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Chapter 1

Indian Nationalism and Hindu Consciousness

What we have just said about creedal and non-creedal religions, leads us to the statement which can be considered as the main thesis of this essay: Hinduism is the national religion of India, and there is no real India besides Hindu India.

We know, there are people in India, nowadays, (and, unfortunately, not merely among the non-Hindus) who are ready to criticise this statement. They tell us that “religion is a personal concern; why should not every Indian follow the one he pleases? That has nothing to do with his national feelings.” They tell us that “in all civilised countries, nationality and religion are two separate entities.” They tell us that, “in Japan, for instance — the most progressive country of Asia — people of the same family may frequent different temples, belong to different religions, and yet be united.” And they add: “In India, why should it not be the same?”

All these remarks presuppose the same fundamental confusion of the two entirely different meanings of the word “religion,” that is to say, creed and culture. They are perfectly justified as long as one speaks of “religion” as a creed. They do not hold,


when “religion” means a culture and a civilisation, without any special creed, which is the case with Hinduism.

Religion is a personal concern. That is true if, by “religion,” you mean a spiritual path. No Hindu will deny that paths leading to the realisation of one’s soul are infinite in number. None either will deny that creeds also may be contrary, and yet all true, for truth has contrary aspects; that, in the same family, one can worship a personal God, another, a number of Gods and Goddesses, and a third one, no God at all, and yet, all three may be united in the most perfect brotherhood. It is only those who believe that one only creed is true, while all the others are false and harmful, who can insist on forcing the same faith upon the whole world. But the Hindus never shared this belief.

As far as religion means a path to salvation, to “realisation of one’s inner self,” to “Godhood,” etc., not only it should be, but it always is, in fact, separate from nationality, and beyond the interference of State. Even in the case of a religion supposed to unite all its followers on the basis of a common creed, the spiritual path that each one takes, is different, and outside State control; for it is psychologically impossible for different people to “realise” the truth, expressed by the same dogmas, in exactly the same way. The most an autocratic State can do, if it must poke its nose into religious matters, (“religious” meaning spiritual, or even merely metaphysical), is to force unto the people the exterior acceptance of the same dogmas, under threat of punishment. That is what Christian States have tried in Europe, during


the days of the Holy Inquisition. And that is the limit of what can be tried. It has proved a failure; for never an entire nation of so-called Christians has been united in the same faith, (in the same creed), not to speak of the same inexpressible realisation of God. If you only just examine the personal faith of a few Christians of the same nationality, you will easily be convinced of the truth of this statement.

In the “civilised” countries where “religion” and nationality, Church and State, are supposed to be separate, creed and nationality are separate, and always were, inspite of infructuous efforts to establish State dogmas. But culture and nationality are not separate; civilisation and nationality are not, and never will be.

Nowadays, a Frenchman who is a Catholic and a Frenchman who is a Theosophist, and another one who is a Seventh Day Adventist, are all three Frenchmen, not merely because they all speak French and have the same French ancestors, and live on the same soil. They are all three French because, inspite of minor differences (the Theosophist may be a vegetarian and the Catholic a meat-eater; their opinions may also differ, concerning the nature of God), they share common daily thoughts, common habits; a common way of dressing, of sitting, of furnishing their houses; some common standardised ideas about literature, art, music, science; in one word, that what we call “French culture” and “French civilisation.”

French culture is not a religion, for sure. But it is an aspect of the broader and more complex “European culture” and “European civilisation” which is that


culture and civilisation that developed in the West of Europe, under the double influence of Christianity and Rationalism. We cannot call it Christian culture and civilisation, for Christianity alone has not produced it. And though the part played in its development by Christianity is great, no doubt, it is difficult to determine. Christianity being a “creed” before anything else, could not be the only factor in this huge creation of this world.

The fact that “religion” means (at least in the modern East), culture and civilisation as well as personal creed, misguides us when we bring forth, as an example of progress, the countries where “Church and State” are separate. If “Church,” if “religion,” is taken in its later sense, that of civilisation and culture, then, religion and State, or, better say, religion and society, are separate nowhere, not even in the West. Just try to imagine the case of a Frenchman who would live entirely, in his daily life, according to Mohammadan lines! The case is not impossible. But the gentleman, inspite of his European face and of his ancestry, would no longer be a Frenchman. He would be some sort of non-European, exiled in France.

