THE BONDAGE AND THE FREEDOM: THE TWO FACETS OF SOUL 


Upanishads – Rabindranath – Sri Aurobindo 

adult green bird with red berry in beak sitting on branch next to young chick
Photo: Two Birds on Pexels.com/ The Bondage and the Freedom

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

  1. TWO BIRDS POEM( ENGLISH & BENGALI 2. INTRODUCTION 3. WHAT IS ALLEGORY: THE BONDAGE AND THE FREEDOM 4. FORM AND FORMLESS 5. ALLEGORY IN DANTE’S THE DIVINE COMEDY 6. THE PARABLE OF TWO BIRDS IN MUNDAKA UPANISHAD 7. RISHI SRI AUROBINDO: TWO BIRDS TRANSLATION 8. THE BONDAGE AND THE FREEDOM: RABINDRANATH’S TWO BIRDS 9. TWO BIRDS: SRI AUROBINDO’S VIEWS 10. AMAL KIRAN VIEWS 11. NOLINI KANTA’S VIEWS 12. STORY OF SRI RAMKRISHNA 13. RABINDRANATH AND SARAT CHANDRA 14. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA’S VIEWS 15. VIEWS OF RADHAKRISHNAN 16. THE INFLUENCE OF UPANISHAD IN TAGORE 17. SYMBOLISM IN TWO BIRDS 18. WISE FRIEND’S EXPRESSION 19. TAGORE’S WRITINGS & THE PHILOSOPHY 20. GOD-MAN AND MAN-GOD 21. THE EAST AND THE WEST 22. RABINDRANATH’S LYRICAL BALLADS: THE BONDAGE AND THE FREEDOM 23. THE BIRD POEM ” O MY BIRD “.

দুই পাখি [Two birds]

রবীন্দ্রনাথ  ঠাকুর Rabindranath Tagore

রবীন্দ্র-রচনাবলী খণ্ড to ২ পৃষ্ঠা ৩৫-৩৬ [complete works of Tagore Vol 2             Pp 35-36

The caged bird was inside the gold cage

বনের পাখি ছিল বনে ।

The forest bird was in the forest.

একদা কী করিয়া মিলন হল দোঁহে,

Once somehow the two met each other

কী ছিল বিধাতার মনে।

Who knows what God planned.

বনের পাখি বলে – “খাঁচার পাখি ভাই,

The forest bird said– ” Caged bird, my brother,

বনেতে যাই দোঁহে মিলে।“

Let the two of us go together to the forest.”

খাঁচার পাখি বলে – “বনের পাখি, আয়

The cag  bird said–“Forest bird, come here

খাঁচায় থাকি নিরিবিলে।“

Let us stay in solitude within the cage.”

বনের পাখি বলে—“না,

The forest bird said–“No,

আমি শিকলে ধরা নাহি দিব।“

I am not going to get myself trapped in chains.”

খাঁচার পাখি বলে –“হায়,

The caged bird said–“Alas,

আমি কেমনে বনে বাহিরিব!“

How shall I get freed outside!”

বনের পাখি গাহে বাহিরে বসি বসি

The forest bird sang seated outside

বনের গান ছিল যত,

All the songs of the forest

খাঁচার পাখি পড়ে শিখানো বুলি তার—

The caged bird kept on chirping the words taught

দোঁহার ভাষা দুইমত।

language of the two were two different types.

বনের পাখি বলে—“খাঁচার পাখি ভাই,

The forest bird said– ” Caged bird, my brother,

বনের গান গাও দিখি।“

Come on, sing the song of the forest.”

খাঁচার পাখি বলে—“বনের পাখি ভাই,

The caged bird said–“Forest bird, dear brother

খাঁচার গান লহ শিখি।“

Come on, learn the song of

বনের পাখি বলে—“না,

The forest bird said–“No,

আমি শিখানো গান নাহি চাই।“

I do not want to be taught songs.”

খাঁচার পাখি বলে –“হায়,

The caged bird said–“Alas,

আমি কেমনে বনগান গাই।“

How shall I be able to sing forest songs.”

বনের পাখি বলে—“আকাশ ঘননীল,

The forest bird said–“The skid

কোথাও বাধা নাহি তার।“

There is no barrier anywhere.”

খাঁচার পাখি বলে—“খাঁচাটি পরিপাটি

The caged bird said–“The cage is perfect

কেমন ঢাকা চারি ধার।“

How nicely it is covered from all four sides.”

বনের পাখি বলে—“আপনা ছাড়ি দাও,

The forest bird said–“Make yourself free [unleashed],

মেঘের মাঝে একেবারে।“

Completely amid the clouds.”

খাঁচার পাখি বলে—“নিরালা সুখকোণে

The caged bird said–“In the solitary corner of comfort

বাঁধিয়া রাখো আপনারে!”

Keep yourself tied.!”

বনের পাখি বলে—“না,

The caged bird said–“Alas,

সেথা কোথায় উড়িবারে পাই!”

Where is the opportunity OEMre to fly!”

খাঁচার পাখি বলে –“হায়,

The caged bird said–“Alas,

মেঘে কোথায় বসিবার ঠাঁই!”

Where is the place in the clouds to sit!”

এমনি দুই পাখি দোঁহারে ভালোবাসে

In this manner, they two themselves love each other

তবুও কাছে নাহি পায়।

Yet never get another intimately.

খাঁচার ফাঁকে ফাঁকে পরশে মুখে মুখে,

Faces touched in between the open spaces ofcloserge

নীরবে চোখে চোখে চায়।

Eyes met one another in silence.

দুজনে কেহ কারে বুঝিতে নাহি পারে,

None of the two can understand each other

বুঝাতে নারে আপনায়।

Nor can they make themselves understandable to the other.

