Is it not that one should identify himself with his country, then with the earth, then with the solar system and eventually with all?
No, a definite No.
An aspirant to Brahmajnana (knowledge of God) must love each and every country in the world. He can have no speciality. Patriotism in the spiritual sense is delirium. It leads to the justification of all the evils of the country. A patriot has to assume somebody as an enemy of his country, or in a mild sense a competitor in the industrial and economic fields, or a rival in imperialism. A yogi must be a universalist.
The identification of jiva (the soul) and Brahman (God) has no stages. You cannot say that the snake in the rope disappears by stages. All maya in whatever form is bondage. Your country is as much a part of maya as another’s country. Either you love infinity or you love yourself. The school of mystics in Persia believes that a complete and wholly unselfish love of man to woman and vice versa can lead to love of God. This kind of love can be an initial stage of mental discipline because from the beginning, if properly undertaken, this love leads to abstraction. It involves hatred of none. You can love a woman without hating any other woman, but you can’t be a patriot without hating other countries.
Nirvana (God-realization) is not an achievement—it is a rediscovery. Many people will start on the path of Yoga by loving their body. If it is wrong to love one’s own body exclusively, it is equally wrong to love one’s own country exclusively. A most spiritual patriot like Mazzini hated, however mildly the Austrians.
No, patriotism and jnana are incompatible. Shri Rama Tirtha, when spoken to about the plunder of India by Britain, laughed loudly and said: “The allegation is hypothetical. Granting it to be a fact, when wealth was in India it was in my right-hand pocket and when it went to England it is in my left-hand pocket”.
The fall of Japan in the Second World War is ascribable to ultra-patriotism. The king Yudhisthira in Mahabharata says: “The small-minded men indulge in such calculations as ‘this Is mine’, ‘this is others’. To the magnanimous, the whole world is one.”