Tag Archives: Rabindranath Tagore

Three Peacemakers

It’s been eight years that I’ve been sharing these reflections with you and that’s a long time to be together. In his book Psicosintesi: Per l’armonia della vita, Roberto Assagioli writes that it is better to concentrate on a large project rather than many smaller ones. His words made me pause. I’ve been thinking about leaving this writing space for a while and this day of the full moon in May feels like the right time …

Yoko Ono displayed her message “Imagine Peace” in London, Berlin,
Los Angeles, Melbourne, Milan, New York and Seoul.

They say ‘never say never’, so I won’t. Who knows when I’ll be back? Perhaps when my heart is burning with something I need to say. Hopefully to announce the completion of my ‘large project’. But for now, I will say thank you to all my readers over the years, especially those who reached out to me with appreciation and encouragement.

I close with a reflection on three peacemakers – an Italian, an Indian, and an Austrian – two women, one man. All three happen to be writers. All three have been marginalized or forgotten, despite their ardent striving towards peace. I believe they have something to offer us today…

Prof. Ornella Mariani – Activist for Truth

Recently I watched a video (in Italian) of Prof. Dr. Ornella Mariani, accompanied by a number of other Italian women including journalist Gloria Callarelli, being interviewed after they paid a visit to the Russian Embassy in Rome on April 27th.

 “Our government has a lack of will towards any peace, so we took it upon ourselves to visit the First Counselor to the Russian Ambassador,” said Mariani. “Italy has banned any communication with Russian delegates. This situation feels very grave to me.

Ornella Mariani, Essayist

“Obviously, we don’t feel represented by a government that doesn’t understand the value of peace, and only wants to send arms. If we really want peace, we shouldn’t be sending arms. Article 11 of our Constitution repudiates war, so we should all be doing everything we can to diplomatically find a solution, a peaceful solution to this terrible conflict.”

“We represent the Italian people, not the politicians. We hope to open doors,” said Callerelli. “to help build a bridge in whatever way we can, between the popolo italiano and the popolo russo.”

Three days later at 7 a.m., the DIGOS or Italian Special Operating Division, who are in charge of investigating terrorism and organized crime, arrived at Mariani’s apartment to tell her that she was under investigation for contempt of Italian State institutions. Her apartment and person was to be searched. “Obviously, I did not consent to this,” she said in a video posted afterwards. They ended up taking her phone, but leaving its SIM card.

“We will not lose courage,” she said. “We are stronger than they are.”

Rabindranath Tagore – Prophet of War, Prophet of Peace

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) poet, novelist, dramatist, musician, artist and Nobel Prize winner of literature, devoted much of his life to working towards peace, both in his own country of India as well as internationally. However, he was realist and his words from nearly 100 years ago are eerily prophetic for us today.

Tagore believed that until the powerful nations, aided by their superiority and vast technological advancement, ceased their desire for territorial expansion and control over the smaller nations, world peace could never be achieved.

In a visit to Japan during the middle of World War I, Tagore declared:

Rabindranath Tagore

“When, with the help of science, a nation’s power begins to grow and brings in harvests of wealth, then it crosses its boundaries with amazing rapidity. For then it goads all its neighboring societies with greed of material prosperity, and consequent mutual jealousy, and by the fear of each other’s growth into powerfulness. The time comes when it can stop no longer, for the competition grows keener, organization grows vaster, and selfishness attains supremacy. Trading upon the greed and fear of man, it occupies more and more space in society and at last becomes its ruling force.”

Tagore’s answer to ending this progression towards world destruction was a bondage of love and spirituality. “All imperialism – except for the imperialism of love – is wrong,” he said. According to Tagore, peace was not a non-war situation, but could only occur when all peoples could evolve into their unique selves, and then join into a singular united bond. He wrote in a letter to a his close friend Charles Andrews:

“When the spiritual ideal is lost, when the human relationship is completely broken up, then individuals freed from the creative bond of wholeness find a fearful joy in destruction.”

