Rabindranath Tagore: the moon of Bengal’s Heart
Part One — Tributes in song
Bharater rabi1Bharater rabi jagater kabi
Banger biya chand
Sundar tumi bhitare bahire
Sundar tumi srishti gabhire
Bishwa sabhai tomar asan
Prema onkar nad
Translation by Sri Chinmoy
O Sun of India’s sky,
O Moon of Bengal’s heart,
You were beautiful in your inner life,
You were beautiful in your outer life,
You were beauty incarnate in God’s entire Creation.
Gloriously and triumphantly you secure your place
In the world-assembly with your creative force,
Supremely meaningful and fruitful in various walks of life.[fn:: RTM 1.
This song was composed by Sri Chinmoy on May 7th, 1979 and performed by him the same day at the United Nations in New York during a programme celebrating the anniversary of the Poet’s birth.
The programme was called “A Tribute to Tagore” and was sponsored by Sri Chinmoy: The Peace Meditation at the United Nations.
The song appears in Sri Chinmoy, Blue Waves of the Ocean Source, New York: Agni Press, 1979, p.37.
The translation is by Sri Chinmoy.]
RTM 1. May 7th, 1979↩
Rabindranath Tagore: the moon of Bengal's Heart — Kabindra Rabindranath 1Kabindra Rabindranath Amarar bani sakkhat Banger bharater kailash santan Sima gehe peyechhile asimer sandhan Dyuloker bhuloker maha setu nirjhar Rishi kabi anupama prachurjya bhashu ar
Translation by a Bengali student of Sri Chinmoy [fn:: RTM 2. The Bengali student of Sri Chinmoy noted as the translator of poems in this volume is Mahatapa Palit.]
O king of poets, Rabindranath,
You are truly the message of the Immortal.
You are the Everest-child of Bengal and India.
Within the finite, you found the Infinite.
You are the supreme fountain bridging earth and Heaven.
O seer-poet, you are the unparalleled radiance of plenitude.
April 26th, 1982↩
Beauty's dream-child, poetry's vision-king1Tagore, Tagore, Tagore, Tagore, Tagore!
Beauty’s dream-child, poetry’s vision-King.
Sonar Bangla Bharat Matar world-oneness-ring.
RTM 3. September 18th, 1991↩
Bengali heart-sea's golden shore1Tagore, Tagore, Tagore!
Bengali heart-sea’s golden shore.
Tagore, Tagore, Tagore!
World literature lion-roar.
Tagore, Tagore, Tagore!
Nobel Laureate cosmos-lore.
RTM 4. March 27th, 2007↩
Part two — Rabindranath: the myriad-mindedRTM 5-97. The author first published this essay in India on January 31st, 1961, for Rabindranath Tagore's forthcoming 100th birth anniversary. It was first published on January 31st, 1961, by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, India. Reprinted in: Sri Chinmoy, Mother India's Lighthouse: India's Spiritual Leaders, Blauvelt, New York: Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1973, pp. 135-203.
Adorer of natureThe life of almost every great poet is blessed with some special gifts. Rabindranath was an adorer of Nature. In the West, Wordsworth and Shelley also studied in the same school of Nature. These three mighty poets wanted to establish a relation with Nature beautifully, sincerely, and finally inseparably. But the aspect of Nature that Tagore loved most was her beauty.
ArtThe sole function of Art is to discover beauty within and without. And Art is in itself a self-expression of the different levels of Consciousness.
The mysterious slogan “Art for Art’s sake” expressed by Victor Cousin is, however, only partially true. To quote Sri Aurobindo:
In the words of Tagore,
There is a considerable difference between the Art of the East and that of the West. Tagore has lucidly defined the object of Oriental Art and Occidental Art:
The greatness and beauty of Oriental art, especially in Japan and China, consists in this, that there the artists have seen the soul of things and they believe in it. The West may believe in the soul of Man, but she does not really believe that the universe has a soul. Yet this belief of the East and the whole mental contribution of the East to mankind is filled with this idea. So, we, in the East, need not go into details and emphasise them; for the most important thing is this universal soul, for which the Eastern sages have sat in meditation, and the Eastern artists have joined them in artistic realisation.
Art has a character of its own as society or spirituality has. It is an absurdity on the face of it to think that Art is and must for ever remain a faithful servant to morality. Art is freedom itself. Art is that which finds equal delight in the core of beauty and in the core of ugliness. Verily the nature of Art is an all-seeking harmony.
BeautyIn spite of the general belief that beauty and truth are two separate things, Keats has told us that “Beauty is truth, truth beauty.”
Beauty and Tagore were inseparable friends — one soul in two bodies.
— Nolini Kanta Gupta Poets and Mystics"
Beauty is always sweet. But why is it so? Here is the answer given by Tagore:
Bengal and Bengali literatureMother Bengal’s literary contribution to Tagore’s childhood was a very meagre presentation. The poet in his teens increased and enlarged it into a swift-flowing river.
Rabindranath’s love and sacrifice for Bengal were one and the same. In 1905, at the time of the partition of Bengal, the patriot in Rabindranath suffered more than the poet. His immortal prayer ran:
Where Bengal’s all-fulfilling literary treasure is, there will Tagore be also.
Brahman“No mind, no form, I only exist;
Now ceased all will and thought.
The final end of Nature’s dance,
I am It whom I have sought.”
— Sri Chinmoy from The Absolute
“Verily Brahman is within us, and not the world. Therefore with all our efforts we cannot possess the world, but Brahman is already within us.”
BuddhaThe Buddha appeared on earth to dispel by the illumination of knowledge the ignorance that had enveloped the human mass, to release the human soul from the prison-cell of desire into the wideness of the silence and peace of Nirvana.
As morning shows the day.
— Milton Paradise Regained"
As every canon admits of exception, even so this truth does not always hold. But in the life of Rabindranath it is absolutely true.
The more we make a child happy, the more we can expect good of him. It is but a child’s cheerful face that can frighten away the teeming ills of the world.
To serve a unique purpose Tagore invites a child to appear on the world-scene.
Go and stand amidst their scowling hearts, my child, and let your gentle eyes fall upon them like the forgiving peace of the evening over the strife of the day.
Let them see your face, my child, and thus know the meaning of all things; let them love you and thus love each other.
Come and take your seat in the bosom of the limitless, my child.”
The Crescent Moon"
ChristThe Christ sees white in Judas’ heart. . .
The child of Mary came to preach Love and Surrender to God and establish on earth the Kingdom of Heaven. He brought our soul to the fore and declared: “I and my Father are one.”
The tenet of Christ — love thy neighbour as thyself — has been interpreted by Tagore with a new orientation. He opines that it is not an ordinary precept; here the emphasis is not on loving one’s own neighbour but on loving as one’s own self.
This lofty utterance of Socrates serves equally well in Tagore’s life, for he is not a Bengali, nor an Indian, but a universal man.
CreationCreation within, creation without. To look at the surface of Tagore’s creative genius without trying to fathom its depth is simply to judge him in parts. No wonder that Tagore’s mighty creation did not win universal appreciation in the beginning. For we know that its depth calls for a stirring of the soul’s eyes.
DeathPoor Tagore enjoyed the earth only for eighty fleeting years. But the blessed earth has obtained him for all time.
Tagore has died only to become deathless fully and integrally in the Indian, nay, universal consciousness.
EducationEducation is that which tends towards the formation of character. To quote Tagore,
He throws more light on education when he observes:
A school, however perfect, is nothing more than a road leading to education. Who is ignorant of the fact that Tagore himself was not a school product? Yet at the same time, Rabindranath’s knowledge was as vast as the Indian Ocean.
EgoOne’s puny ego is the worst possible foe of love. Therefore, the poet in Tagore in lamentation cries out:
He is my own little self, my Lord, he knows no shame; but I am ashamed to come to thy door in his company.”"
Again in one of his letters he says:
— Tagore Personality"
True, Tagore was a fond child of Fortune; but how wonderfully he developed and utilised his gifts in the creation of love and beauty is of supreme importance. He was, we can say, a golden chance. But Tagore made himself infinitely more valuable than this chance. By dint of his unique genius he has become the loveliest choice of present-day humanity.
— Lenin Speech, 1917"
Dignity is the brave son of freedom and the true father of joy.
Tagore asks women not to try to tie down their husbands, but to allow them full freedom. The imposition of bondage is sure to recoil on them, and, at the same time, it is apt to deprive the male of his manliness.
In his Fruit Gathering, Tagore sings as regards his own freedom:
GitanjaliGood, to read Gitanjali.
Better, to explore it.
Best, to live its truth.
Before Gitanjali won him world-renown, Tagore was not even a triumphant poet in Bengal, much less a victorious one. Such were then the teeming clouds over the firmament of Bengal.
Tagore became the conqueror,
The world became the possessor,
in a golden moment of one and the same year — 1913.
We know that neither man nor God is in fault. Voltaire helps us to assert the existence of God in a unique manner.
That this watch exists and has no watchmaker.”"
How lucidly true is it when Tagore says:
GratitudeThree times three cheers for the world, for her expression of gratefulness to the memory of Tagore, the Unique. — This praise is well-timed, coming on the occasion of his birth centenary.
— Emerson Self-Reliance"
Verily, the whole of Bengal, as ill luck would have it, misunderstood Rabindranath until he won the Nobel Prize in 1913.
Himalayan blunderAs one star widely differs from another star in glory, so Tagore differs from Shakespeare, Virgil, Milton, and Dante. To expect one and the same flower from their mental gardens is to commit an Himalayan blunder.
History and literatureHistory says: “Rabindranath was.” But the present-day literature of the entire humanity says: “Rabindranath is still, and will for ever be.”
Humility and inspirationAs the real test of a truly great man is his humility, so the first test of a great poet is the power of receiving inspiration, if not intuition. But luckily enough, the poet in Rabindranath had both qualities in an infinite measure.
HumourHumour has a free access not only to our emotions but also to our intellect. To produce genuine humour is not an easy thing. It demands genius. Out of Tagore’s numerous touches of humour, let me cite here only three to show that even his genius as a humourist India cannot deny.
Now let us place Tagore’s own view as regards humour:
From his letters"
We find in the famous book Mangputé Rabindranath, by Maitreyi Devi, a fine specimen of Tagore’s sense of humour.
IdealRabindranath’s was the ideal that touched almost all the aspects of human life, and he proved himself a grand success everywhere.
ImaginationPoetry without imagination is the worst possible absurdity.
— Albert Einstein On Science"
Anatole France comes one step ahead and makes bold to say:
Verily, Tagore, the Master-poet of modern India, was the emblem of an all-fulfilling imagination.
ImitationImitation is a deplorable stupidity. Every individual has a place to fill in the world. He is absolutely important in some respect. According to Frederick the Great, “It is impossible to imitate Voltaire without being Voltaire.”
So in the case of Rabindranath.
InstitutionIn the words of Emerson, “An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.” But Santiniketan is an imperishable shadow of Rabindranath, the unique.
JapanJapan is a land of beauty. Boundless is her vital energy. Wonderful is her politeness. Matchless is her fondness for simplicity and beauty.
He further says that
J.C. Bose on TagoreIt is well known that Sir J.C. Bose and Rabindranath were bosom friends. Immense was their intimacy, much was their mutual help. The discoverer of the nervous impulse in plants (for which the Royal Society did him a signal honour) declares:
KnighthoodAs a token of patriotism and love for his country he, Rabindranath, relinquished his knighthood, the highest title offered by British Government in India. A protest against certain political ordinances had been held at Jallianwala Bagh, Lahore. Under the instruction of Sir Michael O’Dwyer, then Governor of the Punjab, General Dyer had ordered continuous shooting of the innocent people assembled there until all ammunition had been used up. As a dire protest against this brutal massacre Tagore was prompted to take his bold step.
KnowledgeKnowledge and ignorance are the obverse and the reverse of a coin. Knowledge is the best possible good, while ignorance the worst possible misfortune. “As for me,” Socrates says, “all I know is that I know nothing.” We are in no time reminded of the bold statement made by Bacon: “I take all knowledge to be my province.”
— Tagore The Gardener"
LettersTagore’s letters are as remarkable as his dramas are. What insight! What charm! What humour do they possess! I cite here some wits from them.
From that first nothing ere his birth,
To that last nothing under earth.
Tennyson Two Voices"
But let us sing just the opposite with regard to the life of Tagore:
A life of fulness’ fulness worth,
From that first fulness ere his birth,
To that last fulness beyond earth.
He writes elsewhere something about life which is very significant.
Literature“Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal,” so said Moore. Likewise Bengali literature has no disease that Tagore’s unique pen cannot cure.
LoveLove is the mother of stupendous ecstasy and deepest pangs, and also she is the daughter of emotion. But no love is simultaneously as ambrosial and as venomous as self-love.
— Marguerite Blessington"
And love in India is self-dedication.
Love is all-where. It is the common messenger of God and man. Tagore writes:
To quote one of his most beautiful lines:
‘I have loved.’”"
It is but love which is never anxious of satisfying itself. And it is love alone that runs across the giant breast of Death, and perhaps beyond.
ManEach man is a miracle. Each individual is an epic. As ill luck would have it, we have neither time nor curiosity to see the miracle or go through the epic. And what is man after all? To quote the reply made by Byron:
Thou pendulum betwixt a smile and tear.”"
We know, man is not what he seems. He is something more than his present appearance and achievements. We may say that man is that very thing which must be surpassed.
On the one hand, he tries to fulfil the highest duty to the Supreme, on the other, he is anxious to please the person dear to his own heart. On the one hand, he achieves the summum bonum of life with the help of truth, on the other, he has to attain to Beauty through the highest good.”
Marriage“A woman must be a genius to create a good husband,” so said Balzac. What does Tagore say on this subject?
Translated from Alapchari Rabindranath by Rani Chanda"
His missionTagore utterly denied the slogan,
and never the twain shall meet."
His fruitful life was a mission of interpreting the East to the West; he wanted nothing more, nothing less than a flood of peace between the two hemispheres.
Is the hand that rules the world."
