Rabindranath was not a man confined to this country. He was a world traveler, educated in the West, and he was continually moving around the world in different countries – he loved to be a wanderer. He was a citizen of the universe, yet his roots were deep in this country. He may have flown far away like an eagle across the sun, but he kept on coming back to his small nest. And he never lost track of the spiritual heritage, no matter how covered with dust it may have become. He was capable of cleaning it and making it a mirror in which you can see yourself.
His poems in Gitanjali are offerings of songs to God. That is the meaning of Gitanjali: offerings of songs. He used to say, “I have nothing else to offer. I am just as poor as a bird, or as rich as a bird. I can sing a song every morning fresh and new, in gratefulness. That is my prayer.”
He never went to any temple, he never prayed in the traditional ritual way. He was born a Hindu, but it would not be right to confine him to a certain section of humanity, he was so universal. He was told many times, “Your words are so fragrant with religion, so radiant with spirituality, so alive with the unknown that even those who do not believe in anything more than matter become affected, are touched. But you never go to the temple, you never read the scriptures.”
His answer is immensely important for you. He said, “I never read the scriptures; in fact I avoid them, because I have my own experience of the divine, and I don’t want others’ words to be mixed with my original, authentic, individual experience. I want to offer God exactly what is my heartbeat. Others may have known – certainly, others have known – but their knowledge cannot be my knowledge. Only my experience can satisfy me, can fulfill my search, can give me trust in existence. I don’t want to be a believer.”
These are the words to be remembered: “I don’t want to be a believer; I want to be a knower. I don’t want to be knowledgeable; I want to be innocent enough so that existence reveals its mysteries to me. I don’t want to be worshipped as a saint.” And the fact is, that in this whole century, there was nobody else more saintly than Rabindranath Tagore – but he refused to be recognized as a saint.
He said, “I have only one desire – to be remembered as a singer of songs, as a dancer, as a poet who has offered all his potential, all his flowers of being, to the unknown divineness of existence. I don’t want to be worshipped; I consider it a humiliation…ugly, inhuman, and removed from the world completely. Every man contains God; every cloud, every tree, every ocean is full of godliness, so who is to worship whom?”
It reminds me of another great mystic, Nanak, on whose songs Sikhism is founded. He was not the founder of it – it was not a deliberate act on his part. He simply went on singing his songs with his one disciple, Mardana, who was playing the sitar as he was singing.