Rabindranath Tagore's"conception of spirituality consists in the realization and extension of one's being in the open panorama of nature."
"So far in this discussion of Tagore's ideal of harmony, I have focussed on his call for human solidarity and community. But no account of that ideal, or of the spirituality of this thought, would be complete unless we consider, as well, his insistence on the essential kinship of man with nature. A sense of such kinship remained with Tagore from his childhood. 'from my infancy,' he says, 'I had a keen sensitiveness which kept my mind tingling with consciousness of the world around me—nature and man.' When referring to this kinship, he often invokes his analogy between spiritual harmony and music.
The grand orchestra of the universe has filled my heart
In many a quiet moment in my imagination.
The inaccessible snow-clad mountain peaks in their
Infinite solitude of blue
Have sent to my heart many an invitation.
Nature, a harmony of lines, colours, life and movement, is itself compared to a work of art: it is a song, an expression of beauty. 'We find,' the poet writes, 'that the endless rhymes of the world ... strike our heart strings and produce music.' And in this music of nature one finds another extension of one's being. The beauty of nature provides us with an eternal assurance of our spiritual relation to it, thereby widening our individual parameters. It seems, in fact, that it was his experience of nature that originally inspired Tagore his ideal of harmony.
During the discussion of my own religious experience I express my belief that the first stage of my realization was through the feeling of intimacy with Nature—not that Nature which has its channels of information for our mind and physical relationship with our living body, but that which satisfies our personality with manifestations that make our life rich and stimulate our imagination in their harmony of forms, colours, sounds and movements.
The happiness, love and freedom we experience in intimate relationships with other people have their analogues in the experience of nature. The person open to the beauty of nature will establish with it bonds of love that, like those with a friend, also liberate...
Tagore's is a mind extremely responsive and sensitive to nature. Throughout his poems, songs or dramas, we meet bright sunshine, mellow evening, calm night and many other aspects of nature. His soul seems to have settled comfortably, as he says in a letter to his niece Indira Devi, in the arms of nature, without missing a particle of its light, its air, its scenery and its song. He speaks of his harmony with the music of nature, with the melodies coming from the murmur of rushing water, from the songs of birds, from the rustling of leaves. He expresses an eagerness to enter deep into the great festival of nature, to see and hear nature in a consummately significant way:
I have had many invitations to the world's festival, and thus my life has been blessed. My eyes have seen, and my ears have heard. It was my part at this feast to play upon my instruments, and I have done all I could.
We find Tagore constantly extolling the beauty and splendours of nature. His songs are always there, 'where the least of a bird's note if never missed, where the stream's babbling finds its full wisdom'. Here are some examples:
There comes the morning with the golden basket in her right hand bearing the wreath of beauty, silently to cross the earth. And there comes the evening over the lonely meadows deserted by the herds, through trackless paths, carrying cool draughts of peace in her golden pitcher from the western ocean of rest.
Over the green and yellow rice fields sweep the shadows of the autumn clouds followed by the swift-chasing sun. The bees forget to sip their honey; drunken with light they foolishly hover and hum. The ducks in the islands of the rive clamour in joy for nothing.
It is the serene of stirring beauty of nature that constantly figures in Tagore's dreams, and he wants to paint it 'ever with love longing'. Indeed, he longs for spiritual companionship with nature itself, for a more complete sense of identity with it. This yearning is apparent in verses like the following:
Let me dance all day long, having kissed
Each flower bud, having hugged
the stain-soft green corn fields.
Let me swing on each of the waves all day long
on the hammock of joy.
The evening air is eager with the sad music of water. Ah, it calls me out into the dusk.
My heart, with its lapping waves of song, longs to caress this green world of the sunny day.
My songs share their seats in the heart of the world with the music
of the clouds and forests.
Those rare and intimate moments of communion, where nature encloses his soul with its colours, sounds and odours fill the poet with infinite joy and delight:
Ah my heart dances like a peacock
the rain patters on the new leaves of summer,
the tremor of the cricket's chirp troubles the shade of the tree,
the river overflows its bank washing the village meadows,
My heart dances.
