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1895

SHELIDAH,

23rd February 1895.


I grow quite absent-minded when I try to write for the Sadhana
magazine.

I raise my eyes to every passing boat and keep staring at the ferry going
to and fro. And then on the bank, close to my boat, there are a herd of
buffaloes thrusting their massive snouts into the herbage, wrapping their
tongues round it to get it into their mouths, and then munching away,
blowing hard with great big gasps of contentment, and flicking the flies
off their backs with their tails.

All of a sudden a naked weakling of a human cub appears on the scene,
makes sundry noises, and pokes one of the patient beasts with a cudgel,
whereupon, throwing occasional glances at the human sprig out of a corner
of its eye, and snatching at tufts of leaves or grass here and there on
the way, the unruffled beast leisurely moves on a few paces, and that imp
of a boy seems to feel that his duty as herdsman has been done.

I fail to penetrate this mystery of the boy-cowherd's mind. Whenever a cow
or a buffalo has selected a spot to its liking and is comfortably grazing
there, I cannot divine what purpose is served by worrying it, as he
insists on doing, till it shifts somewhere else. I suppose it is man's
masterfulness glorying in triumph over the powerful creature it has tamed.
Anyhow, I love to see these buffaloes amongst the lush grass.

But this is not what I started to say. I wanted to tell you how the least
thing distracts me nowadays from my duty to the Sadhana. In my last
letter[1] I told you of the bumble-bees which hover round me in some
fruitless quest, to the tune of a meaningless humming, with tireless
assiduity.

[Footnote 1: Not included in this selection.]

They come every day at about nine or ten in the morning, dart up to my
table, shoot down under the desk, go bang on to the coloured glass
window-pane, and then with a circuit or two round my head are off again
with a whizz.

I could easily have thought them to be departed spirits who had left this
world unsatisfied, and so keep coming back to it again and again in the
guise of bees, paying me an inquiring visit in passing. But I think
nothing of the kind. I am sure they are real bees, otherwise known, in
Sanskrit, as honey-suckers, or on still rarer occasions as
double-proboscideans.


SHELIDAH,

16th (Phalgun) February 1895.


We have to tread every single moment of the way as we go on living our
life, but when taken as a whole it is such a very small thing, two hours
uninterrupted thought can hold all of it.

After thirty years of strenuous living Shelley could only supply material
for two volumes of biography, of which, moreover, a considerable space is
taken up by Dowden's chatter. The thirty years of my life would not fill
even one volume.

What a to-do there is over this tiny bit of life! To think of the quantity
of land and trade and commerce which go to furnish its commissariat alone,
the amount of space occupied by each individual throughout the world,
though one little chair is large enough to hold the whole of him! Yet,
after all is over and done, there remains only material for two hours'
thought, some pages of writing!

What a negligible fraction of my few pages would this one lazy day of mine
occupy! But then, will not this peaceful day, on the desolate sands by the
placid river, leave nevertheless a distinct little gold mark even upon the
scroll of my eternal past and eternal future?


SHELIDAH,

28th February 1895.


I have got an anonymous letter to-day which begins:


To give up one's self at the feet of another,
is the truest of all gifts.

The writer has never seen me, but knows me from my writings, and goes on
to say:

However petty or distant, the Sun[1]-worshipper gets a share of the
Sun's rays. You are the world's poet, yet to me it seems you are my own
poet!

[Footnote 1: Rabi, the author's name, means the Sun.]

and more in the same strain.

Man is so anxious to bestow his love on some object, that he ends by
falling in love with his own Ideal. But why should we suppose the idea to
be less true than the reality? We can never know for certain the truth of
the substance underlying what we get through the senses. Why should the
doubt be greater in the case of the entity behind the ideas which are the
creation of mind?

The mother realises in her child the great Idea, which is in every child,
the ineffableness of which, however, is not revealed to any one else. Are
we to say that what draws forth the mother's very life and soul is
illusory, but what fails to draw the rest of us to the same extent is the
real truth?

Every person is worthy of an infinite wealth of love--the beauty of his
soul knows no limit.... But I am departing into generalities. What I
wanted to express is, that in one sense I have no right to accept this
offering of my admirer's heart; that is to say, for me, seen within my
everyday covering, such a person could not possibly have had these
feelings. But there is another sense in which I am worthy of all this, or
of even greater adoration.


ON THE WAY TO PABNA,

9th July 1895.


I am gliding through this winding little Ichamati, this streamlet of the
rainy season. With rows of villages along its banks, its fields of jute
and sugar-cane, its reed patches, its green bathing slopes, it is like a
few lines of a poem, often repeated and as often enjoyed. One cannot
commit to memory a big river like the Padma, but this meandering little
Ichamati, the flow of whose syllables is regulated by the rhythm of the
rains, I am gradually making my very own....