The example of the creedal toleration of Japan, is as fallacious as that of the modern States of Europe. It may be that, in some Japanese families, from the point of view of creed, two brothers are Buddhists, a third one Christian, and a fourth one, a faithful observer of Shintoic rites (which implies no creed). That is to be said about the four men, as spiritual beings or as thinkers: two believe in the Buddha, in the Law, and in the Community; one, in Christ; and


the other one may be an agnostic, or anything else. But, as social beings, they all live in the same way, think according to the same standards, share the same culture; as Japanese, they can all four be said followers of Shinto. Theirs is the smiling and heroic civilisation that Shinto thought and custom have brought forth. The sanctity of the Emperor is as great to the so-called Christian as to the faithful observer of the national rites. Moreover, the Christian himself will not hesitate to take part in a public function, performed according to Shinto rites, as a member of the nation. And, just as the rest of his compatriots, Shintoists, Buddhists, or whatever they may be, he bears a Japanese name — not a “Christian” one, which would be a foreign one, whether imported from Portugal or from America, or directly from the Bible, that is to say, from Palestine.

* * *

Variety of faiths is no hindrance to the formation of nationality, or to the solidity of national unity. And we repeat: in no civilised nations do all the citizens understand religion in the same way exactly, even if they profess the same creed, (religion meaning a path to spiritual knowledge).

But no nation can grow out of the patch-work binding together two or more civilisations. The very idea of common nationality, and the idea of pertaining to different cultures and civilisations, are contradictory. We cannot say: a French Catholic and a French Theosophist are both French, therefore why should a Hindu Indian and a Musulman Indian not be


two Indians? This presumption of an analogy between the two cases, is as fallacious as the statements referred to above, about “Church and State.” There is such a thing as French civilisation and culture, which is neither Theosophical, nor strictly Catholic. But there is no such thing as an Indian civilisation, which is neither Hindu nor Musulman. And just as France, just as Japan, just as any nation in the world, if India is to be a nation, she must have one civilisation, one culture, not half a dozen.

And the only civilisation for all India is Hindu civilisation. The only culture for all India is Hindu culture. Indian national consciousness is nothing else but Hindu national consciousness, strengthened, enlightened, broadened.


We have said that, in no country which is really a nation, two or more civilisations coexist. But it is undeniable that some (and even most) nations, have gone through two or more civilisations, one after the other. Christian Catholic Italy is not the Italy of the Caesars, however, she may be proud of all what Pagan Rome was. It is Italy still, to us, who have not known the former Italy directly. Nobody can tell what an ancient Roman would think of his country, if he came back. Nobody can tell what Hypatia would think of her Greeks, if she came back. In her days of struggle between the old Greek civilisation, with its Gods and its philosophies, and the new one, based upon Byzantine Christianity, the Pagans alone were honoured with the name of “Hellenes,” that is to say: “Greeks,” and of “Ethnikoi” that is to say: “nationals.” The Christians were simply called Christians,


without any distinction of race or country. Now, the inspired champion of Hellenic Paganism would find that “Hellen” and “Christianos” have become synonymous. Byzantine Christianity, (or, better say, Byzantine Christian civilisation, grown in the union of State and Church) has given Greece a new national consciousness.

But a new national consciousness, based upon a new civilisation, with a new mythology at its background, can only grow, in a nation, when the old one is dead. The old one must die first. Take the case of Greece: not until the last man bearing witness of the greatness of Greek Paganism had passed away, styled by his Christian countrymen as “Greek” and as “National,” could the Christian Greeks feel themselves Christians and Greeks, and boast of their Church as of a national Church, and forget that their religion had come from a foreign land.

In the same way, even if we admit, for sake of argument, that there can be a genuine Indian national consciousness with Islam at its background, we must remember that it is not until the last Hindu Indian comes to pass away, that such a consciousness can rise.

The least one can say is that this possibility is very remote.

* * *

It is one thing to read about one’s former national religion in a text-book, and it is quite a different thing to see it, living all around, with sounds and colours, in daily life.


Christian Italy and Christian Greece can easily have a national consciousness of themselves as “Christian” countries. Their people know about their beautiful ancestral Paganism through two things only: through books and through ruins. But no written description and no gorgeous remains whatsoever eloquent, can be as eloquent as living life.

Indian Mohammadans and Christians have the sight of the national Paganism which they have forsaken, daily before their eyes; not in books and works of art alone, but in the millions of Hindu brethren in the midst of whom they themselves move about. In vain their Indian ancestry and their Indian tongue remain important factors, which could, under other circumstances, create in them an Indian nationalism. What is India? And who is an Indian? Above the entrance of one of the great libraries of Athens, one can read these words: “Are Greeks, those who share our culture.” Are Indians also, first of all, those who share Indian culture and Indian civilisation. And, as long as there is a single Hindu family performing, to a certain extent, the ancient rites, living according to Hindu lines, and creating, wherever it is, a Hindu atmosphere, non-Hindu Indian nationalism is inconceivable. The Hindus, however few they may be, will keep on saying to the non-Hindus, by the fact of their very presence: “We represent India; not you. Therefore India is ours, not yours.”

And they will be right. India is theirs, because they alone are India.

