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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Second Birth
By Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941)
From ‘Personality,’ Chapter III

BUT this Supreme Person, the centre of all reality, is not merely a passive, a negatively receptive being. Ananda-rupam amrtam yad vibādti. He is the joy which reveals itself in forms. It is his will which creates.  1
  Will has its supreme response, not in the world of law, but in the world of freedom, not in the world of nature, but in the spiritual world.  2
  This we know in ourselves. Our slaves do our bidding, furnish us with our necessaries, but in them our relation is not perfect. We have our own freedom of will which can find its true harmony only in the freedom of other wills. Where we are slaves ourselves, in our selfish desires, we feel satisfaction in slaves. For slaves reflect our own slavery, which comes back to us, making us dependent. Therefore when America freed her slaves she truly freed herself, not only from the spiritual, but also from the material slavery. Our highest joy is in love. For there we realize the freedom of will in others. In friends, the will meets our will in fulness of freedom, not in coercion of want or fear; therefore, in this love, our personality finds its highest realization.  3
  Because the truth of our will is in its freedom, therefore all our pure joy is in freedom. We have pleasure in the fulfilment of our necessity,—but this pleasure is of a negative nature. For necessity is a bondage, the fulfilment of which frees us from it. But there comes its end. It is different with our delight in beauty. It is of a positive nature. In the rhythm of harmony, whatever may be its reason, we find perfection. There we see not the substance, or the law, but some relationship of forms which has its harmony with our personality. From the bondage of mere lines and matter comes out that which is above all limitations—it is the complete unity of relationship. We at once feel free from the tyranny of unmeaningness of isolated things,—they now give us something which is personal to our own self. The revelation of unity in its passive perfection, which we find in nature, is beauty; the revelation of unity in its active perfection, which we find in the spiritual world, is love. This is not in the rhythm of proportions, but in the rhythm of wills. The will, which is free, must seek for the realization of its harmony other wills which are also free, and in this is the significance of spiritual life. The infinite centre of personality, which radiates its joy by giving itself out in freedom, must create other centres of freedom to unite with it in harmony. Beauty is the harmony realized in things which are bound by law. Love is the harmony realized in wills which are free.  4
  In man, these centres of freedom have been created. It is not for him to be merely the recipient of favors from nature; he must fully radiate himself out in his creation of power and perfection of love. His movement must be towards the Supreme Person, whose movement is towards him. The creation of the natural world is God’s own creation, we can only receive it and by receiving it make it our own. But in the creation of the spiritual world we are God’s partners. In this work God has to wait for our will to harmonize with his own. It is not power which builds this spiritual world; there is no passivity in its remotest corner, no coercion. Consciousness has to be made clear of all mists of delusion, will has to be made free from all contrary forces of passions and desires, and then we meet with God where he creates. There can be no passive union,—because he is not a passive being. With him our relationship as that of a mere receiver of gifts is not fully true, for that is a one-sided and therefore imperfect relationship. He gives us from his own fulness and we also give him from our abundance. And in this, not only is true joy for us, but for God also.  5
  In our country the Vaishnavas have realized this truth and boldly asserted it by saying that God has to rely on human souls for the fulfilment of his love. In love there must be freedom, therefore God has not only to wait till our souls, out of their own will, bring themselves into harmony with his own, but also to suffer when there are obstacles and rebellions.  6