দুজনে একা একা ঝাপটি মরে পাখা

Two all alone would fan their wings crashing

কাতরে কহে ‘কাছে আয়!’

Would desperately call ‘come closer!”

বনের পাখি বলে—“না,

The forest bird said–“No,

কবে খাঁচায় রুধি দিবে দ্বার।“

Anytime the door of the cage may get shut.”

খাঁচার পাখি বলে –“হায়,

The caged bird said–“Alas,

মোর শকতি নাহি উড়িবার।“

I have no strength to fly.”

Dated 1892 AD Sahajadpur [now Bangladesh].

INTRODUCTION:

“Two Birds”( In Bengali ” Dui Pakhi”) by Rabindranath Tagore was first published in the magazine of ” Bharti O Balak”. The poet named the poem at that time “Naronari”. The Allegory in Rabindranath Tagore’s ” Two Birds” poem most probably had been taken from the great Indian religious and philosophical scripture  ” Mandukya  Upanishad”. 

   But Tagore’s views are something different from the Upanishad, although he was influenced by the Upanishad. Unlike the Vedas, which looked outward in the form of rituals of sacrifice for the well-being of the world, the Upanishads look inward, finding the powers of nature only as awe-inspiring powers of human consciousness. Rabindranath used to read and study Upanishad from his learned father during his childhood days (see Jibansmriti). 

   Here we are to find out how much different Tagore’s allegorical thoughts are from those of Upanishad. The two birds indicate two different attitudes and viewpoints, but ultimately they are one individual. One of the birds is free, and another one of those is not free, but caged. Before going to discuss elaborately, we should have to understand the function of allegory in poetry. 

  • WHAT IS ALLEGORY? : THE BONDAGE AND THE FREEDOM 

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “allegory” as a “story, picture, or another piece of art that uses symbols to convey a hidden or ulterior meaning, typically a moral or political one.” In its most simple and concise definition, an allegory is when a piece of visual or narrative media uses one thing to “stand-in for” a different, hidden idea.

 So what is an allegorical poem? It’s still a poem, but what distinguishes it is that it’s a poem with two meanings. The first meaning is the obvious one, the literal meaning. The second meaning is symbolic.

  •  FORM AND FORMLESS: THE BONDAGE AND THE FREEDOM 

The story here is a form. It has a definite form and space. So it’s limited. But behind the form, there is a formless truth which is eternal. You can say it as a silence of form. 

The form is not the ultimate goal, but the truth inside is the final goal. 

   However, we can’t deny the form. It is the basic, the primary, the ground. It’s a medium to have infinite, formless eternity, the truth. In a song, Rabindranath expressed: “Rup- Sagore dub Jiechi Arup ratan Asha kori”. The meaning here is: Plunging into the ocean of forms, hoping to get an amorphous gem. His other verse ” Simar major Asim tumi bajao apan Sur/ Amar made Tomar Lila tai ato modhur”. ‘The form of the ocean’ or Sima’ here is a form, the worldly cage; on the other hand, asim is a free soul. 

 In his essay book,  ” Sahityer Pathe”, the poet expressed his thoughts: 

  ” The form has a limitation. But when the form shows only the boundaries, then it doesn’t show the truth. On the other hand, its boundaries act like a lamp illuminating the eternity within us”. 

    So a great poet tells a story in his creation, may it be verse or drama or any other type of form. The story has an outer meaning and a deeper meaning. Either he/she used to express their inherent truth through imagery or allegory. From the wise sages of ancient India, the saint poets of Charyapada to modern poets used this literary technique in their writings when they expressed grave and significant lessons. 

          To get the full significance of symbolic meaning, we have to dig beneath the surface and read between the lines. The symbolic meaning forces the reader to interpret the text, to figure out what the poet is trying to say without coming right out and saying it. Perhaps the poet is making a political critique or social commentary. It’s up to the reader to figure it out.

  • ALLEGORY IN DANTE’S THE DIVINE COMEDY 

      Let’s see an example of allegory in Dante’s poem. The first part of The Divine Comedy is Inferno, which is a very classic example of an allegorical poem. In Dante’s version of hell, there is a sort of ‘eye for an eye’ poetic justice motif. The sullen choke on mud; the gluttonous are forced to eat faeces; the greedy are placed underneath a stream of fire. So, one of the allegorical meanings in Inferno is that God created hell to punish all sins. God will match the severity of a person’s sins with what he deems is a proper penalty.

  • The Parable Of Two Birds: In Mundaka Upanishad 

“On engaging with prose, poetry, and verse to iterate or tautologies on the nature of my adornment, I read The Parable of the Two Birds from the Mundaka Upanishad which I found extremely fitting to the nature of my exploration. The parable describes the nature of the human mind through the metaphor of two similar birds. In Sanskrit, the verse reads as – 

द्वा सुपर्णा सयुजा सखाया समानं वृक्षं परिषस्वजाते।

तयोरन्य: पिप्पलं स्वाद्वत्त्यनश्नन्नन्यो अभिचाकशीति॥

समाने वृक्षे पुरुषों निमग्नोऽनाशया शोचति मुह्यमान:।

जुष्टं यदा पश्यत्यन्यमीशमस्य महिमानमिति वीतशोक:॥

यदा पश्य: पश्यते रुक्मवर्णं कर्तारमीशं पुरुषं ब्रह्मयोनिम्।

तदा विद्वान्पुण्यपापे विधूय निरंजन: परमं साम्यमुपैति॥

  • RISHI SRI AUROBINDO  translates the original verses of this parable as – 

“Two birds, beautiful of wings, close companions, cling to one common tree: of the two one eats the sweet fruit of the tree, the other eats not but watches his fellow. The soul is the bird that sits immersed on the common tree; but because he is not a lord he is bewildered and has sorrow. But when he sees others who are the Lord and the beloved, he knows that all is His greatness and his sorrow passes away from him. 

