Rabindranath Tagore Quotes

Rabindranath Tagore (Robindronath Thakur, 7 May 1861 – 7 August 1941), also known by his pen name Bhanu Singha Thakur (Bhonita), and also known by his sobriquets GurudevKabiguru, and Biswakabi, was a polymath, poet, musician, and artist from the Indian subcontinent. 

♦    ♦    ♦

Rabindranath Tagore Quotes

The question why there is evil in existence is the same as why there is imperfection… But this is the real question we ought to ask: Is this imperfection the final truth, is evil absolute and ultimate? – Rabindranath Tagore

Truth cannot afford to be tolerant where it faces positive evil. – Rabindranath Tagore

The potentiality of perfection outweighs actual contradictions… Existence in itself is here to prove that it cannot be an evil. – Rabindranath Tagore

Man’s cry is to reach his fullest expression. – Rabindranath Tagore

Objects of knowledge maintain an infinite distance from us who are the knowers. For knowledge is not union. Therefore the further world of freedom awaits us there where we reach truth, not through feeling it by senses or knowing it by reason, but through the union of perfect sympathy. – Rabindranath Tagore

Love is the only reality and it is not a mere sentiment. It is the ultimate truth that lies at the heart of creation. – Rabindranath Tagore

Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time. – Rabindranath Tagore

To be outspoken is easy when you do not wait to speak the complete truth. – Rabindranath Tagore

Gray hairs are signs of wisdom if you hold your tongue, speak and they are but hairs, as in the young. – Rabindranath Tagore

Love does not claim possession, but gives freedom. – Rabindranath Tagore

We gain freedom when we have paid the full price for our right to live. – Rabindranath Tagore

Emancipation from the bondage of the soil is no freedom for the tree. – Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore Quotes

We can make truth ours by actively modulating its inter-relations. This is the work of art; for reality is not based in the substance of things but in the principle of relationship. Truth is the infinite pursued by metaphysics; fact is the infinite pursued by science, while reality is the definition of the infinite which relates truth to the person. Reality is human; it is what we are conscious of, by which we are affected, that which we express. – Rabindranath Tagore

The progress of our soul is like a perfect poem. It has an infinite idea which once realised makes all movements full of meaning and joy. But if we detach its movements from that ultimate idea, if we do not see the infinite rest and only see the infinite motion, then existence appears to us a monstrous evil, impetuously rushing towards an unending aimlessness. – Rabindranath Tagore

If I say that He is within me, the universe is ashamed; if I say that He is without me, it is falsehood. – Rabindranath Tagore

The traveler has to knock at every alien door to come to his own, and he has to wonder through all the outer worlds to reach the innermost shrine at the end. – Rabindranath Tagore

Mistakes live in the neighborhood of truth and therefore delude us. – Rabindranath Tagore

The object of education is to give man the unity of truth. Formerly, when life was simple, all the different elements of man were in complete harmony. But when there came the separation of the intellect from the spiritual and the physical, the school

The object of education is to give man the unity of truth. Formerly, when life was simple, all the different elements of man were in complete harmony. But when there came the separation of the intellect from the spiritual and the physical, the school education put entire emphasis on the intellect and the physical side of man. We devote our sole atten­tion to giving children information, not knowing that by this emphasis we are accentuating a break between the intellectual, physical and the spiritual life. – Rabindranath Tagore

If life’s journey be endless where is its goal? The answer is, it is everywhere. We are in a palace which has no end, but which we have reached. By exploring it and extending our relationship with it we are ever making it more and more our own. – Rabindranath Tagore

When we rejoice in our fullness, then we can part with out fruits with joy. – Rabindranath Tagore

The smile that flickers on baby’s lips when he sleeps- does anybody know where it was borne? Yes, there is a rumor that a young pale beam of a crescent moon touched the edge of a vanishing autumn cloud, and there the smile was first born . . . . – Rabindranath Tagore

The burden of self is lightened when I laugh at myself. – Rabindranath Tagore

Praise shames me, for I secretly beg for it. – Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore Quotes

Those who draw their sustenance from science are blessed. It is for me to only derive an occasional pleasure. This is nothing worthy of conceit, but I am indeed touched by the joys. This book is an ode to such joys, a digest of my collections from various sources. – Rabindranath Tagore

He is neither manifest nor hidden, He is neither revealed nor unrevealed: there are no words to tell that which He is. He is without form, without quality, without decay. – Rabindranath Tagore

In the world’s audience hall, the simple blade of grass sits on the same carpet with the sunbeams, and the stars of midnight.
Things are distinct not in their essence but in their appearance; in other words, in their relation to one to whom they appear. This is art, the truth of which is not in substance or logic, but in expression. Abstract truth may belong to science and

By plucking her petals, you do not gather the beauty of the flower. – Rabindranath Tagore

Love gives beauty to everything it touches. Not greed and utility; they produce offices, but not dwelling houses. To be able to love material things, to clothe them with tender grace, and yet not be attached to them, this is a great service. – Rabindranath Tagore

Beauty is truth’s smile when she beholds her own face in a perfect mirror. – Rabindranath Tagore

Love adorns itself; it seeks to prove inward joy by outward beauty. – Rabindranath Tagore

Life’s errors cry for the merciful beauty that can modulate their isolation into a harmony with the whole. – Rabindranath Tagore

No civilized society can thrive upon victims, whose humanity has been permanently mutilated. – Rabindranath Tagore

We come nearest to the great when we are great in humility. – Rabindranath Tagore

A mind all logic is like a knife all blade. – Rabindranath Tagore

Life is given to us, we earn it by giving it. – Rabindranath Tagore

Man’s abiding happiness is not in getting anything but in giving himself up to what is greater than himself, to ideas which are larger than his individual life, the idea of his country, of humanity, of God. – Rabindranath Tagore

Set the bird’s wings with gold and it will never again soar in thesky. – Rabindranath Tagore

The emancipation of our physical nature is in attaining health, of our social being in attaining goodness, and of our self in attaining love. – Rabindranath Tagore

