The Aryan Ideal of Ancient India Versus Hitler’s Counterfeit Version

Before we proceed with this chapter, it is important to discuss the term “Aryan” in the context. At the time that Sri Aurobindo wrote Essays on the Gita during the period of the first world war, this term related solely to a historical identity of a people who resided and developed a civilisation and culture, a way of life, in India. Unfortunately, subsequent to that time, Adolf Hitler adopted the term to mean something totally different, and distorted its meaning for the modern reader. We need to clearly understand and distinguish the original sense of the term from the distortions that resulted from Hitler’s appropriation of it.

The Aryan ideal of ancient India included many qualities which include a sense of fairness and chivalry, as well as compassion that were entirely missing from the picture painted by Hitler! This is not, as Sri Aurobindo explains “…a Nietzschean creed of power and high-browed strength, of Hebraic or old Teutonic hardness which holds pity to be a weakness and thinks like the Norwegian hero who thanked God because He had given him a hard heart…”

Thus, when appeal is made to the Aryan man, the Aryan ideal, the Aryan civilisation, we must be able to distinguish the original from the counterfeit.

The first goal of the divine Teacher, however, is to address the tamasic reaction, the dejection and weakness being exhibited by Arjuna and to do this he calls upon the background and training and qualities of the Kshatriya that Arjuna embodies. Sri Aurobindo describes this first step: “This is not the way cherished and followed by the Aryan man; this mood came not from heaven nor can it lead to heaven, and on earth it is the forfeiting of the glory that waits upon strength and heroism and noble works. Let him put from him this weak and self-indulgent pity, let him rise and smite his enemies!”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 7, The Creed of the Aryan Fighter, pp. 52-53,