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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. April 23, 1908

The Wheat and the Chaff

The result of the Convention meeting at Allahabad is now certain and it seems that after a brief struggle Sir Pherozshah has prevailed. We have done much for reunion, and have striven in vain. The personality of Sir Pherozshah Mehta and the votes of his Bombay henchmen have overborne the feeble patriotism and wavering will of the Bengal Moderates and their Punjab supporters. The Convention has thrown in its lot with Minto and Morley and sacrificed the country at the altar of the bureaucracy and as the Bengal leaders have not dissociated themselves from the Convention, we must hold that the entire Moderate Party have agreed to betray the mandate of their country and the future of their people. For a brief moment God placed the destiny of India in their hands and gave them a free choice whether they would serve Him or self, the country or the bureaucracy. They have chosen, and chosen the worse course. They too have made the great refusal. Whatever may happen henceforth, they must be reckoned as servants of the alien bureaucrat, disguised as patriots to deceive and mislead the people, enemies of Nationalism, foes of Indian independence who prefer the service of a foreign domination to the perils of a struggle for freedom. They have refused to serve the Mother with an undivided heart, they have placed the alien on the throne of her future and dared to think that she will accept a left hand and inferior chair at the side of his seat of empire. Let them serve the master they have chosen and find what wages he will give them for their service. No Nationalist henceforth can consent to seek reconciliation with them or clasp the hand that has sold the country for a foreign hire. A cleavage has been made between those who will suffer for their country and those who have declared that they will have no share in those sufferings, no part or lot in the great struggle of the future. It is well. We need waste no further1 time in seeking a union with the men who before Surat had resolved on a disruption motived by the desire of bureaucratic favour and the fear of bureaucratic displeasure. The day of compromises is past. Frank, clear and unmistakable, let the great issue stand for the country to decide as between the lovers of freedom and the lovers of servitude, between the men who palter with the demand of the Mother for whole-hearted service and those who have given all to her, between the politicians and the martyrs, between the advocates of a contradiction and the preachers of the unadorned Truth. On the one side the cry is “For India and freedom”, on the other “For India and the bureaucracy”. Whichever appeals to its heart and its intellect, the country will choose. Of the Conventionalists let us speak no farther. If any of them have it in them to repent, let them repent soon, for the hour of grace that is given them will be short and the punishment swift. Into the secrets of their hearts we cannot pry, and it may be that there are some of them whose will only half consented to the betrayal, or whose intellectual clarity was too small to understand what they were doing. But man's fate is determined by his acts which produce mechanically their inevitable result and they must share the fortune of those with whom they have cast in their lot. Before the world is much older, they will see the fruits of their work and rejoice over them if they can. For Nationalism a new era begins with the 19th of April, 1908. The sharp division that it has created between the two parties will bring the strength of Nationalism, the sincerity of its followers and the validity of its principles to the fiercest test that any cause can undergo. Only that cause is God-created, entrusted with a mission, sure of victory which can stand by itself in a solitude, absolute and supreme, without visible shield or sword, exposed to all that the powers of the world can do to slay it, and yet survive. The powers of the world are the servants of God commissioned to test the purity of His workers, their faith, their courage, their self-devotion, His angels of destruction who put forth their whole strength to uproot the infant faith and scatter its followers, so that the wheat may be sifted from the chaff, the true believers from the half believers, and the new religion grow by suffering to its intended stature. Every religion therefore has to begin with a period of persecution. The religion of Nationalism is already far on in this period and the retreat of the Conventionalists from the field of battle, their distinct repudiation of the new movement and its works, is the first fruit of the persecution. So much chaff has been sifted from the wheat, so many stones have been rejected by the great Builder from His material for the house He is building for our Mother. As time goes on, the test will be fiercer, the sifting more violent and the heavier part of the chaff, if any remains, will follow the lighter. Only the heart that is free from fear, the spirit that is full of faith, the soul that is passionate for realisation2 will remain for the final test and the last purification. To men of doubtful views and undecided opinions the crisis precipitated by the decision of the Convention Committee will prove a cruel embarrassment. To all who have an emotional preference for the new ideas without a clear understanding of their supreme and urgent necessity, to all who understand the new ideas with their intellects only but have them not in their hearts, to all who, while loving and understanding the new ideas, have not faith to put aside the cloaks of prudence and dissimulation or courage to avow their faith openly before the world, the position is one of great perplexity. God is a hard master and will not be served by halves. All evasions, all subterfuges He cuts away and puts the question plain and loud; and before all mankind, before the friend ready to cut the ties of friendship asunder, before the enemy standing ready with lifted sword to slay the servants of God as soon as they confess their faith, it has to be answered: “Who is on the Lord's side?” Not once, not twice, but always that question is being put and the answer exacted. If you are unwilling to answer, either you do not believe that it is God's work you are doing and are therefore unfit for it, or you have insufficient faith in His power to get His work done without the help of your diplomacy and cunning, or you are unwilling to meet any plain risks in His service. To serve God under a cover is easy, to stipulate for safety in doing the work is natural to frail human nature, to sympathise and applaud is cheap; but the work demands sterner stuff in the men who will do it and insists on complete service, fearless service and honest service. The waverer must make up his mind either to answer God's question or to give up the work. There is plenty for him to do in a cheap, safe and easy way if he cannot face the risks of self-devotion. He can hold Conferences, enrol himself as a member of the Convention's District Associations, open funds for National purposes, pass resolutions, sign petitions, hold patriotic interviews with Magistrates, Commissioners, Lieutenant-Governors, Governors and even perhaps with a live Viceroy; he can, if he is a barrister, plead in Swadeshi cases; he can take shares in profitable Swadeshi investments and boast himself a great Swadeshi worker, a captain of industry, a solid patriot; he can do real good to the country without peril to himself by subscribing to help National Education. In these and other ways he can satisfy his secret proclivities for the service of his country. But the days when this easy service could pass for Nationalism are numbered. The work now before us is of the sternest kind and requires men of an unflinching sternness to carry it out. The hero, the martyr, the man of iron will and iron heart, the grim fighter whose tough nerves defeat cannot tire out nor danger relax, the born leader in action, the man who cannot sleep or rest while his country is enslaved, the priest of Kali who can tear his heart out of his body and offer it as a bleeding sacrifice on the Mother's altar, the heart of fire and the tongue of flame whose lightest word is an inspiration to self-sacrifice or a spur to action, for these the time is coming, the call will soon go forth. They are already here in the silence, in the darkness slowly maturing themselves, training the muscles of the will, tightening the strings of the heart so that they may be ready when the call comes. Whoever feels the power of service within him, let him make sure of himself while there is yet time; for the present is an hour of easy probation, of light tests in which the punishment of failure is also light, but whoever fails in the day that is3 coming, will be thrown away not in4 the rubbish heap as the Conventionalists will be thrown, but into the fire of a great burning. For all who now declare themselves Nationalists the tests will be far severer than that before which the place-hunter, the title-hunter, the popularity-hunter, the politician of mixed motives and crooked ways, the trimmer, the light speaker and ready swearer of the old politics have paled and recoiled so early and so easily. The profession of Nationalism should not be lightly made but with a full sense of what it means and involves. The privilege of taking it is attended with severe pains and penalties for those who take it lightly. If we are few, it matters little, but it is of supreme importance that the stuff of which we are made should be sound. What the Mother needs is hard clear steel for her sword, hard massive granite for her fortress, wood that will not break for the handle of her bow, tough substance and true for the axle of her chariot. For the battle is near and the trumpet ready for the signal.


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.

1 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: farther


2 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: realization


3 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: be


4 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: into