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The Pragmatics of Reason: Gandhi and Tagore

Ranajit Guha, in a recent lecture on world-history and historiography makes the claim that it is by climbing on the back of philosophy that world-history has established its moral transcendence over the local and the merely political. In this triangulated adjudication of the relative valences of politics, world-history, and philosophy, philosophy could either be celebrated for its sublime ability to create possibilities of transcendence in the absence of real conditions for such possibilities; or it could be summarily critiqued and condemned for inculcating false consciousness in the name of a spurious transcendence. So, what exactly does philosophy do, and how is the interventionary agenda of philosophy preset by its generic determination? What is the relationship among history, politics, ethics, and philosophy? Is this relationship hierarchically subsumptive, synchronic, concentric, intersecting and overlapping, contradictory, organic, strategic and opportunistic? It is with these questions in the back of my mind that I wish to analyze the momentous debates between Mohandas Gandhi, the Mahatma and father of the nation, and Rabindranath Tagore, the Poet, Gurudev, and visionary concerning the politics of swaraj, the non-cooperation movement, and finally, the nature of freedom, reason, and the human being. Of particular importance to me is the manner in which Gandhi and Tagore anchor their arguments and positions in the idea of reason that each of them conceives differently, and derives from different sources and for different ends. But before I get into the debates proper, I would like to offer a few general comments about the categories that constitute their mutual agreements and disagreements. One of Gayatri Spivaks recent books has the following phrase in its title: postcolonial reason. So, how many reasons are there and in how many worlds? What is the connection between the worlding of each of these worlds and the evolution of its attendant reason? In the phrase, postcolonial reason, is reason a practice, an activity, a perspective, a micrological procedure in search of its proper macrology? How polemically instrumental is reason in its postcolonial formation, and how does such a polemic invoke and encounter the polemical situatedness of other reasons such as colonial and imperial reasons? Within the epistemic jurisdiction of reason in the post-colony, how is the En Soi of reason articulated with its Pour soi? Is postcolonial reason experienced and cogitated as a break from colonial reason; and if so, where was the break validated initially: in the pure realm of reason itself, or in those drastically changed historical conditions that warranted a break in the superstructural realm of reason? In the break between the colonial and the post-colonial, how is the potential

universality of reason maintained under erasure? I focus on the historical vicissitudes of reason in the context of colonialism and postcoloniality for the obvious reason that the debates between Gandhi and Tagore take place in the context of decolonization: in particular, the choice of reasonable strategies for Indias decolonization and its emergence as a free post-colonial nation. Equally at stake is the status of philosophy as discourse. In his essay, Ranajit Guha focuses on the ways in which western, and in particular Hegelian philosophy, creates an illusion called world-history in the name of occidental dominance. It is in the realm of philosophy that the horrors of political realities are laundered and renamed as the imperatives of world-history. Are all philosophies condemned to behave thus as accomplices to regimes of dominance, or is this tendency specific to the West poised towards world domination? The invocation of the world as spirit, whether or not in an explicitly Hegelian mode, in conjunction with history produces an imperative: the imperative that there can only be one true history on behalf of one world. It becomes the burden of philosophy, as a form of higher transcendent truth, to validate and justify this alignment, achieved via political dominance and economic exploitation, between history and the world. The worlding of the world through many different flows and in many different directions is highjacked in the name of dominant historiography towards a single telos that philosophy anoints as the end point of all humanity. There is then a deep traditional complicity between the historical empire building and colonizing of the West and its philosophy. The higher truth of philosophy, rather than question or problematize the historico-political adventure in the form of a critique, in fact fabricates an allegorical alibi, or sublates a la Hegel , for the vicious and politically fraught local processes of dominance, oppression, and exploitation. If the world is to persist as an epistemological/disciplinary object as well as a worthwhile horizon for all human thought, then it becomes important to think of the world perspectivally, rather than concede that the world has already been realized as one within the philosophy authorized by the dominant discourse, be it western, imperialist, neocolonialist, patriarchal, capitalist etc. As Ashis Nandy points out memorably in his essay on Third World Utopia, the difference between dominant and subaltern modes of imagining Utopia is that the latter openly acknowledges and assumes accountability for its perspectival investment in the concept of Utopia. In other words, the philosophical contents of such a Utopia would be projections from the perspective of a certain historico-political situatedness in the world, and that even as Utopian projections, they would carry all the markings of such a situatedness. The Utopian dream, in other words, will not and ought not to function as an allegorical or philosophical exorcism of its historico-political rootedness in a certain context. The reasonable-ness of the Utopian blueprint cannot be transcendent of the ethico-political authority of the flawed and contingent perspective that initiated in the Utopian process in the first place. To put it in the context of my current endeavor, how is the world that figures in Gandhis political discourse and Tagores philosophico-poetic discourse different from the world in a Hegelian phenomenology? How is Gandhis world cathected by his ethico-political Reason, and Tagores by his philosophical Reason? What is the relationship in their thinking between epistemology and politics, between subject formation and agency formation?

An easy way to get into the Tagore-Gandhi debates would be by way of the standard opposition between practical and pure reason, between means and ends, and between reason as strategic-opportunist and reason as necessary. I do intend to tap into these canonical forms of opposition later in my essay; but now I would like to introduce, in broad strokes, the historical context of the debates. First and foremost, there was the burning question of Indias decolonization and independence from British colonial rule. Swaraj had to be given a specific content, and there was the equally important issue of elaborating the methodology that would take India towards its goal. Second, there was the challenge of articulating a persuasive pedagogical relationship between the Indian masses and the leaders of the independence movement. Thirdly, there was the question of Indias relationship to the West and the rest of the world: how such a relationship could be anticipated in the context of the movement towards decolonization. Fourthly, education emerges as a major motif in these discussions: should the syllabus be practical or theoretical, generalist or specialist, indigenous or cosmopolitan, indo-centric or of the world, anti-western or inclusive of the west with a certain caveat? Fifthly, was nationalism a good phenomenon or bad? Is Gandhis non-cooperation movement fuelled entirely by critical anti-colonial negativity, rather than by its own affirmative energy? How should the immediate and urgent political context be thought through with reference to the long haul? How is the long haul to be recognized in the contours of present practices and their pragmatic imperatives? How is Reason to be identified both as a demystification of extant ignorance and the producer of new knowledges and affirmations? What is the constitutive connection between Truth as in satyameva jayathe and its producability by Reason? How is Tagores celebration of Truth as Cosmic and cosmopolitan different from the Truth that Gandhi was after by way of askesis, the story of his experiments with Truth? In the context of decolonization, how should the Indian subject forge a relationship between critical nay-saying and joyful ayesaying? What role does nationalism play in the evolution of the boundless human spirit? What can India teach the world, and what can it learn from the world? And finally, how can India be the world and the Indian human being realized as the human in general? I begin the essay with a statement that Gandhi makes in a letter that he writes to the Gurudev in April 1919, soliciting a message in the context of the national struggle. The forces arrayed against me are, as you know, enormous. I do not dread them, for I have an unquenchable belief that they are supporting untruth and that if we have sufficient faith in truth, it will enable us to overpower the former. But all forces work through human agency. I am therefore anxious to gather round this mighty struggle the ennobling assistance of those who approve it. I begin with this quotation to make the following points. Gandhi captures the situation both agonistically and antagonistically. Truth is, but the historical way to the truth is by way of a struggle: struggle against the forces of untruth. Gandhis conviction is two-directional: convinced that he is in the true and the forces arrayed against him are captive to untruth. Truth becomes the function of an uncompromising ethical unilateralism, and in this context, faith takes on a curious epistemological role. Truth preexists as an a priori, but it needs to be jumpstarted and motored by our faith, for only then will it work instrumentally on our behalf and overpower the enemies. The important lesson is that truth as an a priori has to be put to work perspectivally, i.e., in a force field where conflicting forces are at work

contending and battling against one another. There is the unmistakable reference to human agency and its indispensability for the historicizing, the a posteriori unpacking, of Truth, ones truth as the truth. This postulation raises interesting questions about the epistemology of truth and the ontology of the human condition or perspective that is the partisan bearer of the truth. Truth will triumph transperspectivally, but such a transcendence will have to be worked out through a perspectival antagonism, perhaps incommensurability. Unlike a dialectician, Hegelian or Marxist, Mohandas Gandhi will not allow the the truth of the Truth to implode into the perspectival truth of human agency. Human agency is the contingent but unavoidable executor of a higher truth. Unlike a dialectical or historical materialist who would be concerned with the recognition of an emancipatory teleology in the history of the present, or a Foucauldian who would disallow the uncoupling of the will to truth from the will to power, Gandhi is committed to Truth as an absolute ontology, but an ontology that requires for its Pour Soi the agency of the human. The question of course then arises: What makes them hold on to their untruth as though it were the Truth? How will the one common human Truth emerge from the many untruths, such as Colonialism, Imperialism, Apartheid etc. that have somehow found historical human sponsorship and endorsement? How will the temporality of the one Truth vanquish and demystify the regimes of illusory truths? Tagores thoughts on the matter, as conveyed in a letter that he writes to the Mahatma on the eve of the gruesome Jallianwalabagh massacre, run thus: Power in all its forms is irrational, it is like the horse that drags the carriage blind-folded. The moral element in it is only represented in the man who drives the horse. Passive resistance is a force which is not necessarily moral in itself: it can be used against truth as well as for it. The danger inherent in all force grows stronger when it is likely to gain success, for then it becomes temptation. We can see where Gandhis and Tagores formulations intersect, in agreement as well as in discord. Tagores invocation of rationality in this passage is compelling. Refusing to make any opportunistic distinction between those forms of power that are good and empowering and those that are bad and corrupting, Tagore outlaws power as such from the domain of rationality. The irrational is likened to a horse that drags the carriage blind-folded. What Tagore has in mind is not a Foucauldian notion of power that is constitutive of truth and knowledge but rather an instrumental phenomenon hat requires the externality of agency to avoid a fatal blind-foldedness. Both Tagore and Gandhi concur in their insistence that human agency is crucial to the correct harnessing of power, but they anchor it differently. Tagore makes an implicit but all important connection among rationality, morality, and the human subject. Using the all too familiar example of the horse carriage and the human driver (there is the other famous example of the carriage driven by the 5 indhriyas (sense organs) that would run amok but for the human mind in control of the carriage: a hierarchical dispensation that reads the mind as more authentically representative of the human than the sense organs), Tagore relegates or downgrades power into a necessary evil that nevertheless needs to be controlled by the human moral sense. So, why is it that the moral sense in and by itself cannot direct and motor the carriage? What is the implication of the directionmotor split or division of labor? Are power and irrationality coextensive and consubstantial? If Reason is the opposite of the irrational, and if power and the irrational are either synonymous or reciprocally entailed, then is Reason powerless, except as an

