RABINDRANATH TAGORE

MY LIFE IN MY WORDS Selected & Edited: Uma Das Gupta Review: Satyendra Nath Dwivedi

Part 3 We should not ignore the difficulties. They must be faced. I myself think these will be, someday or other, tackled by the idealists who are not shackled by the weight of old traditions, by things that are already dead, but which still cling to life. Europe has got her science not as complementary to religion but as its substitute. Science is great, but it only affords us knowledge, power, efficiency, but no ideal of unity, no aspiration for the perfect – it is non-human, impersonal, and therefore is like things that are inorganic, useful in many ways but useless as our food of life. You have to realize that the whole world of outside the human world of this earth is dumb, the stars do not utter words, nor the planets and clouds and trees, the green grass and flowers. They are silent, the whole world, the greater part of it whose expression is the expression of gesture – it has no other meaning, and we think it must have some deeper truth of existence. We don’t ask rose to explain itself, to justify its existence, we don’t ask, ‘What is your philosophy of life or your ultimate meaning’. We are satisfied with a rose as a rose, that is to say it contains within itself a perfect harmony of its parts and its surroundings. I believe that all human problems find their fundamental solution in education. And outside of my own vocation as a poet I have accepted this responsibility to educate my people as much as lies in my individual power to do so. I know that all evils, almost without exception, from which my land suffers, are solely owing to the utter lack of education of the people. Poverty, pestilence, communal fights and industrial backwardness make our path of life narrow and perilous owing to the meagerness of education.

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In ancient India, the men whose function was to make human mind more fertile with living wealth of beauty and noble aspiration received their highest rewards from the monarchs not necessarily in the spirit of patronage but that of a high responsibility and cultural appreciation. Personally I do not believe that Europe is occupied only with material things. She may have lost faith in religion, but not in humanity. Man, in his essential nature, is spiritual and can never remain solely material. If, however, we in the East merely realize Europe in this external aspect, we shall be seriously at fault. For in Europe the ideals of human activity are truly of the soul. They are not paralyzed by the shackles of spiritual injunctions. Their sanction lies in the heart of man and not in something external to him. This freedom from the changeless, irrational bondage of external regulation is a very big asset in modern Europe. It is this attitude of mind in Europe which is essentially spiritual. For true spirituality always brings freedom with it. The freedom that Europe has achieved today in action, in knowledge, in literature and in art, is a freedom from the rigid insanity of matter. That freedom refuses to recognize any limit either to action or to knowledge. It is courageous enough to cross over the barriers of nature, and the limitations of natural instincts; it never regrets immediate loss that may, or may not, lead to gains in a far distant future. They alone become entirely materialistic who are only half men, who cripple the native majesty of the spirit before the blind reputation of unintelligent activities; who are niggardly in knowledge and palsied in action; who are insulting themselves by setting up a meaningless ritualism in the place of true worship. Men who live in the dread of the spirit of enquiry and lack courage to launch out in the adventure of truth can never achieve freedom in any department of life. Freedom is not for those who are not lovers of freedom and who only allow it a standing space in the porter’s vestibule for the sake of some temporary purpose, while worshipping in the inner shrine of their life, the spirit of blind obedience. In India, what is needed more than anything else, is the broad mind which, only because it is conscious of its own vigorous individuality is not afraid of accepting truth from all sources. Ram Mohan Roy developed the courage and capacity to discriminate between things that are essential and those that are non-essential in the culture which was his inheritance. This helped him to realize that truth can never be foreign, that money and material may exclusively belong to the country which produces them, but not knowledge, or ideas or immortal forms of art. The ideal I have formed of the culture which should be universal in India has become clear to me from the life of Ram Mohan Roy. I have come to feel that the mind, which has been matured in the atmosphere of a profound knowledge of its own country, and of the perfect thoughts that have been produced in that land, is ready to accept and assimilate the cultures that come from foreign countries.

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By segregating ethics to the Kingdom of Heaven and depriving the Kingdom of Earth from its use, man has up to now never seriously acknowledged the need of higher ideals in politics or in practical affairs. That is why when disagreements occur between individuals – violence is not encouraged but punished, but when the combatants are nations, barbaric methods are not only not condemned but glorified. Perhaps in no other modern state was there such a complete denial of the basic needs of living: food and clothing, education and health services. And yet it was the exploited resources of this country that had been adding, year on year, to the wealth of the British race. Here in India, the calamity of civilized rule is apparent not only in the grievous lack of the bare necessities of life – food, clothing, educational and medical facilities – but even more deplorably in the way the nation has been split, divided against itself. The turning of the wheel of fortune will compel the British one day to give up their Indian empire. But what kind of India will they leave behind, what stark misery? When the stream of their two centuries rule runs dry at last, what a waste of mud and filth will be revealed, bearing a tale of utter futility. Perhaps the new dawn will come from this horizon, from the East where the sun rises, and then, unvanquished man will retrace his path of conquest, despite all barriers, to win back his lost heritage. The hour is near when it will be revealed that the insolence of might is fraught with great peril; that hour will bear out in full truth of what the ancient sages have proclaimed: “By unrighteousness man prospers, gains what seems desirable, defeats enemies, but perishes at the root.” [Mahabharata] Thoughts All our relationships with facts have an infinite medium which is Law, ‘Satyam’; all our relationships with truth have an infinite medium which is Reason, ‘Jnanam’; all our personal relationship has an infinite medium which is Love, ‘Anandam’. India has two aspects – in one she is householder, I the other a wandering ascetic. The former refuses to budge from the home corner, the latter has no home at all. For a literary man the greatest joy is in the expression of his personality. It is a light which shines in its perfection of truth only where the atmosphere is transparent.

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When I look to my early days, it seems to me that unconsciously I have followed the path of my Vedic ancestors, and was inspired by the tropical sky with its suggestion of the uttermost Beyond. This is what my creator has done for me. He has blessed me with the realization that I am connected with him by a bond of mutual love. I do believe that it is He who provides all my pleasures, and He who embraces me in my agonies. I believe in a spiritual world, not as anything separate from this world, but as its innermost truth. With the breath we draw, we must always feel this truth; that we are living in God. Born in this world, full of the mystery of the infinite, we cannot accept our existence as a momentary outburst of chance, drifting on the current of matter towards an eternal nowhere. It has been said in our Upanishads that our mind and our words come away baffled from the Supreme Truth, but he who knows truth through the immediate joy of his own soul is saved from all doubts and fears. I believe that there is an ideal hovering over and permeating the earth – an ideal of that paradise which is not the mere outcome of fancy, but the ultimate reality in which all things are and towards which all things are moving. I believe that this vision of paradise is to be seen in the sunlight, and the green of the earth, in the flowing streams, in the goodness of springtime, the repose of a winter morning, in the beauty of a human face a and the wealth of human love. Everywhere in this earth the spirit of paradise is awake and sending forth its voice. It reaches our inner ears without our hearing it. It tunes our harp of life, urging us to send our aspiration beyond the finite, as flowers send their perfume into the air and the birds their songs. “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.” Review: Satyendra Nath Dwivedi

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