“My work is loving the world.”

In the 1930 Hibbert Lectures (a yearly series of lectures that began in 1847), Rabindranath Tagore tells the audience about how he “came to discover that in my conduct I was not strictly loyal to my religion, but only to the religious institution”, and gaining “conviction that in religion, and also in the arts, that which is common to a group is not important. Indeed, very often it is a contagion of mutual imitation.”

He goes on to narrate that he “chanced to hear a song from a beggar belonging to the Baul sect of Bengal”, and quotes the following lines from the song:

“Temples and mosques obstruct thy path,

and I fail to hear thy call or to move,

when the teachers and priest angrily crowd round me.”

Tagore then observes that the Baul “does not follow any tradition of ceremony, but only believes in love” — a love Divine, for which “heaven longs to become earth and gods to become man.”

In a letter to Swami Brahmananda (written sometime in 1895 and published in “The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda”), Swami Vivekananda points out that, at its heart, love is unselfishness, and “is the only law of life.” Indeed, Swamiji says that ” just as you breathe to live”, it is true that “He who loves lives.” 

If we contemplate on what Tagore, the nameless Baul, and Swami Vivekananda are teaching us, we realize what Mary Oliver means in the first line of “Messenger” (published in her collection of poems titled “Thirst”):

“My work is loving the world.”

Peace 🙂

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