Finding the True Significance and Role of the Community

By community we mean any grouping of humanity to which an individual may belong or adhere.  This can be a geographical or political grouping, such as a town, state or nation, but equally it may be a religious grouping, a racial or cultural grouping, or a familial grouping, or some other collection of individuals with a common interest, background or cultural focus.

The importance of community lies in its ability to provide the individual with a way to expand his relationship beyond his own individuality.  Humanity as a whole is too large and amorphous a concept for that to easily occur.  At the same time, community can also act as an obstacle to the further development to larger groupings and eventually to humanity as a whole.

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “The individual has to live in humanity as well as humanity in the individual; but mankind is or has been too large an aggregate to make this mutuality a thing intimate and powerfully felt in the ordinary mind of the race, and even if humanity becomes a manageable unit of life, intermediate groups and aggregates must still exist for the purpose of mass-differentiation and the concentration and combination of varying tendencies in the total human aggregate.  Therefore the community has to stand for a time to the individual for humanity even at the cost of standing between him and it and limiting the reach of his universality and the wideness of his sympathies.  Still the absolute claim of the community, the society or the nation to make its growth, perfection, greatness the sole object of human life or to exist for itself alone as against the individual and the rest of humanity, to take arbitrary possession of the one and make the hostile assertion of itself against the other, whether defensive or offensive, the law of its action in the world — and not, as it unfortunately is, a temporary necessity, — this attitude of societies, races, religions, communities, nations, empires is evidently an aberration of the human reason, quite as much as the claim of the individual to live for himself egoistically is an aberration and the deformation of a truth.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 7, The Ideal Law of Social Development, pp 69-70