Unity and Diversity - Audio

So the second problem, not only nationalism, but even the principle of decentralization and the neglect of individual. It’s the second problem. Third problem was that Roman Empire tried to impose one language and one culture, and thus it disregarded the value of diversity. Finally, Roman Empire relied more on administrative power for unifying the empire instead of underlying value of culture. These are the main reasons why Roman Empire failed, and these are the very problems which now will confront mankind. The human tendency is to unite by imposing uniformity. You want to start a college, give one syllabus to everybody, one examination system to everyone, one lecture system. It will be economically viable, efficient, standardized and would get products out of the university which are all standardized individuals. This is the aim, human beings stand toward this kind of a solution, it’s automatic in human mind. This is the mistake of human mind, but this mistake is automatic, it just not consider that the real rules of strength is in the law of liberty and diversity. It is that law that Sri Aurobindo emphasized, the law of liberty and diversity in one very important chapter in The Ideal of Human Unity. Which is chapter number 17, which is entitled Nature's Law in Our Progress - Unity in Diversity, Law and Liberty.

Is the peril greater today in the sense that there will be no reinforcement by rule like in the Roman Empire? But today it is a voluntary uniformity in a way because the education is also uniform and trying to adopt cultures to be one, isn't that a thing become much more prominent now?

it is not vulnerable. Human beings today tend to think in a collective manner on the lines of uniformity. It’s not voluntary.

But isn't the individualism not so much in the forefront?

Why is it not in the forefront?

Because of the process..

Process, this is why. It is not voluntary. So there is a process. You see what happens is that usually in any social progress, there are bound to be leaders. If you are a real politician, you must know the role of leaders in society. Now these leaders confront problems and normal tendency, not a deliberate tendency, but normal tendency, immediate answer is like a mother having five children, you have to manage a household. How will you do it? Go to the market, buy the clothes for all the five children, the same kind of cloth, she has a natural tendency, she’s a leader, and she has a problem. All the children have to be clothed. How efficiently, easily comfortably, people do it. You won't try to consult every child, you like cream? you like green? you like white? Human tendency is to seek solutions easily and human beings immediately fall into the thread of uniformity.

Now today, for example, there is a great tendency towards globalization. Nobody can stop it. Why? Because of two important factors on which nobody has no control, transport and communication. Nobody knows. It is just like a kind of a force of nature which has produced transport and communication. What can you do about it? It has his own logic, the moment I traveled to California. I see that world over there and I want to create California here in my own country, natural tendency, how beautiful, my India should be California. So globalization has a natural tendency towards uniformity. That is why Sri Aurobindo says that the turn to unity is inevitable. That is why also, the force of nationalism is being now dominated. Today when you speak of nationalism, O that is the old idea, it is passe.

Because of World War II, the people think the evil is nationalism itself.

Yes, because Germany rose up as a nationalist country.

In today’s world I see forces which was deliberately trying to create uniformity. One is Islam, and second is America. Islam wants the entire globe to be Islamic. America wants the entire globe to have those values which America likes. So if it goes in Iraq, it wants to create Iraq as America. In Vietnam they wanted to do the same thing. They failed miserably. In Cuba they wanted to do the same thing. So politically also they want that the whole world should be organized in a way in which they themselves are. The whole world should uphold those values which are the values of the founding fathers of America. So that is also a very deliberate attempt of their foreign policy. So all these ideas of America and the culture of America should spread and they should make it spread. Even their companies become their brand ambassadors. And human beings when they see something successful, they want to follow. They think that is right because there’s a normal tendency of human nature, so that is why individualism is more of followership rather than being individual.

There are hardly people uncle who have the metal to be individualistic to hold on their own, because this is something you struck me with such a thing what you're saying is like that the brands are watches on every wrist you can identify a branded watch in a evening out because it’s just falling in line, it’s not that it’s beautiful or anything just because it’s branded, it’s on your list. What’s the cure for this uncle?

That’s why Sri Aurobindo says that there are dangers. He spoke of Islam, but Christianity also has the same problem.

After Roman Empire, Christianity tried to do the same thing as Islam. Before that Judaism, they tried to do the same. Only I believe the eastern cultures, let us say, are the east, south Asia and even China, but this tendency to unify greatly arose in Chinese empire also, and then this entire revolution, was based on that uniformity model. Even Marxism was uniformity, so other than India. I believe there is no country in this whole world..

