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At the Feet of The Mother

Nationalism (HH 257)

There seems to be a revival of the Nation-idea in recent times. On the other hand another idea that is getting strong is the idea of Internationalism. Today we share some of Sri Aurobindo’s thoughts on the subject, especially in the Indian context, touching upon various sides of this issue.


Words of Sri Aurobindo

 

This is the word that has been put into my mouth to speak to you today. What I intended to speak has been put away from me, and beyond what is given to me I have nothing to say. It is only the word that is put into me that I can speak to you. That word is now finished. I spoke once before with this force in me and I said then that this movement is not a political movement and that nationalism is not politics but a religion, a creed, a faith. I say it again today, but I put it in another way. I say no longer that nationalism is a creed, a religion, a faith; I say that it is the Sanatana Dharma which for us is nationalism. This Hindu nation was born with the Sanatana Dharma, with it it moves and with it it grows. When the Sanatana Dharma declines, then the nation declines, and if the Sanatana Dharma were capable of perishing, with the Sanatana Dharma it would perish. The Sanatana Dharma, that is nationalism. This is the message that I have to speak to you.

 

* * *

 

Nationalism has been hitherto largely a revolt against the tendency to shape ourselves into the mould of Europe; but it must also be on its guard against any tendency to cling to every detail that has been Indian. That has not been the spirit of Hinduism in the past, there is no reason why it should be so in the future. In all life there are three elements, the fixed and permanent spirit, the developing yet constant soul and the brittle changeable body. The spirit we cannot change, we can only obscure or lose; the soul must not be rashly meddled with, must neither be tortured into a shape alien to it, nor obstructed in its free expansion; and the body must be used as a means, not over-cherished as a thing valuable for its own sake. We will sacrifice no ancient form to an unreasoning love of change, we will keep none which the national spirit desires to replace by one that is a still better and truer expression of the undying soul of the nation.

 

* * *

 

The evolution of the nation is the growth which is most important now to humanity, because human selfishness, family selfishness, class selfishness having still deep roots in the past must learn to efface themselves in the larger national self in order that the God in humanity may grow. Therefore it is that Nationalism is the dharma of the age, and God reveals himself to us in our common Mother. The first attempts to form a nationality were the Greek city, the Semitic or Mongolian monarchy, the Celtic clan, the Aryan kula or jati. It was the mixture of all these ideas which went to the formation of the mediaeval nation and evolved the modern peoples. Here again, it is the readiness to sacrifice self-interest, family interest, class interest to the larger national interest which is the condition of humanity’s fulfilment in the nation and to die for its welfare or safety is the supreme act of self-consummation in the larger national ego. There is a yet higher fulfilment for which only a few individuals have shown themselves ready, the enlargement of the self to include all humanity. A step forward has been taken in this direction by the self-immolation of a few to humanitarian ideals, but to sacrifice the interests of the nation to the larger interest of humanity is an act of which humanity in the mass is not yet capable. God prepares, but He does not hasten the ripening of the fruit before its season. A time will come when this also will be possible, but the time is not yet. Nor would it be well for humanity if it came before the other and lesser identification were complete; for that would necessitate retrogression in order to secure the step which has been omitted. The advance of humanity is a steady progress and there is no great gain in rushing positions far ahead, while important points in the rear are uncaptured….

There are two stages in the life of a nation, first, when it is forming itself or new-forming itself, secondly, when it is formed, organised and powerful. The first is the stage when Nationalism makes rightly its greatest demands on the individual, in the second it should abate its demands and, having satisfied, should preserve itself in Cosmopolitanism somewhat as the individual preserves itself in the family, the family in the class, the class in the nation, not destroying itself needlessly but recognizing a larger interest. In the struggles of a subject nation to realize its separate existence, the larger interest can only be viewed in prospect and as a higher inspiration to a broadminded and generous patriotism. No sacrifice of the nation to the larger interest is possible, for the nation must exist before it can sacrifice its interests for a higher good.

We are at present in the first or formative stage, and in this stage the demand of Nationalism is imperative. It is only by the sacrifices of the individual, the family and the class to the supreme object of building up the nation that under such adverse circumstances Nationalism can secure the first conditions for its existence. Every act of the new Nationalism has been a call for suffering and self-sacrifice….

