Was Tagore anti-national? Will India not disown him?
The poet wrote: 'It is the glimmer of the funeral pyre burning to ashes the vast flesh - the self-love of the nation - dead under its own excess.'
- Total Shares
In late 1916, while Rabindranath Tagore was in the USA to deliver a series of lectures on the general topic of Nationalism he also wrote down his own reflections on Nationalism in India.
Below are some extracts from those reflections...true today as it was a hundred years ago... sadly to be understood only by those who have the capacity to think beyond what has been socially and environmentally programmed into them.
Anyone interested in wanting to read the entire Reflections can find it here (It is authentic as well as free):
India has never had a real sense of nationalism. Even though from childhood I had been taught that the idolatry of Nation is almost better than reverence for God and humanity, I believe I have outgrown that teaching, and it is my conviction that my countrymen will gain truly their India by fighting against that education which teaches them that a country is greater than the ideals of humanity.
I am not against one nation in particular, but against the general idea of all nations. What is the Nation?
It is the aspect of a whole people as an organized power. This organisation incessantly keeps up the insistence of the population on becoming strong and efficient. But this strenuous effort after strength and efficiency drains man's energy from his higher nature where he is self-sacrificing and creative.
For thereby, man's power of sacrifice is diverted from his ultimate object, which is moral, to the maintenance of this organisation, which is mechanical. Yet in this he feels all the satisfaction of moral exaltation and therefore becomes supremely dangerous to humanity. He feels relieved of the urging of his conscience when he can transfer his responsibility to this machine which is the creation of his intellect and not of his complete moral personality.
By this device, the people which loves freedom perpetuates slavery in a large portion of the world with the comfortable feeling of pride of having done its duty; men who are naturally just can be cruelly unjust both in their act and their thought, accompanied by a feeling that they are helping the world in receiving its deserts; men who are honest can blindly go on robbing others of their human rights for self-aggrandizement, all the while abusing the deprived for not deserving better treatment. We have seen in our everyday life even small organisations of business and profession produce callousness of feeling in men who are not naturally bad, and we can well imagine what a moral havoc it is causing in a world where whole peoples are furiously organizing themselves for gaining wealth and power.
Nationalism is a great menace. It is the particular thing which for years has been at the bottom of India's troubles. And inasmuch as we have been ruled and dominated by a nation that is strictly political in its attitude, we have tried to develop within ourselves, despite our inheritance from the past, a belief in our eventual political destiny.
And if prose wasn't enough there is also the poem that Rabindranath Tagore wrote in Bengali on 31st Dec 1899 - Find below its English translation - The Sunset of the Century... The second paragraph is particularly interesting in the context of what is still happening in India.
- THE LAST SUN of the century sets amidst the blood-red clouds of the West and the whirlwind of hatred.
- The naked passion of self-love of Nations, in its drunken delirium of greed,
- is dancing to the clash of steel and the howling verses of vengeance.
- The hungry self of the Nation shall burst in a violence of fury from its own shameless feeding.
- For it has made the world its food,
- And licking it, crunching it, and swallowing it in big morsels,
- It swells and swells
- Till in the midst of its unholy feast descends the sudden heaven piercing its heart of grossness.
- The crimson glow of light on the horizon is not the light of thy dawn of peace, my Motherland.
- It is the glimmer of the funeral pyre burning to ashes the vast flesh - the self-love of the Nation - dead under its own excess.
- Thy morning waits behind the patient dark of the East,
- Meek and silent.
- Keep watch, India.
- Bring your offerings of worship for that sacred sunrise.
- Let the first hymn of its welcome sound in your voice, and sing,
- 'Come, Peace, thou daughter of God's own great suffering.
- Come with thy treasure of contentment, the sword of fortitude,
- And meekness crowning thy forehead.
- Be not ashamed, my brothers, to stand before the proud and the powerful
- With your white robe of simpleness.
- Let your crown be of humility, your freedom the freedom of the soul.
- Build God's throne daily upon the ample bareness of your poverty
- And know that what is huge is not great and pride is not everlasting.