Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908
Bande Mataram. April 5, 1907
In a country where subjection has long become a habit of the public mind, there will always be a tendency to shrink from the realities of the position and to hunt for roundabout, safe and peaceful paths to national regeneration. Servitude is painful and intolerable,– servitude is killing the nation by inches,– servitude must be got rid of, true; but the pains and evils of servitude seem almost more tolerable to a good many people than the sharp, salutary pangs of a resolute struggle for liberty. Hence the not uncommon cry,– “The violent and frequently bloody methods followed by other nations are not suited to a gentle, spiritual and law-abiding people; we will vindicate our intellectual originality and spiritual superiority by inventing new methods of regeneration much more gentlemanly and civilised.” The result is a hydra-brood of delusions,– two springing up where one is killed. The old gospel of salvation by prayer was based on the belief in the spiritual superiority of the British people,– an illusion which future generations will look back upon with an amazed incredulity. God answers prayers1 and the British people are god-like in their nature; so why should we despair? Even now there are prominent politicians who say and perhaps believe that although there is no historical example of a nation liberated by petition and prayer, yet the book of history is not closed and there is no reason why so liberal and noble a nation as the British should not open a new and unprecedented chapter,– a miracle which never happened before in the world's records may very well be worked for the sole and particular benefit of India! The petitionary delusion, however, though not yet killed, has been scotched; its lease of life is not for long.
Another delusion of which Babu Narendranath Sen of the Indian Mirror, and the cultured and eloquent lady whom the Mahatmas have placed at the head of the new Theosophist Church, are the principal exponents, asks us to seek our regeneration through religion,– only when we have become religiously and morally fit, can we hope to be politically free. In spite of the confusion of ideas which underlies this theory, it is one which has a natural charm for a religiously-minded people. Nevertheless it is as much a thing in the air as the petitionary delusion. If by religion is meant the nivṛtti mārga it is an absurdity to talk of politics and religion in the same breath; for it is the path of the few,– the saints and the elect – to whom there is no I nor thou, no mine or thine, and therefore no my country or thy country. But if we are asked to perfect our religious development in the pravṛtti mārga, then it is obvious that politics is as much a part of pravṛtti mārga as any other activity, and there is no rationality in asking us to practise religion and morality first and politics afterwards; for politics is itself a large part of religion and morality. We acknowledge that nothing is likely to become a2 universal and master impulse in India which is not identified with religion. The obvious course is to recognise that politics is religion and infuse it with the spirit of religion; for that is the true patriotism which sees God as the Mother in our country, God as śakti in the mass of our countrymen, and religiously devotes itself to their service and their liberation from present sufferings and servitude. We do not acknowledge that a nation of slaves who acquiesce in their subjection can become morally fit for freedom; one day of slavery robs a man of half his manhood, and while the yoke remains, he cannot compass a perfect and rounded moral development. Under a light and qualified subjection, he may indeed develop in certain directions; but in what direction are we asked to develop? In the morality of the slave, the Shudra, whose dharma is humility, contentment, service, obedience? In the morality of the merchant whose dharma is to amass riches by honesty and enterprise and spend them with liberal philanthropy? In the morality of the Brahmin whose dharma is to prepare himself for the nivṛtti mārga by learning and holy exercises, to forgive injuries and accept honour or insult, wrong and injustice, with a calm and untroubled mind? It is obvious that we may develop far on these lines without coming at all nearer to moral fitness for freedom. Politics is the work of the Kshatriya and it is the virtues of the Kshatriya we must develop if we are to be morally fit for freedom. But the first virtue of the Kshatriya is not to bow his neck to an unjust yoke but to protect his weak and suffering countrymen against the oppressor and welcome death in a just and righteous battle.
A third delusion to which the over-intellectualised are subject is the belief in salvation by industrialism. One great danger of the commercial aspect of the Swadeshi movement is that many of our young men may be misled into thinking that their true mission is to go abroad, study industries and return to enrich themselves and their country. We would warn them against this pernicious error. This work is an admirable work and a necessary part of the great national yajña which we have instituted; but it is only a part and not even the chief part. Those who have never studied Japanese history, are fond of telling our young men that Japan owes her greatness to her commercial and industrial expansion and call on them to go and do likewise. Commercial and industrial expansion are often accompaniments and results of political liberty and greatness,– never their cause. Yet the opposite belief is held by many who should have been capable of wiser discrimination. We find it in the truly marvellous address of Srinath Pal3 Rai Bahadur4 at Berhampur; – there is a wonderful contrast between the canine gospel of submissive loyalty preached in the first part of the address and the rampageously self-assertive gospel of economic independence preached in its tail-end. “Whatever the advantages of political advancement, they sink into insignificance when compared with the blessings which industrial prosperity brings in its train,” – such is the gospel according to Srinath Pal5 Rai Bahadur6. It is so far shared by many less loyal people that they consider industrial prosperity as prior to and the cause of political advancement. The idea is that we must be rich before we can struggle for freedom. History does not bear out this peculiar delusion. It is the poor peoples who have been most passionately attached to liberty, while there are many examples to show that nothing more easily leads to national death and decay than a prosperous servitude. We are particularly thankful that British rule has not, like the Roman, given us industrial prosperity in exchange for political independence; for in that case our fate would have been that of the ancient peoples of Gaul and Britain who, buying civilisation and prosperity with the loss of their freemanhood, fell a prey to the Goth and Saxon and entered into a long helotage from which it took them a thousand years to escape. We must strive indeed for economic independence, because the despotism that rules us is half-mercantile, half-military, and by mortally wounding the lower mercantile half we may considerably disable the upper; at least we shall remove half the inducement England now has for keeping us in absolute subjection. But we should never forget that politics is a work for the Kshatriya and it is not by the virtues and methods of the Vaishya that we shall finally win our independence.
Later edition of this work: The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo.- Set in 37 volumes.- Volumes 6-7.- Bande Mataram: Political Writings and Speeches. 1890–1908 .- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2002.- 1182 p.
1 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: prayer
2 1973 ed. SABCL, vol.1: an
3 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Paul
4 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Bahadoor
5 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Paul
6 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Bahadoor