I received a copy of the “Gitanjali” by Rabindranath Tagore at a school prize giving. Little did I know that one day I would quote from it on a blog for reconciliation; Tagore’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech contains an important message which I felt that I should definitely share here. Even though he has written it with Indians of 1913 in his mind, Sri Lankans of 2013 can benefit from it too. Once again it confirms my view that a writer writes for all times and for all people.
Let me warn you in advance, these words come from a great personality. Tagore was a Bengali poet, short-story writer, song composer, novelist, playwright, essayist, and painter. He became the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913 for his work “Gitanjali” (meaning “song offerings”). His compositions were chosen by two nations as national anthems: India‘s “Jana Gana Mana” and Bangladesh‘s “Amar Shonar Bangla”.
“I do not think that it is the spirit of India to reject anything, reject any race, reject any culture. The spirit of India has always proclaimed the ideal of unity. This ideal of unity never rejects anything, any race, or any culture. It comprehends all, and it has been the highest aim of our spiritual exertion to be able to penetrate all things with one soul, to comprehend all things as they are, and not to keep out anything in the whole universe- to comprehend all things with sympathy and love. This is the spirit of India. Now, when in the present time of political unrest the children of the same great India cry for rejection of the West I feel hurt. I feel that it is a lesson which they have received from the West. Such is not our mission. India is there to unite all human races. Because of that reason in India we have not been given the unity of races. Our problem is the race problem which is the problem of all Humanity. We have Dravidians, we have Mohammedans, we have Hindus and all different sects and communities of men in India. Therefore, no superficial bond of political unity can appeal to us, can satisfy us, can ever be real to us.
We must go deeper down. We must discover the most profound unity, the spiritual unity between the different races. We must go deeper down to the spirit of man and find out the great bond of unity, which is to be found in all human races. And for that we are well equipped. We have inherited the immortal woks of our ancestors, those great writers who proclaimed the religion of unity and sympathy, in say: He who sees all beings as himself, who realizes all beings as himself, knows Truth. That has once again to be realized, not only by the children of the East but also by the children of the West. They also have to be reminded of these great immortal truths.
Man is not to fight with other human races, other human individuals, but his work is to bring about reconciliation and peace and to restore the bonds of friendship and love. We are not like fighting beasts. It is the life of self which is predominating in our life, the self which is creating the seclusion, giving rise to sufferings, to jealousy and hatred, to political and commercial competition. All these illusions will vanish, if we go down to the heart of the shrine, to the love and unity of all races.”