Academic journal article International Journal on Humanistic Ideology

Rabindranath Tagore. the Inner World. Some Remarks about Poet's Religion*

Academic journal article International Journal on Humanistic Ideology

Rabindranath Tagore. the Inner World. Some Remarks about Poet's Religion*

Article excerpt

Motto: Kasmai deväva havishä vidhema?

Who is the God to whom we must bring our oblation?2

Rabindranath Tagore was not only an immensely versatile poet; he was also a great short story writer, novelist, playwright, essayist, and composer of songs, as well as a talented painter. His essays, moreover, ranged over literature, politics, culture, social change, religious beliefs, philosophical analysis, international relations, and much else3. For nearly six decades, Tagore's genius produced an extensive body of work.

Born in 7 May 1861, in Calcutta, Rabindranath Tagore did come from a Hindu family. But he often described his Bengali family as "a confluence of three cultures: Hindu, Mohammedan, and British".4 He was influenced by the teachings of the Upanishads and, like the English Romantics and American Transcendentalists before him5, came to believe in its pantheistic teachings. In this regard, his firsthand influence was his father, a leading member of a religious movement called the Brahmo Samaj6 who, Tagore explained, believed in "a strict monotheism based upon the teachings of the Upanishads"7.

Rabindranath was very fortunate to have inherited an enlightened family, who shared an interest in literature and art. The walls of his home breathed music and it echoed everywhere. Many of his brothers were well-known people of the time. Dwijendranath, the elder brother was a philosopher and prose writer, whereas Jyothindra was an artist. It was a common practice to conduct cultural activities at home and most of the dramas written by anybody at home were staged at home itself. So that Rabindranath, from his earliest days, grew up in one house where all the surging waves of the Indian Renaissance could flow round his daily life.

As Amartya Sen writes, Rabindranath

[...] grew up in a family atmosphere in which a deep knowledge of Sanskrit and ancient Hindu texts were combined with an understanding of Islamic traditions as well as Persian literature. It is not so much that Rabindranath tried to produce - or had an interest in producing - a "synthesis" of the different religions.8

Tagore's long journey to "religion of Man" started with the Upanishads, in his childhood. During times, it was enriched by the philosophy of Gita, Christian tradition, the teachings of Buddha, the fascinating universes of Baul and Sufi traditions or by the Mahavira tradition. From all religious believes and from all cultural contexts, Tagore had drawn his complete and unique vision. "Everyone has something special called 'my religion' [...] which is his religion? The one that lies hidden in his heart and keeps on creating him", he said. Tagore is searching for God in the colored reflection of the world, also in world's phenomenon.

Rabindranath Tagore's vast and varied poetry celebrated the longings of the human heart, nature in its calm and destructive form, the idyllic countryside of Bengal, the cyclic roll of seasons, and the lives of ordinary people. He found inspiration in every aspect of life. His mission, as expressed in all his works, from poetry to songs and from drama to paintings, was the divinization of man and the humanization of God.

What differentiates Tagore from the Upanishads is his three-fold conception of reality against the Upanishad's advaitavada and dvaitavada . Tagore attaches equal importance to humanity, world and God. There is no doubt that he is influenced by the Upanishads, but he has a free integral and independent way of thinking. The Upanishads taught Tagore how human beings can transcend themselves and get a glimpse of the Infinite.

In his poetry, Tagore reproduces the idea of the immanence of God reflected in the Upanishads. Brahman is the Supreme Reality which makes itself manifest in and through the finite world. The Poet recognizes the real spirit of the Upanishads and follows the Upanishadic understanding of Brahman: Satyam, Jnanam, Anantam (Truth, Knowledge, and Infinity). …

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