Thursday 3 May 2018

Sister Nivedita on Nationality - 2

यतो धर्म: ततो जय:

I want to impress on you another essential point with regard to this question of nationality. You must always remember that real, earnest work in any department of national life is the true test of national spirit in man or woman. No matter what may be the particular line of action adopted by a person, we must honour him as a national hero, if only he shows his earnest devotion by real work, by actual sacrifice to the cause of his country. For, this whole-souled devotion to a national ideal may be equally found in every sphere of public activity in a Romesh Chunder Dutt, or a G. K. Gokhale as in a Vidyasagar. The spirit that worked in your ancient sires works likewise in these, their modern descendants, namely, the spirit of intense devotion and sacrifice for ideal objects. I have seen Mr. Dutt working night and day for his country without any recreation, while those about him were intent on pleasure. So you must adore all who stand for real work and not mere talk. If any distinction is to be made, it is more important for you to make a distinction between the talker and the worker than between worker and worker. For the work is always the true test of the national spirit in a man.

It has been asked if this preponderance of attachment to work would not entangle us more and more in the meshes of worldliness —of Samsara, and so affect our spirituality. I would ask you in return what is the meaning of that term spirituality. If you are already spiritual enough to rise above all physical wants and necessities, and to devote yourself to the contemplation of the Divine Being, I have nothing to teach you, but on the contrary, to learn at your feet. But do you not feel the necessity of eating and clothing and marrying? If you do, you are far from the attainment of the spirituality you boast of. I can understand the spirituality of some of your Sadhus; and I always make it a point whenever I pass by, to make my bow to a Mohammedan saint who lives in a mosque in Chitpur Road—a man that without care for sunshine or cold or hunger passes his time in the contemplation of God. But I cannot understand the spirituality of a man busy in the search for food and shelter and clothing for himself and his family. For such a man, the only way to save himself from the bondage of the flesh would be to fight the world by working for higher entities like the nation or the country.

The idea of safety and repose usually associated with spirituality is the falsest of all notions. You, young men must always guard yourselves against that sham spirituality that dreads trouble and hankers after safety. The spiritual ideal that the Rishis set forth in their lives and in their work was never an ideal of ignoble ease or safety obtained by a cowardly retreat from the battle-field of life. A knowledge of the Tapas or hardships they underwent will dispel the slightest doubt on the matter. It is my last word to you that you must not harbour any thoughts of ignoble ease under the garb of spirituality, that you must sink mutual jealousies, and work together for the good of the nation.

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

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