Failings of revolutionary and mass movements - Day-to-day technique for moulding men - Stress on practice - National symbol Bhagava Dhwaj, the Guru - Worship of ideal, not individual or book - Shakha, crucible of national reorganisation - Tradition of national festivals - Dangers of 'institutionalism'- Domination by militant groups, an un-Hindu concept - Sangh for organising whole society
An ideal requires a method, a process for its realisation in actuality. Today all around us we witness various types of techniques being adopted by several organisations. Even at the time of the founding of our organisation these different methods of work were in vogue. And it was not that Dr. Hedgewar, the founder of the Sangh, was unaware of those systems when he evolved this particular technique for our organisation. On the contrary, for quite a long time before he started the Sangh, he was in the thick of the activities of those organisations and was well acquainted with their techniques.
Why then did he start a separate organisation with a separate technique? Is it because he wanted credit and applause for himself as the founder and leader of an independent organisation? Nothing could be farther from truth. Doctorji had received enough applause on other platforms. With the spirit of boundless sacrifice, tremendous energy of action and flash of genius it was mere child's play for him, had he so desired, to get the highest political prizes of the land. But he gave up all that and started this silent and unassuming type of organisation.
In Search of the Right Path
What then is the reason that prompted him to plough this fresh furrow in the national field? Being of a fiery patriotic temperament right form his boyhood, his first fascination was naturally for the revolutionary movements of the day. He had, as a matter of fact, chosen the medical course at Calcutta in spite of untold personal hardships only with a view to diving deep into that movement, as Calcutta was then the seething volcano of revolutionary activities. He lived in the dangerous under-currents of that volcanic lava, but kept his discerning eye ever wide open. Though his heart throbbed in unison with the flaming hearts of those revolutionary comrades, he found their method wanting as an effective instrument for total national regeneration. Their secret and lightning
movements, their daring exploits and glorious martyrdoms evoked the highest admiration in his fiery bosom but his calm brain refused to be blinded by the flash of such revolutionary sparks.
He knew that a handful of secret workers, deprived of direct contact with the people, could play but a very limited role in rousing and organising a whole nation. Further, he had observed that most of the revolutionary plots and secrets had met with disaster by the cropping up of informers and traitors every now and then from even amongst their top
cadres, thus undoing at one stroke the glorious heroism and sacrifices of countless revolutionaries. Without a trained core of extremely strong-willed, disciplined and patriotic men, no revolution could be expected to succeed in blowing up an organised and mighty state machinery such as the British had built in our country.
After Doctorji returned to Nagpur from Calcutta, he plunged into the freedom movements of the Congress. Under the leadership of Lokamanya Tilak, the Congress was fast becoming a movement of the masses. The age of armchair politicians was gone. A new era of mass resistance of the British had set in. The spirit of swaraj was in the atmosphere. After Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi spread the fire far and wide and lit up the torch of resistance in every town and village. Gandhiji with his unimpeachable character, his spirit of utter selflessness and fearlessness, his simple yet effective techniques touching the heart of the common mass of people roused the nation to new heights of struggle and sacrifice. Pandit Nehru with his burning idealism and dynamism was coming up as the inspiring symbol and spearhead of the proud and independent spirit of the rising generation. By the efforts of such stalwarts the country was caught in a wave of intense anti-British upsurge. Doctorji too was in the forefront bearing the brunt. He defied the foreign rulers and courted hard terms in prison. At the same time, he continued his close scrutiny of movement and found to his disappointment some grave defects, which, he feared would be the undoing of all its cherished aspirations in the long run.
In both the movements he had observed that the main incentive was the anti-British spirit with no positive vision of national freedom. That was the case with not only the general mass of the people but with most of the leaders as well. And without a positive conviction of our national life, those movements, in course of time, were bound to drift into reactionary channels.
