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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. June 19, 1907

The Main Feeder of Patriotism

There are many people who admit the superiority of Eastern civilisation, who recognise its humanitarian and socialistic aspect, who are not blind to its predominating feature of spirituality, who admire the absence of a militant Materialism in it, who praise the way in which it has balanced the interests of the different classes in the society, who are conscious how much attention it gives to the higher needs of humanity. But still patriotism is not a living and moving impulse with them. Apart from the natural attachment which every man has to his country, its literature, its traditions, its customs and usages, patriotism has an additional stimulus in the acknowledged excellence of a national civilisation. If Britons love England with all her faults, why should we fail to love India whose faults were whittled down to an irreducible minimum till foreign conquests threw the whole society out of gear? But instead of being dominated by the natural ambition of carrying the banner of such a civilisation all over the world, we are unable to maintain its integrity in its own native home. This is betraying a trust. This is unworthiness of the worst type. We have not been able to add anything to this precious bequest; on the contrary we have been keeping ourselves and generations yet unborn from a full enjoyment of their lawful heritage. For Eastern civilisation though it is not dead, though it is a living force, is yet a submerged force, and that not because it has no intrinsic merit but because it has been transmitted to a class of people devoid of a love for things their own. It seems as if they have no past to guide, instruct or inspire them. They are beginning, as it were, with a clean slate and what is worse, a foreign poetaster is calling upon his countrymen to take charge of them as “half devil, half child”. Is not the humiliation sufficient to disturb our self-complacency?

We make no appeal in the name of any material benefit. No desire for earthly gain can nerve a people to such superhuman activity as the eager hope of maintaining their greatness and glory. We must first realise that we are great and glorious, that we are proud and noble, and it is through voluntary prostration that we are being stamped into the dust. No material ideal of riches and prosperity has ever made a nation. But when the sense of honour has been touched, when the consciousness of greatness has been re-awakened, then and then only have the scattered units of a fallen nation clustered round one mighty moral force.

What is now considered by political thinkers to be the chief incentive to conquest? What is the meaning of the imperial sentiment which is “now dominating every English breast”? “If we ask ourselves,” says one writer, “seriously the question why we glory in the magnitude of our empire, it may be answered: partly because we think it adds to our riches, partly because we enjoy the sense of power and dominion, partly because we cling to old traditions and remember the great deeds of history; but beyond and above all these elements of satisfaction we feel that throughout the whole British empire we enforce those ideas of justice, personal freedom and religious toleration which are the results of the constitutional struggles of centuries.” We are not concerned here with the discussion whether the Britisher's boast is well or ill-founded; but rightly or wrongly this sentiment has taken possession of him and he is invincible under its influence. For we find the same explanation in Mill. Sidgwick also in his Elements of Politics harps on the same strain. “Besides the material advantages,” he says, “there are legitimate sentimental satisfactions derived from justifiable conquest which must be taken into account. Such are the justifiable pride which the cultivated members of a civilised community feel in the beneficent exercise of dominion and in the performance by their nation of the noble task of spreading the highest kind of civilisation, and a more intense though less elevated satisfaction inseparable from patriotic sentiment in the spread of the special type of civilisation distinctive of their nation, communicated through its language and literature, and through the tendency to catch its tastes and imitate its customs which its prolonged rule, specially if, on the whole, beneficent, is likely to cause in a continually increasing degree.”

Thus, according to Sidgwick, physical expansion proceeds from a desire for spiritual expansion and history also supports the assertion. But why should not India then be the first power in the world? Who else has the undisputed right to extend spiritual sway over the world? This was Swami Vivekananda's plan of campaign. India can once more be made conscious of her greatness by an overmastering sense of the greatness of her spirituality. This sense of greatness is the main feeder of all patriotism. This only can put an end to all self-depreciation and generate a burning desire to recover the lost ground.

 

Later edition of this work: The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo.- Set in 37 volumes.- Volumes 6-7.- Bande Mataram: Political Writings and Speeches. 18901908 .- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2002.- 1182 p.