Chapter 29 - Rabindranath Tagore and I Compare Schools
"Rabindranath Tagore taught us to sing, as a natural form of self-expression, like the birds."
Bhola Nath, a bright fourteen-year-old lad at my Ranchi school, gave me this explanation after I had
complimented him one morning on his melodious outbursts. With or without provocation, the boy poured forth a
tuneful stream. He had previously attended the famous Tagore school of "Santiniketan" (Haven of Peace) at
"The songs of Rabindranath have been on my lips since early youth," I told my companion. "All Bengal, even
the unlettered peasants, delights in his lofty verse."
Bhola and I sang together a few refrains from Tagore, who has set to music thousands of Indian poems, some
original and others of hoary antiquity.
"I met Rabindranath soon after he had received the Nobel Prize for literature," I remarked after our
vocalizing. "I was drawn to visit him because I admired his undiplomatic courage in disposing of his literary
critics." I chuckled.
Bhola curiously inquired the story.
"The scholars severely flayed Tagore for introducing a new style into Bengali poetry," I began. "He mixed
colloquial and classical expressions, ignoring all the prescribed limitations dear to the pundits' hearts.
His songs embody deep philosophic truth in emotionally appealing terms, with little regard for the accepted
"One influential critic slightingly referred to Rabindranath as a 'pigeon-poet who sold his cooings in
print for a rupee.' But Tagore's revenge was at hand; the whole Western world paid homage at his feet soon
after he had translated into English his Gitanjali ("Song Offerings"). A trainload of pundits,
including his one-time critics, went to Santiniketan to offer their congratulations.
"Rabindranath received his guests only after an intentionally long delay, and then heard their praise in
stoic silence. Finally he turned against them their own habitual weapons of criticism.
"'Gentlemen,' he said, 'the fragrant honors you here bestow are incongruously mingled with the putrid
odors of your past contempt. Is there possibly any connection between my award of the Nobel Prize, and your
suddenly acute powers of appreciation? I am still the same poet who displeased you when I first offered my
humble flowers at the shrine of Bengal.'
"The newspapers published an account of the bold chastisement given by Tagore. I admired
the outspoken words of a man unhypnotized by flattery," I went on. "I was introduced to Rabindranath in
Calcutta by his secretary, Mr. C. F. Andrews,1 who was simply attired in
a Bengali dhoti. He referred lovingly to Tagore as his gurudeva.
"Rabindranath received me graciously. He emanated a soothing aura of charm, culture, and courtliness.
Replying to my question about his literary background, Tagore told me that one ancient source of his
inspiration, besides our religious epics, had been the classical poet, Bidyapati."
Inspired by these memories, I began to sing Tagore's version of an old Bengali song, "Light the Lamp of
Thy Love." Bhola and I chanted joyously as we strolled over the Vidyalaya grounds.
About two years after founding the Ranchi school, I received an invitation from Rabindranath to visit him
at Santiniketan in order to discuss our educational ideals. I went gladly. The poet was seated in his study
when I entered; I thought then, as at our first meeting, that he was as striking a model of superb manhood as
any painter could desire. His beautifully chiseled face, nobly patrician, was framed in long hair and flowing
beard. Large, melting eyes; an angelic smile; and a voice of flutelike quality which was literally
enchanting. Stalwart, tall, and grave, he combined an almost womanly tenderness with the delightful
spontaneity of a child. No idealized conception of a poet could find more suitable embodiment than in this
Tagore and I were soon deep in a comparative study of our schools, both founded along unorthodox lines. We
discovered many identical featuresoutdoor instruction, simplicity, ample scope for the child's creative
spirit. Rabindranath, however, laid considerable stress on the study of literature and poetry, and the
self-expression through music and song which I had already noted in the case of Bhola. The Santiniketan
children observed periods of silence, but were given no special yoga training.
The poet listened with flattering attention to my description of the energizing "Yogoda" exercises and the
yoga concentration techniques which are taught to all students at Ranchi.
Tagore told me of his own early educational struggles. "I fled from school after the fifth grade," he
said, laughing. I could readily understand how his innate poetic delicacy had been affronted by the dreary,
disciplinary atmosphere of a schoolroom.
"That is why I opened Santiniketan under the shady trees and the glories of the sky." He
motioned eloquently to a little group studying in the beautiful garden. "A child is in his natural setting
amidst the flowers and songbirds. Only thus may he fully express the hidden wealth of his individual
endowment. True education can never be crammed and pumped from without; rather it must aid in bringing
spontaneously to the surface the infinite hoards of wisdom within."2
I agreed. "The idealistic and hero-worshiping instincts of the young are starved on an exclusive diet of
statistics and chronological eras."