Secondly, they could give no answer to a question, which had haunted Doctorji since his very boyhood. How could a handful of foreigners, Muslim or British, subjugate us and rule over us for such a length of time? Ousting the British was all right, but what was the root malady, which had resulted in that foreign domination? If, as it was clear, our own disunity was responsible for our slavery, then would these terrorist and agitational methods remedy that root malady? Could abiding oneness of the people be created by revolutionary shocks and mass upsurges? Could all the evil tendencies such as selfishness, lack of discipline and absence of national consciousness, which had been eating into the vitals of our people for the last so many centuries and had resulted in foreign domination, be wiped out at one stroke?
And again, without the people being rooted in the positive and sustaining virtues of an organised national life, would it be advisable to work up mass fury on the basis of mere antagonism? In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, after Caesar is assassinated by his own comrades, and Brutus and Cassius ride on the crest of popular upsurge, Caesar's friend Antony cleverly manipulates the mob fury and turns its tide against the assassinators themselves. As the wild mob turns in their hot pursuit, Antony comes out with the famous remark, "Mischief, thou art afoot. Take thou what course thou wilt." That is the disastrous drawback - 'thou wilt' and not as 'we will' - of all such mass upsurges without a
corresponding countrywide organisation based on positive national life-values and capable of directing and controlling the movement.
For a Mental Revolution
After deep cogitation along these lines, Doctorji concluded that a total revolution in the mental attitude of the people was the vital need of the hour. It was mental revolution and not a physical revolution that was the panacea for all our nation's ills including the foreign domination. He was aware that the task of bringing about a total transformation in the attitudes and thought - processes and behaviour of the whole people by taking individual after individual and moulding him for an organised national life, demanded a perseverant, silent and single-minded approach free from all public fanfare and propaganda.
National reorganisation means fostering those traits which build up national character and cohesion. It is directed towards awakening a passionate devotion to the motherland, a feeling of fraternity, a sense of sharing in national work, a deeply felt reverence for the nation's ideals, discipline, heroism, manliness and other noble virtues. This work of moulding minds and building character cannot be done by sermons or administering pledges. The spirit of devotion to the nation has to be a steady flame, burning day in and day out and year after year. And so people should gather daily and regularly in an environment congenial to its growth. Having this in view, our founder finally evolved the present framework of organisation.
The Scene that Inspires
The first thing that strikes the eye in our method is its day-to-day programme. There is an open playground. Under a saffron flag, groups of youths and boys are absorbed in a variety of Bharatiya games. Resounding shouts of joyous enthusiasm fill the air. The sight of the daring young men pressing forward with the cry 'Kabaddi, Kabaddi' on their lips thrills the heart. The leader's whistle or order has a magical effect on them; there is instant perfect order and silence. Then exercises follow - wielding the lathi, Suryanamaskar, marching, etc. The spirit of collective efforts and spontaneous discipline pervades every porgramme. Then they sit down and sing in chorus songs charged with patriotism.
Discussions follow. They delve deep into the problems affecting the national life. And finally, they stand in rows before the flag and recite the prayer:
UkeLrs lnk oRlys ekr`Hkwes
(Many salutations to Thee, O loving motherland!) whose echoes fill the air and stir the
soul. 'Bharat Mata ki jai' uttered in utmost earnest furnished the finishing and inspiring touch to the entire programme.
Throughout the length and breadth of Hindusthan, not only in towns and cities but in far-off hamlets, hills and dales, these inspiring scenes and soul-stirring songs greet us regularly and punctually at the time of sunrise, sunset or at night every day. We call it 'Shakha'.
The real spirit of our work will be understood when one comes in contact with the Shakha. Once a dignitary came to preside over one of our functions at Nagpur. He frankly confessed, "I was highly sceptical about the work of the Sangh all these years. I used to confront its workers with a thousand and one questions. But today, having seen the Sangh, myself, all my doubts and suspicions have vanished." Practically every place that has a Shakha has a similar story to tell.
The reason for this is simple. The Shakha is the living practice of principles and not a bundle of dry preachings. The picture of earnest and devoted men, young and old, engaged in the daily sadhana gives an eloquent, though silent, message of the work which no spoken or written work can ever adequately convey.
