Current Events · Mother India · Words of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo

Why Nationalism?

A new post in Current Events

Bharat Mata, by Abanindranath Tagore


Lately in India it has become fashionable among some self-styled intellectuals and their unthinking proteges and admirers to say that they don’t believe in the ‘idea’ of nation and nationalism. These can be found saying this sort of thing in some of our university campuses, TV studios, and also social media. 

Irony is that all these self-proclaimed progressives and non-believers in the ‘idea of nation’ might be the first to stand up to defend the strangest notion their chosen intellectual cabal has come up with, viz., the ‘idea of India’, whatever that means. 

Some of them go to the extent of saying that they want ‘azadi‘, freedom, from the nation in which they are living, where they are getting all the benefits that their nation provides, including but not limited to express any opinion. Some of them even shout in protest marches that they will fight till the nation is broken into pieces.

Of course, the separatists and secessionists of all hues who hatch up their sinister plots against the nation-state of India work with the same premise for destruction of India. Perhaps this should make our pseudo-intellectuals and their followers think twice before mouthing their ill-understood post-modernist notions that nation is not worth defending or that nationalism is a thing of the past. Perhaps these people should also think, twice or more, about the fact that the same separatists and secessionists obviously believe in the ‘separate’ nation they say they are demanding – whether it is Kashmir or Bengal or Kerala or whatever.

But all that thinking requires intellectual honesty and sincerity, not easy qualities to have when radical ideologies and radical-sounding quotes are all that one wants to believe in. Or if one merely wants to escape from the task of thinking. Serious thinking.

Many of these non-believers in the idea of nation are admirers of “Imagine, no countries” idea of John Lennon. I also like Lennon. And I also like that particular song. But I love my nation too. I see no contradiction between the two. 

Let us think honestly for a minute here. Are we ready to be one world with no countries? Can you simply go anywhere in the world and live and work there without proper visa, proper permits etc? No. European Union may allow Europeans to do that, but will they allow the Indians, Bangladeshis, Indonesians or Nigerians? Heck, no! So how are we one world?

This maybe a very simplistic example to illustrate the point, but the point is to recognise that we aren’t ready to be one world yet, all equal, all happy, all singing John Lennon.

The world reality is very different.

We have yet to evolve to live in the ideal of One World, One Humanity. The nation is still the single largest collective aggregate that an individual is a part of. There is something akin to a soul-element in this entity called nation. It is up to the individual to recognise that soul of the nation. And because there is a divinity in nation, there is a need to defend the nation, as aggressively as required, from the mad and violent onslaught of the Asuric forces trying to break the integrity and unity of a nation.

Only from nationalism we can move to internationalism. The truth of nation as a real living collective unity can’t be denied just as the eternal truth of ONE humanity can’t be denied. But it is also true that only free and united nations can work toward united world. This is nature’s way.

“In India we do not recognise the nation as the highest synthesis to which we can rise. There is a higher synthesis, humanity; beyond that there is a still higher synthesis, this living, suffering, aspiring world of creatures, the synthesis of Buddhism; there is a highest of all, the synthesis of God, and that is the Hindu synthesis, the synthesis of Vedanta.” (Sri Aurobindo, Karmayogin)

Indian thought has never considered nationalism as the final spiritual shelter, but it has always said that before human beings are evolved to the level of seeing God in humanity, nation remains the last real collective unity.

Sadly, most of us humans aren’t anywhere evolved in our consciousness to see God in anyone, not even our immediate family, not even ourselves! To reach the highest ideals of Indian thought we have to do some serious work on ourselves. More to the point, if we can’t love our nation, without any expectation, do you think we can ever love humanity? From family to clan to tribe to nation to humanity – that is the way evolutionary principle works when it comes to loving and sacrificing for a human aggregate. 

“Nationalism is simply the passionate aspiration for the realisation of that Divine Unity in the nation, a unity in which all the component individuals, however various and apparently unequal their functions as political, social or economic factors, are yet really and fundamentally one and equal.” (Sri Aurobindo, Bande Mataram)


An important article, a guest post, is being serialised on our research blog, Matriwords. It is important because it speaks about the different forces trying to break India, the necessity to counter such forces, and what must be done to counter such forces. 

