The Sense of The Bhagavad Gītā
The Sense of Nationalism
The Gita at the outset begins with the fallen hero of the battle asking Sri Krishna the meaning behind the heartless cruelty and inevitable death to be inflicted on his own kith and kin, and still more cruel, because he has been asked to inflict on them. The initial synthesis of Gita was built on the sense of war and carnage, their meaning and purpose, with the Lord Himself leading the battlefield against the foes of humanity on His chariot, standing and looking at Arjuna with a compassion and love which seeks to go beyond all spiritual narrative, hitherto unveiled in recorded or unrecorded history, — this is the need of the present hour and should be the foundation of our sense of nationalism.
At the beginning of its narrative, Arjuna symbolises the stark human weakness and self-attachment to the dictates of his untransformed nature, and he prefers inaction or dereliction of duty instead of self-conquest and glory of the Spirit, the attainment of which is impossible without the Divine Grace, but here stands Krishna as his charioteer and guide and asks him to destroy the enemies of humanity and uphold the dharma of the Spirit.
We might wonder what dharma of the Spirit has to do with nationalism at all or what it entails to be truly patriotic without falling into the trap of mentalised ego. Arjuna was confused about his sense of duty and we are confused about our sense of nationalism. We need the help of the divine Charioteer very badly here.
The true sense of nationalism is spiritual, not mental or vital or a form of a sectarian viewpoint or the rousing of a jingoistic tendency. Spiritual, because it derives itself from a godward character and tendency and expresses instinctively through numerous forms, moral, ethical, social and psychological. But in the lesser forms, it is prone to error, misrepresentation and exploitation or even perversion in idea and purpose, and as a result, in its expression crude and ignorant of its own profoundness and spiritual strength.
Gita does not preach nationalism in a narrow sense; it does not speak about defending our culture or our borders. It speaks rather of the Kshatriyahood and the Aryan temper, and it explores or explains the difficulties of human nature and how to mound it in the image of the Spirit. It provides a synthetic solution to the problem of human nature by lifting up the individual nature into the Parabrahman or the most high God through work, devotion and knowledge.
The sense of nationalism arises from a concordance of an inner realisation or a higher truth; it seeks therefore to establish the Sanatana Dharma or the eternal truth of the Divine as the law of all life and existence here as it is elsewhere in all the planes of Consciousness, for there is only one Law and One Truth and not many. It is out of that one Truth all lesser truth derives itself and formulates its own laws according to its need of the age in which it manifests or the time when it is most required.
The law of the Kshatriya is guided not by the quill or the marker but by the sword and the shield and the battlefield. But it is only when he submits himself to the Lord that he becomes a warrior of the spirit and a symbol of the eternal dharma of God. Our sense of nationalism too must be submitted to the Divine above or within and must flower out of an inner impulse, a certain marvellous re-emergence of it from the pure depths of the heart, a power of the Divine and a symbol of the Kshatriya, and no longer pervaded by hatred, anger and a great folly of human reason, but the by the law of the Spirit alone or by the breath of the divine Krishna.
The problem with our present sense of nationalism is that it has become an expression of an effete mentality, submerged in the weakness of self and fear of survival, and it looks upon the idea of Nation or nation building by a meek assertion of a one-sided truth and whining about everything which opposes its idea or purpose. This cannot be the attitude of the Kshatriya standing in the battlefield with the Lord and ready to strike down or decimate his foes and friends alike at the command of Sri Krishna.
The battlefield of Kurukshetra is more mental than physical; he who hasn’t vanquished enemy in his mind will not be able to defeat him in the physical. But here, to see the purpose and play of Krishna and His divine injunction is more important than to be led by the apparent discords of outer nature or by getting swayed by crude external appearances and contradictions. And to be guided from within, to act out of a harmonious self-knowledge towards the idea of nation building must form the initial foundation of our national temper and patriotism.
We must first build the apparatus of a collective Organisation, in which all our personal discords, disagreements and mental opinions must be given up for a larger ideal and profounder truth, but in the absence of such an ideal or truth, an effective response to the external challenges can only be partial and more likely to be defeated by the pressure of the opposition. The discovery of such an ideal may be found in the inner or higher self and not in the external parameters of limited or myopic action arising out of ignorance and lack of true knowledge.
Sri Krishna within urges us to act of a heightened spiritual Consciousness by a spiritual transcendence of the three Gunas, the levers of our constitutional mechanism, and reach the supreme divine impulse of action. This action is not governed by our likes or dislikes or by our preferences and hatred or by the laws of human gravity or self-subjugation to bounds of ignorance, but by the law of the eternal Spirit and its inscrutable and inherent self-knowledge.
Our sense of duty to the Nation must be replaced by a conscious surrender in thought and action to Sri Krishna, for the soul of our Nation and its geography are only expressions of the divine Lord, and all our actions must come from that supreme impulse of self-giving and not from an ego-centric personality which seeks to dominate by assertion of a strong mental idea, half-complete, ineffective and therefore, obsolete.
It was the removal of the ego- principle and a submission or surrender of the whole nature which was the very crux upon which stands the profound philosophy of the Gita. We must get out of our narrow creek and self-guiding or self-asserting nature and dive deep into the nature of the Spirit and derive from there our sense of duty and nationalism as well as the resources and means to fulfil the Will of Sri Krishna in the world.
Nationalism in the context of Gita assumes a special significance, because it proceeds from a divine strength and vision, not from a narrow mindset or puerile jingoism. Also, because the sense is universal, it cannot be confined to the borders of a country or a region. It must embrace the whole world in its universal vision and lift it up into the supreme light of God. It is from there, from the higher light and knowledge that we can see the true purpose of these external borders, demarcations, armies, cultures, civilisations, democracies and other forms of governance and put each in its right place and its right relation with the rest and spiritualise their discordant members in a higher divine Synthesis.
The result is a Kshatriya in his transformed Self, wearing the garb of a nationalist or a patriot and doing here the Will of Sri Krishna. For the nationalist, India is a manifestation of the Divine Mother, the transcendent Goddess of whom we are the children. In his view and spiritual self-experience, India is the spiritual capital of the world and it is from here the most profound change of human nature into a higher divine nature will come to be realised. And, it is from here that the true and direct reign of the Divine spirit will engulf the whole world.
We have to attempt to translate the ideal of the spiritual Kshatriya as explained and developed by the Gita and make them part of our wider narrative of nation building, but the present crisis requires a greater focus and concentration and a new practical synthesis on the ground, and which means we have to develop new models of governance and social conduct and effectively implement the rule of the Spirit as the foundation and law of all models of governance. Democracy itself is the last summit-pit of a half-enlightened reason; it crumbles under the weight of its own nobility and is lost forever into the pit. The ancient form of our governance was based on Sanatana Dharma, in which the equality of souls was paramount, irrespective of their social hierarchy, and justice was administered according to a higher standard and inner vision; it was more of a spiritual variable of the Spirit than a fixed, rigid and incorrigible set of imperfect and blind laws dispensing justice and social order.
As to the forms of governance, we shall take up the discussion in the next chapter and clearly explain the governing synthesis of the Spirit and how it translates into a dominant law of the Spirit here in the conduct of a human life as well as in the larger collective life of a nation.
End of Chapter 1