It is dusk, the sky getting dark with clouds. The thunder rumbles
fitfully, and the wild casuarina clumps bend in waves to the stormy gusts
which pass through them. The depths of bamboo thickets look black as ink.
The pallid twilight glimmers over the water like the herald of some weird
event.

I am bending over my desk in the dimness, writing this letter. I want to
whisper low-toned, intimate talk, in keeping with this penumbra of the
dusk. But it is just wishes like these which baffle all effort. They
either get fulfilled of themselves, or not at all. That is why it is a
simple matter to warm up to a grim battle, but not to an easy,
inconsequent talk.


SHELIDAH,

14th August 1895.


One great point about work is that for its sake the individual has to make
light of his personal joys and sorrows; indeed, so far as may be, to
ignore them. I am reminded of an incident at Shazadpur. My servant was
late one morning, and I was greatly annoyed at his delay. He came up and
stood before me with his usual salaam, and with a slight catch in
his voice explained that his eight-year-old daughter had died last night.
Then, with his duster, he set to tidying up my room.

When we look at the field of work, we see some at their trades, some
tilling the soil, some carrying burdens, and yet underneath, death,
sorrow, and loss are flowing, in an unseen undercurrent, every day,--their
privacy not intruded upon. If ever these should break forth beyond control
and come to the surface, then all this work would at once come to a stop.
Over the individual sorrows, flowing beneath, is a hard stone track,
across which the trains of duty, with their human load, thunder their way,
stopping for none save at appointed stations. This very cruelty of work
proves, perhaps, man's sternest consolation.


KUSHTEA,

5th October 1895.


The religion that only comes to us from external scriptures never becomes
our own; our only tie with it is that of habit. To gain religion within is
man's great lifelong adventure. In the extremity of suffering must it be
born; on his life-blood it must live; and then, whether or not it brings
him happiness, the man's journey shall end in the joy of fulfilment.

We rarely realise how false for us is that which we hear from other lips,
or keep repeating with our own, while all the time the temple of our Truth
is building within us, brick by brick, day after day. We fail to
understand the mystery of this eternal building when we view our joys and
sorrows apart by themselves, in the midst of fleeting time; just as a
sentence becomes unintelligible if one has to spell through every word of
it.

When once we perceive the unity of the scheme of that creation which is
going on in us, we realise our relation to the ever-unfolding universe. We
realise that we are in the process of being created in the same way as are
the glowing heavenly orbs which revolve in their courses,--our desires,
our sufferings, all finding their proper place within the whole.

We may not know exactly what is happening: we do not know exactly even
about a speck of dust. But when we feel the flow of life in us to be one
with the universal life outside, then all our pleasures and pains are seen
strung upon one long thread of joy. The facts: I am, I move, I
grow
, are seen in all their immensity in connection with the fact that
everything else is there along with me, and not the tiniest atom can do
without me.

The relation of my soul to this beautiful autumn morning, this vast
radiance, is one of intimate kinship; and all this colour, scent, and
music is but the outward expression of our secret communion. This constant
communion, whether realised or unrealised, keeps my mind in movement; out
of this intercourse between my inner and outer worlds I gain such
religion, be it much or little, as my capacity allows: and in its light I
have to test scriptures before I can make them really my own.


SHELIDAH,

12th December 1895.


The other evening I was reading an English book of criticisms, full of all
manner of disputations about Poetry, Art, Beauty, and so forth and so on.
As I plodded through these artificial discussions, my tired faculties
seemed to have wandered into a region of empty mirage, filled with the
presence of a mocking demon.

The night was far advanced. I closed the book with a bang and flung it on
the table. Then I blew out the lamp with the idea of turning into bed. No
sooner had I done so than, through the open windows, the moonlight burst
into the room, with a shock of surprise.

That little bit of a lamp had been sneering drily at me, like some
Mephistopheles: and that tiniest sneer had screened off this infinite
light of joy issuing forth from the deep love which is in all the world.
What, forsooth, had I been looking for in the empty wordiness of the book?
There was the very thing itself, filling the skies, silently waiting for
me outside, all these hours!

If I had gone off to bed leaving the shutters closed, and thus missed this
vision, it would have stayed there all the same without any protest
against the mocking lamp inside. Even if I had remained blind to it all my
life,--letting the lamp triumph to the end,--till for the last time I went
darkling to bed,--even then the moon would have still been there, sweetly
smiling, unperturbed and unobtrusive, waiting for me as she has throughout
the ages.
***

THE END.

Rabindranath Tagore

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