The greed of gain has no time or limit to its capaciousness. Its one object is to produce and consume. It has pity neither for beautiful nature nor for living human beings. It is ruthlessly ready without a moment’s hesitation to crush beauty and life. – Rabindranath Tagore

Leave out my name from the gift if it be a burden, but keep my song. – Rabindranath Tagore

Love’s gift cannot be given, it waits to be accepted. – Rabindranath Tagore

A dewdrop is a perfect integrity that has no filial memory of its parentage. – Rabindranath Tagore

I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy. – Rabindranath Tagore

Love is not a mere impulse, it must contain truth, which is law. – Rabindranath Tagore

Let me light my lamp, says the star, And never debate if it will help to remove the darkness. – Rabindranath Tagore

You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water. – Rabindranath Tagore

Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless in facing them. Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but for the heart to conquer it. – Rabindranath Tagore

Our creation is the modification of relationship. – Rabindranath Tagore

The revilement of the infinite in the finite, which is the motive of all creation, is not seen in its perfection in the starry heavens, in the beauty of the flowers. It is in the soul of man. – Rabindranath Tagore

The flower which is single need not envy the thorns that are numerous. – Rabindranath Tagore

Let the dead have the immortality of fame, but the living the immortality of love. – Rabindranath Tagore

Those who own much have much to fear. – Rabindranath Tagore

I’m lost in the middle of my birthday. I want my friends, their touch, with the earth’s last love. I will take life’s final offering, I will take the last human blessing. – Rabindranath Tagore

In our desire for eternal life we pray for an eternity of our habit and comfort, forgetting that immortality is in repeatedly transcending the definite forms of life in order to pursue the infinite truth of life. – Rabindranath Tagore

According to the true Indian view, our consciousness of the world, merely as the sum total of things that exist, and as governed by laws, is imperfect. But it is perfect when our consciousness realizes all things as spiritually one with it, and therefore capable of giving us joy. – Rabindranath Tagore

It is our desires that limit the scope of our self-realization, hinder our extension of consciousness, and give rise to sin, which is the innermost barrier that keeps us apart from our God, setting up disunion and arrogance of exclusiveness. – Rabindranath Tagore

The mountain remains unmoved at seeming defeat by the mist. – Rabindranath Tagore

Night’s darkness is the bag that bursts with the gold of the dawn. – Rabindranath Tagore

We [poets] set men free from their desires. – Rabindranath Tagore

The fundamental desire of life is the desire to exist. – Rabindranath Tagore

God seeks comrades and claims love, the Devil seeks slaves and claims obedience. – Rabindranath Tagore

The fish in the water is silent, the animals on the earth is noisy, the bird in the air is singing. But man has in him the silence of the sea, the noise of the earth and the music of the air. – Rabindranath Tagore

You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water. Don’t let yourself indulge in vain wishes. – Rabindranath Tagore

Our nature is obscured by work done by the compulsion of want or fear. The mother reveals herself in the service of her children, so our true freedom is not the freedom from action but freedom in action, which can only be attained in the work of love. – Rabindranath Tagore

The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough. – Rabindranath Tagore

Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven. – Rabindranath Tagore

Age considers; youth ventures. – Rabindranath Tagore

Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark. – Rabindranath Tagore

Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky. – Rabindranath Tagore

The newer people, of this modern age, are more eager to amass than to realize. – Rabindranath Tagore

The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence. – Rabindranath Tagore

When we accept any discipline for ourselves, we try to avoid everything except that which is necessary for our purpose; it is this purposefulness, which belongs to the adult mind, that we force upon school children. – Rabindranath Tagore

Asks the Possible of the Impossible, Where is your dwelling-place? In the dreams of the Impotent, comes the answer. – Rabindranath Tagore

To understand anything is to find in it something which is our own, and it is the discovery of ourselves outside us which makes us glad. This relation of understanding is partial, but the relation of love is complete. In love the sense of difference is obliterated and the human soul fulfils its purpose in perfection, transcending the limits of itself and reaching across the threshold of the infinite. Therefore love is the highest bliss that man can attain to, for through it alone he truly knows that he is more than himself, and that he is at one with the All. – Rabindranath Tagore

In love all the contradiction of existence merge themselves and are lost. Only in love are unity and duality not at variance. Love must be one and two at the same time. Only love is motion and rest in one. – Rabindranath Tagore

Only love is motion and rest in one. Our heart ever changes its place till it finds love, and then it has its rest. But this rest itself is an intense form of activity where utter quiescence and unceasing energy meet at the same point in love. – Rabindranath Tagore

There is a point where in the mystery of existence contradictions meet; where movement is not all movement and stillness is not all stillness; where the idea and the form, the within and the without, are united; where infinite becomes finite, yet not losing its infinity. If this meeting is dissolved, then things become unreal. – Rabindranath Tagore

The question why there is evil in existence is the same as why there is imperfection… But this is the real question we ought to ask: Is this imperfection the final truth, is evil absolute and ultimate? – Rabindranath Tagore

Truth cannot afford to be tolerant where it faces positive evil. – Rabindranath Tagore

The potentiality of perfection outweighs actual contradictions… Existence in itself is here to prove that it cannot be an evil. – Rabindranath Tagore

Man’s cry is to reach his fullest expression. – Rabindranath Tagore

True modernism is freedom of mind, not slavery of taste. It is independence of thought and action, not tutelage under European schoolmasters. It is science but not it’s wrong application to life. – Rabindranath Tagore

Power takes as ingratitude the writhing of its victims. – Rabindranath Tagore

Taking shelter in the dead is death itself, and only taking all the risk of life to the fullest extent is living. – Rabindranath Tagore

The child learns so easily because he has a natural gift, but adults, because they are tyrants, ignore natural gifts and say that children must learn through the same process that they learned by. We insist upon forced mental feeding and our lessons become a form of torture. This is one of man’s most cruel and wasteful mistakes. – Rabindranath Tagore

The human soul is on its journey from the law to love, from discipline to liberation, from the moral plane to the spiritual. Buddha preached the discipline of self-restraint and moral life; it is a complete acceptance of law. But this bondage of law cannot be an end by itself; by mastering it thoroughly we acquire the means of getting beyond it. It is going back to Brahma, to the infinite love, which is manifesting itself through the finite forms of law. – Rabindranath Tagore

The pious sectarian is proud because he is confident of his right of possession in God. The man of devotion is meek because he is conscious of God’s right of love over his life and soul. – Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore Quotes

The song that I came to sing
remains unsung to this day.
I have spent my days in stringing
and in unstringing my instrument.