— William Ross Wallace"
Equal love and equal blessing when they go together are called mother. Rabindranath’s mother breathed her last when he was but a child. What an emotional thrill flashes across our mind when we read Tagore’s recollection of his mother’s love filled with blessing.
MusicIt is music that, being the universal language, has no need to learn any particular language of the world.
Tagore’s life and his multifarious activities are founded on an intuitive music. Tagore says:
MysticismTagore’s mysticism is a firm conviction of his personality, that is to say, his genuine relation with the great Soul in himself, and also the inevitable fulfilment of the destiny of man.
NationalismNationalism is not a highly political or mental aspiration. What is nationalism? In the words of Sri Aurobindo,
Now let us observe what Jawaharlal Nehru writes about the contribution of Rabindranath to Nationalism:
But often it becomes a narrow creed, and limits and encompasses its votaries and makes them forget the many-sidedness of life.
But Rabindranath Tagore has given to our nationalism the outlook of internationalism and has enriched it with art and music and the magic of his words, so that it has become the full-blooded emblem of India’s awakened spirit.”"
— Voltaire Life of Moliere"
Nature is a flow of harmony that infallibly unites the within and the without, the what is and the what-is-to-come. No insincerity or blunder is to be found between Nature’s action and Nature’s law. Tagore will now show us what God actually does through Nature and the human soul:
NewsIf a man bites a dog, that is news.
If we see eye to eye with the view that Tagore is nothing more than one among the innumerable poets of India down through the sweep of centuries, that is indeed news!
NewspapersIt is really surprising that a man at times doubts the authenticity of a thing even after being an eye witness. But the moment he runs his eyes over that very event in a newspaper, he finds considerable truth in it. So often it is found that newspapers are not only news-suppliers, but also news producers with the help of an unfathomable sea of imagination. In the words of Napoleon,
Tagore’s view on newspapers is also worth remembering, especially for the writers:
OathIt was only Rabindranath who was on several occasions able to persuade Gandhi-ji to give up his oath of fasting unto death.
An occasionOne day in his childhood Rabindranath wanted to accompany his elders to school. The private tutor gave him a slap and remarked, “Now you are weeping for not being able to go to school, but a time will come when you will weep more bitterly for having to go to school.” In later years Rabindranath said that no other prophecy proved to be as accurate as this in his life.
PaintingIn 1930, almost in the evening of his life, Rabindranath started devoting himself to painting. In this new field of Art some people found much in him, some found practically nothing. Some admired and encouraged him unstintingly, while some simply threw cold water on him. Tagore observes:
PLAYSTagore’s plays have a vast and sublime range of poignant emotion, and in some of them how wonderfully he reveals the teeming storms of life with a new orientation.
Prakritir Pratishodh (Nature’s Revenge): in this play we find an ascetic of the first water coming back to ordinary human life through his commiseration with poor humanity. The play teaches us that Nature is bound to take revenge on us if we despise her.
Chitrangada (Chitra) was the daughter of the king of Manipur. Her physical beauty compelled Arjuna, the third Pandava, to accept her as the partner of his life. But as satisfaction was not to be found in physical beauty, he sought for the Beauty that lies beyond the body.
Raja (The King of the Dark Chamber) is, according to some critics, nothing more than an allegory. But Tagore writes:
The moment Sudarshana realised that in enjoying the outer beauty alone the true fulfilment of life can never be attained, she utterly surrendered herself to the king and in no time she discovered the secret that in the offering of oneself there lies the key of true fulfilment.
An interesting event. One day while Tagore was residing at Maitreyi Devi’s place at Mangpu, which is near Kalimpong, a French lady, Mademoiselle Boshenec, came before the Poet and said, “Gurudeva, to-day Post Office will be staged in France.” After observing silence for a few minutes, Tagore said that in Russia The King of the Dark Chamber was staged repeatedly. Again after a long silence: “This is called reward,” said he.
Dakghar (The Post Office) is another play that brought him much fame. A young life full of expectation was Amal’s. All that he wanted was to go ‘somewhere’ and see ‘something’. Poor Amal’s expectation of a letter from the king clearly indicates that human life is nothing but an expectation right from the womb to the tomb.
PoetryIt is no hyperbole to say that very few poets in the world had or have as free an access to the inner realms of Poetry as Tagore.
— Sri Aurobindo The Golden Book of Tagore"
In this connection let me cite Amal Kiran, the beautiful name given by Sri Aurobindo to his poet-disciple who has had the rare good fortune to discuss with his Master matters of high poetry through series of correspondence.
There are critics who say that Tagore cannot be classed with the poets of the highest magnitude, for he did not try an epic. O wiseacre! his lyrics have sufficient power to lift you up into the realm of poetic delight where his pen reigns supreme over almost all branches of Art.
To many of us it is but an insoluble mystery whether Tagore moulded his life according to the growth of his poetical works or whether it was his gradual poetical flow that brought about successive vicissitudes in his outer life. However, his poetical genius and his life marched side by side in a perfect harmony.
It was his wonderful Nirjharer Swapnabhanga, (The Awakening of the Fountain) that took him for the first time into the realm of Intuition. A new life dawned within him, and he looked at the creation with a new vision.
I shall rush from peak to peak,
I shall sweep from mount to mount,
With peals of laughter and songs of murmur
I shall clap to tune and rhythm.1
Sonar Tari (The Golden Boat): this unique poem was mercilessly criticised by many uncomprehending critics. Some called it sheer mysticism, others claimed that the poem was nothing but barren mist. To me at least, it is nothing inferior to a lucid touch of Revelation, however small in quantity it might be. Here the finite wants to taste the Infinite; further, the finite wants to be one with the all-pervading Infinite.
“Who comes singing to the shore as he rows?
It seems to be an old familiar face.
He moves with full sail on;
Looks neither right nor left.
The helpless waves break on either side.
It seems to be an old familiar face.”
The birth of the philosopher we notice in Rabindranath the day he brought to light one of his earliest works, Sandhya Sangit (Evening Songs). And this philosopher expressed himself through Tagore’s innumerable writings, until the latter breathed his last.
In Naivedya (Offering) we find the poet Rabindranath declaring that he does not belong to the school of Renunciation. The world is not illusionary. Its joy and sorrow, its beauty and ugliness have a veritable value. He wanted to view and acquire Truth and Beauty in and from all the objects of the world. He sings:
Behind the doors of senses shut.”"
In height and depth, in grandeur and sublimity, no other poem of Tagore’s can equal Balaka. Here the doors of the world beyond are, as it were, thrown wide open to him. Not only did he bring down the truths of that world, but also he bestowed these achievements on all Bengali literature. Ceaselessly and dauntlessly the world shall march towards its final goal. The surge of beauty that pervades the earth is never a chimera’s mist. This beauty is a self-fulfilling truth.
“I hear the wild restless flutterings of wings
In the depth of silence, in the air, on land and sea.
Herbs and shrubs flap their wings over the earthy sky.
Who can say, what is there in the tenebrous womb of the earth?
Millions of seeds open out their wings
Even like flights of cranes.
I see ranges of those hillocks, those forests
Moving with outspread wings from isle to isle,
From the unknown to the unknown.”
With the flutter of starry wings
Darkness glimmers in the weeping night.
To be sure, Urvasie (The Celestial Nymph) is the wonder of wonders produced in the field of Tagore’s poetry. It is here that he reaches the acme of beauty filled with delight. Verily, according to Tagore, Urvasie is at once an eternally self-revealing and self-fulfilling goddess.
“O Urvasie swaying soft and sweet,
When thou dancest before the assembly of the gods,
Thrills of delight course through thy limbs,
Waves upon waves swirl rhythmically in the bosom of the ocean,
The undulating tips of the shivering corn
Appear like the fluttering skirt of mother earth.
From the necklace hung upon thy breast
Drop down the stars on the floor of the sky.
And all at once man loses his masculine heart in sheer rapture.”
Silence, silence, in a pin-drop silence Puravi sings so sweetly in the core of the poet’s heart his songs of Farewell. No more does the poet care for the hustle-bustle of broad daylight. Self-sufficient in peace, he no longer permits the reminiscences of the past, however sweet, to jog his mind.
From his exquisite poem, Swarga Hate Viday (To Bid Adieu to Heaven), we can easily grasp the idea that earthly love and beauty are more intense and delightful than those of Heaven precisely because they are transient. For love and beauty exist in Heaven for good.
It is said that the poet’s poem and the prophet’s word fly higher than a high-pinioned bird. No wonder, then, that Tagore became at once a poet and a prophet of the highest magnitude when his pen produced Namaskar (Salutation).
O friend, my country’s friend,
O voice incarnate, free,
Of India’s soul! ...”"
Finally we are not to forget what relation Tagore actually had with his poetry. In one of his letters he writes:
RTM 54. All Tagore’s Bengali poems in this section have been translated into English by Sri Chinmoy.↩
ProseTagore was essentially a Master-poet by temperament, immediately and exquisitely conscious of every claim of mellifluous beauty in all its multifarious forms. His was a personality of singular charm, and a character of singular sweetness. The more we sing Tagore’s songs, the better the transparent sincerity breathing through them impresses us.
Needless to say, in the field of prose, too, he is undoubtedly a treasure-house of penetrating wisdom, sublime and beautiful thoughts. His sparkling prose-works are both great and delightfully helpful to the present-day need of humanity. Many of his prose books guide us rightly and purposely through the thick and thin of life. And it is, as it were, an imperative need for an adorer of Bengali literature to quote Tagore’s prose to justify the author’s own genius.
Let me reproduce here a pleasantly readable remark made by Tagore on prose.
From his letters"
Truth had a peculiar dream. In the dream he saw Tagore’s prose and Tagore’s poetry exchanging hot words.
Prose: “Poetry, you must admit that I gave Rabindranath perfection long before you. And when? When he was but in his teens.”
Poetry: “True, you gave him perfection before me. But the real sense of it came only after I had been recognised. It is the Nobel Prize given to me that illumined your own depths to the world.”
Prose: “Sufficient. Tagore is not all he is on the strength of your gift alone.”
Poetry: “But without me, he will never be the real Rabindranath.”
QualityMany great individuals who have luminous qualities have yet a rough and arid exterior. Tagore is among the very few exceptions: his outer and inner being glowed alike.
QueriesThe sole business of the fools is to speak sixteen to the dozen and ask tireless questions, and that of the wise is to answer them. But it is an undeniable truth that the eyes of the wise are often suffused with tears in answering the dunces. Of course, truly innocent and truth-seeking queries do not disturb the men of wisdom; rather such queries give them an overdose of emotional delight. Here is a striking example:
You never say a word when father writes.
When my father wastes such heaps of paper, mother, you don’t seem to mind at all.
But if I take one sheet to make a boat with, you say, ‘Child, how troublesome you are!’
What do you think of father’s spoiling sheets and sheets of paper with black marks all over on both sides?”
— Rabindranath The Crescent Moon"
QuotationMy readers may quite reasonably ask why I have so often quoted Tagore. It is precisely because, according to my firm conviction, there is no better way to understand or express Tagore than to bring him always on the scene.
RabindranathRabindranath: A towering personality of multifarious achievements.
In Rabindranath’s works Bengali literature rightly deserves to shake hands with world literature.
A day shall dawn when Rabindranath’s soul-stirring songs will go a long way to the formation of character of the Indians.
His was a Spirit that was ever open to the new Light.
His was the politics that could never be separated from the core of spirituality.
Rabindranath’s Viswabharati is a glorious idea seeking a perfect Form.
A marvel indeed, Rabindranath had the rare capacity to mingle the strains of human sorrow and joy, human sweetness and bitterness into one song.
Dancing was looked down upon in Bengal until Rabindranath’s tireless toil and mighty personality rehabilitated this art. Dancing was then taken up even by the girls and women of aristocratic families. Rabindranath’s faultless view is that dancing is undoubtedly a means of self-expression.
ReformerAs a national figure Tagore was among the very few true Reformers of India; as an international one he was a genuine messenger of beauty, love and peace.
From his life-long activities we observe that reforms must begin or come from within, and not from without.
Relatives and dear onesTagore’s name received unimaginable fame through the length and breadth of the world, while his heart received tremendous blows one after another. How difficult it was for him to put his sufferings aside! His wife expired when she was on the right side of forty, and some of his children died quite young. Moreover; death snatched away some of his devoted young admirers who, he had thought, would add much to the glory of Bengal. Curiously enough, all these bereavements occurred in the course j of three successive years. So Tagore once remarked that to live a long life is not at all a blessing.
A memorable event: we all know that Tagore breathed his last on August 7, 1941. In that very year, on May 6, 1941, his 80th birthday had been celebrated all over the world. On this occasion Mahatma Gandhi’s greeting ran:
Tagore’s immediate reply was:
ReligionNo religion is absolutely perfect. Yet not only do we fight for religion, but also are we often willing to sacrifice our lives for it. And what we hopelessly fail to do is to live it. A true religion is that which has no caste, no creed, no colour. It is but an all-uniting and all-pervading embrace.
Let me cite one of his acute observations on religion from the Modern Review, December 1917. He writes:
We may perhaps say that Tagore’s religion is the religion of humanity which comprises all that is superb in all the religions.
Tagore, the king of Bengali literature, not only reigns but also governs. And it is needless to say that Bengali literature takes much delight and pride in being governed by its Master-poet, Tagore.
RussiaRussia was immensely impressed by the unique personality of Tagore. And the poet also appreciated considerably her great stress on education. In one of his letters he writes:
This high tribute was paid to Tagore not by an insignificant human being, but by the father of the Nation, Gandhi-ji. And our Prime Minister<a href="#fnih1b" id="fnrefih1b">1</a> went the length of saying that “he who has not visited Santiniketan has not seen India.”
Although many have worked and many will continue to work for Santiniketan, we can safely say that Santiniketan is a one-man University. Viswabharati is surely an invitation to the remotest corner of the world. It is a cheerful sacrifice to attain to the all-fulfilling truth of mankind. Now let us quote Tagore:
Modern Review December 1917"
RTM 65,1. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was Prime Minister at the time.↩
ScienceArt is I; Science is we.