ahistorical and perhaps immaculate category? Is the moral sense that categorical imperative that stands in for Reason, and ergo ex officio directs and unblinds all forces of power? Tagore is clearly invested in a necessary as against a contingent or merely opportunistic or strategic notion of the moral: he is looking for the moral in itself over and above the determinations of specific historical deployments of force or power. When Tagore adjudicates that even the Mahatmas passive resistance, whose virtue or probity is unexceptionable, is not moral in itself, he is also making the symptomatic reading that all practices of power are necessarily equivocal. In other words, passivity in and of itself does not constitute either a higher moral or epistemological ground. As a procedural use of force power, passive resistance is not exempt either from a moral or an epistemological blindness. Gandhi may well have a point in claiming that passive resistance as modus operandi does not partake substantively, qualitatively, and ideologically in the semantics of the enemy; but in Tagores reading, passive resistance is equivocal vis a vis Truth. I will have more to say about this when I discuss the role of positivity and negativity in Gandhis and Tagores thought. It would appear that Tagore is seeking an apodictic validation of Truth in the human mind, without the invasiveness of didacticism and the opportunistic power that such a didacticism has to employ. A strong corollary to Tagores absolute criticism of Power in all its forms is his negative attitude to success. He sees success as an immoral seduction that turns force into a temptation, an irresistible stimulus. The moral here is that if anything is worthy of human valorization, such a valorization should have nothing to do with success. To put it somewhat cryptically, in Tagores reading, success functions like a currency, like money, like the logic of monetization that usurps the place of what a moralist would call intrinsic value. If the logic simply were, and this is what Gandhi calls temptation and habit, that some thing is worth doing precisely and exclusively because it ensures success, then such a logic is doomed to forever fall short of a Truth that is independent of winning and losing. As Tagore himself puts it: We must know that moral conquest does not consist in success, that failure does not deprive it of its dignity and worth. With this background I would now like to focus on the themes of non-cooperation and satyagraha, and the differences between the two thinkers in the context of Indias opposition to colonial domination. I will begin with Tagores philosophical objections to Gandhis program of action and then analyze Gandhis sharp polemical rejoinder to Tagores critique; and here I use the term philosophical to characterize Tagores discourse and polemical in Gandhis context with my own polemical intention: to understand why, how, and when philosophy becomes polemics, and polemics acquires the ability to fashion an entire worldview. Now to Tagore: commenting appreciatively on Gandhis resolve and ability to galvanize the immense power of the meek to remedy the insulted humanity of India, Tagore goes on thus. The destiny of India has chosen for its ally, Narayan, and not Narayansena- the power of soul and not that of muscle. And she is to raise the history of man, from the muddy level of physical conflict to the higher moral attitude. What is swaraj! It is maya, it is like a mist, that will vanish leaving no stain on the radiance of the

Eternal. However we may delude ourselves with the phrases learnt from the West, Swaraj is not our objective. Our fight is a spiritual fight, it is for Man. We are to emancipate Man from the meshes that he himself has woven around him,-these organizations of National Egoism. The butterfly will have to be persuaded that the freedom of the sky is of higher value than the shelter of the cocoon. If we can defy the strong, the armed, the wealthy, revealing to the world power of the immortal spirit, the whole castle of the Giant Flesh will vanish in the void. And then Man will find his swaraj. We, the famished, ragamuffins of the East, are to win freedom for all Humanity. We have no word for Nation in our language. When we borrow this word from other people, it never fits us. For we are to make our league with Narayan, and our victory will not give us anything but victory itself; victory for Gods world. I have seen the West; I covet not the unholy feast, in which she revels every moment, growing more and more bloated and red and dangerously delirious. Not for us, is this mad orgy of midnight, with lighted torches, but awakenment in the serene light of the morning. Having agreed with Gandhi on some of the essentials, Tagore carefully differentiates his chosen teleology from that of the Mahatma. The most startling diagnosis that Tagore makes is that swaraj is nothing but a manifestation of maya: in other words, a profound epistemological misnomer. Tagore here is taking recourse to Sankaras Advaita or monism when he introduces the concept of maya into the discussion. In invoking the Eternal in opposition to the merely temporal (and his invocation is reminiscent of the manner in which Shelley eternalizes the memory of Keats in his elegy Adonais), Tagore is aligning the truly real with epistemological monism and political realities with historical opportunism that is illusion, maya. If that were all, i.e.. if Tagore were doing nothing more than instantiating the otherworldly epistemology of Sankara to discredit the world of circumstantial history, it would be okay precisely because of its irrelevance to Gandhian thought. But Tagore is doing something more: he is making a connection between the epistemology of illusion and our dependence on the West, and between such a dependence and our true nature. Tagore strikes at the heart of the Gandhian thesis when he asserts that the swa in the concept swaraj is a meretricious, heteronomous, and parasitic self that is dependent, in its very antagonism, on the phrases we learnt from the West. To put this in the context of my initial question concerning the relationship of philosophy to history: is Tagore suggesting that all historico-political conceptions of the self tout court unreal when compared to the eternal truths of spirituality; or is he arguing that the self is rendered false when it is enthralled within a colonizing and alien historiography? Here are two ways of reading Tagore. First, the ones own as exemplified in the concept of swaraj is nothing ut a reactive paranoid fantasy that is dependent on the reality of colonialism. If this is what makes swaraj part of the epistemology of maya, then such a scenario is politically corrigible: treatable through a different political alignment that would anchor the self affirmatively and proactively in its own historiography and worldview. The second reading would argue absolutely in favor of a transcendent spirituality that would see no difference between one kind of historico-political belonging and another. According to this reading, the spiritual fight on behalf of Man would function as a demystification of

any other fight that focuses on the merely circumstantial and historical. According to this logic, the meshes that any historically determinate human subject weaves around himself could be the enemys or his own. It is clear that in invoking spirituality, Tagore is also gesturing passionately towards a cosmic universality that is thwarted and derailed by what Tagore terms National Egoism. The reference to all Humanity is both omniscient and perspectival: omniscient since all Humanity is posited as a necessary a priori, but at the same time this all Humanity becomes the perspectival responsibility of the ragamuffins of the East. We, the so-called orientals, have the responsibility of not succumbing to illusion and of producing a spiritual and all encompassing Humanity grounded in its own spirituality. At this juncture, when his rationale would seem to leave behind the world of determinate names and histories towards the horizon of a pure and untrammeled spirituality, Tagore loops his thesis back into the world of history and politics when he makes the confident claim that we have no word for Nation in our language. Here, just as in the earlier context, two discourses get interbraided: that of political autonomy and self-reliance, and that of spiritual or ontological freedom. As Sekyi-Otu contends in the context of Frantz Fanon, here too, the absolute perversion or occlusion of Spirituality (or what I choose to translate as Ontology in a Heideggerian vein), cannot be identified as such. It has to be recognized in a specific political betrayal or misapplication. The symptom is the fact that even though we have no word for Nation in our language, we are being forced to use the word; and the diagnosis is not so much the preemption of our own political sovereignty, but more crucially, alienation from our true and ones own Spirituality. Whether we take Tagores words, Gods world literally or not, it is clear that to Tagore the spiritual securing of the Self in its own sovereign context is pure act of unconditional affirmation, whereas acts of self declaration in the manner of swaraj are mired in the immediate moment and its particular mode of conditional entrapment, and as such cannot be anything but negative. Awakening to the serene light of the morning and its spiritual call will have to be on the basis of a resolute transcendence of the orgy of the West and its nocturnal revelries of the Flesh. Though Gandhi and Tagore are at one when it comes to rejecting anything alien: we have Tagore saying, When we borrow this word (Nation) from other people, it never fits us, and Gandhi proclaiming, I refuse to live in other peoples houses as an interloper, a beggar or a slave, they ground and nurture their ontology differently. To Gandhi, politics, always constituted, governed and directed by ethics, is ontology; and ontology political. Whereas to Tagore, with his strong epistemic faith in Spirituality, Ontology is separate from, even though it partakes in, Politics. To locate Gandhi and Tagore within the famous Hindu tripartite division of reality-seeking into Karma yoga, Bhakthi Yoga, and Gnana Yoga, Gandhi is exclusively a Karma Yogi who does not acknowledge a beyond that lies beyond the karma-kshetra, whereas Tagore privileges the temporality of Gnana yoga and its commitment to the beyond. As a symptom of the same difference, Gandhis action is centered in a collective notion of the human subject and subjectivity whereas the poetic-philosophic Tagore is attuned to the music of the individual. Is this merely a matter of temperament, or is it a genuine disagreement about the worlding of the world? Let us hear Tagore directly on this issue. Beginning

