A famous poem in Shyamali, “ I ”, is built on this Tagorean interpretation of the Upanishadic mantra – “Tat-tvam-asi” – “That you are”. The point is that if I indeed am That, if the individual Atman is the cosmic Brahmān, then the two are not , as traditional Upanishadic glosses assert, identical but, argues Tagore, interdependent. God needs man as man needs God. In fact, in the poem that follows, a startling twist is given to the concept of maya. In Tagore’s view, there are two kinds of maya – the no-maya that “exists” when there is no creation, no mankind, a pre-creation existencs, as it were. And there is a yes-maya, the world of shape and colour and music and thing, of the multiplicity of material phenomena. No-maya is helpless and lost and alone and nothing, unless it expresses itself in the yes-maya of the physical world. Brahmān, alone, without the presence of man, is not the essence, the Truth, the basic reality; you might say, empty, insubstantial, vacuous. If God creates man, it is equally true that man creates God, because God’s existence is proved and approved by God’s creation of mankind.
This may be a meeting point of science and myth ; who can say ? Tagore’s is not a smoky abstraction. At least one gets the impression when reading the views of John A. Wheeler, Professor at Princeton University and currently Director of the Centre for Theoretical Physics at the University of Texas, who in a seminal book Gravitational Theory and Gravitational Collapse gave it the name “black hole” – to a miniscule object hugely dense and “yet invisible because nothing, not even light, could escape its stupendous gravity”.
“Is man an unimportant bit of dust or an important galaxy somewhere in the vastness of space ?” asks Wheeler. And his answer is no – not on the basis of religious faith but on scientific argument. “The strongest feature of Quantum Mechanics, the foundation of modern physics, is the discovery that it is impossible to measure more than one quantity (such as position or momentum) of sub-atomic particles at a time ; measuring the one prevents us from measuring the other…..This ‘uncertainty principle’ stood for forty years as a paradox and an apparent limit to human knowledge.” The words are John Boslough’s, who also explains how Wheeler takes up this strange uncertainty principle and concludes that “what we can say about the universe as a whole depends on the means we use to discover it. If to measure a particle is to decide which of its properties has a tangible reality, then a physicist is not simply an observer – but an active participant ! Man by exploring the universe, plays a part in bringing into being something of what he sees. This was a modification of the ‘anthropic principle’ first advanced by physicist Robert Dicke. The universe is the way it is because we are in it. Wheeler pushed the idea to its limits, to a principle cutting both ways ; that the concept of a universe is meaningless unless there is a community of thinkers to observe it, and that community is impossible unless the universe is adapted form the start to giving rise to life and mind.
Tagore would have agreed : objective reality does not exist without subjective perception of it. Not a leaf falls without some creative grief and compassionate sacrifice involved.
The emerald became green because I willed it so
and the ruby red.
Because I raised my eyes to the sky
the sky blazed up
in the east and the west.
I looked at the rose and said “Beautiful”–
and the rose was beautiful.
“But that’s philosophy,” you say,
“Why don’t you stick to poetry ?”
To which I’ll say, “But this is the truth.
That’s why its poetry.”
Of course I’m proud :
I’m speaking for man.
The World-Maker’s skill
is woven on the fabric of man’s I-ness.
The philosopher chants with every breath–
“No, no, no,
no emerald, no ruby, no light, no rose,
no I, no you.”
But there is the Infinite One deep in sadhana
in the heart of finite man,
saying, “you and I are one.”
In that oneness of you and I darkness and light become one,
rose shape, rose rasa,
no-maya flowered into yes-maya,
in line and colour, in pain and pleasure.
Don’t call this philosophy,
My heart thrills with the joy of creation
as I stand brush and colour-bowl in hand
in the hall of this cosmic-I.
The pundits say :
Look at the old man Moon
smiling his cruel and cunning smile
crawling like a messenger of Death
to the ribs of Earth.
One day he’ll tug at our seas and hills.
A new account will open on the ledger of history
with a huge zero entered by Mahakala Time
erasing past debits like days and nights.
What then of pretentious immortal deeds of man ?
Tidbits of history swallowed
in the black ink of oblivion.
The day man disappears
his eyes will take away all the world’s colours.
The day man disappears
his heart will take away all the world’s rasa.
Then Shakti vibrations alone will energise the sky,
there will no light anywhere.
The musician’s fingers will strum in a veena-less hall
a soundless raga.
A poem-less Creator will sit alone
in a blue bereft sky
lost in the coordinates of a personality-less existence.
in that cosmic mansion
stretching across endless and uncountable reaches
of space upon space of splendid desolation
these syllables will be heard no more–
“You are beautiful,”
“I love you.”
Will the Creator then lapse into sadhana again
for yuga upon yuga ?
On the evening of cosmic dissolution will he chant
“Speak to me ! Speak to me !”
Will he say, “Say ‘You are beautiful’?”
Will he say, “Say ‘I love you’?”