In 1938, as he watched the unfolding of World War II, Tagore wrote his famous poem:

Those crushed and trodden lives of the meek and the weak
which are sacrificed as food offerings for the mighties.
Those human flesh-eaters, snatching and scrambling,
tearing the gut,
scattering everywhere pieces of flesh bitten by sharp teeth,
Stained the lap of the mother earth with the muddy blood.
From the thrust of that fierce destruction
one day, peace will emerge in the end with a great power.
We will not fear,
overcoming the distress, victory for us at the end.

To read more about Tagore’s ideas on world peace, click here to download an article “Rabindranath Tagore and World Peace” by Kalyan Kundu.

Bertha von Suttner – First Woman to Win the Nobel Peace Prize

Bertha von Suttner (1843-1914) was an Austrian baroness with a fascinating life story who became a renowned novelist. She also greatly influenced Alfred Nobel to establish the Nobel Prizes. In 1889 she became world famous for her brutally realistic depiction of war in her antiwar novel Die Waffen Nieder! (Lay Down Your Arms!, translated and published in 1905).

Von Suttner had personally lived through four wars herself – in 1859 (Italy and Austria), 1865 (the German states and Denmark), 1866 (Austria and Prussia), and 1870-71 (France and Prussia). In addition to using her own experiences for the novel, she interviewed veterans and read government documents. Publishers kept rejecting the novel, insisting that it was impossible to sell “in our military state.”

Die Waffen Nieder! became an instant success and was translated into eight languages. Von Suttner took advantage of the book’s popularity by establishing an Austrian peace society in 1891. She believed that military weapons always seem to acquire new lives, and their only purpose is to cause death.

For the rest of her life, von Suttner was a celebrated speaker at international conferences and peace meetings, and became heavily involved in a variety of peace organizations, including: the International Arbitration and Peace Society in London; the War and Peace Museum in Lucerne, Switzerland; the Berne Peace Congress in 1892; and the Inter-planetary Union. She and her husband also founded a pacifist journal. While touring the US, she said in no uncertain terms:

“War, all war is hell. Your Secretary of War is a Secretary of Hell. And your War Department is a Department of Hell. Your great generals and military men are all Hell Lords, perpetuating barbarism.”

Von Sutter received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905, making her even more famous. The Carnegie Peace Foundation awarded her a lifelong pension for her work towards peace. As World War I approached, she grew more alarmed by the arms race in Europe and militarization of the air. She lamented:

“They are fighting like beasts about who is the worst beast. And they don’t see that the beast itself is war.”

She died four weeks before the start of the first World War. It is said that her final words on her deathbed were:

“Lay down your arms! Tell it to all!”