No even India does not understand Indian polity. This India is not very wise. Rishis were wise. They shaped the Indian polity such that India did a great contribution to the real cause of unity, not of uniformity. Why? It established first the cultural unity of India and this cultural unity effected the law of liberty, the law of individual and the law of diversity. It is ingrained in India. It has of course produced a lot of fissiparous tendencies in the history of India. There have been so many quarrels, small kingdoms fighting against each other and yet India has remained one despite all this. Why? Of course they allowed Rajasthani culture, Gujarati culture developed, Assamese culture developed and yet understood how to bring about unity. Unity is difficult because you must have something universal, universal is one, one is uniform, so how to synthesize one and many. This is the alchemy which, in India, has been achieved right from ancient times. It’s a great achievement of Indian culture, the one in the whole world where diversity, individuality, our whole life, it’s a great example of experimenting: uniformity and diversity. There is oneness, I mean there is oneness in India. What is that oneness? When you ask the question, what is the oneness? It’s very difficult to find it. Even if you say it is belief in god, which is not true, Buddhism is not god. Jainism is not god. But the turn to spirituality is one. So what is oneness is more subtle, arriving at oneness which is the subtlest, that is the secret. The manifestations of the one in many forms, which is bound to be diverse. Recognition of these two principles is at the basis of Indian culture. Vedanta of various kinds, even Vedanta how many forms? Advaita is one, but that one is the name, this identity of one and multiplicity of many and many rooted in the one. This principle has been exemplified in India. It’s not merely spoken of, exemplified. This is the great work of the rishis. That is why we have to look into the rishis’ vision.

The people, they don't understand when you speak of rishis of India, they deliberately engineered society. They were great planners of society. This culture has not come up pell-mell. There has been a design, they were teachers, educators, they created a deliberate system of education. This is not understood properly. The Indian culture, Ramayana and Mahabharata are not poems written by one Homer for the sake of describing a big siege of Troy, the Sri Aurobindo says Ramayana and Mahabharata were deliberately written for education of the people.

They were not written for the sake of poetic expression. Now this is what is not understood by many people. Ramayana and Mahabharata is not like Odyssey, it’s not like Iliad. They were poet’s expression and experience of siege of Troy. That’s all.

Ramayana was not a poet’s experience. He wanted to describe an experience. No. The dialogue between Narada and Valmiki at the very beginning, which is given, is very particular where Valmiki says I want to describe an example of the highest virtue put together. Is there any example, then I will write on him. It is not as if he selected Rama in a story among many stories which he liked very much and he expressed for his poetic genius, not at all. It is written for education of the people. It makes all the difference.

Similarly, Mahabharata is not written by Vyasa to.... He wanted to teach the lesson of peace to the people. Shanti parva is the fundamental point in Mahabharata. What is the cause of war, how war has to be engineered, how war should aim at peace and what is the price of that peace. What is to be given? Peace is not merely slogan of peace, people unite together, it’s not that a simple thing. Unity is very difficult. To bring human beings together in a peaceful condition, is one of the most difficult tasks. It’s the truth. It’s a fact.

Why Vyasa wrote this Mahabharata? The main theme is shanti parva. How she Krishna was one of the greatest unifier in the history of the world, who did not merely preach unity he jumped into the Mahabharata war. In the Mahabharata he is the maker of the Mahabharata war so that that war is fought in such a way that ultimate unity is established because war can be fought also in supremacy of one over the other. But it was not the aim of Sri Krishna to make one power superior to the other. It was not his aim. He wanted Yudhishthira to be the king. Why? Because Yudhishthira was a universal man. He selected that man and although he was a weak man, although he had many defects, he was not a divine man that way, gambling and all kind of vices he had, but said he was the Dharmaraj. So he selected him. He was the one who studied the political situation of his time most deeply, I don't think any leader of the world history can compare to Sri Krishna in his knowledge of his political time, examine any leader of these times, you examine any leader of the world, examine any historical figure. You read the Mahabharata and you see Sri Krishna knows every great man of his time. He knows his strengths and weaknesses of every one of them. No without making a good study you can't do it, like today, for example, who knows all the leaders of India? tell me one man?