All great movements wait for their God-sent leader, the willing channel of His force, and only when he comes, move forward triumphantly to their fulfilment. The men who have led hitherto have been strong men of high gifts and commanding genius, great enough to be the protagonists of any other movement, but even they were not sufficient to fulfil one which is the chief current of a worldwide revolution. Therefore the Nationalist party, custodians of the future, must wait for the man who is to come, calm in the midst of calamity, hopeful under defeat, sure of eventual emergence and triumph and always mindful of the responsibility which they owe not only to their Indian posterity but to the world.

 

* * *

 

But behind this conflict between the idea of a nationalistic and imperialistic egoism and the old individualistic doctrine of individual and national liberty and separateness, there is striving to arise a new idea of human universalism or collectivism for the race which, if it succeeds in becoming a power, is likely to overcome the ideal of national separatism and liberty as it has overcome within the society itself the ideal of individual freedom and separate self-fulfilment. This new idea demands of the nation that it shall subordinate, if not merge and sacrifice, its free separateness to the life of a larger collectivity, whether that of an imperialistic group or a continental or cultural unity, as in the idea of a united Europe, or the total united life of the human race.

 

* * *

 

For good or for evil the middle class now leads in India, and whatever saving impulse comes to the nation, must come from the middle class, whatever upward movement begins, it must initiate and lead. But for that to happen the middle class must by a miracle be transfigured and lifted above itself; the natural breeding ground of the bourgeois, it must become the breeding ground of the Samurai. It must cease in fact to be a middle class and turn itself into an aristocracy, an aristocracy not of birth or landed possessions, not of intellect, not of wealth and commercial enterprise, but of character and action. India must recover her faculty for self-sacrifice, courage and high aspiration. Such a transformation is the work which has been set before itself by the new Nationalism; this is at the back of all its enthusiasm, audacity & turbulence and provides the explanation of all that has shocked and alarmed the wise men and the elders in the movement in Bengal. The new Nationalism is a creed, but it is more than a creed; it is a method, but more than a method. The new Nationalism is an attempt at a spiritual transformation of the nineteenth century Indian; it is a notice of dismissal or at least of suspension to the bourgeois and all his ideas and ways and works, a call for men who will dare & do impossibilities, the men of extremes, the men of faith, the prophets, the martyrs, the crusaders, the [. . . ] & rebels, the desperate venturers and reckless doers, the initiators of revolutions. It is the rebirth in India of the Kshatriya, the Samurai.

 

* * *

 

For the most part our politicians have been incapable of a close and full vision of the Mother. Ranjit Singh or Guru Gobind Singh had seen only the Mother of the Land of the Five Rivers instead of Mother India; Shivaji or Baji Rao had seen a Mother of the Hindus instead of Mother India. The other Maharashtrian statesmen had seen only a Mother for the Maharashtrians. At the time of the Partition we ourselves had been blessed with a vision of Mother Bengal, that was a vision of unity, hence the future unity and progress of Bengal is assured. But the unified image of Mother India is yet to be realised. In the Congress, the Mother India that we hymned, adored and worshipped was a figure of fancy, a companion and obliging maid of the British Raj, an undivine illusion in occidental outfit. She was indeed not our Mother. All the same, hid in a deep or vague murkiness our true Mother drew our heart and soul. The day we see Her true indivisible image, struck by Her beauty and grace, we shall eagerly lay down our lives in Her service. Then this obstacle will be gone, and India’s unity, freedom and progress be easier to achieve. The barrier of language will no longer divide. Accepting Hindi as a link language but with due regard for one’s own regional language, we shall get rid of the disability. We shall succeed in finding a true solution of the Hindu-Muslim conflict. For want of a vision of the country as the Mother, the urge to do away with these obstacles has not been strongly felt. That is why the means has not been found and the conflict been growing worse. What is required is an image of the country, true and indivisible. But if, under the illusion of that true vision, we still cherish only the Mother of the Hindus or Hindu nationalism we shall fall for the old error and deprive ourselves of the full flowering of Nationalism itself.

