To recall Rabindranath Tagore today ~ his birthday ~ is to step into the world of joy, indeed a world of endless curiosity and wonder that imparts a unique sensitivity to the inner vision of excellence and the quest for the beyond.

He endears joy not as a catalyst to influence imagination, but as a religion that is yet to be earnestly followed. As an artist of a class of his very own, his religion of joy hails the glory of the creative sensitivity of man.

Tagore wrote: “My religion is essentially a poet’s religion. Its touch comes to me through the same unseen and trackless channels as does the inspiration of my music. My religious life has followed the same mysterious line of growth as has my poetical life, somehow they are wedded to each other, and through their betrothal had a long period of ceremony, was kept secret from me. I am not, I hope, boasting when I confess to my gift of poesy, an instrument of expression delicately responsive to the breath that comes from depth of feeling. From my infancy I had the keen sensitiveness which always kept my mind tingling with consciousness of the world around me, natural and human.”

(The Religion of an Artist, Visva- Bharati Bookshop, Calcutta, 1953, page 10). Tagore’s quest for the religion of joy has unfolded a sense of individuality. Many a time he refers to the world of delight in terms of the Upanishad; the most abiding and sensitive one is Anandarupamamritang yadvibhati.

This is the only end-inview of anyone who cares for delving deep into the ocean of joy. It shows him how to live in purity and poignancy, serenity and simplicity in the world full of joy. The fountain of joy is flowing in the world ~ Anandadhara vahichhe bhuvane. Man, the creator of joy, cannot but re-define himself in the reality of joy.

The journey towards the infinite realm of joy is an endless one. In Tagore’s invaluable words: “The immortal being manifests himself in joy. His manifestation in creation is out of his fullness of joy. It is the nature of this abounding joy to realise itself in form which is law. The joy, which is without form, must create, must translate itself into forms. The joy of the singer is expressed in the form of a song, that of the poet in the form of a poem. Man in his role of a creator is ever creating forms, and they come out of his abounding joy. This joy whose other name is love, must by its very nature have duality for its realisation. When the singer has his inspiration he makes himself into two; he has within him his other self as the hearer, and the outside audience is merely an extension of this other self of his. The lover seeks his own other self in his beloved. It is the joy that creates this inspiration, in order to realise through the obstacles the union.” (Sadhana, Macmillan India Limited, New Delhi, 1983, pp.86-87.)

To translate joy in terms of love is Tagore’s incomparable forte. He shows the diverse avenues of joy as and when he feels, appreciates and orients himself in terms of love, religion, beauty and realisation of the self as a splendid vision of the Infinite. Life without the realisation of joy as a march for the Infinite becomes dull, artificial, and devoid of diversity and wonder.

The world of action must embrace, cultivate and disseminate joy. The celebration of joy in serenity leaves no room for display of crudity and abstraction. Rather is it an elixir of life, specifically for advancement and excellence.

Tagore inspires us to see life in the fullness of joy ~ “Those who have fully realised the soul have never talked in mournful accents of the sorrowfulness of life or of the bondage of action. They are not like the weakling flower whose stem hold is so light that it drops away before attaining fruition. They hold on to life with all their might and say, ‘never will we let go till the fruit is ripe.’ They desire in their joy to express themselves strenuously in their life and in their work. Pain and sorrow dismay them not, they are not bowed down to the dust by the weight of their own heart. With the erect head of the victorious hero they march through life seeing themselves and showing themselves in increasing resplendence of soul through both joys and sorrows. The joy of their life keeps step with the joy of that energy which is playing at building and breaking throughout the universe. The joy of the sunlight, the joy of the free air, mingling with the joy of their lives, makes one sweet harmony reign within and without.” (Ibid., p. 103).

The harmony of human consciousness, born as it were in the womb of joy, never fades unless we tear ourselves apart in the bondage of so-called work. That work is a pulsating celebration of joy in the ambience of freedom. It is the road to self-realization ~ a lesson yet to be imparted in our something-tobe- had education, kichhu paiye debar siksha or the parrot’s training, totapakhir siksha as Tagore had warned.

Whither freedom, whither joy in learning? “Through the great deficiency of our modern education”, Tagore once observed, “we are condemned to carry to the end a dead load of dumb wisdom. Like miserable outcasts, we are deprived of our place in the festival of culture, and wait at the outer court, where the colours are not for us, nor the forms of delight, nor the songs. Ours is the education of a prison-house with hard labour and with a drab dress cut to the limits of minimum decency and necessity. We are made to forget that the perfection of colour and form and expression belongs to the perfection of vitality ~ that the joy of life is only the other side of the strength of life.”

(Creative Unity, Macmillan & Co., London, 1962, p. 198). Let the world of work be tuned with joy by means of self-realization. Let it be saved from self-annihilation. Enough is enough with the fury and firework of ‘killing’, as Tagore forewarned in Personality. Let it be given an immediate reply through tireless and natural striving for the festival of joy. Meanwhile, let the festival on Tagore’s birthday be hallowed with his own words Gaaye amar pulak laage.

The author is Professor of Education, Visva-Barati