The poet spoke lovingly of his father, Devendranath, who had inspired the Santiniketan beginnings.
"Father presented me with this fertile land, where he had already built a guest house and temple,"
Rabindranath told me. "I started my educational experiment here in 1901, with only ten boys. The eight
thousand pounds which came with the Nobel Prize all went for the upkeep of the school."
The elder Tagore, Devendranath, known far and wide as "Maharishi," was a very remarkable
man, as one may discover from his Autobiography. Two years of his manhood were spent in meditation in
the Himalayas. In turn, his father, Dwarkanath Tagore, had been celebrated throughout Bengal for his
munificent public benefactions. From this illustrious tree has sprung a family of geniuses. Not Rabindranath
alone; all his relatives have distinguished themselves in creative expression. His brothers, Gogonendra and
Abanindra, are among the foremost artists 3 of India; another brother,
Dwijendra, is a deep-seeing philosopher, at whose gentle call the birds and woodland creatures respond.
Rabindranath invited me to stay overnight in the guest house. It was indeed a charming spectacle, in the
evening, to see the poet seated with a group in the patio. Time unfolded backward: the scene before me was
like that of an ancient hermitagethe joyous singer encircled by his devotees, all aureoled in divine love.
Tagore knitted each tie with the cords of harmony. Never assertive, he drew and captured the heart by an
irresistible magnetism. Rare blossom of poesy blooming in the garden of the Lord, attracting others by a
In his melodious voice, Rabindranath read to us a few of his exquisite poems, newly created. Most of his
songs and plays, written for the delectation of his students, have been composed at Santiniketan. The beauty
of his lines, to me, lies in his art of referring to God in nearly every stanza, yet seldom mentioning the
sacred Name. "Drunk with the bliss of singing," he wrote, "I forget myself and call thee friend who art my
The following day, after lunch, I bade the poet a reluctant farewell. I rejoice that his little school has
now grown to an international university, "Viswa-Bharati," where scholars of all lands have found an ideal
"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 toward 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
Chapter1 - My Parents and Early Life
Chapter2 - My Mother's Death and the Mystic Amulet
Chapter3 - The Saint With Two Bodies
Chapter4 - My Interrupted Flight Toward the Himalayas
Chapter5 - A "Perfume Saint" Displays His Wonders
Chapter6 - The Tiger Swami
Chapter7 - The Levitating Saint
Chapter8 - India's Great Scientist, J.C. Bose
Chapter9 - The Blissful Devotee and His Cosmic Romance
Chapter10 - I Meet My Master, Sri Yukteswar
Chapter11 - Two Penniless Boys in Brindaban
Chapter12 - Years in My Master's Hermitage
Chapter13 - The Sleepless Saint
Chapter14 - An Experience in Cosmic Consciousness
Chapter15 - The Cauliflower Robbery
Chapter16 - Outwitting the Stars
Chapter17 - Sasi and the Three Sapphires
Chapter18 - A Mohammedan Wonder-Worker
Chapter19 - My Master, in Calcutta, Appears in Serampore
Chapter20 - We Do Not Visit Kashmir
Chapter21 - We Visit Kashmir
Chapter22 - The Heart of a Stone Image
Chapter23 - I Receive My University Degree
Chapter24 - I Become a Monk of the Swami Order
Chapter25 - Brother Ananta and Sister Nalini
Chapter26 - The Science of Kriya Yoga
Chapter27 - Founding a Yoga School in Ranchi
Chapter28 - Kashi, Reborn and Rediscovered
Chapter29 - Rabindranath Tagore and I Compare Schools
Chapter30 - The Law of Miracles
Chapter31 - An Interview with the Sacred Mother
Chapter32 - Rama is Raised From the Dead
Chapter33 - Babaji, the Yogi-Christ of Modern India
Chapter34 - Materializing a Palace in the Himalaya
Chapter35 - The Christlike Life of Lahiri Mahasaya
Chapter36 - Babaji's Interest in the West
Chapter37 - I Go to America
Chapter38 - Luther Burbank -- A Saint Amidst the Roses
Chapter39 - Therese Neumann, the Catholic Stigmatist
Chapter40 - I Return to India
Chapter41 - An Idyll in South India
Chapter42 - Last Days With My Guru
Chapter43 - The Resurrection of Sri Yukteswar
Chapter44 - With Mahatma Gandhi in Wardha
Chapter45 - The Bengali "Joy-Permeated" Mother
Chapter46 - The Woman Yogi Who Never Eats
Chapter47 - I Return to the West
Chapter48 - At Encinitas in California
Chapter49 - The Years - 1940 - 1951