"On the seashore of endless worlds children meet." On the Seashore by Tabindranath Tagore from his book "The Crescent Moon."
I am not familiar with Indian culture nor history. To be honest, other than Indian Cuisine, I have only witnessed Indian culture through "Slumdog Millionare" and whatever I can glean from the news.
When it comes to being aware of personalities from India's History the only person I am aware of is Gandhi. I am more familiar with English authors who spent time in India for example: George Orwell.
I have started a little library of poetry books on my smartphone to read when I find myself in waiting rooms or places where I have a second. Since I was aware that my education on Indian culture was lacking I decided to read Rabindranath Tagore so I randomly downloaded his "The Crescent Moon" and his collection of essay's entitled "Creative Unity."
Fate would bring me into the worlds of this remarkable man. Since our literary introduction I have absorbed a few more of his poetry books and his short stories.
Rabindranath Tagore, born in Calcutta, was the son of two influential advocates of the Benghali Renaissance in the mid 1800's. Not only did he live in the wealth of his family but in the middle of a great cultural blossoming of arts in India.
In 1877 Rabindranath, in his early teens, wrote a long poem and claimed it was a long lost text from the poet Bhanunishna. The critics were astounded by the find and believed him until he confessed to his trickery.
This short biography of Rabindranath does not even touch the surface of this man's complicated and rich life. Throughout his lifetime he had written collections of poetry, plays, novels, short stories, and essays.
He was incredibly prolific and well known in India. He was also well known by influential European and American poets of his time. T.S. Eliot and others praised his work and opened up a whole new audience for his writing. W.B. Yeats took a special interest in his poetry and was a key player in the spread of Rabindranath's poetry to the western world.
The older Rabindranath was a family man who lived with his wife and many children. He experienced the pain of loss after the death of a couple of his children and his pain can be experienced through his writing.
He was extremely patriotic and fought hard for the rights of India. He saw that the world had not accepted the east but mainly looked to it as a place that had to be dealt with and not understood. He believed that the east had a wealth of spiritual and worldly knowledge to offer Europe and the west. He travelled extensively with the hope that his message would be experienced through sharing eastern literature and arts.
This was a lifelong endeavor for Rabindranath Tagore. An endeavor that may have started the discussion of India's place in the world.
Rabindranath Tagore talks about many topics in his book of essays entitled "Creative Unity." I would like to discuss two: beauty and the religion of the forest.
First he begins a discussion about beauty. When one Looks back at the history of Western man one can see that many great endeavors in the arts and science start with a search for beauty.
Whether the search is for the beauty of form in sculpture, the beauty of color in painting, or the beauty of words in writing this search has led some of histories greatest minds into the creation of some of humanities greatest gifts.
Without a search for beauty, Rabindranath states in "Creative Unity," we fill the void of our lives with a search for monetary wealth. All the language of joy is beauty. Beauty is the profound expression of reality. Without the presence of joy in the creative process the artist can find himself detached from his creation. Without an understanding of the beauty of the process the work might miss the mark. Great work is obtained when the work is an expression of love.
Trust is an attitude. Once, not too long in the history of man, we trusted nature to fulfill our needs. We understood the link between nature and our lives. We realized that there is no separation between the two.
Our society separates us from nature. We look at the differences between us and the natural world and we then remove ourselves. According to Rabindranath we look at nature as alien, as something we have to deal with, something we have to master. We have lost our unity with the world.
Rabindranath Tagore was the first asian writer to win the Nobel prize in literature in 1913 for his contributions and his book "Gitanjali." Harald Hjarne, the swedish academy chairman for the prize stated that Tagore's "Gitanjali" had "...attained so great a range of diversity of note and colour, capable of expressing with equal harmony...the emotions of every mood from the longing of the soul after eternity, to the joyous merriment prompted by the innocent child at play."
At first Rabindranath Tagore accepted his award with grace and humility until Yeats began to publish translations of his work around Europe. Tagore began to feel his success and became frustrated with notoriety.
He believed in a simple life according to his religious beleifs and felt that the temptation of fame was too much to handle. He also felt that his own personal success was standing in the way of his primary goal that the west and the east meet on equal terms with understanding and empathy.
Tagore backed away from the temptations that his Nobel prize awarded him and spent his time urging the masses of India to avoid being victims and to seek education. He spread the rhetoric of revolt throughout India and barely escaped assasination by an Indian expatriate while visiting San Fransisco in 1910.
He renounced his knighthood after the Jallianwala Bogh massacre of 1919 and wrote to Lord Chelmsford that "...The time has come when badges of honour make our shame glaring in the incongruous context of humiliation, and I for my part, wish to stand, shorn of all special distinctions, by the side of those of my countrymen."
"I will be the waves and you will be a strange shore. I shall roll on and on and on, and break upon your lap with laughter. And no one in the world will know where we both are."