The vagabond soul continues its travel until it reaches the pinnacle of its spiritual gratification. During the journey, it comes across myriad obstacles – the dilemma to face or to escape, to liberate oneself from the shackles of hedonism or to stick around the lingering materialistic aura. Thinkers and poets like Rumi and Tagore, although born in different era had similar thoughts about solving these inner conflicts – both of them had an uncanny resemblance of thoughts about spiritualism, mysticism and romanticism, and were soulfully nomadic, who believed in noble love.
Jalal al-Din Rumi,born somewhere in the 13th century Persia, is one of the most widely read poets in the world. Also, perhaps the poet with the highest number of fake quotes attributed to him.
Rabindra Nath Tagore, who is lovingly called Gurudev by many, was a painter, thinker and philosopher who revolutionized literature & music of the 19th century India.
These two, perhaps shouldn’t have much in common. Their circumstances, times and cultures were vastly different. Rumi, on one hand wrote mostly about love, while Tagore’s work was more visionary and devotional.
But as they say, great minds think alike. So, here are a few works of these two artists where a parallelism can be drawn. Although it will be unjustified to the spirit of poetry to elucidate the literary elements, please bear with me as I try to elaborate how art transcends time and boundaries.
Devotion, Mortality and Nature
I must launch out my boat. The languid hours pass by on the shore—Alas for me!
The spring has done its flowering and taken leave. And now with the burden of faded futile flowers I wait and linger.
The waves have become clamorous, and upon the bank in the shady lane the yellow leaves flutter and fall.
What emptiness do you gaze upon! Do you not feel a thrill passing through the air with the notes of the far-away song floating from the other shore?
You play with the great globe of union,
you that see everyone so clearly
and cannot be seen. Even universal
intelligence gets blurry when it thinks
you may leave. You came here alone,
but you create hundreds of new worlds.
Spring is a peacock flirting with
revelation. The rose gardens flame.
Ocean enters the boat. I throw
it all away, except this love for Shams.
Where Tagore uses fall as a metaphor of old age and looks forward to meeting God on the other side, Rumi sees the changes in season as a testament of arrival of a loved one. When the time comes, he is ready to let go of everything but the love.
On worldly possessions and enlightenment
He whom I enclose with my name is weeping in this dungeon.
I am ever busy building this wall all around; and as this wall goes up into the sky day by day I lose sight of my true being in its dark shadow.
I take pride in this great wall, and I plaster it with dust and sand lest a least hole should be left in this name; and for all the care I take I lose sight of my true being.
An ant hurries along a threshing floor
with its wheat grain, moving between huge stacks
of wheat, not knowing the abundance
all around. It thinks its one grain
is all there is to love.
So we choose a tiny seed to be devoted to.
This body, one path or one teacher.
Look wider and farther.
The essence of every human being can see,
and what that essence-eye takes in,
the being becomes. Saturn. Solomon!
The ocean pours through a jar,
and you might say it swims inside
the fish! This mystery gives peace to
your longing and makes the road home home.
Both Rumi and Tagore believe that we limit our vision when we focus solely on the physical world around us. The more we adorn our body and indulge in worldly possessions, the more we are blinded towards the divine light. They see the body not as an end in itself but as a mean towards the end of divinity.
Inner Self and Vanity
I came out alone on my way to my tryst.
But who is this that follows me in the silent dark? I move aside to avoid his presence but I escape him not.
He makes the dust rise from the earth with his swagger; he adds his loud voice to every word that I utter.
He is my own little self, my lord, he knows no shame; but I am ashamed to come to thy door in his company.
Totally conscious, and apropos of nothing, you come to see me.
Is someone here? I ask.
The moon. The full moon is inside your house.
My friends and I go running out into the street.
I’m in here, comes a voice from the house, but we aren’t listening.
We’re looking up at the sky.
My pet nightingale sobs like a drunk in the garden.
Ringdoves scatter with small cries, Where, Where.
It’s midnight. The whole neighborhood is up and out
in the street thinking, The cat burglar has come back.
The actual thief is there too, saying out loud,
Yes, the cat burglar is somewhere in this crowd.
No one pays attention.
Lo, I am with you always means when you look for God,
God is in the look of your eyes,
in the thought of looking, nearer to you than yourself,
or things that have happened to you
There’s no need to go outside.
Be melting snow.
Wash yourself of yourself.
A white flower grows in quietness.
Let your tongue become that flower.
Tagore says ego and vanity makes him ashamed to merge himself with God while Rumi says that God is within us, only if we let go of ego and look within ourselves.The wordsmith have intertwined a flowery bed of words for us, that we need not rest and sleep upon but extract the essence and sniff throughout our life.