with a charming confession that of late he has been playing with inventing new metres based on the conviction that God himself is an eternal waster of Time, Tagore offers us the following thesis of his own interpellation. But where am I among the crowd, pushed from behind, pressed from all sides? And what is this noise about me? If it is a song, then my own sitar can catch the tune and I join in the chorus, for I am a singer. But if it is a shout, then my voice is wrecked and I am lost in bewilderment. I have been trying all these days to find in it a melody, straining my ear, but the idea of non-cooperation with its mighty volume of sound does not sing to me, its congregated menace of negations shouts. And I say to myself, If you cannot keep step with your countrymen at this great crisis of their history, never say that you are right and the rest of them wrong; only give up your role as a soldier, go back to your corner as a poet, be ready to accept popular derision and disgrace. A couple of significant asides before I comment on the passage. Like the visionary intellectual Tridib in Amitav Ghoshs The Shadow Lines, Tagore too takes intellectual pride in eternally wasting Time, rather than succumb to the seduction of an anthropocentric, be it nationalist or otherwise, architectonics of Time. Secondly, there is a remarkable resemblance between Tagores appeal to the sitar and its mode of aesthetic being and that remarkable poetic utterance of Subramanya Bharati, the famous Tamil poet-freedom fighter-visionary contemporary of Tagore, that goes something like this: Why would anyone craft a good veena/veenai and let it gather dust? In this passage, Tagore is unabashedly identifying and staking his subject-position and asserting unequivocally that he can assume a political role on the basis of, and not in abeyance of, the swadharma of that subject-position. He is a singer, and even if such a confession may sound inane, precious, and irrelevant in the context of the great crisis of the people and their history (and here one is reminded of the predicament of the poet Yury Zhivago in Boris Pasternaks Dr. Zhivago), he has to keep singing and keep faith with his sitar. What is also interesting in this passage is the way in which Tagore, subtly but surely, employs his subject-positional and specific-intellectual (and of course here I am thinking of Michel Foucault) expertise not just to register the political passively or receptively, but rather to constitute politics proactively. In the very heat of the critical historical moment, Tagore fearlessly poses the question of alignment and attuenement. He reserves for himself and his poetic-singerly swadharma the right to expect and find a melody in the immanent political manifesto and its rhythms. What he hears, in the place of a possible melody and its affirmative joy, is the congregated menace of negations shouts. And this dissonance precipitates a crisis: the poet has to make a drastic choice and a decision about what role to play. The poet accepts, at his own peril and the possibility of accusations of infamy and treason to the political cause, to be a poet since it has become untenable to combine within the same performance the role of the poet and that of the soldier. The question to pose here is this: Is this merely an elitist-individualistintellectualist withdrawal from politics in the name of temperament and sensibility; or is it a kind of position taking, with an implicit politics of its own, that can function as a radical critique of the political as such? To put it concretely, what is the cognitive as well as epistemological status of Tagores symptomatic reading that the swaraj movement,

fuelled exclusively by negativity and nay-saying, is a flawed and erroneous manifestation of the political? In other words, does and can the Poet have something meaningful to say to the political agitator, i.e., can the truth claim of this message be entertained on its own terms, and not merely as the truth of a special pleading of a special interest group? And Tagore helps us out here with the following statement: a statement that has all the zing and the oomph of a manifesto even though it emanates from a poet-singer. The idea of non-cooperation is political asceticism. Our students are bringing their offering of sacrifices to what? Not to a fuller education but to non-education. It has at its back a fierce joy of annihilation which at best is asceticism, and at its worst is that orgy of frightfulness in which the human nature, losing faith in the basic reality of normal life, finds a disinterested delight in an unmeaning devastation as has been shown in the late war and or other occasions which came nearer to us. No, in its passive moral form is asceticism and its active moral form is violence. The desert is as much a form of himsa (malignance) as is the raging sea in storms, they are both against life. In a manner reminiscent of Nietzsches campaign on behalf of Life in the arena of philosophic thought, Tagore targets asceticism and negativity as enemies of Life. If Nietzsches thesis was that a compulsive preoccupation with history causes a chronic inability to forget which in turn encourages an ascetic denial of lifes vitalism, and what Foucault would later term the history of the present, Tagores objective is to uncover the life-denying violence that is implicit even within putative non-violence of asceticism. Crucial in this entire discussion is the valence given to the term, interest. What is the difference between the interest that underlies acts of cooperation and the interest that informs practices of non-cooperation? Furthermore, in the act of creating positive or affirmative value, does it matter what one is cooperating with, or non-cooperating against? Can cooperation turn into an act of nay-saying under certain conditions, and can non-cooperation, under certain circumstances, transform itself into a form of aye saying? What could Tagore mean by the basic reality of normal life when such a life has been invaded and contaminated by Occidental Colonialism? Is Tagore suggesting that despite such an invasion the basic reality of normal life goes on its own terms, in its own sphere, untouched by the epistemic violence of Colonialism, inviting the Yes of cooperation from the Indian/human subject? Whereas Fanon would argue poignantly that the very wells of a human ontology have been poisoned by the Manichean illogic of the Colonizer-Colonized divide, Tagore seems to be suggesting that it is up to the subject to give credence or not to the regime of colonialism. His argument is that precisely because the non-cooperation movement is interpellated, albeit in dire antagonism, by the reality of Colonialism, that it is not and cannot ever be a free movement. It is up to the spiritual, human subject of the East to show up Colonialism for what it is, i.e., maya, an effect of illusion that has no command or purchase over our creativity. On the one hand, Tagore seems to acquiesce in Sankaras Advaitic theory of maya as a fait-accompli, but on the other hand he forwards a strong theory of agency on behalf of the eastern spiritual subject: it is indeed up to the volition of this subject to nihilate colonial reality into maya. Once such a demystification has been achieved, a process that demonstrates that

what is seemingly real is in fact an illusion, the real aye-saying of cooperating with ones own nature and affirming life can begin. When nay-saying is actively pursued as an instrument of socio-political change, its asceticism becomes a force of violence; and what is violated is a deep-seated human nature that is constituted by its capacity for cooperation. In psychoanalytic terms, Tagores argument could be interpreted as an endeavor to re-cathect the human subject in opposition to the ascetic imperative. Tagore himself perhaps not like the language of cathexis since it has to do with desire, a drive not all that compatible with the discourse of spirituality and spiritual ontology; and yet, it will have to be maintained that Tagore is insisting on a volitional change of direction. Noncooperation will just do, and swaraj has to be conceptualized and tracked differently. Tagore could also be seen, and this might seem like an ungainly stretch, as an ally of an Althusser to come in so far as both Tagore and Althusser privilege epistemology or theoretical thinking over the immediate and self-evident imperatives of political need. Tagores persistent diagnosis that a certain kind of political praxis is itself a manifestation of maya that warrants demystification by intellectual thought is very similar to Althussers altogether theoretical exorcism of those humanist obstacles that come in the way of our understanding of what is man. It is interesting that in all the exchanges between the two great thinkers, even though the West is referred to continually, all the sources of erudition mobilized by both Tagore and Gandhi are resolutely Indian: Hindu and Buddhist to be precise, but within a continuum that can only be called Hindu. Here for example is Tagore, legitimating his preference for cooperation over non-cooperation. Brahma-vidya (the cult of Brahma, the Infinite Being) in India has for its object, mukti, emancipation, while Buddhism has nirvana, extinction. It may be argued that both have the same idea in different names. But names represent attitudes of mind, emphasize particular aspects of truth. Mukti draws our attention to the positive, and nirvana to the negative side of truth. Contrasting the Hindu brahmana worldview with that of an ascetic Buddhism, Tagore goes on thus. The abnormal type of asceticism to which Buddhism gave rise in India revelled in celibacy and mutilation of life in all different forms. But the forest life of the Brahmana was not antagonistic to the social life of man, but harmonious with it. It was like our musical instrument tambura whose duty is to supply the fundamental notes to the music to save it from straying into discordance. It believed in anandam, the music of the soul, and its own simplicity was not to kill it but to guide it. Is this the kind of philosophy that allows history a piggy back ride and thereby sublimates the guilty, fractious, worldly, and accountable contradictions of history into a monophonic symphony; or, is it an organic philosophy that acknowledges its ideology of worldliness without the ruse of sublimation? To put it bluntly and to put the onus of proof and credibility entirely on Tagore: what do terms like anandam, mukti, brahmana have to do with the historicity of political struggle, decolonization, and the achievement of political freedom? How is harmony, troped by way of music, even germane in the context of historical dialectical struggle and antagonistic confrontation between a

colonizing collective human subject and a colonized collective human subject? Isnt this the philosophy of quietism, of the status quo masquerading in the guise of phenomenological and/or spiritual transcendence? Isnt this the good old philosophy that is happy to pontificate post-historically from a position of virtual transcendence even as history is taking shape historically? What is not clear is whether Tagore is initiating a meta-historical interrogation of history, historiography, and historicity, or simply opting out of history into a spiritual mode of engagement with the world. At this point, before I get into Gandhis rejoinder to Tagore, I would like to digress a bit to discuss the status of truth in general: and in particular, the coming into its own of truth by way of process. To the Poet, it would seem that Truth preexists, if not as an essence, at least as a promised horizon reachable through aesthetic and spiritual troping. The anandam that Tagore is ecstatic about is an integral part of the Sachitanandam constellation of concepts: a constellation that effects the mutual apotheosis of Truth and Beauty. In opposition to such a luxuriant and indulgent theory of Truth and Bliss, there indeed is an askesis theory of Truth that is close to Mohandas Gandhis Story of Experiments with Truth. In this story of historical and empirical experiments with Truth, the self, both individual and collective, functions (much like the practice of ethical self styling and taking care of the self in the later Foucault) as the acted upon: as the object of epistemological askesis. In this scenario, the actualization of Truth is the function of a disciplinary regime: a regime that is an expression to the extent that it is also an analytic of imposition. The body politic does not ipso facto produce the truth, i.e., not until it is conditioned through a series of prescriptions and proscriptions so that it can yield the truth. Truth is a rigorous funding that is not necessarily a celebration of the flow of life: it could well be a distillation, a meaningful desiccation, an annealment, a restricted distillation of Life by way of as much nay-saying as aye-saying. Also, significantly such a truth is very much in the making in a world replete with antagonism, exploitation, and domination. Let us now hear Gandhi responding to Tagores misgivings and anxieties about non-cooperation. Beginning with a stern repudiation that Tagores letter has been written in anger and in ignorance of facts, Gandhi gets to the heart of the matter. He(The Poet) has a horror of everything negative. His whole soul seems to rebel against the negative commandments of religion. He then engages directly with Tagores position. (Propositional negation: state of being and instrumentality) In my humble opinion, rejection is as much an ideal as the acceptance of a thing. It is as necessary to reject untruth as it is to accept truth. All religions teach that two opposite forces act upon us and that the human endeavor consists in a series of eternal rejections and acceptances. Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as co-operation with good. I venture to suggest that the Poet has done an unconscious injustice to Buddhism in describing nirvana as merely a negative state. I make bold to say that mukti (emancipation) is as much a negative state as nirvana. Emancipation from or extinction of the bondage of flesh leads to ananda (eternal bliss). Let me close this part of my argument by drawing attention to the fact that the final word of the Upanishads (Brahma-vidya) is Not. Neti was the best description the authors of the

