of believing in caste or social status (Jaat), and youth. The Gurbani says:

  • ਰਾਜੁ ਮਾਲੁ ਰੂਪੁ ਜਾਤਿ ਜੋਬਨੁ ਪੰਜੇ ਠਗ ॥: Raaj maal roop jaat joban panje thagg (sggs 1288).
  • ਮੈਲੇ ਬ੍ਰਹਮੰਡਾਇ ਕੈ ਈਸ ॥: Mailae brahamandaae kai ees: The rulers of kingdoms are corrupt (sggs 1158).
  • ਸਗਲ ਸ੍ਰਿਸਟਿ ਕੋ ਰਾਜਾ ਦੁਖੀਆ ॥: Sagal srisat ko raajaa dukheeaa: The rulers of the all the world are suffering (sggs264).
  • ਭੂਪਤਿ ਰਾਜੇ ਰੰਗ ਰਾਇ ਸੰਚਹਿ ਬਿਖੁ ਮਾਇਆ ॥: Bhoopat raaje rang raai sanchahi bikh maya: Kings, rulers and monarchs enjoy sense pleasures and gather the poison of Maya (sggs 1245).
  • ਬਿਪਰੀਤ ਬੁਧ੍ਹੰ ਮਾਰਤ ਲੋਕਹ ਨਾਨਕ ਚਿਰੰਕਾਲ ਦੁਖ ਭੋਗਤੇ ॥: Bipareet budhham maarat lokah Nanak chirankaal dukh bhogate: Those cruel-minded rulers who oppress the people, O Nanak, will suffer in pain for a very long time (sggs 1356).
  • ਤਖਤਿ ਰਾਜਾ ਸੋ ਬਹੈ ਜਿ ਤਖਤੈ ਲਾਇਕ ਹੋਈ ॥ ਜਿਨੀ ਸਚੁ ਪਛਾਣਿਆ ਸਚੁ ਰਾਜੇ ਸੇਈ ॥ ਏਹਿ ਭੂਪਤਿ ਰਾਜੇ ਨ ਆਖੀਅਹਿ ਦੂਜੈ ਭਾਇ ਦੁਖੁ ਹੋਈ ॥ ਕੀਤਾ ਕਿਆ ਸਾਲਾਹੀਐ ਜਿਸੁ ਜਾਦੇ ਬਿਲਮ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥ ਨਿਹਚਲੁ ਸਚਾ ਏਕੁ ਹੈ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਬੂਝੈ ਸੁ ਨਿਹਚਲੁ ਹੋਈ ॥: Takhat raajaa so bahe ji takhtai laaik hoi ... (sggs 1088).

In the last verse above, the Gurbani offers us the correct definition of a true ruler or a leader — the one who has realized Truth or God. The ancient epic of Mahabharata - pronounced Mahaabhaarata - also makes the similar statement that the ruler is a God. What it means is that a ruler or a leader must be a godly person; for a godly person is equated to God. Now, let us briefly poise here and ascertain as to what are those qualifications or virtues that makes a person godly. Attributes linked to a godly person include, but not limited to, Brahm-giaan (knowing God or being established in true Spiritual Wisdom or Aatam-Giaan), egolessness (being established in True Identity, which is Pure Consciousness or "Joti-Svaroopa"), contentment (perfect control of senses and mind), mercy, humility, truthfulness, righteousness, and so on. He should have no false ego-sense, no wickedness, no pretense, no dishonesty, no negativity and no envy, and so on. Such person is also called Gurmukh in the Gurbani. When we compare the modern rulers or leaders with these qualifications, they appear to resemble more like Satan than God! Now, it should come as of no surprise to anybody as to why the present rulers or leaders conduct themselves they way they do!! In illusion, they think they and their power will be with them forever. That's not true: they and their power will not stay here forever. Also, they forget that there is the Great Ruler of all earthly rulers. The Gurbani declares:

  • ਜਿਨੀ ਸਚੁ ਪਛਾਣਿਆ ਸਚੁ ਰਾਜੇ ਸੇਈ ॥: Takhat raajaa so bahe ji takhtai laaik hoi ...: Those who have realized the Truth (the True Lord), they alone are the true rulers (sggs 1088).
  • The ruler is a God (Mahabharata, 200:4).
  • ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕਉ ਸਿਮਰਹਿ ਸਿ ਸਰਬ ਕੇ ਰਾਜੇ ॥: Prabh kou simarahi s sarab ke raaje: Those who remember God are the rulers of all (sggs 263).
  • ਖਾਨ ਮਲੂਕ ਕਹਾਇਦੇ ਕੋ ਰਹਣੁ ਨ ਪਾਈ ॥: Khaan malook kehaaeidhae ko rehan n paaee: They call themselves emperors and rulers, but none of them will be allowed to stay here (sggs 1246).
  • ਮਿਥਿਆ ਰਾਜ ਜੋਬਨ ਅਰੁ ਉਮਰੇ ਮੀਰ ਮਲਕ ਅਰੁ ਖਾਨ ॥: Mithiaa raaj joban ar oumare meer malak ar khaan: False are royal powers, youth, nobility, kings, rulers and aristocrats (sggs 1215).
  • ਹਰਿ ਜੀਉ ਕੀ ਹੈ ਸਭ ਸਿਰਕਾਰਾ ॥: Har jeeou kee hai sabh sirakaaraa: The Dear Lord is the Ruler above all (sggs 1054).