You should have one leader like Akhil, who should really say I know most of the leaders of India. Like Abhay Kashyap who comes, he knows many leaders of India, which hardly anybody knows about. He knows that Shivraj Patil for example, who built up parliament annex. He’s a very nice man, but you ask him the question: why did he build up a parliament annex? What is the personal profit involved in it, 100 crore at that time it was built. If you are a speaker of parliament, ultimate design of parliament will be decided by those who are to derive benefit out of the construction, to be decided by the speaker. All the powers are centered in the speaker. You build a huge complex called parliament annex, now this story not anybody knows very simply like that.

There should be some people in India who have knowledge of all the prominent leaders of India. Who knows it? Sri Krishna knew about everybody. He knew that Karna was not sarathi putra, he knew that Karna was the son of Kunti. Even Bhima and Yudhishthira did not know, but he knew about it and he knew when exactly to go to Karna after Kunti has visited him, so that he is sure that he is Kunti’s son and then offers him the position of Chakravarti which karma rejects, but he goes at that time. Why does he go at that time? when he cannot doubt it anymore, because the mother herself has told her son that you are my son, so it cannot be doubted. He goes only at that time, Sri Krishna when he has not to prove it at all, he’s already proved to him, but Karna understands that this man knew me quite well much before anybody knew me.

Similarly, if you see the whole exposition of the Mahabharata right from his time when he was the chieftain of Mathura migrating to Dwarka, even that was a tremendous retreat for him. He knew Jarasandh cannot be conquered because of his mighty power. He advised everybody, please migrate from Mathura and go to a safer place and build up your strength and he took them all to Dwarka, established a kingdom, very powerful kingdom. He knew that Dwarka will be always a small nation, a small country, small power. He examined that the two greatest powers in the world in India at that time were Kaurava power and the other was Jarasandha’s power, these were the two great powers at that time. Among Kauravas however, he found there is a big quarrel between two clans: Kauravas and Pandavas. He made a study of everybody and he came to the conclusion that if Kaurava’s are supported, Jarasandh can be conquered. All other kings of the time can be subdued by the Kaurava power.

The only problem was Duryodhana, he was very mighty, powerful, clever cunning. He knew the story very well. He selected Yudhishthira because of his fundamental drive towards dharma. That was a great favorable circumstance, so he built up a good relationship with Pandavas from their early times and he took advantage of his own personal connection with Kunti. So he was a relative of the whole family because he also was a relative of the Kaurava family, the whole Kaurava family. He had a good connection, but he saw the weaknesses and strengths of both the parties and even at the time of Mahabharata war, he gives his whole army in favor of Kauravas, only himself with Pandavas. Why? Why he did this? because he knew that if Pandavas win easily, Pandavas had with them Virat, it was a big kingdom. Panchala was a big kingdom and there are some other big kingdoms. Drupad, for example, was a very powerful king. Draupadi herself was a very powerful woman and her father and her brothers were also very powerful and they would not allow dharma rajaya to flourish. They were not dharma rajya, only Yudhishthira and these five brothers, more or less, were tuned to dharma rajya. So he had to give his big army to a Kauravas so that they all would kill all the people. Ultimately, all virats were finished. Panchalas were finished. Everyone was finished, on this side these people were also finished. He used these people to finish those people, those people to finish these people. Ultimately they remain only five princes. Then dharma rajya was safe. Yudhishthira was able to do his real dharma rajya. Why?

For example, there is a beautiful article of Sri Aurobindo: the political study of Mahabharata. It is one of the most insightful statements of Sri Aurobindo, which one must read. Why Bhishma the great Bhishma, why he sided with the Kauravas and not with Pandavas, he was equal to both the parties. I mean he was their grandfather. Ostensible reason given is, I have been serving my kingdom. I cannot now change my party. It is only outer reason. You think, such a great man. He was only for that reason he joined this power of Kauravas. The reason was that Bhishma knew the greatness of Pandavas, but he knew that Pandavas were completely under the thumb of Dhrupad, Panchal, Virat, great powers, and they will not allow Yudhishthira freedom to rule. If Yudhishthira wins the war, Virat will be the winner, not Kauravas, not Pandavvas. Therefore, Bhishma gave his word that I’ll never kill the five Pandavas but I will kill all his allies and he sided with Duryodhana and others, not out of great happiness, but he was a politician and he saw that if he sided with power of Pandavas, ultimately he would be siding Virat. This is not a great thing to do, because power will go to those people. Hastinapur will be finished, so he had a big problem. This strategy of bringing about a complete massacre. It may seem that Sri Krishna preferred a complete massacre, but that was because most of the Indian rulers were ग्लानिर्भवति भारत at that time.

