Question: When you speak of a nation, you speak of it as if it were one person, but a nation is composed of thousands and millions of people with different levels of consciousness. Also, when you speak of a nation as an individual, it implies that there is such a thing as a karmic past. How can you reconcile the idea of karma for a nation with the fact that you have within the nation millions of people with their own individual karmic pasts, unless being born in one particular nation is part of an individual's karma?

Sri Chinmoy: Each individual can raise or lower the standard of his nation. If one person in a nation aspires, the consciousness of that particular nation is elevated. We must feel that a nation is like a body which is made up of millions of cells. If one cell achieves something great, it is the achievement of the entire body. If one cell attains a higher consciousness, the consciousness of the entire body improves. On the other hand, if one cell becomes weak, sick, diseased, then the entire body is weakened. The consciousness of a nation is a collective phenomenon. The achievement of each individual person adds to the achievement of the nation as a whole. Likewise, each nation should feel that it is a branch of the cosmic tree. The attainment of one particular branch is the attainment of the entire tree.

If we, as a nation, try to transcend our limitations or even our achievements, only then can we be perfect. As we are transcending our limitations and surpassing our achievements, we feel that consciously or unconsciously we are inspiring other nations. If they live in the vital they will be jealous of us. But if they live in the heart they will see that they, too, have the capacity to do as we are doing. A sincere nation will see and feel that another nation is rising or has risen to a high standard through its personal effort, through its aspiration to improve itself. A sincere nation will then ask itself what has prevented it from coming up to that standard, and it will see that it is just from lack of enthusiasm, lack of effort.

Some people say that opportunity is not given to some nations. I wish to say that this is not true. What is opportunity? Opportunity is the conscious acceptance of the presence of divinity within. A nation may say it has fallen or failed because it did not have equal capacity or equal opportunity. But I will say no! Opportunity came from Above; capacity came from within. However, the nation did not seize the opportunity, it did not exercise its capacity. In this world no nation can remain unsatisfied or unfulfilled if it sincerely aspires — that is, if its citizens sincerely aspire.

We have to know what God wants from each nation. God wants my hand to work, my eyes to see, my ears to hear, my nose to breathe. If a nation goes deep within, it will see what God wants it to be. If I can become what God wants me to become, then God will be more than satisfied. If God wants me to be an ant, then He will be pleased with me only if I become an ant, and not if I become an elephant. The role and goal of each individual nation has to come directly from within, from God. If I as a nation really want to do something for the world, then let me go deep within and do what God wants me to do, instead of competing with another nation which is doing something entirely different. As a nation, if I can become what God wants me to become, then I shall feel that I have fulfilled my own existence and I have fulfilled God's Divinity and God's Reality. If I want to compete, I should try to compete with my own ignorance, with my own limitations and bondage. I should try to surpass myself — my own achievements — instead of the achievements of other nations. If I have weaknesses as a nation, I should try to become strong by transforming and perfecting them. If I am sick I should try to cure myself, and not depend on another nation to cure me. Right now each nation is far from perfection. But each nation has the capacity to be absolutely perfect because the message of perfection dwells within each nation, the seed of perfection is sown inside each nation. Like any seed, it takes time to germinate.

A nation does have a karmic past, and when a person is born into a nation or lives in a nation, he participates or shares in that karmic past. He also helps to build the karmic future of that nation. So you have to know that if a nation is undeveloped, it is not because of lack of opportunity, but because of lack of aspiration or lack of development in its inhabitants. If a nation has certain good qualities or good fortune, or certain bad qualities or bad fortune, it is because of the consciousness of the people of that nation.