  Therefore in the creation of the spiritual world, in which man has to work in union with God, there have been sufferings of which animals can have no idea. In the tuning of the instruments discords have shrieked loud, and strings have often snapped. When seen from this aspect, such work of collaboration between man and God has seemed as though meaninglessly malevolent. Because of the ideal that there is in the heart of this creation, every mistake and misfit has come as a stab and the world of soul has bled and groaned. Freedom has often taken the negative course to prove that it is freedom,—and man has suffered and God with him, so that this world of spirit might come out of its bath of fire, naked and pure, radiating light in all its limbs like a divine child. There have been hypocrisies and lies, cruel arrogance angered at the wounds it inflicts, spiritual pride that uses God’s name to insult man, and pride of power that insults God by calling him its ally; there has been the smothered cry of centuries in pain robbed of its voice, and children of men mutilated of their right arms of strength to keep them helpless for all time; luxuries have been cultivated upon fields manured by the bloody sweat of slavery, and wealth built upon the foundations of penury and famines. But, I ask, has this giant spirit of negation won? Has it not its greatest defeat in the suffering it has caused in the heart of the infinite? And is not its callous pride shamed by the very grass of the wayside and flowers of the field every moment of its bloated existence? Does not the crime against man and God carry its own punishment upon its head in its crown of hideousness? Yes, the divine in man is not afraid of success, or of organization; it does not believe in the precautions of prudence and dimensions of power. Its strength is not in the muscle or the machine, neither in cleverness of policy nor in callousness of conscience; it is in its spirit of perfection. The to-day scoffs at it, but it has the eternity of to-morrow on its side. In appearance it is helpless like a babe, but its tears of suffering in the night set in motion all the unseen powers of heaven, the Mother in all creation is awakened. Prison walls break down, piles of wealth come tumbling to the dust under the weight of its huge disproportion. The history of the earth is the history of earthquakes and floods and volcanic fires, and yet, through it all, it is the history of the green fields and bubbling streams, of beauty and of prolific life. The spiritual world, which is being built of man’s life and that of God, will pass its infancy of helpless falls and bruises, and one day will stand firm in its vigor of youth, glad in its own beauty and freedom of movement.  7
  Our greatest hope is in this, that suffering is there. It is the language of imperfection. Its very utterance carries in it the trust in the perfect, like the baby’s cry which would be dumb, if it had no faith in the mother. This suffering has driven man with his prayer knocking at the gate of the infinite in him, the divine, thus revealing his deepest instinct, his unreasoning faith in the reality of the ideal,—the faith shown in the readiness for death in the renunciation of all that belongs to the self. God’s life flowing in its outpour of self-giving has touched man’s life who is also abroad in his career of freedom. When the discord rings out, man cries,—“asato ma sad gamaya.” Help me to pass through the unreal to the real. It is the surrender of his self to be tuned for the music of the soul. This surrender is waited for, because the spiritual harmony cannot be effected except through freedom. Therefore man’s willing surrender to the infinite is the commencement of the union. Only then can God’s love fully act upon man’s soul through the medium of freedom. This surrender is our soul’s free choice of its life of co-operation with God,—co-operation in the work of the perfect molding of the world of law into the world of love.  8
  In the history of man moments have come when we have heard the music of God’s life touching man’s life in perfect harmony. We have known the fulfilment of man’s personality in gaining God’s nature for itself in utter self-giving out of abundance of love. Men have been born in this world of nature, with our human limitations and appetites, yet they proved that they breathed in the world of spirit, that the highest reality was the freedom of personality in the perfect union of love. They freed themselves pure from all selfish desires, from all narrowness of race and nationality, from the fear of man and the bondage of creeds and conventions. They became one with their God in the free active life of the infinite, in their unlimited abundance of renunciation. They suffered and loved. They received in their breasts the hurts of the evil of the world and proved that the life of the spirit was immortal. Great kingdoms change their shapes and vanish like clouds, institutions fade in the air like dreams, nations play their parts and disappear in obscurity, but these individuals carry the deathless life of all humanity in themselves. Their ceaseless life flows like a river of a mighty volume of flood, through the green fields and deserts, through the long dark caverns of oblivion into the dancing joy of the sunlight, bringing water of life to the door of multitudes of men through endless years, healing and allaying thirst and cleansing the impurities of the daily dust, and singing, with living voice, through the noise of the markets the song of the everlasting life,—the song which runs thus:
  “That is the Supreme Path of This.
That is the Supreme Treasure of This.
That is the Supreme World of This.
That is the Supreme Joy of This.”

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