When all the strings of our life are, as it were, tuned to nature, then there arises out of this a music of joy, love and expansion of the self. It is an experience of this joy that Tagore anticipates in the following lines:
But let there be flowering of love in the summer to come in the
garden by the sea.
Let my joy take its birth and clap its hands and dance with the
surging songs, and
make the morning open its eyes in sweet amazement.
And, in this line, he expresses an experience of love: 'My heart beats her waves at the shore of the world and writes upon it her signature in tears with the words," I love thee."'
In verses like those cited, we encounter that dimension of Tagore's conception of spirituality which consists in the realization and extension of one's being in the open panorama of nature. He talks about nature as 'the most sacred place for pilgrimage', and expresses his own profound sense of intimacy with it. 'This world,' he writes, 'was living to me, intimately close to my life, permeated by a subtle touch of kinship which enhanced the value of my being.'"
The philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore
By Kalyan Sen Gupta, pages 15-16, 58-99,
Ashgate Pub Ltd (Jun 30 2005)
Tagore Upanishads in the eyes of Tagore
By Supatra Chowdhury
July 15, 2005
'The Brahman is the same as the ether which is around us; and the ether which is around us, is the same as the ether which is within us. And the ether which is within, that is the ether within the heart. That ether in the heart is omnipresent and unchanging. He who knows this obtains omnipresent and unchangeable happiness.'
-Kh. Upanishad. III, 12, 7-9.
In the quest of knowing the inner self, Rabindranath Tagore (1861- 1941) one of the greatest writers in modern Indian literature, has turned to Upanishads time and again. The Upanishads are based not upon theological reasoning, but on experience of spiritual life. In the 6th episode of his"The Religion of Man"Rabindranath confesses how much he is indebted to the Upanishads."When I turn back towards the days of youth I feel how I have unknowingly followed the footsteps of my Vedic ancestors; how I have stared at the vastness of the sky and got inspiration to explore the truth; how I have gazed at the white clouds, those coconut trees in the quest to be one with Nature."
Apart from his poems all ofTagore's philosophical discourses in"Shantiniketan"," Sadhana"," The Religion of Man"," Personality", "Manusher Dharma"And"Shanchaya"Were deeply influenced by the Upanishadic teachings."To me the verse of the Upanishads and the teachings of the Buddha have ever been things of the spirit, and therefore endowed with boundless vital growth, and I have used them , both in my own life and in my preachings, as being instinct with special meaning for me"Tagore is fascinated by the concept of"Brahma"And"Maya"- nature along with man are both expression of Brahma and are thus one; so Tagore felt a deep unity with nature. This is well reflected in the following verses from"Maya":
"That I should make much of myself and turn it on all sides,
thus casting colored shadows on thy radiance
—-such is thy Maya.
Thou settest a barrier in thine own being
and then callest thy severed self in myriad notes
In me is thy own defeat of self.
This screen that thou hast raised is painted with innumerable figures
with the brush of the night and the day.
Behind it thy seat is woven in wondrous mysteries of curves,
casting away all barren lines of straightness.
The great pageant of thee and me has overspread the sky.
With the tune of thee and me all the air is vibrant,
and all ages pass with the hiding and seeking of thee and me."
The Upanishads helped the poet to realise that the heart, mind and the divine being who dwells within us is to be assured of everlasting life. It is"Mahatma", the great reality of the inner being, which is"Visvakarma", the world-worker, whose manifestation is in the outer work occupying all time and space.
It has helped the poet to realize that our own personality also consists of an inner truth that expresses itself in outer movements. When we realize, not merely through our intellect, but through our heart strong with the strength of its wisdom, that"Mahatma", the Infinite Person, dwells in the Person that is in me, we cross over the region of death. Death only concerns our limited self; when the Person in us is realized in the Supreme Person, then the limits of our self lose for us their finality. Therefore the poet embraces Death to transcend into the spiritual world:
"O thou the last fulfilment of life,
Death, my death, come and whisper to me!
Day after day I have kept watch for thee;
for thee have I borne the joys and pangs of life.
All that I am, that I have, that I hope and all my love
have ever flowed towards thee in depth of secrecy.
One final glance from thine eyes
and my life will be ever thine own.
The flowers have been woven
and the garland is ready for the bridegroom.