Overview of pledged and/or delivered weapons for Ukraine

  • Australia: missiles and weapons – AUD $70 million ($51.6 million)
  • Belgium:  200 anti-tank weapons and 5,000 automatic rifles/machine guns
  • Canada: 8 armored vehicles, M777 howitzers, 4500 M72 rocket launchers and up to 7500 hand grenades, as well as $1 million dollars for the purchase of commercial satellite high resolution and modern imagery​, machine guns, pistols, carbines, 1.5 million rounds of ammunition, sniper rifles, and various related equipment ($7.8 million), plus additional $20 million in military aid (CAD $25 million – details undisclosed)– CAD $118 million total (as of April 22)
  • Croatia:  rifles and machine guns, protective equipment valued at 124 million kuna (€16.5 million) 
  • Czech Republic: T-72 tanks and infantry fighting vehicles;400 million koruna ($18.23 million) of non-light weapons, including 160 shoulder-fired MANPADS systems (probably 9K32 Strela-2), 20 light machine guns, 132 assault rifles, 70 submachine guns, 108,000 bullets, 1,000 tactical gloves, all worth 17 million crowns ($756,000), and an earlier 188 million koruna ($8.6 million) worth of 4,000 mortars, 30,000 pistols, 7,000 assault rifles, 3,000 machine guns, a number of sniper rifles, and one million bullets. 
  • Denmark: 2,700 anti-tank weapons, 300 Stinger missiles (returned to United States to be made operational), protective vests
  • Estonia: Javelin anti-tank missiles; nine howitzers (with German permission)
  • European Union:  other weapons (unspecified- €500 million) [originally included fighter jets, which currently appears no longer true]
  • Finland: 2,500 assault rifles and 150,000 cartridges for them, 1,500 single-shot anti-tank weapons, and combat ration packages
  • France: MILAN anti-tank guided missile systems and CAESAR artillery howitzers, plus “additional defense equipment”
  • Germany:  50 Cheetah anti-aircraft systems, 56 PbV-501 IFVs, 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger anti-aircraft defense system, plus permission for select other countries to send weapons controlled by Germany
  • Greece: portable rocket launchers, ammunition, and Kalashnikov rifles 
  • Ireland: 200 units of body armor, medical supplies, fuel, and other non-lethal aid
  • Italy: Cabinet approved transfer of military equipment, pending Parliamentary approval.- reported to include Stinger surface-to-air missiles, anti-tank weapons, heavy machine guns, MG-type light machine guns and counter-IED systems
  • Japan: bulletproof vests, helmets, and other non-lethal military aid
  • Latvia: scheduled to deliver Stinger anti-aircraft missiles
  • Lithuania: Stinger anti-aircraft missile systems and ammunition 
  • Luxembourg: 100 NLAW (Next Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapon), Jeep Wrangler 4×4 vehicles, 15 military tents, and additional non-lethal equipment
  • Netherlands: 200 Stinger missiles, 3000 combat helmets and 2000 fragmentation vests with accompanying armor plates, one hundred sniper rifles with 30,000 pieces of ammunition, plus other equipment; 400 rocket-propelled grenade launchers (with German permission)
  • North Macedonia: unspecified military equipment
  • Norway: 4,000 anti-tank weapons, helmets, bulletproof vests, other protection equipment
  • Poland: 200+ T-72 tanks, other approved delivery of Piorun (Thunderbolt) short-range, man-portable air defense (MANPAD) systems and munition; Defense Minister expressed readiness to supply several dozen thousand rounds of ammunition and artillery ammunition, air defense systems, light mortars, and reconnaissance drones 
  • Portugal: grenades and ammunition, G3 automatic rifles, and other non-lethal equipment
  • Romania: €3 million of fuel, bulletproof vests, helmets, ammunition, military equipment, and medical treatment 
  • Slovakia: S-300 air defense system
  • Slovenia: T-72 tanks (reported), undisclosed amount of Kalashnikov rifles, helmets, and ammunition
  • Spain: 1,370 anti-tank grenade launchers, 700,000 rifle and machine-gun rounds, and light machine guns, 20 tons of medical supplies, defensive, and personal protective equipment composing of helmets, flak jackets, and NBC (nuclear-biological-chemical) protection waistcoats
  • Sweden: 10,000 AT4 anti-tank weapons, helmets, and body shields 
  • Turkey: co-production of Bakar Bayraktar TB2 armed drones​
  • United Kingdom: anti-aircraft capabilities (Stormer), 10,000 short-range and anti-tank missiles (including NLAWs and Javelins), Saxon armored vehicles, Starstreak air defence systems, loitering munitions — with aid at £200 million, to rise to as high as £500m – see April 25 (note: on April 8, reports indicated aid already at £350 million)
  • United States: Howitzers and artillery rounds; laser-guided rocket systems; Switchblade, Puma, and Counter-Unmannered Aerial systems​; counter-artillery radars; Stinger and Javelin missiles; anti-armor systems, small arms and various munitions; more than 50 millions rounds of ammunition; body armor ($3.6 billion since invasion began);; five Mi-17 helicopters, 70 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs) (pre-invasion​) 

Taken from Forum on the Arms Trade where you can also find a timeline and resources.

Why are Adults Doing This?

Thirty-five years ago while living in Japan, I was invited by Japanese friends to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. Upon our arrival to the city, I was immediately struck by how lively and ‘normal’ it felt. Cars were zooming by, people on bicycle were rushing to their destinations, skyscrapers filled the landscape. It was difficult to imagine the horrible disaster of a nuclear bomb on the city and its 255,000 innocent inhabitants. We soon arrived to the Memorial Park, an open space with various monuments, including an eternal flame burning for peace on Earth, all beautifully decorated with long strings of origami cranes.

