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The Guru and Rabindranath Tagore

Nationalism is as much a blinding force as tribalism or parochialism. Many of the national leaders of India had saintly qualities and were deeply erudite in their scholarship. But their horizon of interest was confined to the tradition of India or at best to the problems of India. Rabindranath Tagore was an exception to this. He loved India more as a state of mind than a geographical area of the globe. He kept both his heart and mind open to all traditions and exposed himself to the influence of all religions and races. He lived and thought and envisaged the future of man as a true citizen of the world. His language was more of a poet than of a logician. His mystical insight was deep and profound. In short, in his thoughts, sympathies and visions, he was very close to Narayana Guru, if not identical with the Guru at least in some respects.

When Tagore's Gitanjali was selected for the Nobel Prize, he became the greatest pride of India. Narayana Guru wanted to know more of Tagore. His own disciple, Thampi (afterwards Nataraja Guru), was an ardent admirer of Tagore, and so he brought all the available works of Tagore, and told the Guru the substance of what he read. Narayana Guru appreciated Tagore's visions even inGitanja!i, but he was not in favor of his own disciple imitating the style and diction of Gitanjali. The Guru knew that his century was meant to be an age of analysis and reason. So he advised his disciple Nataraja Guru to be clear and precise in his presentation and substantiate his statements with evidence. Except in the matter of presenting thoughts as riddles, in all respects Narayana Guru considered Tagore as a good model for Thampi.

When Tagore visited South India, he was officially invited to be a guest of honor in the Sivagiri Mutt. Nataraja Guru was specially deputed by Narayana Guru to attend on Tagore. The following is an eyewitness account of the visit given by Nataraja Guru and referred to in his book The Word of the Guru: Once came the poet Rabindranath Tagore, on one of his Southern tours, to visit the Guru. In honor of the great poet of Bengal the people in the vicinity of the hermitage arranged a kingly reception. Elephants were requisitioned. He was to be brought in procession as far as the foot of the hill of the ashram. Musical accompaniments were arranged. The Guru stood in the verandah of his rest-house and himself ordered the best carpets that the hermitage possessed, to be brought out to adorn the foot of the seat of the honored guest. The people thronged with the guest, anxious to hear the conversation between the Guru and the seer of Santiniketan. Each of the crowd thought himself the chosen follower of the Guru, and, as space was limited, it took some time to establish silence for the conversation. The two veteran leaders greeted with joined palms, and sat down facing one another. The seer of Bengal broke the deep silence that marked their meeting, and complimented the Guru, on the 'great work' he was doing for the people. The Guru's reply was not delayed. 'Neither have we done anything in the past nor is it possible to do anything in the future. Powerlessness fills us with sorrow.' His words sounded an enigma to some. Others thought he was just joking. Still others examined the logic of the statement. A characteristic silence followed the remark. The crowd looked at one another for a meaning, but it was the Guru's face itself that gave the silent commentary to the words. Deep silence and earnestness sat on his features. Smiles of curiosity and the rival expectations of the people were drowned into the neutral depths of silence by the suggestion that was expressed on the features of the Guru. All was silent for a minute or two. The climax of the interview was reached in silence where all met in equality. Usual conversation followed and the poet and the crowd retired.

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