Tag Archives: Rabindranath Tagore

Three Books by Rabindranath Tagore

Tagore has had a profound influence on my life.

I have provided excerpts before from works by Tagore. Today I would like to offer these 3 complete books for you to download, free. These are all in the public domain since 1992. They are:

Gitanjali,

Stray Birds and

The Hungry Stones

If you are new to his work, you are in for a treat, also I am providing the following excerpts with the download for the entire book at the end of each section. I think you will want to read all of these, from the first word to the last.

(Note: I have already provided a download of the e-book Sadhana- The Realization of Life here. Also, I have included a free audio book of Sadhana at the end of this post.)

Gitanjali- Song Offerings

If thou speakest not I will fill my heart with thy silence and endure it. I will keep still and wait like the night with starry vigil and its head bent low with patience.

The morning will surely come, the darkness will vanish, and thy voice pour down in golden streams breaking through the sky.

Then thy words will take wing in songs from every one of my birds’ nests, and thy melodies will break forth in flowers in all my forest groves.

On the day when the lotus bloomed, alas, my mind was straying, and I knew it not. My basket was empty and the flower remained unheeded.

Only now and again a sadness fell upon me, and I started up from my dream and felt a sweet trace of a strange fragrance in the south wind.

That vague sweetness made my heart ache with longing and it seemed to me that is was the eager breath of the summer seeking for its completion.

I knew not then that it was so near, that it was mine, and that this perfect sweetness had blossomed in the depth of my own heart.

I must launch out my boat. The languid hours pass by on the shore—Alas for me!

The spring has done its flowering and taken leave. And now with the burden of faded futile flowers I wait and linger.

The waves have become clamorous, and upon the bank in the shady lane the yellow leaves flutter and fall.

What emptiness do you gaze upon! Do you not feel a thrill passing through the air with the notes of the far-away song floating from the other shore?

In the deep shadows of the rainy July, with secret steps, thou walkest, silent as night, eluding all watchers.

Today the morning has closed its eyes, heedless of the insistent calls of the loud east wind, and a thick veil has been drawn over the ever-wakeful blue sky.

The woodlands have hushed their songs, and doors are all shut at every house. Thou art the solitary wayfarer in this deserted street. Oh my only friend, my best beloved, the gates are open in my house—do not pass by like a dream.

Art thou abroad on this stormy night on thy journey of love, my friend? The sky groans like one in despair.

I have no sleep tonight. Ever and again I open my door and look out on the darkness, my friend!

I can see nothing before me. I wonder where lies thy path!

By what dim shore of the ink-black river, by what far edge of the frowning forest, through what mazy depth of gloom art thou threading thy course to come to me, my friend?

If the day is done, if birds sing no more, if the wind has flagged tired, then draw the veil of darkness thick upon me, even as thou hast wrapt the earth with the coverlet of sleep and tenderly closed the petals of the drooping lotus at dusk.

From the traveller, whose sack of provisions is empty before the voyage is ended, whose garment is torn and dustladen, whose strength is exhausted, remove shame and poverty, and renew his life like a flower under the cover of thy kindly night.

In the night of weariness let me give myself up to sleep without struggle, resting my trust upon thee.

Let me not force my flagging spirit into a poor preparation for thy worship.

It is thou who drawest the veil of night upon the tired eyes of the day to renew its sight in a fresher gladness of awakening.

He came and sat by my side but I woke not. What a cursed sleep it was, O miserable me!

He came when the night was still; he had his harp in his hands, and my dreams became resonant with its melodies.

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The verses in Stray Birds are short but full. Each one is a meditation. Read them slowly, savor their images and find the meaning they call out from your own heart.

Stray Birds

THE mist, like love, plays upon the heart of the hills and brings out surprises of beauty.

 

75

WE read the world wrong and say that it deceives us.

 

76

THE poet wind is out over the sea and the forest to seek his own voice.

 

77

EVERY child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man.

 

78

THE grass seeks her crowd in the earth.

The tree seeks his solitude of the sky.

 

79

MAN barricades against himself.

 

80

YOUR voice, my friend, wanders in my heart, like the muffled sound of the sea among these listening pines.

 

81

WHAT is this unseen flame of darkness whose sparks are the stars?

 

82

LET life be beautiful like summer flowers and death like autumn leaves.

 

88

HE who wants to do good knocks at the gate; he who loves finds the gate open.

 

84

IN death the many becomes one; in life the one becomes many.

Download:

stray-birds-by-rabindranath-tagore

The Hungry Stones and other stories

this story is titled

THE DEVOTEE

I

AT a time, when my unpopularity with a part of my readers had reached the nadir of its glory, and my name had become the central orb of the journals, to be attended through space with a perpetual rotation of revilement, I felt the necessity to retire to some quiet place and endeavour to forget my own existence.

I have a house in the country some miles away from Calcutta, where I can remain unknown and unmolested. The villagers there have not, as yet, come to any conclusion about me. They know I am no mere holiday-maker or pleasure-seeker; for I never outrage the silence of the village nights with the riotous noises of the city. Nor do they regard me as an ascetic, because the little acquaintance they have of me carries the savour of comfort about it. I am not, to them, a traveller; for, though I am a vagabond by nature, my wandering through the village fields is aimless. They are hardly even quite certain whether I am married or single; for they have never seen me with my children. So, not being able to classify me in any animal or vegetable kingdom that they know, they have long since given me up and left me stolidly alone.

