Where The Mind Is Without Fear by Rabindranath Tagore
Bijay Kant Dubey
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
Where words come out from the depth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms
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
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father,
let my country awake.
Where The Mind Is Without Fear or call it Heaven of Freedom is one the lyrics taken from Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali, Song Offerings written in 1910 and collected from different Bengali works of his own and thereafter translated by him or in consultation with others. We all know it that the work Gitanjali for which he got the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913 with a nice Introduction by William Butler Yeats which but served as a greater recommendation too at the same time as well as an admirable piece of criticism on him is a devotional work reminding us of the bhakti-tradition of yore which still does the rounds. Even Indira Gandhi too used to love this poem as Nehru Robert Frost’s Stopping By The Woods On A Snowy Evening. Whatever be that, almost all the poems written and included in Gitanjali are in the form of prayer reflective of our age-old tradition of submitting to the Divine. Here the prayer is to deliver from the shackles of bondage, is to liberate the self from the yoke which it hinges upon. The desire of being free from is the inherent thought and idea of the poem.
The poet dreams of a heaven of freedom where there will be no suffocation of thought, no outward influence exerted upon or unnecessary pressure given. There will be co-ordination between what we say, what we do, between our karma and dharma, what we dream, what we execute or put into reality. Words will come out of the depths of truth. A world free from anxiety and dismemberment, he envisages here in this poem. If the situation is devastating and distraught, how will peace come to? The things quintessential of world citizenship, internationalism, humanism and liberalism have been incorporated in to add to poetic verve and strength. Without being a world citizen, how can one dream of? None but a humanist of the first order can write in such a way.
The mind will be free from fear and the head will hold high. Where knowledge is free and imparted to all, where there is no restriction in getting it freely, he thinks of that land and the imagery connected with. If knowledge is not free, things will not be achieved and ignorance will mar it everything. Knowledge opens our eyes, broadens our world-view of life, widening its spectrum and range of delving. Knowledge is power. Education is light. If light is not shown to all, how will the countrymen prosper? They will languish and lag behind in darkness. Lead us from darkness to light, is the Upanishadic thing to be felt here. Satyameva jayate, truth only prevails lies it inscribed on the Ashokan pillars.
If narrow domestic walls keep damaging the spirit of the nation, its unity, solidarity and integrity then how to think of its unification, the confederation in totality? Fissiparous tendencies must be checked. The people will have to be united and nationalistic if they want to achieve freedom or free atmosphere, but to be a nationalist is not to be a hater of man and others. In nationalism lies it the understanding of internationalism, universal love and brotherhood. If the wars continue to wreak havoc, can peace be attained? The narrow walls which divide humanity should not be encouraged and entertained. The narrow will remain narrow if they want it not to widen their horizon of thinking. Broad-mindedness is the need of the hour. The world needs a humanist, a thinker who can at least think about it, the betterment of our human society.
The poet says that we must always stretch our arms towards perfection. We cannot be perfect if we devote not our heart and soul, if we labour not wholeheartedly for attaining it. So, what to be done for perfection? We need to be karmayogis. We need to be activists. Our thought and action have to be inconsonance with each other. Our karma is dharma. What we do, we shall be accountable for that. There should not be any gap in between what we do and what we dream. There must be a co-ordination in between the two. Work is worship should be our ideal. Service to man is service to God should be our philosophy of life without any discrimination on any ground, be that racial, ethnic or any divisive prejudice or reckoning. We should not stick to any narrow thinking. To be of a narrow mentality is not good for any healthy thinking.
Apart from good idea and thought, reasoning is a must for constructive thinking and developmental works. If the world is to be reconstructed and rebuilt, it will require a lot of logical idea and thinking free from medievalist and superstitious thoughts. We have to be logical and reasonable. Logic gives the power to reason, debate and discuss as we cannot accept it all blindly, adhering to conventional things. Tennyson has rightly said it, ‘The old order changeth yielding place to new.’ Things need to be explained in the right perspective. Reasoning widens our faculty. If we fail to reason or have no right to question and ask then fatalism, soothsaying, hocus-pocus and inaction will take over and our reasoning faculty will die and dry down ultimately. So, what we must be doing is this that we should keep the clear stream of reason flowing, without obstructing its natural flow. If the clear stream of reasoning flows and falls into the desert sand of dead habits then the rivulet will lose its existence. So the dead thoughts and habits must be discouraged and abandoned if society has to develop.
Our mind should be led forward by Him, the Lord-God of all, into an ever-widening horizon of thought and action. If our thought and action are co-ordinated nothing can hamper the development of the country. Who can better lead than Lord-God if He leads us not? He is the Creator, the Destroyer. Everything is but into the hands of His. Let us approach Him with utmost humility.
Into that heaven of freedom, the poet prays to let it be aroused, into that spirit of freeness, let us awake and arise from our slumber. Though the poem has not been titled, the first line serves as the right title for it. Some pick up the last line words to tile it as Heaven of Freedom which is but an ideal concept of the poet who thinks of the liberation and freedom of India as per the ideal lines. The poem is inclusive of the ingredients and kernels of the karma-marga, the gnan-marga and the bhakti-marga as mentioned in the Bhagavad-Gita. In a prayerful tone of own, he thinks of the linkage of action with knowledge. Where The Mind Is Without Fear is a song of karma and of dharma and we need to be karmayogins if we really want to reconstruct and rebuild. For it we need ideas and thoughts; our dreams need to be converted into reality. The Over Soul, the Over Mind whatever call we helps those who help themselves. With God in our hearts, we must keep doing and dispensing with. Inner spectrum needs to be widened in consonance with our vision and mission.
In Bengali it is actually Chitto Jetha Bhayshunyo transcreated or rendered into English as Where The Mind Is Without Fear, one among the series of poems unified into a whole). The poem seems to have been written in 1900 and was included in Naivedya collection titled as Prarthona. Tagore himself once titled it Indian Prayer. Whatever be that story of making or unmaking of the draft, the poem definitely awakens and arouses us from deep slumber of inaction to a dawn of new thinking and light.