While I contemplated these sites, many profoundly sorrowful feelings emerged. Then suddenly a middle-aged Japanese man swooped in and was screaming in my face. Not understanding any Japanese at the time, I asked my friends to translate. Embarrassed, they roughly yet very politely urged him to go away. He was screaming at me for dropping the atomic bomb on August 6, 1945.

During the start of the Iraq War, I found myself in a Beirut convent eating dinner with an Iraqi couple. We were all there for a conference on the Syriac language, my husband’s expertise. I could hardly look at this couple for all the shame I felt about my country invading theirs. “I’m so sorry,” I said as soon as the opportunity arose, “for what my country is doing to yours. I hardly know what to say to you.”

“Oh, that’s okay,” the woman assured me. “We know just how you feel. We were having dinner with Kuwaiti friends when our country invaded theirs.”

© Copyright Simon Carey

A month after the 9/11 attacks, I and my husband returned to Egypt after visiting my family in California. We had been living in Giza for the past year and were happy to return. Initially, I was afraid to even say I was American, but no one seemed to show any animosity. Except quietly behind closed doors. My neighbor was not ashamed to tell me how happy she had been to see the Twin Towers fall.  For her, Osama bin Laden had successfully brought the schoolyard bully to its knees and fear to its land. “But,” she admitted, “as an architectural student, it saddened me to see the buildings fall.”

Slavic Goddess Berehynia

It is a beautiful spring day, and I am with my husband and another couple visiting a small medieval village in Tuscany. We were standing in a piazza, enjoying the surrounding architecture, and trying to decide where to have lunch. Suddenly we hear an older man’s voice demanding an answer: “Do you think this is beautiful? Do you? Do you think this is beautiful?” We all turned to him and nodded dumbly. “During the war there was nothing here but malaria and famine.” He nearly spat out the words.
“Malaria and famine. Take that bellezza home with you.”

Peace for Ukraine, painting by Mona Shafer Edwards

One final story. I am just six years old. It is 1962 and the Cuban missile crisis is looming. Our kindergarten class has been lined up into single file and brought to the gymnasium. This is not our normal routine. We are told to sit down together on the floor. All the other elementary school kids are also there. A teacher I don’t know is talking. She is telling us how if there is a bomb, we will all gather in the gym like this and stay together. No one will be able to go home. When the bomb is dropped, we will sleep here and wait for our parents to come. We might have to wait days. I don’t understand. This all feels like a dumb thing to do. I raise my hand and wait to be called on. “Why are adults doing this?” I ask. The teacher doesn’t answer. She just looks at me.

Rabindranath Tagore

All these strong experiences have taught me the need to overcome nationalism and, above all else, hold fast to the moral spirit of humanity. Given what is happening in Europe today, we would do well to heed the words of Rabindranath Tagore, poet and Nobel Prize winner of Literature. Soon after WWI, Tagore wrote and lectured worldwide against nationalism, calling on all of us to recognize our greater humanity. In his book Nationalism, he clearly states:

“Nationalism is a great menace… the time has come, for the sake of the whole outraged world. Europe should fully know in her own person the terrible absurdity of this thing called the Nation.”[1]

Tagore did not shirk from pointing out how nationalism was prevalent in his own country, causing him to meet with scorn from every side. In 1917, Tagore began speaking openly against the British Raj.[2] To the average British official, he was considered a non-cooperator who refused to ‘play the game’ of Anglo-Indian back-scratching. To the average Indian nationalist, he was un-patriotic. As his biographers note: “By not joining any group, and refusing to temper his criticisms, Tagore had become the target of all groups.”[3] In fact, he was nearly assassinated during a visit to San Francisco by Indian nationalists.