But quite lately I have come to know that there is one person in the village who is deeply interested in me. Our acquaintance began on a sultry afternoon in July. There had been rain all the morning, and the air was still wet and heavy with mist, like eyelids when weeping is over.

I sat lazily watching a dappled cow grazing on the high bank of the river. The afternoon sun was playing on her glossy hide. The simple beauty of this dress of light made me wonder idly at man’s deliberate waste of money in setting up tailors’ shops to deprive his own skin of its natural clothing.

While I was thus watching and lazily musing, a woman of middle age came and prostrated herself before me, touching the ground with her forehead. She carried in her robe some bunches of flowers, one of which she offered to me with folded hands. She said to me, as she offered it: “This is an offering to my God.”

She went away. I was so taken aback as she uttered these words, that I could hardly catch a glimpse of her before she was gone. The whole incident was entirely simple, but it left a deep impression on my mind; and as I turned back once more to look at the cattle in the field, the zest of life in the cow, who was munching the lush grass with deep breaths, while she whisked off the flies, appeared to me fraught with mystery. My readers may laugh at my foolishness, but my heart was full of adoration. I offered my worship to the pure joy of living, which is God’s own life. Then, plucking a tender shoot from the mango tree, I fed the cow with it from my own hand, and as I did this I had the satisfaction of having pleased my God.

The next year when I returned to the village it was February. The cold season still lingered on. The morning sun came into my room, and I was grateful for its warmth. I was writing, when the servant came to tell me that a devotee, of the Vishnu cult, wanted to see me. I told him, in an absent way, to bring her upstairs, and went on with my writing. The Devotee came in, and bowed to me, touching my feet. I found that she was the same woman whom I had met, for a brief moment, a year ago.

I was able now to examine her more closely. She was past that age when one asks the question whether a woman is beautiful or not. Her stature was above the ordinary height, and she was strongly built; but her body was slightly bent owing to her constant attitude of veneration. Her manner had nothing shrinking about it. The most remarkable of her features were her two eyes. They seemed to have a penetrating power which could make distance near.

With those two large eyes of hers, she seemed to push me as she entered.

“What is this?” she asked. “Why have you brought me here before your throne, my God? I used to see you among the trees; and that was much better. That was the true place to meet you.”

She must have seen me walking in the garden without my seeing her. For the last few days, however, I had suffered from a cold, and had been prevented from going out. I had, perforce, to stay indoors and pay my homage to the evening sky from my terrace. After a silent pause the Devotee said to me: “O my God, give me some words of good.”

I was quite unprepared for this abrupt request, and answered her on the spur of the moment:

Good words I neither give nor receive. I simply open my eyes and keep silence, and then I can at once both hear and see, even when no sound is uttered. Now, while I am looking at you, it is as good as listening to your voice.

The Devotee became quite excited as I spoke, and exclaimed: “God speaks to me, not only with His mouth, but with His whole body.”

I said to her: “When I am silent I can listen with my whole body. I have come away from Calcutta here to listen to that sound.”

The Devotee said: “Yes, I know that, and therefore I have come here to sit by you.”

Before taking her leave, she again bowed to me, and touched my feet. I could see that she was distressed, because my feet were covered. She wished them to be bare.

Early next morning I came out, and sat on my terrace on the roof. Beyond the line of trees southward I could see the open country chill and desolate. I could watch the sun rising over the sugar-cane in the East, beyond the clump of trees at the side of the village. Out of the deep shadow of those dark trees the village road suddenly appeared. It stretched forward, winding its way to some distant villages on the horizon, till it was lost in the grey of the mist.

That morning it was difficult to say whether the sun had risen or not. A white fog was still clinging to the tops of the trees. I saw the Devotee walking through the blurred dawn, like a mist-wraith of the morning twilight. She was singing her chant to God, and sounding her cymbals.

The thick haze lifted at last; and the sun, like the kindly grandsire of the village, took his seat amid all the work that was going on in home and field.

When I had just settled down at my writing-table, to appease the hungry appetite of my editor in Calcutta, there came a sound of footsteps on the stair, and the Devotee, humming a tune to herself, entered. and bowed before me. I lifted my head from my papers.

She said to me: “My God, yesterday I took as sacred food what was left over from your meal.”

I was startled, and asked her how she could do that.

“Oh,” she said, “I waited at your door in the evening, while you were at dinner, and took some food from your plate when it was carried out.”

This was a surprise to me, for every one in the village knew that I had been to Europe, and had eaten with Europeans. I was a vegetarian, no doubt, but the sanctity of my cook would not bear investigation, and the orthodox regarded my food as polluted.

The Devotee, noticing my sign of surprise, said: “My God, why should I come to you at all, if I could not take your food?”

I asked her what her own caste people would say. She told me she had already spread the news far and wide all over the village. The caste people had shaken their heads, but agreed that she must go her own way.

I found out that the Devotee came from a good family in the country, and that her mother was well-to-do, and desired to keep her daughter. But she preferred to be a mendicant. I asked her how she made her living. She told me that her followers had given her a piece of land, and that she begged her food from door to door. She said to me: “The food which I get by begging is divine.”

After I had thought over what she said, I understood her meaning. When we get our food precariously as alms, we remember God the giver. But when we receive our food regularly at home, as a matter of course, we are apt to regard it as ours by right.

I had a great desire to ask her about her husband. But as she never mentioned him even indirectly, I did not question her.

I found out very soon that the Devotee had no respect at all for that part of the village where the people of the higher castes lived.

“They never give,” she said, “a single farthing to God’s service; and yet they have the largest share of God’s glebe. But the poor worship and starve.”