This series becomes doubly significant given some of the recent happenings in India. I hope some readers will take the time to go to Matriwords and read the guest-series titled, “India, Indology and Deep Colonialism”

To read more posts inspired by Current Events, click HERE.



28 thoughts on “Why Nationalism?

    1. “the fact that the same separatists and secessionists obviously believe in the ‘separate’ nation they say they are demanding – whether it is Kashmir or Bengal or Kerala or whatever.”

      Why is the author clubbing the Kashmir situation to Bengal and Kerala where no such demand exists? Unwittingly the author is creating more such thoughts in his/her mind and such concepts develop & thrive…

      1. Thanks for your comment. I am not creating anything out of thin air. The sloganeering that happened at JNU also included the calls for azadi of Bengal and Kerala. But even if we were to take out the specific names, the point still remains about the dangers of any secessionist movement. In an article meant to argue why there is a need for nationalism I think we should not get too narrowly focused on defending any regionalism 🙂

  1. One thought that came to mind is that it is very hard to think — for it takes a lot of our mental energies and focus on the pros and cons. I once had a colleague who would say in a bored voice, ‘Hamein sochne se parhez hai!’ He said it in a light-hearted way, but there is so much truth in it.

    When one has already made one’s mind about a certain position, say, ‘freedom of speech under threat’ it refuses to qualify that freedom and make our if something is harmful, distasteful or full of pathological hate. Added to that is the dilemma of selective freedom, which again depends on the position that one has taken. While one can’t think from such a rigid standpoint, assuming that one did think, it is bound to be flawed.

    It makes one feel so dispirited to see that we have lost pride in our nation per se, which makes it impossible for such hardened minds to look at it as an entity that needs to be defended for its sovereignty. Which is why the new theory of a borderless world. Ask US, that great ‘free’ country to erase its borders. Would it? Even the so called European Union has millions of differences amongst themselves. So why ask Indians to do it? It smacks of something other than liberalism for sure.

    Sri Aurobindo’s words are so true for the times. BTW, I loved your imagery of the whole world singing John Lennon’s song! 🙂 Thanks for that smile you put on my face today with that line!

    1. My thought process is rather simple in this case – if you speak for destruction or breaking up of India, you have committed a serious crime against the nation-state of India and you must be prepared to pay the price! No ifs and buts about it. All those who support the Umar Khalids or Kanhaiya Kumars should clearly understand what they are supporting – sedition.

      I have a simple question for these Khalids and Kumars and their journalists friends – why were they sleeping for two years? Wasn’t Afzal executed in 2013? For 2 years, they didn’t think of ‘celebrating’ his ‘martyrdom’, why? Why now? In 2016? Just before the budget session of parliament? Too much stink there.

      I am surprised (perhaps I shouldn’t be) to see so many educated Indians falling prey to the media created propaganda that this is all about dissent. As I see it, the whole issue is not at all about dissent or freedom of speech. It can never be. The law is very clear on that. Sedition is not covered under freedom of speech. Indian constitution doesn’t allow absolute freedom of speech. All these bogus arguments have been created by sections of the media and politicians who are in it for their own sinister, selfish agendas. Some political parties are simply unable to bear their electoral loss in 2014 and they have gone crazy, I think! They are very deliberately fanning all sorts of wrong fires to destabilize the country, to stop any positive developmental work from happening. Did you notice how all this JNU episode happened during the Make in India week celebration?

      I think your friend was absolutely right – hamein sochne se parhez hai. And it saddens me to think – how long will our country have to keep paying for this bad habit of non-thinking of her children?

      1. Everything is selective, opportunistic and done with an eye on the vote bank. If not today then next year or the next. Somehow the hatred is turning sane people into unthinking ones who see the government as the cause of the disruption, What they fail to see is that those who want India to wallow in the pits are seeing to it that nothing succeeds and are on their toes finding things to fling at the government and stall progress. Yes, the timing is well calculated and the orchestration of the protest by ‘kids’ (can’t digest that part) as the latest agenda is so transparent. The thing is, those who are doing it are so sure of themselves that they don’t even attempt to hide it anymore. The latest proof is the show cause notice to one of the Congress functionaries in Haryana for inciting riots, by the party itself.