Upanishads were able to find for Brahma. I, therefore, think that the Poet has been unnecessarily alarmed at the negative aspect of Non-cooperation. We had lost the power of saying no. It had become disloyal , almost sacrilegious to say no to the Government. This deliberate refusal to cooperate is like the necessary weeding process that a cultivator has to resort before he sows. Weeding is as necessary to agriculture as sowing. Indeed, even whilst the crops are growing, the weeding fork, as every husbandman knows, is an instrument almost of daily use. The nations Noncooperation is an invitation to the Government to co-operate with it on its own terms as is every nations right and every good governments duty. Noncooperation is the nations notice that it is no longer satisfied to be in tutelage. The nation had taken to the harmless (for it), natural and religious doctrine of Non-cooperation in the place of the unnatural and irreligious doctrine of violence. And if India is ever to attain the swaraj of the Poets dream, she will do so only by Non-violent Non-cooperation. This disagreement between the Mahatma and the Poet works on two registers simultaneously: the political and the philosophical. To the Poet, by and large, cooperation and anandam are ontological states of being that enjoy a categorical/spiritual a priori status. In other words, cooperation as a fundamental ontological orientation and anandam as a primordial spiritual possibility/goal/horizon do not require the travails, the contradictions, the contingent and unpredictable vicissitudes of history for their legitimacy. Tagores distrust of history and the outcome of historical processes as struggles, contestations, and antagonisms is so intense and deep-rooted that he prefers to protect and quarantine whatever is worthwhile and precious in Existence from betrayal by History. The ultimate epiphanic affirmation of statements such as Aham Brahmasmi and Tat tvam asi is true by virtue of itself, and not as the function of an ongoing critical negotiations with negativity and nay-saying. Tagores objective is to instantiate in every instance of living the principle of ontological cooperation with spirituality and the principle of anandam; and the rationale of unmediated instantiation is only too willing to consider history as such, colonialist or otherwise, as the maya that warrants demystification. The epistemological critique of history as such as maya is informed by the understanding that all productions of Truth in History are unavoidably reactive in nature (and never proactive or anchored in their own ontology or worldview: and this is a truly postcolonial concern regarding derivativeness, (Partha Chatterjee) and ontological pre-emption by the vicious binary logic of winners and losers), and therefore never true by virtue of themselves. To put it in basic philosophical discourse, Tagores thinking takes the form of an abiding solicitude on behalf of the En Soi of Truth, and an eternal vigilance against the improper high-jacking of the En-Soi by the meretricious and inauthentic practices of historical representation that are motivated exclusively by a polemical opportunism that desires and wishes on behalf of the loser nothing more than the triumphalism of ritual winning. The Poet is keen to establish the truth of philosophical thinking over and above the mutable and deceptive truths of political history.

Gandhis rejoinder to Tagore is two-pronged: he responds both programmatically by clarifying his objectives against Tagores misrecognitions, and he also has something to say about Tagores philosophical rendition of the truths of history and politics. Humbly but firmly, Gandhi corrects Tagores understanding of the valences of the terms mukti and nirvana. Gandhi suggests that there indeed does obtain, between the two terms a relationship of semantic fungibility: mukti as emancipation from could be a negative practice in the name of freedom, and that nirvana could well be an affirmation. This interchangability is as much propositional-formal as it is historical-contextual. In reminding Tagore of the Upanishadic Neti protocol of finding the Truth, Gandhi is also proving the point that there can be no Truth without instrumentalization. Neti is as much the name of the Truth as much as it is the designation of an instrumentality or methodology. First of all, whether any statement is positive or negative in intent is to be understood as a matter of process or signification, i.e., not as a state of being, but as something being produced agentially from soothing other. In a world structured in dominance, negations and affirmations have to be understood with dialectical reference to each other. Propositionally speaking, the statement, I will NOT obey your law ought to be construed as an affirmation of positive sovereignty when the law being noncooperated against is Jim Crow or Colonialist legality. Gandhi reminds Tagore that in a context where the country had lost its power to say No, the wresting of this power can only be read as a positive and affirmative practice; Gandhi also makes it crystal clear that any self proclamation as free can happen only after the NO has been uttered in thunder. The nay-saying and the aye-saying, that comes about after the soil has been prepared and weed-disinfested by the nay-saying, constitute a necessary continuum of emancipation. With the ringing insight that an India prostrate at the feet of Europe can give no hope to humanity, Gandhi reminds Tagore that gesturing towards a spiritual, ontological humanity in an absolute and transcendent context that voids the reality of historical experience is utterly inane and otherworldly. Along with the tension of the historically particular with the transcendentaluniversal, there is another controversial conjuncture that lies at the heart of the GandhiTagore debates: India and the World, the Indian subject and humanity at large, Indian polity and cosmopolitanism. It is well known that Tagore named Shantiniketan also as Viswabharathi, i.e., WorldIndia, and as for Gandhi, there is his well known and oftquoted example of India as a house with open windows that will let the breezes blow from wherever but only on condition that the winds dont blow the house away. But the great leader is also known to have averred that India has nothing to learn from the world. So, who is learning from who, and who is the teacher and who the student? Is it a winner take all zero-sum game between India and the World, or is it a reciprocal unilateralism? What happens to the rest of the world in the evolving relationship between India and the world? Is this relationship micro-macro, metonymic, or synecdochic? And furthermore, how is the relationship between India and the World given shape and direction by the immediate colonial relationship between India and the West, to be more specific, England? I would like to start with that last colonial complication. Here is Tagore reading his own role in the articulation of a relationship between India and the West. I say again and again that I am a poet, that I am not a fighter by nature.

I would give everything to be one with my surroundings. I love my fellow beings and prize their love. Yet I have been chosen by destiny to ply my boat there where the current is against me. What irony of fate is this that I should be preaching cooperation of cultures between East and West on this side of the sea just at the moment when the doctrine of non-cooperation is preached on the other side? You know that I do not believe in the material civilization of the West just as I do not believe in the physical body to be the highest truth in man. But I still less believe in the destruction of the physical body, and the ignoring of the material necessities of life. What is needed is establishment of harmony between the physical and spiritual nature of man, maintaining of balance between the foundation and superstructure. I believe in the true meeting of the East and the West. Love is the ultimate truth of soul. We should do all we can, not to outrage that truth, to carry its banner against all opposition. The idea of non-cooperation unnecessarily hurts that truth. It is not our heart fire but the fire that burns out our hearth and home. Tagore feels strongly that true India is an idea and not a mere geographical fact, an idea that he has come into touch with in far away places of Europe, with his loyalty drawn to it in persons who belonged to different countries from mine. He exhorts himself and his readers to be rid of all false pride and rejoice at any lamp being lit at any corner of the world, knowing that it is a part of the common illumination of our house. To put it anachronistically, Tagore is playing here with the politics of location, destabilizing merely geographic notions of location, of proximity and distance, creating instead a diasporized concept of solidarity and a cosmopolitical sense of home. And quite predictably in the case of Tagore, such a nameless, or shall we say ineffable, cosmopolitanism is legitimated in the scriptural name of brahmanic Hinduism. India will be victorious when this idea wins victory, - the idea of Purusham mahantam aditya-varnam tamash parastat, the Infinite Personality whose light reveals itself through the obstruction of darkness. Our fight is against this darkness, our object is the revealment of the light of this Infinite Personality in ourselves. This Infinite Personality of man is not to be achieved in single individuals, but in one grand harmony of all human races. The darkness of egoism which will have to be destroyed is the egoism of the People. The idea of India is against the intense consciousness of the separateness of ones own people from others, and which inevitably leads to ceaseless conflicts. Therefore my one prayer is: let India stand for the cooperation of all peoples in the world. The spirit of rejection finds it support in the consciousness of separateness, the spirit of acceptance in the consciousness of unity. What is of importance here is Tagores avowal of his subject position as a poet and a person of culture; for it is on that basis that her perceives the irony of his situation. So, on the basis of what criteria does India and the leaders of India decide which of the two options is superior: cultural cooperation or political non-cooperation? Within the broader realm of what one could call reality, what is the relationship between politics and

culture? In Tagores usage, culture acts as the placeholder for Utopia in blind abeyance of the historical situation on the ground. What does it mean for Tagore to invoke cultural cooperation between the East and the West during the heyday of Colonialist and Orientalist practice? Wouldnt such a cooperation tantamount to an abject acquiesecence in being colonized? The only way open to Tagore is the strategy of ontological derealization by which he demotes historical reality to the status of maya. When he means the West he is not denoting the West; nor is he denoting India when he means India. It is the state of mind that liberates the body from its physical finitude and determination; and it is in this sense that India is an idea that cannot be merely a geographic fact. It is this deterritorialized attitude towards Truth that sets him apart from Gandhis idea of truth emerging conflictually in a specific place. To Tagore, Truth and Spirituality are topoi in themselves: locations of ideality whose dependence on history and politics is mere maya. I am truly ambivalent in my evaluation of this aspect of Tagores thought. On the one hand I feel like dismissing Tagores position as elitist-idealist-and escapist. But on the other hand, I feel compelled to listen carefully to Tagores reminder to us all that there indeed is a dire need to secure truth in its own ethical and spiritual ethos, rather than conceptualize it exclusively as the end product of determinate historical struggles. Tagore is reminding Gandhi and his readers that although the geneology of truth, i.e., the history of where it comes from, is an important aspect of the truth of truth, there is great harm in surrendering Truth to the vagaries of history. Tagore could be seen as endeavoring to construct a space for the category of the a priori over and above the clamor of historicity. For example, if ahimsa is a moral good, the validation of this goodness should have nothing to do with the historical progress report of ahimsa: whether it has succeeded or not, it is good in itself. It is only by deterritorializing the sovereignty of ahimsa from its empirical fixity that the human subject can truly honor the principle of ahimsa. It is time to look a little more closely at terms like materialism, idea, and spirituality, and observe how they circulate both in Tagores and Gandhis rhetoric. I want to begin this analysis with the simple statement that bodies and matter occupy space, and they die; whereas ideas and spirituality are not bounded territorially or temporally. Once we accept this modal differentiation, it is easy to understand why Tagore would value the spirit and the idea as infinitely more worthwhile than the domain of the bounded and finite. The idea of India, scattered-disseminateddiasporized all over the world, is infinitely more precious than a geographically determinate truth of India. To extend this line of thinking, the vast and cosmic idea of humanity as spirit is vastly more compelling than the limited and limiting instantiation of humanity in ideological regimes such as Nationalism. The epistemological problem is this: how to understand the relationship between these two descriptions of the same worldly reality: as Spinoza would have it, how to describe the world both on the registers of immanence and transcendence at the same time? Is there then a body of the world that is necessary as raw material for the production of the meaning of the world? Is the body the nothing but the raw material that qua material contributes to the phenomenological unfolding of the meaning of the world as Spirit? Is the epistemological/spiritual haunting of the body by the spirit itself a corporeal practice, or does the haunting emanate from a pure elsewhere? Is Tagore attempting to dissolve a pseudo-dualism by affirming the