I asked her why she did not go and live among these godless people, and help them towards a better life. “That,” I said with some unction, “would be the highest form of divine worship.”

I had heard sermons of this kind from time to time, and I am rather fond of copying them myself for the public benefit, when the chance comes.

But the Devotee was not at all impressed. She raised her big round eyes, and looked straight into mine, and said:

“You mean to say that because God is with the sinners, therefore when you do them any service you do it to God? Is that so?”

“Yes,” I replied, “that is my meaning.”

“Of course,” she answered almost impatiently, “of course, God is with them: otherwise, how could they go on living at all? But what is that to me? My God is not there. My God cannot be worshipped among them; because I do not find Him there. I seek Him where I can find Him.”

As she spoke, she made obeisance to me. What she meant to say was really this. A mere doctrine of God’s omnipresence does not help us. That God is all-pervading,–this truth may be a mere intangible abstraction, and therefore unreal to ourselves. Where I can see Him, there is His reality in my soul.

I need not explain that all the while she showered her devotion on me she did it to me not as an individual. I was simply a vehicle of her divine worship. It was not for me either to receive it or to refuse it: for it was not mine, but God’s.

When the Devotee came again, she found me once more engaged with my books and papers.

“What have you been doing,” she said, with evident vexation, “that my God should make you undertake such drudgery? Whenever I come, I find you reading and writing.”

“God keeps his useless people busy,” I answered; “otherwise they would be bound to get into mischief. They have to do all the least necessary things in life. It keeps them out of trouble.”

The Devotee told me that she could not bear the encumbrances, with which, day by day, I was surrounded. If she wanted to see me, she was not allowed by the servants to come straight upstairs. If she wanted to touch my feet in worship, there were my socks always in the way. And when she wanted to have a simple talk with me, she found my mind lost in a wilderness of letters.

This time, before she left me, she folded her hands, and said: “My God! I felt your feet in my breast this morning. Oh, how cool! And they were bare, not covered. I held them upon my head for a long time in worship. That filled my very being. Then, after that, pray what was the use of my coming to you yourself? Why did I come? My Lord, tell me truly,–wasn’t it a mere infatuation?”

There were some flowers in my vase on the table. While she was there, the gardener brought some new flowers to put in their place. The Devotee saw him changing them.

“Is that all?” she exclaimed. “Have you done with the flowers? Then give them to me.”

She held the flowers tenderly in the cup of her hands, and began to gaze at them with bent head. After a few moments’ silence she raised her head again, and said to me: “You never look at these flowers; therefore they become stale to you. If you would only look into them, then your reading and writing would go to the winds.”

She tied the flowers together in the end of her robe, and placed them, in an attitude of worship, on the top of her head, saying reverently: “Let me carry my God with me.”

While she did this, I felt that flowers in our rooms do not receive their due meed of loving care at our hands. When we stick them in vases, they are more like a row of naughty schoolboys standing on a form to be punished.

The Devotee came again the same evening, and sat by my feet on the terrace of the roof.

“I gave away those flowers,” she said, “as I went from house to house this morning, singing God’s name. Beni, the head man of our village, laughed at me for my devotion, and said: ‘Why do you waste all this devotion on Him? Don’t you know He is reviled up and down the countryside?’ Is that true, my God? Is it true that they are hard upon you?”

For a moment I shrank into myself. It was a shock to find that the stains of printers’ ink could reach so far.

The Devotee went on: “Beni imagined that he could blow out the flame of my devotion at one breath! But this is no mere tiny flame: it is a burning fire. Why do they abuse you, my God?”

I said: “Because I deserved it. I suppose in my greed I was loitering about to steal people’s hearts in secret.”

The Devotee said: “Now you see for yourself how little their hearts are worth. They are full of poison, and this will cure you of your greed.”

“When a man,” I answered, “has greed in his heart, he is always on the verge of being beaten. The greed itself supplies his enemies with poison.”

“Our merciful God,” she replied, “beats us with His own hand, and drives away all the poison. He who endures God’s beating to the end is saved.”

II

That evening the Devotee told me the story of her life. The stars of evening rose and set behind the trees, as she went on to the end of her tale.

“My husband is very simple. Some people think that he is a simpleton; but I know that those who understand simply, understand truly. In business and household management he was able to hold his own. Because his needs were small, and his wants few, he could manage carefully on what we had. He would never meddle in other matters, nor try to understand them.

“Both my husband’s parents died before we had been married long, and we were left alone. But my husband always needed some one to be over him. I am ashamed to confess that he had a sort of reverence for me, and looked upon me as his superior. But I am sure that he could understand things better than I, though I had greater powers of talking.

“Of all the people in the world he held his Guru Thakur (spiritual master) in the highest veneration. Indeed it was not veneration merely but love; and such love as his is rare.

“Guru Thakur was younger than my husband. Oh! how beautiful he was!

“My husband had played games with him when he was a boy; and from that time forward he had dedicated his heart and soul to this friend of his early days. Thakur knew how simple my husband was, and used to tease him mercilessly.

“He and his comrades would play jokes upon him for their own amusement; but he would bear them all with long-suffering.

“When I married into this family, Guru Thakur was studying at Benares. My husband used to pay all his expenses. I was eighteen years old when he returned home to our village.

“At the age of fifteen I had my child. I was so young I did not know how to take care of him. I was fond of gossip, and liked to be with my village friends for hours together. I used to get quite cross with my boy when I was compelled to stay at home and nurse him. Alas! my child-God came into my life, but His playthings were not ready for Him. He came to the mother’s heart, but the mother’s heart lagged behind. He left me in anger; and ever since I have been searching for Him up and down the world.