Similarly, Tagore is I; his creative genius has the power to be we. The well-known scientist Meghnad Saha fervently hoped that Tagore, like Goethe, would turn to science.
— Sri Aurobindo The Golden Book of Tagore"
Seer and poetCan gold be separated from the golden vessel? No, impossible. Such is the case with the seer Rabindranath and the poet Rabindranath.
Socrates and TagoreNolini Kanta Gupta, whose contribution to Bengali literature, according to Tagore, is unique, observes about Socrates and Tagore thus:
Poets and Mystics"
SolitudeIt happened that several times Tagore, leaving his home, resorted to solitude to produce unique poems. Curiously enough, his desire was not fulfilled in the least. He had to return home. And his realisation was that to write something unique it is the state of the mind that counts the most and not the place.
SongRabindranath was the world-song sung by the Singer in him. A golden chain of beauty and love did come into existence from this world-song to bind the two extremities of the globe, the East and the West.
But Rabindranath once said that, when he was capable of singing, his own compositions were very few, but when he became a prolific composer of songs his voice failed him.
And here is a prophetic utterance of Tagore about his own songs:
Translated from Alapchari Rabindranath by Rani Chanda"
Tagore burst into fame with more than two thousand songs. In the West Schubert comes second with six hundred or so.
Finally, I cannot help reproducing here a few momentous words from Tagore’s Fruit Gathering.
You gave me only voice, yet asked for more, and I sing.”"
SorrowTo Sorrow I bade good-morrow,
And thought to leave her far away behind;
But cheerly, cheerly, She loves me dearly:
She is so constant to me, and so kind.
— Keats Endymion
Sorrow helps us immensely. It is apt to humble our pride. It chastens us. It opens our hearts to magnanimity and sympathy. To check our innumerable errors and make us watch ourselves and put us on the road to perfection, sorrow must necessarily exist in the world.
How beautiful and penetrating are the following lines of Tagore:
The stars have wrought their anklets of light to deck thy feet, but mine will hang upon thy breast.
Wealth and fame come from thee and it is for thee to give or to withhold them. But this my sorrow is absolutely mine own, and when I bring it to thee as my offering thou rewardest me with thy grace.”
StoryNothing is so tedious as a twice-read story. But Tagore’s Galpaguchchha (Short Stories) is an exception. One never feels one has read it often enough.
SympathySympathy is but a musical instrument. Each individual is fortunate and rich enough to have this instrument. But the most deplorable thing is this — that we play on this instrument only once in a blue moon.
Tagore represented the lofty ideal of an ever-progressive culture founded on universal humanity. This was possible for him precisely because he possessed an all-embracing and all-pervading sympathy.
Synthesis of extremesWhat Rabindranath actually wanted in his tireless and life-long works was a true and perfect synthesis between enjoyment and renunciation in our life of manifold activities. According to him, we can never cut asunder all the ties of the world. We can, however, exceed them. And that is possible only if we sincerely admit their reality and pass through them.
TagoreThe Bengal of today is a fruitless lamentation. The Bengal of tomorrow can, however, be the torch-bearer of the rare fulfilment of the promise of today.
His was the heart that gave no shelter to the doctrine of the unreality of the finite. His was the genius that had the quality of universality in a striking degree.
Glory to Tagore, for through him even the most insignificant and the humblest Bengali villagers can speak to the world at large.
His songs are the songs that in a twinkling penetrate the heart and quicken the soul. Verily, Tagore’s life was a sacrifice to Culture. His songs were his prayers about this great Culture.
Tagore and GandhiGandhi-ji’s tribute to Tagore runs: “‘Great Sentinel’ of the East.”
Mahatma’s deliverance is nothing other than the fruit of renunciation. Tagore’s deliverance is precisely the fruit of fulfilment. Tagore sings:
Tagore and GoetheIn the East Tagore, in the West Goethe — these two mighty poets retained their creative genius all through their lives.
And what Tagore says about the teacher is also quite striking:
A teacher can never truly teach unless he is still learning himself. A lamp can never light another lamp unless it continues to burn its own flame.
We all know that Nature teaches more than she preaches. The same thing holds good in Tagore’s life. He taught us not only more but much more than he actually preached.
TearsIt is possible for a poor man to buy the pleasures of the rich with his tears, but even the ocean of tears of Bengali writers will sadly fail to buy the creative genius of Tagore.
ThirstAs fame is the thirst of the young-blood, so Tagore’s thirst was to see in every object of the world beauty within and without.
TranslationPeople say that Gitanjali and some other translated works of Tagore in English fall short as literary translations. They are not faithful to the original Bengali. But do such critics ever care to know that the most important thing is not the strict equivalence of words, but the poetical flavour of the same idea?
TruthTruth has no death; falsehood has. Man says: “Time is precious.” Time says: “Not I, not I. Truth only is precious.” Let us bring George Bernard Shaw on the scene.
To be sure, nothing is as great as truth. And this truth has many rungs.
— Motto of the State of Kentucky, U.S.A."
Our National Song is an expression of our National Soul, Mother India’s prayer to the Divine voiced by her Poet of Dawn.
“Thou art the ruler of the minds of all people,
Thou Dispenser of India’s Destiny.
Thy name rouses the hearts
Of the Punjab, Sind, Gujarat and Maratha,
Of Dravid, Orissa and Bengal.
It echoes in the hills of the Vindhyas and Himalayas,
Mingles in the music of Jamuna and Ganges,
And is chanted by the waves of the India Sea.
They pray for thy blessing and sing thy praise,
Thou Dispenser of India’s destiny.
Victory, Victory, Victory to thee."1
According to Tagore, India should and must seek power in union, and not in competition with the West in brutal wars.
RTM 83. English translation by Tagore.↩
UniversityViswabharati is the creation of a personality not only imaginative, but also practical. The University was a child of yesterday in 1921. And it has now become a world-famous institution.
The world knows that Tagore won the Nobel Prize in 1913. And it was in the same year, during the Vice-Chancellorship of Sir Ashutosh Mukherji, that Calcutta University had the good fortune to honour him with the degree of D.Litt., honoris causa. Again, in 1937 he got the honour of giving its Convocation Address. It was a great surprise, unprecedented in the history of the University, that the Address was given in Bengali and not in English.
August, 1940, was a memorable month in the Poet’s life. The University of Oxford conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature. It obviously signified a growing friendship between the East and the West.
His famous Personality was read out by him at Harvard University, and his presence is still cherished there with gratitude.
U.S.A. and America's spiritual idealismTo a shallow observer America appears to be rolling in luxury and cannot be expected to be deeply spiritual. But the falsity of this observation cannot better be described than in the words of Rabindranath Tagore, whose bold statement is borne out by personal experience:
Further, what he said to the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in a cablegram from Kalimpong, India, June 1940, shows the significant role he expected America to play on the world-stage.
Vedanta and VaishnavismVedanta’s head is always held high. Vaishnavism’s head is always bent low. So they are as opposite as sky and earth. But these two heads never knock at each other in Rabindranath. He has housed them peacefully and synthesised them perfectly. The devout Vaishnava through him sings:
The Vedantin with absolute monism through him declares:
Thou and I have the self-same nature.”"
ViolenceTagore had very little faith in violence, and no faith in non-violence, the political programme of Mahatma Gandhi.
Vivekananda and TagoreVivekananda was a torrent of fire.
Tagore was a sea of beauty and delight.
Vivekananda was a Clarion-call.
Tagore was a soul-stirring Flute.
Both Narendranath (Vivekananda) and Rabindranath loved humanity much, the former speedily and the latter steadily.
VoyagerVerily Tagore was a voyager to Infinity’s shore where the finite has at last its perfect play.
WholeWhat Arnold spoke about the noted Greek poet, Sophocles, can easily be applied to the life of Tagore.
WomanVery often it is found that man’s certainty is less infallible than woman’s mere speculation. Fortunately or unfortunately, women no longer desire to equal men. Now they want to compete with men. We believe that no woman would put up with Tolstoy’s ruthless blows. He makes bold to say,
But Rabindranath extols women to the skies.
Further his prophetic voice speaks:
To quote a still higher praise — rather, the highest:
Again he throws considerable light on woman in one of his conversations with Sri Dilip Kumar Roy:
Among the Great"
Works“All this, and heaven too” go divinely together in the works of Tagore. His multifarious works for the cultural renaissance of Bengal have had no equal or second.
World-poet and world-figureO Tagore, although you are a world-poet and a world-figure, Bengal claims you as her own, and a matchless pride courses through her nerves in beholding your unique greatness.
Xanthippe and MrinaliniTagore’s wife Mrinalini Devi had many good qualities. Her sacrifice to the cause of Tagore’s fulfilment in life, especially in connection with the founding of Santiniketan, was great. She did not hesitate in the least: rather, with immense joy she gave away even her personal ornaments and other belongings to run the school.
Now Xanthippe. What a contrast! Poor Socrates, the unparalleled philosopher of the time, suffered grievously at his wife’s hands. In other words, should we not rather say in the words of Xenophon, an intimate friend of Socrates as well as a military Commander that Socrates’ wife had a ‘shrewish temper, which Socrates bore patiently’?
I believe we can say without much ado that the wife of the poet was simply an embodied sacrifice, while that of the philosopher was a sad misfortune personified.
The river has its everyday work to do and hastens through fields and hamlets; yet its incessant stream winds towards the washing of Thy feet.
The flower sweetens the air with its perfume; yet its last service is to offer itself to Thee.
Thy worship does not impoverish the world.”
From the words of the Poet, no doubt, men take whatever meaning pleases them; yet their last meanings point to Thee, O Lord!
YouthTagore’s birth-centenary was indeed an occasion of rejoicing for us, his admirers, and for enthusiasts of Culture all over the world. It was for the youth of the globe to hail this hallowed opportunity by offering to the Master-poet their profound homage.
When defeatism was threatening, rather, invading the Indians, Tagore did his part of duty: he infused the indomitable spirit of self-reliance into the minds of the Indian youths with his penetrating and enlightening songs.
ZealKeats’ Endymion is, no doubt, a grand success with its wonderful vividness and splendid felicity. But his Hyperion was, according to many critics, a sad failure. However, one cannot say that Hyperion has no magnificence at all. As ill luck would have it, when this epic was brought to light, the poet was savagely criticised even by his bosom friends. As a result, his health broke down and the long-threatening consumption grew more formidable. He was ultimately compelled to pay his debt to nature. So it will be no exaggeration to say that lack of indomitable zeal was in the main responsible for snatching away one of the wonder-poets of the world. Poor earth could not cherish his presence even for thirty fleeting years.
Now let us focus our attention on Rabindranath’s zeal. During his earlier days he had to face very bitter criticism of his writings in season and out of season. Kaliprasanna Kabyabisharad, the well-known editor of the Bengali weekly Hitavadi, probably stood as the bitterest and most impossible critic of Tagore’s works. His merciless pen runs:
Any other poet of lesser zeal would have sunk down under the weight of such ruthless criticism, but Rabindranath proved to have an adamant nature. And that is why he was so successful. In spite of innumerable blows from his boyhood to the end of his life, his eyes smiled and his lips sang like the beautiful flowers and lucid sunbeams peering through the saffron robes of Dawn.
Part three: Tagore and world figures
1. A spiritual giant and a seer-poetVivekananda was a flaming tongue of fire. Tagore was a sea of beauty and delight. Vivekananda was a clarion-call. Tagore was a soul-stirring flute. To both, humanity was a great love, dynamic and powerful on the part of Vivekananda, soft and sweet on the part of Tagore.
Vivekananda says in effect: “No time to linger! Awake, O India, and with your dauntless strength achieve the loftiest height of your Spirit.” Tagore says in effect: “Look everywhere and see God’s beauty, and then, O Ind, raise your proud head towards the Highest.”
With his spirit’s height, Vivekananda was the most nourishing, life- giving fruit. With his creative genius, Rabindranath was the most beautiful flower. The Goddess Mahakali shone in the eyes of Vivekananda. The Goddess Mahalakshmi smiled through the eyes of Rabindranath.
Yet it was only after the recognition of the West that the East would claim them, the spiritual giant by the impact of his Chicago address, the mystic poet by virtue of his Gitanjali. In both cases, the divine singer expressed himself in divine measure. Through his spiritual emotion and his soul-stirring voice, Narendra pleased his divine Master, Sri Ramakrishna, and through him, the world. By his soul-awakening songs of transcendental beauty, Rabindranath charmed the world and seized the All- Blissful.
Both Narendranath and Rabindranath came into the world from the Unknown. They were, as it were, two tireless voyagers. Rabindranath touched the earth-sphere in 1861, just two fleeting years before Narendranath. Narendranath left earth and entered the upper-sphere in 1902, thirty-nine long years before Rabindranath.
Verily, Vivekananda and Tagore were pilgrims to Infinity’s Shore, where the finite, at last, has its perfect Play.1
RTM 98,5. Published in Sri Chinmoy, The Disciple and the Master, Pondicherry, India: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1970, pp. 39-40. Reprinted in Sri Chinmoy, Mother India's Lighthouse: India’s Spiritual Leaders, Blauvelt, New York: Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1973, pp. 253-255.↩
2. Tagore visits Sri Aurobindo1Act XII Scene 7
(Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. Time — 10 a.m. 29th May, 1928. Sri Aurobindo and, at a distance, the Mother.)
Sri Aurobindo had sent his secretary Nolini Kanta Gupta to receive Rabindranath Tagore on board the steamer when it was berthed before the pier, and escort him upstairs into the Darshan Room. The Poet came up the stairs and, throwing off his cap and shoes, rushed in, hands outstretched, at the sight of Sri Aurobindo standing at the other end of the room. Sri Aurobindo caught his hands and requested him to sit in a chair.
At this first look and touch, the Poet appeared overwhelmed and drawn back within himself.
TAGORE: It is eighteen years since you left Bengal. All this time I have longed, off and on, to see you. My longing is fulfilled today. But I know it couldn’t have been if you hadn’t made a special concession for me. I lence I am all the more grateful to you. As I have already written to you, I am now on my way to Europe. I ask: if they want to know of you, what shall I tell them?
