Friday, February 11, 2011

The Doctrine Of Self Sacrifie

The Doctrine of Sacrifice
Karmayogin, 24 July 1909

THE GENIUS of self-sacrifice is not common to all nations
and to all individuals; it is rare and precious, it is the
flowering of mankind’s ethical growth, the evidence of
our gradual rise from the self-regarding animal to the selfless
divinity. A man capable of self-sacrifice, whatever his other sins,
has left the animal behind him; he has the stuff in him of a
future and higher humanity. A nation capable of a national act
of self-sacrifice ensures its future.
Self-sacrifice involuntary or veiled by forms of selfishness is,
however, the condition of our existence. It has been a gradual
growth in humanity. The first sacrifices are always selfish—they
involve the sacrifice of others for one’s own advancement. The
first step forward is taken by the instinct of animal love in the
mother who is ready to sacrifice her life for the young, by the
instinct of protection in the male who is ready to sacrifice his
life for his mate. The growth of this instinct is the sign of an
enlargement in the conception of the self. So long as there is
identification of self only with one’s own body and its desires,
the state of the jiva is unprogressive and animal. It is only when
the self enlarges to include the mate and the children that advancement
becomes possible. This is the first human state, but
the animal lingers in it in the view of the wife and children as
chattels and possessions meant for one’s own pleasure, strength,
dignity, comfort. The family even so viewed becomes the basis
of civilisation, because it makes social life possible. But the real
development of the god in man does not begin until the family
becomes so much dearer than the life of the body that a man
is ready to sacrifice himself for it and give up his ease or even
his life for its welfare or its protection. To give up one’s ease
for the family, that is a state which most men have attained; to
give up one’s life for the honour of the wife or the safety of the home is an act of a higher nature of which man is capable in
individuals, in classes, but not in the mass. Beyond the family
comes the community and the next step in the enlargement of
the self is when the identification with the self in the body and
the self in the family gives way to the identification with the
self in the community. To recognise that the community has a
larger claim on a man than his family is the first condition of the
advance to the social condition. It corresponds to the growth
of the tribe out of the patriarchal family and to the perfection
of those communal institutions of which our village community
was a type. Here again, to be always prepared to sacrifice the
family interest to the larger interest of the community must be
the first condition of communal life and to give one’s life for
the safety of the community, the act of divinity which marks the
consummation of the enlarging self in the communal idea. The
next enlargement is to the self in the nation. The evolution of the
nation is the growth which is most important now to humanity,
because human selfishness, family selfishness, class selfishness
having still deep roots in the past must learn to efface themselves
in the larger national self in order that the God in humanity may
grow. Therefore it is that Nationalism is the dharma of the age,
and God reveals himself to us in our common Mother. The first
attempts to form a nationality were the Greek city, the Semitic
or Mongolian monarchy, the Celtic clan, the Aryan kula or jati.
It was the mixture of all these ideas which went to the formation
of the mediaeval nation and evolved the modern peoples. Here
again, it is the readiness to sacrifice self-interest, family interest,
class interest to the larger national interestwhich is the condition
of humanity’s fulfilment in the nation and to die for its welfare
or safety is the supreme act of self-consummation in the larger
national ego. There is a yet higher fulfilment for which only a
few individuals have shown themselves ready, the enlargement
of the self to include all humanity. A step forward has been taken
in this direction by the self-immolation of a few to humanitarian
ideals, but to sacrifice the interests of the nation to the larger
interest of humanity is an act of which humanity in the mass
is not yet capable. God prepares, but He does not hasten the ripening of the fruit before its season. A time will come when
this also will be possible, but the time is not yet. Nor would it be
well for humanity if it came before the other and lesser identification
were complete; for that would necessitate retrogression
in order to secure the step which has been omitted. The advance
of humanity is a steady progress and there is no great gain in
rushing positions far ahead, while important points in the rear
are uncaptured.
The national ego may easily mean nothing more than collective
