I touch God in my song

by Rabindranath Tagore

English version by Rabindranath Tagore
Original Language Bengali

I touch God in my song
     as the hill touches the far-away sea
          with its waterfall.

The butterfly counts not months but moments,
     and has time enough.

Let my love, like sunlight, surround you
     and yet give you illumined freedom.

Love remains a secret even when spoken,
     for only a lover truly knows that he is loved.

Emancipation from the bondage of the soil
     is no freedom for thee.

In love I pay my endless debt to thee
     for what thou art.

-- from The Fugitive, by Rabindranath Tagore

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

...only a lover truly knows that he is loved.

In this poem's few short lines, Rabindranath Tagore marries the bhakti path of utter love for God with the heart of karma yoga's union through action.

In traditional Indian metaphysics, the goal is usually understood to be enlightenment and freedom from the karmic tug that traps us in the cycle of earthly embodiment, "emancipation from the bondage of the soil." But here Tagore challenges the otherworldly approach that often engenders.

Even the spiritual idea of earthly liberation can become a selfish goal. For one utterly in love with God, the paying of that "debt" is simply a labor of love. Every effort, every experience, even suffering, is simply an expression of one's love for God. That is enough right there for the true lover of God. Rather than seeking escape from "the soil," the world is seen as a panorama that offers endless opportunities to worship and experience the Divine.

This is the great vision of karma yoga.

It is also the attitude that finally allows us to be at rest on our spiritual journey, rather than live as a convict on the run. What some see as the prison yard, becomes instead an exercise yard... or a playground! It is a courageous way of acknowledging that freedom is not escape, it is deep presence.

And we find that we live not in fleeting time, but in the ever expanding present moment.

The butterfly counts not months but moments,
     and has time enough.



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Gitanjali The Lover of God The Fugitive Lover's Gift and Crossing Rabindranath Tagore: An Anthology
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I touch God in my