Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908
Bande Mataram. April 7, 1908
The New Ideal
The need of a great ideal was never more keenly felt than it is in India at the present day. Nowhere have so many weaknesses combined to stand in the way of a nation in the whole range of history. Nowhere have the rulers reduced their subjects to so complete, pervading and abject a material helplessness. When the Mogul ruled, he ruled as a soldier and a conqueror, in the pride of his strength, in the confidence of his invincible greatness, as the1 lord of the peoples by natural right of his imperial character and warlike strength and skill. He stooped to no meanness, hedged himself in with no army of spies, entered into no relations with foreign powers, but, grandiose and triumphant, sat on the throne of a continent like Indra on his heavenly seat, master of his world because there was none strong enough to dispute it with him. He trusted his subjects, gave them positions of power and responsibility, used their brain and arm to preserve his conquests and by the royalty of that trust and noble pride in his own ability to stand by his innate strength, was able to hold India for over a century until Aurangzebe2 forgot the Kuladharma of his house and by distrust, tyranny and meanness lost for his descendants the splendid heritage of his forefathers. The present domination is a rule of shopkeepers who are at the same time bureaucrats, a combination of the worst possible qualities for imperial Government. The shopkeeper rules by deceit, the bureaucrat by the use of red tape. The shopkeeper by melancholy meanness alienates the subject population, the bureaucrat by soulless rigidity deprives the administration of life and human sympathy. The shopkeeper uses his position of authority to push his wares and fleece his subjects, the bureaucrat forgets his duty and loses his royal character in his mercantile greed. The shopkeeper becomes a pocket Machiavel, the bureaucrat a gigantic retail trader. By this confusion of dharmas, varṇasaṃkara is born in high places and the nation first and the rulers afterwards go to perdition. This is what has happened in India under the present regime. The bureaucracy has ruled in the spirit of a mercantile power, holding its position by aid of mercenaries, afraid of its subjects, with no confidence in its destiny, with no trust even in the mercenaries who support it, piling up gold with one hand, with the other holding a borrowed sword over the head of a fallen people. It has sought its strength not in the mission with which God had entrusted it, nor in the greatness of England, her mastery of the ocean, her pride of unconquered prowess, her just and sympathetic principle of government, but in the weakness of the people. The strength of England has been held as a threat in the background, not as a source of quiet and unostentatious self-confidence which enable the rulers to be generous as well as just. The liberal principles of English rule have been chanted as a sort of magic mantra to hypnotise the nation into willing subjection, not used as a living principle of government. What have been the real sources of bureaucratic strength? An Arms act, a corrupt and oppressive police, an army of spies, a mercenary military force officered by Englishmen, a people emasculated, kept ignorant, out of the world's life, poor, intimidated, abjectly under the thumb of the police constable or the provincial prefect. Such a principle of rule cannot endure. It contradicts the law of God and offends the reason of man; it is as unprofitable as it is selfish and heartless.
The nation which has passed through a century of such a misgovernment must necessarily have degenerated. The bureaucracy has taken care to destroy every centre of strength not subservient to itself. A nation politically disorganised, a nation morally corrupted, intellectually pauperised, physically broken and stunted is the result of a hundred years of British rule, the account which England can give before God of the trust which He placed in her hands. The condition of the people is the one answer to all the songs of praise which the bureaucrats sing of their rule, which the people of England chorus with such a smug self-satisfaction and which even foreign peoples echo in the tune of admiration and praise. But for us the people who have suffered, the victims of the miserable misuse which bureaucrats have made of the noblest opportunity God ever gave to a nation, the song has no longer any charm, the mantra has lost its hypnotic force, the spell has ceased to work. While we could we deceived ourselves, but we can deceive ourselves no longer. Pain is a terrible disillusioner and the pangs which had come upon us were those of approaching dissolution. It was at the last moment, when further delay would have meant death, that a higher than earthly physician administered through a proud viceroy the potent poison of Partition and saved the life of India. The treatment of the disease has been drastic and will continue to be drastic. There are those who dream of mild remedies, whose beautiful souls will not bear to think of the fierceness of strife, hatred or3 agony which a revolution implies; but strong poisons are the only salvation in desperate diseases and we fear that without these poisons India will not easily or ever recover from the fatal and consuming disease which has overtaken her. What will support her under the stress of the agony she will have to undergo? What strength will help her to shake off the weaknesses which have crowded in on her? How will she raise herself from the dust whom a thousand shackles bind down? Only the strength of a superhuman ideal, only the gigantic force of a superhuman will, only the vehemence of an effort which transcends all that man has done and approaches divinity. Where will she find that strength, that force, that vehemence? In herself. We have seen Ramamurti, the modern Bhimasen, lie motionless, resistant, with a superhuman force of will-power acting through the muscles while two carts loaded with men are driven over his body. India must undergo an ordeal of passive endurance far more terrible without relaxing a single fibre of her frame. We have seen Ramamurti break over his chest a strong iron chain tightened round his whole body and break it by the sheer force of will working through the body. India must work a similar deliverance for herself by the same inner force. It is not by strength of body that Ramamurti accomplishes his feats, for he is not stronger than many athletes who could never do what he does daily, but by faith and will. India has in herself a faith of superhuman virtue to accomplish miracles, to deliver herself out of irrefragable bondage, to bring God down upon earth. She has a secret of will power which no other nation possesses. All she needs to rouse in her that faith, that will, is an ideal which will induce her to make the effort. That ideal is now being preached by Srijut Bepin4 Chandra Pal in every speech he delivers and never has it been delivered with such beauty of expression, such a passion of earnestness and pathos, such a sublimity of feeling as at Uttarpara on Sunday when he addressed a meeting of the people in the compound of the Uttarpara Library. The ideal is that of humanity in God, of God in humanity, the ancient ideal of the sanātana dharma but applied, as it has never been applied before, to the problem of politics and the work of national revival. To realise that ideal, to impart it to the world is the mission of India. She has evolved a religion which embraces all that the heart, the brain, the practical faculty of man can desire but she has not yet applied it to the problems of modern politics. This therefore is the work which she has still to do before she can help humanity; the necessity of the5 mission is the justification for her resurgence, the great incentive of saving herself to save mankind is the native power which will give her the force, the strength, the vehemence which can alone enable her to realise her destiny. No lesser ideal will help her through the stress of the terrible ordeal which she will in a few years be called to face. No hope less pure will save her from the demoralisation which follows revolutionary strife, the growth of passions, a violent selfishness, sanguinary hatred, insufferable licences6, the disruption of moralities, the resurgence of the tiger in man which a great revolution is apt to foster. Srijut Bepin7 Chandra speaks under an inspiration which he himself is unable to resist. The public wish to hear him on Swaraj, Swadeshi, Boycott, National Education – the old subjects of his unparalleled eloquence, and he himself may desire to speak on them, but the voice of a prophet is not his own to speak the thing he will, but another's to speak the thing he must. India needed the gospel of Swaraj, Swadeshi, Boycott and National Education to nerve her to her first effort, but now that she is drawing nearer to the valley of the shadow of Death she needs a still mightier inspiration, a still more enthusiastic and all-conquering faith. The people have not yet understood, but the power to understand is in them, and if any voice can awake that power, it is Bepin8 Chandra's.
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: greatness, the
2 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Aurangzeb
3 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: and
4 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Bipin
5 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: this
6 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: licence
7 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Bipin
8 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Bipin