“The boy was the joy of his father’s life. My careless neglect used to pain my husband. But his was a mute soul. He has never been able to give expression to his pain.

“The wonderful thing was this, that in spite of my neglect the child used to love me more than any one else. He seemed to have the dread that I would one day go away and leave him. So even when I was with him, he would watch me with a restless look in his eyes. He had me very little to himself, and therefore his desire to be with me was always painfully eager. When I went each day to the river, he used to fret and stretch out his little arms to be taken with me. But the bathing ghat was my place for meeting my friends, and I did not care to burden myself with the child.

“It was an early morning in August. Fold after fold of grey clouds had wrapped the mid-day round with a wet clinging robe. I asked the maid to take care of the boy, while I went down to the river. The child cried after me as I went away.

“There was no one there at the bathing ghat when I arrived. As a swimmer, I was the best among all the village women. The river was quite full with the rains. I swam out into the middle of the stream some distance from the shore.

“Then I heard a cry from the bank, ‘Mother!’ I turned my head and saw my boy coming down the steps, calling me as he came. I shouted to him to stop, but he went on, laughing and calling. My feet and hands became cramped with fear. I shut my eyes, afraid to see. When I opened them, there, at the slippery stairs, my boy’s ripple of laughter had disappeared for ever.

“I got back to the shore. I raised him from the water. I took him in my arms, my boy, my darling, who had begged so often in vain for me to take him. I took him now, but he no more looked in my eyes and called ‘Mother.’

“My child-God had come. I had ever neglected Him. I had ever made Him cry. And now all that neglect began to beat against my own heart, blow upon blow, blow upon blow. When my boy was with me, I had left him alone. I had refused to take him with me. And now, when he is dead, his memory clings to me and never leaves me.

“God alone knows all that my husband suffered. If he had only punished me for my sin, it would have been better for us both. But he knew only how to endure in silence, not how to speak.

“When I was almost mad with grief, Guru Thakur came back. In earlier days, the relation between him and my husband had been that of boyish friendship. Now, my husband’s reverence for his sanctity and learning was unbounded. He could hardly speak in his presence, his awe of him was so great.

“My husband asked his Guru to try to give me some consolation. Guru Thakur began to read and explain to me the scriptures. But I do not think they had much effect on my mind. All their value for me lay in the voice that uttered them. God makes the draught of divine life deepest in the heart for man to drink, through the human voice. He has no better vessel in His hand than that; and He Himself drinks His divine draught out of the same vessel.

“My husband’s love and veneration for his Guru filled our house, as incense fills a temple shrine. I showed that veneration, and had peace. I saw my God in the form of that Guru. He used to come to take his meal at our house every morning. The first thought that would come to my mind on waking from sleep was that of his food as a sacred gift from God. When I prepared the things for his meal, my fingers would sing for joy.

“When my husband saw my devotion to his Guru, his respect for me greatly increased. He noticed his Guru’s eager desire to explain the scriptures to me. He used to think that he could never expect to earn any regard from his Guru himself, on account of his stupidity; but his wife had made up for it.

“Thus another five years went by happily, and my whole life would have passed like that; but beneath the surface some stealing was going on somewhere in secret. I could not detect it; but it was detected by the God of my heart. Then came a day when, in a moment our whole life was turned upside down.

“It was a morning in midsummer. I was returning home from bathing, my clothes all wet, down a shady lane. At the bend of the road, under the mango tree, I met my Guru Thakur. He had his towel on his shoulder and was repeating some Sanskrit verses as he was going to take his bath. With my wet clothes clinging all about me I was ashamed to meet him. I tried to pass by quickly, and avoid being seen. He called me by my name.

“I stopped, lowering my eyes, shrinking into myself. He fixed his gaze upon me, and said: ‘How beautiful is your body!’

“All the universe of birds seemed to break into song in the branches overhead. All the bushes in the lane seemed ablaze with flowers. It was as though the earth and sky and everything had become a riot of intoxicating joy.

“I cannot tell how I got home. I only remember that I rushed into the room where we worship God. But the room seemed empty. Only before my eyes those same gold spangles of light were dancing which had quivered in front of me in that shady lane on my way back from the river.

“Guru Thakur came to take his food that day, and asked my husband where I had gone. He searched for me, but could not find me anywhere.

“Ah! I have not the same earth now any longer. The same sunlight is not mine. I called on my God in my dismay, and He kept His face turned away from me.

“The day passed, I know not how. That night I had to meet my husband. But the night is dark and silent. It is the time when my husband’s mind comes out shining, like stars at twilight. I had heard him speak things in the dark, and I had been surprised to find how deeply he understood.

“Sometimes I am late in the evening in going to rest on account of household work. My husband waits for me, seated on the floor, without going to bed. Our talk at such times had often begun with something about our Guru.

“That night, when it was past midnight, I came to my room, and found my husband sleeping on the floor. Without disturbing him I lay down on the ground at his feet, my head towards him. Once he stretched his feet, while sleeping, and struck me on the breast. That was his last bequest.

“Next morning, when my husband woke up from his sleep, I was already sitting by him. Outside the window, over the thick foliage of the jack-fruit tree, appeared the first pale red of the dawn at the fringe of the night. It was so early that the crows had not yet begun to call.

“I bowed, and touched my husband’s feet with my forehead. He sat up, starting as if waking from a dream, and looked at my face in amazement. I said:

“‘I have made up my mind. I must leave the world. I cannot belong to you any longer. I must leave your home.’