SRI AUROBINDO: I too am glad to meet you. As for Europe, if they want to know of me, they are free to come here. My Ashram is open to sincere seekers from anywhere.
TAGORE: I wonder how you can run your Ashram and do your worldwide work from within your room in a corner of the earth. My wonder increases a hundred-fold when I think of my tremendous struggle and labour, in India and abroad, for the Viswabharati. Now I am out seeking help overseas.
SRI AUROBINDO: I am not troubled about the future. It’s the Divine’s work which the Divine does.
(Exit Rabindranath, quite a different man. He had come all the way upstairs, talking with Nolini Kanta, complimenting him on his literary abilities, appreciating his originality and terseness of expression of thought and wishing him to turn to short stories: in a word, he was vivacious and “social". After the interview with Sri Aurobindo he came down concentrated and silent. Returning to the steamer he shut himself up in a cabin and spent a long time alone. The Poet’s classic reaction to the interview came out in the “Modern Review” of Calcutta some time after.)2
RTM 99. This scene is from the author's full-length play entitled The Descent of the Blue, which depicts significant episodes in the life of Sri Aurobindo.)↩
RTM 99,8. Sri Chinmoy’s play The Descent of the Blue was published serially in Mother India, Sri Aurobindo Monthly Review of Culture, between 1958 and 1962. The play was first published in one volume in New York by the Sri Chinmoy Lighthouse, in 1972 (Sri Chinmoy, The Descent of the Blue, New York: Sri Chinmoy Lighthouse, 1972).↩
3. Mahatma Gandhi and his GurudevGandhi often fasted to get things done in his own way … [On one occasion] Gandhi took a vow that he would fast unto death. Tagore immediately said to his countrymen, having realised the gravity of Gandhi’s vow: “He has come after a thousand years. Shall we send him back empty-handed again?”
Gandhi’s Gurudev, Rabindranath Tagore, once remarked:
RTM 100,3. Sri Chinmoy, “Mahatma Gandhi,” in Mother India’s Lighthouse, op. cit., pp. 88-90.↩
4. Rabindranath and SubhasRabindranath and Subhas:
Immortality’s bard and Eternity’s hero;
The flute-player versus the sword-wielder.1
When Subhas was only in his teens, he wrote to his brother, Sarat, about the treatment of Rabindranath Tagore by his own Bengali countrymen. The young heart cried:
Around 1914, while Subhas Chandra was studying at the Presidency College, he took his friends to Santiniketan for their first meeting with Tagore. Subhas sought advice from the Poet with regard to the life-activities of the students. Unfortunately, Tagore could not satisfy Subhas.
Their most auspicious second meeting was without doubt a Heaven-blessed coincidence. It took place when Subhas was returning to India in 1921 after his years at university in England, and Rabindranath happened to be a fellow passenger on the boat. Tagore and Subhas engaged in many heart-to-heart conversations. The Poet, who was Subhas Chandra’s senior by thirty-six years, did offer the young man his sincere congratulations for having resigned so bravely from the I.C.S.
Subhas, on his side, found in Rabindranath a kindred spirit — for had not the Poet renounced his knighthood following the massacre of his countrymen by the British at Jallianwalla Bagh?
Many times when Subhas Chandra
Suffered in prison,
He turned to Tagore’s
To give voice to his heart’s
Through the Free India Centre, which Netaji established in Germany, Rabindranath Tagore’s song Jana Gana Mana was played and sung for the first time in Hamburg on 29 May 1942.
Simultaneously, India’s tri-colour banner was hoisted, along with the German flag. The German national anthem was then played.
The Mayor of Hamburg gave Netaji the warmest welcome.
Eventually, Tagore’s Jana Gana was adopted as the official national anthem of independent India. Once again, Gandhi-ji and Nehru followed Netaji’s lead.
The mutual affection between these two Bengali giants was most touchingly revealed whenever either of them succumbed to physical ailments. On 19 October 1930, in New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.A., Tagore fell seriously ill. Subhas came to learn the news from Reuters, and he immediately sent a wire to the Poet:
CITY OF CALCUTTA ANXIOUS ABOUT YOUR ILLNESS STOP ON BEHALF OF THE CITIZENS I WISH SPEEDY RECOVERY AND A SAFE RETURN HOME STOP WIRE HEALTH STOP SUBHAS
Tagore was extremely moved by Subhas Chandra’s love and concern, and he wired back:
THANK YOU SUBHAS I FEEL MUCH BETTER STOP YOUR RABINDRANATH
On his part also, Tagore used to write most affectionate letters enquiring about Subhas Chandra’s health whenever word reached him that Subhas was suffering on the physical plane.
In 1940 Tagore requested an interview with Subhas. In spite of his deepest love, deepest admiration and deepest respect for Tagore, it took Subhas two long months to offer him an interview, for Subhas had been inundated with myriad activities since resigning the Presidency in April 1939.
Finally, on 2 July, Tagore came and met with him in Calcutta for about two hours. Afterwards, Tagore left for Santiniketan, only to hear on his return that Subhas had been arrested — just three fleeting hours after the interview had taken place. It was to be his eleventh and last imprisonment.
In the midst of Subhas Chandra’s hectic round of activities,
He did meet with Tagore.
Alas, nobody knew that would be his last,
Very last, heart-to-heart conversation with Tagore.
Once Tagore discovered that Subhas Chandra’s
Had become a perfect sacrifice for Mother India,
Tagore declared Subhas Chandra’s service
To Mother India indispensable
And proudly claimed him
As the Supreme Pilot of the Bengal-Life-Boat
And the pinnacle-Mother-India-patriot.
The British Government home-interned Subhas in December 1940. The real royal Bengal Tiger, to the nation’s widest astonishment, disappeared the following month! This disappearance of his created a tremendous sensation and uproar nationwide.
Poet Rabindranath Tagore was anxiety-stricken. He immediately sent a message by telegram to the family of Subhas:
DEEPLY CONCERNED OVER SUBHAS DISAPPEARANCE STOP CONVEY TO MOTHER MY SYMPATHY STOP KINDLY KEEP ME INFORMED NEWS
Sarat Chandra Bose wired back:
MOTHER AND WE PROFOUNDLY TOUCHED BY MESSAGE STOP NO NEWS SUBHAS YET DESPITE UTMOST EFFORTS LAST FEW DAYS STOP HOPE HE WILL HAVE YOUR BLESSINGS WHEREVER HE MAY BE
Tagore loved Subhas.
Tagore chided him.
And, in the evening of Tagore’s life,
Tagore became fully aware of the undeniable fact
That Subhas was the man of the hour,
The man of the century
And the man of India’s destiny.
RTM 101. The excerpts in this section on Tagore and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose are taken from the book Sri Chinmoy published on 23 January 1997 to mark the centenary of Netaji’s birth and the 50th anniversary of India’s independence: Sri Chinmoy, Mother, Your 50th Independence-Anniversary! I Am Come. Ever in Your Eternity’s Cries and Your Infinity’s Smiles, Subhas, New York: Agni Press, 1997, pp. 125-137.↩
5. The poet and the scientistTwo immortals: Tagore and Einstein. During their memorable interview at Einstein’s place in Berlin, both of them unfortunately had to enjoy a difference of opinions. True, indeed, is the saying, “Many minds, many ways.”
“This world,” said Tagore, “is a human world. The scientific view of it is only that of the scientific man. Therefore, the world apart from us humans does not exist; it is a relative world, depending for its reality upon our consciousness. There is a standard of reason which gives it truth — the standard of the eternal man, whose experiences are made possible through our experiences.”
After a long pause, Einstein replied very quietly and softly: “I cannot prove my conception is right, but that is my religion.”
At the end of the journey’s close, each individual is entitled to reach his destination according to his inner experiences and outer manifestations. The approaches of these two unique individuals to the reality-world were strikingly different, but needless to say both of them, from two different angles, will eventually arrive at the self-same goal: oneness-satisfaction and satisfaction-perfection.1
RTM 102. Sri Chinmoy, Einstein: Scientist-Sage, Brother of Atom-Universe, New York: Agni Press, 1979, p. 56.↩
Part four — Reflections on TagoreRTM 103-142. Sri Chinmoy was an ardent student of Tagore's poetry and songs. Almost every day he listened to Bengal's best vocalists singing selections from Tagore's opus, and he himself at times performed Tagore's songs in concerts around the world. In his conversations and talks, Sri Chinmoy made many references to Tagore's unparalleled contribution to Bengali literature, as well as his profound impact on the West that culminated in his being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. Sri Chinmoy was also charmed by Tagore's unique personality and was particularly appreciative of Tagore's magnanimous heart, which often manifested in lofty praise of his contemporaries. This chapter contains some of Sri Chinmoy's comments and reflections gathered from his talks and writings over the years.
1.I happen to be a great admirer of Tagore’s music. Almost every morning or during the day, I listen to Tagore’s songs. Tagore’s poems are totally different from others’ writings. Each poem of his is from the heart. There is not a single poem by Tagore that came from the mind. An Irish poet — W.B. Yeats — saw something in Tagore which was unique, and that is why he brought Tagore to the fore. When he sent Tagore’s poems to the Nobel Prize Committee, he pointed out that this was something totally new, a new approach.1
RTMB 103,1. June 14th, 2002. Previously unpublished.↩
2.At the age of four, I started learning a few Tagore songs from my sister Ahana. She was the source of my music world. And then, when I was twelve years old, I had two music teachers. They taught me hundreds of songs, mainly from Tagore, our India’s greatest poet.1
RTM 104,1. October 30th, 2004. Previously unpublished.↩
3.Before Tagore got the Nobel Prize in 1913, one particular poem of his, a very nice poem, was criticised so ruthlessly, ruthlessly, in a magazine. Each and every line of the poem was mercilessly criticised. Three weeks later, Tagore got the Nobel Prize for Literature. Then immediately the same writer absolutely extolled Tagore to the skies for that particular poem. It was the same magazine, the same writer, the same poem! Look at how people can change their coat! This incident is famous. Only three weeks prior to his Nobel Prize, Tagore received such wild criticism. Then, in three weeks, the story changed. The writer found such significant things in the poem. Life is like that.1
Some of the elder writers of those days made fun of Tagore and criticised him before he got the Nobel Prize. As a poet, he was not recognised at all in Bengal, not to speak of India. His unbearable critics used to say, “Oh, he comes of a very high family, a distinguished family. That is why he is getting credit for his poems.” Tagore’s father was so great and his elder brothers were all very great in various fields. The Tagore family was India’s greatest family. That is why those critics used to say that Tagore was not a good writer.
Then, after Tagore received the Nobel Prize, his worst critics came to Santiniketan to honour him. They came by train, a deputation of about thirty or forty of them, those who had not been in favour of his writings. Tagore was a little bit annoyed. He said, “Just a few days ago, you were my worst critics. Now you have come to honour me. I do not need your honour.” Those ‘well-wishers’ were therefore unable to hold a function to honour Tagore, and they left. Tagore was upset and they were also upset that they had come all the way and Tagore had not received them well. A few weeks later, Tagore personally went to them and asked for forgiveness. Then they forgave him.2
4.Tagore is the only poet to have two national songs to his credit. Jana Gana Mana is the national anthem of India and Amar Sonar Bangla is the national anthem of Bangladesh. That one song, Amar Sonar Bangla, has touched the highest heights of Immortality. The words are absolutely simpler than the simplest, but they carry such inner depth:
Amar sonar Bangla, ami tomai bhalobasi.
O my golden Bengal, I love you.
This is how the song starts. Inside these words there is such feeling. Tagore is giving a description of Bengal’s beauty.
I am a poet, a self-styled poet. If I am to be the judge, I will give Amar Sonar Bangla the highest award. It is so simple, so sweet, so soulful and so blissful — what more can I say? It is sweeter than the sweetest and most beautiful. Such a sweet, melodious song! The whole song is a description of Mother Bengal. Sweetness, softness, mellowness and so many other good qualities this song embodies.
Many people have written on Bangladesh and perhaps many more will write on Bangladesh, but this song will be always on the top of the Himalayas.
I am sure Tagore will remain the only poet to have two national songs to his credit.1
RTM 106,5. January 8th, 2003. Previously unpublished.↩
5.Kaji Najrul Islam said of Tagore: “He has done one injustice. The injustice is he has written everything.”1
RTM 107. July 22nd, 2002. Previously unpublished.↩
6.“Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.”
This famous statement was proved false when Vivekananda, with the flood of Sri Ramakrishna’s inspiration, gloriously united the East and the West with his unique message on religion.
Tagore, too, utterly denied this statement. His fruitful life was a mission of interpreting the East to the West; he wanted nothing more, nothing less than a flood of peace between the two hemispheres.1
RTM 108,3. Sri Chinmoy, Philosopher-Thinkers: The Power-Towers of the Mind, and Poet- Seers: The Fragrance-Hours of the Heart, New York: Agni Press, 1998, p. 113.↩
7.India’s greatest poet and literary figure, Tagore, tells the world, “The noise of the moment scoffs at the music of the eternal.” Alas, when a tiny drop makes fun of the vast ocean, it is at once ridiculous and painful.1
RTM 109. May 20th, 2004. Previously unpublished.↩
— Rabindranath Tagore"
To me, the giver is something more than one who simply gives. The giver is always enriched infinitely more by God, the All-Fulfiller.<a href="#fnm4ai" id="fnrefm4ai">1</a>
— Rabindranath Tagore"
O immortal soul Tagore, O immortal soul Rabindranath, another Bengali heart is trying to fulfil, devotedly, soulfully and untiringly, your wishful command.2
9.When Mumtaz Mahal died in 1631 while giving birth to her fourteenth child, her husband, the great Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan, was overwhelmed with grief. In order to pay homage to his beloved wife, he began the construction of a magnificent tomb made of white marble. It was built at Agra, on the banks of the Yamuna River. This ‘Tomb of Light’ is now known as the Taj Mahal and it is one of the wonders of the world.
