Academic journal article International Journal on Humanistic Ideology

Tagore's Idea of Self - Finite and Infinite

Academic journal article International Journal on Humanistic Ideology

Tagore's Idea of Self - Finite and Infinite

Article excerpt

Rabindranath Tagore 's own individuality and personality was unique and many sided. It is not surprising therefore that the theme of selfhood or individuality occupies a central place in his philosophy of life. Tagore's vision was to lift man out of the stale air of common life to regions where man's ordinary existence is subsumed by a life of passion and power. According to Tagore, the "divine nature"1 in every man elevates him above earthly things. He believed that the Infinite Self, the Supreme Being, reveals Himself through the finite self who dwells in the heart of man. This Being is the "Jïvan Debatet92 of Tagore where he focused on an intimate and personal relationship between the finite and the Infinite Self. According to him, life for the individual as well as for humanity as a whole is a process of progressive growth, in freedom, into the idea of the Supreme Man. The poet's vision was to find a supreme cause to be shared by mankind in terms of sympathy and understanding, truth and love. For Tagore, this supreme cause is the "religion of man", with a spiritual vision for a perfect ideal, to unite with the entire reality (finite and Infinite). It is based on the purity of heart and harmony with the universe. For him it is a principle for the liberation of man's individual personality in the Universal Person who is omnipresent in all human beings. Tagore's idea of self-realization speaks of man's emancipation in the inner truth of all things, where the endless "many" (Humanity as a whole) reveals the "One" (the Universal Man) - the Puma Mänus3. The aim of this paper is to bring out Tagore's bifocal idea of the Self - the finite and the infinite, his idea of humanism, Universal Man and his very own way of discovering the "religion of man".

Background

Rabindranath Tagore's father, Debendranäth Tagore was an ardent searcher for the Ultimate Truth and lived a life of intense spiritual hunger. He joined the Brähmo Samäj movement and carried forward RaJ ä Rämmohan Roy's mission of socio-religious reforms resulting in spiritual renewal for man. The Brähmo Samäj preached the idea of the "One Supreme Reality" that binds all together - a monotheistic ideal, based upon the philosophy of the Upanishads. Rabindranath Tagore consciously or unconsciously learned much from his father. Brähmo Samäj had a powerful influence on the poet's faith or attitude. Tagore's father introduced him to the Upanishads and other Vedic and Sanskrit texts, which had an everlasting impression both on his life and on his creative instincts. The central theme of the Upanishads is the search for the ultimate Truth. The Seers of Upanishads tried to lead one to this central reality of the ultimate Truth, a central reality that is characterized by Infinite Existence sat), Absolute Truth cit), and Pure Delight änanda). In the Brhadäranyaka Upanishads, it had been said that the prayer of every human heart is "Asato mä sad gamaya, tamaso mä jyotir gamaya, mirtyor ma amirtamgamaya" which means, "Lead me from the unreal to the real, Lead me from the Darkness to light, Lead me from death to immortality". In solving the question of the nature of the ultimate reality, the aim of the Upanishadic thinkers' was to supplement the objective vision of the Vedic Seers by a subjective one. The highest conception reached in the Vedic hymns was that of "One" reality (Ekam Sat) that realizes itself in the variety of existence. This conclusion of the Vedas gained further strength in the Upanishads, where the problem was approached by way of a philosophical analysis of the nature of the Self, or the ätmän. However, the etymology of the word ätmän is obscure . In the Rig Veda, it meant breath or the vital essence.5 Gradually it acquired the meaning of soul or the self. The soul of man is the key hole to the landscape of the whole universe, the sky within the heart, the limpid lake that mirrors the "Truth". The altered outlook brought about a consequential change, which claimed that, not the so-called "Gods" but the true "living god" - the ätmän has to be worshipped. …

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