The inevitable need of the silent and intensely practical aspect of the Sangh and its concentration on the moulding of hearts as living limbs of our national being will become apparent when we contrast it with the atmosphere prevailing outside.
Once I met an elderly gentleman. He began telling me that he knew all about our organisation and it was, in fact, he who gave that plan to Dr. Hedgewar! He also showed me the notes detailing his ideas about the ideal method of organisation. Then I just asked him, "You have spent all your active life in this place. Can you just tell me how many friends you have here who will stand by you under any circumstance?" He replied with evident disdain, "There is not even a single fellow here worthy of my friendship. All are sinful wretches." Then I told him jokingly, "At least, should you not have four persons to carry your body on the final day?"
Our country is today infested in every sphere of life with such 'expert planners', 'preachers' and 'advisers' and their 'learned' discourses and exhortations. It is well known that people devoid of a strict and unflagging adherence to a practical technique to achieve the cherished goal degenerate into tall talks and low habits.
The Image for Worship
Together with its all-out emphasis on the practical aspect of the work, the Sangh has bestowed profound thought on evolving a proper framework of technique that will be effective in the achievement of its ideal. Without a suitable technique no ideal, however great, can be realised. Even in our various sects, each individual has a definite emblem in keeping with his particular sect. He dresses and adorns himself in a particular manner, recites a particular mantra and follows a particular code of discipline. A Shaiva, a Shakta
or a Vaishnava, each has his own method of worship, his own ritual, his own codes and conventions regulating his life.
We too have evolved a technique, an emblem, a 'mantra' and a code of discipline in keeping with our ideal of an unified and disciplined national life. The great and inspiring emblem that we have chosen is the immortal Bhagawa Dhwaj which brings before our eyes living image of our ancient, sacred and integrated national life in all its pristine purity and entirely crossing all superficial barriers of province, sect, creed, caste, language and custom. Since times immemorial, it has been the symbol of our dharma, our culture, our traditions and ideals. It embodies the colour of the holy sacrificial fire that gives the message of self-dissolution in the fire of idealism and the glorious orange hue of the rising sun that dispels darkness and sheds light all around. It has been the one guiding star to all our endeavours, material as well as spiritual, the one unfailing witness to the penance of yogis and the sacrifices of heroes and symbolised the dreams of countless millions of this land all through the ages. In short, it has been the highest, the noblest and the truest symbol of our nationhood.
Worship Ideal, Not Individual or Book
The sangh has taken up this living symbol as its guiding light - the guru. When Doctorji placed this flag before us as our guru, as our ideal, quite a few of his co-workers raised their eyebrows. Having seen the ideal in flesh and blood in the form of Doctorji himself, they queried, "Why not look upon Doctorji himself as our ideal?" But our founder, in keeping with the spirit of the organisation, placed the immortal Bhagawa as our ideal. No individual, however great, can be the ideal for a nation. The individual is after all a fleeting entity in the eternity of national life. However great, he can at best reflect a fraction of the beauty and fragrance of the full bloom of the national life over the centuries. Moreover, it is futile to expect that all people will cherish the same devotion towards a particular person, however noble and venerable he may be. Some worship Sri Rama as their Chosen Deity whereas some others look upon Sri Krishna as their God and so on. Therefore the Sangh has kept a symbol which is at once universal and all-absorbing in its appeal.
The tragedy of movements, which revolved solely around individuals for their inspiration and ideals is there for all to see in the history of nations the world over. The curse of personality cult and the rise of dictators that have scarred the face of humanity have been due to the idolizing of individuals to the neglect of ideals. Our culture has always commanded us to look upon the individual as great and worthy of our adoration only to the extent he expresses an ideal in his life. In the whole wide world it is our dharma alone that is not based on the historicity or authority of any single individual.
The other special feature of our heritage is that no book is taken as the single supreme authority for our dharma and samskriti. All our scriptural texts are only expositions of the several aspects and paths to the One Goal of human life. The Sangh too has not accepted or prepared any book to serve as its sole authority. Once a prominent religious leader asked me, "Which is the text you follow?" I replied, "If we confine ourselves to the word
of a book, then we will be no better than Muslims and Christians whose religion stands on a book. And so our devotion is to the ideal and to nothing less as nothing else."
