Guiding Light of The Month

THERE is a great difference between being in the midst of active work, of external action, while keeping one’s thought constantly fixed on Thee, and entering into that perfect union with Thee which leads to what I have called “absolute Consciousness, true Omniscience, Knowledge”. - The Mother

Nationalism and Internationalism in the light of Sri Aurobindo’s teachings

Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu (let the entire world be happy), Sarvam Brahmamayam (all is manifestation of Godhead) chanted the ancient Rishis. Our Master, Sri Aurobindo, showed us the path towards human unity through Divine oneness and spiritual evolution of Man.

“The Nationalism is a truth, unity of the human race is also truth and the only harmony of these two truths can bring the highest good to humanity. When complete fraternity is established then God instead of employing any earthly representative will himself rule the earth and sit on the throne in everyone’s heart. The reign of the Saints of the Christians, our Satyayuga will be established” (Sri Aurobindo - On Fraternity - Bengali Writings).

Man never preferred to live all alone from the very beginning of his advent on this earth. The physical needs for shelter, food and security compelled human beings to gather together into a family, tribe and further into clans or kingdoms. They slowly learned to interact and share all their belongings with one another for the fulfillment of their physical and vital necessities and learned to divide the responsibilities within the members of their group. Family was the smallest unit where the bonding between the members was biological as well as psychological. Gradually as the mental faculties evolved, this bonding gave rise to the emotional needs to love and to be loved. The commitment within a group too grew in course of time and consequently people were prepared to sacrifice their personal likes and dislikes as well as their own needs for the welfare of the group where they are committed to work and live together. History across the world is full of such episodes of heroism and self sacrifice of personal ego and needs for the sake of the kingdom or state to which they associated themselves as inseparable parts.

The seeds of patriotism and national feelings were in their nascent stage in the past. It is only in the recent modern times that the love for one’s country that we know as nationalism has evolved with mightier and nobler goals. At every step Nature helped man to dissolve his own identity and ego into that of a wider and greater group identity and thus paving way for its ultimate aim of bringing in the Divine oneness on this earth. In the past, immediately after each war waged between states or kingdoms, mankind began to question its validity and contemplated for means to prevent such wars in future again.

The three great concepts given by French revolution ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’ gave new perspective in the formation of nations. “The three principles of the French revolution are not ethical rules for guiding the life of an individual but three ties or bonds capable of remoulding the structure of society and country, a fundamental Truth of Nature yearning to manifest itself in the external condition of society and country” (Sri Aurobindo - On Fraternity - Bengali Writings).

For the ultimate dream of achieving human unity and harmony based on the ideals of Fraternity, the world from 18h century onwards had adopted two major models of governance: Democracy emphasizing primarily on liberty to arrive at equality and fraternity; Communism enforcing economic and social equality that would lead to liberty and fraternity. We can see very clearly that both of them are able to partially fulfill the goals of achieving fraternity in the human societies. Until humanity fails to comprehend and realize the concept of fraternity based on our fundamental spiritual oneness, it will only achieve the external enforced forms of liberty, equality and fraternity and not the one originating from the universal soul of mankind. Sri Aurobindo has explained extensively about the past, present and future and goals of human race through his writings in Ideal of Human Unity, Human Cycle, War and Self Determination and several Articles and Speeches on these subjects (1993-1910) and Correspondence with Devotees.
“We are all one, the dividing intellect is a sign of ignorance, the sage should look on all with an equal eye and perceive the one soul, one Narayan (godhead) equally established in everyone. Universal love comes from this equality full of devotion. But this knowledge which is the highest goal of humanity will spread everywhere only at the final stage of our journey; meanwhile we have to realize it partially within, and without, in the family, society, country in every being” (Sri Aurobindo - On Fraternity - Bengali Writings).

There was no concept of nationalism in the past before 18th century. The geographical boundaries of countries or States were frequently redrawn several times in history owing to the mighty motives of the conquerors or regroupings done due to political and economic interests of the more powerful groups of people. The unification of different small kingdoms or states under the rule of a strong empire did not give birth to any emotional or psychological ideologies of nationalism. The nationhood is an emotional bonding between people by sharing the same past and aiming at same future by living together in the present with common aspirations and is not much dependent on their ethnic origin or religious beliefs. We observe strong patriotic and national feelings among people of countries that are multi-religious and of multi-ethnic origin. Basically it is the long association through generations with common goals and interests that germinate into mutual binding at emotional and psychological level that we can name as nationalism.

“The pride in our past, the pain of our present and the passion for the future are its trunk and branches. Self-sacrifice, self-forgetfulness, great service and high endurance for the country are its fruit. And the sap which keeps it alive is the realization of the Motherhood of God in the country, the vision of the Mother, the knowledge of the Mother, the perpetual contemplation, adoration and service of the Mother” (Sri Aurobindo - On Nationalism – page 364).

Much profounder and broader is the concept of internationalism (like global culture, interests, understanding and sharing) that never existed in the past before the 2nd World War. Sri Aurobindo, three decades before World War II, had written his visionary words ‘world-state’ and ‘world-family’ and explained the different stages the world has to pass through to arrive at it (Early Writings 1903-1910) and reminded us of the sacred syllables uttered by ancient Rishis ‘Vasudaiva Kutumbakam’ (earth is one family). 100 years after his vision, we can now get some glimpses of his words getting realized across the world.

Whenever overtaken by pessimism and perplexed about the future of human race, we may remember his immortal words and regain confidence about the destiny of mankind. The external factors like economic dependency, technological advancements have rendered the interaction between nations more of a compulsive necessity. This may be Nature’s way of fulfilling its hidden purpose by means of enforcing oneness on humanity through its play of external circumstances and apparently dividing events.

“The law for humanity is to pursue its upward evolution towards the finding and expression of the Divine in the type of mankind, taking full advantage of the free development and gains of all individuals and nations and groupings of men, to work towards the day when mankind may be really and not only ideally one divine family, but even then, when it has succeeded in unifying itself, to respect, aid and be aided by the free growth and activity of its individuals and constituent aggregates” (Sri Aurobindo Human Cycle- page71 – The Ideal law of Social Development)

References: ‘Bengali Writings’,’ On Nationalism’, ‘Ideal of Human Unity’ (SABDA publications)
(To be continued)
- K.B.T. Sundari

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