The time has not come true,
the words have not been rightly set;
only there is the agony
of wishing in my heart.

The blossom has not opened;
only the wind is sighing by.
I have not seen his face,
nor have I listened to his voice;
only I have heard his gentle footsteps
from the road before my house.

The livelong day has passed
in spreading his seat on the floor;
but the lamp has not been lit
and I cannot ask him into my house.

I live in the hope of meeting with him;
but this meeting is not yet. – Rabindranath Tagore

The world speaks to me in colors, my soul answers in music. – Rabindranath Tagore

Those who have everything but thee, my God, laugh at those who have nothing but thyself. – Rabindranath Tagore

Only love is motion and rest in one. Our heart ever changes its place till it finds love, and then it has its rest. But this rest itself is an intense form of activity where utter quiescence and unceasing energy meet at the same point in love. In love, loss and gain are harmonized. In its balance-sheet, credit and debit accounts are in the same column, and gifts are added to gains. In this wonderful festival of creation, this great ceremony of self-sacrifice of God, the lover constantly gives himself up to gain himself in love. Indeed, love is what brings together and inseparably connects both the act of abandoning and that of receiving. – Rabindranath Tagore

Praise shames me, for I secretly beg for it. – Rabindranath Tagore

Tattoos have a power and magic all their own. They decorate the body but they also enhance the soul. – Rabindranath Tagore

The cloud gives all its gold to the departing sun and greets the rising moon with only a pale smile. – Rabindranath Tagore

The infant is born in the same universe where lives the adult of ripe mind. But its position is not like a schoolboy who has yet to learn his alphabet, finding himself in a college class. The infant has it own joy of life because the world is not a mere road, but a home, of which it will have more and more as it grows up in wisdom. With our road that gain is at every step, for it is the road and the home in one; it leads us on yet gives us shelter. – Rabindranath Tagore

The poets’ role is that of capturing on their instruments the secret stir of life in the air and giving it voice in the music of prophecy. – Rabindranath Tagore

The spirit of rejection finds its support in the consciousness of separateness; the spirit of acceptance finds its base in the consciousness of unity. – Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore Quotes

Those who in the name of Faith embrace illusion,
kill and are killed.
Even the atheist gets God’s blessings-
Does not boast of his religion;

With reverence he lights the lamp of Reason
And pays his homage not to scriptures,
But to the good in man.

The bigot insults his own religion
When he slays a man of another faith.
Conduct he judges not in the light of Reason;
In the temple he raises the blood-stained banner
And worships the devil in the name of God.

All that is shameful and barbarous through the Ages,
Has found a shelter in their temples-
Those they turn into prisons;
O, I hear the trumpet call of Destruction!
Time comes with her great broom
Sweeping all refuse away.

That which should make man free,
They turn into fetters;
That which should unite,
They turn into sword;
That which should bring love
From the fountain of the Eternal,
They turn into prison

And with its waves they flood the world.
They try to cross the river
In a bark riddled with holes;
And yet, in their anguish, whom do they blame?

O Lord, breaking false religion,
Save the blind!
Break! O break
The alter that is drowned in blood.

Let your thunder strike
Into the prison of false religion,

And bring to this unhappy land
The light of Knowledge. – Rabindranath Tagore

Only Thee That I want thee, only thee—let my heart repeat without end. All desires that distract me, day and night, are false and empty to the core. As the night keeps hidden in its gloom the petition for light, even thus in the depth of my unconsciousness rings the cry —`I want thee, only thee’. As the storm still seeks its end in peace when it strikes against peace with all its might, even thus my rebellion strikes against thy love and still its cry is —`I want thee, only thee’. – Rabindranath Tagore

Providence expects that we should make this world our own, and not live in it as though it were a rented tenement. We can only make it our own through some service, and that service is to lend it love and beauty from our soul. – Rabindranath Tagore

That I exist is a perpetual surprise which is life. – Rabindranath Tagore

The current of the world has its boundaries, otherwise it could have no existence, but its purpose is not shown in the boundaries which restrain it, but in its movement, which is toward perfection. The wonder is not that there should be obstacles and sufferings in this world, but that there should be law and order, beauty and joy, goodness and love. – Rabindranath Tagore

The Infinite Being is not complete if He remains absolutely infinite. He must realize Himself through the finite; that is, through creation. The impulse to realize comes from the fullness of joy; but the process must be through pain. – Rabindranath Tagore

The potentiality of perfection outweighs actual contradictions… Existence in itself is here to prove that it cannot be an evil. – Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore Quotes