he present day rulers or leaders of all sorts lack these godly qualities, thus corrupt and false. In fact, sometimes newspaper stories call some of them "Gundaas" and their rule or leadership as "Gundaa-Raaj". Let's further analyze why it is so. The corrupt rulers or leaders (and their officers, ministers, advisers or associates) lack wholesome restraints over all kinds of lust (desires and fears), anger, greed, attachments, pride, enviousness, stubborn mindedness etc., thus sunk in utter darkness of ignorance. As a result, the strong forcibly appropriate the possessions of the weak, and if the latter refused to surrender them with ease, their very lives would be at risk. Thus, corrupt rulers and their (and their officers, ministers, advisers or associates) cannot provide proper protection to the general public. As a result, diverse kinds of harassment fall upon those that are righteous in their practices. Consequently, unrighteousness is adopted by all. If the rulers or the leaders do not protect the people truthfully and righteously, innocent people would have to die, go to jail and lose their belongings. If the rulers did not protect, everything would be exterminated prematurely, and every part of the country would be overrun by thieves, and everybody would fall into hellish life, all restrictions and morality would cease; all affairs relating to agricultural, trade etc., would fall into confusion, all kinds of injustice would set in; and famine would ravage the country and so on. In such environment of chaos, people appropriate what belongs to the country and thus sink senselessly into a deep hellish life style of selfishness, eternal gloom and infamy. When the ruler or the leader and his officers extort wealth by unjust means or acting from lust or avarice, a great destruction then is sure to overtake the country. Thus, the rulers or leaders can lead people to either truthfulness and righteousness or they can lead them to falsehood. In other words, people become confused and weakened when the ruler or the leader becomes heedless. Then there can be no true spiritual and material growth and prosperity, and social justice for the people, particularly for the weak. Then there is only struggles in all walks of life, criminalization of institutions, social violence, and exploitation of people. With the exception of a few, the rest remain struggling and destitute. Rulers or leaders control or manipulate religious intellectuals (who lead the religions) to get them support their evil ideas. They do not see all people equal, and they become negligence in performance of their legal duties. The Gurbani sheds more light on this as follows:

  • ਜਿਤਨੇ ਸਾਹ ਪਾਤਿਸਾਹ ਉਮਰਾਵ ਸਿਕਦਾਰ ਚਉਧਰੀ ਸਭਿ ਮਿਥਿਆ ਝੂਠੁ ਭਾਉ ਦੂਜਾ ਜਾਣੁ ॥: Jitne sah paatsah umraav sikdaar chaudharee sabh mithiaa jhooth bhaau doojaa jaan: All the kings, emperors, nobles, lords and chiefs are false, transitory, and engrossed in duality - know this well (sggs 861).
  • ਸਰਮੁ ਧਰਮੁ ਦੁਇ ਛਪਿ ਖਲੋਏ ਕੂੜੁ ਫਿਰੈ ਪਰਧਾਨੁ ਵੇ ਲਾਲੋ ॥ ਕਾਜੀਆ ਬਾਮਣਾ ਕੀ ਗਲ ਥਕੀ ਅਗਦੁ ਪੜੈ ਸੈਤਾਨੁ ਵੇ ਲਾਲੋ ॥: Saramu dharmu dui chhapi khaloe koorru phirai Pardhaanu ve laalo ...: Modesty (ਹਯਾ, shame, bashfulness, etc.) and Dharma both have vanished, and falsehood moves about as the chief (Pardhaanu-ਚੌਧਰੀ). The Qazis and the Brahmins have lost their roles, and (it's like) Satan now conducts the marriage rites, O Lalo (sggs 722).
  • ਰਯਤਿ ਮਹਰ ਮੁਕਦਮ ਸਿਕਦਾਰੈ ॥ ਨਿਹਚਲੁ ਕੋਇ ਨ ਦਿਸੈ ਸੰਸਾਰੈ ॥ ਅਫਰਿਉ ਕਾਲੁ ਕੂੜੁ ਸਿਰਿ ਮਾਰੈ ॥: Rayat mehar mukadham sikadhaarai ||nihachal koe n dhisai sa(n)saarai. Afario kaal koorr sir maarai: The people, rulers, leaders and chiefs none of them shall be able to remain in the world. Death is inevitable; it strikes the heads of the false (sggs 227).
  • ਕਲਿ ਕਾਤੀ ਰਾਜੇ ਕਾਸਾਈ ਧਰਮੁ ਪੰਖ ਕਰਿ ਉਡਰਿਆ ॥: Kal kaatee raaje kaasaayee dharma pankh kar udariyaa: Kali (thoughts, imagination, ਫੁਰਨੇ, ਕਲਪਨਾ, ਕਲਜੁਗ ਦੀ ਕ੍ਰਿਯਾ...) is the scalpel, (as a result) kings (minds...) are butchers (have become ਜਾਲਮ...), and the Dharma has taken wings and flown away (sggs 145).
  • ਸਗਲ ਸ੍ਰਿਸਟਿ ਕੇ ਪੰਚ ਸਿਕਦਾਰ ॥: Sagal srisat ke panch sikadaar: The five demons (lust, anger, greed etc.) are the rulers of the whole world (sggs 865).
  • ਨਰਪਤਿ ਰਾਜੇ ਰੰਗ ਰਸ ਮਾਣਹਿ ਬਿਨੁ ਨਾਵੈ ਪਕੜਿ ਖੜੇ ਸਭਿ ਕਲਘਾ ॥: Narapath raajae rang ras maanehi bin naavai pakarr kharrae sabh kalaghaa: The kings and the rulers of men enjoy pleasures and delights, but without the Name of the Lord, death seizes and dispatches them all (sggs 731).
  • ਮੀਰ ਮਲਕ ਉਮਰੇ ਫਾਨਾਇਆ ਏਕ ਮੁਕਾਮ ਖੁਦਾਇ ਦਰਾ ॥: Meer malak oumare faanaaiaa ek mukaam khudaai dharaa: Kings, rulers and nobles are mortal and transitory; only God's Realm is the permanent place (sggs 1084).