In most of his poems and songs, Rabindranath Tagore extolled Bengal to the skies and said that the rest of India should follow in the footsteps of Bengal. But when it came to Shivaji, Tagore urged Bengalis to follow Shivaji’s example. Shivaji’s motto, his sacrifice, his courage and his selfgiving all received the utmost praise from Tagore. Tagore wrote an immortal poem on the great festival of Shivaji. It is a very long poem. In it, he says,
Aji be Bangali
Bala jayatu Shivaji
O Bengalis, go and follow the Marathis.
Follow them and sing with them in unison
The victory of Shivaji!
This was Tagore’s immortal poem.2
10.When I came to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, my brother Chitta taught me Bengali metre. It took him about a week or so. There are four or five main Bengali metres. English also has many metres, such as iambus, trochee and spondee. But Bengali has more metres. Chitta taught me, and my ear was fortunately very trained. He used Tagore’s poems as examples and then he said, “This is how it was done.” There are many, many poems of Tagore’s that are very, very easy to scan. And then there are some metres that Tagore used which are very, very complicated. Those also I learned.
There are two metres that are very common. One deals with the letters of the alphabet, and the other with sound. In India, I wrote both sound and letter metres, but here in America it seems to me I have written the sound metre more than the letter metre. That is how Chitta taught me. When I started writing my song ‘Uthe Jakhan Pub Gagane Savita’, my brother was in the seventh heaven of delight because the metre was correct. Again, I wrote some poems with both metres together — sound metre and letter metre. They were very difficult, very difficult.1
RTM 112,2. August 16th, 2002. Previously unpublished.↩
11.Tagore’s song ‘Jana Gana Mana’ is composed in a Sanskrit metre. This meter is called laghu guru — laghu means ‘short’, guru means ‘long’. You cannot scan this song using any of the regular Bengali metres — matrabritta, akkharbritta, swarabritta and so forth — because here he has used a very difficult metre.1
In the very first poem of Tagore’s Gitanjali — ‘Amar Matba Nato Rare’ — everybody challenged the metre.2 They told Tagore, “This is a mistake.” But on that occasion, Tagore said, “Who cares for metre?”
He has written a particular word because he loves the word so much. Tagore is the supreme authority, so who is going to challenge him? If anybody says that Tagore does not know metre, it is absurd. He is making an exception because he likes the word so much. He could have used another word, true. But for him, his joy was infinitely more important than the metre. Those who know metre will always agree that this word is not correct, but he was above it. That poem has such feeling, such sentiment, such an intimate connection with God, with Divinity.3
My two most favourite songs by Tagore are ‘Gagane Gagane’ and then this one, ‘Amar Matha Nato Kare’.4
RTM 113,1. January 25th, 2004. Previously unpublished.↩
RTM 113,2. Modern editions of Gitanjali show ‘Amare Tumi Ashesh Korecho' as the first song. This song, in fact, is from Geeti- malya. When Tagore was preparing the English translation of Gitanjali, he made it the first song. — Ed.↩
RTM 113,3. December 12th, 1997. Previously unpublished.↩
RTM 113,4. November 26th, 2005. Previously unpublished.↩
12.‘Bharat Tirtha’ (‘Pilgrimage to India’) happens to be one of my most favourite poems. Right from my childhood I deeply appreciated and admired this poem. According to my poetic heart, this poem is indeed one of Tagore’s supremely beautiful, supremely soulful, supremely powerful and supremely fruitful poems.1
RTM 114. Sri Chinmoy made this comment and then read the song aloud in Bengali at the programme held at the United Nations on May 7th, 1979 (see footnote 1 above). It was at this programme that Sri Chinmoy sang ‘Bharater Rabi’ for the first time.↩
13.Tagore coined many, many words which are not to be found in any Bengali dictionary. No Bengali dictionary will have those words. But he coined those words very nicely. Afterwards, whatever meaning he gave, people accepted!1
RTM 115. October 9th, 2005. Previously unpublished.↩
14.When Sri Aurobindo was in the vortex of politics, Tagore was very, very well-known. Even though Sri Aurobindo was junior to Tagore by eleven years, Tagore had such admiration for Sri Aurobindo. Tagore had the vision of who Sri Aurobindo was. The first time they met, Tagore wrote a poem. In the very first line, he said,
O Aurobindo, accept my salutations."
Tagore was older than Sri Aurobindo by many years, but Tagore bowed down to Sri Aurobindo. Others he blessed and blessed, and he mentioned them in his writings. But to Sri Aurobindo he bowed down. The following lines from this poem are even more powerful:
And for you there is no name, no fame; you are far beyond.”"
The end of the poem is:
O fools, O cowards, wake up, wake up!
Aurobindo is the embodiment of the highest Truth.”"
I have recited that particular poem more than a thousand times.1
RTM 116. October 25th, 2004 and December 16th, 2004. Previously unpublished. English translations by Sri Chinmoy.↩
15.When Tagore came to Pondicherry to see Sri Aurobindo, he practically ran six or seven metres to embrace Sri Aurobindo, according to the people who were there. But Sri Aurobindo was Sri Aurobindo. He did not allow Tagore to embrace him. Then they had a most significant interview. Afterwards, on his way back in the boat, Tagore said, “I can clearly see Sri Aurobindo has got what he has sought for. I saw him.”1
RTM 117. Ibid.↩
16.Tagore’s handwriting was so beautiful, so beautiful. Mine is nothing compared to his, although my teacher used to say my handwriting was very beautiful. My sister Lily imitated Tagore’s handwriting, and hers was quite good. Many people have imitated Tagore’s handwriting. His artwork was also so beautiful.
I have many, many of Tagore’s books. Some of them show his original manuscripts. Tagore made so many corrections. One can see where he crossed out this and that. They are such immortal poems, but it is surprising to see how many times in one page he made corrections. We talk about perfect perfection. Tagore also believed in the same thing. So many lines Tagore crossed out and crossed out and crossed out before he was satisfied with the poems. He was a perfectionist.1
RTM 118,2. March 27th, 2007. Previously unpublished.↩
17.Recently, a very well known singer named Lakshmi Shankar, who is the sister-in-law of the great sitar player Ravi Shankar, said something so inspiring to me. She said that of all the instruments, Tagore liked the esraj the most. She said Tagore’s favourite instrument was the esraj, and he encouraged people to learn to play it. I was very happy to hear that piece of news from Lakshmi Shankar.
Many, many years ago, one of Tagore’s students, named Shantidev Ghosh, came to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, and he played the esraj. He had set to music a very long poem of Tagore’s. I cannot imagine how he was able to play on the esraj and sing at the same time. He did it, but the pitch of his singing voice was quite high. I never dare to sing any song of mine while playing the esraj. But Shantidev was a very, very eminent singer in Bengal and it was an unforgettable experience.1
RTM 119,2. May 20th, 2005. Previously unpublished.↩
18.In 1961, for Tagore’s birth centenary, I wrote a book on him. At that time, a very great Bengali literary figure happened to come to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. According to Sri Aurobindo, he was one step behind nirvana. This gentleman’s name was Sri Anirvan. ‘Anirvan’ means one who has not yet reached the nirvana stage. He was a very great figure, a sage-savant. He stayed for a few days at my friend’s place. One day I went to see him and I read out my whole book on Tagore to him. Afterwards, Sri Anirvan wrote, “His comments on Rabindranath are penetrating.” Then he said, “I do not like your title,” and he changed the title of the book. He gave the title Rabindranath: The Myriad-Minded.
I offer my soulful gratitude to the soul of Sri Anirvan for having written the introduction to my book. It was also most kind of Sri Anirvan to give the title Rabindranath: The Myriad-Minded.1
RTM 120,2. June 7th, 2002. Previously unpublished. It seems that the word ‘myriad-minded’ was first used to describe Tagore by Oxford University in 1940 when it conferred upon him an Honorary Degree. Sir Maurice Gwyer, who gave the oration, said, in part: “Here before you is the myriad-minded poet and writer, the musician famous in his art, the philosopher proven both in word and deed ...” Ref: Krishna Dutta and Andrew Robinson, Rabindranath Tagore: The Myriad-Minded Man, Tauris & Co, London, 2009, p. 353. — Ed.↩
19.During my visits to India, when I used to sing my song ‘Ore Mor Kheya Ore Mor Neye’ for my brother Chitta while playing the harmonium, right from the beginning tears and tears would roll down his cheeks. This song means, “O my Boat, O my Boatman, O message of Transcendental Delight, carry me.”
In that song I have used poetic license. Some great poets coin hundreds and hundreds of words which you will not find in the dictionary. You have to study those great poets in order to know the meaning of some particular words. The word kheya we do find in the dictionary. It means ‘a small boat’. But the word neye, meaning ‘boatman’, you will not find in the dictionary. The proper Bengali word is nabik. Nabik means ‘pilot’. From nabik, how can you come to neye? I learnt this word from Tagore. It happened that Tagore once wanted a short word, a very sweet word, so he transformed nabik into neye.
Nowadays the dictionary writers are very clever. Formerly, for centuries, there were quite a few words that were not available in the dictionary. Now the dictionary has started accepting those coined words because such-and-such a writer used the word. Before, we learnt things from the dictionary. Now the dictionary is learning from the great authors.1
RTM 121,3. January 12th, 2004. Previously unpublished.↩
20.Tagore had a contemporary, Kaji Najrul Islam. From time to time, Tagore’s admirers would say unkind things about Najrul Islam’s poems. But Tagore himself was very kind to Najrul Islam. He encouraged him and inspired him in so many ways. They were on very good terms. Even right before he passed away, Tagore showered blessings and affection on Najrul Islam. And then Najrul Islam wrote a few songs on Tagore which were so beautiful, so soulful and so meaningful.1
RTM 122. April 17th, 2005. Previously unpublished.↩
21.Tagore himself requested Dilip Kumar Roy to dive into music. Then Dilip’s friend, Subhas Bose, said to him, “Listen to Tagore, listen! Dive into music.”
Once it happened that Dilip did not keep in touch with Tagore for some time. Tagore wrote a poem that ran, “Dilip, I have not seen your smiling face for a long time! You have not written to me.” The whole poem was a letter to Dilip.
Dilip said that Tagore used to inundate him with affection. He argued with Tagore so many times, but Tagore always forgave him and once more they became very close. Then, if Dilip did not write for some time because they had had an altercation, Tagore used to say, “Why, why are you silent?”
Look at the close connection between these two great singers!1
RTM 123. July 7th, 2007. Previously unpublished.↩
22.Two supreme Bengali singers, Dilip Kumar Roy and Kaji Najrul Islam, happened to be very good friends. They were both great admirers of Tagore, but from time to time they were not on good terms with him. The reason was that they used to sing Tagore’s spiritual songs in restaurants and so-called nightclubs. They used to go there along with some other great singers and composers, and then they would start singing Tagore’s songs.
When Tagore heard, he became furious. “My songs! My songs you will sing in nightclubs!” he said. Then he warned Dilip, Najrul and a few others, “My songs are not meant for nightclubs. You must stop!” Najrul and Dilip were very fond of Tagore, so they stopped singing in nightclubs.1
RTM 124,2. March 22nd, 2006. Previously unpublished.↩
23.Sahana Devi1 was a singer of the supreme heights. She had a most glorious singing voice. She was extremely fortunate because she was so closely connected with Tagore. She was a student at Tagore’s Santiniketan, and she sang for him many, many times. Tagore was deeply enamoured of her soul-stirring voice. She also composed many songs.
Dilip Kumar Roy was responsible for bringing Sahana Devi to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. When Dilip-da joined the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in 1928, he inspired Sahana-di to do the same. Tagore was very upset when Sahana-di left Santiniketan. When she went to the Ashram, he sent an unforgettable message: “Had I been an Emperor, like the Moghul Emperors, I would have sent my army to bring you back from the Ashram.”
During my Ashram days, I basked in the sunshine of Sahana-di’s affection.
RTM 125,1. In 2006 Sri Chinmoy prepared a book about Sahana Devi. It has not yet been published. These stories are excerpted from the manuscript, which is entitled Sahana Devi: A Singer of the Supreme Heights.↩
24.Sahana Devi was a supreme authority on Tagore, specially Tagore’s devotional songs. She wrote in one of her articles that Tagore did not care lor tabla or measured Western beat. She said that he wanted only a spontaneous flow.
Then, in a subsequent issue of the same magazine, another authority on Tagore’s music — Shantidev Ghosh — said that Tagore really enjoyed tabla and also Western beat. Whom to believe? Both of them studied under Tagore and now there are two different versions. Sahana Devi was older than Shantidev Ghosh by a few years, so perhaps her version is more reliable.
Tagore had ten or twelve students whom he personally invited to study directly under him. They were selected from the several hundred students who attended Santiniketan. Among these selected students, his nephew Dinendranath was the closest. As soon as a tune came to Tagore, he used to sing it for his nephew, and his nephew would give the proper notation. When his nephew died, Tagore said that his right hand had gone. Other students began taking notation for him, but the process became very slow. Tagore always used to say that the reason was that his nephew was more in his consciousness.
25.Swami Vivekananda in his teens used to go to all the swamis, fakirs and spiritual figures, with only one question: “Have you seen God? Have you seen God?”
They observed his intense sincerity, but the answer was always the same: “Sorry, no, I have not seen God.”
Some of these spiritual figures at that time had disciples as well, but each one was sincere enough to tell the young Naren, “No, I have not seen God.”
Then Swami Vivekananda went to Tagore’s father, Maharshi Debendranath, with the same question. Debendranath said, “I have not seen God, but I can clearly see in your eyes that you will one day realise God. Your eyes tell me that you will see God, you will realise God.” And he showered boundless affection on Naren. Debendranath was the only one who could see Naren’s future.