The Indian Mohammadans themselves can realise, half-consciously, the fact of Hinduism being the only


Indian civilisation and culture. That is perhaps why they like to imagine that their ancestors were all immigrants from Persia or Arabia. This claim is absurd. The Mohammadan population of only one district in Bengal (Mymensingh) is more than half the total population of Arabia. In fact, practically all the Musulmans of India are the descendants of converts from Hinduism. They are Indians by blood, no doubt. But to feel: “We are Indians” would mean, to admit that beautiful Hindu culture is theirs also. Then, perhaps, many would feel like coming back to the still numerous fold, and sharing the national life once more, with their Hindu brethren. But their religion, being a creedal one, is naturally intolerant. Non-Musulmans must be looked upon as “heathen,” and everything “heathen” must be rejectable — everything, including Indian nationalism, that is to say, the consciousness of unity with “heathen” people, on the basis of a common “heathen” civilisation and culture. Moreover, the Hindu brethren will not take them back in their society. So it is better for them, to say, like the fox in the fable, that “the grapes are sour;” it is better to call themselves the descendants of Arabs and Persians, and to feel themselves one with the Mohammadan countries outside India. There is a lesser possibility for some of them to be tempted, sooner or later, to prefer India to Islam; and a lesser possibility also, for those who may be tempted already, if any, to fall into temptation, and meet with bitter disappointments in daily life.


* * *

Hinduism, taken not as any particular Hindu philosophy, neither as any particular spiritual path, but as Hindu culture and civilisation as a whole, is not merely India’s national religion (“religion” meaning, here, both culture, civilisation and cult), but it is also the only religion which can remake India a strong glorious nation — a World power. It is the only religion which can become, more and more, the very expression of Indian nationalism.

First of all, Hinduism has developed in India. All its immense mythology (the most important part of it, for those who are not merely intellectuals; and how many are intellectuals wholesale?) is closely linked with the Indian soil. Its Gods and Goddesses are, no doubt, world-forces, philosophically, but practically, socially, they are Indians. Most Indians cannot realise yet what an advantage it is for them, as a nation, to be the compatriots of their Gods and Goddesses.

Every country is sacred to those who love it. But India is the field of worldly play, (lila kshetra,) of all those Gods, Goddesses, Rishis and Incarnations, whom the Hindu Scriptures speak about, of whom the Hindu children know the names and the marvellous stories; to whom incense is burnt, and flowers offered, in the Hindu temples, shrines, and homes. And this gives to India’s sacredness a religious sanction. The love of an Indian for his soil (if that Indian be a Hindu), is not an ordinary patriotism, like that of an Englishman or a Frenchman. It is also reverence for the land of the Gods.

An Englishman may certainly love his England. But if he is a Christian, he must be feeling that Palestine, where his Lord was born, and preached,


and died, is still more holy than England can ever be. If he would go on a religious pilgrimage, it would be to Jerusalem, outside England, not to any place in England. The same with a Frenchman, or any modern European. But just as an ancient Greek used to have his sacred places in Greece, a modern Hindu has still his sacred places within the boundaries of his motherland. Wherever he may go on a pilgrimage, may it be to Benares, to Mathura, to Gangotri or to Rameswaram, he will remain in India, in contact with his own soil. An Indian Mohammadan has to look abroad, to the most sacred spots on earth. So has an Indian Christian. A Hindu enjoys the privilege of regarding his own India, not only as the most beloved or as the most beautiful, but also as the most holy Land on earth.

* * *

Secondly, it is through Hinduism alone that one can realise India’s unity, as a territory and as a civilisation.

So many different provinces, which are, each one, large enough and different enough from one another to be separate nations. So many different languages, each one with its own evolution, its literature and its pride. So many different sceneries, and different climates, including both equatorial and polar. But, broadly speaking, one type of society, one common civilisation; the same festivities, the same sacred language, the same places of pilgrimage within the limits of the same great India.

Several have said, nowadays, that it is the


Europeans who have taught the Indians nationalism, indirectly; that India had never felt herself a nation, before the late struggle undertaken against British domination. This is difficult to believe, in the light of Hindu legend. Long centuries before any foreigner had settled in India, the unity of the country was materialised in symbols. What more suggestive story than that, for instance, of Sati, Siva’s wife, whose body, divided, after her death, in fifty-one pieces, is lying still in fifty-one different places, therefore revered as “tirthasthans,” throughout the Indian Peninsula? One lies near Peshawar, one in Kamakhya, not far from India’s eastern boundaries; one in Benares, one in the very extreme South, others here and there. Fifty-one pieces, but one body; fifty-one “tirthasthans” in the name of the same Goddess, scattered over the same territory. Indeed, among the different interpretations that can be given of the legend of Sati, one can take it in this light: Sati is India herself, personified; India’s soil, sacred from end to end, is, with all its variety, the actual body of one great Goddess.

