Concept of Motherland

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By Shankara Bharadwaj Khandavalli

It is a uniqueness of Hindus to treat land as mother and a goddess. Right from Vedic days, Hindus have always treated this land as the Bharata varsha.

Earth is the mother of all the living beings. Our elders describe that earth is the mother of all, and that we are all her infant children that feed on her breast - all vegetation is the milk that she feeds us. The Veda (Bhu sukta) praises earth as a goddess. Puranas describe the goddess earth (Bhudevi) as the consort of Lord Vishnu.

Earth is one of the five primordial elements (panca maha bhutas). It is the element with all the attributes sabda, rasa, rupa, gandha and sparsa. Evolution is described to be beginning from akasa from which vayu comes and so on, and earth is the final stage in that manifestation. Thus, earth is the fullest manifestation of maya in creation and it contains all the other elements.

If seen as a loka or plane of consciousness, earth is the physical plane. It is the base of life. It is at the bottom of the urdhva lokas and is the basis from which all the higher planes can be achieved. For man to get to highest planes of consciousness, physical plane is the "earth".

In our daily life, treating earth as mother begins when we wake up. Hindus wake up remembering her as "samudra vasane devi parvata stana mandale" and apologise for touching her with feet by saying "pada sparsa kshamasvame". Such outlook implies and inspires respect for nature and surroundings. And people with such outlook live like undifferentiated parts of creation and not as those who have come to conquer/rule it. It is because such outlook is wanting today, that we see many problems in society like ecological imbalance and man trying to exploit other men. Having this outlook and trying to live it everyday, is the solution to these problems.

It is not just land, but state/society is also praised as mother-goddess by the Veda. The mother says "aham rastrii" in the third mantra of Vaagaambhrini sukta (mandala 10, sukta 25 of Rigveda). She further says she causes wellbeing and prosperity of the peoples, all actions of men and gods are inspired by her, and she is the purpose of those actions.

Hindus have the concept of state and society right from remote past. The concept of nation was not prevalent in the world a few centuries ago, except in Bharat. But the sense was not political/ military in nature - it was cultural and spiritual.

Actions of every individual affect the society and every change in the society affects individuals. The actions that are inspired by this awareness are beneficial to individuals as well as the society. If that awareness is lacking, then individual interests alone inspire people's actions and individuals' vision becomes narrow. Then, though their actions are apparently beneficial in the short run, in the long run and at a society level their consequences can be harmful. The actions of people treating society as a goddess do not suffer from such shortcomings.

Treating society as if it has life like a person, that the collective intellectual life of its individuals is the intellect of the society, that their collective actions and their fruits are those of the society, is an advanced stage in the universalization of an individual's consciousness. Like an individual's, a society also has a lifecycle. National consciousness includes and supersedes consciousness of individual, family, community and region. A person who can achieve it is as good as having universal consciousness. Growing beyond it is the last stage in universalization. Simply ignoring the boundaries of a nation is not universalizing. Nor is respecting those boundaries and having patriotism, narrow-mindedness. Universalizing means that the person treats and identifies himself as the nation and vice-versa. One who identifies himself as his family does all his actions for and inspired by the family and not him as an individual. He is the family and family is he. There is no other identity for him. As he universalizes further, he lives as and works for his community or region. At higher stages he becomes his nation himself. Growing further and identifying himself with the universe is the final stage in the path. There he achieves complete universal consciousness.

If this is interpreted in the terminology of sadhana, an individual treats the society as a goddess, worships Her, and becomes one with Her. In the terminology of karma yoga, the individual gets salvation in the described way above.