The Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore

The Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore

The Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore

The Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore

Synopsis

The Nobel Prize winner, Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) - 'the Indian Goethe', as Albert Schweitzer called him - was not only the foremost poet and playwright of modern India, but one of its most profound and influential thinkers. Kalyan Sen Gupta's book is the first comprehensive introduction to Tagore's philosophical, socio-political and religious thinking. Drawing on Rabindranath's poetry as well as his essays, and against the background theme of his deep sensitivity to the holistic character of human life and the natural world, Sen Gupta explores the wide range of Tagore's thought. His idea of spirituality, his reflections on the significance of death, his educational innovations and his relationship to his great contemporary, Gandhi, are among the topics that Sen Gupta discusses - as are Tagore's views on marriage, his distinctive understanding of Hinduism, and his prescient concerns for the natural environment. The author does not disguise the tensions to be found in Tagore's writings, but endorses the great poet's own conviction that these are tensions resolvable at the level of a creative life, if not at that of abstract thought.

Excerpt

Tagore’s writings have inspired such an extensive secondary literature that yet another book on him may seem redundant. In this volume, however, I hope to have discussed aspects of Tagore’s thought in a way that does not merely reiterate previous studies but will also provoke a fresh interest in his thought among a new generation of his readers. What the book emphasizes above all is Tagore’s conception of people’s harmony both with humanity as a whole and with nature. For Tagore, this is an aesthetic condition that explains why he refers to his own religious perspective as a poet’s religion or the religion of an artist. I argue that Tagore’s notion of harmony is the central one in his thinking, around which the other concepts that he discusses revolve. The chapters of the book accordingly examine the ideal of spiritual harmony, interpersonal human solidarity, kinship with nature, and self-integrity through artistic creativity. I also address the question, one that taxed Tagore himself, of how the possibility and ideal of harmony may be defended in the face of the palpable disharmony and evil that characterize the actual world.

I am grateful to Professor David E. Cooper – a friend as well as an editor of the series in which this volume is published – whose detailed comments and suggestions have helped me improve this book and who, indeed, has carefully edited the whole text. I am also indebted to my wife Ananya Sen Gupta, who herself wrote a PhD thesis on Tagore, for providing me with important material on Tagore and for encouraging me in my work. I should also like to thank my daughter Kanya, who was awarded an MA in Philosophy at the University of Durham, for her many valuable suggestions and for producing a computerized version of the book. I am grateful, as well, to several friends whose ideas and suggestions I have made use of. Finally, I express my thanks to Sarah Lloyd and her colleagues at Ashgate Publishing for commissioning this book and seeing it through to publication.

Kalyan Sen Gupta . . .

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