The Mysticism of Rabindranath Tagore
Rabindranath Tagore (May 7, 1861 - August 7, 1941) the bard of Bengal immaculately brought out the essence of Eastern spirituality in his poetry like no other poet. His spiritual vision, as he himself said, is imbued "with the ancient spirit of India as revealed in our sacred texts and manifested in the life of today."
Tagore's Mystical Quest
Swami Adiswarananda of the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York, in his preface to 'Tagore: The Mystic Poets' writes, "The inner-seeking spirituality of India infused all of Tagore's writing. He wrote in many genres of the deep religious milieu of Hinduism. The values and core beliefs of the Hindu scriptures permeated his work." Says the Swami: "Rabindranath Tagore's philosophical and spiritual thoughts transcend all limits of language, culture, and nationality. In his writings, the poet and mystic takes us on a spiritual quest and gives us a glimpse of the infinite in the midst of the finite, unity at the heart of all diversity, and the Divine in all beings and things of the universe."
Tagore's Spiritual Beliefs
Tagore believed that "True knowledge is that which perceives the unity of all things in God." Tagore through his vast body of immortal literary works taught us that the universe is a manifestation of God, and that there is no unbridgeable gulf between our world and God's, and that God is the one who can provide the greatest love and joy.
Tagore's Poetry Teaches Us How to Love God
Tagore's 'Gitanjali' or 'Song Offerings' that contains his own English prose translations of Bengali poetry was published in 1913 with an introduction by the Irish poet W. B. Yeats. This book won Tagore the Nobel Prize for Literature that year. Here's an excerpt from his introduction that helps us realize that "We had not known that we loved God, hardly it may be that we believed in Him…"
The Ubiquity of God in Tagore's Works
Yeats writes: "These verses … as the generations pass, travelers will hum them on the highway and men rowing upon the rivers. Lovers, while they await one another, shall find, in murmuring them, this love of God a magic gulf wherein their own more bitter passion may bathe and renew its youth… The traveler in the read-brown clothes that he wears that dust may not show upon him, the girl searching in her bed for the petals fallen from the wreath of her royal lover, the servant or the bride awaiting the master's home-coming in the empty house, are images of the heart turning to God. Flowers and rivers, the blowing of conch shells, the heavy rain of the Indian July, or the moods of that heart in union or in separation; and a man sitting in a boat upon a river playing lute, like one of those figures full of mysterious meaning in a Chinese picture, is God Himself…"
Select Poems from Tagore's Song Offerings
The following pages contain a selection of his best poems that are steeped in Indian mysticism and the omnipresence of the Almighty as someone so close to our heart.
Mystical Poems from Tagore's 'Gitanjali'
"Leave this chanting and singing and telling of beads! Whom dost thou worship in this lonely dark corner of a temple with doors all shut? Open thine eyes and see thy God is not before thee!"
"He is there where the tiller is tilling the hard ground and where the pathmaker is breaking stones. He is with them in sun and in shower, and his garment is covered with dust. Put of thy holy mantle and even like him come down on the dusty soil!"
"Deliverance? Where is this deliverance to be found? Our master himself has joyfully taken upon him the bonds of creation; he is bound with us all for ever."
"Come out of thy meditations and leave aside thy flowers and incense! What harm is there if thy clothes become tattered and stained? Meet him and stand by him in toil and in sweat of thy brow."
"When the creation was new and all the stars shone in their first splendour, the gods held their assembly in the sky and sang 'Oh, the picture of perfection! the joy unalloyed!'"
"But one cried of a sudden - 'It seems that somewhere there is a break in the chain of light and one of the stars has been lost.'"
"The golden string of their harp snapped, their song stopped, and they cried in dismay - 'Yes, that lost star was the best, she was the glory of all heavens!'"
"From that day the search is unceasing for her, and the cry goes on from one to the other that in her the world has lost its one joy!"
"Only in the deepest silence of night the stars smile and whisper among themselves - 'Vain is this seeking! unbroken perfection is over all!'"
"In one salutation to thee, my God, let all my senses spread out and touch this world at thy feet."
"Like a rain-cloud of July hung low with its burden of unshed showers let all my mind bend down at thy door in one salutation to thee."
"Let all my songs gather together their diverse strains into a single current and flow to a sea of silence in one salutation to thee."
"Like a flock of homesick cranes flying night and day back to their mountain nests let all my life take its voyage to its eternal home in one salutation to thee."
From Rabindranath Tagore's 'Gitanjali', a work which is in the public domain according to the Berne Convention since January 1, 1992.
By Subhamoy Das