  2. I see nothing but Politics here. For those born in India and by the logic that this country has given them shelter – there are some basic things are are expected. Terrorists needs to be call terrorists. Activism for death penalty is one thing and activism to tag a terrorist, a martyr is another.
    Well thought out post Beloo.

    1. Thanks Parul for reading and for sharing your perspective. It is certainly beyond my understanding why the whole anti-death penalty lobby in India wakes up ONLY when it has to do with the execution of a convicted terrorist, like Yakub or Afzal. The former got a due process of law with a trial that lasted more than 22 years, and the latter got a trial of 8 years. But no, for some sinister minds no rule of law, not even a Supreme Court judgment doesn’t mean anything! It makes me wonder then why they even care to call themselves Indian if nothing Indian is acceptable to them, not even judiciary. I am all for questioning, critical questioning of established system and its rigidities, but it has to be done in an intellectually honest way, not with the help of a radical and politicised rhetoric. What makes me sad in this whole episode is that the young minds of India have become victims of ruthless indoctrination and propaganda carried out by highly devious and divisive ideologues.

  3. You ask people to ‘think seriously’? People don’t want to think. Specially when an issue has been muddled up the way this has been. Do you think any one but a scant handful would have stood for this nonsense in the last generation? They saw independence being fought for during their lives. They saw the price we paid for our freedom. Would they have stood by and let some talk about breaking up India?

    I wonder what my mother would have said! Show would have been infuriated!

    1. You know, I keep thinking back of the tears of Gen. Bakshi on that youtube clip I saw last week. No right-minded Indian will be able to control his/her tears at seeing a soldier like him break down like that. And yet we have people trying to come up with fancy arguments like FoE and what not to defend such secessionist slogan-bazi! Maybe I am way too un-cool but that’s how I would rather be than an un-thinking stooge in the hands of forces out to destroy my country! I am sure your mother would have approved of our ‘un-cool’ stance 🙂

  4. I think it is positive to be nationalistic – meaning to be proud of the positive sides of your nation, culture, history, beliefs, tradition etc. BUT the negative appears the minute people start to say that one nation, culture, people, tradition is better than another… And be humble towards other ways than our own. Also here in Europe there has been fights for nation – even my own granddad was in the resistance during WWII – we should never take all those sacrifices for granted. Freedom is a fragile thing… Interesting to read about the perspective from you and India:-) Thanks Beloo- I enjoyed this read:-)

    1. Thanks Eli for reading and your thoughtful comment. True love for one’s country is never chauvinistic or exclusive. It not only accepts the various flaws, weaknesses and negatives that are there in one’s own country and contributes constructively to addressing these problems, but it also accepts, respects and honours that the world is full of immense diversity of people, cultures, traditions, nations, each moving to fulfill their own potential strengths and work with their negatives and weaknesses in their own way. World needs mutual interdependence, not conflict. True love for one’s country can help humanity move in that direction of healthy interdependence, I think.
      And I agree completely, freedom is indeed a fragile thing can’t be and should not be taken for granted.

  5. I feel if you are born in a nation, you ought to respect the cultures and values of the same. If you go against them, that is your wish, but that doesn’t give you the right to fight the others…you live and let others live as well!

    1. Thanks Alok for sharing your thought. This is the least one can expect from a true nationalist – respecting the culture and civilisation of the land. Sadly what we are seeing among some sections of India is this tendency to impose a certain divisive ideological ‘Idea of India’ that is deeply hostile to the timeless and integral civilisational view of India. This divisive force needs to be disarmed.

  6. Nationalism should not be petty sentiments wrought by perverted politicians who have axes to grind. Today in India nationalism has become an industry too with certain TV anchors peddling it like some special swimwear.

    1. I don’t watch TV news, but in this case watched a few clips on youtube. I have an idea what particular TV anchors you are referring to. I hope you realise that his colleagues also abused him left and right for taking a certain stand. If this is not intellectual extermism, then I don’t know what is. Where is his freedom of expression, I ask?

