Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Sister Nivedita on Nationality - 1

यतो धर्म: ततो जय:

In talking to you, this evening, on the subject of Nationality, I shall first of all tell you of some things that are not nationality. You shall always bear in mind, as a lesson of the first importance, that there can be no nationality in a country where the people are always flying at each other's throats, for differences of opinion and sentiment. If the advocate of political agitation were always to revile the advocate of industrial re-generation; if the social reformer were to fly at the upholder of Hindu orthodoxy, if the orthodox Hindu, again, were to fight with the Hindu revivalist; if the literary man were to find fault with the educationalist and vice-versa; if such were the state of affairs in a community, then it must be admitted that that society has not yet learnt the first lesson of nation-building.

I cannot tell you in one word what this term, nationality, means, but this much I can tell you that if ever there dawns a day of national life in India, it will certainly not exhaust itself in any one of the above movements singly, but rather it will consist in the harmonious working of all those different movements and organizations operating, on different lines, towards one supreme end,—the good of the nation. And so long as that blessed day does not arrive, let us not be frittering away our energies by caviling at each other and thus exciting the contemptuous smile of on-lookers.

Let us try to learn how to reserve and concentrate our energies for the great cause we all intend to serve. Let us learn how to present a united front. I can assure you that there is more of mutual jealousy and ill-will among the European inhabitants of Calcutta than among yourselves; but, has any of you ever seen anything of this jealousy ? They will scrupulously hide these internal sores from the eyes of foreigners; that is how they present a united front. You, Indians, are very strong in the element of personal devotion; you can annihilate your own self even, for the sake of a parent, a brother, or a friend; and the European has still to learn this of you.

But you too have to learn a lesson from the European. He has the singular capacity of acting in concert with a person for whom, perhaps, he may have the greatest personal dislike—merely out of regard for the welfare of the party or organization to which both of them belong. This power of self-suppression for the sake of an ideal is a virtue which the Indian has still to learn. For, it is evident that without this virtue, no considerable advance could be made in the direction of such popular organizations as the idea of nationality necessarily involves.

To be continued... 

Sister Nivedita delivered this talk on Sunday, August 14, 1904, at the Dawn Society, Calcutta.