sovereignty of the Noumenal over the Phenomenal, of true Gnana over the materiality of maya? In the passage quoted above, Tagore is equivocal in his understanding of the relationship of matter to spirit. Like Gandhi, he neither believes in the material civilization of the west nor in the supremacy of physical truth; but unlike Gandhi, he is not dismissive of the body or of the reality of material needs. He is not calling for an askesis or a desiccation of the physical and the material as a prolegomenon tinitiation into the realm of spirituality. He is in fact saying yes both to the physical and the spiritual, and looking forward to the establishment of harmony between the physical and the spiritual. If the body is, to introduce Michel Foucault to this discussion, the history of the present, and the spirit is the ideal or Utopian truth, Tagore has no intention of mortifying or impoverishing the former by way of empowering the latter. The balance or the harmony that he celebrates is the triumph of the indivisible One over the divisive many. His is not a dialectical project, Hegelian or Marxian, that either sublates contradiction or mobilizes contradictions as active social antagonisms that are intended to play themselves out towards a final historical materialist resolution, from necessity to freedom as Marx would have it. It is a poetic vision of harmony where harmony is an in itself that is desirable as a human goal. Such a harmony, in Tagores vision, is not so much the result of a political production as it is the representation of an attitude of love or empathy that not even the dire antagonistic needs of the political can/should violate. When Tagore declares that the truth of non-cooperation hurts the higher truth of universal love and empathy, he is in effect expressing an abiding solicitude for the indivisible One that is vulnerable to the fractious world of political partisanship and strategic opportunism. The soul that makes its appearance repeatedly is both the sign-bearer of spirituality, and the place-holder for the temporality of the Ideal One. The ontological problem confronting Tagore is the qualification of the One. The question is the following: the One of What? To say the One of the One does not take the discussion any further. Such a statement is either a tautology or the numinous silence of the En Soi. On the other hand, if Tagore were to say, the One of the many, his discourse wouldnt be all that different from the factitious discourse of nationalism, a discourse that Tagore thoroughly disapproves of, one that seeks to create the One from the many, by way of political production and manufacturing. It is in this context that Tagore makes a curious distinction between divisive egoism of the People that he deplores, and the anthropological grand harmony of all human races. What is to be destroyed is the dark egoism of the People. On the other side is enlightenment and illumination in the name of the multiracial harmony of the family of Man. So, what are the races, and who are the peoples of the world? What is the taxonomic relationship between races and peoples? In the context of anthropological races and national peoples, what status do names have, names such as, Mongolian, Teutonic, Aryan, Dravidian, Indian, English, French, and German? When and under what conditions does the identification of oneself with one name militate against cooperation and harmony with other names? The Infinite Personality in ourselves that Tagore invokes is neither a collectivity nor an individual identity, but an ideal potentiality that makes all selfcentered or identitarian entrenchment mean and paltry. Tagore will acknowledge India

not as a national identity, but rather as an allegorical point of entry towards for the cooperation of all peoples in the world. Hence Tagores double-take on materiality and the physical: the material and the physical are to be fetishized as ends in themselves, but as the means towards a greater harmony. Unlike Gandhi, who comes across in Tagores eyes as an ascetic who punishes the flesh and the materiality of the present, Tagore is not in favor of a rationale, teleological or eschatological, that endorses present mortification or nay-saying in the name of a good to come. Much of the discussion that takes place between Tagore and Gandhi brings to mind the questions and concerns that Nehru voices in his Discovery of India: where is India, whom does it belong to, how is India to be made ones own by its people, does India preexist as an ideal entity, or is to be signified into being through the exercise of free populist will? Tagores views on the matter, as expressed in the following passage, are clear and definitive. Alien government in India is a veritable chameleon. Today it comes in the guise of the Englishman; tomorrow perhaps as some other foreigner; the next day, without abating a jot of its virulence, it may take the shape of our own countrymen. However determinedly we may try to hunt this monster of foreign dependence with outside lethal weapons, it will always elude our pursuit by changing its skin, or its colour. But if we can gain within us the truth called our country, all outward maya will vanish of itself. The declaration of faith that my country is there, to be realized, has to be attained by each one of us. The idea that our country is ours, merely because we have been born in it, can only be held by those who are fastened, in a parasitic existence, upon the outside world. But the true nature of man is his inner nature, with its inherent powers. Therefore, that only can be a mans true country, which he can help to create by his wisdom and will, his love and his actions. And Tagore goes on to say that we must win our country, not from some foreigner, but from our own inertia, our own indifference. In a manner that anticipates the deconstructive auto-critical vigilance of Jacques Derrida, Tagores diagnosis works at the systemic or structural level than at the level of ostensible contents. That we can be or turn into our own colonizer, and that the self can be its own alien are profound insights that transcend the pettiness of immediate and reductive political recognitions and identifications. Like Derrida and Jacques Lacan, each of whom makes critical differentiations between the other and the Other, Tagore too, despite the urgency of immediate political decolonization, has the ethico-epistemological integrity to declare that alien government in India is a veritable chameleon. In other words, alien government has to be detected in all its floating, deterritorialized manifestations, and not read symptomatically as an instance of identity theft to be rectified through recourse to natal or native formulae of belonging. Critical vigilance against a shape-shifting chameleon cannot be based on the truth of some true external form for the simple reason that it is externality as such that is the deceiver. Tagores answer is to find an inner truth that is invulnerable to seduction by externality and its chameleon like self instantiations and exemplifications. My question however is the following: Is this inner

self in Tagore a form of essentialist belief or fiction, or is it a historical/secular production? This issue becomes even more complicated in the context of Tagores constant negative reference, a la, Sankara, to the category of maya. Is Tagore merely recuperating classical Advaita philosophy and suggesting that history and politics pertain to the register of maya whereas true spiritual knowledge as Brahma gnana/vidya is on the other side of maya, ie., absolutely heterogeneous with the world of the political and the historical? Or, is he re-signifying the concept of maya as nescience or illusive knowledge to enact a different relationship between the realms of contingency and necessity? If the cleansing and the demystification of politics and history is to take, fro what position will such a critical endeavor be undertaken? Whence will such enlightenment emanate? Does the realm of maya partake in the production of true knowledge; or is it merely a form of the fake that is to be demystified and discarded on the way to true knowledge? To put it differently, are the truths of politics and history to be valorized as historical and political, or are they to be trans-substantiated into the Truth of Spirituality? What is difficult to determine in Tagores discourse is whether he is prescribing as a remedy, otherworldliness, or an other way of imagining reality in all its multivalent complexity. What is common both to Gandhi and Tagore, despite the differences in the way they go about performing their tasks, is the simultaneous practice as well as the purification of politics, and the question is purification by and in the name of what principle? To put this differently, how does each thinker deal with the relative autonomies of politics, history, etc., and at the same time envision Totality in critical transcendence of the logic of the parts? The question is: how does reality become one, and how the subject becomes free in such a realization? There is an interesting moment in the passage quoted above from Tagore where the Poet makes a telling reference to the figure of the parasite. Let us hear Tagore again. The idea that our country is ours, merely because we have been born in it, can only be held by those who are fastened, in a parasitic existence, upon the outside world. Tagores brilliant polemical formulation of parasitism does not reiterate the clichd opposition between parasitic dependence and ones own natal/native/autochthonous/indigenous/filial independence, but instead radicalizes the very meaning of parasitic existence. Tagore proposes a non-filiative re-negotiation of what it means to be Indian. Tagore is recoding, literally re-semanticizing the meaning of what it means to be Indian: rather than celebrate and sacralize being born in India as a vital principle of authentic identity, Tagore relegates being born in India/in any place for that matter to the secondary and nonessential condition of mere external circumstantiality. As a result, the formulation, India is mine simply because I was born in India becomes symptomatic of the most abject parasitism: citizenship not in the inner India of infinite spirituality, but in the finite, contingent geographic accident called India. Within Tagores philosophical hermeneutics, the allegorical repudiation of parasitism takes precedence over the historical critique of parasitic existence. In other words, Tagores primary objective is to liberate the human subject from its bondage to the world of external fact and circumstance (the tenor of the allegory), and as historical instantiation of the allegory, to liberate the Indian subject from its bondage to inauthentic and erroneous notions of India.

What is problematic, however, in Tagores vision is the magisterial as well as pedagogical authority that characterizes his anonymous appeal to what after all are specifically Hindu-Indian texts: Purusham mahantam aditya-varnam tamasah parastat, the Infinite Personality whose light reveals itself through the obstruction of darkness. In his attempt to demystify the Indian people and wean them away from seduction by Indiaas-maya, Tagore has no problem ex-nominating his canonical Hindu-Indian references. In Tagores philosophical scheme of things, the world of Ideas and Spirituality is transcendent of the provincial pettiness and finitude of bodies, geographic entities, and their divisive names. Tagores hope is that when the Indian people realize their country within their heart and spirit, conflicts among nations will cease; and more significantly, parochial ego identifications with ones exclusive and exclusionary nation will give place to a cosmic recognition of the human everywhere. It is to be expected that Tagore, unlike Gandhi who does not think of himself as a poet-thinker-philosopher, should pose the entire problem at the level of thought, gnosis, and epistemology. There is a right understanding, and there are misunderstandings. The misunderstanding, from Tagores perspective, is a misunderstanding of the human by the human. The misunderstanding is profoundly intra-human, i.e., if one were to think of humanity as an indivisible One. But alas, we only know all too clearly that the Human as One is divided up into multiple collective, and in particular, national human subjects. Consequently, the intra-Human understanding is in effect an inter-human misunderstanding, i.e., a relational misunderstanding, between the East and the West, and among the many nations that constitute our world. So, where and how should the rectification/remediation of the misunderstanding be applied? To point up a contrast here, since I have used the term remediation along with rectification: whereas an allopathic system of medicine would cure the symptom at the site of the symptom itself, ayurveda or yoga would attempt a holistic remedy that would focus on the root cause of which the symptom is all after the symptom. It is in the nature of the symptom to stimulate a local diagnosis, whereas holistic medicine would first of all deterritorialize the finite location of the symptom and look for an inclusive and deep structure cure. The misunderstanding may well be in the arm, symptomatically speaking, but in reality, it may be a misunderstanding between the arm and the heart, or between the arm that is somatic and some psychic pressure or tension that the organism is going through. To put it in terms of my discussion of Tagores cosmo-spiritual-politics, the intra-human misunderstanding as such has to diagnosed through the symptom of a determinate inter-human misunderstanding such as between the East and the West. And here I quote at length from Tagore, before I turn my focus back to Gandhi. Therefore, it hurts me deeply when the cry of rejection rings loud against the West in my country with the clamour that the Western education can only injure us. It cannot be true. What has caused the mischief is the fact that for a long time we have been out of touch with our own culture and therefore the

