Confiscate my passport, Lord
I don’t wish to go abroad.
Let me find my song
Where I belong.
~ Nissim Ezekiel
Too long I’ve wandered from place to place,
Seen mountains and seas at vast expense.
Why haven’t I stepped two yards from my house,
Opened my eyes, gazed very close
At a drop of dew on a stalk of rice?
~ Rabindranath Tagore (translated from Bengalie by William Radice)
We shall not cease from exploration,
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
We are all in search of happiness outside of the ‘reality’ we exist in. We’re constantly desiring for things and circumstances that we feel would make us happy. Nearly always, we’re postponing our happiness to some future time, when we would have all ‘those’ – things, relationships and circumstances.
All three poets are giving a message of finding happiness in the circumstances we currently have.
T.S. Eliot’s poem, has a profound spiritual connotation. The story of the “Kasturi Mriga” – deer with a fragrance – comes to mind. The deer while roaming the jungles suddenly becomes aware of a beautiful fragrant smell in the air. So profoundly touched was the deer by this fragrance, that it became determined to find the source of it. Notwithstanding the extreme elements, it searched endlessly, the urge ever growing stronger. The search ended rather sadly when the deer lost its foothold and fell off a cliff, and while breathing its last, discovered that the fragrant smell was emanating from its own navel (Source: Meher Baba, Discourses, 6th ed., 3 vols. [San Francisco: Sufism Reoriented, 1967], 2.193).
Even as the story above ends rather sadly with the deer finding its end during the search, T.S.Eliot’s poem on the other hand talks about a journey coming full-circle. A search ending where it all began. In an understanding that happiness, or the Divine for that matter, is to be found where we are.
Gurudev’s poem invites us to seek happiness in small things. He asks, “Why haven’t I stepped two yards from my house/ Openend my eyes, gazed very close/ At a drop of dew on a stalk of rice?”. Instead of wandering “from place to place”, beauty and happiness can be found around us in the mundane things of day-to-day life, which we often fail to “see with fresh eyes”. We need not search outside or elsehwere.
Yet, perhaps there is a deep connection between the intense search outside – which may manifest as travel and exploration – and coming full circle to find the fragrance in ‘our own belly’. This is the paradox we must all live with. Even as the searching outside is unneccessary, since the object of our search, the beauty and happiness we seek, lies within at the source of who we are, and in the present moment, circumstances and environment – the importance of searching outside perhaps remains. It is only with this ‘wandering’ to find happiness and peace, that we must come a full circle to find it where the journey began. This is the reason that Eliot says, “We shall not cease from exploration”.
<Written as an assignment for the “Creative Writing” course, I am taking at Mirambika Research Center, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, New Delhi>