After conquering the heart of America and the West, Swami Vivekananda came back home. He went to Debendranath to pay his homage and to offer his gratitude because he had received so much affection and so many blessings from Tagore’s father. Tagore’s father was kindness incarnate. When he saw Vivekananda, his joy knew no bounds. His pride in Vivekananda was boundless.1
RTM 127,5. August 22nd, 2003 and January 30th, 2005. Previously unpublished.↩
26.Tagore in writing said, “If you want to know India well, study Vivekananda.” Then Vivekananda said, “If you want to know India’s culture, India’s heritage, Tagore is the only answer.”1
RTM 128. August 22nd, 2003. Previously unpublished.↩
27.Swami Vivekananda’s dearest disciple was Sister Nivedita. Everybody called her Sister. And a few times even Vivekananda also said Sister. But Tagore went one step forward: he called her Lokamata, Mother of all human beings, or Mother of the common people.1
RTM 129. December 26th, 2005. Previously unpublished.↩
28.The Mother of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and Rabindranath Tagore came to Kamakura in the early 1900s. They and their companions stood and meditated at the exact place where my students and I stood and meditated years later, in front of the statue of Lord Buddha. Can you imagine, they came at the beginning of the century and now it is the end of the century! Lord Buddha is immortal. We shall come and go, but there Lord Buddha will remain, generation after generation.1
RTM 130. March 9th, 1992. Previously unpublished.↩
29.Chitta Ranjan Das died in Darjeeling. When his body was brought by train to Calcutta, his admirers begged and begged Tagore to say something. Tagore wrote two most significant lines:
Marane tahare tumi kare gele dan"
When you came into the world you brought with you an immortal life, and you left it here on your way back.
I have set Tagore’s sublime message to music.1
RTM 151,3. December 30th, 2005. Previously unpublished. On May 27th, 1993, at the time of composing the music to this beautiful eulogy in Bengali, Sri Chinmoy gave the translation as: “With you, you brought the deathless heart. In death you gave it, your boon.”↩
30.Three or four hours before Tagore left this earth, before he passed behind the curtain of Eternity, he recited the poem ‘Samukhe Shanti Parabar’ — “In front of me is the ocean of peace.” He did not set it to music; somebody else did. The words he uttered are most haunting.
Now there is a serious controversy. Some people are of the opinion that this poem he recited was his final song, but others say that another work was his final song. In that song he was seeing the great soul, the supramental soul. He was envisioning this great soul coming to him.
Santiniketan has chosen ‘Samukhe Shanti Parabar’ as the final song and they sing it each year on the anniversary of Tagore’s death. I also feel this is the right one, the last one before he left for his celestial abode. In this poem, he is leaving the earth and seeing the ocean of peace in front of him.1
RTM 132,3. February 26th, 2005. Previously unpublished.↩
31.Music has such capacity to inspire us. As soon as you hear Tagore’s Bengali songs, his prayerful and soulful songs, you enter into a good mood. You do not have to know Bengali. Thousands and thousands of people who do not know Bengali listen to his songs. Why is it that all over India Tagore’s songs are heard on the radio? Does a Gujarati understand Bengali? Tagore’s Bengali songs help the listeners considerably. After hearing his songs, they have some peace, poise and joy within. They do not have to know Bengali. Music is a universal language.1
RTM 133,1. June 1999. An interview with Indian Express recorded in Pondicherry.↩
32.Music is the Vedic bird in us. This bird is called Suparna. This bird divine flies in the welkin of Infinity, through Eternity, with the message of Immortality.
Here on earth, we do notice that birds have the capacity to sing in endless measure, whereas we human beings try to create or develop this capacity. Tagore defends us:
You gave me only a voice, yet asked for more, and I sing.”"
The poet-bird in Keats, divinely intoxicated, flies in front of me, before my ken.
Fled is that music: — Do I wake or sleep?”"
The music-bird is within us to stay, to give us love. The music-bird is without us to fly, to give us joy.
Since music is a universal language, it has no need to express itself in any particular language of the world. Rabindranath Tagore says:
“Music is the purest form of art and, therefore, the most direct expression of beauty, with form and spirit which is one and simple, and least encumbered with anything extraneous. We seem to feel that the manifestation of the Infinite in the finite forms of creation is music itself, silent and visible.”1
RTM 134,8. Sri Chinmoy, Eternity’s Breath, New York: Sri Chinmoy Lighthouse, 1972, pp. 114-115.↩
33.I am reminded of an immortal incident in Tagore’s life. Many, many years ago he visited Bulgaria, and the Bulgarians wanted to honour him. Tagore had at that time the English translation of Gitanjali with him. But he deliberately read out his poems in Bengali. There were many, many people in the audience and they all listened to his poems in rapt attention. The audience was spellbound. Fie did not speak one word of English; he only read out his immortal Bengali poems. This was Tagore. The audience members were so moved! Tagore knew English very, very well. But how much love and admiration he received from the people of Bulgaria! Here is the proof: when you love, admire and adore someone, you do not have to understand that person with your mind. You can easily understand him with your heart.
Whenever I think of Bulgaria, I say, “Oh, I do not have to learn their language, I do not even have to speak in English. As long as I can speak in Bengali, Bulgaria will accept me.”1
RTM 135,2. August 27th, 2005. Previously unpublished.↩
34.Our greatest poet, Tagore, wrote in one of his poems,
Mother Earth, why are you so unkind to me?
Why do I have to sow the seed, tend to the plant and nourish the plant until it becomes a tree?
Right from the beginning, can you not give me the beautiful flowers and delicious fruits?
Why do I have to work for it?
Mother Earth replies, “My child, I can do it, but you will not be happy.
When I give you food, you will get joy.
But when you struggle for it, when you work for it, you will get much more joy.
I can do everything:
I can sow the seed, and I can bring the rain.
But you will not be happy because you will not have done anything.”
When we earn something by the sweat of our brow, we get tremendous joy. A student who works hard and earns his degrees with flying colours gets so much joy. The teacher can be partial to a useless student and give him very high marks, but in his heart he will not get joy. Struggle is like that. If we do something, if we work hard for it, then when we achieve it, when we reach the goal, we get much more joy than otherwise.1
RTM 136,3. November 4th, 2003. Previously unpublished.↩
35.I was told that Tagore’s voice was very sweet and melodious, but a little bit high-pitched. Ravi Shankar also mentioned the same thing in his book. Tagore’s voice was normal, but a little high. Then some of the professors at Santiniketan tried to imitate him. Their normal voices went a little higher. My mentor, Sisirkumar Ghose, was one of those who tried to imitate Tagore’s voice.
When Tagore was young and had only a few songs to his credit, he had an excellent, excellent voice. Then, when he had completed hundreds and hundreds of songs, his singing voice deserted him. Age descended upon him and he lost his singing voice.1
RTM 137,2. December 27th, 2006. Previously unpublished.↩
36.Tagore had such generosity. He wrote an immortal poem about Sri Ramakrishna:
Each line is so beautiful and powerful. Tagore wrote it in Bengali. Then he translated it into English. It is famous, famous. I set the Bengali words to music.<a href="#fn8dsg" id="fnref8dsg">2</a>
In the evening of his life
Tagore, in vain, tried extremely hard
For the reconciliation of all
Of Mother India’s freedom-lovers.
Tagore wanted to bring together
The diverse, contrary and contradictory ideas
Of Netaji, Gandhi-ji and other front-rank political leaders.3
RTM 138,1. This is Sri Chinmoy’s own extemporaneous translation of the original Bengali words. Rabindranath Tagore’s translation, which he recorded in his own handwriting, is as follows: "To the Paramahansa Ramakrishna Deva Diverse courses of worship from varied springs of fulfilment have mingled in your meditation. The manifold revelation of joy of the Infinite has given form to a shrine of unity in your life where from far and near arrive salutations to which I join mine own." Rabindranath Tagore↩
RTM 138,1. 10 January 2000 and 6 February 2004. Previously unpublished.↩
RTM 138,2. Sri Chinmoy, Mother, Your 50th Independence-Anniversary! I Am Come. Ever in Your Eternity’s Cries and Your Infinity’s Smiles, Subhas, New York, Agni Press, 1997, p. 132.↩
37.Mahatma Gandhi knew absolutely nothing about music. But when he said something about music, the whole world listened. He was a politician, but he became so famous that no matter what he spoke about, everyone took him seriously. Similarly, when Tagore said something, even if he knew nothing about that subject, others valued what he said. Why? Because he had become an extraordinary figure.1
RTM 139. August 28th, 1998. Previously unpublished.↩
38.This morning I was reading Tagore’s Gitanjali in English. According to me, there is no comparison between the original Bengali and the English translation. The Bengali words are sweeter than the sweetest. Their sweetness, softness and tenderness melt my heart. The English translation is also very beautiful, but as a Bengali, I am not fully satisfied. I do not get the same softness and sweetness.
And again, I myself translated hundreds of pages of Nolini Kanta Gupta’s Bengali essays into English, so the same could be said for my translations.1
RTM 140,2. March 10th, 2000. Previously unpublished.↩
39.In our Indian philosophy, we have a particular goddess named Saraswati. Saraswati is the goddess of learning, the goddess of art and the goddess of inspiration. In the West, you use the term ‘muse’. As we have a human world, where we get all earthly things, even so, there is a world of inspiration. If we go deep within, we can enter into that world and find that poems are already written there. If you want to write an article, you can enter into the world of inspiration and actually see that the article is already written. Then all you have to do is copy it down in your notebook. The lines are written there on the wall, you can say — on the inspiration-wall. You just copy them down, and they become your possession. Our greatest poet, Tagore, did this. He entered into the world of inspiration, and from there he got many poems. There is a world of poetry, a world of prose, a world for all literature that exists.1
RTM 141,1. Sri Chinmoy, Sri Chinmoy Speaks, Part 9, New York: Agni Press, 1976, pp. 6-7.↩
40.Bengali literature would not have made progress so rapidly without Tagore. He brought a new dimension to Bengali literature.1
RTM 142. March 10th, 2000. Previously unpublished.↩
Part five — StoriesPart five — Stories[fn:: Sri Chinmoy was a wonderful storyteller who greatly enjoyed narrating stories about Indian luminaries. The following stories are drawn from Tagore's life. A number of them are recorded only in Bengali books about the Poet, and Sri Chinmoy has re-created them in English for the first time. These stories offer a blend of enlightenment and entertainment./
1. Tagore singsThere was once a little boy who was very beautiful to look at and very smart, with many talents. He was talented even at a tender age. His father was very rich and well respected; he owned vast plots of land and had many, many servants. The little boy used to spend most of his time with the servants. He was the youngest in the family, and they all adored him.
One day, the boy was singing a song that he had composed himself. The song expressed the idea that “The eye cannot see You, although You are inside the eye. The heart cannot know You, although You are inside the heart.” He was singing it most soulfully, and the tune was simply excellent.
The father heard him singing from another room and was deeply moved. He asked his servants to go and bring the little boy to him. Then the father said to his youngest son, “Can you sing the song for me again?”
The boy did not often get the opportunity to come to his father, because the father was so great and very busy. He could not approach his father any time he wanted to. Although it was a great honour that his father had called him, he was also afraid of his father and he felt shy. The father said, “I am your father. Please do not feel shy. Just sing the song that you were singing before, my child.”
The boy sang a few times and the father was so deeply moved that he entered into trance. When his trance ended, the father went into his office and wrote the boy a cheque for 500 rupees. In those days, 500 rupees for a child was really something. When he gave it to the boy he said, “In the past, the Moghul Emperors used to honour talented people with great gifts. Now the Moghul Emperors are no more. But your talent is so remarkable that I know you rightfully deserve honour from the king. Unfortunately, there is no king here to honour you. But I am your father and I am giving you 500 rupees.”
The son was so excited and delighted. He ran with the cheque and showed it to the servants. The servants lifted him up into the air. They were so proud that their little hero had become such a great poet.
Indeed, this heroic soul became the poet of poets. He became India’s greatest poet ever and won the Nobel Prize. Many people have received the Nobel Prize and many poets have been honoured, but in India he remains matchless. He composed about 2,200 songs, many of which are sung all over India, including India’s national anthem Jana Gana Mana. Truly, Rabindranath Tagore was a creative genius who excelled in every field of the arts. In the latter part of his life, he even took up painting. As a poet, singer and playwright, he won love and respect not only in India but all over the world. He remains in the vanguard of poets for his lyrics, songs, plays and stories. India’s Tagore will eternally remain unique. In 1961 on his birthday, the whole world observed his centenary.1
RTM 143. Written January 15th, 1979. Published in: Sri Chinmoy, Great Indian Meals: Divinely Delicious and Supremely Nourishing, Part 3, New York: Agni Press, 1979, p. 41.↩
2. The train journeyThere was once a very great man who came from a wealthy family. He was a great seeker, a seeker of the highest order, and to the whole of Bengal he was the very embodiment of truth. Countless people admired him, loved him and adored him, and felt he was a saint.
One day he took his youngest son with him on a train ride from Calcutta to Bombay. He bought a full-price ticket for himself and a half- price ticket for his son, who was eleven years old.
After the train had been going for some time, the ticket collector entered into their compartment and asked for their tickets. When he saw the half-price ticket for the boy, he was a little bit hesitant, for the boy was very tall for his age, and he looked much older than eleven years old. But the ticket collector did not say anything. He just marked the ticket and left.
After two hours, another ticket collector came. He also hesitated because he, too, thought that the boy was over twelve years old, since he was so tall and smart looking. But he did not say anything either.
After some time, these two ticket collectors brought the stationmaster to the man’s compartment, and the stationmaster asked to see the tickets. The stationmaster was so ignorant. He did not realise that this man was well known for his greatness and goodness.
By this time, the man was very upset. So many times these ticket people were bothering him! “All right, see the tickets!” he said angrily.
The stationmaster asked, “This boy is a minor? How old is he?”
The man replied, “Eleven.”
The stationmaster said, “No, you are telling me a lie.”
The man, whom all of Bengal worshipped as the embodiment of truth, said to himself, “What will you do with these ignorant people? It is useless to argue with them.” So he paid the difference in the fare to the stationmaster, saying, “Take it!”
The stationmaster gave him a full ticket for his son and returned his change. When the stationmaster gave the great man his few rupees of change, the man became so furious that he threw the money on the floor and it all scattered.
Then the stationmaster felt very embarrassed. “What a scene I created for one ticket for a young boy and a haughty old man!” he said to himself.