After the wedding the bride shall leave her home
and meet her lord alone in the solitude of night."
Tagore was perplexed by the beginning of the Khandogya-upanishad. 'Let a man meditate,' it read, ' Let a man worship the syllable Om.' It is nothing but a concentration of thought, ekagrata or one- pointedness, as the Hindus called something to us almost unknown. Tagore felt that our minds are like kaleidoscopes of thoughts in constant motion; and to shut our mental eyes to everything else, while dwelling on one thought only, has become almost impossible to most of us. With the life we are leading now, with telegrams, letters, newspapers, reviews, pamphlets, and books ever breaking in upon us, it has become impossible, or almost impossible, ever to arrive at that intensity of thought which the Hindus meant by ekagrata, and the attainment of which was to them the indispensable condition of all philosophical and religious speculation. The loss may not be altogether on our side, yet a loss it is, and if we see the Hindus, even in their comparatively monotonous life, adopting all kinds of contrivances in order to assist them in drawing away their thoughts from all disturbing impressions and to fix them on one subject only, we must not be satisfied with smiling at their simplicity, but try to appreciate the object they had in view.
The meditation on"Om"Alone, or that knowledge of what is meant by"Om"Alone, can procure true salvation, or true immortality. Thus the pupil is led on step by step to what is the highest object of the Upanishads, viz. the recognition of the self in man as identical with the Highest Self or Brahman.
It is this particular idea, the quest to know the inner being Tagore has turned to Upanishads at every walk of life. He has deeply manifested himself in meditation concentrating on"Om"trying to be enlightened at each growing step. His prayers directed to the Supreme Power to help him merge with the"Brahman" is captivating.
"Give Me Strength
This is my prayer to thee, my lord—-strike,
strike at the root of penury in my heart.
Give me the strength lightly to bear my joys and sorrows.
Give me the strength to make my love fruitful in service.
Give me the strength never to disown the poor
or bend my knees before insolent might.
Give me the strength to raise my mind high above daily trifles.
And give me the strength to surrender my strength to thy will with love."
If this world were ruled only by some law of forces, then it would certainly have hurt our mind at every step and there would be nothing that could give us joy for its own sake. But the Upanishad says that from"Anandam", from an inner spirit of Bliss, have come out all things, and by it they are maintained. It has been said that the Infinite Reality finds its revelation in"Ananda-rupam amrhtam", in the deathless form of joy. The supreme end of our personality also is to express itself in its creations. But works done through the compulsion of necessity, or some passion that blinds us and drags us on with its impetus, are fetters for our soul; they do not express the wealth of the infinite in us, but merely our want or our weakness.
This self of ours can also be moulded to give expression to the personality of a businessman, or a fighting man, or a workingman, but in these it does not reveal our supreme reality, and therefore we remain shut up in a prison of our own construction. Self finds its"Ananda-rupam", which is its freedom in revelation, when it reveals a truth that transcends self, like a lamp revealing light which goes far beyond its material limits, proclaiming its kinship with the sun. When our self is illuminated with the light of love, then the negative aspect of its separateness with others loses its finality, and then our relationship with others is no longer that of competition and conflict, but of sympathy and co-operation. Tagore had the notion that it is only love that can change the world; therefore he says in"Lamp of Love":
"Light, oh where is the light?
Kindle it with the burning fire of desire!
There is the lamp but never a flicker of a flame—-is such thy fate, my heart?
Light, oh where is the light!
Kindle it with the burning fire of desire!
It thunders and the wind rushes screaming through the void.
The night is black as a black stone.
Let not the hours pass by in the dark.
Kindle the lamp of love with thy life."
Tagore was so overwhelmed by reading Upanishads, he felt strongly that the teaching of the UpaniShads is very much needed in the present age. It is needed for those who boast of the freedom enjoyed by their nations, using that freedom for building up a dark world of spiritual blindness. It is needed where the passions of greed and hatred are allowed to roam unchecked, having for their allies' deceitful diplomacy and a widespread propaganda of falsehood. It is needed where the soul remains caged and the self battens upon the decaying flesh of its victims. His concern to awaken his countrymen is echoed in the famous poem"Mind Without Fear":
"Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up
into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason
has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action—-
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.""
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