    When, a seer, sees the Golden-hued, the maker, the Lord, the Spirit who is the source of Brahman, then he becomes the knower and shakes from his wings sin and virtue; pure of all stain he reaches the supreme identity.”

The two-bird parable is, in fact, Vedic in its origin; the first shloka belongs to the Rig Veda itself. (I: 164:20) The complete description given there is as follows :

“Two birds with fairy wings, knit with bonds of friendship, in the same sheltering tree have found a refuge. One of the twain eats the sweet Fig-tree’s fruitage; the other eats not regardeth only. Where those fine Birds hymn ceaselessly their portion of life eternal, and the sacred synods, there is the Universe’s mighty Keeper who, wise, hath entered into me the simple. The tree whereon the fine Birds eat the sweetness, where they all rest and procreate their offspring, upon its top they say the fig is luscious: none gaineth who knoweth not the father.”

The parable describes two birds who sit on the same bough, while the bird on the lower branch relishes the joys of the ripened fruit, the bird on the branch above derives its pleasure from being a silent witness and looks on. 

             The two birds in this story reveal the 2 species of the soul. Suparna (dual) describes the active and passive nature of the human spirit. These two birds are intimate parts of our secret being. The Bird which is the Spectator / Witness widens our vision to external sight. The Active / Doer bird experiences the pleasures and rewards of seeing and knowing.

• The Bondage and the Freedom: Rabindranath Tagore’s Views of Two Birds :

The parable of The Two Birds has been interpreted by many thinkers. Rabindranath told in his essay ( Raso – probondho) ” Kabyer tatparya ” ( Panchobhut) : 

 “One of the merits of the verse is that the creative power of a poet is to inspire the reader’s creativity.”

 So naturally some of his eminent critics analysed according to their skills of creativity. The poet and critic, Mohitlal Majumdar explained about ” Dui Pakhi” in his book” Kobi Rabindranath O Rabindra Kabya”.  Boner Pakhi ( Forest Bird) to him is a free and unbondaged human being.

 He explained Khanchar Pakhi ( The Caged Bird) as a captivated man who is chained by superstitions, bigotry. 

      He wrote: ” We; by the rules of our scriptures and the ruling of the victor, are captivated”. 

  I think this explanation has been simplified by the critic. He remarks it as an oppressed subservient or dependent under the foreign ruler and as a torchered progeny. But really it does not tally with the tone and voice of the Sonar Tori. 

     On the other hand, in Tagore’s life and lifestyle, the role of Upanishad was stupendous. His voyage of life started following the songs of Upanishad. Even his father and the environment of the house was tuned to the music of Upanishad. So I think there’s an enormous influence on painting boner pakhi, of course, he did not refuse home ( cage). 

     Rabindranath once visited Odisha’s Bhubaneswar Temple. Gawking the temple – God, he recalled the slokas of Upanishads. He seemed that God is manifested there along with the restless humanity. In this context, the poet explained the sloka or mantra of two birds. 

    Every jivatma ( Individual soul/ sentient) is united with paramatma ( Supreme spirit/ the Highest Being). The picture I see  being meditative, that is, I’m alone realising it, travelling in this state, questing, within my inner self the Shantang Shivam Adaityam ( Supreme Spirit) silently is dwelling. ( ‘Mandir’ : Bharatbarsha ) 

    Subsequently, Rabindranath wrote in “Japan Yatri “: 

      It has been written in Upanishad, two birds sitting in a bough, one of them is eating sweet pupil  fruits ,  other just looking at it. The bird who is observing, his pleasure is abundant and this pleasure is higher pleasure. The cause of this pleasure is pure and free. It’s divine pleasure. Both the birds are dwelling in the heart of human beings. One bird consumes  the materialistic world and the other is getting pleasure from seeing it. 

   Now the question is, Is there any affinity with the thought of Tagore and Upanishad? 

         We have seen in Upanishad that one bird is Jiba and the other is God or Supreme Spirit. Jiba is living in a physical body (Cage)and consuming worldly materials. But when his hope and longings are not fulfilled, jiba is facing pain and suffering. But that very jivatma indifferently visions the Supreme spirit or God, then all sorrows and sufferings will have disappeared. 

      It is distinctly narrated in Upanishad through the symbol of Two Birds that one is Jiva who has to face worldly suffering and the other is beyond this worldly  suffering. 

    Here the first Bird is a part of the whole, not the whole. And so, sorrowful, suffered. On the other hand, the second Bird is the Supreme soul or spirit having no worldly sorrows in Him. Here’s the difference of views between Upanishad and Rabindranath. 

      Although the caged bird is confined and the forest bird is free, both of them are sufferers. The first bird of Upanishad  is suffering from the ego , so faces sorrows and pain, but in the thought of Rabindranath, both of the birds are sufferers. Why do they suffer? 

     Because they are unable to assimilate with each other. As both of them are sorrowful, so they’re confined in egos. It’s noticeable that the forest – bird favours  the beautifully decorated blue sky. So it’s proved that the so-called free bird doesn’t neglect worldly beauty, it doesn’t think worldly beauty as transitory. Eventually, the free bird is not impassive or insensible; Possibly free from habits, but not free from longiing.

   There is another opinion pertaining to this poem Dui Pakhi. Rabindra- critic, Charu Chandra Bandhopadhay expressed his opinion on Dui Pakhi. 

     Rabindranath in his poem Upohar ( gift) of Manasi anthology, writes ” এ চিরজীবন তাই / আর কিছু কাজ নাই / রচি শুধু অসীমের সীমা।” ( Throughout my life, I have no other work, only to craft the infinite into this finite). Charu Chandra  has seen this same significance in Dui Pakhi. The poet also in my times uttered the same feelings in his poetry, drama, essays and also in painting. 