Western culture has not found its prospective in our life very often found a wrong prospective giving our mental eye a squint. When we have the intellectual capital of our own, the commerce of thought with the outer world becomes natural and fully profitable. But to say that such commerce is inherently wrong, is to encourage the worst form of provincialism, productive of nothing but intellectual indigence. The West has misunderstood the East which is at the root of the disharmony that prevails between them, but will it mend the matter if the East in her turn tries to misunderstand the West? The present age has been powerfully possessed by the West; it has only become possible because to her is given some great mission for man. We from the East have to come to her to learn whatever she has to teach us; for by doing so we hasten the fulfillment of this age. We know that the East also has her lessons to give and she has her own responsibility of not allowing her light to be extinguished, and the time will come when the West will find leisure to realize that she has a home of hers in the East where her food is and her rest. My response to this passage is agonizingly ambivalent: on the one hand, I am moved and inspired by Tagores Utopian-deconstructive vision on behalf of all humanity, but at the same time I am appalled by the ease with which Tagore exonerates the West and places the historical as well as ontological onus of introspection and moral spiritual information on the East. Equally troubling, despite his call for East West cooperation and his perspectival endorsement of the potential and necessary contributions of the East, is Tagores reliance on the mystique of the Zeitgeist and the privileged relationship of the West to the actualization of the Zeitgeist. Tagores vision is plagued by the flaw that bedevils all trans-historical and trans-ideological humanisms: they create an absolute separation between the temporality of Ontology and historicity. If Stalinist Marxism, in the name of the time to come perpetrates the nightmare of dystopia, Tagore, at the other extreme, excuses all in the name of the time to come and foists on the colonized subject the untenable burden of achieving a world without borders: sans struggle, sans antagonism, sans contradiction. It is one thing to assume responsibility for ones own culture and ones own failures and shortcomings; and quite another to assume a position of ethical martyrdom whereby the colonized subject is criminalized for having been colonized. To reduce the outrage of Colonialism, or for that matter the epistemological violence of Orientalism, to a mere matter of misunderstanding and to euphemize colonialist dominance as mere disharmony is to be guilty of nothing short of absolute innocence. Tagores insistence that all human possibilities, Ontology if you will, should not be corrupted, perverted and pre-empted by the passing maya of Colonialism is all well and good; but the question is how will the truth of Colonialism as illusion be defeated in history, historically? Clearly, Gandhis position of nay-saying to Colonialism makes perfect sense whereas Tagores call for spiritual-allegorical transformation is literally fantastic. What then do we make of Tagores concern, that motivated by the urge to retaliate, that the East should not misunderstand the West? Is the West not what the West has done to the East? Is there another latent West that is not complicit in the perpetration

of Colonialism? The Wests intentions have been clear and colonialist: surely Tagore is not contending that the colonial effect is itself the result of an Oriental misunderstanding of the Occident. Whereas Gandhi, while making that all important distinction between the person of the Englishman and the Colonialism that he stands for, would argue (and this is a line of thought brilliantly theorized in the work of Ashis Nandy), would contend that the Colonizer is as much damaged, if not more, by Colonialism as the Colonized, Tagore with his horror of the negation and binary antagonism does not even look in that direction. Tagore will just not name Colonialism as Colonialism, for he has a horror of names that divide and perpetuate conflicts and hatreds among humans. To bring back to this discussion a theme I had barely touched upon earlier in the essay: the three paths to reality, i.e., bhakti, karma, gnana. If reality is One, but there are three equally viable modes to that One reality with each mode with its own temporality, how will the three temporalities will come together in synchronicity, or will they, in their relative endorsement of the One reality? A bhaktha a la Job or Abraham and a whole pantheon of suffering bhakthas in the Hindu tradition make peace with suffering in a quietist mode all in the name of Gods will; a gnana yogi seeks to comprehend the same situation intellectually/epistemologically, whereas the karma yogi acts and understands reality. My point is simply that it is in the temporality of a particular mode of understanding that the world worlds. Literally, Gandhi and Tagore are so apart modally that they could be seen as living in the same world of problems, but in altogether different worlds of resolutions. It is in the context of moving from problems to resolutions that the theme of education and its relevance figure prominently in the Gandhi-Tagore conversations: in particular, the role of the West in the curriculum. As is to be expected, the learning of English acts as the lightning rod for the entire effect of the West and westernization. Let us hear Gandhi on this fraught issue. The Poet does not know perhaps that English is today studied because of its commercial and so-called political value. Our boys think, and rightly in the present circumstances, that without English they cannot get Government service. Girls are taught English as a passport to marriage. I know several instances of women wanting to learn English so that they may be able to talk to Englishmen in English. I know families in which English is being made the mother tongue. Hundreds of youths believe that without a knowledge of English freedom for India is practically impossible. The canker has so eaten into the society that, in many cases, the only meaning of Education is a knowledge of English. All these are for me signs of our slavery and degradation. It is unbearable to me that the vernaculars should be crushed and starved as they have been. I cannot tolerate the idea of parents writing to their children, or husbands writing to their wives, not in their own vernaculars, but in English. I hope I am as great a believer in free air as the great Poet. I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. The big difference between Tagore and Gandhi is that the latter actually builds a case circumstantially whereas the Poet generalizes acontextually. Gandhi rightly identifies

specific interventions that English makes in the vernacular body politic of India. Most significantly, unlike the Poet, Gandhi immediately identifies the power dynamic between English and the vernaculars: an oppressively uneven dynamic imposed by Colonialism. Not for the political resister the luxury of the ideal world where English and the vernaculars are in a blissfully reciprocal relationship. Gandhi shrewdly identifies the ways in which English becomes a stand in for Education, and deracinates India from its vernacular being. Not for Gandhi the privilege of language as literature and language as aesthetic contemplation of the spiritual ideal: to him language is instrumentality, language is the site of and is power play. He refuses to consider the politics of English in isolation: it has to be in relationship to the fate of the vernaculars. The impoverishment of the vernaculars is the direct result of the flourishing of English. The Poets concern is largely about the students. He is of the opinion that they should not have been called upon to give up Government schools before they had other schools to go to. Here I must differ from him. I have never been able to make a fetish of literary training. My experience has proved to my satisfaction that literary training by itself adds not an inch to ones moral height and that character building is independent of literary training. I am firmly of opinion that the Government schools have unmanned us; rendered us helpless and Godless. They have filled us with discontent, and providing no remedy for the discontent, have made us despondent. They have made us what we were intended to becomeclerks and interpreters. A Government builds its prestige upon the voluntary association of the governed. And if it was wrong to cooperate with the Government in keeping us slaves, we were bound to begin with those institutions in which our association appeared to be the most voluntary. The youth of a nation are its hope. I hold that, as soon as we discovered that the system of Government was wholly, or mainly evil, it became sinful for us to associate our children with it. The issues are: pedagogy, the syllabus for and on behalf of the nation, the formation of political and cultural subjectivity, and the cultivation of a relevant youth towards a future that India can call its own. The sphere of education is crucial for the obvious reason that it is through the educational apparatus that subject formation takes place; and it is Gandhis legitimate concern that the subject being formed should be relevant in the Indian context. A subject interpellated by English would be at odds with Indian realities, and moreover, any political agency achieved on the basis of such a subject would be at odds with Indias needs and imperatives. Even though Gandhi does not phrase it thus, his fear is that for lack of proper subject formation and the consequent subject-agency misalignment, some form of neo-colonialism will persist even after the realization of independence. The only way to guard against such a possibility is to prepare the right pedagogical-educational track through non cooperation. Tagores sense of relevance works the other way around: from cosmic or boundless India to the named and nameable India. Gandhis position is that bharath can fulfill its commitment to the vishva only after it has lived up to itself. The other ongoing contestation between the two has to do with critical negativity and offering a positive option. Gandhi, and here I would agree with him, points out that weaning the youth away from a pernicious pattern of education

is in itself a valuable plan of action. But the difference between the two thinkers about the literary and the useful deserves special attention. Gandhi categorically rejects the claim that a literary education is a good in itself. He makes two value judgments regarding literary pedagogy: 1) that the literary does not automatically become ethical, and 2) that indeed it is possible to fetishize literature and in the process lose sight of the total and overall pragmatic objective of education. The other issues that come up here are: basic education and specialized education, education as means and education as end, concept and precept in pedagogy, the intellectual-people relationship, education and community building. By way of anticipating the next segment of this essay, I would like to focus on literature by asking the two following questions. When is literature enlightening and when is literature itself a source of mystification? Is literature a general category of human learning and understanding, or is it a specific genre that comes under specialized knowledges? What is or should be the relationship between education and ideology? Who are the experts and who the lay practitioners of knowledge, and who should be in charge in the task of elaborating education as a matter of public policy? Finally, in the context of democratic education, who are the people and how are they be both represented and produced into existence? What is the nature of leadership, and how should the authority of the leaders be produced and applied to the populist will? Is Gandhi a generalist and Tagore a specialist? Is Gandhis critique of the literary model a function of his populist-instrumental way of thinking, and does Tagore have a vested interest in Literature for the simple reason that he is a Poet, and that is how he declares his subject position? The basic issue here is staggeringly complex. What is the best education policy for a whole nation that is seeking to decolonize and emancipate itself, and who should be in charge of drawing up this blueprint? What is the role of the intellectual in all this? Are we looking for an organic intellectual, a la Gramsci, or the talented tenth of the Du Boisian kind, or the Foucauldian specific intellectual who refuses to take on the burden of macropolitical representation? And the complexity of these problems is compounded further in the context of a colonized people who are engaged in the task of overthrowing the oppressor: a people who are not yet their own politically speaking even though they have been an ancient people prior to the horrors of colonialism. Both Tagore and Gandhi are deeply aware of the ontological damage done to the natives by colonialism. The ontological thesis is that a free people give the gift of themselves to themselves; and it is precisely this possibility of ontological self-address that is taken away from the colonized by colonialist domination and oppression. Whereas Tagore would rather dwell as a Poet in the pure and untrammelled realm of Ontology and through an intellectual sleight of hand dismiss Colonialism as maya, Gandhi chooses the much more difficult path of producing a free ontology by way of political struggle: a struggle that has to produce its own terms of relevance in antagonism and in critical negation of the given colonized reality. Gandhi understands that behind the literary English education provided by the colonial government schools lies a different mandate: the infamous Babington Macaulayan imperial desire to create obedient clerks and interpreters of Pax Britannica. He understands the danger of what Ngugi wa ThiongO would call decades later the culture bomb that kills a people psychically by

