Guiding Light: Soft power vs hard power

Most of us are aware about the famous dictum that says “Power corrupts man; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” History also is replete with many examples of such people who were corrupted by power. But still many people recklessly seek power! Any kind of power can be beneficial or destructive depending upon the way it is used. Be it the power of wealth, knowledge, technology, status or authority.

In truth, all these ‘external powers’ are merely ‘resources’ of the human soul. Souls can use, misuse or abuse these resources, depending upon their attitudes determined by their state of purity. Power, truly speaking, is vested in and exercised by the inner being. It is spiritual power inherent in the sentient soul. All souls, in original state, are pure and virtuous. In that pure state, the power is benign, beneficent and benevolent. The power then is soft power.

With the passage of time, as the souls play their respective roles in the drama of life, they tend to lose their purity and virtues just in the same way as anything new becomes old with usage. The power that was soft then begins to harden. Soft power is constructive, benevolent and all-inclusive. Its driving force is love, compassion, cooperation and other human virtues. It is free from conflict and clash of interests. It brings joy and bliss to one and all.

Whereas, hard power, in contrast, is harsh, violent, divisive and exploitative. It is based on the faulty premise of ‘might is right’ as against the principle of ‘right is right’ which was in vogue when power was soft. Just as solidification of the liquid in our eyes leads to ‘cataract’ and defective vision, in the same way, hardening of power damages the ‘third eye’ of human wisdom.

The inner being then becomes weak and gets afflicted by the five vices of lust, anger, greed, attachment and ego which create attitudinal and behavioral imbalances in the form of likes and dislikes, prides and prejudices, leanings and dependencies, biases, phobias, discrimination and exploitation. When this happens, peace and harmony get disturbed and then begins the craving to possess and acquire more and more based on the faulty notion of 'survival of the fittest’.

Insecurity and bitterness resulting from this attitude have pushed nations and groups to deploy power for destructive purposes. Nations incurring huge expenditure on armies and nuclear arms race all over the world are a classic example of this… (to be continued)

(The writer is a spiritual educator and popular columnist for publications across India, Nepal and UK. You can write to him at

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