Tagore distained blind nationalism and fanaticism where “machine must be pitted against machine, and nation against nation, in an endless bullfight of politics.”[4] What he proposed instead was universal humanism, global cooperation and harmony. Tagore’s core ideas included the need for self-determination, strengthening society from below, universal man and the need for education transcending borders.[5]

Yurii Sheliazhenko

For the rest of his life, Tagore called on all peoples to create a “more human order, a finer science of life, and a spiritual republic behind world politics.”[6]

We may wonder how Tagore’s words of 100 years ago might have any relevance to us today. But nationalism is still playing a major role in the more than 20 wars ranging worldwide. One’s national identity is causing fractures even inside countries like the USA and the EU. The attitude of ‘us’ vs ‘them’ is a nationalist one.

To hear another prophetic voice like Tagore’s, I suggest going this link and listening to Yurii Sheliazhenko, the executive secretary of the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement and a board member of the European Bureau of Conscientious Objection. He says:

“Instead of breaking the last bonds of humanity out of rage, we need more than ever to preserve and strengthen venues of communication and cooperation between all people on Earth.”

References

[1] Rabindranath Tagore, 1917. Nationalism. Norwood Press: USA. 1917, p. 133. Retrieved from: https://archive.org/stream/nationalism00tagorich#page/14/mode/2up

[2] Krishna Dutta and Andrew Robinson, Rabindranath Tagore: The Myriad-Minded Man, London, Bloomsbury, 1995

[3] Ibid., 285-6.

[4] Tagore, Nationalism, 48.

[5] Sneha Reddy, Tagore in the time of war 1913-1919, in World War I Centenary (2017). Retrieved from http://ww1centenary.oucs.ox.ac.uk/?p=4020

[6] Ernest Rhys, Rabindranath Tagore: A Biographical Study, London, MacMillan and Co. Limited, 1915, 20.

COP26, Tagore, and Human Truths

Franco, who is blind, cuts his grass with a scythe.

After the COP26 ended in Glasgow, and I couldn’t help feeling like a lemming caught in a mass migration off a towering cliff. It’s difficult to stay grounded and hopeful when faced with the empty actions of our political leaders and the 100+ coal, oil and gas company lobbyists and their associated groups who welded influence during the conference.

Even though the U.S. military pollutes more than 140 countries combined, their emissions are not included in any calculations (due to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol decision to exclude them). And since the 2015 Paris Agreement, 1005 land and environmental defenders have been murdered, with one out of three being an Indigenous person.

According to scientist Ken Anderson, “net zero,” is meaningless rhetoric (or more simply Blah, Blah, Blah) that allows us to move the burden in reducing emissions from today out to future generations. He said, “Net zero is Latin for kicking the can down the road.”

On a personal level, I have struggled with watching in quiet desperation as neighbors cut down their trees for firewood. My nearby neighbors are a farming family, four generations that have lived here for more than a century. They own most of the surrounding land and they do not hesitate to cut down trees and hedges, in order to turn fields into plowable acreage, which they mindlessly kill with fertilizers. Continue reading

A Spring Breeze of Religious Experience

The spiritual philosophies of Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), the Bengali poet and Nobel Prize winner of Literature in 1913, and Roberto Assagioli are remarkably similar in their fundamental understanding of the relationship between the Infinite Self and the personal self.

While deriving from diverse cultural and linguistic inheritances, the spiritual philosophies of each man underwent a similar evolutionary process. To begin with, both men grounded their philosophy in the moments when they were able to touch the Infinite, becoming intensely conscious of it through the illumination of joy.

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Lessons from the Classrooms of Tagore and Assagioli

This is a brief excerpt from my article recently published in the AAP Psychosynthesis Quarterly that explores the educational philosophies of Rabindranath Tagore and Roberto Assagioli. To download this article, please click here.

One of the most compelling worldwide impacts of Covid-19 is the abrupt and profound change in how children are being educated. What can psychosynthesis bring to this radical change in education? To start, we might turn to two great figures from the last century: Rabindranath Tagore and Roberto Assagioli.

During their lifetimes, Tagore and Assagioli were both participants in a larger educational movement during the early 19th century, a time of social and political upheaval, technological and industrial revolution, World War I, and the flu epidemic of 1918.

Rabindranath_Tagore_reading_to_others_(1)

Rabindranath Tagore reading to others.

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