deracinating them from their ethos. Gandhis diagnosis is at its most acute when he maintains that English education creates a discontent that it cannot remedy: what is created instead is a chronic despondency. What Gandhi is describing symptomatically is the condition of the midnights children that Rushdie has immortalized. Midnights children are nothing but chronic symptoms who have accepted the symptom itself as the cure. The only way to prevent the malaise of endless post-colonial double-ness is to identify the source of the disease during the process of decolonization, and eradicate it rightaway. Whether Gandhi really believes that India has to learn anything from western modernity, i.e., given Gandhis tout court dismissal of modernity and its epistemology, is another issue. In my reading, his dismissal of modernity is more definitive and binding than the metaphor of the house with open windows. But what Gandhi is astutely aware of, an awareness lacking in Tagores idealized and utopianized vision, is that cultures and civilizations and histories are brought into contact with one another under specific conditions of power and privilege, and that the nature of the contact is definitively constituted by these historic conditions and circumstances. In other words, there is no denying the reality that the West was introduced to India through colonial violence and domination; and as Edward Said has argued convincingly in his Orientalism, it is at the level of knowledge and epistemology that the native was undone. Of course, this does not repudiate the fact that the West has its intra-familial quarrels with itself, that the West has cultural and epistemological resources not all of which are complicit with colonialism and imperialism (I am reminded here of Saids Culture and Imperialism), or that under totally transformed conditions East and West may establish a harmoniously symbiotic relationship with each other. As Gandhi would have it: Nor need the Poet fear that Non-cooperation is intended to erect a Chinese wall between India and the West. On the contrary, Non-cooperation is intended to pave the way to real, honourable and voluntary co-operation based on mutual respect and trust. The present struggle is being waged against compulsory co-operation, against one-sided combination, against the armed imposition of modern methods of exploitation, masquerading under the name of civilization. Non-cooperation is a protest against an unwitting and unwilling participation in evil. If the Gandhi-Tagore discussions thematize the relationship between knowledge production as disinterested and knowledge as unavoidably polemical, in the Nietzschean sense of the term, they also raise fundamental questions about form-content, and subject matter-methodology nexus as well. Also implicated are the following questions. If there are different kinds of pedagogy, who is to determine what the right time is for each kind of pedagogy? What is the difference between pedagogy during normal times and pedagogy under crisis or during times of political emergency and peril? How should the pedagogy of the oppressed be organized differently from the pedagogies of dominance? As is to expected, Tagore refuses to acknowledge the multiplicity of different times and occasions; his focus is always steadfastly on the temporality of the Indivisible Spirit even though such a Spirit has been traduced, trashed, and violated

heinously by material history. Gandhi, on the other hand, is the situated and embodied thinker who has to strategize his pedagogy in response to the immediate situation which is far from a mere embodiment of maya. To Gandhi, gnostic realization has to come in the wake of situated practices; in other words, gnosis enjoys no categorical primacy of the a priori. It is in the context of Gandhis pedagogical prescription of the practice of charkha for the entire nation that the debate heats up, for Tagore is as unequivocal in his condemnation of spinning the wheel as Gandhi is absolute in his advocacy of the charkha. What is at stake is the determination whether the charkha is a semantically rich domain at all that can generate a meaningful pedagogy; and folded into this discussion is the relationship of manual labor to intellectual labor. I will begin with Tagores saying No to Gandhis program of action. Why should not our guru of today, who would lead us on the paths of karma, send forth such a call? Why should he not say: Come ye from all sides and be welcome. Let all the forces of the land be brought into action, for then alone shall the country awake. Freedom is in complete awakening, in full selfexpression. God has given the Mahatma voice that can call, for in him there is the Truth. Why should not this be our long awaited opportunity? But his call came to one narrow field alone. To one and all he simply says; Spin and weave, spin and weave. Is this the call: Let all seekers of Truth come from all sides? Is this the call of the New Age to new creation? Tagore goes on thus. But if man can be stunted by big machines, the danger of his being stunted by small machines must not be lost sight of. The charkha in its proper place can do no harm but will rather do much good. But where, by reasoned failure to acknowledge the differences in mans temperament it is in the wrong place, there thread can only be spun at the cost of a great deal of the mind itself. Mind is no less valuable than cotton thread. Some are objecting: We do not propose to curb our minds for ever, but only for a time. But why should it be given for a time? Is it because within a short time spinning will give us swaraj? But where is the argument for this? Swaraj is not concerned with our apparel only it cannot be established on cheap clothing: its foundation is in the mind, which, with its diverse powers and its confidence in those powers, goes on all the time creating swaraj for itself. Tagore has no hesitation in totally endorsing the messenger, the Mahatma, but he does he have a problem with the message: a message that he finds reductive, and shall we say, anti-intellectual? First of all, there is the question of the many sidedness of Truth, and there is the heterogeneous multi-lateral constitution of this total Truth. And what does the Mahatma do? He trivializes this Truth with the simplistic injunction: Spin and weave. What Tagore does not understand of course is that Gandhi intends spinning and weaving as symbolic action; but even if Tagore were to acknowledge that, he would still

have a problem with the programmatic and opportunistic condensation of the many ways and modalities of the Truth. Then, in an interesting twist of logic, Tagore hoists the Mahatma on his own petard when he argues that small machines, and not just the massive machines of modernity, could stunt the human being. Clearly, it is the mechanical in the machine that is the object of discussion. Are all machines equally bad, or does it depend on the size and the scale? Just as in the earlier example of the chariot and the human charioteer, is the equipmental or the mechanical nature of the machine to be provided ethical direction of the human agent who drives the machine but is in no way driven or constituted by the machine? On what level are the charkha and the cotton mills of Lancashire the same, and on what ideological grounds are they fundamentally dissimilar? Given Gandhis uncompromising valorization of manual labor on behalf of all humanity and Tagores solicitude on behalf of the creative possibilities of the intellect versus mere mechanical-physical repetition, is the human being his/her own machine when s/he is involved in manual labor? In other words, in the context of Gandhian economics (a category that Tagore would not acknowledge, and more of that in a little while), does the laboring human body obviate the secondarity of the machine and thereby eliminate possibilities of alienation by achieving within itself a perfect subject-object harmony? Is Tagore then, despite his cosmic monism and advaitic anchorage, a closet dualist when it comes to the body and the mind? It is obvious that Tagore associates a perennial temporality with the Mind, and hence his claim that swaraj is constantly being created in the Mind, while the time of the body is mechanical and transient time. Here again, by an odd turn of logic, Tagore is accusing Gandhi for his production line orientation to the charkha. Tagores question to Gandhi is: How can freedom emerge when the human mind is enslaved to the mechanical practice of spinning and weaving, en masse, ad nauseam, ad infinitum? The question about the mind and the body is simultaneously a question about temporality. What is the appropriate temporality of swaraj: immanent, transcendent, historical, psychic? Is swaraj to be attained in stages: economic, political, cultural, philosophic, ontological, spiritual? I am thinking of the different stages that Antonio Gramsci talks about: the economic-corporate, the cultural, and finally the ethical, the proper site of permanent persuasion. Or is it to be attained as a totality in one synchronic move? Tagores fear here is that a strategy, such as cooperation, that is undertaken for a while could stay on indefinitely; and what is worse, that the strategy might master the human, rather than function as a mere instrument. But even as he expresses concern over the instrumentalization of Reason, Tagore comes down strongly on the side of professionalism and the division of labor along lines of specialization, as in the following passage. From our master, the Mahatmamay our devotion to him never grow less!we must learn the truth of love in all its purity, but the science and art of building up swaraj is a vast subject. Its pathways are difficult to traverse and take time. For this task, aspiration and emotion must be there, but no less must study and thought be there likewise. For it, the economist must think, the mechanic must labor, the educationist and statesman must teach and contrive. In a word, the mind of the country must exert itself in all directions. Above all, the spirit of

