What Makes a Nation Immortal? – Part 2

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The philosophy of our forefathers looked through the gross body of things and discovered a subtle body within, looked through that and found yet another more deeply hidden, and within the third body discovered the Source of life and form, seated for ever, unchanging and imperishable. What is true of the individual object, is true also of the general and universal. What is true of the man, is true also of the nation.

~ Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 7, p. 1115


We may compare with profit perhaps in this regard the life of an individual person with that of a people or nation.

Even as an individual has a soul beyond his body and mind, a spiritual personality behind his apparent name and form, a nation too has a soul apart from its political, economic and cultural life. As in the individual, in the aggregate too a spiritual principle seeks to express and incarnate itself.

It is this immortal reality in the individual man that reincarnates in life after life surviving apparent death and disintegration. But only those individuals that live consciously a soul-life, express to some extent at least the soul’s light in and through the external personality of a mind and body and vitality and maintain a true individuality and a strong and durable forma­tion through the lives; otherwise, the soul is there no doubt, but in its own world, exerts only a very indirect influence and the rest of the personality, the dynamic members disintegrate and are taken up into the general earth atmosphere.

Something of the same kind is likely to happen in the case of collective groups too. A nation like India that hitched her wagon of life to a star—the supreme spiritual reality—is bound to regain her life always through whatever calamities and catastrophes might befall her.

Rebirths in India’s Life History

One may note three or four crises, practically rebirths, in India’s life history. They correspond roughly with the great racial infiltrations or what is described as such by anthropologists, what others may describe as operations of blood transfusion.

There was an original autochthonous people, the early humanity out of the stone age, usually called proto-Dravidians, whose remnants are still found among the older and cruder aboriginal tribes. Then the Dravidian infusion which culminated in the humanity, the Indian humanity, of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro. Next the Aryan avatar. One usually begins Indian history with the Dravido-Aryan civilisation which is taken as the basic foundation, the general layout of the whole structure.

The first shock or blow the edifice received was from the Greeks and then the Huns and Scythians—the Tartars—something that struck at the most essential element of Indian culture and character. Psychologically the new leaven was brought in and injected by Gautama Buddha—the un-Vedic Buddha—the external invasion and penetration was possible because of this opening already made from within. This injection was necessary as an antidote to the decline and fall that had set in sometime between the passing of Sri Krishna and the advent of Buddha. But traditional India absorbed this new leaven and came out with a renewed and enriched personality.

The next major shaking came with the Islamic inundation. This meant or would have meant a great and even catastrophic reversal, but this too in the course of centuries succeeded only in invigorating and enlarging the life and consciousness of eternal India.

The last and perhaps the most dangerous assault came from the Europeans, the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French and finally, most of all, from the British. An absolutely matter-of-fact vitalistic Europe overran and overwhelmed a predominantly otherworldly spirit and almost succeeded in obliterating that spirit and replacing it by a replica of its own life-pattern and Weltanschauung. Even such a blow India could survive, not only so, could utilise it for her own purpose, for the greater fulfilment of her mission in life. She is coming out of that ordeal a towering personality, a godhead for the remoulding of humanity and earth-life.

It may be argued that all nations and peoples are a mixture of various races and foreign strands which are gradually, soldered and unified together in course of time. The British nation, for example, is built upon a base of Celtic blood and culture (the original Briton), to which were added one by one the German (Angles and the Saxon), the Danish, the French. But what is to be noted is that the resultant is at the end something very different from the start—something unrecognisable when compared with the original pattern and genius. The resultant seems to be arrived at not by a gradual evolution and continuous transformation but by disparate echelons or breaks, as it were, in the line.

In France also or in Italy the growth and the unification were achieved through violent revolutions, eruptions and irruptions. In the former, a Gaelic and Iberian base and in the latter an Etruscan were all but swept off by the Roman rule which again saw its end at the hand of the Barbarians.

The history of Greece offers a typical picture of the destiny of these peoples. Her life-line is sundered completely at three different epochs giving us not one but three different personalities or peoples: at the outset there was the original classical Greece, then the first and milder although sufficiently serious break came with the Roman conquest; the second catastrophic change was wrought by the Goths and Vandals which was stabilised in the Byzantine Empire and the third avatar appeared with the Turkish regime. At the present time, she is acquiring another life and body.

Indeed, viewed from this angle, the whole conscious personality of Europe seems to have been cut across by such hiatuses, two or three of them of a serious kind. Upon a primitive and mythologic stratum was laid the Graeco-Roman and then there was a strong Hebraic or Old Testament influence, finally the known Christian or New Testament element; to that must be added the modern New Enlightenment, that is to say, of Science and Rationalism and Materialism.

These several strands have not been welded or harmonised together very well. They are very often at variance with each other and combating each other. It is this schizophrenia that lies at the bottom of European malady. Europe has not been able to develop a wholly unified or one-pointed spiritual personality. On the other hand, it has developed very well-defined and sharply separated nations in its bosom, a sign and resultant of the lack of complete integration.

India has sometimes been spoken of as a continent consisting of many and varied nations, and not as a unified nation, she being more like Europe than a particular nation like England or France. We may answer that India possesses a more unified soul than Europe and that is why her sub-nations do not stand out in any intransigent separativeness like the nations in Europe.

Even Asia possesses a more unified and integrated soul-personality than Europe; for, as I have said, her peoples stand upon a deeper strand of life and consciousness, something that is in contact with and is inspired by the Spiritual truth and reality. It is more so in India, where one has the very emblem and exemplar of this spiritual unity and the spiritual personality that derives from there.

A nation or people then possesses or is composed of several souls or several layers of an oversoul. Even like the individual it has a physical soul, that is to say, a body consciousness, a vital soul, a mental soul and finally the true or inmost soul, the oversoul. When one lives in any of the inferior souls, one has precarious and disintegrated life—whether it is a nation or an individual. It is only when one is conscious of one’s inmost self, then only the person or the people can attain some kind of immortality, the power of rejuvenation in those external parts—the mental, vital and physical—that make up the terrestrial life and that are ever subject to decline, decay and death.

A nation, however, that has achieved something, created something, made a strong formation in the mental or in the vital world may die physically, but the formation, the creation, the achievement remains and continues to be alive in the terrestrial atmosphere, in the general consciousness of man.

Ancient Greece is dead, Augustan Rome is gone, but the mind of light that Greece brought into play, the cast of social character that Rome established are among the permanent acquisitions of human culture and civilisation. They have gone into the making of the warp and woof of the standard human life today.

Apart, however, from this general survival, could there be a reappearance of the very soul of a nation in another nation, in the same way as an individual soul reincarnates itself in another individual body?

That question is asked, as sometimes it has been suggested, from certain significant and striking similarities, that ancient Greece incarnated in modern France and that there is a Roman stamp in the British nation. The possibility may not be altogether ruled out of court. But still it must be understood that the two phenomena are not quite identical, there is a difference in nature and kind.

Rebirth in the sense of reincarnation is especially an individual phenomenon, the individual forming a divine centre, a focus of consciousness which the group is not; the group is more a field and a frame for the individual in spite of a conscious existence of its own.

In any case, the revival or renaissance of a nation—a collective consciousness and being—is quite possible, and the normal curve of life—birth and growth and death—is not even for it the ineluctable destiny. For like the individual, the group too has that in it or the possibility of that in it which is akin, to—an isotope of—the soul or self, the immortal conscious being.

~ Collected Works of Nolini Kanta Gupta, Vol. 1, pp. 238-246

READ: Part 1


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