Why American Democracy is in Peril and How to Save It

Pradeep B. Deshpande
10 min readNov 18, 2023
Painting of Maharishi Veda Vyasa (Source: Wikipedia)

Maharishi Veda Vyasa Offers Invaluable
Lessons on the Present State of US Democracy

Maharishi Veda Vyasa is credited with having authored the Mahabharata and the Bhagvad Geeta among other seminal works several thousand years ago.

Mahatma Gandhi was deeply influenced by the Geeta. He once reported to have said, “When disappointment stares me in the face and all alone I see not one ray of light, I go back to the Bhagvad Geeta. I find a verse here and a verse there, and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming tragedies and if they have left no visible or indelible scars on me, I owe it all to the teachings of the Bhagvad Geeta.”

J. Robert Oppenheimer too was deeply influenced by the Bhagvad Geeta. He reportedly called the Geeta the most beautiful philosophical song in existence. The Bhagvad Geeta is much more than a philosophy. Properly interpreted, the Geeta offers valuable lessons on the present state of US democracy.

To understand how, we have to begin with verses 4.7 and 4.8 in the Geeta.

Verse 4.7 says, “Whenever there is a decline of dharma (value systems) and the rise of adharma, I embody myself”.

While verse 4.8 says, “For the protection of the noble and the destruction of the wicked, I am born age after age.”

To make sense of these verses, we have to understand the notion of internal excellence.

The Bhagvad Geeta explains that human beings are endowed with three components of the mindset: S, R, and T (Chapter 18, verses 41–44):

The Sattva component includes truthfulness, honesty, equanimity and steadfastness.

The Rajas component encompasses attachment, bravery, ego, ambition, greed and a desire to live.

The Tamas component includes lying, cheating, causing injury in words and deed and sleep.

The three components lead to a scale of internal excellence with maximum S at the top of the scale, maximum T at the bottom, and all other combinations of the three components in between these two extremes.

On the scale of internal excellence, the noble ones are towards the top-end of the scale, wicked ones toward the bottom, and the rest of us somewhere in between.

Just as individuals have a level of internal excellence, so do societies, but when it comes to societies, we speak in terms of an average level of internal excellence.

Veda Vyasa asserts that the three components undergo transformation over time. He does not explain why such a transformation should occur, but we can be certain it does.

On the side, the theory of evolution, which is based of the principle of natural selection (survival of the fittest), does not appear to permit regression of human societies with time, but this is precisely what has happened.

Returning to the S, R T components, as the average S component of a society increases, the society rises, but the S component cannot rise indefinitely, and when it reaches its peak, the T component takes over and the society begins to decline. The T component cannot rise indefinitely either and when it reaches its peak, the S component takes over and the society begins to rise again.

The transformation of the mindset leads to repeated rise and decline of societies over thousands of years. Figure 1 depicts the phenomena of rise and decline.

Figure 1. Mindset Transformations Lead to Rise and Decline of Cultures

Figure 2 depicts the rise and decline of several cultures.

Figure 2. The Cyclical Nature of Rise and Decline of Societies

The greatest of the great nations of the past eventually declined, be it Egypt, China, or India, and Greece or Rome. Furthermore, nations in decline for thousands of years in the past, like China and India, are once again rising.

However, we wanted additional corroboration. At my request, graduate students Bharat Sanghvi and Sandeep Dronawat searched all 23 volumes of the 1993 Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica in the nineties and jotted down the names of individuals born in specific cultures (Great Britain, Germany, and the United States) and listed in the reputed reference. The evidence they uncovered was startling.

Figure 3 depicts a graph of rise and decline of Greece as compiled by the late Prof. Phoebus M. Christopher from the data in the said Encyclopedia Britannica.

Figure 3. Rise and Decline of Greece

The data for the United States are shown in Figure 4. One cannot be sure if the decline of the United States has already begun until decades later but the signs are ominous. We the people have a choice: To remain on the sidelines helplessly witnessing the decline of this great nation take place right in front of our eyes or to intervene and postpone the decline by decades. I trust the readers’ choice is to intervene.

Figure 4. Rise of the United States

I first landed in the United States to study Chemical Engineering at the University of Alabama some sixty years ago. That was the year when Vivian Malone, the first African-American student had been admitted to the University. The question to ponder is whether the societal level of internal excellence has taken a dive, say in the last decade. If it hasn’t, then all is well and the United States will continue to lead the world for decades to come.

