Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908
Bande Mataram. April 25, 1907
The Leverage of Faith
It is said of Guru Nanak that on the eve of his departure from the body he was asked to name a successor to his gadi. A great storm was raging at the time – the disturbance of Nature synchronising with the passing away of a great spirit. Nanak was then sitting under a tree surrounded by his disciples. It was evening and the Guru perceiving that his Chelas badly needed food and drink, asked his sons Shrichand and Lakshichand to go in quest of food. But the sons inherited none of the spiritual qualities of their father; they thought him to be no better than a maniac and were not inclined to take his request seriously; rather, they mocked at the idea of a search for food when none could stir out of doors for the wild rain and storm without. Nanak then turned to a devoted disciple, who simply enquired where he should go for food, and he was1 told that he had only to ask of the tree under which they were then sitting and it would give them all they required. The disciple did Nanak's bidding and, as the story goes, was rewarded with sufficiency of sweetmeats. Nanak went afterwards with his disciples to the riverside, and when, on the way, they came across a dead body, he bade his sons partake of this strange food. His sons took the command as conclusive proof of their father's lunacy, but the disciple was prepared to obey unquestioningly and only paused to ask where2 to begin, whether from the head or from the foot. Nanak, entirely satisfied with the steadfast faith of his disciple, named him the successor to his gadi in preference to his own sons.
It is not given to all to possess this heroic spiritual faith which all religious teachers have insisted on as the first preliminary to any difficult sādhan; but the moral underlying it is one which all experience justifies. Faith is the first condition of success in every great undertaking. It is no exaggeration to say that faith removes3 mountains. It is faith that makes the men of will and thought persevere in spite of apparently insurmountable difficulties. They start with a strong confidence in the ultimate success of a noble undertaking, and are therefore never daunted by difficulties, however formidable. Faith is the one predominating characteristic of all great souls. The vision of faith penetrates into the remote future and turns the impossible into the possible. In the region of politics faith is the result of imagination working in the light of history; it takes its stand on reason and experience and aspires into the future from the firm ground of the past. Other nations have risen from the lowest depths of degradation – the weaknesses which prevent us from trying bold and effective remedies were common to all subject nations before us. It is by nerving the nation's heart with inspiring literature and inciting it to struggle for emancipation that freedom has been recovered. For a subject people there is no royal road to emancipation. They must wade to it through struggle, sacrifice, slaughter, if necessary. History suggests no short-cut. Why should it then involve a strain on our faith to believe that if we are only prepared for the necessary sacrifice, we also shall gain the end? Other nations also were weak, disunited and denationalised like ourselves. It is the rallying cry of freedom that combined their scattered units, drawing them together with a compelling and magical attraction. Those who would win freedom, must first imbue the people with an overpowering conviction that freedom is the one thing needful. Without a great ideal there can be no great movement. Small baits of material advantages will not nerve them to high endeavour and heroic self-sacrifice; it is only the idea of national freedom and national greatness that has that overmastering appeal. We must not bend the knee to others but try to be worthy of our past – here is an ideal which, if set forth with conviction and power, cannot fail to inspire self-sacrificing action. We need faith above all things, faith in ourselves, faith in the nation, faith in India's destiny. A dozen men rendered invincible by a strong faith in their future, have in other times, spread the contagion of nationalism to the remotest corner of vast countries. Unbelief is blind – it does not see far ahead, neither stimulates strength nor inspires action. The lack of this faith has kept our moderate politicians tied down to a worn-out ideal which has lost its credibility. No man can lead a rising nation unless he has this faith first of all, that what other great men have done before him, he also can do as well, if not better,– that the freedom other nations have won, we also can win, if only we have the faith, the will.
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: and was
2 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: ask from where
3 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: moves