The Rise of a Rajasic Nation

“India as a Rajasic nation is a future that is already happening. It is inevitable, it is preordained. And it is happening now”. Gautam Chikermane on the rise of India as a ‘Rajasic nation’.

I met some young people here—somebody learning martial arts, somebody doing a start-up, somebody is doing design, strategy. I found something that is binding all of us together is the Rajasic force that our nation is going through right now.  

In my job, I get to meet foreign dignitaries, ministers, academics, some from think tanks, students, media, and they are all trying to figure out exactly what’s going on with our country right now. In the process of answering those questions, I too had to figure out what is happening in our country. Yes, you can see several activities everywhere around us—in economics, entertainment, science, technology, start-ups, money. But underlying all this is a force coming out of our country: it’s called the Rajasic Force, which is what I will be talking about.  

Before I begin, I would like to situate this force so that you can imagine the kind of treasure that India has, that still exists today from which we can pick up and enlighten our lives. These I call the spiritual sciences of India. There is the science of the soul. There is the science of life. There is the science of bhakti, faith. There is a science within the Darshanas. As everybody would be knowing, there are six astik Darshanas of which Sankhya is one. Within Sankhya there are two main directions, one given by the Purusha, the other by Prakriti. And Prakriti expresses the Purusha through three modes, which is Sattwa, Tamas and Rajas.  

Tamas, as we know is inertia, indolence, laziness, weakness. A Tamasic person just barely manages to survive. He just wants to go on with life, with as little disturbances as possible. A Rajasic person engages with life with full of enthusiasm, with dynamism. He kills, he conquers, he brings, he builds huge things but essentially it’s egoistic. And Sattwa is voice, knowledge and balance which keeps the Rajasic and the Tamasic tendencies in balance. A Sattvic person for instance in the middle of battle would seek harmony, peace, the right path as Sri Ram did in one of the previous incarnations.  

These are the three gunas. The body of the work is there in Isha Upanishad, Bhagavad Gita, Shivapurana. And the Puranas themselves are divided into three parts, six are Sattvic, six Rajasic and six Tamasic. These are the eighteen Mahapuranas.  

All of us, every individual has in himself or herself an admixture of the three gunas. The dominance of one over the other defines who you are. Are you a Rajasic person? Are you a Tamasic person? Are you a Sattvic person? I also feel that these tatvas, these forces inside us, they keep changing their dynamic because we ourselves are evolving. As we evolve, our natures change, these characteristics change. We recoil, we embrace, we rise, we fall.  

For instance, Arjun is, as we know, a Rajasic warrior, but when he faces his grandfather, his cousins, as the humongous army of the Kauravas before him, he recoils from battle. The Tamas inside him rises and begins to smother the Rajasic tendencies. As we all know, Sri Krishna brought him back and put him on track. Arjun said it’s better to be a renunciate than to kill your own people. Sri Krishna says the renunciation has to be within and not just an outer renunciation.  

There are three platforms on which the gunas work. According to Rishi Kapil, who put the Sankhya philosophy together, and Ved Vyas in the Mahabharata, it applies to individuals as I explained. Ved Vyas in Shiva Purana says the entire divinities are part of the gunas. For instance, Brahma, the Creator, is Rajas, so is Saraswati. Vishnu, the preserver, is Sattwa, so is Sati. And Rudra, the destroyer is Tamas, so is Lakshmi. Shiva is beyond the gunas, just as in the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna is beyond the gunas.  

Sri Aurobindo applies the theory of gunas to nations. According to him, the dominant trait of a nation, which is what I’ve been talking about, which is what you see in this room, this energy, this flow of creativity, this building that’s happening all around us, the political change, the global footprints, all that is part of a national guna, which today we are seeing to be Rajasic.  

The spiritual expression of collectives from the individual but before the divinities, those collectives…when people of various hues form themselves into a singular consciousness, what is that dominant force? Today it’s Rajasic. In ancient India, it was Rajasic. It was the time of knowledge, ideas, temples, institutions, libraries, wealth, trade. In medieval India. I think as a consciousness we fell into Tamas. This not only enabled invaders to come, in fact, I get a feeling that we almost invited invaders into India. We lost our power, our wealth, confidence. We lost our faith. We lost our religion. Essentially, we lost this Rajasic force.  

Sri Aurobindo says that the history of nations, when you examine them through these three characteristics, is a movement, a circular motion between the Rajas and Tamas. The Sattwic ideal has been expressed in some individuals but not as a collective so far. When you see the rise and fall of nations, which I will come to shortly, it is a journey from Rajas to Tamas and back.  