Because of the commotion, many people came running to see what had happened. What they saw was the great sage and saint of Bengal, Deben- dranath Tagore, Tagore’s father. And the young boy was Tagore himself.1
RTM 144. Ibid., p. 46.↩
3. Bankim Chandra's nobilityBankim Chandra Chatterjee was Bengal’s greatest novelist. Our immortal mantra Bande Mataram comes from him. That is one of our national songs, a most significant one. While repeating Bande Mataram, many, many patriots embraced death.
Once there was a literary meeting. People wanted Bankim Chandra to preside over the meeting. Rabindranath Tagore was supposed to attend. At that time he was still very young, and he had only written a few poems; he had not written any stories. Before the function started, the authorities garlanded Bankim Chandra because he was the greatest literary figure. When our Bankim Chandra was garlanded, he immediately took off the garland and came to where Tagore was sitting in the audience. Then Bankim Chandra placed the garland on Tagore and said, “I am the setting sun. You are the rising sun. I must honour the rising sun. I will soon take my farewell.” So happily and proudly, Bankim placed the garland around Tagore.
Look at this! Bankim Chandra’s third eye was open, and he was right. Tagore went on to write so many excellent books. Tagore became the hero supreme in Bengali literature. Even though Bankim was much older than Tagore at that time, he said, “I am the setting sun. You are the rising sun, I can see, so I must honour you.”1
RTM 145. October 30th, 2004. Previously unpublished.↩
4. Two vision-eyesTagore was the first one to declare Mahatma Gandhi a great soul. Tagore was the one who first called him ‘Mahatma’. And then again, Mahatma called Tagore ‘Gurudev’. Tagore became Gandhi’s Gurudev, and then everybody started saying “Gurudev, Gurudev.”
These two great luminaries were so close. They loved each other deeply; they admired each other unreservedly. Once, however, they entered into a very unpleasant conversation, a terribly heated argument. Indeed, it was a shocking experience for their followers and admirers. Some took Tagore’s side, while others took Gandhi’s side.
A follower of Gandhi pleaded with the great artist Nandalal Bose to take one side. He immediately expressed his utter incapacity: “I am an artist. I like all colours deeply and equally. To me, these two supremely great souls are like two Vision-Eyes. I cannot prefer one Eye to the other. I love them deeply and need them equally.”1
RTM 146. Originally published in Jhama-Kala Art Quarterly, Jan-Feb-Mar 1980, Vol. 3, No. 1, p. 17. Reprinted in: Sri Chinmoy, Transfiguration, New York: Agni Press, 2007, p. 98.↩
5. The Japanese inkRabindranath Tagore lavished boundless affection and love on Nandalal Bose, and he was also fond of the artist Mukul Dey. Mukul Dey was a great admirer and student of Nandalal Bose. Nandalal Bose and Mukul Dey went to many countries with Tagore, and Tagore liked them immensely.
Once, Nandalal Bose gave a bottle of ink to Mukul Dey and said, “This ink was made in Japan.”
In those days in India, any article from a foreign country created such fascination and was deeply appreciated. Mukul Dey was so excited and delighted. He thought, “This is such a nice thing. I will not use it. I will give it to Gurudev (meaning Tagore). He will be very happy to use this.”
Any object that is nice, people always wish to give to their dear ones. Because Mukul Dey was so fond of Tagore, he presented the ink to him.
When Tagore heard that the ink had come originally from Nandalal Bose, whom he loved so much, he used the ink to compose a poem on Nandalal Bose. Tagore wrote the whole poem, but nothing was visible on the paper. Tagore and Mukul Dey thought that it would become visible in a few hours. But hours passed by, and still nothing could be seen.
Tagore asked Mukul Dey, “What happened? Nothing is coming out. I thought that Nandalal Bose was giving us something extraordinary, an ink which becomes visible only after some time.”
Mukul Dey went to Nandalal Bose. When Bose heard that Tagore had used the ink, he was thunderstruck! He was so embarrassed. “What have I done? What have I done?” he said.
Nandalal had never expected that the ink would go to Tagore; otherwise, he would never have dared to do this kind of thing. He gave it to Mukul Dey to pull his leg, but Mukul Dey took the gift seriously and presented the gift to Tagore, of all people. But Tagore also enjoyed that joke. Afterwards, he wrote out the poem again using proper ink.1
RTM 147. Ibid., pp. 94-96.↩
6. Tagore ends Gandhi's fastMahatma Gandhi often fasted to get things done in his own way. He used to threaten to fast unto death if Nehru and others did not fulfil his desires. In 1932 Gandhi began a most serious fast to protest the British treatment of untouchables. For many days he did not eat anything. Tagore was shocked. He came all the way to Pune with folded hands and begged Gandhi to resume eating. Because it was Gurudev making the request, Gandhi listened to him and started eating.1
RTM 148. Essay “Mahatma Gandhi” in: Sri Chinmoy, Mother India’s Lighthouse: India’s Spiritual Leaders, Blauvelt, New York: Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1973, p. 89; and comments made December 1st, 2005.↩
7. Gandhi prevents Tagore from dancingIn the evening of Tagore’s life, his beloved Santiniketan was suffering badly from lack of money. To run a university is no joke, and Tagore needed money desperately in order for the university to continue. How would he raise the necessary funds? He was at that time 74 or 75. He had the inspiration to dance for the public to make money. He said that easily he would be able to get the required amount because thousands of his admirers would come to watch his dance.
Gandhi came to hear about it and said to Tagore, “Gurudev, as long as I am on earth, I will not allow you to dance in public. Please tell me how much money you actually need.” Gandhi had so many admirers who were wealthy businessmen. They were such devoted friends that at his request they would give him millions of rupees, so Gandhi was able to give Tagore a very large amount of money. In this way, he stopped Tagore from dancing.
Why would people have come to see a dancer whose skill was not only unknown, but also very dubious? Just because he was a famous man in his own field. Although Tagore was not a dancer; as a poet, as a visionary, as a man of inner depth, he was really something extraordinary. Just to be in his presence, even if his dancing had been totally unskilled, would have been an inspiration. His inner capacity, his inspiration and his aspiration would have elevated the consciousness of his audience. There are many really good, excellent dancers, but in the matter of inner depth or inner height they come nowhere near the standard of this poet. Of course, I am not criticising other dancers for their lack of inner depth. As artists in their own fields, they may be excellent. But because of what this beloved seer-poet had contributed in the field of poetry, because of what he was as a man, his very presence could elevate the consciousness of his admirers, although he might have been nowhere in the field of dancing. When one is really great in some field, others are not the losers if they spend a few hours with him in another field, although it may be totally foreign to his original area.1
RTM 149. Ibid. Plus excerpts from: Sri Chinmoy, The Ambition Deer, New York: Agni Press, 1974, pp. 8-10.↩
8. Tagore introduces dancing at SantiniketanTagore had two or three devoted students who were great artists. His nephew, Abanindranath, was number one. He was the greatest. And he learnt this kind of artwork from the British. The British ruled us, true. But, at the same time, they taught us many, many good things. Another artist’s name was Mukul Dey. His young daughter used to dance. Tagore came to learn that Mukul Dey’s daughter knew how to dance, so he was inspired to introduce dancing at Santiniketan.
In those days, dancing was not viewed favourably. However Tagore was a revolutionary; he could do anything. This little girl danced in public, while some people sang. And the audience was full of appreciation. Unfortunately, Tagore gained quite a few enemies as well because dancing was frowned upon by many people. In the course of time, dancing in India became so popular. In South India, they perform Bharat Natyam dances, which are very, very devotional.1
RTM 150. Ibid.↩
9. Tagore's diplomatic solutionNehru and Netaji Subhas Bose were at once friends and rivals. Then they became enemies. Tagore loved them both. We do not know if he loved them equally or not, but his love for them was genuine. On one occasion, Tagore invited both Netaji and Nehru to come and solve their problems at his Santiniketan, the Abode of Peace. They listened to his request and came to his place. Then Tagore said to them, “I know nothing about politics. I will be so grateful to both of you if you can solve your differences.” Tagore went on, “Please, please, talk and chat. I will be extremely happy if you leave the place with an amicable solution.” Then he left the room.
For three hours they talked and talked. Then they came to Tagore to say, “We have solved all our problems.”
When he heard this news, Tagore became the happiest, happiest person.1
RTM 151. Ibid.↩
10. Tagore's way of drinking teaThe Japanese showed Tagore tremendous respect and love. Once he was drinking tea with some Japanese. Everyone was using a cup. But, for some reason, Tagore was inspired to pour a little bit of tea on his saucer, and he drank from the saucer.
Then, what happened? His Japanese friends who were at the same table started pouring their tea onto their saucers and drinking in Tagore’s way! Finally, one of them asked Tagore, “Why are you drinking like this?” He replied, “This is our traditional way. But why do you have to follow my way?” They said, “Because you are so great.”1
RTM 152. December 7th, 2005. Previously unpublished.↩
11. Tagore showers his affection on DilipRabindranath Tagore showed his nobility many, many times. This is one most significant incident.
Dilip Roy’s father, Dwijendra Lai Roy, composed many national songs which are extremely soulful, powerful and authentic. Immediately they bring tears to your eyes. Your tears will be found not only inside your eyes but inside your heart as well. The whole of Bengal is flooded with D.L. Roy’s patriotic songs. He wrote quite a few supremely beautiful songs to arouse the slumbering sub-continent. Love of his country welled forth from his heart like a fountain. One of his most famous songs is Bharat Amar. According to me, this is one of our most beautiful, most powerful and most meaningful national songs. No Bengali villager will be ignorant of this song. He also wrote many, many plays.
In the beginning, Tagore and D.L. Roy were good friends but, unfortunately, in human life friendship does not last. They became rivals and then they virtually became enemies, and Tagore gave up going to D.L. Roy’s house.
Dilip’s mother died when he was only six years old and he was brought up by his father. Alas, his father passed away in 1913, when Dilip was sixteen. By that time, Tagore had become so great. Dilip had the strongest desire to meet with Tagore and, at the same time, he knew that Tagore and his father had been at daggers drawn. How could he go and seek Tagore’s blessing? Dilip did not dare to go and visit him.
One very famous Bengali novelist, Sarat Chandra Chatterjee, wanted to put an end to this unhappy situation. He had tremendous affection for Dilip and he was also close to Tagore. Tagore once confessed that, as a novelist, he was no match for Sarat Chandra.
This great writer took up the challenge. He said to Dilip, “Dilip, do not worry. Tagore will forgive you; he will hold nothing against you.” Dilip said to Sarat Chandra, “My father and Tagore were on such bad terms. Will Tagore agree to see me?”
Sarat Chandra assured him, “You are young. I am sure he will see you.”
Full of fear, Dilip went with Sarat Chandra to Tagore’s place. Dilip was then still in his adolescent years. The young boy said to Tagore, “My father is gone. Can we not be reconciled?”
Then Tagore completely forgot his ill feeling against Dilip’s father; his magnanimous heart did not carry any animosity towards the son. On the contrary, he lavished all his kindness, affection, love and blessings on Dilip.
Dilip’s nickname was Mantu, and Tagore used to call him Mantu. My brother’s nickname was also Mantu. Tagore was compassion incarnate. He encouraged Dilip in so many ways, and Dilip visited him many times at Santiniketan and other places. This is how Sarat Chandra solved the problem.
In a letter to Dilip, Tagore wrote: “I have a sincere affection for you. My heart is attracted by your unmixed truthfulness and frankness.”
This was Tagore’s great nobility. Everybody will remember Tagore’s greatness.1
RTM 153. This story and the next are from: Sri Chinmoy, My Dilip-Da-Adoration, New York: Agni Press, 2007, pp. 49-55 and pp. 7-8.↩
12. Dilip's conversations with TagoreDilip Roy had so many illumining conversations with Tagore. He used to visit Santiniketan for a few days, and they would talk and talk. They also enjoyed their voluminous correspondence.
One conversation was so striking. Dilip was fearless. He said to Tagore, “Kabiguru [Guru of the poets], why do you not allow others to set music to your songs? Forgive me, but they could give better melodies to your most beautiful words. Why not allow them? They are great singers. They will do a far better job. Your own melodies are so simple.”
Tagore responded, “Look, I give much more importance to my words than to my music. I am totally identified with the words. Words convey what I have from within. Words convey my feelings. When I write, words come to me first. Then the melody I give. Melodies do not convey feeling. Even if others can give better melodies to my songs, I will not allow them because I know the words convey my feeling. They come from me directly. They give me such a sweet feeling. Words are so important in my life.” This was Tagore.
Then, a few years later, to somebody else, Tagore said about his poems which were set to music, “My words are like widows. But when they are set to music, they become like brides, most beautiful. When music comes, it is like a beautiful girl with all kinds of ornaments. But if the poem remains only as words, then it is like an Indian widow. The words have to give up all their beauty.”
In those days, Indian widows could not have beauty. They had to cut off their hair, they could not wear jewellery and they had to lead an austere life. They became simplicity incarnate. They were all the time mourning the loss of their husbands.
To Dilip Roy, Tagore said that words came first, he did not care for melody; and then to somebody else he said that without melody a poem is like a widow — there is no beauty, no charm. He changed his opinion. He gave two versions, and I have read both.
Part six — Tagore's songs: translations and commentaryRTM 155-172. For Western audiences, Sri Chinmoy would sometimes preface his performance or recitation of Tagore's songs by offering an illumining translation of the Bengali words. In addition, he often commented on the significance of Tagore's message in the song. Several of these songs have not previously been translated into English.
1. 'Nibir ghana andhare jwaliche dhrubha tara'“In the tenebrous gloom shines the Pole-Star;
O my mind, in the immense expanse of night, lose not your Way.
Dead with depression and despair,
O my heart, cease not your singing.
Breaking asunder the prison of delusion, fulfil your life ...”
In this song, Tagore compares the Pole-Star, fixed and steady in the dark night, with the light of the mind and heart which illumines the unlit existence of human life.[fn:: RTM 155. On March 20th, 1966, Sri Chinmoy offered a recital of nine songs at the Indian Cultural Centre in New York. His programme included the two songs by Rabindranath Tagore that begin this section. Before performing them, Sri Chinmoy gave a brief introduction and also his own translation into English of Tagore’s Bengali words. This introduction and both translations appear in: Sri Chinmoy, Eternity’s Breath, New York: Sri Chinmoy Lighthouse, 1972, pp. 91-92.]