The stars are not afraid to appear like fireflies. – Rabindranath Tagore

  • I cannot but bring to your mind those days when the whole of Eastern Asia, from Burma to Japan was united with India in the closest ties of friendship…
    • Rabindranath Tagore, Essays, Nationalism in Japan, Atlantic Publishers & Dist, 2007 p.471, and quoted in A Look at India From the Views of Other Scholars, by Stephen Knapp 
  • The truth comes as conqueror only because we have lost the art of receiving it as guest.
    • The Fourfold Way of India (1924); this has become paraphrased as “Truth comes as conqueror only to those who have lost the art of receiving it as friend.”
  • The idea of the Nation is one of the most powerful anaesthetics that Man has invented. Under the influence of its fumes the whole people can carry out its systematic programme of the most virulent self-seeking without being in the least aware of its moral perversion,-in fact feeling dangerously resentful if it is pointed out.
    • “Nationalism in the West”, 1917. Reprinted in Rabindranath Tagore and Mohit K. Ray, Essays (2007, p. 465). Also cited in Parmanand Parashar, Nationalism: Its Theory and Principles in India (1996, p. 212), and Himani Bannerji, Demography and Democracy: Essays on Nationalism, Gender and Ideology. (2011, p.179).
  • In the heart of Europe runs the purest stream of human love, of justice, of spirit of self-sacrifice for higher ideals. The Christian culture of centuries has sunk deep in her life’s core. In Europe we have seen noble minds who have ever stood up for the rights of man irrespective of colour and creed.
    • “Nationalism in the West”, 1917. Reprinted in Rabindranath Tagore and Mohit K. Ray, Essays (2007, p. 475). Also cited in John Jesudason Cornelius, Rabindranath Tagore: India’s Schoolmaster, (1928, p. 83).
  • Does not the voice come to us, through the din of war, the shrieks of hatred, the wailings of despair, through the churning up of the unspeakable filth which has been accumulating for ages in the bottom of this nationalism, – the voice which cries to our soul that the tower of national selfishness, which goes by the name of patriotism, which has raised its banner of treason against heaven, must totter and fall with a crash, weighed down by its own bulk, its flag kissing the dust, its light extinguished? My brothers, when the red light of conflagration sends up its crackle of laughter to the stars, keep your faith upon those stars and not upon the fire of destruction.
    • “Nationalism in the West”, 1917. Reprinted in Rabindranath Tagore and Mohit K. Ray, Essays (2007, p. 489). Also cited in Parmanand Parashar, Nationalism: Its Theory and Principles in India (1996, p. 213-14).
  • What India has been, the whole world is now. The whole world is becoming one country through scientific facility. And the moment is arriving when you also must find a basis of unity which is not political. If India can offer to the world her solution, it will be a contribution to humanity. There is only one history — the history of Man. All national histories are merely chapters in the larger one.
    • “Nationalism in the West”, 1917. Reprinted in Rabindranath Tagore and Mohit K. Ray, Essays (2007, p. 492).
  • According to the Upanishads, the complete aspect of Truth is in the reconciliation on the finite and the infinite, of everchanging things and the eternal spirit of perfection. When in our life and work the harmony between these two is broken, then either our life is thinned into a shadow, or it becomes gross with accumulations.
    • “Talks in China”,1924. Reprinted in Rabindranath Tagore and Mohit K. Ray, Essays (2007, p. 735).
  • God, the Great Giver, can open the whole universe to our gaze in the narrow space of a single land.
    • Jivan-smitri
  • Whenever a Muslim called upon the Muslim society, he never faced any resistance-he called in the name of one God ‘Allah-ho-Akbar’. On the other hand, when we (Hindus) call will call, ‘come on, Hindus’, who will respond? We, the Hindus, are divided in numerous small communities, many barriers-provincialism-who will respond overcoming all these obstacles? “We suffered from many dangers, but we could never be united. When Mohammed Ghouri brought the first blow from outside, the Hindus could not be united, even in the those days of imminent danger. When the Muslims started to demolish the temples one after another, and to break the idols of Gods and Goddesses, the Hindus fought and died in small units, but they could not be united. It has been provided that we were killed in different ages due to out discord. Weakness harbors sin. So, if the Muslims beat us and we, the Hindus, tolerate this without resistance-then, we will know that it is made possible only by our weakness. For the sake of ourselves and our neighbour Muslims also, we have to discard our weakness. We can appeal to our neighbour Muslims, `Please don’t be cruel to us. No religion can be based on genocide’ – but this kind of appeal is nothing, but the weeping of the weak person. When the low pressure is created in the air, storm comes spontaneously; nobody can stop it for sake for religion. Similarly, if weakness is cherished and be allowed to exist, torture comes automatically – nobody can stop it. Possibly, the Hindus and the Muslims can make a fake friendship to each other for a while, but that cannot last forever. As long as you don’t purify the soil, which grows only thorny shrubs you can not expect any fruit.
    • “Swamy Shraddananda’, written by Rabindranath in Magh, 1333 Bangabda; compiled in the book ‘Kalantar’.
  • There are two religions in earth, which have distinct enmity against all other religions. These two are Christianity and Islam. They are not just satisfied with observing their own religions, but are determined to destroy all other religions. That’s why the only way to make peace with them is to embrace their religions.”
    • Original works of Rabindranath Vol. 24 page 375, Vishwa Bharti; 1982.
  • When two-three different religions claim that only their own religions are true and all other religions are false, their religions are only ways to Heaven, conflicts can not be avoided. Thus, fundamentalism tries to abolish all other religions. This is called Bolshevism in religion. Only the path shown by the Hinduism can relieve the world form this meanness.
    • R. Tagore, `Aatmaparichapa’ in his book `Parichaya’ 
  • The terrible situation of the country makes my mind restless and I cannot keep silent. Meaningless ritual keep the Hindus divided in hundred sects. Sop we are suffering from series of defeats. We are tired and worn-out by the fortunes by the internal external enemies. The Muslims are united in religion and rituals. The Bengali Muslims the South Indian Muslims and even the Muslims outside India-all are united. They always stand untied in face of danger. The broken and divided Hindus will not be able to combat them. Days are coming when the Hindus will be again humiliated by the Muslims. “You are a mother of children, one day you will die, passing the future of Hindus society on the weak shoulders of your children, but think about their future.”
    • From the letter to Hemantabala Sarkar, written on 16the October, 1933, quoted in Bengali weekly `Swastika’, 21-6-1999 
  • A very important factor which is making it almost impossible for Hindu-Muslim unity to become an accomplished fact is that the Muslims can not confine their patriotism to any one country. I had frankly asked (the Muslims) whether in the event of any Mohammedan power invading India, they (Muslims) would stand side by side with their Hindu neighbours to defend their common land. I was not satisfied with the reply I got from them… Even such a man as Mr. Mohammad Ali (one of the famous Ali brothers, the leaders of the Khilafat Movement-the compiler) has declared that under no circumstances is it permissible for any Mohammedan, whatever be his country, to stand against any Mohammedan.”
    • Rabindranath Tagore, Interview of Rabindranath Tagore in `Times of India’, 18-4-1924 in the column, `Through Indian Eyes on the Post Khilafat Hindu Muslim Riots [4] Also in A. Ghosh: “Making of the Muslim Psyche” in Devendra Swamp (ed.), Politics of Conversion, New Delhi, 1986, p. 148. And in S.R. Goel, Muslim Separatism – Causes and Consequences (1987).
  • That which transcends country, which is greater than country, can only reveal itself through one’s country. God has manifested his one eternal nature in just such a variety of forms… I can assure you that through the open sky of India you will be able to see the sun therefore there is no need to cross the ocean and sit at the window of a Christian church. … “I have nothing more to say,” answered Gora, “only this much I would add. You must understand that the Hindu religion takes in its lap, like a mother, people of different ideas and opinions, in other words, the Hindu religion looks upon man as man and does not count him as belonging to a particular party. It honours not only the wise but the foolish also and it shows respect not merely to one form of wisdom but to wisdom in all its aspects. Christians do not want to acknowledge diversity; they say that on one side is Christian religion and on the other eternal destruction, and between these two there is no middle path. And because we have studied under these Christians we have become ashamed of the variety that is there in Hinduism. We fail to see that through this diversity Hinduism is coming to realise the oneness of all. Unless we can free ourselves from this whirlpool of Christian teaching we shall not become fit for the glorious truths of Hindu religion.”
    • Rabindranath Tagore, Gora, translated into English, Calcutta, 1961. Quoted from Goel, S. R. (2016). History of Hindu-Christian encounters, AD 304 to 1996. Chapter 13 ISBN 9788185990354