It is in keeping with that sublime cultural tradition that the Sangh has kept before itself neither an individual nor a book as its authority but Bhagawa Dhwaj, the glowing symbol of all that is good and great in our national life, and through that, is striving for the inculcation of pure devotion to the nation as a whole.
Crucible of National Reorganisation
It is in the sanctifying presence of the Bhagawa Dhwaj that the day-to-day activities of the Shakha are carried on. All sections of our people gather there. Forgetting all superficial distinctions of language, province, caste, community, party or sect, they gather as children of a common motherland and play in her sacred dust. They pray to the motherland in deep veneration. They resolve to lay down their lives for her glory. As they play and sing, a feeling of oneness brings them together. As they perform exercises together and march together, their hearts begin to throb in unison.
More important than the programme is the atmosphere. An air of sweetness and sanctity pervades the atmosphere. In course of time amidst the wide variety and diversity of the assembling persons, a wholesome unity emerges. The spirit of amity and harmony strikes root in their minds. And the inspiring dream of national unity submerging social, political, economic and other divisions becomes a living reality. Thus the Shakha is the crucible which awaken noble impulses of dedicated patriotic service in our people and binds them together with immortal fraternal bonds. It is the creative center for sterling national character and lasting national cohesion.
Medium of Mass - Awakening
Besides, the tradition of national festival that the Sangh has evolved is a potent medium of awakening the masses to our true and integrated national life.
Varsha Pratipada or Yugadi, the Hindu New Year's Day, awakens in us the memories of our great epoch-makers and their immortal achievements. By a happy coincidence it is also the birthday of our founder. Hindu Samrajya Dinotsav (Jyeshtha Suddha Trayodashi) marks the victory of the resurgent Hindu power over the eight-hundred-year-old oppressive rule of Muslims, under the virile leadership of Shivaji who founded the sovereign national throne on this sacred day in 1674. Guru Pooja (Ashadha Poornima) as the traditional day when the pupil renders homage to his teacher. The Sangh has given it a national character. It is on this day that Sangh worships its guru, Bhagawa Dhwaj, the symbol of our dharma and our nationhood. Raksha Bandhan (Sharvana Poornima) reminds us that we are the children of a common motherland. We tie Rakhi, a symbol of fraternity, on this day. Vijayadashami (Ashwayuja Suddha Dashami) rekindles the memories of the glorious tradition of our victories over the forces of evil. It is also the birthday of the Sangh. Makar Sankraman, which marks the transition in nature from
There is an instance of our own experience. When ban was imposed on Sangh and I was put behind the bars (in1948), I found in my room one morning a number of printed
'darkness to light', holds for us the message to emerge form the darkness of selfishness to the light of national consciousness.
Thus on the one hand, the virtues of national consciousness, character and cohesion are infused into the people by the day-to-day training in the Shakha and, on the other hand, the flame of national awakening is fed by the various national festivals.
Curse of 'Institutionalism'
It is clear from the above description that it is the all-absorbing spirit of devotion to nation in its entirety and not to any individual or institution that is sought to be ingrained in the Sangh. Without that life-spirit, mere attachment to and pride in the external set-up will become one more point of national disruption.
In our past history and even in recent times, we have burnt our fingers having ignored this basic principle of national reorganisation. There had been many attempts in the past in various parts of the country at awakening and organising our people. The great sponsors of those movements had started them with a view to strengthening and unifying society as a whole. But as circumstances changed and the immediate cause for their coming into being was removed, the inner spirit gave place to mere attachment to the external form. As a result, we see many such rigidified sects developing into mutually exclusive and even hostile entities in the present-day atmosphere of selfishness.