The ruler or leader should be the heart of his people; their great refuge; their glory; healer of injustices, humble, and their highest happiness. He must consider his first duty to justly take care of his subjects so that they live in freedom, peace and happiness . Therefore, rulers and their officers need to observe complete restraints over their own evil passions; should have their own minds under control; be wise and intelligent; they should be the men of sweet words, just means, heedfulness and purity of behavior; cultivate and practice forgiveness, patience, and the love of all creatures; and should know how to discriminate (Viveka-Budhi) between right and wrong. They should be the role-models for others to follow. They should never be heedless in practicing looking after their own laches, or after those who helped them to get to the power. Unfortunately, the rulers and their associates are unable to conduct truthfully and righteously and see the same One God in all. Also, as the Gurbani says, associates or officers or cabinet bearers (ministers, advisers etc.) will be just like their ruler or the leader. Also the same will be true about their immediate family members. Rulers or leaders never get tired of repeating that they are the servant (Sevak) of people. But, according to the Gurbani, the real Sevak or servant is that person who has killed his ego (Haume) and ever abides in God Consciousness (i.e. godly person.)

  • ਜੈਸੀ ਦਾਸੇ ਧੀਰ ਮੀਰ ॥: Jaisee daasae dheer meer: The servant is encouraged by his ruler (sggs 1181).
  • ਸੋ ਸੇਵਕੁ ਹਰਿ ਆਖੀਐ ਜੋ ਹਰਿ ਰਾਖੈ ਉਰਿ ਧਾਰਿ ॥ ਮਨੁ ਤਨੁ ਸਉਪੇ ਆਗੈ ਧਰੇ ਹਉਮੈ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਮਾਰਿ ॥: So sevak har aakheeai jo har raakhai our dhaar. Manu tanu soupe aagai dhare houmai vichahu maar: Placing mind and body in offering before the Lord, they conquer and eradicate egotism from within. Those who ever keep the Lord enshrined within their hearts are said to be His servants (sggs 28).

The Gurbani indicates "Gurmukhs" as the true rulers of the whole universe. They are the symbols of true persons of Dharma (the follower of Truth and the Truthful living...).

  • ਨਿਹਕੰਟਕ ਰਾਜੁ ਭੁੰਚਿ ਤੂ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸਚੁ ਕਮਾਈ ॥: Nihkantak raaju bhunchi too gurmukhi sacgu kamaaee: By becoming the Gurmukh, practicing Truth, enjoy the Kingdom of Bliss. (sggs 1087).
  • ਹਸਤੀ ਸਿਰਿ ਜਿਉ ਅੰਕਸੁ ਹੈ ਅਹਰਣਿ ਜਿਉ ਸਿਰੁ ਦੇਇ ॥ ਮਨੁ ਤਨੁ ਆਗੈ ਰਾਖਿ ਕੈ ਊਭੀ ਸੇਵ ਕਰੇਇ ॥ ਇਉ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਆਪੁ ਨਿਵਾਰੀਐ ਸਭੁ ਰਾਜੁ ਸ੍ਰਿਸਟਿ ਕਾ ਲੇਇ ॥: Hastee siri jiou ankasu hai ahirani jiou siru dei. Manu tanu aagai raakhi kai Oobhee Sevaa karei. Eiou gurmukhi aapu nivaareeai sabhu raaju sarisati kaa lei (sggs 647-48).

— T. Singh