The consciousness of Indian unity is nothing else but this feeling. And Indian nationalism means: devotion to this great Goddess.

That is why, besides the Hindus, no one can share it. Whoever really shares it is a Hindu.

* * *

For, last but not least, there is no other religion which can be used as a basis of Indian patriotism, like that of the Hindus; no other religion which can create and


magnify nationalism in an Indian heart. And, as nothing is more necessary to India, today, than a strong national consciousness and national pride, we add: nothing is more necessary, today, than to revive, to exalt, to cultivate intelligent Hinduism, throughout the length and breadth of India.

No doubt, the Christian nations of Europe are full of patriotic pride. No doubt also, the spirit of war is not what is lacking in them. Yet, they are supposed to be Christian.

But they are not Christian, in spirit. Christianity is a creed for the uplift of individuals; not a civilisation upon which nations can be built. No nation built upon real Christian doctrine could live, in the midst of historical conditions. It is in collaboration with Christian Churches, that are organisations of this world, and not with Christianity, which is spiritual, that the so-called Christian nations have thrived. And their whole history is in flagrant contradiction with the spirit of Christianity. Not merely Christianity, but any religion which is based upon a creed, supposed to be “truth” for all men, is in conflict with nationalism.

Greeks are Christians, and so are Bulgarians. They even belong to the same Church. And Christians are supposed to love one another. Yet, if war breaks out between Greece and Bulgaria, the Greek Christian priests will bless the arms which are to carry death among the Bulgarians, and the Bulgarian Christian priests will also bless the arms which are to kill the Greeks. French and Germans are also Christians. Yet, if war breaks out between them, each nation will pray to the same God — a God of love — for its victory


over the other. Nothing is more inconsistent, because they are supposed to be Christian nations. Had they not been so, nothing would have been more natural. But Christianity itself is not natural. And the growth of Europe, with different Church-civilisations at its background, has taken place inspite of Christianity, not according to Christianity.

Any Christian who feels himself nearer to an Atheist of his own country than to a Christian from a foreign land, is not a real Christian. Nay, any follower of a creedal religion who is a nationalist at the same time, is utterly inconsistent. One cannot serve two masters. One cannot put God first, and also one’s Nation first . . . unless the religion he professes is of such a type, that Nation and God can be taken as the same. This is not the case with Christianity and Islam. But this is the case with Hinduism. Therefore, it can be said that Hinduism is not only the religion which has developed in India, and which gives a living illustration of India’s unity in variety. It is also the religion which, owing to its very outlook, to its very tenets, gives India the basis of a consistent nationalism, entirely in harmony with the spirit of its cult.

* * *

To a pantheistic minded Hindu, God (if He exists) not distinct from Nature, from what we call the visible world. The visible is only a relative expression of the Invisible. And therefore, every path leads finally to God. Through everything we love and worship, we, in fact, love and worship God. Nothing


else can possibly be loved but God, through various forms, and names, and symbols.

There is a lovely story concerning Sri Ramkrishna Paramhamsa. One day, a childless widow came to visit the great saint. She asked him what to do to actually see Lord Krishna, for whom she professed a great devotion. The saint asked her whom did she love the best in this world. And when she answered: “My brother’s young son,” he said unto her: “Keep on loving him, and love him still more. Keep his sight constantly before your eyes; serve him and love him. And soon, in that little child, you will actually see the One who used to play, years and years ago, in the fields of Vrindavan.” She did what she was told and saw Krishna, in the garb of her little nephew.

In the same way, among the Hindus, all fundamental natural feelings are magnified, exalted, sanctified through religion. Love and service to one’s husband is love and service to one’s God. A husband is God, visible and tangible. Love and service to one’s own mother is love and service to the Mother of the Universe. Every mother is Mother Kali, personified.

What is, then, more natural for a Hindu, than to consider his greater mother — Mother India — as another broader and more lasting expression of the Dark-blue Goddess? What is more natural than to feel that love and service to India, is love and service to that infinite Mother worshipped in temples? What is more natural than to erect temples, like that “Bharat-Mata ka Mandir” of Benares, where incense is burnt in front of a map of India?

On the Diwali day, the girls of the Arya Kanya Maha Vidyalaya of Jullundur (Punjab) draw a large


map of India upon the ground of the school courtyard; they set lights in a row, all along its outlines, and then, standing around it, they sing “Vande Mataram,” and other patriotic songs. They are right, and perfectly consistent with the spirit of the national religion. And no cult, besides Hinduism, can promote in India that beautiful devotional nationalism, that revival, on an immense scale, of the spirit of “Ananda Math,” which is the thing, the only basic thing that present India needs to uplift herself as a nation, and become free, and great once more.