“Perhaps my husband thought that he was still dreaming. He said not a word.

‘Ah! do hear me!’ I pleaded with infinite pain. ‘Do hear me and understand! You must marry another wife. I must take my leave.’

“My husband said: ‘What is all this wild, mad talk? Who advises you to leave the world?’

“I said: ‘My Guru Thakur.’

“My husband looked bewildered. ‘Guru Thakur!’ he cried. ‘When did he give you this advice?’

“‘In the morning,’ I answered, ‘yesterday, when I met him on my way back from the river.’

His voice trembled a little. He turned, and looked in my face, and asked me: ‘Why did he give you such a behest?’

“‘I do not know,’ I answered. ‘Ask him! He will tell you himself, if he can.’

“My husband said: ‘It is possible to leave the world, even when continuing to live in it. You need not leave my home. I will speak to my Guru about it.’

‘Your Guru,’ I said, ‘may accept your petition; but my heart will never give its consent. I must leave your home. From henceforth, the world is no more to me.’

“My husband remained silent, and we sat there on the floor in the dark. When it was light, he said to me: ‘Let us both come to him.’

“I folded my hands and said: ‘I shall never meet him again.’

“He looked into my face. I lowered my eyes. He said no more. I knew that, somehow, he had seen into my mind, and understood what was there. In this world of mine, there were only two who loved me best–my boy and my husband. That love was my God, and therefore it could brook no falsehood. One of these two left me, and I left the other. Now I must have truth, and truth alone.”

She touched the ground at my feet, rose and bowed to me, and departed.

Download:

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More Tagore pictures (click small pictures for full size) –

Two pictures of Tagore with Gandhi

Tagore- Gandhi

Two pictures of Tagore with Albert Einstein

A letter Tagore wrote from the Netherlands

Tagore Portrait (click for full size)

Hand written page from Gitanjali

Extra Special Treat!

For your listening pleasure- Free Download of the Audio-Book of

sadhana-the-realization-of-life

 








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SADHANA The Realization of Life by R. Tagore

To download the entire book in DOC format (I can't get
the uploader to insert any other formats),
click on the link at the bottom of this excerpt.
This is one of the top 3 most inspiring and influential
books I have ever read.
This translation is by the author.
This is a public domain work- save a tree and read it online.



Bio: 

Rabindranath Tagore(1861-1941)

Greatest writer in modern Indian literature, Bengali poet, novelist, educator, and an early advocate of Independence for India. Tagore won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. Two years later he was awarded the knighthood, but he surrendered it in 1919 as a protest against the Massacre of Amritsar, where British troops killed some 400 Indian demonstrators. Tagore’s influence over Gandhi and the founders of modern India was enormous, but his reputation in the West as a mystic has perhaps mislead his Western readers to ignore his role as a reformer and critic of colonialism.

“When one knows thee, then alien there is none, then no door is shut. Oh, grant me my prayer that I may never lose touch of the one in the play of the many.” (from Gitanjali)

Rabindranath Tagore was born in Calcutta into a wealthy and prominent family. His father was Maharishi Debendranath Tagore, a religious reformer and scholar. His mother, Sarada Devi, died when Tagore was very young – he realized that she will never come back was when her body was carried through a gate to a place where it was burned. Tagore’s grandfather had established a huge financial empire for himself. He helped a number of public projects, such as Calcutta Medical College.

The Tagores tried to combine traditional Indian culture with Western ideas; all the children contributed significantly to Bengali literature and culture. However, in My Reminiscences Tagore mentions that it was not until the age of ten when he started to use socks and shoes. And servants beat the children regularly. Tagore, the youngest, started to compose poems at the age of eight. Tagore’s first book, a collection of poems, appeared when he was 17; it was published by Tagore’s friend who wanted to surprise him.

Tagore received his early education first from tutors and then at a variety of schools. Among them were Bengal Academy where he studied history and culture. At University College, London, he studied law but left after a year – he did not like the weather. Once he gave a beggar a cold coin – it was more than the beggar had expected and he returned it. In England Tagore started to compose the poem ‘Bhagna Hridaj’ (a broken heart).

In 1883 Tagore married Mrinalini Devi Raichaudhuri, with whom he had two sons and three daughters. In 1890 Tagore moved to East Bengal (now Bangladesh), where he collected local legends and folklore. Between 1893 and 1900 he wrote seven volumes of poetry, including SONAR TARI (The Golden Boat), 1894 and KHANIKA, 1900. This was highly productive period in Tagore’s life, and earned him the rather misleading epitaph ‘The Bengali Shelley.’ More important was that Tagore wrote in the common language of the people. This also was something that was hard to accept among his critics and scholars.

Tagore was the first Indian to bring an element of psychological realism to his novels. Among his early major prose works are CHOCHER BALI (1903, Eyesore) and NASHTANIR (1901, The Broken Nest), published first serially. Between 1891 and 1895 he published forty-four short stories in Bengali periodical, most of them in the monthly journal Sadhana.

Especially Tagore’s short stories influenced deeply Indian Literature. ‘Punishment’, a much anthologized work, was set in a rural village. It describes the oppression of women through the tragedy of the low-caste Rui family. Chandara is a proud, beautiful woman, “buxom, well-rounded, compact and sturdy,” her husband, Chidam, is a farm-laborer, who works in the fields with his brother Dukhiram. One day when they return home after whole day of toil and humiliation, Dukhiram kills in anger his sloppy and slovenly wife because his food was not ready. To help his brother, Chidam’s tells to police that his wife struck her sister-in-law with the farm-knife. Chandara takes the blame on to herself. ‘In her thoughts, Chandara was saying to her husband, “I shall give my youth to the gallows instead of you. My final ties in this life will be with them.”‘ Afterwards both Chidam and Dukhiram try to confess that they were quilty but Chandara is convicted. Just before the hanging, the doctor says that her husband wants to see her. “To hell with him,” says Chandara.