Despite being conquered, despite being invaded, the flame of Rajasic energy continued to burn somewhere in our country, in some of us. Now it is rising again. It probably began with the freedom movement. It attained political freedom, but we remained economically and culturally captured. Now we see an economic unshackling happening. This began in 1991. Cultural freedom will follow, and I think it’s also going to power the rest of the other freedoms.  

Since 2000 onwards, this is my opinion, I see this Rajasic force attaining critical mass. We see it in geopolitics, in governance, we see it in economy, in finance. We see it in literature, films. We see it in cultural push backs in terms of getting our stolen idols back. All these require Rajasic energies which are now you can see them form around you. All constituents, all major constituents, the dominant trait today what I see, what I observe, is a Rajasic trait. It is the urge to do something and I sense it in this room very strongly.  

One of the expressions of the Rajasic force that we keep talking about in terms of a number is India is a $10 trillion economy. What does $10 trillion even mean? For every trillion dollar that India rises, we see an increase in $700 in per capita income. That’s approximately 56,000 rupees of per capita income. That’s approximately a little more than 2 lakh rupees for a household. What does this 2 lakh rupee increase in the household income, per capita income mean? It changes a lot of things.  

In international Rajas, we see a new assertiveness that is coming up over a meekness that used to exist. We have today the ability to influence global events and we are doing it very smartly without getting too aggressive. For instance, the manner in which the Russia-Ukraine war and India taking oil from Russia has been countered. We see it in the manner in which India is trying to help poorer nations. In G20 for instance.  

There is a policy Rajas happening where there is an ease of life which is unshackling individual citizen Rajas. There is a catalyzing of the economy that is powering the business Rajas. Only yesterday, two days ago, the Janviswas Bill was passed where 113 compliances for which you could be imprisoned while doing business, have been decriminalized. And there will be more such. There is the rise of a domestic knowledge systems, the cultural Rajas, which is what this conversation is all about.  

All our outer expressions are being driven by an inner Rajas. I’m going to take two small points before I get to the larger parts.  

Is it being driven by India’s youth? India has among the lowest dependency ratios. Japan is 71, France 64, India is 47. Not only that, India is 47 and it is falling. If you see United States, the dependency ratio is 54 and it is rising. In China it is 45, less than India, but it is rising. In EU it is 57 and rising. In Japan it’s 71 and rising. In India it’s 47 and falling. The only competitor that I see is Indonesia and Thailand. Thailand, it doesn’t have the scale but Indonesia is 47 and falling. India is 47 and falling. Indonesia is a $1.3 trillion economy. India is 3.3 trillion. Let’s see where this goes.  

Could it be that the Rajasic energies are happening because of our changing food preferences? Let’s examine this. Extreme poverty has almost been eradicated. It was 0.8% according to IMF, it is 5.7% according to ADB, it is 8.9% according to World Bank. And in 1987 it was 50%. Half of our population was under extreme poverty. Even if we take the last, the biggest number, less than 10% is in extreme poverty. In the next three or four years, we’re going to be 0 poverty.  

This is impacting our food choices. It is impacting our gunas, let’s see how. The cereal consumption of individuals between 1994 and 2012, has fallen. That’s the latest data. The new data will happen, it’s happening, going to begin now and maybe in the next two or three years we will have that data and I’m sure this trend will continue. In those years we have seen that cereal consumption is down, vegetables are up. These are Sattwic foods. Vegetables are up 60%, eggs are up 202%. This is Rajasic food, Chicken is up 1,000%.  

We are eating more Rajasic food than we have ever done before. The masalas, the spices consumption has increased by 1,000% as well. Is Artha powering Rajas? Probably.  

I have just taken two but now you look around you, be it in the area of ideas, aspirations, entertainment, spirituality, Dharma, temples, wealth, schools, sports, anywhere you look, you examine it through the lens of these gunas and you will see what I am talking about. We are becoming a Rajasic nation.  

Is the Rajasic force permanent? No, Sri Aurobindo has already said that and let’s see what happened. Until 1000 AD India was the Rajasic nation of the world. There was huge wealth, there was power, there was force. India was going out. Then, we began to lose it. This Rajasic force moved to Europe. From Europe, it went to Japan and the US. Japan is at 71, I told you 71 dependency ratio. It’s full of old people. United States has the capacity to bring young people. From United States the rajasic force moved to China, which to me is an Asuric nation. And it is now coming back to India.  