      Rabindranath Tagore Quotes

Gitanjali 

  • My debts are large, my failures great, my shame secret and heavy; yet I come to ask for my good, I quake in fear lest my prayer be granted.
  • I thought that my invincible power would hold the world captive, leaving me in a freedom undisturbed. Thus night and day I worked at the chain with huge fires and cruel hard strokes. When at last the work was done and the links were complete and unbreakable, I found that it held me in its grip.
  • When old words die out on the tongue, new melodies break forth from the heart; and where the old tracks are lost, new country is revealed with its wonders.
  • The smile that flickers on baby’s lips when he sleeps — does anybody know where it was born? Yes, there is a rumor that a young pale beam of a crescent moon touched the edge of a vanishing autumn cloud, and there the smile was first born in the dream of a dew-washed morning.
  • In this playhouse of infinite forms I have had my play, and here have I caught sight of him that is formless.
  • Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
    Where knowledge is free

    Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
    By narrow domestic walls
    Where words come out from the depth of truth
    Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
    Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
    Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
    Where the mind is led forward by thee
    Into ever-widening thought and action
    Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Sādhanā : The Realisation of Life

  • 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. Preface
  • 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. Preface
  • The human soul is on its journey from the law to love, from discipline to liberation, from the moral plane to the spiritual. Buddha preached the discipline of self-restraint and moral life; it is a complete acceptance of law. But this bondage of law cannot be an end by itself; by mastering it thoroughly we acquire the means of getting beyond it. It is going back to Brahma, to the infinite love, which is manifesting itself through the finite forms of law.
  • Want of love is a degree of callousness; for love is the perfection of consciousness. We do not love because we do not comprehend, or rather we do not comprehend because we do not love. For love is the ultimate meaning of everything around us. It is not a mere sentiment; it is truth; it is the joy that is at the root of all creation. It is the white light of pure consciousness that emanates from Brahma. So, to be one with this sarvānubhūh, this all-feeling being who is in the external sky, as well as in our inner soul, we must attain to that summit of consciousness, which is love: Who could have breathed or moved if the sky were not filled with joy, with love?
  • Of course man is useful to man, because his body is a marvellous machine and his mind an organ of wonderful efficiency. But he is a spirit as well, and this spirit is truly known only by love. When we define a man by the market value of the service we can expect of him, we know him imperfectly. With this limited knowledge of him it becomes easy for us to be unjust to him and to entertain feelings of triumphant self-congratulation when, on account of some cruel advantage on our side, we can get out of him much more than we have paid for. But when we know him as a spirit we know him as our own. We at once feel that cruelty to him is cruelty to ourselves, to make him small is stealing from our own humanity…
  • Man is not entirely an animal. He aspires to a spiritual vision, which is the vision of the whole truth. This gives him the highest delight, because it reveals to him the deepest harmony that exists between him and his surroundings. It is our desires that limit the scope of our self-realisation, hinder our extension of consciousness, and give rise to sin, which is the innermost barrier that keeps us apart from our God, setting up disunion and the arrogance of exclusiveness. For sin is not one mere action, but it is an attitude of life which takes for granted that our goal is finite, that our self is the ultimate truth, and that we are not all essentially one but exist each for his own separate individual existence.
  • We never can have a true view of man unless we have a love for him. Civilisation must be judged and prized, not by the amount of power it has developed, but by how much it has evolved and given expression to, by its laws and institutions, the love of humanity. The first question and the last which it has to answer is, Whether and how far it recognises man more as a spirit than a machine? Whenever some ancient civilisation fell into decay and died, it was owing to causes which produced callousness of heart and led to the cheapening of man’s worth; when either the state or some powerful group of men began to look upon the people as a mere instrument of their power; when, by compelling weaker races to slavery and trying to keep them down by every means, man struck at the foundation of his greatness, his own love of freedom and fair-play. Civilisation can never sustain itself upon cannibalism of any form. For that by which alone man is true can only be nourished by love and justice.
  • In love all the contradictions of existence merge themselves and are lost. Only in love are unity and duality not at variance. Love must be one and two at the same time.
    Only love is motion and rest in one. Our heart ever changes its place till it finds love, and then it has its rest. But this rest itself is an intense form of activity where utter quiescence and unceasing energy meet at the same point in love.
    In love, loss and gain are harmonised. In its balance-sheet, credit and debit accounts are in the same column, and gifts are added to gains. In this wonderful festival of creation, this great ceremony of self-sacrifice of God, the lover constantly gives himself up to gain himself in love. Indeed, love is what brings together and inseparably connects both the act of abandoning and that of receiving.
  • In love, at one of its poles you find the personal, and at the other the impersonal. At one you have the positive assertion — Here I am; at the other the equally strong denial — I am not. Without this ego what is love? And again, with only this ego how can love be possible?
    Bondage and liberation are not antagonistic in love. For love is most free and at the same time most bound. If God were absolutely free there would be no creation. The infinite being has assumed unto himself the mystery of finitude. And in him who is love the finite and the infinite are made one.
  • Compulsion is not indeed the final appeal to man, but joy is. And joy is everywhere; it is in the earth’s green covering of grass; in the blue serenity of the sky; in the reckless exuberance of spring; in the severe abstinence of grey winter; in the living flesh that animates our bodily frame; in the perfect poise of the human figure, noble and upright; in living; in the exercise of all our powers; in the acquisition of knowledge; in fighting evils; in dying for gains we never can share. Joy is there everywhere; it is superfluous, unnecessary; nay, it very often contradicts the most peremptory behests of necessity. It exists to show that the bonds of law can only be explained by love; they are like body and soul. Joy is the realisation of the truth of oneness, the oneness of our soul with the world and of the world-soul with the supreme lover.