यदा यदा हि धर्मस्य ग्लानिर्भवति भारत ।
अभ्युत्थानमधर्मस्य तदात्मानं सृजाम्यहम् ॥ 4.7

Whensoever there is the fading of the Dharma and the uprising of unrighteousness, then I loose myself forth into birth.

Bhagavad Gita 4.7

It was a real ग्लानि. And all over everyone was single small kingdom wanting to have his supremacy and becoming chakravarti. This was the whole difficulty, so he found in that a very difficult condition. Pandavas were the only power which, if they won the war, there was a possibility of establishment of a real peace in the world.

This is why the Bhagavad-Gita is a message of shanti. He says even when you kill have samatvam. He speaks of ahimsa as a part of his dharma and says that in your consciousness there should be no anger, kama or krodha. All that should go. You are doing this work only because the lord wants you to kill. Therefore you can kill, but not because there is a pleasure in killing, it is the most difficult lesson. I mean anybody teaching in the Gita to say to your own disciple, you fight, but have no anger in your heart. It may seem such an impossible task. That is what Sri Krishna is teaching, but he knew Arjuna can do it and the ultimate aim was only to establish peace in the world.

Similarly, today we have a similar problem. Today all the nations are rushing towards globalization. You are obliged to. You cannot help it and all the nations will try towards model of modern Europe, unify the whole of Europe. Now Asia also is doing the same thing, Africa doing the same thing, America doing the same thing. All unity means uniformity, same currency, same language. That question also will come up in Europe, which language will be more powerful once again, French will try to become lingua franca. Why not? or German will try to become lingua franca of the whole of Europe? At least there will be an effort of it, so we have got to understand the problem.

That’s why Sri Aurobindo says, it’s necessity and dangers. Unity is very good, it’s necessary, but what are the dangers? The danger is very great. There are several chapters here on the move toward uniformity. What are the forces? Sri Aurobindo has written here. First of all, economic centralization, which is already on economic centralization, then legislative centralization, social centralization and then, ultimately, the idea of one uniform state. One world state, that also is already on. People say you should have one world and have America as a chief of one world. They all stand for one world, because today they know that America will be the only power which can create the whole world. So why not one world? Because America will be the supreme, it will be the American empire.

One world based on the model of America?

That’s right exactly so!

Iis it because America has already succeeded in the experiment of being able to unify and progress by so much different migrations from across the world..

In a certain sense American polity is a new creation of nature. That is why America is so important. What America has done is very valuable yet Americanism is a great danger for the world. We have to be very, very careful, you cannot do without America and if you do with America anything, you are doomed as far as Indian culture is concerned.

In fact any culture because America doesn't have a culture.

As you can see, everybody is wearing now this kind of clothes with so many advertisements. In India, I mean hardly anybody you find whose shirt does not bear some kind Boston on it. No? every child in India today is bostonized, so this is the danger of the movement of today.

Uncle my question starts with that: how do we reverse it? by promoting individualism?

There are four movements to be done. First, we need to study different forms of government. Today we have only one form of government, democratic form of government which has got two forms, presidential form and parliamentary form, but basically both of them are parliaments, senate and house of representative in America. It is same thing like what you have got upper house and lower house in India. Only you have got a cabinet system, there is a presidential system. So first of all, forms of government have to be examined. We believe today that electing people is the only means by which you can keep society safe. This is the form which great Plato criticized. Why?

He said that, if democracy is a form of government, men like Socrates will be in danger, they will not be tolerated by democracy and these people will be killed, and this is quite true. Today brahmatej and kshatratej are not allowed to flourish. Why? Because democracy will necessarily imply election, election will imply a lot of money needed for the election. It is not by virtue of your merit that you will be elected, it is only because you meet many people and you can meet people only if you have got financial backing. Therefore Sri Aurobindo says democracy will reduce itself to plutocracy. You can take it for granted. You start with any kind of eulogy of democracy. Democracy means plutocracy, plutocracy means rule of the few.

We get rich people. This is exactly what is taking place.

Yes, in this idea of humanity, there is no other alternative, not only Rajasthan, anywhere. Obama and McCain, you think they can win the any kind of election without a lot of money? What are the caucuses and all that.