2. 'Amar hiyar majhe lukiye chile'Lord, You have been hiding
In the inmost recesses of my heart.
I have not been able to see You.
To the world without, I have opened my eyes,
Not to the world within.
You were in all my loves and in all my pangs,
And in all my hopes;
You were beside me,
But I did not see You, I did not.
3. 'Nirjharer swapna bhanga'I shall rush from peak to peak,
I shall sweep from mount to mount,
With peals of laughter and songs of murmur
I shall clap to tune and rhythm.
This poem I translated into English because Nolini Kanta Gupta used the poem in his essay “Rabindranath, Traveller of the Infinite.” I translated the whole essay from Bengali to English. The literal meaning of the title will be ‘The Breaking of the Dream of the Fountain’. But, for some reason, I translated it as ‘The Awakening of the Fountain’. ‘Nirjhar’ means ‘fountain’. All of a sudden, the fountain is fully awakened, the fountain that was until now dormant. We do not know that we have a fountain inside our heart. At one point, we have no idea when, that fountain will be fully, fully awakened.
Nolini-da fully agreed with my translation. Strangely enough, a few years later, I saw that Tagore himself had translated it, and he also said, ‘The Awakening of the Fountain’. Can you imagine? I did not know Tagore’s translation before.
It is a very famous poem. I like it so much![fn:: RTM 157. July 22nd, 2002. Previously unpublished.]
4. 'Pagla hoiya bane bane phiri'After my mother passed away in 1944, for three or four months I studied in a school in Chittagong that was founded by one of my eldest brother’s friends. Once they had a function, and there I recited this particular poem of Tagore’s. I was eleven years old. Still I like it. It is a short poem. The meaning is:
Like a madcap I roam,
as a deer looks for the fragrance.
The fragrance is inside the deer, but the deer cannot find it.
Similarly, I am also searching for my own fragrance.
Whatever I ask for, it is all by mistake.
And whatever I get, I am never satisfied.[fn:: RTM 158.
5. 'Sudhu bigha-dui'
The kings are rich only by exploiting the poor ones.
Therefore, I am now going out.
God has given me the whole world."
In this song, the speaker is going away. He became a disciple of a spiritual Master. But he could not forget his home; he was always thinking of that little plot of land. Now he wants to come back and see the place.
Tagore writes, /‘Namo namo namo sundari mamo … ’/ This section is absolutely the best. Of all the descriptions that Tagore gave of Bengal, this will forever remain unparalleled. Nobody will be able to come near him.
There is a mango tree from his childhood days. Near his lap, two ripe mangoes drop. He says,
Therefore, she is showing her affection.
I bow to the Mother,
the tree, the place where I was brought up,
where I stayed for fifteen years."
Then what happens? The gardener comes and starts insulting and scolding him to his heart’s content. He goes on,
For that you have to scold me so mercilessly?
He could not recognise me and he took me to the zamindar.
The zamindar was fishing.
“I shall kill you,” the zamindar says.
The more the zamindar screams at me, the more
unbearable scolding his attendant showers on me.
What a scene for only these two mangoes!"
He had given up everything, so he was wearing sannyasi’s garments. Then the zamindar said, “You are wearing ochre cloth. You are a thief, indeed!” Finally the speaker says to the zamindar,
He did not steal the two mangoes. They fell near his lap, but the zamindar scolded him, insulted him and was even about to strike him. Then the zamindar called him a thief. What a painful story![fn:: RTM 159. Ibid.]
6. 'Bipade more'In one of his most important songs, Tagore says that we must not be afraid of fear:
My prayer to You, O Lord, is to give me
Indomitable strength so that I will not be afraid of the crisis."
This song is so meaningful. Tagore is saying that when there is a serious crisis, he does not want to pray to God for protection. At that time, he wants to pray to God to give him courage so that he is not intimidated by fear itself.[fn:: RTM 160. June 19th, 2003. Previously unpublished.]
7. 'Simar majhe asim tumi'Realisation is our discovery that we are not finite but infinite. In realisation, we come to know that it is inside the finite that the Infinite is playing its tune. Tagore, India’s greatest poet, said,
Simar majbe asim tumi bajao apan sur
Taito eta madhur
Amar majbe tomar Prakash
Taito eta madhur
Inside the finite, O Absolute,
You are playing Your own Tune.
I am a tiny body;
Inside my finite body,
You play Your infinite Melody.
That is why oneness is so sweet, so gentle.
God is both inside the Infinite and also inside the finite. But it is very difficult to imagine or to think of God when we see a tiny object, say a grain of sand. For us, to think of God inside that tiny grain is very difficult. But if we think of the Himalayas or something very majestic, then it is quite easy for us to think and feel that God is there.
When the Infinite plays through the finite, it uses the finite as its instrument. When the finite can claim the Infinite as its very own in the field of realisation and in the field of manifestation, then only can God the Infinite and God the finite — God in Heaven and God on earth — become totally fulfilled.[fn:: RTM 161. Sri Chinmoy, Aspiration-Plants, New York: Agni Press, 1974, p. 51; and previously unpublished comments made on June 1st, 2007.]
Part seven: a most significant inner experienceOn the 24th of November 2004, I had a most significant inner experience. My students and I were staying in Shanghai, China, for one day during our annual Christmas trip. There, around one-thirty in the afternoon, I was meditating. I was in very, very deep trance in my meditation. I was in my very highest. Alas, my fever-journey had started. My fever was extremely high, almost 104 degrees. It was as if I were inside boiling water.
At that time, when I was physically suffering, who came to me? Tagore’s soul. Previously also, his soul had come many, many times. This time we had a marathon conversation. We were exchanging our views and so forth. Then, like rain, his advice was descending on me. Next he made a few requests. He wanted me to write down 1,000 of my poems in my own handwriting. I said, “No, those days are gone. My handwriting has become illegible. Your handwriting was superb. My handwriting is no match for your handwriting.”
At first I declined his request, but he did not accept my refusal. Then I started to fulfil his request, which was almost an impossibility for me. Tagore’s handwriting was so artistic. Mine is simple, but quite nice. In my schooldays, I used to get four out of four for my handwriting. But, in all sincerity, his handwriting is far, far better than mine. He wanted me to write down 1,000 songs in Bengali. Impossible, impossible!
Then I said, “One hundred I will try.” Alas, I did only fourteen. God alone knows if and when I will be able to write down one hundred — and one thousand will be an impossibility! To abide by this request, even though it comes from our greatest poet, is a most difficult task for me.
Such a long interview, a very long interview, we had! Tagore’s soul came to bless me and encourage me. I had brought with me to China his Gitanjali in Bengali, plus some of his songs. As soon as I saw his face on the cover of Gitanjali, it gave me so much inspiration. Such a beautiful beard and such luminous eyes he had! His picture gave me real inspiration. From the joy and inspiration that I received from him, I wrote a song about him, a very soulful song. It is called ‘Dhyane Tanamoy’. Then I was so inspired that about twenty minutes later I composed three more Bengali songs: ‘Bangalir Gan’ ‘Bangalir Pran’, and ‘Ekti Bangali’. It is all Rabindranath Tagore’s advice, inspiration and encouragement. These are the songs I composed on that most significant day in my life.
Dhyane tanamoy ami Chinmoy
Komala nayane atiba jatane
Translation by Sri Chinmoy:
Chinmoy was in a very deep trance.
Tagore, the King of Poets, came to visit him.
With very soft eyes, and tremendous care and concern,
He blessed Chinmoy with torrential advice-rain.1
RTM 162. Previously unpublished. Comments and song translation provided by the author on several occasions, especially January 2nd, 2005 and February 18th, 2005.↩
Bangalir gan abangaliajiBangalir gan abangali aji paramanande gahiche Bangalir sathe duniyar hiya phutiche hasiche nachiche
Translation by a Bengali student of Sri Chinmoy:
The songs of a Bengali
Non-Bengalis are singing with great delight.
The heart of the world
Is blossoming, smiling and dancing
With the Bengalis.
Bangalir pran abangali pranBangalir pran abangali pran ek abhinna aji
Dakiche sabare chira dayamoy bhubana tarani majhi
Translation by a Bengali student of Sri Chinmoy:
Today the hearts of the Bengalis and the non-Bengalis
Have become one.
The eternally compassionate Pilot of the world-boat
Is calling everyone.
Ekti bangali kariyache joyEkti bangali kariyache joy hajar hajar abangali antar
Ekti bangali kahiche sabare prabhur upar karo karo nirbhar
Translation by a Bengali student of Sri Chinmoy:
A single Bengali today has won the hearts
Of thousands of non-Bengalis.
A single Bengali is telling everyone,
“Depend only on the Lord.”
Part eight — Western musical notation for Sri Chinmoy's songsThe following pages contain the Western musical notation to songs by Sri Chinmoy that are mentioned in this volume:[fn:: RTM 166-172. For all the poems, song titles and songs in Bengali in this publication, the transliterations from Bengali script into roman script are by Sri Chinmoy.] ‘Bharater Rabi’ ‘Kabindra Rabindranath’ ‘Beauty’s Dream-Child, Poetry’s Vision-King’[fn:: RTM 166. Titles of this song and the following song selected by Sri Chinmoy Centre Publications NY.] ‘Bengali Heart-Sea’s Golden Shore’ ‘Enechhile Sathe Kare’ ‘Tagore on Sri Ramakrishna’ ‘Dhyane Tanamoy’ ‘Bangalir Gan Abangali Aji’ ‘Bangalir Pran Abangali Pran’ ‘Ekti Bangali Kariyache Joy’
'O Sun of India's sky'Bharater rabi jagater kabi
Banger hiya chand
Sundar tumi bhitare bahire
Sundar tumi srishti gabhire
Bishwa sabbai tomar asan
Prema onkar nad
O Sun of India’s sky,
O Moon of Bengal’s heart,
You were beautiful in your outer life,
You were beauty incarnate in God’s entire Creation.
Gloriously and triumphantly you secure your place
In the world-assembly with your creative force,
Supremely meaningful and fruitful in various walks of life.
Kabindra Rabindranath1Kabindra Rabindranath
Amarar bani sakkhat
Banger bharater kailash santan
Sima gehe peyechhile asimer sandhan
Dyuloker bhuloker maha setu nirjhar
Rishi kabi anupama prachurjya bhashwar
Performed by Sri Chinmoy on May 7, 1979 at the United Nations in New York during a programme offered by him to celebrate the anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore's birth.↩
Beauty's dream-child, poetry's vision-king1Tagore, Tagore, Tagore, Tagore, Tagore!
Beauty’s dream-child, poetry’s vision-King.
Sonar Bangla Bharat Matar world-oneness-ring.
RTM 167. Sri Chinmoy's comment: On the last note of "ring" (Cb), close the "ng" immediately.↩
Bengali heart-sea's golden shoreTagore, Tagore, Tagore!
Bengali heart-sea’s golden shore.
Tagore, Tagore, Tagore!
World literature lion-roar.
Tagore, Tagore, Tagore!
Nobel Laureate cosmos-lore.
Enechhile sathe rareBengali words by Rabindranath Tagore
(Transliteration of Bengali script by Sri Chinmoy)
English Translation and Music by Sri Chinmoy
May 27, 1993
Enechhile sathe kare mrittyuhin pran Marane tabare tumi kare gele dan
With you, you brought the deathless heart. In death you gave it, your boon.
Tagore on Sri RamakrishnaWords by Rabindranath Tagore (Transliteration of Bengali script by Sri Chinmoy) Music by Sri Chinmoy September 26, 1994
Bahu sadhaker bahu sadhanar dhara
Dheyane tomar milito hayeche tara
Tomar jiban asimer lila pathe
Nutan tirtha rup nilo e jagate
Desh bidesher pranam anilo tani
Sethai amar pranati dilam ani
Dhyane tanamoyWords, Music and Translation Sri Chinmoy
November 25, 2004
Dhyane tanamoy ami chinmoy kabindra darashan
Komala nayane atiba jatane upadesh barishan
Chinmoy was in a very deep trance.
Tagore, the King of Poets, came to visit him.
With very soft eyes, and tremendous care and concern,
He blessed Chinmoy with torrential advice-rain.
Sri Chinmoy’s comment: Imagine a boat or crescent moon.
Bangalir gan abangali ajiWords and Music Sri Chinmoy
November 25, 2004
Bangalir gan abangali aji paramanande gahiche
Bangalir sathe duniyar hiya phutiche hasiche nachiche
Editor's prefaceThe year 2011 is supremely auspicious for lovers of literature and music around the world, for it is the 150th birth anniversary of the great Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore.
Tagore holds a unique place in the hearts of all Indians and Bangladeshis. In 1913 he became the first Bengali to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, and he is the composer of the national anthem for each of these countries. In addition, his songs — filled with love for nature’s beauty and praise of the Divine — are sung in towns and villages throughout the sub-continent even today.
In this volume, the great spiritual Master Sri Chinmoy, also hailing from East Bengal and himself an enormously prolific poet, expresses his life-long appreciation and admiration for Tagore. From the age of four, when he was growing up in Shakpura, East Bengal, until his final years, he never tired of singing and listening to Tagore’s songs. Throughout his life, in fact, Sri Chinmoy drew tremendous inspiration from Tagore, and his outpouring of poetry, music and paintings in many ways recalls Tagore’s own seemingly limitless creative fountain.
These writings by Sri Chinmoy about Rabindranath Tagore are gathered from his poems, songs, essays, stories and reflections spanning more than four decades. May they encourage readers from West and East alike to immerse themselves in the immortal treasures of this Master-Poet whom Sri Chinmoy praises so exquisitely as “Banger hiya chand” — “The Moon of Bengal’s Heart.”
Editor's notePhotograph of Sri Chinmoy on page 149 by Ranjana Ghose
Photograph of Sri Chinmoy on back cover: Sri Chinmoy Centre archives
Other photographs: public domain
Book title from Sri Chinmoy’s English translation of his Bengali song Bharater Rabi.