  •  TWO BIRDS IN TAGORE’S  WRITING: THE BONDAGE & THE FREEDOM 

Rabindranath Tagore identifies the relationship of the two birds with each other as that of one of the infinite beings and the finite self. 

          Tagore says that “Reality reveals itself in the emotional and imaginative background of our mind. We feel it and therefore we know it. This feeling itself is a feeling of pure delight, making even a tragic drama enjoyable. We see a thing because it belongs to itself and not to a class which we can only know; we see it, we feel it, and it becomes vivid. 

         In that sense, it is the “emotional and imaginative background of our mind” which would give the object its true soul of reality. If we have to push the reasoning farther then we would enter, through the doors of aesthesis, the very domain of Maya itself, Maya that is a kind of conceptually creative power of imagination.”

This is an image of the mutual relationship between the infinite being and the finite self. The delight of the bird which looks on is great, for it is a pure and free delight. There are both of these birds in man himself, the objective one with its business of life, the subjective one with its disinterested joy of vision.” 

      This is how Rabindranath Tagore interprets the two-bird metaphor of the Mundaka Upanishad. He seems to tell us that the act of seeing is more imaginative, more creative, and more real than the act of knowing. 

       The delight of the bird that looks on is greater than that of the bird that is busy with the facts of life. 

      “Reality,” says the poet, “reveals itself in the emotional and imaginative background of our mind.” 

We feel it and therefore we know it. This feeling itself is a feeling of pure delight, making even a tragic drama enjoyable. We see a thing because it belongs to itself and not to a class which we can only know; we see it, we feel it, and it becomes vivid. In that sense, it is the “emotional and imaginative background of our mind” which would give the object its true soul of reality.

        If we have to push the reasoning farther then we would enter, through the doors of aesthesis, the very domain of Maya itself, Maya that is a kind of conceptually creative power of imagination. That would make the imaginative world of an artist more than the living multitude we witness around, in life. 

So a sort of illusoriness is thus lent to the solidity of this entire objective universe, is this true? Does the Upanishadic two-bird metaphor imply that?

Two birds, beautiful wings, close companions. They cling to one common tree. Of the two one eats the sweet fruit of the tree, the other eats not but watches his fellow. 

      The soul is the bird that sits immersed on the common tree; but because he is not a lord he is bewildered and has sorrow. But when he sees that other who is the Lord and the beloved, he knows that all is His greatness and his sorrow passes away from him.

     When, a seer, sees the Golden-hued, the maker, the Lord, the Spirit who is the source of Brahman, then he becomes the knower and shakes from his wings sin and virtue; pure of all stain he reaches the supreme identity.

  • SRI AUROBINDO’S VIEWS: TWO BIRDS/ THE BONDAGE & THE FREEDOM 

In this translation, Sri Aurobindo has also revealed the esoteric contents of the original verses. The Sanskrit compound 

Brahmayoni admits two alternative meanings, both perfectly valid: Brahman is the Womb or Source of the Spirit, or else the Spirit as the Womb or Source from which comes Brahman.

     In contrast to Shankara, Sri Aurobindo fixes the second alternative to be appropriate, the Spirit as the Source of everything, including the Brahman. This makes Purusha, the Lord, the Spirit more fundamental; from it issues out this entire manifestation. 

    Surely, then, Sri Aurobindo does not have to say Brahman to be the source of inferior Brahman, rendering it eventually illusory. It would also dismiss the Tagorean sense of Reality revealed in our imaginative and emotional build-up. 

     Although the Upanishad is finally leading us on the Path of Renunciation, Sannyasa Yoga, taking us to the City of Brahman, Brahma-Puri or Brahma-Dharma  or Brahma-Loka, the sense of all this magnificent universe, 

viśvam˙ idam˙ varişţham

, as Brahman immortal and nought else is emphatically asserted without any ambiguity; it is this Brahman which “stretches everywhere”.

        It is in its wide effulgence that all is effulgent. It is in this effulgence that we should see the meaning of the two birds sharing a familiar fig tree, a tree with its thick luxurious foliage and sweet little fruits.

 The two-bird parable is Vedic in its origin, the first shloka belonging to Rig Veda itself. (I: 164:20) 

Rabindranath Tagore identifies the relationship of the two birds with each other as that of one of the infinite being and the finite self, though putting these two in man himself may not be quite justifiable. 

            The style of the Vedic Rishi-Poet can be “deep and mystic” or can have “melodious lucidity” or be “puissant and energetic” or flow with “even harmonies” and, unless it is fully grasped, the verses cannot be truly cognized. The touch of the spirit is needed. 

 We know that Tagore was not a Mystic poet like the Saint poet of Upanishad. But Upanishad influenced him deeply. His great poetry is the saint-poet utterance itself . At the same time, it’s expressive and affirmative of the supreme Word, taking him, as well as the earnest aspirant, to the fountainhead of the spiritual. 

So Poetry then becomes a divine surge of energy rushing upward and downward and everywhere in a splendid blaze of a thrilling vision assuming a shape defined by sight and lending itself to the music and the chant of sound and seizing the wondrous soul of delight in the sheer ineffability of some truth-conscient miracle. 

    As a result, It becomes Mantra which is “in its essence of Power the Eternal himself and its supreme movements a part of his very form and everlasting spiritual body, brahmaņo rūpam.” Only one who is familiar with this brahmaņo rūpam, with this divinity of the Word, can have access to the secret of the Vedic verses and can then alone try to bring it revealingly nearer to us.

It’s a Vedic Rik who boldly declares that one who does not know the Eternal cannot understand the Veda. Only a Rishi, the seer  -poet, can disclose it to us. And there is no other way, nānnyasya panthāh date. 

AMAL KIRAN’S VIEWS ON TWO BIRDS:

Amal Kiran’s Two Birds belongs to the category of a profound and revelatory disclosure. More than an interpretation of the Vedic-Upanishadic parable. It is a new and inspired creation in a joyously vibrant form of what is seen by the eye behind the eye, and a strange mystery is caught on the tableau of the inner mind.

        It is an image winging to the wideness of a luminous vision, and a shape of sound taking the occult body of a rhythmically delightful voice, and a gleaming idea bordering on the real, the real moulded in the substance of some fiery ether. The colours are rich, the tunes chantingly musical, phrasing rapturous and forceful, imagery.

 NOLINI KANTA’S VIEWS:

Nolini Kanta Gupta, the great seer and the disciple of Aurobindo, identifies the transcendent and the immanent as different forms of the same reality, performing different functions, by standing on different levels. He believes that the bird below is not a vain image or a mere reflection but a manifestation of the reality above. Both these positions are real, they only function differently.

This parable aptly fits into the nature of my practice for mastery. The Active State of masking/adorning is where I will draw my experience, these experiences will be reflected upon through the action of “Witnessing the Self”. Upon viewing my practice for mastery through this new lens I was able to create a blueprint of what my adornment should achieve.

 This is the true saga of life’s sacred most feelings through Rabindranath which talks about the failure of understanding how a soul wants to love and be loved back. TAGORE’S SONGS / Rabindrasangeet

This is the mother of all irony – that there is love between two souls but each one’s love can’t touch and stroke the other’s perception of love through understanding only because they are enmeshed in rigidities of all kinds.

 Yes, indeed, lovers can’t always understand each other although they try their best. The bars of the ‘cage prevent them from doing so.

There is a translation of this poem by William Radice, an Englishman who translated Tagore’s poetry and short stories. Besides, we have seen so many translations of two birds. I will try to attach here the translation of Rabindranath’s ” “Dui Pakhi”. Furthermore, I have the desire to discuss the different criticisms of this verse by different critics of Tagore.

     Indeed, the opinion of the different critics will not be the same. They have analysed these two birds’ allegory according to their attitude and taste. There is a story in this context.

Once a teacher gave a big piece of diamond to his student and asked him to take it to the market and try to negotiate the price for it. The student went to a vegetable seller who deals in eggplants.

This man said, “The piece of glass looks nice; I can take it for my daughter to play with. I offer you 12 kg of eggplant instead of this.”

Next the student took it to a cloth merchant who agreed to give 12 metres of white cloth, but no more because he felt that was also too much.

Now the teacher told the student to take it to a gem merchant. The gem merchant on seeing the diamond said, “It is a very perfect diamond and should fetch at least one million rupees.

I would advise you to take it to our capital and sell it there because that is where you will get the proper value. This place being a small town, you won’t get the real price.”

So the teacher now told the student that a person is capable of rating something only up to his /her standard. The vegetable seller values it at 12 kg of vegetables only. The cloth merchant goes slightly higher but feels it has been overrated. The gem merchant only could judge the real value.

It is only natural for many to judge Tagore as overrated. It is a reflection of the standard of the judge, nothing more.

– Story narrated by Sri Ramakrishna

Rabindranath and Sarat Chandra Chatterjee

 I have read  an essay which was written by the poet. It  was penned in 1892 to put into words a more universal philosophy — the duality that is part of saved human existence. 

 Once we obliterate the sameness of the two birds and attribute gender markers to them. 

   Tagore himself thought of the caged bird as the woman in every man, and the free bird as the man in every woman. ( The Home and the World). One critic writes: 

” Perhaps that is why it is structured along the lines of the traditional Shuk Shari saved — a conversational song between two birds  — wherein Shuk is a follower of the masculine, Purushottam Krishna, and Shari of Radha, the essence of femininity.

      Some critics asked, did the two birds represent the two stalwarts of Bengali Literature who lived at the same time?

Did one look inside homes and scan woes besetting the happiness of their human relationships? And did the other take off from his perch on a branch of threal-lifted in terra firma, to swim in the boundless ocean above?

Even today, one draws you out into the vast expanse while the other pulls you homeward. Together”?

The great poet, Rabindranath Tagore (1861 to 1941) and the Kathasilpi Saratchandra (1876-1938) were contemporaries. While Sarat Chandra wrote stories based on real-life to expose and reform social evils like Shuvoda, Bindur Chele, Sreekanta, Charitrahin, Shes proshno and so on; on the other hand, Tagore’s work was more philosophically inclined, though he has written of such societal issues too.

In 1894, Rabindranath wrote in “Aadhunik Sahitya” – 

“… There is an independently moving masculine entity within our nature, which is intolerant to bondage alongside a feminine one which prefers to be enclosed and secured within the walls of the home. Both of them remains united in an inseparable fashion.

How? One is eager to significantly develop his undying strength diversely by savouring ever-new tastes of life, exploring ever-new realms and manifestations and the other remains encircled within innumerable prejudices and traditional practices, enthralled with her habitual deliberations.

1)The First Love Of Rabindranath Thakur 2)SAROJINI NAIDU : THE NIGHTINGALE OF INDIA

One takes you out into the vast expanse and the other seems to pull you towards home. One is a forest bird or the free bird, the other is a caged bird. This bird is the one that sings much. Although, its song expresses with its diverse melodies the whimper and its craving for unrestricted freedom.

Rabindranath Tagore was a brilliant poet, writer, musician, artist, educator – a polymath. He was the first Nobel Laureate from Asia. His writing spanned genres, global issues and the world. His works remain relevant to this day.

Maya Angelou and Rabindranath

Rabindranath Tagore’s poem Two birds [1297 AD] and Maya Angelou’s poem ” I know why the caged bird sings”. It’s amazingly  similar spirits!. 

 I know why the caged bird sings

Maya Angelou:

Maya Angelou, born April 4, 1924, in St. Louis, was raised in segregated rural Arkansas. She was a poet, historian, author, actress, playwright, civil-rights activist, and director.

She lectured throughout the US and abroad and was Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in North Carolina since 1981.

Moreover, She published ten best-selling books and numerous magazine articles earning her Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award nominations. At the request of President Clinton, she wrote and delivered a poem at his 1993 presidential inauguration.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

The free bird leaps

on the back of the wind

and floats downstream

till the current ends

and dips his wings

in the orange sun rays

and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks

down his narrow cage

can seldom see through

his bars of rage

his wings are clipped and

his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings

with fearful trill

of the things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill for the caged bird

sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze

and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees

and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn

and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams

his shadow shouts in a nightmare scream

his wings are clipped and his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings

with a fearful trill

of things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for, the caged bird

sings of freedom.

The spirit and expression of the above poem are amazingly similar to a Bengali poem (Khanchar pakhi bale hay) by Indian poet Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. 

  This is the classic portrayal of opposite ideologies. And, every time you read you may find a parallel with what you may be going through in your life at that point.

They are  two love birds, but two Birds who live with their own choice, respect the other’s choice and figure out a way of working together that’s a common goal.

Beyond the ballad’s relationship with gender identities, it also. offers insights into fundamental yearnings within the human heart- at the centre of which is the desire to be free. 

     Its learning is not limited to the human universe. From this perspective, Tagore’s The Caged Bird and the Free Bird provides for a very early conversation relative to human enslavement and human trafficking.

Unfortunately, the  issues of colonial and racial dominance and exploitation long before, say, the appearance of Maya Angelou’s moving I know why the caged bird sings, or Frantz Fanon’s epochal The Wretched of the Earth. 

     Hence, the shelter and security which has defined womanhood (influenced by society to a considerable extent, and also their inner. truly gentle nature) has had its defendants even among their own (Sarat Chandra Chatterjee’s novels highlight this aspect abundantly), it has also historically had them pay severely in terms of freedom of expansion.

      Thus, the perennial dichotomy between freedom and boundaries- the one offering the lure of the new and the unknown in a space without boundaries, and the other offering shelter and security in either self-imposed or in its far worse manifestations, imposed and coercive boundaries., continues unabated long since Tagore’s ballad lyrically laid out the conversation.

  • What were the views of Swami Vivekananda    

two orange and blue macaws on branch
Photo by Jonny Lew on Pexels.com/ Two Free Birds/ The bondage and the freedom

   Swami Vivekananda referred to this as the glory of the Advaita system, “preaching a principle, not a person, yet allowing persons, both human and divine, to have their full play”. Read more: Swami Vivekananda’s Inspired Talks

  •  A Saga of Chandogya Upanishad: 

      The dialogue of the sage Uddalaka and his son Shvetaketu from the Chandogya Upa shad focuses on the identity of an individual with the Ultimate. The father here ichoicesing the son that while he may have learnt the texts, to complete his education, he has to learn by experience. Uddalaka says :

“There is nothing that does not come from him, Of everything, He is the inmost Self.

He is the Truth, He is the Self Supreme,

You are that Svetaketu, you are that….”

 •Views of Dr Radhakrishnan:

Dr S Radhakrishnan had said that the Upanishads “disclose the working of the primal impulses of the human soul which rise above the differences of race and geographical position ”.

      The language of the Upanishads must be understood in the context of when they were written or the life of the people of that period. The messages contained there are not associated with any particular religion or any theological reasoning but with the experience of spiritual life.

So neither is it the spiritual experience of one individual but the result of a great age of enlightenment over several generations passed on through ‘sruti’.

     Thus, the Upanishads’ truths remain relevant over centuries and across all religious boundaries. The analogy of the two golden birds in the Mundaka Upanishad perched in the same tree elucidates this point. 

    However, One represents ego while the other stands for detachment, both representing the duality of life. The focus of Mundaka is for the right discipline and moral stance to be developed to attain spiritual awareness about the identity of the self.

          This connection of the self with the Infinite has been propounded in the Chandogya Upanishad again – “as the river flowing east and west Merge in the sea and become one with it, forgetting they were ever separate rivers”. However, I am not sure whether other religions would be comfortable with this idea of unity.

  •  The Influence of Upanishad on Rabindranath:

           The Noble Laureate Rabindranath Tagore was greatly influenced by the Upanishads through his father. In his Gitanjali, it is this longing where he sometimes invokes God as his beloved or friend – “ask for a moment’s indulgence to sit by thy side”.

          In another poem, he denounces the worship of the Lord in a temple asking the devotee to search for him out in the open – “ he is there where the tiller is tilling” or “ the path maker is breaking stones”.

         Thus, Tagore’s thinking was an evolution of the philosophical content of the Upanishads though very much aligned to the concept of the changeless Lord of Love, who is the goal of all knowledge as mentioned in the Shvetashvatara Upanishad.

The Upanishads are darshanas, to listen and imbibe. It’s about the unity of all things. It’s not about beliefs but experience. No wonder it has therefore lived the test of times.

“All that is full. All that is full.

From fullness, fullness comes.

When fullness is taken from fullness,

Fullness remains”.

            Two birds that are ever associated and have similar names cling to the same tree. Of these, one eats the fruit of divergent tastes, and the other looks on without eating.

On the same tree, the individual soul remains drowned (i.e. stuck), as it were, and so it means, being worried by its helplessness. When it sees thus the other, the adored Lord, and His glory, then it becomes liberated from sorrow.

As a result, when the seer sees the Purusha – the golden-hued, creator, Lord, and the source of the inferior Brahman – then the illumined one completely shakes off both merit and demerit, becomes taintless, and attains absolute equality [1]. ( Swami Gamvirananda) 

  • Symbolism in Two Birds Story: 

The bound bird is the individual soul who is ignorant of his/her true nature, the free one is God, the tree is the dwelling place (i.e., body-mind complex), fruits – sweet (pleasures) and bitter (pain) – are results of one’s actions (karma), helplessness signifies the travails of being in ignorance, the “seeing” towards Purusha (or the free bird) implies turning attention towards God and doing spiritual practice (sadhana) to attain the Lord. Having attained the goal, the sense of individuality is lost completely and one is beyond the effects of karma (both merit and demerit).

  • A wise friend attempted to depict this symbolism in poetry as follows:

Two birds of beautiful plumage perched on the tree,

One bound to the world and the other eternally free.

The free bird, serene, stood still on the treetop,

Watching the lower one, bound, on the twigs do a hop.

Eating the fruits both sweet and bitter,

Spend its time and resources in a fritter.

The serene transcended both pleasure and pain,

Eating the fruits, the bound remained in the chain.

The pain of bitter fruits taught it lessons of regret,

The pleasure of sweet fruits made it forget.

The pain of bitterness made the bound ponder,

Resolving to reach the serene on the yonder.

Relinquishing its resolve with the arrival of pleasure,

Indulges in eating fruits again to go beyond its leisure.

But the frequent bitterness in fruits kept it in remind,

To reach the serene is the goal of the mind.

Rises to reach the serene, it will, only if little by little

At its own pace and measure to prove its mettle.

Approaching the serene it no longer remains bound

It and the serene were always One and so It found.

  • Tagore Writings and  the philosophy:   

We see a  substantial amount of Tagore’s writing was in the form of nonfictional prose—essays and articles, religious and philosophical treatises, journals and memoirs, lectures and discourses, history and polemics, letters, and travel accounts. 

              Of these, his philosophical writings—Sadhana: The Realisation of Life (1913), Nationalism (1917), Personality (1917), Creative Unity (1922), The Religion of Man (1931), and Towards Universal Man (1961)—were central to his thought.

                             These writings were deeply influenced by the mantra  of the Upanishads. In the preface to Sadhana, which was published in the Harvard lecture series, he confessed, 

       “The writer has been brought up in a family where texts of the Upanishads are used in daily worship; and he has had before him the example of his father who lived his long life in the closest communion with God while not neglecting his duties to the world or allowing his keen interest in all human affairs to suffer any abatement.” 

  • God-Man and Man-God: 

     What appealed to Tagore the most in the teachings of the Upanishads was the concept of God as positive, personal, and realizable through love. He was also attracted to the Vaishnava ideal of love as the basis of the man-God relationship. He believed that love drama-drama between man and God was being enacted in sensible colour, sound, and touch.

         He was not only conscious of man’s divinity but also God’s humanity. In Sonar Tari he wrote, “Whatever I can offer to God I offer to man to God I give whatever I can give to man. In his languages: Debotare haha site Pari, dii taha priyojane;/ Debotare priyo kori priere devote”.  God man and man God. Such philosophical wisdom was reflected in many of his lyrics and dramas.

  • East and West: Tagore as an Ambassador:

Finally, the Nobel laureate poet dictated his last poem a few hours before his death on August 7, 1941. The leading newspapers of the world published editorials paying tribute to him as “India’s greatest man of letters,” “the soul of Bengal,” and “ambassador of friendship between East and West.” But the Washington Post provided perhaps the most telling of assessments:

       “Tagore believed that East and West do not represent antagonistic and irreconcilable attitudes of the human mind, but that they are complementary, and since Tagore’s work and thought represented a fusion of East and West, the fate of his  poems and dramas at the hands of later generation maybe the test of whether the age-old gulf between Asia and Europe can ever be bridged.”

Rabindranath Tagore’s Lyrical Ballad on Bondage and Freedom : 

      Rabindranath Tagore Several of balladic poems addressing numerous social and philosophical issues relating to human society and existential dilemmas.  They are invariably deeply reflective, and brilliantly crafted- in the Bengali language they are simply unmatched and can need to be equaled for their lyrical beauty, and are transcendently uplifting for their inner primocane

      In many cases, as in this balladiGodmanchange between two metaphorical birds, Tagore, who often delighted in both bondage and freedom (“Deliverance is not for me in renunciation; I feel the embrace of freedom in a thousand bonds of delight.”)- always in the metaphorical sense, since he felt deeply bonded to the earth, its inhabitants, and also his motherland and its  own oppressed people, yet his entire philosophy of life revolved around freedom, of which he wrote copiously.  For him, freedom is often best epitomized by the free bird, soaring to great heights in an unbounded sky.

The most curious aspect of Tagore’s take on issues which are conflicted is that he is not invariably unipolar in his outlook (except for those matters which in his mind are ethically and humanistically indefensible).  

      Thus, even in the inherently polarizing issue (at least from the social context) of freedom versus bondage, Tagore takes a sympathetic view of the caged bird, and in this balladic composition, which has received much attention worldwide since Tagore’s boom years following the Nobel Prize (1913), he offers points and counterpoints on behalf of both the free bird and the caged bird.  While his inclination (in a subtle way) towards the free does not hold the caged bird in contempt.

The above equanimity on matters of polarizing perspectives is very characteristic of Tagore. And its poetic sensibility enabled us to see all issuaddressfferent planes of observation.

  Therefore,  It must be pointed out here that this particular balladic poem was written relatively early in Tagore’s literary career(1892), when he was 31 (incidentally, this was a year before his equalled contemporary luminary of the Bengal Renaissance, Swami Vivekananda, had acquired worldwide acclaim as the messenger for the Universal message of Hinduism, following the 1893 Chicago World Parliament of Religions.  And notably, long before their worldwide acclaim post-1913, Tagore was already both vocal and far-sighted on critical social issues.  Here, for instance, is sailing on his views pertinent to The Caged Bird and the Free Bird from 1894:

“….… There is a gently moving masculine entity within our nature, which is intolerant to bondage alongside a feminine one which prefers to be enclosed and secured within the walls of the home. Both of them remain united in an inseparable fashion. 

So, One is eager to develop significantly his undying strength in a diverse way by savo(u)ring ever-new tastes of life, exploring ever-new realms and manifestations and the other remains encircled within innumerable prejudices and traditional practices, enthralled with her habitual deliberations.

   One takes you out into the vast expanse and the other seems to pull you towards home. One is a forest bird and the other is a caged bird. This forest bird is the one that sings much. Although, its song expresses with its diverse melodies the whimper and its craving for unrestricted freedom….”  Tagore, Adhunik Sahitya (1894).

     Before reading Tagore’s views as quoted above,   felt from a reading of the ballad that the tone of the poem, while not overtly identifying the genders of the two birds, somehow the Free Bird was based on a masculine interpretation, while the Caged Bird was feminine.

          His personal views confirm this instinct.  Tagore’s Caged Bird is closely allied with the role of womanhood (definitely from Tagore’s time in the late 1800s, and to a certain degree, even today) in society. 

           Women are seen in society (and also taught accordingly) as home-builders and home-makers (the latter word being even more prevalent today in especially conservative circles)- which are in upon the ideas of shelters and “safe corners.”  

On the other hand, men are the seekers, the adventurers, the ones in the wilderness. Thus, the freedom to be wild and unfettered is a very masculine impulse; the sign of shelter and wishing to be tied to a safe corner is very feminine.  In some ways, these are worlds of opposites, and yet society must draw a line of equilibrium between them.

    Rabindranath  Tagore wrote this ballad 130 years ago, but the polar planes of femininity and masculinity are still very much in conflict. Sometimes the prevailing manipulation further subjugates womanhood which Tagore believed in and is hence prone to exploitation.

Tagore’s Caged Bird feels safe in the security of the cage, the traditions of memorized songs and ideas, and the stationarity of stability.  His Free Bird, by contrast, likes the boundlessness of the sky, the spontaneity of his woodland and songs, and the freedom to spread his wings for the unknown.  Distinctly, the bondage and the freedom, both the situation of the society had a great role in Tagore’s thoughts.

      So this is a timeless dichotomy, and both preferences have their place in the play of life.  Tagore ultimately aligns himself with the principle but does not entirely discount the validity of boundaries and security.  The human spirit forever seeks to find a balance between these two.

        In the modern context, the embedded psychological diver between the masculine and the feminine gets even more stratified when intermediate gender identities (usually disregarded or overlooked in conventional history, until very recent years) are mixed in.

             Beyond the ballad’s relationship with gender identities, it also offers insights into fundamental yearnings within the human heart- the centre of which is the desire to be, this yearning is not limited to the human universe either.  

       So from this perspective, Tagore’s The Caged Bird and the Free Bird provides for a very early conversation relative to human enslavement and human trafficking, and the issues of colonial and racial dominance and exploitation long before, say, the appearance of Maya Angelou’s verse ” I know why the caged bird sings. 

             Hence, while the shelter and security which has defined womanhood are influenced by society to a considerable extent, and also their inherently gentle nature) has had its defendants even among their own (Sarat Chandra Chatterjee’s novels highlight this spect abundantly), it has also historically had them pay severely in terms of freedom and expansion. Read Tagore’s Sadharan Meye. There, he requested Sarat Chandra Chatterjee, “oh Sarat baby! Write a story of a common girl…”. 

Thus, the perennial dichotomy between freedom and bound diaries- the one offering the lure of the new and the unknown aspace without boundaries, and the other offering shelter and security in either self-imposed or its far worse manifestations, imposed and coercive boundaries, continues unabated long since Tagore’s ballad lyrically laid out the conversation.

 Rabindranath’s ”  O My Bird 

The Gardener 67: O My Bird

Though the evening comes with slow steps

and has signalled for all songs to cease;

Though your companions have gone

to their rest and you are tired;

Though fear broods in the dark

and the face of the sky is veiled;

Yet, bird, O my bird, listen to me,

do not close your wings.

That is not the gloom of the leaves of the forest,

that is the sea swelling like a dark black snake.

That is not the dance of the flowering jasmine,

that is flashing foam.

Ah, where is the sunny green shore, where is your nest?

Bird, O my bird, listen to me, do not close your wings.

The nightlight lies along your path,

the dawn sleeps behind the shadowy hills.

The stars hold their breath counting the hours,

The feeble moon swims in the deep night.

Bird, O my bird, listen to me, do not close your wings.

There is no hope, no fear for you.

There is no word, no whisper, no cry.

There is no home, no bed for rest.

There is our pair of wings and the pathless sky.

Bird, O my bird, listen to me, do not close your wings.

1) http://savitri.in/blogs/light-of-supreme/the-parable-of-two-birds

2) http:/, andry.yoexpert.com/reading-studying-poems/what-are-the-Hindu-influences-on-ts-Eliot-s-%22waste-955.html

3) http://ykjanaki.blogspot.com/2015/07/maya-or-illusion.html

4)http://www.ramakrishnavivekananda.info/vivekananda/volume_2/jnana-yoga/maya_and_illusion.htm

4) The Way of the Sufi -Idriess Shah – 1968 

5) Swami Gambhirananda, the former president of RK Math and Mission, Belur. 

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