In 1901 Tagore founded a school outside Calcutta, Visva-Bharati, which was dedicated to emerging Western and Indian philosophy and education. It become a university in 1921. He produced poems, novels, stories, a history of India, textbooks, and treatises on pedagogy. Tagore’s wife died in 1902, next year one of his daughters died, and in 1907 Tagore lost his younger son.

Tagore’s reputation as a writer was established in the United States and in England after the publication of GITANJALI: SONG OFFERINGS, about divine and human love. The poems were translated into English by the author himself. In the introduction from 1912 William Butler Yates wrote: “These lyrics – which are in the original, my Indians tell me, full of subtlety of rhythm, of untranslatable delicacies of colour, of metrical invention – display in their thought a world I have dreamed of all my life long.” Tagore’s poems were also praised by Ezra Pound, and drew the attention of the Nobel Prize committee. “There is in him the stillness of nature. The poems do not seem to have been produced by storm or by ignition, but seem to show the normal habit of his mind. He is at one with nature, and finds no contradictions. And this is in sharp contrast with the Western mode, where man must be shown attempting to master nature if we are to have “great drama.” (Ezra Pound in Fortnightly Review, 1 March 1913) However, Tagore also experimented with poetic forms and these works have lost much in translations into other languages.

Much of Tagore’s ideology come from the teaching of the Upahishads and from his own beliefs that God can be found through personal purity and service to others. He stressed the need for new world order based on transnational values and ideas, the “unity consciousness.” “The soil, in return for her service, keeps the tree tied to her; the sky asks nothing and leaves it free.” Politically active in India, Tagore was a supporter of Gandhi, but warned of the dangers of nationalistic thought. Unable to gain ideological support to his views, he retired into relative solitude. Between the years 1916 and 1934 he travelled widely. From his journey to Japan in 1916 he produced articles and books. In 1927 he toured in Southeast Asia. Letters from Java, which first was serialized in Vichitra, was issued as a book, JATRI, in 1929. His Majesty, Riza Shah Pahlavi, invited Tagore to Iran in 1932. On his journeys and lecture tours Tagore attempted to spread the ideal of uniting East and West. While in Japan he wrote: “The Japanese do not waste their energy in useless screaming and quarreling, and because there is no waste of energy it is not found wanting when required. This calmness and fortitude of body and mind is part of their national self-realization.”

Tagore wrote his most important works in Bengali, but he often translated his poems into English. At the age of 70 Tagore took up painting. He was also a composer, settings hundreds of poems to music. Many of his poems are actually songs, and inseparable from their music. Tagore’s ‘Our Golden Bengal’ became the national anthem of Bangladesh. Only hours before he died on August 7, in 1941, Tagore dictated his last poem. His written production, still not completely collected, fills nearly 30 substantial volumes. Tagore remained a well-known and popular author in the West until the end of the 1920s, but nowadays he is not so much read.

SADHANA

THE REALISATION OF LIFE

By

Rabindranath Tagore

Author of 'Gitanjali'

1916

To

Ernest Rhys

Author's Preface

Perhaps it is well for me to explain that the subject-matter of
the papers published in this book has not been philosophically
treated, nor has it been approached from the scholar's point of
view.  The writer has been brought up in a family where texts of
the Upanishads are used in daily worship; and he has had before
him the example of his father, who lived his long life in the
closest communion with God, while not neglecting his duties to
the world, or allowing his keen interest in all human affairs to
suffer any abatement.  So in these papers, it may be hoped,
western readers will have an opportunity of coming into touch
with the ancient spirit of India as revealed in our sacred texts
and manifested in the life of to-day.

All the great utterances of man have to be judged not by the
letter but by the spirit--the spirit which unfolds itself with
the growth of life in history.  We get to know the real meaning
of Christianity by observing its living aspect at the present
moment--however different that may be, even in important
respects, from the Christianity of earlier periods.

For western scholars the great religious scriptures of India seem
to possess merely a retrospective and archaelogical interest; but
to us they are of living importance, and we cannot help thinking
that they lose their significance when exhibited in labelled
cases--mummied specimens of human thought and aspiration,
preserved for all time in the wrappings of erudition.

The meaning of the living words that come out of the experiences
of great hearts can never be exhausted by any one system of
logical interpretation.  They have to be endlessly explained by
the commentaries of individual lives, and they gain an added
mystery in each new revelation.  To me the verses of the
Upanishads and the teachings of Buddha have ever been things of
the spirit, and therefore endowed with boundless vital growth;
and I have used them, both in my own life and in my preaching, as
being instinct with individual meaning for me, as for others, and
awaiting for their confirmation, my own special testimony, which
must have its value because of its individuality.

I should add perhaps that these papers embody in a connected
form, suited to this publication, ideas which have been culled
from several of the Bengali discourses which I am in the habit of
giving to my students in my school at Bolpur in Bengal; and I
have used here and there translations of passages from these done
by my friends, Babu Satish Chandra Roy and Babu Ajit Kumar
Chakravarti.  The last paper of this series, "Realisation in
Action," has been translated from my Bengali discourse on "Karma-
yoga" by my nephew, Babu Surendra Nath Tagore.