 

* * *

 

Our aim will therefore be to help in building up India for the sake of humanity—this is the spirit of the Nationalism which we profess and follow. We say to humanity, “The time has come when you must take the great step and rise out of a material existence into the higher, deeper and wider life towards which humanity moves. The problems which have troubled mankind can only be solved by conquering the kingdom within, not by harnessing the forces of Nature to the service of comfort and luxury, but by mastering the forces of the intellect and the spirit, by vindicating the freedom of man within as well as without and by conquering from within external Nature. For that work the resurgence of Asia is necessary, therefore Asia rises. For that work the freedom and greatness of India is essential, therefore she claims her destined freedom and greatness, and it is to the interest of all humanity, not excluding England, that she should wholly establish her claim.”

 

* * *

 

We say to the individual and especially to the young who are now arising to do India’s work, the world’s work, God’s work, “You cannot cherish these ideals, still less can you fulfill them if you subject your minds to European ideas or look at life from the material standpoint. Materially you are nothing, spiritually you are everything. It is only the Indian who can believe everything, dare everything, sacrifice everything. First therefore become Indians. Recover the patrimony of your forefathers. Recover the Aryan thought, the Aryan discipline, the Aryan character, the Aryan life. Recover the Vedanta, the Gita, the Yoga. Recover them not only in intellect or sentiment but in your lives. Live them and you will be great and strong, mighty, invincible and fearless. Neither life nor death will have any terrors for you. Difficulty and impossibility will vanish from your vocabularies. For it is in the spirit that strength is eternal and you must win back the kingdom of yourselves, the inner Swaraj, before you can win back your outer empire. There the Mother dwells and She waits for worship that She may give strength. Believe in Her, serveHer, lose your wills in Hers, your egoism in the greater ego of the country, your separate selfishness in the service of humanity. Recover the source of all strength in yourselves and all else will be added to you, social soundness, intellectual preeminence, political freedom, the mastery of human thought, the hegemony of the world.”

 

* * *

 

The Indian idea of nationality ought to be truer and deeper. The philosophy of our forefathers looked through the gross body of things and discovered a subtle body within, looked through that and found yet another more deeply hidden, and within the third body discovered the Source of life and form, seated for ever, unchanging and imperishable. What is true of the individual object, is true also of the general and universal. What is true of the man, is true also of the nation. The country, the land is only the outward body of the nation, its annamaya kosh, or gross physical body; the mass of people, the life of millions who occupy and vivify the body of the nation with their presence, is the pranamaya kosh, the life-body of the nation. These two are the gross body, the physical manifestation of the Mother. Within the gross body is a subtler body, the thoughts, the literature, the philosophy, the mental and emotional activities, the sum of hopes, pleasures, aspirations, fulfilments, the civilisation and culture, which make up the sukshma sharir of the nation. This is as much a part of the Mother’s life as the outward existence which is visible to the physical eyes. This subtle life of the nation again springs from a deeper existence in the causal body of the nation, the peculiar temperament which it has developed out of its ages of experience and which makes it distinct from others. These three are the bodies of the Mother, but within them all is the Source of her life, immortal and unchanging, of which every nation is merely one manifestation, the universal Narayan, One in the Many of whom we are all the children. When, therefore, we speak of a nation, we mean the separate life of the millions who people the country, but we mean also a separate culture and civilisation, a peculiar national temperament which has become too deeply rooted to be altered and in all these we discover a manifestation of God in national life which is living, sacred and adorable. It is this which we speak of as the Mother. The millions are born and die; we who are here today, will not be here tomorrow, but the Mother has been living for thousands of years and will live for yet more thousands when we have passed away.

 

* * *

 

