N A T I O N A L I S M A N D C H A U V I N I S M
Selections from the Agni Yoga Series
Presented before the Agni Yoga Society, February 3, 2009
1. You are right, as far as bad results are concerned, there is no worse crime than ignorance! Pseudopatriotism and pseudoreligion are falling away, and to replace these expiring scarecrows there is coming a future era of new joyous, constructive life, based on the great cooperation of peoples. It will be a new revival and purification of the Testaments of all the great Teachers…. Real patriotism and chauvinism are two opposites. One concept is based on tolerance, and therefore is growing, while the other is based on hatred, and therefore is dying away. The laws are the same everywhere.
Letters of Helena Roerich I, 2 June 1934.
2. True patriotism is so different from chauvinism. It is selfless love of one's country together with respect toward other nations which have in various ways contributed toward the growth and development of one's own nation. The true power and beauty of a country abides in its multiformity, in a comprehensiveness that does not preclude the fundamental oneness of the motherland. And the one who knows how to manifest this unity in diversity is really a great leader. …Patriotism is a high, most noble and sacred sentiment, but narrow nationalism or chauvinism is self-destructive. It is not sufficient to read the newspapers and to listen to the political leaders to understand the development of events; perhaps it is even better not to pay much attention to this information, as often it creates still greater confusion. Today, the human mentality and the whole life is similar to a ship that is adrift without sail or rudder amid the chaotic stormy elements. In order to understand the created chaos, in order to see the direction which leads toward salvation and the great future, and especially in order to know the right dates, one should possess a great spiritual vision and should know the High Guidance, or the so-called Hiero-inspiration.
Letters of Helena Roerich I, 2 June 1934.
3. Beautiful are the dramas of Kalidasa and the plays of Tagore, but I would suggest to you also not to ignore the legends and beautiful historical episodes from the life of your own country. Every country has its own treasures which should be remembered. Each nation should know its foundations, those foundations that have created its specific character. We are approaching now -- or rather, we have already entered -- the threatening heroic times in which many nations will be tested. Therefore, it seems to me that everything heroic, everything that uplifts the consciousness of a nation and evokes the achievements of the spirit, should be at present particularly encouraged. You know that I am very much against narrow nationalism or chauvinism, but I am always profoundly touched by the esteem with which the peoples of the nations regard that which is beautiful and heroic in their own countries. Do not mistake this for a call to militarism! No, but events are such that all of us should be ready to become warriors of the spirit and with spiritual weapons find courage to defend our spiritual achievements. It is a consolation to hear of the spiritual searchings of the young generation, and we should not miss this moment but should be ready to give them that for which their spirit longs. The Teaching of Life is exactly the right and all-embracing answer to all the questions of the spirit! Not a single domain, not one problem of life is neglected in these Covenants. On the contrary, every situation is treated from many angles and many points of view, and advice is given for most practical application. So many beautiful discourses are possible with searching souls! Just do not drive away those who are knocking. At the same time, great discrimination must be practiced to prevent the approach of the doubting ones.
Letters of Helena Roerich I, 6 July 1934.
4. I realize that you must give consideration to the tendency toward nationalism, and even chauvinism. Sometimes it is needful to protect the little growing tree by means of a fence, and the only extra precaution to take is to make sure that the fence is not so close to the little tree as to interfere with its normal development. One must give it room at the right moment. Thus, let us outlive with patience this transitory period. The Teaching of Living Ethics does not bear the stamp of any definite nationality; therefore, it is applicable everywhere and at all times. Some Eastern terms could be easily replaced by their Western equivalents. It is essential to be able to express the new conception of the problems of life and of the immutable laws of Be-ness. But here, as usual, only the unprejudiced and open consciousness can assimilate the breadth of the new world outlook. Therefore, work in full conformity with the possibilities of your audience. In everything apply goal-fitness, that great ruling law of the Universe. Do not force the consciousness of people who approach you. I do appreciate how difficult it is to give to everybody exactly in accordance with his consciousness. I know how the heart is longing to share its wealth, and to give the joy of broad contemplation of the world. Yet we must be wise in disseminating the seeds.
Letters of Helena Roerich I, 18 June 1935.
5. However, the canon "By thy God" must be applied in life, practically on every step. During each conversation, when there is no unity of consciousnesses, our first duty is not to infuriate our companion by contradiction and censure of his convictions, but, starting with his best possibilities and considering the level of his consciousness, we should gradually and patiently broaden his horizon. Thus, speaking with a Moslem, you will not begin by praising Lord Buddha or demeaning Mohammed, but you will interchange with him all that is beautiful in his religion, and when opportunity arises, you will explain more deeply and broadly the meaning of some sayings of Mohammed that have entered the treasury of world wisdom. Thus you will also do in any other situations in life. You will not speak with an avid chauvinist against his country, but you will discover the best expressions and qualities of his nation, and you will point out to him new ways for developing its particular qualifications. Your breadth of understanding of national beliefs will smooth over the factor of chauvinism and, unexpectedly for him, his limited consciousness will begin to respond to the note of containment. And so, one should learn to carry on timely conversations without animosity but evaluating your companion with friendliness. Precisely, carry them on with PATIENCE and respect for your adversary, not permitting irritation, derision, and other unworthy means. And in each conversation one should know how to sacrifice one's self, one's knowledge, and not to boast of one's enlightenment. Remember that it is said in the Teaching that only a pompous ignorance loves to spread on window sills the dry, small twigs of its knowledge, but he who truly knows does not fear to snip off a piece of his knowledge when it can oppress and humiliate his companion. In this manner, the canon "By thy God" is merely a manifestation of selflessness, without which nothing can be achieved. It is a great error to liken it to non-resistance to evil. If you wish, accept this canon as a manifestation of mercy. And so, the canon "By thy God" is fully compatible precisely with resistance to evil. One can put a stop to evil by various means, and straight-knowledge should prompt the limits of possibilities when applying the given canon.
Letters Of Helena Roerich II, 26 January 1939.
6. Everything you write is very good, but let us hope that the country will not remain for long on the level of narrow nationalism. Of course this transitory stage is inevitable, but the more cultured the people who represent the country are, the sooner will they deal with this question. True patriotism and chauvinism are complete opposites. The first concept is all-embracing and therefore capable of growth while the other is exclusive, compressive and therefore deathly. The laws are the same in everything. If some think that narrow nationalism is the same as patriotism, they are badly mistaken. Only the short-sighted can consider such nationalism strong. True patriotism should manifest itself not only in devoted love for one's own country and for all manifestations of its national genius, but also in solicitude and respect for each of its component peoples who have contributed toward the building of its culture. The task of the national genius is to perceive the achievements of all minorities and all nationalities resident in the country, to blend them, and to bind this conglomeration of creative expressions into a synthesized whole.
Letters Of Helena Roerich I, 14 June 1934.
7. Peoples and countries must learn to preserve their character and individuality by enriching themselves with all the flowers that grow in their meadows! But every forced isolation in this age of cooperation and unification (even if in its present stage this unification takes place mostly in mechanical achievements) is ruinous. But the time is not far off, during the next step, when whole countries will aspire toward cultural, spiritual cooperation and exchange, each one offering its flowers of achievement. For this new step the Teaching of Life is preparing us. Thus, wisely, we must wait until the inevitable period of exaggerated nationalism is outlived, and in the meantime try our best to unify and never to disrupt.
Letters of Helena Roerich I, 14 June 1934.