So first is democracy. Sri Aurobindo says we have got to create a form of government where the advantages of democracy are to be retained. It’s not as if democracy is the wrong thing. You have to find a remedy how to get new form of election. Why should you have a form of election in which you go to people and shout and you get elected? Why should you have that system? It is up to you to decide: how will we elect? Do you have a new system of election? Can you make JRD Tata to come and become the President of India? Present form will not allow it. Even though Tata himself has got money, he will not be allowed to become the president of India or prime minister of India, because there are many other plutocrats against him and he will not go down to the people saying vote for me. Lalu Prasad can go easily, but Tata will not go. So how to make Tata, for example, a Prime Minister of India? Let us see. If you put this simple question, immediately democracy will be measured in these two terms. So, first of all, Sri Aurobindo says you have to see a form of government in which the merits of every form of government is presented.

Monarchy is a very good thing. It is we who have thrown away monarchy without considering its merits, monarchy can be a very great power provided the monarch is a wise man. What Plato said guardian philosopher, he made him a philosopher. Why Chanakya in Arthashastra gave a time table of the king? He also gave how the king has to be trained, how the king is actually: praja hite atma hitam, praja suke atma sukham. This is the ideal. A monarch is not one like Gyanendra sitting in his chamber and shooting his brothers. It is one who, like Sri Rama, who even knowing that his wife is innocent he exiles her. Why? Because people felt that their own morality cannot be sustained when such an example is at the helm of their affairs, and in that time Sri Rama bowed to that will of the people knowingly. If you read the dialogue between Sri Rama and Lakshmana and Satrughana and Bharata just before exile he says, I know she is pure, but my people they do not understand.

Now you might today criticize him because we are ultra modern, but that democracy of a monarch. In a democracy would Rama would have been elected if his wife had gone to Sri Lanka? No. In democracy, they've would have failed. So anyway Sri Rama would not have been elected in a democracy and particularly after he came back. He would not have been accepted by the people, so what democracy would not have allowed him, he accepted to himself voluntary, such was the thing. So monarchy need not be dictatorial, if you train the king properly, so first of all monarchy also has to be retained in the true polity.

Aristocracy, for example, is also another form. What is called oligarchy is another form of government. Now is oligarchy, a good form of government? no, a few people going round about the court and they control the whole country. It’s also not a good form of government, but if these very people can be made use of them, you create a small place for them. Nourish them, nurture them in the right way. Don’t give too many powers to them, restrict them within certain powers. It will be a wonderful flower in the polity of the country. Democracy also is good. All different forms of government, each form of government is good, but we do not know how to harmonize them, so Sri Aurobindo says that in the future world will be one in which a new form of government will arise which will be monarchical, aristocratic and democratic at the same time, the element of each one will be present and each one will work against the other, the will of the others and what will happen will be a new form, and that is what we should do and that will be a kind of a movement against uniformity. The very form of government itself is uniform. You have only one form of government, so you flourish in uniformity.

Secondly, you emphasize the decentralization, today decentralization is not at all understood. To give a great importance to languages and diversity of languages which you are not giving. We do not know the power of language that Sri Aurobindo says, language is a creative power. One of the great things that happened in India to preserve Indian culture was the birth of 12 national languages. At the time when Muslims came and enriched India, not many people understand this great fact, which has happened in India. Sanskrit was gone, Pali had become almost obsolete by that time, Muslims came and invaded India, and we were completely dumbfounded. We did not know how to deal with this power. One of the ways by which India rose is to create 12 languages in India, major languages. You read all the history of the present languages of India: it’s only 800 years old, Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati. In 800 years we produced 12 new languages. Imagine the creativity of India! No, it’s not a joke! Why? Because our rishis knew the power of language, they said you try, all our great saints they wrote in regional languages, all our Puranas, Vedas, Upanishads, all translated into regional languages, Gyaneshwari in Marathi for example, that one saint arose and he wrote the whole Gita and wrote Gyaneshwari in Marathi language. Tulsidas came and wrote Ramayan in Avadhi language.

Indian culture survived because of these new languages. So new world will give a great importance diversity of languages. It will not allow hegemony of one language, because diversity of language is a great creative power.

Similarly, give great importance to individuals. You write one full chapter on Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy of the individual and the collectivity. Actually, I would recommend you to read this particular portion first, before following anything else because that is the central point of Sri Aurobindo’s political philosophy.