I take this opportunity of expressing my gratitude to Professor
James H. Woods, of Harvard University, for his generous
appreciation which encouraged me to complete this series of
papers and read most of them before the Harvard University.  And
I offer my thanks to Mr. Ernest Rhys for his kindness in helping
me with suggestions and revisions, and in going through the
proofs.

A word may be added about the pronouncing of Sadhana: the accent
falls decisively on the first a, which has the broad sound of the
letter.

CONTENTS

I. THE RELATION OF THE INDIVIDUAL TO THE UNIVERSE
II. SOUL CONSCIOUSNESS
III. THE PROBLEM OF EVIL
IV. THE PROBLEM OF SELF
V. REALISATION IN LOVE
VI. REALISATION IN ACTION
VII. THE REALISATION OF BEAUTY
VIII. THE REALISATION OF THE INFINITE

I

THE RELATION OF THE INDIVIDUAL TO THE UNIVERSE

The civilisation of ancient Greece was nurtured within city
walls.  In fact, all the modern civilisations have their cradles
of brick and mortar.

These walls leave their mark deep in the minds of men.  They set
up a principle of "divide and rule" in our mental outlook, which
begets in us a habit of securing all our conquests by fortifying
them and separating them from one another.  We divide nation and
nation, knowledge and knowledge, man and nature.  It breeds in us
a strong suspicion of whatever is beyond the barriers we have
built, and everything has to fight hard for its entrance into our
recognition.

When the first Aryan invaders appeared in India it was a vast
land of forests, and the new-comers rapidly took advantage of
them.  These forests afforded them shelter from the fierce heat
of the sun and the ravages of tropical storms, pastures for
cattle, fuel for sacrificial fire, and materials for building
cottages.  And the different Aryan clans with their patriarchal
heads settled in the different forest tracts which had some
special advantage of natural protection, and food and water in
plenty.

Thus in India it was in the forests that our civilisation had its
birth, and it took a distinct character from this origin and
environment.  It was surrounded by the vast life of nature, was
fed and clothed by her, and had the closest and most constant
intercourse with her varying aspects.

Such a life, it may be thought, tends to have the effect of
dulling human intelligence and dwarfing the incentives to
progress by lowering the standards of existence.  But in ancient
India we find that the circumstances of forest life did not
overcome man's mind, and did not enfeeble the current of his
energies, but only gave to it a particular direction.  Having
been in constant contact with the living growth of nature, his
mind was free from the desire to extend his dominion by erecting
boundary walls around his acquisitions.  His aim was not to
acquire but to realise, to enlarge his consciousness by growing
with and growing into his surroundings.  He felt that truth is
all-comprehensive, that there is no such thing as absolute
isolation in existence, and the only way of attaining truth is
through the interpenetration of our being into all objects.  To
realise this great harmony between man's spirit and the spirit of
the world was the endeavour of the forest-dwelling sages of
ancient India.

In later days there came a time when these primeval forests gave
way to cultivated fields, and wealthy cities sprang up on all
sides.  Mighty kingdoms were established, which had
communications with all the great powers of the world.  But even
in the heyday of its material prosperity the heart of India ever
looked back with adoration upon the early ideal of strenuous
self-realisation, and the dignity of the simple life of the
forest hermitage, and drew its best inspiration from the wisdom
stored there.

The west seems to take a pride in thinking that it is subduing
nature; as if we are living in a hostile world where we have to
wrest everything we want from an unwilling and alien arrangement
of things.  This sentiment is the product of the city-wall habit
and training of mind.  For in the city life man naturally directs
the concentrated light of his mental vision upon his own life and
works, and this creates an artificial dissociation between
himself and the Universal Nature within whose bosom he lies.

But in India the point of view was different; it included the
world with the man as one great truth.  India put all her
emphasis on the harmony that exists between the individual and
the universal.  She felt we could have no communication whatever
with our surroundings if they were absolutely foreign to us.
Man's complaint against nature is that he has to acquire most of
his necessaries by his own efforts.  Yes, but his efforts are not
in vain; he is reaping success every day, and that shows there is
a rational connection between him and nature, for we never can
make anything our own except that which is truly related to us.

We can look upon a road from two different points of view.  One
regards it as dividing us from the object of our desire; in that
case we count every step of our journey over it as something
attained by force in the face of obstruction.  The other sees it
as the road which leads us to our destination; and as such it is
part of our goal.  It is already the beginning of our attainment,
and by journeying over it we can only gain that which in itself
it offers to us.  This last point of view is that of India with
regard to nature.  For her, the great fact is that we are in
harmony with nature; that man can think because his thoughts are
in harmony with things; that he can use the forces of nature for
his own purpose only because his power is in harmony with the
power which is universal, and that in the long run his purpose
never can knock against the purpose which works through nature.

In the west the prevalent feeling is that nature belongs
exclusively to inanimate things and to beasts, that there is a
sudden unaccountable break where human-nature begins.  According
to it, everything that is low in the scale of beings is merely
nature, and whatever has the stamp of perfection on it,
intellectual or moral, is human-nature.  It is like dividing the
bud and the blossom into two separate categories, and putting
their grace to the credit of two different and antithetical
principles.  But the Indian mind never has any hesitation in
acknowledging its kinship with nature, its unbroken relation with
all.