The English and the Indians both were equally Asuras. It was not a battle between the Gods and the Asuras but a fight of the Asuras against the Asuras. What was the sublime quality of the Occidental Asura which crowned with success his power, courage and intelligence? And what was the fatal defect of the Indian Asura which nullified his power, courage and intelligence? The answer is, in the first place, that though the Indians were equal to the English in all qualities, they did not have any national feeling whereas the English possessed it to the full. From this it must not be hastily concluded that the English were patriotic, and that it was patriotism which inspired them to build up successfully a vast empire in India. Patriotism and national consciousness are two different qualities. The patriot lives in a rapture of service to the motherland; he perceives her everywhere, looks upon her as a godhead, and to her offers all work done as a sacrifice for the good of the country; his own interest merges in the interest of the country. The English of the eighteenth century did not have this feeling as it cannot abide permanently in the heart of any Occidental materialist nation. The English did not come to India for the good of their country. They came here to do business, to make money for themselves. Not out of love for their country did they conquer or pillage India but they conquered it mainly in their own interest. However, without being patriots, they had the national feeling; the pride that “our country is the best, the traditions and customs, religion, character, morality, strength, courage, intelligence, opinion and work of our nation are inimitably perfect, unattainable by others”; the belief that “the good of my country is my good, the glory of my country is my glory, the prosperity of my fellow countrymen is my prosperity; instead of seeking only personal ends, I shall advance at the same time the interest of my nation; it is the duty of every one in the country to fight for her honour, glory and prosperity; it is the religion of the hero, if need be, to die bravely in that fight”; this sense of duty exhibits the main characteristic of the national consciousness. Patriotism is in its nature sattwic, whereas the national consciousness is rajasic. One who can lose his ego in the ego of the country is the ideal patriot; one who aggrandises the ego of the country, all the while maintaining intact his own ego is a nationally conscious individual. The Indians of that epoch were wanting in national consciousness. We do not mean to say that they never cared for the good of their nation, but if there was the least conflict between their personal interest and that of the country, they often sacrificed the good of the country to achieve their own. According to us, the lack of national consciousness was a more fatal defect than the lack of unity. If full national consciousness spread everywhere in the country, then unity could be realised even in this land afflicted with division. Mere verbal repetition, “We want unity, we want unity!” is not sufficient. This is the principal reason of the conquest of India by the British. The Asuras fought against the Asuras; but the nationally conscious and unified Asuras defeated the Asuras equal to them in all other qualities but disunited and devoid of national consciousness. According to the Divine law, one who is strong and efficient wins the wrestling contest; one who is fast and enduring arrives first at the destination. High moral qualities or merits alone cannot make one win a race or wrestling bout; the necessary strength is indispensable. Thus even a wicked and Asuric nation, conscious of itself, is able to found an empire, while for want of national consciousness a virtuous people possessing many high moral qualities loses its independence, and eventually forfeiting its noble character and good qualities falls into decadence.

 

* * *

 

We have gained the national consciousness but unless it is steeped in patriotism our national consciousness cannot blossom. Adoration of the Mother must be the foundation of that patriotism. The day “Bande Mataram”, the song of Bankimchandra, crossed the barrier of the outer senses and knocked at the heart, on that day patriotism was born in our heart; on that day the Mother’s image was enshrined in our heart. The country is Mother, the country is Divine, — this sublime precept which forms a part of the Upanishadic teachings is the seed of the national rising. As the “Jiva” is a part of the Divine, as the power of the “Jiva” is also a part of the Divine power, so also the seventy million Bengalis, the collectivity of three hundred million Indians are part of all-pervading Vasudeva; in the same manner, Mother India, adorned with many hands and powers, shelter of these three hundred millions, embodiment of Shakti, is a force of the Divine Mother, the Goddess, the very body of the universal Mahakali. Excitement, passion, clamour, insult, oppression and torture endured during these five years in order to awaken the love for the Mother and establish Her image in the heart and mind of the nation were decreed by the Divine. That work is over. What next?

Next, the ancient power of the Aryans has to be resurrected. First, the Aryan character and the Aryan education must reappear; secondly, the yogic power has to be developed again; lastly, that yearning for knowledge, that capacity for work worthy of an Aryan must be utilised in order to assemble necessary material for the new age; the mad passion worked up during these last five years has to be harnessed and directed towards the accomplishment of the Mother’s work. Young men all over the country, who are seeking a path and looking for work, let them get over the passion and find out a means for acquiring power. The sublime work that has to be accomplished cannot be achieved by passion alone; strength is necessary. The force that can be acquired from the teachings of your ancestors can do the impossible. That Force is preparing to descend into your body. That Force is the Mother Herself. Learn to surrender to Her. The Mother by making you Her instrument will accomplish the work so swiftly, so powerfully that the world will be astounded. All your efforts will come to nothing without that Force. The image of the Mother is enshrined in your heart, you have learnt to serve and adore the Mother; now surrender to the Mother within you. There is no other way to accomplish the work.

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