The Spiritual Experience of Patriotism: Lessons from the teachings of Sathya Sai Baba
Patriotism is an emotion that transcends the boundaries of race, language, or creed, representing a deep love for one's homeland. It is more than an allegiance to a geographical location or a flag; it is a commitment to upholding the values, customs, and spirit of one's country. But patriotism extends far beyond political borders—it forms a bridge to spirituality, a concept embraced by all religions and cultures worldwide. As we celebrate Memorial Day, let's reflect on the profound connection between patriotism and spirituality, drawing upon the wisdom and teachings of Sathya Sai Baba.
Various teachings and talks of Swami shed light on how respect and love for one's motherland can elevate us to a higher plane of consciousness, where unity, service, and devotion flourish.
Lord Rama, after spending 14 years in exile and having several options of establishing his kingdom somewhere else, lovingly told his brother Lakshmana, "Mother and motherland are superior even to heaven." This quote reflects the deep spiritual connection that Rama feels towards his homeland, making it an essential part of his spiritual journey.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna guides Arjuna on the path of duty (dharma), emphasizing that one's commitment to righteousness, truth, and justice—values often synonymous with patriotism—leads to spiritual elevation. As he says in Chapter 2, Verse 47, “Your right is to perform your duties, but never lay claim to the results." This teaching can be interpreted as a call to love and serve our nation selflessly, without any expectation of rewards.
Sathya Sai Baba beautifully articulated the interplay of patriotism and spirituality. He emphasized that love for one's country is fundamental for any person and a steppingstone towards self-realization.
He once said, "Your first duty is to the country. Love of the country is a very important aspect of spirituality." In his view, patriotism is not just about expressing love for the country; it's about acting on that love through service to society. Just like spirituality, patriotism urges us to transcend our self-centered interests and work for the greater good of the nation and humanity at large.
All of us know very well Swami’s quote, "Start the day with love, fill the day with love, end the day with love – this is the way to God." This aphorism, while not directly about patriotism, emphasizes the centrality of love in all aspects of life. If patriotism is a form of selfless love for one's homeland, then it surely is a pathway to spiritual enlightenment.
Swami also emphasized the importance of unity, saying, "Unity is divinity; purity is enlightenment." This quote signifies that unity and purity of heart and mind are crucial for realizing our divine nature, which is the ultimate goal of spirituality. Similarly, in the context of patriotism, unity among citizens, irrespective of their diverse backgrounds, strengthens the nation and brings about harmonious coexistence.
Patriotism, like spirituality, calls for selflessness, humility, and a commitment to uphold the values that our country holds dear. Both require us to look beyond our individual needs and contribute to the greater good, thus creating a harmony between our personal growth and collective well-being.
As we celebrate Memorial Day, let us remember Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings about love and service. Let's uphold our patriotic duty with love, respect, and a profound sense of spiritual duty, keeping our country’s honor high.
To conclude, in the immortal words of Swami: "You must love your motherland for it is the basis for love of the world. If you do not love and serve your country, you cannot love and serve the world." This Memorial Day, let's rekindle our patriotic spirit, respecting our homeland and the sacrifices made by many to protect it. In doing so, we walk a spiritual path that not only uplifts ourselves but also our world.
Om Sai Ram!