I have heard in my being the voice of Eternal Silence…’ -Tagore
Not many westerners know that Rabindranath Tagore, a great writer, musician and philosopher from Bengal, India, won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913 for his collection of poems, “Gitanjali”. His extraordinary life began in 1861, and before it ended in 1941 he had been contemporary of Mahatma Gandhi, written about by Jawaharlal Nehru, W.B. Yeats, and Ezra Pound, and famously conversed with Albert Einstein about the nature of reality. He wrote over 2000 songs including India’s national anthem. He spoke often and loudly against the militant nationalism rising in his day, and in 1919 he repudiated his knighthood as a public gesture against violence.
Tagore was firmly for freedom – freedom of mind, freedom of education, freedom of belief, freedom of existence. Contrary to the educational establishment of his day, he founded a school, called the ‘Abode of Peace’, which eventually became an important center for culture, music, art, languages and even rural development. He was involved in what we now call ‘Third World Development,’ attempting to teach new farming techniques to his struggling nation. He resisted categorization based on race or economics, and believed in the unity of man and nature.
Though some of his work reflects the politics and struggles of his country, there is so much that relates purely to his spiritual being. His words reflect a deep wisdom and understanding of our reality, and man’s proper behavior within it. He rejected the common religious orthodoxy of his upbringing, instead creatively seeking the spirit behind it. His words bring to mind a startling awareness of this Tao, the compassion and openness necessary to perceive it, and the difficulty of explaining it to others.
“It is only the revelation of You as the Infinite that is endlessly new and eternally beautiful in us and that gives the only meaning to our self when we feel Your rhythmic throb as soul-life, the whole world in our own souls; then are we free. O Worker of the universe! Let the irresistible current of Your universal energy come like the impetuous south wind of spring; let it come rushing over the vast field of human life. Let our newly awakened powers cry out for unlimited fulfillment in leaf and flower and fruit.” -Tagore, from “The Heart of God”