(June 19, 1909, On Nationalism, pp.377-381)
THE KARMAYOGIN comes into the field to fulfil a function which an increasing tendency in the country demands. The life of the nation which once flowed in a broad and single stream has long been severed into a number of separate meagre and shallow channels. The two main floods have followed the paths of religion and politics, but they have flowed separately. Our political activity has crept in a channel cut for it by European or Europeanised minds; it tended always to a superficial wideness, but was deficient in depth and volume. The national genius, originality, individuality poured itself into religion, while our politics were imitative and unreal. Yet without a living political activity national life cannot, under modern circumstances, survive. So also there has been a stream of social life, more and more muddied and disturbed, seeking to get clearness, depth, largeness, freedom, but always failing and increasing in weakness or distraction. There was a stream too of industrial life, faint and thin, the poor survival of the old vigorous Indian artistic and industrial capacity murdered by unjust laws and an unscrupulous trade policy. All these ran in disconnected channels, sluggish, scattered and ineffectual. The tendency is now for these streams to unite again into one mighty invincible and grandiose flood. To assist that tendency, to give voice and definiteness to the deeper aspirations now forming obscurely within the national consciousness is the chosen work of the Karmayogin.
There is no national
life perfect or sound without the caturvarnya. The
life of the nation must contain within itself the life of the Brahmin, — spirituality,
knowledge, learning, high and pure ethical aspiration and endeavour; the life
of the Kshatriya, — manhood
and strength moral and physical, the love of battle, the thirst for glory, the
sense of honour, chivalry, self-devotion, generosity, grandeur of soul; the
life of the Vaishya, — trade,
industry, thrift, prosperity, benevolence, philanthropy; the life of the
Shudra, — honesty,
simplicity, labour, religious and quiet service to the nation even in the
humblest position and the most insignificant kind of work. The cause of
All this is, let us say,
a parable. It is more than a parable, it is a great truth. But our
educated class have become so unfamiliar with the deeper knowledge of their
forefathers that it has to be translated into modern European terms before they
can understand it. For it is the European ideas alone that are real to them and
the great truths of Indian thought seem to them mere metaphors, allegories and
mystic parables. So well has British education done its fatal denationalising
The Brahmin stands for religion, science, scholarship and
the higher morality; the Kshatriya for war, politics and administration; the
Vaishya for the trades, professions and industries, the Shudra for labour and
service. It is only when these four great departments
of human activity are all in a robust and flourishing condition that the nation
is sound and great. When any of these disappear or suffer, it is bad for
the body politic. And the two highest are the least
easy to be spared. If they survive in full strength, they can provide
themselves with the two others, but if either the Kshatriya or the Brahmin go, if either the political
force or the spiritual force of a nation is lost, that nation is doomed unless it can revive or replace the missing strength. And of the two the Brahmin is the more important. He can always create the Kshatriya; spiritual force can always raise up material force to defend it. But if the Brahmin becomes the Shudra, then the lower instinct of the serf and the labourer becomes all in all, the instinct to serve and seek a living as one supreme object of life, the instinct to accept safety as a compensation for lost greatness and inglorious ease and dependence in place of the ardours of high aspiration for the nation and the individual. When spirituality is lost all is lost. This is the fate from which we have narrowly escaped by the resurgence of the soul of
most important work which the Karmayogin sets for itself, to popularise this knowledge. The Vedanta or Sufism, the temple or the mosque, Nanak and Kabir and Ramdas, Chaitanya or Guru Govinda, Brahmin and Kayastha and Namasudra, whatever national asset we have, indigenous or acclimatised, it will seek to make known, to put in its right place and appreciate. And the second thing is how to use these assets so as to swell the sum of national life and produce the future. It is easy to appraise their relations to the past; it is more difficult to give them their place in the future. The third thing is to know the outside world and its relation to us and how to deal with it. That is the problem which we find at present most difficult and insistent, but its solution depends on the solution of the others.
We have said that brahmateja is the thing we need most of all and first of all. In one sense, that means the pre-eminence of religion; but after all, what the Europeans mean by religion is not brahmateja; which is rather spirituality, the force and energy of thought and action arising from communion with or self-surrender to that within us which rules the world. In that sense we shall use it. This force and energy can be directed to any purpose God desires for us; it is sufficient to knowledge, love or service; it is good for the liberation of an individual soul, the building of a nation or the turning of a tool. It works from within, it works in the power of God, it works with superhuman energy. The reawakening of that force in three hundred millions of men by the means which our past has placed in our hands, that is our object.
The European is proud of his success in divorcing religion from life. Religion, he says, is all very well in its place, but it has nothing to do with politics or science or commerce, which it spoils by its intrusion; it is meant only for Sundays when, if one is English, one puts on black clothes and tries to feel good, and if one is continental, one puts the rest of the week away and amuses oneself. In reality, the European has not succeeded in getting rid of religion from his life. It is coming back in socialism, in the Anarchism of Bakunin and Tolstoy, in many other isms; and in whatever form it comes, it insists on engrossing the whole of life, moulding the whole of society and politics under the law of idealistic aspiration. It does not use the word God or grasp the idea, but it sees God in humanity. What the European understood by religion, had to be got rid of and put out of life, but real religion, spirituality, idealism, altruism, self-devotion, the hunger after perfection is the whole destiny of humanity and cannot be got rid of. After all God does exist and if He exists, you cannot shove Him into a corner and say, "That is your place and as for the world and life it belongs to us." He pervades and returns. Every age of denial is only a preparation for a larger and more comprehensive affirmation.
The Karmayogin will be more of a national review than a weekly newspaper. We shall notice current events only as they evidence, help, affect or resist the growth of national life and the development of the soul of the nation. Political and social problems we shall deal with from this standpoint, seeking first their spiritual roots and inner causes and then proceeding to measures and remedies. In a similar spirit we shall deal with all sources of national strength in the past and in the present, seeking to bring them home to all comprehensions and make them applicable to our life, dynamic and not static, creative and not merely preservative. For if there is no creation, there must be disintegration; if there is no advance and victory, there must be recoil and defeat.