  • That side of our existence whose direction is towards the infinite seeks not wealth, but freedom and joy. There the reign of necessity ceases, and there our function is not to get but to be. To be what? To be one with Brahma. For the region of the infinite is the region of unity. Therefore the Upanishads say: If man apprehends God he becomes true. Here it is becoming, it is not having more. Words do no gather bulk when you know their meaning; they become true by being one with the idea.
  • Though the West has accepted as its teacher him who boldly proclaimed his oneness with his Father, and who exhorted his followers to be perfect as God, it has never been reconciled to this idea of our unity with the infinite being. It condemns, as a piece of blasphemy, any implication of man’s becoming God. This is certainly not the idea that Christ preached, nor perhaps the idea of the Christian mystics, but this seems to be the idea that has become popular in the Christian west.
    But the highest wisdom in the East holds that it is not the function of our soul to gain God, to utilise him for any special material purpose. All that we can ever aspire to is to become more and more one with God. In the region of nature, which is the region of diversity, we grow by acquisition; in the spiritual world, which is the region of unity, we grow by losing ourselves, by uniting. Gaining a thing, as we have said, is by its nature partial, it is limited only to a particular want; but being is complete, it belongs to our wholeness, it springs not from any necessity but from our affinity with the infinite, which is the principle of perfection that we have in our soul.
  • Knowledge is partial, because our intellect is an instrument, it is only a part of us, it can give us information about things which can be divided and analysed, and whose properties can be classified part by part. But Brahma is perfect, and knowledge which is partial can never be a knowledge of him.
  • Indeed, the realisation of the paramātman, the supreme soul, within our antarātman, our inner individual soul, is in a state of absolute completion. We cannot think of it as non-existent and depending on our limited powers for its gradual construction. If our relation with the divine were all a thing of our own making, how should we rely on it as true, and how should it lend us support?
    Yes, we must know that within us we have that where space and time cease to rule and where the links of evolution are merged in unity.
     In that everlasting abode of the ātaman, the soul, the revelation of the paramātman, the supreme soul, is already complete. Therefore the Upanishads say: He who knows Brahman, the true, the all-conscious, and the infinite as hidden in the depths of the soul, which is the supreme sky (the inner sky of consciousness), enjoys all objects of desire in union with the all-knowing Brahman.
  • This “I” of mine toils hard, day and night, for a home which it knows as its own. Alas, there will be no end of its sufferings so long as it is not able to call this home thine. Till then it will struggle on, and its heart will ever cry, “Ferryman, lead me across.” When this home of mine is made thine, that very moment is it taken across, even while its old walls enclose it. This “I” is restless. It is working for a gain which can never be assimilated with its spirit, which it never can hold and retain. In its efforts to clasp in its own arms that which is for all, it hurts others and is hurt in its turn, and cries, “Lead me across”. But as soon as it is able to say, “All my work is thine,” everything remains the same, only it is taken across.
    Where can I meet thee unless in this mine home made thine? Where can I join thee unless in this my work transformed into thy work? If I leave my home I shall not reach thy home; if I cease my work I can never join thee in thy work. For thou dwellest in me and I in thee. Thou without me or I without thee are nothing.

Glimpses of Bengal

  • The light of the stars travels millions of miles to reach the earth, but it cannot reach our hearts — so many millions of miles further off are we!
  • Every person is worthy of an infinite wealth of love — the beauty of his soul knows no limit.
  • When sorrow is deepest…then the surface crust is pierced, and consolation wells up, and all the forces of patience and courage are banded together to do their duty. Thus great suffering brings with it the power of great endurance. So while we are cowards before petty troubles, great sorrows make us brave by rousing our truer manhood.
  • The world is ever new to me; like an old friend loved through this and former lives, the acquaintance between us is both long and deep.
  • One of the many suppressed longings of creation which cry after fulfilment is for neglected joys within reach; while we are busy pursuing chimerical impossibilities we famish our lives…The emptiness left by easy joys, untasted, is ever growing in my life. And the day may come when I shall feel that, could I but have the past back, I would strive no more after the unattainable, but drain to the full these little, unsought, everyday joys which life offers.
  • It sometimes strikes me how immensely fortunate I am that each day should take its place in my life, either reddened with the rising and setting sun, or refreshingly cool with deep, dark clouds, or blooming like a white flower in the moonlight. What untold wealth!
  • Reason tells us that creation never can be perfectly happy. So long as it is incomplete it must put up with imperfection and sorrow. It can only be perfect when it ceases to be creation, and is God. Do our prayers dare go so far?
  • I saw, all of a sudden, an odd-looking bird making its way through the water to the opposite bank, followed by a great commotion. I found it was a domestic fowl which had managed to escape impending doom in the galley by jumping overboard and was now trying frantically to swim across. It had almost gained the bank when the clutches of its relentless pursuers closed on it, and it was brought back in triumph, gripped by the neck. I told the cook I would not have any meat for dinner. I really must give up animal food. We manage to swallow flesh only because we do not think of the cruel and sinful thing we do. There are many crimes which are the creation of man himself, the wrongfulness of which is put down to their divergence from habit, custom, or tradition. But cruelty is not of these. It is a fundamental sin, and admits of no argument or nice distinctions. If only we do not allow our heart to grow callous, its protest against cruelty is always clearly heard; and yet we go on perpetrating cruelties easily, merrily, all of us ⎯ in fact, any one who does not join in is dubbed a crank. … if, after our pity is aroused, we persist in throttling our feelings simply in order to join others in their preying upon life, we insult all that is good in us. I have decided to try a vegetarian diet.
  • To Indians the idea of the transmigration of the soul from animal to man, and man to animal, does not seem strange, and so from our scriptures pity for all sentient creatures has not been banished as a sentimental exaggeration. When I am in close touch with Nature in the country, the Indian in me asserts itself and I cannot remain coldly indifferent to the abounding joy of life throbbing within the soft down-covered breast of a single tiny bird.

