The Message of Tagore
Cristina Mena Chambers
Thus spake Sir Rabindranath Tagore to a breathless visitor who, awed at the privilege of being alone with him, sat as quiet as a mouse near the arm of his chair and listened with all her ears:
“I have not been able to give the people my message as I would like to do it. It is very difficult, not to say impossi ble, for me to go before the people here. I have a horror of crowds, and it pains me beyond expression to feel the presence of the people who come to see me out of curiosity.
“My mission in this country is to interest the Americans in their spiritual and artistic awakening. They are very busy with material things, and are spending great sums in really useless endeavor to solve their great problems.
“I feel that I have what I believe to be my ‘call’ to the Western world. What I intend to do is to found a great uni versity in India, primarily for Western students (for we in India do not need this university so much).
“This university will teach the root of all religions, arts and sciences, it will be built somewhere in the peaceful Hima- lays, where students from the Western world can come and study the East in all truth, and where they can work out the spiritual resources that lie hidden in the East and so work out their own spiritual problems.
“We who have heard ‘the call’ forget rank, honors and country for the work that can best help humanity. It is to those brothers who need the spiritual uplift of true unity of souls, which means brotherhood, that I come, inviting them to co operate with me in this great work of spiritual and artistic union of the East and the West. But you, people of the West, must come to us. It is very important that you come to us willingly and ask us to unite our soul forces with yours. My father, who was a great student and a man very near God, used to say that God had permitted him to reach such a height of spiritual union with the whole of humanity that to him the world was only a light, which illuminated the whole of humanity with the same color and brilliancy.
“I myself am a vagrant, I feel that I have no home and that my work is for all who suffer and need spiritual help. After all, the success of my carrying out, or not, my mission is not what matters most. Success is not all. The spreading of the idea in the West and the spiritual understanding that may ctme from it is far more important “The university, of course, would be the practical working out of the idea. I welcome the suggestions and help of all those who feel the call to help me. I would like to have little groups of brother workers to form committees with the purpose of find ing out exactly how much true interest and help there is in diis great country. I have had much help and encouragement in Europe, but I have felt that my mission should be presented to the American people for its final success.”
All this he spoke with his eyes closed and his breath coming and going in a gentle rhythm which seemed to be tremblingly attuned to some interior source of wisdom. His strongly marked yet delicate features with their groundtone of clearest golden bronze, the pure and lofty contour of his head and the patriarchal amplitude of his bluish iron gray mane and beard combined to form a picture which seemed to have the significance of some static focus in Nature.
At once poetic and hieratic, his aspect sent my thoughts’1 flying to my native Mexico; and I told him impulsively how implicitly my people would understand him, how they would not mob him with inquisitive stares and intrusive handshakings, but would recognize and revere him as a man of God, even as do his own grave Bengalese. He spoke in reply of some Mexican stories of mine in the Century Magazine, notably one called “John of God, the Water Carrier,” and said that the human types reminded him strongly of those of India, and that he was sure he would feel in Mexico very much as if he were among his own people. But, alas! Tagore does not speak Spanish, so that promising visit must be postponed.
I asked him if he did not think the West and the East might be regarded as the positive and negative poles of humanity, which must be balanced before man could achieve his destiny on this planet. Flattering myself that this was quite an original idea, I enlarged upon the polarizing of the East and West dur ing the new Aquarian age, and so forth. But the poet’s response was rather disappointing. He even looked bored. And I learned that Sir Rabindranath Tagore is a mystic to whom mystical experience transcends all else in life, and to whom in tellectual speculation is positively anathema.
“When we try to be fundamental we reject what is simple and evident,” he said. “It is a delusion we are all conspiring to keep up. There may be differences between the East and West, just as there are between one individual and another; but rather than generalize on those differences let us generalize on simple and evident truth that we are all brothers.”