In Europe, between the 1500 and 1950s, there was renaissance, colonial conquest. You had the musicians, you had the painters, you had the industrial revolution. Today that Rajasic force is ebbing, it’s before our eyes. There is low growth, there is low fertility, there are strategic blunders. Europe is moving towards irrelevance and still not being able to decide whether what it wants to do, how it wants to move forward. The people who invaded India during the Turkic invasions are the people who are joining as going to Europe as immigrants today. It is attracting the worst form of immigrants. I am not saying this. There are Islamic scholars who are saying this, that there is no problem in so many of our Islamic nations. The persons who are running away are those who we don’t want. They are going to Europe. Tamas is settling in. Will the new Europe be a Tamas-driven Rajas area? Will it turn asuric? We don’t know. At the moment it seems to be in that direction.  

Japan between 1850 and 1950 began as a military power. It colonized China, Taiwan, Korea. Sri Aurobindo says it was the time of their Rajas, rise due to the samurai culture. That Rajasic force is now ebbing. There is aging, there is low growth, there is low fertility. Tamas has set in. It is in a state of a wealthy but stable Tamas.  

The US from 1900 till date was a geography where immense innovations happened, they sent a man to the moon. It was a place where wealth was created. It became the most powerful nation in the world. It created institutions, it created public goods, it created global public goods. It created the United Nations, World Bank, IMF. The Rajasic force today seems to be ebbing in society, possibly in domestic politics as well. But in the areas of technology, in the areas of business, military, markets, America still stands at the top. Also, the US has this propensity to be able to absorb, to be able to import the Rajasic forces, the best of Rajasic forces from across the world. Will it continue to do so? Apparently so. It does look to be like that. But it is internally dealing with very strange problems. For instance, gender. The Gunas are in a transition conversation in the United States.  

In China from 1990 till date, actually it began in 1980s but the force got economic momentum during the 1990s, around the time that India also began with the 1991 reforms, is been functioning under a Tamasic Rajasic force. It has tensions on all its borders other than North Korea and Pakistan. There is wolf diplomacy, there is debt trap engagements. There is a beggar-thy-partner strategy. It has weaponized everything from trade, diplomacy, currency, education, markets, companies and even individuals. There are five laws that have turned every organization, entity, including individuals, into a potential spy. At some point, this Rajas, the domestic Rajas of the nation, will fight the authoritarian Rajas. That is the Chinese Communist Party. In fact, China is actually a Chinese Communist Party, to which is appended a nation called China. Momentum will keep it going but it is inviting its own decline. This is a Tamas driven Rajasic and Asuric nation.  

In India from 2000 till date the memory of our Rajasic force that we were once powerful, that we were once wealthy, that we were once the temples of education, literature, arts, architecture, has been forgotten. That memory is being revived now. It was lost because of the education, because of policies. It is like you have the white man’s burden, you have the Bharatiya’s burden.  

The GDP in 1000 AD was 28% of world GDP. Today it is 3.5%. Sri Aurobindo says India needs its Kshatriya Dharma back. Our Kshatriyas need to come back. Kshatriyas are Rajasic in their nature. It is now returning. It is reaching a critical mass. It is likely to be a force for good. It is not going to be a Tamas-driven Rajasic nation. It is,in my opinion, going to be a Sattwa-driven Rajasic nation.  

We have already created the public goods to which power my argument. Look at the our vaccine diplomacy. Look at the manner in which the Western countries were trying to scratch the whole world to their benefit. And look at the way India created its own vaccine and gave it to other countries for free. Look at our UPI. Look at the manner in which we engage with peace, but this time from a position of strength, not because we are weak. We want peace because we are strong. We want peace because we can ensure that we can demand peace and we can get that peace.  

The national Rajas, as I talked about, comprises the individual Rajas. Each individual needs to awaken it, contribute to our national Rajas. Tamas will continue to pull us down. We have enough enemies, within and outside. Not only that, we have our enemies within us. We have the fear of narratives, we have the fear of battle, we have the fear of loss. All these need to go away. It’s going away. If we do nothing, Prakriti will still continue to do her work. We will continue to go. If we become conscious, we will enable Prakriti to go faster.  

I come back to this slide that I had begun with, in my earlier part. This slide defines Sanatan Dharma. This is what Sri Aurobindo had to say about it: “When the Sanatan Dharma declines, then the nation declines. And if the Sanatan Dharma was capable of perishing with the Sanatan Dharma it would perish. The Sanatan Dharma that is nationalism.”  

India as a Rajasic nation is a future that is already happening. It is inevitable, it is preordained. And it is happening now.  

Transcribed from Gautam Chikermane’s Talk for Bharat Uvacha delivered in Hyderabad. With permission from Bharat Uvacha ]  

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