Rabindranath Tagore Quotes

Stray Birds

  • If you shed tears when you miss the sun, you also miss the stars.
  • The fish in the water is silent, the animal on the earth is noisy, the bird in the air is singing, But Man has in him the silence of the sea, the noise of the earth and the music of the air.
  • God finds himself by creating.
  • Your idol is shattered in the dust to prove that God’s dust is greater than your idol.
  • Life is given to us, we earn it by giving it.
  • We come nearest to the great when we are great in humility.
  • Never be afraid of the moments—thus sings the voice of the everlasting.
  • We read the world wrong and say that it deceives us.
  • Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man.
  • He who wants to do good knocks at the gate; he who loves finds the gate open.
  • Man goes into the noisy crowd to drown his own clamour of silence.
  • To be outspoken is easy when you do not wait to speak the complete truth.
  • Asks the Possible to the Impossible, “Where is your dwelling place?” “In the dreams of the impotent,” comes the answer.
  • If you shut your door to all errors truth will be shut out.
  • The roots below the earth claim no rewards for making the branches fruitful.
  • Time is the wealth of change, but the clock in its parody makes it mere change and no wealth.
  • When we rejoice in our fulness, then we can part with our fruits with joy.
  • The water in a vessel is sparkling; the water in the sea is dark. The small truth has words that are clear; the great truth has great silence.
  • He who is too busy doing good finds no time to be good.
  • A mind all logic is like a knife all blade. It makes the hand bleed that uses it.
  • Night’s darkness is a bag that bursts with the gold of the dawn.
  • Men are cruel, but Man is kind.
  • The fountain of death makes the still water of life play.
  • Do not say, “It is morning,” and dismiss it with a name of yesterday. See it for the first time as a new-born child that has no name.
  • Death belongs to life as birth does. The walk is in the raising of the foot as in the laying of it down.
  • WE live in this world when we love it.
  • Let the dead have the immortality of fame, but the living the immortality of love.
  • When I stand before thee at the day’s end thou shalt see my scars and know that I had my wounds and also my healing.
  • Clouds come floating into my life from other days no longer to shed rain or usher storm but to give colour to my sunset sky.
  • Let this be my last word, that I trust in thy love.

The Gardener

  • Ah me, why did they build my house by the road to the market town?
  • I am restless. I am athirst for faraway things. My soul goes out in a longing to touch the skirt of the dim distance. O Great Beyond, O the keen call of thy flute! I forget, I ever forget, that I have no wings to fly, that I am bound in this spot evermore.
  • We do not stray out of all words into the ever silent;
    We do not raise our hands to the void for things beyond hope.
  • Please is frail like a dewdrop, while it laughs it dies. But sorrow is strong and abiding. Let sorrowful love wake in your eyes.
  • My heart, the bird of the wilderness, has found its sky in your eyes.
  • Let your life lightly dance on the edges of Time like dew on the tip of a leaf.
  • To the guests that must go, bid God’s speed and brush away all traces of their steps.
  • The wise man warns me that life is but a dewdrop on the lotus leaf.
  • O Woman, you are not merely the handiwork of God, but also of men; these are ever endowing you with beauty from their own hearts … You are one-half woman and one-half dream.
  • In the world’s audience hall, the simple blade of grass sits on the same carpet with the sunbeams, and the stars of midnight.
  • Who are you, reader, reading my poems an hundred years hence?
    I cannot send you one single flower from this wealth of the spring, one single streak of gold from yonder clouds.
    Open your doors and look abroad.
    From your blossoming garden gather fragrant memories of the vanished flowers of an hundred years before.
    In the joy of your heart may you feel the living joy that sang one spring morning, sending its glad voice across a hundred years.

Fireflies

  • Bigotry tries to keep truth safe in its hand
    With a grip that kills it.

    Wishing to hearten a timid lamp
    great night lights all her stars.

  • God seeks comrades and claims love,
    the Devil seeks slaves and claims obedience.
  • The child ever dwells in the mystery of ageless time,
    unobscured by the dust of history.
  • Jewel-Like the immortal
    does not boast of its length of years
    but of the scintillating point of the moment.
  • While God waits for his temple to be built of love, men bring stones.
  • I touch God in my song
    as the hill touched the far-away sea
    with its waterfall.
  • Light finds her treasure of colours
    through the antagonism of clouds.
  • The one without second is emptiness,
    the other one makes it true.
  • Life’s errors cry for the merciful beauty
    that can modulate their isolation
    into a harmony with the whole.

Interview with Einstein

  • Our passions and desires are unruly, but our character subdues these elements into a harmonious whole. Does something similar to this happen in the physical world? Are the elements rebellious, dynamic with individual impulse? And is there a principle in the physical world which dominates them and puts them into an orderly organization? … It is the constant harmony of chance and determination which makes it eternally new and living.
  • In India, the measure of a singer’s freedom is in his own creative personality. He can sing the composer’s song as his own, if he has the power creatively to assert himself in his interpretation of the general law of the melody which he is given to interpret.
  • Melody and harmony are like lines and colors in pictures. A simple linear picture may be completely beautiful; the introduction of color may make it vague and insignificant. Yet color may, by combination with lines, create great pictures, so long as it does not smother and destroy their value.

Disputed

  • I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service is joy.
    • Quoted often without citation 
    • Compare this verse verse written by Ellen Sturgis Hooper:
“I slept, and dreamed that life was Beauty;
I woke, and found that life was Duty.”

