A poem, which I heard the first time, 50 years back, as a prayer read out by the principal of the Delhi Public School in New Delhi, has been the only one, of all the prayers he read, that has stayed with me all my life; and comes back to mind whenever I see individuals, communities, societies and nations going through mindless debates and turmoil.
Today, almost 100 years after Rabindranath Tagore wrote it (and was awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature for his writings), the words seem so appropriate as we see political battles in legislatures and on the streets and verbal battles in newspapers, TV and social media, not just in India but in countries across the world.
Here’s that amazing poem by Rabindranath Tagore
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 towards 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 awake.
A poem equally relevant at the individual and societal levels
The beauty of this poem is that it seems so universal and eternal; it talks of what any sane person would seek – freedom to think and act without fear, to gain knowledge, to meet and mix with people across communities, to show respect and be respected, to base all thinking on truth and reasoning and to strive for excellence.
Something which sadly is never understood by power brokers across communities and countries, who insist they know it all within the confines of their narrow minds.
A society or a community, is eventually the sum total of individuals; and as individuals, if we were to be more aware, we hopefully will help build a better community.
Freedom and choice of values for Personal Growth
The poem is a strong guide to us at the personal level; in our day to day lives, in our relationships and at our workplaces.
Our own personal, interpersonal and cultural conditioning impact the way we develop our thinking.
Very rarely do we stop to question ourselves, to ask “is my thinking helping me to expand as a human being or is it restricting me?” When we think or say something, take decisions or make choices, are we mindful of
- ours and others’ need for freedom to think and act
- our mutual need to improve knowledge
- the necessity to work together with others for everyone’s good
- the necessity to give and receive respect
- the need to have a valid reasoning not based on dogma or biases
- the zeal to strive for excellence in all that we endeavour
The full essence of any knowledge or wisdom and the fruits of any action can only be grasped when the individual lets go of all internal fears and limiting beliefs, embraces others’ thoughts and view points with an open mind, sifts through the information objectively to arrive at the best understanding and take appropriate action.
That’s what Tagore, in this ever relevant poem, is urging us to do.
This article has been co-authored with Ragini Rao, infinumgrowth.com
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