selfishness. I may be ready to sacrifice money and ease
for the country in order to secure my wealth, fame or position
and property which depend upon her security and greatness. I
may be ready to sacrifice these and more for her because of the
safety of the home and the hearth which her safety ensures. I
may be ready to sacrifice much for her because her greatness,
wealth, ease mean the greatness, wealth, ease of my community
or my class. Or I may be ready to sacrifice everything to
secure her greatness because of my pride in her and my desire
to see my nation dominant and imperial. All these are forms of
selfishness pursuing man into the wider life which is meant to
assist in liberating him from selfishness. The curse of capitalism,
the curse of Imperialism which afflict modern nations are due
to this insistence. It is the source of that pride, insolence and
injustice which affect a nation in its prosperity and by that
fatal progression which the Greeks with their acute sense for
these things so clearly demarcated, it leads from prosperity to
insolence and outrage and from insolence and outrage to that
ate, that blind infatuation, which is God’s instrument for the
destruction of men and nations. There is only one remedy for
this pursuing evil and it is to regard the nation as a necessary
unit but no more in a common humanity.
There are two stages in the life of a nation, first, when it is
forming itself or new-forming itself, secondly, when it is formed,
organised and powerful. The first is the stage when Nationalism
makes rightly its greatest demands on the individual, in the
second it should abate its demands and, having satisfied, should
preserve itself in Cosmopolitanism somewhat as the individual preserves itself in the family, the family in the class, the class
in the nation, not destroying itself needlessly but recognising
a larger interest. In the struggles of a subject nation to realise
its separate existence, the larger interest can only be viewed in
prospect and as a higher inspiration to a broadminded and generous
patriotism. No sacrifice of the nation to the larger interest
is possible, for the nation must exist before it can sacrifice its
interests for a higher good.
We are at present in the first or formative stage, and in this
stage the demand of Nationalism is imperative. It is only by
the sacrifices of the individual, the family and the class to the
supreme object of building up the nation that under such adverse
circumstances Nationalism can secure the first conditions for its
existence. Every act of the new Nationalism has been a call for
suffering and self-sacrifice. Swadeshi was such a call, arbitration
was such a call, national education was such a call, above all,
passive resistance was such a call. None of these things can be
secured except by a general readiness to sacrifice the individual
and the family to the interests of the nation. Nowadays a new
call is visibly forming, the call on the higher classes to sacrifice
their privileges and prejudices, as the Japanese Samurai did,
for the raising up of the lower. The spread of a general spirit
of ungrudging self-sacrifice is the indispensable prelude to the
creation of the Indian nation. This truth is not only evident from
the very nature of the movement we have initiated, but it is borne
out by the tests of history and experience to which we have been
recently asked to refer in each individual case before the act of
sacrifice is decided. It is by the appeal to history and experience
that the Nationalist party has convinced the intellect, just as by
its inspiring ideals and readiness to suffer, it has carried with
it the heart of the nation. The demand that we should in every
individual case go into a review of thewhole question is excessive
and impossible. It is enough if we are generally convinced of the
utility and necessity of sacrifice and feel the individual call. It
must be remembered that we cannot argue from the condition of
a people formed, free and prospering to that of a people subject,
struggling and miserable. In the first case the individual is not called to frequent acts of self-sacrifice, but only to those regularly
demanded by the nation and to a general readiness for especial
sacrifice in case of necessity, but in the second the necessity is
a constant quantity. Nor is it a sound principle to demand in
such circumstances an adequate value for every individual act
of courage and self-denial. It would indeed be singular for the
individuals of a subject nation asked for the price of their liberty
to say to the Dispenser of Karma, “You shall give me so much
in return for every individual sacrifice and we must know your
terms beforehand.We will not trust you to the extent of a single
pice worth of result for our sufferings.” Not by such men or
such a spirit have subject nations been delivered.

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