      I will not address your comment regarding ‘perverted politicians’ because I refuse to make this into a political debate. The politicians are doing a good job of it – on ALL sides.

      I wrote this piece as a concerned citizen of India. For me, nationalism is an emotion of the heart. For me, India is not only a mere piece of land, Tiranga is not only a piece of cloth. India is a living, breathing entity, with a soul, a Shakti, a Mother. And it is that love for my country that inspired me to write this post.

      Thanks for reading.

  7. You are right – any kind of thinking requires intellectual honesty and sincerity. Sadly, that is not what most people can commit to these days. This is the day and age where opinions are formed by tweets of under 140 characters. The result – a divided, indifferent mass of people. It pains me to read the news from India, and I am worried as to where we are headed as a country.

    Last night I saw Smriti’s YouTube video, and I do not know what was the dominant emotion that I felt – anger/anguish/worry about the state of affairs, or pride at existence of such a honest, fearless soul in the government with her head, and her heart in the right place.

    1. Oh I agree, everyone is busy forming opinions not only on issues but also about people professing a certain opinion simply based on those 140 characters 🙂 Nobody wants to take the time or trouble to research, to study different points of view. That’s what is so depressing about the present situation, esp in India which was once the land of knowledge and wisdom.

      I can empathise with your mixed emotions regarding Smriti Irani’s speech. I had some of these same emotions too. And to tell you the truth, I also cried when she recited Vajpayee’s poem at the end. Because that’s what India in her essence is. Not just a piece of land, but a spirit, a living soul. And it is that faith in the truth of Indian soul that gives me hope for India’s future despite all the present chaos and nonsense. These are the necessary birthing pains for a new Indian civilisation’s renewal. These could last a while, but nothing can stop what has already been destined. That’s how I feel.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Shantala. Much appreciate it.

  8. We are divided on too many things. I by habit greet my friends and acquaintances with jai Hind!! people new to me in beginning reply to me withRam Ram, Sat shri akal, aadaab and so on. it takes them a while to revert with Jai Hind.

    1. Thank you for sharing your thought, Sharat. India’s inner cultural unity is at a much deeper level and it is very important, especially now, that all of us Indians regardless of our outer identities and ideological differences begin to experience that sense of oneness, that unity within ourselves. Jai Hind!

  9. “In his historic and immortal Uttarpara speech, Sri Aurobindo, unequivocally said how he realised what the Hindu religion, Sanatana Dharma, meant. For Sri Aurobindo, and one hopes Bose may be in a position to publicly quote this some day, “This Hindu nation was born with the Sanatana Dharma, with it, it moves, and with it, it grows. When the Sanatana Dharma declines, then the nation declines, and if the Sanatana Dharma were capable of perishing, with the Sanatana Dharma it would perish. The Sanatana Dharma that is nationalism…”

    “For Sri Aurobindo, the ideal was “an Indian Nationalism, largely Hindu in its spirit and traditions, because the Hindu made the land and the people and persists, by the greatness of his past, his civilisation and his culture and his invincible virility, in holding it, but wide enough also to include the Moslem and his culture and traditions and absorb them into itself”.

    “From a comprehensive reading of the vast corpus he has left behind, one aspect clearly emerges in Sri Aurobindo’s vision of India: It had no place for pseudo-secularism, vote-bank politics and repudiation of Bharatiya civilisation. Sri Aurobindo himself, while being the inveterate nationalist, was also the quintessential internationalist, yet his internationalism was not a rootless cosmopolitanism; it was anchored in the very spirit and soul of, as he himself would perhaps say, Sanatana Dharma.”

  10. “I am guiding, therefore fear not. Turn to your own true work and remember never to fear, never to hesitate. Remember that it is I who am doing this, not you nor any other. Therefore whatever clouds may come, whatever dangers and sufferings, whatever difficulties, whatever impossibilities, there is nothing impossible, nothing difficult. I am in the nation and its uprising and I am Vasudeva, I am Narayana, and what I will, shall be, not what others will. What I choose to bring about, no human power can stay.”
    Krishna to Sri Aurobindo, in Alipore Jail.

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