For example, during the grueling times of Muslim onslaught, there arose in Punjab a great saint by name Guru Nanak Dev who rekindled amongst the people the dying embers of faith in our ancient dharma. He was followed by a galaxy of nine gurus who lived and died as flaming examples of devotion and sacrifice in the cause of dharma. The tenth guru, Guru Govind Singh, felt that mere revival of dharmic devotion, without heroic action, would be of little avail against the brutal forces of adharma. He changed his followers with an indomitable martial spirit and forged them into a conquering army of heroic warriors. But what a misfortune that today the mission, which inspired that glorious movement is given a go-by and mere attachment to the external form, the institution, has so much hardened as to give rise to perverted notions of separatism laying the axe at the very life-spirit with which it came into being!
Let us take another instance from recent times. In 1947, when the British transferred power to the hands of Congress, the Congress leaders, in defiance of Mahatmaji's advice to disband it, stuck to its name and form to perpetuate themselves in power on the strength of its past credit and goodwill. The result is that today Congressmen, in a bid to stick to their seats of power, feel not the slightest qualms of conscience in descending to any depths of degradation. In order to win over the masses to their fold they rouse their selfishness, tempt them with many a low and immoral gratification, or threaten their opponents and even do them to death.
papers meant to serve as apology forms for the Swayamsevaks who had courted imprisonment. The Jail Superintendent who came a little later told me that those forms were supplied to the Swayamsevaks who desired to apologise and go out. I told him, "Of course, none of our persons will ever dream of apologising as they have come here of their own free will and for a cause, which they hold dearer than their own life. But apart from it, what do you stand to gain by such low tactics? When a person is made to break his pledge to a cause, will it not demoralise and immobilise him for the rest of his life? Would such a wreck be beneficial to our national life? One could have understood this method of getting apologies being adopted by the British, for to them, crushing the spirit of our country's youth was essential to perpetuate their rule. But now our leaders say this is swaraj. What then do they achieve by thus trying to shatter the will and morale of our own people?"
Un-Hindu Concept Eschewed
The Sangh therefore has never entertained the idea of building an organisation as a distinct and separate unit within society. Right form its inception the Sangh has clearly marked out as its goal the moulding of the whole of society, and not merely any one part of it, into an organised entity. That is the reason for the Sangh worker's not parading themselves as a 'Sangh group' before the people even when thousands of them work staking their all in times of national catastrophes like famines, floods, flow of refugees from Pakistan, etc. They are content to remain as ordinary members of society and thereby put an example of how even a common man should behave in an alert and organised social life. Such a will-knit, patriotic and self-sustaining national life alone can fortify the nation with overwhelming and everlasting strength.
The idea of building a powerful group within society - sometimes taking the form of a private army - is fraught with grave perils to a free and prosperous national growth. We have witnessed such bodies shooting up like meteors on the political horizon in Germany, in Italy, in Russia and China and establishing totalitarian regimes in their respective countries. It is in the nature of these totalitarian parties to seek to perpetuate their domination on society and to enslave people politically, economically, socially, culturally, and in all other respects. The hair-raising reports of mass purges, brainwashing and slave camps that are going on in Russia and China give us a picture of the state of affairs in such countries. The nation's free expression is thereby choked. The individual is annihilated. And bereft of individual initiative and freedom, the society begins to degenerate.
The idea of domination through brute strength is absolutely alien to our culture and tradition. Our whole being revolts against this un-Hindu concept. Numerous faiths and creeds have flourished here form ancient times. We have had a variegated pattern of political institutions. We have had republican governments and hereditary kingships. Under all conditions the people were free to follow their healthy persuasions in every walk of life. Everyone was encouraged to develop himself according to his individual genius, nature and inclination. In keeping with that spirit, the work of the Hindu
missionaries for rousing and organising the society has always been through love and service, character and sacrifice and never through brute force or political power.
It is this type of elastic and self-expressive pattern of organisation that has helped our society to keep alive its spirit of coherence in spite of being subjected to unparalleled atrocities and aggressions. If the pattern had been rigid and imposed from above, our society would have today remained merely as fossil, just as some of the huge animals became immobile and gradually perished under the dead-weight of their rigid protective covers. The Sangh has therefore rightly eschewed all such self-defeating alien types of organisation and stuck to our pure and healthy national system for rebuilding society.