Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Challenge of Our Times

By: Rabindranath Tagore

[Extracts from a letter to Professor Gilbert Murray: September 16, 1934]

We have seen Europe unscrupulous in its politics and commerce, spreading slavery over the face of the earth. And yet, in this very Europe, protest is always alive against its own iniquities. Martyrs are never absent whose lives of sacrifice are the penance for the wrongs done by their own kindred.

There was a time when we were fascinated by Europe. She had inspired us with a new hope – of liberty. We had come to know only her ideal side through her literature and art. But modern Europe has portioned out this wide earth. In our traffic with her we have learnt, as the biggest fact of all, that she is efficient, terribly efficient. But this is only one side of Western civilization. The Western humanity, when not affected by its unnatural relationship with the East, preserves its singular strength of moral conduct in its social life which has its great inspiration for all of us.

In India, what is needed more than anything else is the broad mind which, because it is conscious of its own vigorous individuality, is not afraid of accepting truth from all sources. Fortunately we know what such a mind has meant in an individual who belongs to modern India. I speak of Rammohun Roy. Thoroughly steeped in the best culture of his country, he was capable of finding himself at home in the larger world. The ideal I have formed of the culture which should be universal in India, has become clear to me from the life of Rammohun Roy.

Religion today in its institutionalized forms both in the West and the East has failed in its function to control and guide the forces of humanity; the growth of nationalism and wide commerce of ideas through speeded up communication have often augmented external differences instead of bringing humanity together. Yet I do not feel despondent about the future. There is today all over the world, in spite of selfishness and unreason, a greater awareness of truth. It is this stirring of the human conscience to which we must look for a reassertion of man. In this fact lies the great hope – this emergence in every nation, in spite of repression and the suicidal fever of war-mindedness, of individual consciousness. To these individuals of every land and race, these youthful spirits burning like clean flame on the altar of humanity, I offer my obeisance from the sunset-crested end of my road.

I feel proud that I have been born in this age. Let us announce to the world that the light of the morning has come, not for entrenching ourselves behind barriers, but for meeting in mutual understanding and trust

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