Quotes about Jana Gana Mana

  • A certain high official in His Majesty’s service, who was also my friend, had requested that I write a song of felicitation towards the Emperor. The request simply amazed me. It caused a great stir in my heart. In response to that great mental turmoil, I pronounced the victory in Jana Gana Mana of that Bhagya Bidhata [Bengali pronunciation; “dispenser of destiny”] of India who has from age after age held steadfast the reins of India’s chariot through rise and fall, through the straight path and the curved. That Lord of Destiny, that Reader of the Collective Mind of India, that Perennial Guide, could never be George V, George VI, or any other George. Even my official friend understood this about the song. After all, even if his admiration for the crown was excessive, he was not lacking in simple common sense.
    • Rabindranath Tagore, in a letter dated 10 November 1937. (Quoted in Is India’s national anthem secular? (2017) Is India’s national anthem secular? and in Elst, Koenraad. Hindu dharma and the culture wars. (2019). New Delhi : Rupa.)
  • Jana Gana Mana’s “dispenser of India’s destiny”, while not its past or present ruler, unambiguously signifies the divine Guide, the eternal Guru, Krishna… [Tagore] leaves no one in doubt that he means the Eternal Charioteer leading the pilgrims on their journey through countless ages of the timeless history of mankind. This clearly refers to the Krishna of the Bhagavad Gita, who is there as Arjuna’s charioteer. He is worshipped as an incarnation of Vishnu, who takes birth from age to age, whenever Dharma has weakened and needs to be strengthened… The iconography of Vishnu and Krishna (chariot, conch, the expression yuge yuge, “age after age”) is exuberantly sung there, and the singers describe themselves as yatri, “pilgrims”. King George, Prime Minister Nehru or any otherworldly ruler is absent, the entire focus is on Krishna, the guide and charioteer. He is said to “deliver from sorrow and pain”, which would be too much honour for a mere state leader; and to be “the people’s guide on the path”…. According to Rabindranath Tagore, and according to all Indian citizens who intone or honour his anthem, India is not complete without a heaven-oriented, sacred dimension.
    • Is India’s national anthem secular? (2017) Is India’s national anthem secular? and in Elst, Koenraad. Hindu dharma and the culture wars. (2019). New Delhi : Rupa.

Quotes about Tagore

  • In “The Religion of the Forest,” Tagore wrote about the influence that the forest dwellers of ancient India had on classical Indian literature. The forests are sources of water and the storehouses of a biodiversity that can teach us the lessons of democracy—of leaving space for others while drawing sustenance from the common web of life. Tagore saw unity with nature as the highest stage of human evolution.
    • Vandana Shiva, as quoted in “Vandana Shiva: Everything I Need to Know I Learned in the Forest” in Yes! (5 December 2012)
  • One aspect of this behaviour pattern had been noticed by the great poet, Rabindranath, who was reported as follows in an interview to The Times of India published on April 18, 1924: “Another very important fact which according to the poet was making it almost impossible for Hindu-Mohammedan unity to become an accomplished fact was that the Mohammedans could not confine their patriotism to any one country. The poet said that he had very frankly asked many Mohammedans whether, in the event of any Mohammedan power invading India, they would stand side by side with their Hindu neighbours to defend their common land. He could not be satisfied with the reply he got from them. He said that he could definitely state that even men like Mr. Mohammed Ali had declared that under no circumstances was it permissible for any Mohammedan, whatever his country might be, to stand against any other Mohammedan.”
    • Quoted by A. Ghosh in, “Making of the Muslim Psyche” in Devendra Swamp (ed.), Politics of Conversion, New Delhi, 1986, p. 148. Quoted from S.R. Goel, Muslim Separatism – Causes and Consequences (1987). Also in B.R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or The Partition of India (1946)
    • Original quote from Interview of Rabindranath in ‘Times of India’, 18-4-1924 in the column, ‘Through Indian Eyes on the Post Khilafat Hindu Muslim Riots.
  • Many of us were educated on the literature of India when we fell in love we read Rabindranath Tagore and when we matured we tried to understand Gandhi.
    • Shimon Peres (Israeli President), on India. Israeli President Shimon Peres praises India as greatest ‘show of co-existence’ (4 December 2012)
  • After these conversations with Tagore some of the ideas that had seemed so crazy suddenly made much more sense. That was a great help for me.
    • Werner Heisenberg, on conversations with Rabindranath Tagore, as quoted in Uncommon Wisdom: Conversations With Remarkable People (1988) by Fritjof Capra, who states of Heisenberg, that after these “He began to see that the recognition of relativity, interconnectedness, and impermanence as fundamental aspects of physical reality, which had been so difficult for himself and his fellow physicists, was the very basis of the Indian spiritual traditions.
    • Variant: After the conversations about Indian philosophy, some of the ideas of Quantum Physics that had seemed so crazy suddenly made much more sense.
      • As quoted in Pride of India (2006) by Samskrita Bharati, p. 56
  • Rabindranath Tagore, like Chaucer’s forerunners, writes music for his words, and one understands at every moment that he is so abundant, so spontaneous, so daring in his passion, so full of surprise, because he is doing something which has never seemed strange, unnatural, or in need of defence.
    • William Butler Yeats, “Introduction”, to Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore., London, 1912. Cited in Sheshalatha Reddy, Mapping the Nation: An Anthology of Indian Poetry in English 1870-1920, Anthem Press, 2013 (p. 448).

Rabindranath Tagore (Robindronath Thakur, 7 May 1861 – 7 August 1941), also known by his pen name Bhanu Singha Thakur (Bhonita), and also known by his sobriquets GurudevKabiguru, and Biswakabi, was a polymath, poet, musician, and artist from the Indian subcontinent. He reshaped Bengali literature and music, as well as Indian art with Contextual Modernism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Author of the profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse of Gitanjali, he became in 1913 the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Tagore’s poetic songs were viewed as spiritual and mercurial; however, his elegant prose and magical poetry remain largely unknown outside Bengal. He is sometimes referred to as the Bard of Bengal.

Leave a Reply

Scroll Up
%d bloggers like this: