Rabindranath Tagore: Death has brought thy call to my home



Death, thy servant, is at my door. He has crossed the unknown sea and brought thy call to my home.

The night is dark and my heart is fearful-- yet I will take up the lamp, open my gates and bow to him my welcome. It is thy messenger who stands at my door.

I will worship him with folded hands, and with tears. I will worship him placing at his feet the treasure of my heart.

He will go back with his errand done, leaving a dark shadow on my morning; and in my desolate home only my forlorn self will remain as my last offering to thee.

       --"Gitanjali" (Song Offerings) of Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) in Collected Poems and Plays (1951).

Buddha: A lifetime is like a flash of lightning in the sky


This existence of ours is as transient as autumn clouds.
To watch the birth and death of beings is like looking at the movements of a dance.
A lifetime is like a flash of lightning in the sky,
rushing by, like a torrent down a steep mountain.

            --Gautama Buddha

If anyone knows the translator and source of this quotation, please email me.

It seems to be from: Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche; “The Last Teaching of the Buddha,” in
The Teaching of the Buddha, 128th revised edition (Tokyo: Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai, 1986)

Valmiki's Ramayana: Compassion and grief as the origin of poetry

In the Hindu tradition, sadness and compassion are the very origin of poetry.

Valmíki, a sage, is wandering in the forest when he sees “an inseparable pair ofK9saruscranecrossover_nature_photo_ sweet-voiced krauñcha birds wandering about.” Just then a Nishada hunter, “filled with malice and intent on mischief,” fatally wounds the male of the pair.  While the stricken bird writhes on the forest floor, his mate utters “a piteous cry”Krauncha_birds_killed and the sage is filled with compassion.  As he listens to the grieving bird, the sage says, “Since, Nishada, you killed one of this pair of krauñchas, distracted at the height of passion, you shall not live for very long.” As he meditates on his own words, Valmíki realizes their true nature:  “Fixed in metrical quarters, each with a like number of syllables, and fit for the accompaniment of stringed and percussion instruments, the utterance that I produced in this access of shoka, grief, shall be called shloka, poetry, and nothing else.” Thus was the Ramáyana, and indeed, poetry itself, created.

        --Eric Ormsby, "The jewel in the cobra's mouth" in The New Criterion, May 2005

Tagore: Those who are near me do not know

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Those who are near me do not know that you are nearer to me than they are
Those who speak to me do not know that my heart is full with your unspoken words
Those who crowd in my path do not know that I am walking alone with you
They who love me do not know that their love brings you to my heart.

    —Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), Gitanjali. He translated the poems into English himself.

The original Bengali poem (1901) and other Tagore poems can be found here. Thanks to Sourav Guha for the source.

   যারা কাছে আছে তারা কাছে থাক্‌, তারা তো পারে না জানিতে--
     তাহাদের চেয়ে তুমি কাছে আছ আমার হৃদয়খানিতে ॥
যারা কথা বলে তাহারা বলুক,   আমি করিব না কারেও বিমুখ--
     তারা নাহি জানে ভরা আছে প্রাণ তব অকথিত বাণীতে।
     নীরবে নিয়ত রয়েছে আমার নীরব হৃদয়খানিতে ॥
তোমার লাগিয়া কারেও, হে প্রভু,   পথ ছেড়ে দিতে বলিব না, কভু,
     যত প্রেম আছে সব প্রেম মোরে তোমা-পানে রবে টানিতে--
     সকলের প্রেমে রবে তব প্রেম আমার হৃদয়খানিতে।
সবার সহিতে তোমার বাঁধন   হেরি যেন সদা এ মোর সাধন--
     সবার সঙ্গ পারে যেন মনে তব আরাধনা আনিতে।
          সবার মিলনে তোমার মিলন
                   জাগিবে হৃদয়খানিতে ॥


Photo used by kind permission of Daniel Schwabe.