Wisdom of Life

Rabindranath Tagore: Love, Heaven, and the Meaning of Life

Rabindranath_Tagore_unknown_locationIf someone smells a flower and says he does not understand, … what does it all mean? Then one has to make it more abstruse by saying: the scent is the shape which the universal joy takes in the flower.

Let your life lightly dance on the edges of Time like dew on the tip of a leaf. The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough. Reach high, for stars lie hidden in you. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures. It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.

Suddenly I became conscious of a stirring of soul within me. My world of experience in a moment seemed to become lighted, and the facts that were detached and dim found a great unity of meaning. The feeling which I had was like that which a man, groping through a fog without knowing his destination, might feel when he suddenly discovers that he stands before his own house.

Great calm, generous detachment, selfless love, disinterested effort: these are what make for success in life. If you can find peace in yourself and can spread comfort around you, you will be happier than an empress.

I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy. The most important lesson that man can learn from life, is not that there is pain in this world, but that it is possible for him to transmute it into joy. Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.

Love is the only reality and it is not a mere sentiment. It is the ultimate truth that lies at the heart of creation. Its gift cannot be given, but waits to be accepted. Everything comes to us that belongs to us if we create the capacity to receive it.

Love does not claim possession, but gives freedom. Love adorns itself; it seeks to prove inward joy by outward beauty. Love is when the soul starts to sing and the flowers of your life bloom on their own. Love is an endless mystery, because there is no reasonable cause that could explain it.

Beauty is simply reality seen with the eyes of love. Women are not only the deities of the household fire, but the flame of the soul itself.

Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. In effect, the people who change our lives the most begin to sing to us while we are still in darkness. If we listen to their song, we will see the dawning of a new part of ourselves.

Go not to the temple to put flowers upon the feet of God, first fill your own house with the fragrance of love. Go not to the temple to light candles before the altar of God, first remove the darkness of sin from your heart. Go not to the temple to bow down your head in prayer, first learn to bow in humility before your fellow men. Go not to the temple to pray on bended knees, first bend down to lift someone who is down trodden. Go not to the temple to ask for forgiveness for your sins, first forgive from your heart those who have sinned against you.

The small wisdom is like water in a glass: clear, transparent, pure. The great wisdom is like the water in the sea: dark, mysterious, impenetrable.

Where is heaven? you ask me, my child. The sages tell us it is beyond the limits of birth and death, unswayed by the rhythm of day and night; it is not of the earth. But your poet knows that its eternal hunger is for time and space, and it strives evermore to be born in the fruitful dust. Heaven is fulfilled in your sweet body, my child, in your palpitating heart. The sea is beating its drums in joy, the flowers are a tiptoe to kiss you. For heaven is born in you, in the arms of the mother-dust.

Excerpts from Rabindranath Tagore’s works.


~Rabindranath Tagore, and also known by his sobriquets Gurudev, Kabiguru, and Biswakabi, was a Bengali 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.

©Excellence Reporter 2019

Categories: Wisdom of Life

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