But if it has, then that means the societal level of T component has been rising with a consequential decline in the societal level of internal excellence, and these trends must be reversed.

This is where Veda Vyasa’s counsel through Sri Krishna to Arjuna, and through Arjuna to the world emerges invaluable.

In the Bhagvad Geeta, Sri Krishna describes several paths to enhance internal excellence. One pathway that is amenable to audit is meditation.

The pursuit of higher levels of internal excellence is not an intellectual exercise. The required positive changes have to come about from within.

Internal excellence cannot be measured, but emotions can, and this is fortunate as emotions are strongly and positively correlated with the S, R, and T components.

Positive emotions include unconditional love, kindness, empathy, and compassion.

Negative emotions include anger, hatred, hostility, resentment, frustration, jealousy, fear, sorrow and the like.

Positive emotions are strongly and positively correlated with the S component while negative emotions are strongly and positively correlated with the R and T components.

On the scale of emotional excellence, maximum positive emotions are at the top while maximum negative emotions at the bottom, and all other combinations of the two somewhere in between these two extremes.

The scales of internal and emotional excellence are entirely equivalent.

So, what counsel does Maharishi Veda Vyasa offer on the present state of US democracy? Strive to achieve a shift to a higher level of internal/emotional excellence. And, meditation is a tool with which to achieve a higher level of internal/emotional excellence.

That is the only way to insure that the eventual and inevitable decline of this great nation can be held at bay longer.

Not all problems, including the strengthening of US democracy, can be tackled with the products of reason (sciences, laws, policies, litigation) alone. For progress, the required positive changes have to come about from within. This means the products of reason need to be complemented with the practices that bring about the positive changes from within.

At the moment, the United States is solely using products of reason in its attempts to strengthen democracy. This is tantamount to fighting with one hand tied behind the back. This article has explained that the products of reason have to be complemented with the practices that bring about positive changes from within. Only then, progress toward strengthening democracy will occur.

Of particular importance to nations is the idea that a relatively small fraction of the population in meditation can make the wider world more peaceful. This idea has come to be known as “the Maharishi (Mahesh Yogi) Effect”. For a world population of 8 billion, this small number works out to be 9,000! Renowned physicist, Dr. John Hagelin and Dr. Tony Nader, MD, PhD (Harvard) have conducted scientific investigations demonstrating the efficacy of the “The Maharishi Effect.”

On November 3, 2023, the Union of Global Scientists for Peace published a full-page open letter in the Wall Street Journal addressed to the President of the United States and other World Leaders, urging them to adopt the Maharishi technology to make the world more peaceful.


The year 1905 is widely accepted to be Albert Einstein’s miracle year. That year, Einstein published four breakthrough papers, including one on Special Relativity and another on e = mc2. His paper on the photoelectric effect earned him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921.

In contrast, Veda Vyasa categorized the Vedas into four, wrote Mahabharata & Bhagvad Geeta, and the Brahma Sutras, all in circa 3,000 BCE at a time when there was not much knowledge present on Earth to build upon. The discovery of why cultures rise and decline and what must be done to intervene for a better performance as reported in this article couldn’t have come about on the basis of existing knowledge, then or now. The Bhagvad Geeta contains many such discoveries to ponder upon for the inquiring mind. Veda Vyasa was indeed an exceptional mind and a divine gift to humanity.


The editorial assistance of Tony Belak, Mediation Consultant and a former Ombudsman, University of Louisville is gratefully acknowledged. The comments of linguistic and Vedic scholar, Dr. S. N. Bhavasar in Pune are gratefully acknowledged.


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Pradeep B. Deshpande is Professor Emeritus in and former Chairman of the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Louisville. He is also president of Six Sigma and Advanced Controls based in Louisville, Kentucky. He is an author of eight books and over one hundred fifty articles in reputed journals that include Proc. Royal Society–UK, Chemical Eng. Progress, Ind. Eng. Chem. Proc. Des Dev, Chem. Eng. Science, among several others He has developed a scientific framework for internal and external excellence toward a better and more peaceful world. He is a recipient of several international awards and is a Fellow and Life Member of ISA. pradeep@sixsigmaquality.com.



Pradeep B. Deshpande

Prof. Pradeep Deshpande has developed a scientific framework for external and internal excellence toward a better and more peaceful world.