The Example of India

When we read the Ramayana or the Mahabharata we get the sense that although there were many independent states or kingdoms in the Indian subcontinent, there was both a general commonality of understanding and a number of attempts to cobble them together into a wider national or imperial form.  Various empires rose, and fell, during the long historical record of the Indian subcontinent, including both internally developed and externally enforced empires, the last being the long rule of the British Raj which ended with India’s independence in 1947.  We observe many forces trying to divide and pull apart the various attempts at the wider unity, but each time we see that a new unity arises that speaks to the inner, psychological oneness that underlies all the superficial differences.  Sri Aurobindo uses India as an illustration of the process that leads to wider unity, despite outer obstacles, when there is that inner oneness operating behind the scenes.

“Nowhere else have the centrifugal forces been so strong, numerous, complex, obstinate.  The mere time taken by the evolution has been prodigious; the disastrous vicissitudes through which it has had to work itself out have been appalling.  And yet through it all the inevitable tendency has worked constantly, pertinaciously, with the dull, obscure, indomitable, relentless obstinacy of Nature when she is opposed in her instinctive purposes by man, and finally, after a struggle enduring through millenniums, has triumphed.  And, as usually happens when she is thus opposed by her own mental and human material, it is the most adverse circumstances that the subconscious worker has turned into her most successful instruments.”

“…it is a significant circumstance that the more foreign the rule, the greater has been its force for the unification of the subject people.  This is always a sure sign that the essential nation-unit is already there and that there is an indissoluble national vitality necessitating the inevitable emergence of the organised nation.  In this instance, we see that the conversion of the psychological unity on which nationhood is based into the external organised unity by which it is perfectly realised, has taken a period of more than two thousand years and is not yet complete. (n.b. Sri Aurobindo wrote this between 1914 and 1920, before the 1947 independence of India)   And yet, since the essentiality of the thing was there, not even the most formidable difficulties and delays, not even the most persistent incapacity for union in the people, not even the most disintegrating shocks from outside have prevailed against the obstinate subconscious necessity.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part I, Chapter 5, Nation and Empire: Real and Political Unities, pp. 37-38