Questioner (Q): Acharya Ji, in few days, Republic Day, that is, the 26th of January, will be celebrated and the work that Foundation is doing is very closely linked with “The Youngsters”. So, I wish to ask you in what ways the youngsters of today have lost love for the Nation?
Acharya Prashant (AP): You cannot love someone or something, you know very little of. The nation at its root represents a community of people united through certain values. For someone to really love the nation, it is important that firstly, he knows what those values are. Those values must be worth loving and even more fundamentally certain values must exist, right? And those values cannot be just theoretical, ideals on paper.
So, what does the Indian Nation stand for? When you say youngsters today have probably, I do not know, “Lost love for the nation.” I would be interested in knowing, what exactly have they lost love for? Do they know what the Indian nation stands for? And do they know what is worth loving? See, a nation doesn’t become admirable, or respectable, or lovable just by the dint of being a nation. You may very well have theoretically a nation that’s founded on hatred towards a group of people or something, right?
And there do exist so many nations that have come into existence this very way, they exist because of a certain dislike towards something. And we have had nations in history that existed just to obliterate other nations. And we have had nations where the connecting thread is as fragile as, you know, a shared language, shared ethnicity, shared food habits. So, a nation is not necessarily lovable on its own. What is it that lies at the base of the Indian nation, do we know that? Firstly, do we know that? Secondly, is it worth loving? We have to investigate these questions.
What lies at the foundation of the Indian nation? Or are we just disparate groups of people living politically together for the sake of convenience? If you say you are an Indian, I say, “I am an Indian”, what connects and unites the two of us? Most people do not want to go into this, most people are far more eager to talk of “Diversity“ than to talk of the underlying “Oneness”. Because talking of diversity is easy, what you are saying is “Oh! He has his own uniqueness; he has his own individuality; he has his own idiosyncrasies and that’s about India.” Fine, accept it. Each one of us is different, but isn’t it commonsensical to ask that if, each one of us is different then what is it that enables each one of us to be called an Indian? Or is it just a thing of political convenience? Or is it just a thing of past and legacy or is there something more alive to it?
That’s a question, unfortunately, we don’t ask or address, that’s the question unfortunately neither the leadership nor the intelligentsia seems keen to take up. And if we do not answer that question then how do you expect youngsters to really be loving towards the Indian nation? People are keen to identify themselves with something or the other. So, even if, youngsters do not know what is at the root of the nation, they will still manage to have some kind of patriotism.
You know, one cheers for India in cricket matches, but that is in no way an indicator of true Love because you cannot have Love without clarity. When you say, you love India. You are asked, “What exactly you love?” You have no answer to give. For most people, India is just a bit of land, a boundary on the global map, a political entity. No, these aren’t exactly things you can fall in love with. If you have to fall in love with something then the thing has to have a sacredness in it, no? A beauty in it, certain beyond-ness in it. These are the things you associate with love, right?
If you have to really love India then India has to be more than a political entity, then you have to know the values that constitute India. For that, first of all, there have to be values, and there have to be people who worship those values. Values worth worshiping. How has India been a nation all throughout in history?
India has been a nation because of its “Vedāntic foundation “. I understand it will be quite risky for most people to acknowledge this, but that’s what lies at the base of the Indian nation, values that come from Vedānta.
And now you know why youngsters have only a shallow relationship with the nation today. Because they are not familiar with the underlying values, the underlying Vedānta .
So, for practical purposes, they will remain Indians, an Indian passport is there, an Indian jersey is there. And somebody asks them, “What does it mean to be Indian?” and they will come up with some icons of Indian culture like Dosa (a south-Indian cuisine), masala Dosa. I challenge you, how do you represent India to someone of another nationality? Tell me. When you go abroad how do you express, what you mean by India? Beyond the area on the map, what does India mean to you? How do you communicate it, to let's say, that Dutch national? How do you communicate it? It is quite horrifying. But you have very little beyond the Masala Dosa. Or maybe a few other things like Bollywood, the Bhangra (Indian dance style), the cow, the cow sitting in the middle of the highway that is, the monkey riding the elephant, peeing by the roadside. You would say, “Mahatma Gandhi,” or you will probably talk of the colors of Holi, or you probably talk of the Diwali lights. These are all good, nice, vibrant images of the Indian landscape.
Can you fall in love with these? Tell me, the question was about love, right? I mean, it’s not so easy loving masala Dosa, or is it? That’s the entire thing; we do not know what India stands for. So, to us, India stands for a victory in a cricket match over Pakistan, no now it's Australia (referring to then ongoing cricket series). And the Kumbh mela, Naga sadhus, Yoga. What is India beyond all this to you? Tell me. And if India is very little beyond this, how will you fall in love with India? How? You can have some parochial pride, but that parochial pride is in no way love, or is it? To love you need something, I said, sublime, something sacred, something worth worshiping. And it’s a sad thing that which is worth worshiping does exist in India, but is often not deliberately introduced to us. The present generation has been deliberately starved of the essence of India. No wonder, they have no real feeling towards the nation. They are Indians only by name, only by passport. And they don’t want to remain Indians even in name. Is it not so?
Go to YouTube or any of these social media, and you will find all Indians—I don’t know what you call these as, you can't call these as pen names, user names— having users name like; Martin Hock! Martin Hock? We think of these things as trivia, right? The fellow's name was Martand, Martand means the Sun. Martand Kumar became Martin Hock. We think of this as some kind of a passing fad, it’s not a passing fad, it points towards something deeper. The fellow is ashamed of his identity. He wants to wear a totally different persona. It’s bound to happen because he does not know his identity.
The identity of India, the root of the Indian nation is essentially spiritual. You devoid Indians of spirituality and they will remain Indians only in name.
India is a very-very special nation, a very special nation, and that’s why I say that nationalism, when applied to the Indian context, is something very essential. Provided, it is nationalism on the right grounds, the right, true nationalism. Because other nations are founded on very exclusive grounds, sometimes even on violent and narrow-minded grounds. The Indian nation is founded on a very expansive ground, very expansive, very uplifting, very enriching and therefore nationalism must flourish in India, but not the nationalism of the shallow kind, not the kind of nationalism that led to the world wars. True nationalism! And what does true nationalism mean in India’s case? Nationalism founded on truly Indian values. And what do I mean by Indian values? I am being very specific here, by Indian values, I mean the values enshrined in Vedānta .
As long as the youth remain in touch with the essence of the nation, the nation will stay safe. When the youth start losing touch with Vedānta, the nation starts losing its inner security.
Externally, you can try to keep the political entity safe using the army, and technology, and whatnot. But inwardly the nation will decay, let that not happen. Getting it?