The fundamental unity of creation was not simply a philosophical
speculation for India; it was her life-object to realise this
great harmony in feeling and in action.  With mediation and
service, with a regulation of life, she cultivated her
consciousness in such a way that everything had a spiritual
meaning to her.  The earth, water and light, fruits and flowers,
to her were not merely physical phenomena to be turned to use and
then left aside.  They were necessary to her in the attainment of
her ideal of perfection, as every note is necessary to the
completeness of the symphony.  India intuitively felt that the
essential fact of this world has a vital meaning for us; we have
to be fully alive to it and establish a conscious relation with
it, not merely impelled by scientific curiosity or greed of
material advantage, but realising it in the spirit of sympathy,
with a large feeling of joy and peace.

The man of science knows, in one aspect, that the world is not
merely what it appears to be to our senses; he knows that earth
and water are really the play of forces that manifest themselves
to us as earth and water--how, we can but partially apprehend.
Likewise the man who has his spiritual eyes open knows that the
ultimate truth about earth and water lies in our apprehension of
the eternal will which works in time and takes shape in the
forces we realise under those aspects.  This is not mere
knowledge, as science is, but it is a preception of the soul by
the soul.  This does not lead us to power, as knowledge does, but
it gives us joy, which is the product of the union of kindred
things.  The man whose acquaintance with the world does not lead
him deeper than science leads him, will never understand what it
is that the man with the spiritual vision finds in these natural
phenomena.  The water does not merely cleanse his limbs, but it
purifies his heart; for it touches his soul.  The earth does not
merely hold his body, but it gladdens his mind; for its contact
is more than a physical contact--it is a living presence.  When a
man does not realise his kinship with the world, he lives in a
prison-house whose walls are alien to him.  When he meets the
eternal spirit in all objects, then is he emancipated, for then
he discovers the fullest significance of the world into which he
is born; then he finds himself in perfect truth, and his harmony
with the all is established.  In India men are enjoined to be
fully awake to the fact that they are in the closest relation to
things around them, body and soul, and that they are to hail the
morning sun, the flowing water, the fruitful earth, as the
manifestation of the same living truth which holds them in its
embrace.  Thus the text of our everyday meditation is the
_Gayathri_, a verse which is considered to be the epitome of all
the Vedas.  By its help we try to realise the essential unity of
the world with the conscious soul of man; we learn to perceive
the unity held together by the one Eternal Spirit, whose power
creates the earth, the sky, and the stars, and at the same time
irradiates our minds with the light of a consciousness that moves
and exists in unbroken continuity with the outer world.

It is not true that India has tried to ignore differences of
value in different things, for she knows that would make life
impossible.  The sense of the superiority of man in the scale of
creation has not been absent from her mind.  But she has had her
own idea as to that in which his superiority really consists.  It
is not in the power of possession but in the power of union.
Therefore India chose her places of pilgrimage wherever there was
in nature some special grandeur or beauty, so that her mind could
come out of its world of narrow necessities and realise its place
in the infinite.  This was the reason why in India a whole
people who once were meat-eaters gave up taking animal food to
cultivate the sentiment of universal sympathy for life, an event
unique in the history of mankind.

India knew that when by physical and mental barriers we violently
detach ourselves from the inexhaustible life of nature; when we
become merely man, but not man-in-the-universe, we create
bewildering problems, and having shut off the source of their
solution, we try all kinds of artificial methods each of which
brings its own crop of interminable difficulties.  When man
leaves his resting-place in universal nature, when he walks on
the single rope of humanity, it means either a dance or a fall
for him, he has ceaselessly to strain every nerve and muscle to
keep his balance at each step, and then, in the intervals of his
weariness, he fulminates against Providence and feels a secret
pride and satisfaction in thinking that he has been unfairly
dealt with by the whole scheme of things.

But this cannot go on for ever.  Man must realise the wholeness
of his existence, his place in the infinite; he must know that
hard as he may strive he can never create his honey within the
cells of his hive; for the perennial supply of his life food is
outside their walls.  He must know that when man shuts himself
out from the vitalising and purifying touch of the infinite, and
falls back upon himself for his sustenance and his healing, then
he goads himself into madness, tears himself into shreds, and
eats his own substance.  Deprived of the background of the whole,
his poverty loses its one great quality, which is simplicity, and
becomes squalid and shamefaced.  His wealth is no longer
magnanimous; it grows merely extravagant.  His appetites do not
minister to his life, keeping to the limits of their purpose;
they become an end in themselves and set fire to his life and
play the fiddle in the lurid light of the conflagration.  Then it
is that in our self-expression we try to startle and not to
attract; in art we strive for originality and lose sight of truth
which is old and yet ever new; in literature we miss the complete
view of man which is simple and yet great, but he appears as a
psychological problem or the embodiment of a passion that is
intense because abnormal and because exhibited in the glare of a
fiercely emphatic light which is artificial.  When man's
consciousness is restricted only to the immediate vicinity of his
human self, the deeper roots of his nature do not find their
permanent soil, his spirit is ever on the brink of starvation,
and in the place of healthful strength he substitutes rounds of
stimulation.  Then it is that man misses his inner perspective
and measures his greatness by its bulk and not by its vital link
with the infinite, judges his activity by its movement and not by
the repose of perfection--the repose which is in the starry
heavens, in the ever-flowing rhythmic dance of creation.

Like this so far> Read the rest. You won't be disappointed.

All of Sadhana in DOC format
sadhana-the-realization-of-life-by-r-tagore-english

While Tagore was primarily known for his writing and music, in his
later years he became an accomplished artists. Most of his paintings
were considered to be abstract.

A couple reproductions I could find- and one more portrait:







A sample of his writing-


Bye for now,
Rick

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