Inquiry throughout the whole country must be kept intact and untrammelled, its mind not made timid or inactive by compulsion open or secret. Whether it be the exhortation to spin the wheel or the imperative to burn foreign cloth, Tagore is bothered by the fact that Gandhis decisions are not based on economics, but entirely on morality. Tagore is appalled that Gandhi seems to be working on some irrational principle of magic and charismatic transformation. As Tagore would have it, the question of using regular cloth of a particular manufacture belongs mainly to economic science, but what he sees happening under Gandhis leadership is a tendency to use the magical formula that foreign cloth is impure, with the result that economics is bundled out and a fictitious moral dictum dragged in its place. There are two other substantive reasons why Tagore has difficulty obeying Gandhis orders to the nation to non-cooperate and burn foreign cloth. First, because Tagore believes that it is his very first duty to put up a valiant fight against this terrible habit of obeying orders, and that this fight can never be carried on by our people being driven from one injunction to another. Secondly, Tagore is not convinced that Gandhi has earned the organic representative and representational sanction to make recommendations on behalf of the people. Says Tagore. I feel that the clothes to be burnt are not mine, but belong to those who most sorely need them. If those who are going naked should have given us the mandate to burn, it would, at least, have been a case of self-immolation and the crime of incendiarism would not lie at our door. But how can we expiate the sin of the forcible destruction of clothes which might have gone to women whose nakedness is actually keeping them prisoners unable to stir out of the privacy of their homes? In this context, I find myself favoring both Gandhi and Tagore, and for different reasons. In so far as Tagore is reminding Gandhi that the specialist findings of economics ought not to be trivialized and subsumed under morality, I am with him. But I find Tagore far too credulous when he invokes the truth of economics as though it were disinterested and neutral, untouched by the macro-political rationale of Colonialism. Colonial economics is precisely what Gandhi is seeking to combat through noncooperation and the burning of foreign cloth. Tagore, with his belief in pure gnosis or gnana, makes no room in his thinking for an Economics that has gone colonialist. Tagore will not make the connection between the truths of Economics and the reality that the cotton mills of Lancashire are destroying indigenous cotton production. In fact, Tagore does not realize that the Economics that he is invoking does not exist in the real world. What escapes Tagores Gnostic perspective is the fact that Gandhi is indeed trying to articulate a counter or subaltern Economics that begins with the task saying No to the demands of Colonialist Economics, i.e., after having demystified the so-called objectivity of Colonialist Economics. Sure enough, it is true, as Tagore claims, that Gandhi does not have an answer, a positive solution to take the place of the wrong that he is non-cooperating with. Of course, it is quite another matter that Gandhi does not believe in the separation of Morality from Economics. Gandhi and Tagore are two very different kinds of teachers, both in terms of what they teach and how they earn authority on behalf of their pedagogical practice. Both of them entertain highly divergent conceptions of the human subject of pedagogy and the

psycho-somatic balance of this subject. By and large, Tagore privileges the mind and the intellect and downplays, and some times even derides, the body and its musculature. He is also averse to the strategy of pedagogy as repetition: a strategy that in his view is mindnumbing and produces servitude in the body by way of reiteration and the production of an inescapable muscle memory. Tagores counter-valorization of manual labor is partly the result of intellectual elitism, and partly the symptom of a romantic idealism that views matter as clunky and unregenerate. Here is Tagore.

But, it may be argued, does not external work react on the mind? It does, only if it has its constant suggestions to our intellect, which is the master, and not merely its commands for our muscles, which are slaves. In this clerk-ridden country, for instance, we all know that the routine of clerkship is not mentally stimulating. By doing the same thing day after day mechanical skill may be acquired; but the mind like a bull-turning bullock will be kept going round and round a narrow range of habit. That is why, in every country man has looked down on work which involves this kind of repetition. Carlyle may have proclaimed the dignity of labour in his stentorian accents, but a still louder cry has gone up from humanity, age after age, testifying to its indignity. The wise man sacrifices the half to avert a total loss-so says our Sanskrit proverb. Rather than die of starvation, one can understand a man preferring to allow his mind to be killed. But it would be a cruel joke to try to console him by talking of the dignity of such sacrifice. Tagore takes great pains to steer pedagogy clear of the behaviorist model of pure stimulus and response. The ultimate dystopic actualization of such a pedagogy would be the scenario that Aldous Huxley satirizes in his novel, Brave New World: a scene where the students regurgitate, in response to the question, Where is the Nile? entire paragraphs on the history of the Nile. The tragedy of course is that this knowledge by rote exists exclusively as a mechanical response to the stimulus-question: What is the Nile? Within this curriculum, the students reside as idiots within the body of knowledge that they recite mindlessly. In this passage, Tagore runs advances two theses simultaneously. First, there is the thesis of safeguarding the free interiority of the mind from mere factitious creatureliness: the mind needs to be the master and not degenerate into slavery. Secondly, it is important to realize the space of mental freedom as the space of India. Mind is to matter what India is to the maya of the West. It is not at all coincidental that often Tagore would clinch the issue with an authoritative quotation from a scriptural Sanskrit text, as he does here. One of the operating oppositions in Tagores theater of thought is that of Habit versus Reason. Reason is true and creative by virtue of itself whereas habit is the blind creation of reiteration. The truth of reiteration lies without whereas the truth of Reason lies within. Habit is un-self-reflexive, and anti-pedagogical, and results in thoughtless addiction. Tagore chooses not to make a distinction between good and bad habits. Habit

formation in general is epistemologically suspect. Tagore also, as a believer in the creativity of Reason, seems to be ruling out the distinction between theoretical Reason and applied or practical Reason: a distinction that would allow for application as repetition. But most crucially, Tagore resists the pedagogy of habituation whereby the masses merely obey, by way of habit formation, the instructions broadcast to them by a charismatic leader. This resistance to blind authority is based both in the name of the individual and in the name of Reason. Tagores critique is that Gandhis mode of propagating the moral authority of the movement precludes the possibility of the celebration of Reason within each and every individual. It is this romantic individualism in Tagore that questions the production of populist agency through leaderly unilateralism. Tagores utopian thesis is that when people merely obey, they learn nothing and they are not exercising Reason. It is also clear that Tagore finds the term dignity of labor quite problematic, if not altogether oxymoronic. Tagores leisurely physiocratic sensibility finds labor itself demeaning; and to Tagore, labor is exclusively physical. The exercise of the mind in the name of Reason is a gratuitous and therefore free act. On a practical level, one could see Tagore supporting the thesis that labor commodifies human freedom. One could also foresee Tagore endorsing the wide spread use of machines as labor saving devices so that all human beings may reserve their time for mental and intellectual performance. It is this streak of Tagores aristocratic intellectualism on behalf of the all that leads to his passion for the concept of mastery. The telling difference between freedom, whether it is freedom from or freedom towards, and mastery is that the former is historical-circumstantial and the latter purely interior and non-relational. Mastery, both in a Tagorean as well as in a Nietzschean sense of the term, happens within the interiority of the organism without any reference to the outside. The great soul, could be the Ubermensch inspired by a special amor fati, achieves mastery over itself, in abeyance and/or transcendence of history. Thus, within Colonialist history, the individual Soul could be exercising and perfecting Self mastery and thus nihilate or reduce to the status of maya the all too tangible material-discursive reality of Colonialism and its reality. Mastery of and within the self is in fact a calculated polemical strategy to obviate history and anaesthetize oneself against laceration by history; but such a calculated strategy can easily be valorized duplicitously as pure gnosis and the pursuit of Brahma-gyana. And of course throughout this essay we have observed Tagore cleanse or sanitize politics with pure knowledge with the clear intention of claiming for philosophy and spirituality a Truth higher than the many changing truths, the many chameleon truths that strut around contingently as the mere products of history and historiography. Tagore in fact is invoking a deeper historicality that is coextensive and consubstantial with the very spiritual being of India; and this invocation is being performed as an act of demystification of Colonialist, anti- and post-colonialist historiographies. Both Nietzsche (who after all did favor poetic and aesthetic thinking) and Tagore, whatever their other differences, identify history and the hang up with history as our basic human malaise. It is not to history, the advocacy of one historicity and decolonization from another historicity, that we should be addressing our might and creativity; but rather, towards achieving a different kind of interpellation, within ourselves. The call should come from within to within in a movement of transcendent and timeless interiority. But here too, despite the strong ideological common ground between

Nietzsches Ubermensch and Tagores Atman, there are differences to be observed between Tagores and Nietzsches quarrels with history. Nietzsche, for example, in his formulation of the concept of the Eternal Return, makes the shattering claim that nothing changes, that history is nothing but the eternal return of the same, and that it takes a human subject with extraordinary strength, resilience, and intellectual fortitude to accept this truth and still live on in self mastery. According to Nietzsche, it is only the small and weak minds, fuelled and motivated exclusively and obsessively by ressentiment, who dream of vanquishing history with history, and of winning the game through the cheap and meretricious ruse of substitution effects. But the really great human subject laughs and engages not in the game of winning and losing, but in the grand second order game of playing with the game itself. Not being tied down by the winner-loser of the game and not being the ontological-axiological subject or creature of the rationale of the game, this super subject can initiate the meta- or the second order project of the trans-valuation of all values and of the very value of value. And surely, this Nietzschean remedy is as attractive as it is dangerous. What does mastery mean here: the mastery of an individual, a race, on behalf of whom? This is not the occasion for me to get into that million dollar issue in Nietzsche, and by extension in Tagore as well, of the relationship between perspectivism, and the annihilation of perspectivism in the doctrine of the Eternal Return. In Tagore, this problem is enacted as the tension between a situated sense of history and a historicality of the Spirit: a historicality where the existential tangles with the epistemological. The question Tagore does not, and in fact is incapable of asking for the simple reason that he has outlawed through a sheer act of will such interrogation, is the following: Is not the very search for stability beyond historicity a profoundly historical symptom? Gandhis response to The Poet and the charkha is remarkable both for its humor and its meticulous candor. In the following passage, Gandhi pitches their disagreement at the level of professional discord and misunderstanding. It is time to realize that our fields are absolutely different and at no point overlapping. The Poet lives in a magnificent world of his own creation-his world of ideas. I am a slave of somebody elses creation-the spinning wheel. The Poet makes his gopis dance to the tune of the flute. I wander after my beloved Sita, the charkha and seek to deliver her from the ten-headed monster from Japan, Manchester, Paris etc. The Poet is an inventor-he creates, destroys and recreates. I am an explorer and having discovered a thing I must cling to it. The Poet presents the world with new and attractive things from day to day. I can merely show the hidden possibilities of old and even worn-out things. The world easily finds an honorable place for the magician who produces new and dazzling things. I have to struggle laboriously to find a corner for my worn-out things. Thus, there is no competition between us. I must say in all humility that we complement each others activity. Unlike Tagores language that soars in abstraction even in the context of an immediate polemic, Gandhis discourse is nothing but situated. First of all, he is assuring a wide national readership that there is no destructive ideological rift or unhealthy rivalry

between them. This is an important gesture in the context of the national struggle, for the last thing that Gandhi wants is a divided public that does not know which way to go: the Mahatmas or the Poet-Gurudevs. There are at least three major motifs in Gandhis response to Tagore. First off, there is the question of the relative kshetra of each practitioner. If the two of them disagree on the specialist grounds of micropolitical practice and yet at the same time are united in their macropolitical solidarity, how then and on what grounds are their different prescriptions for India to be evaluated? This debate clearly foreshadows the debate concerning the representative sovereignty of the intellectual: from the traditional intellectual to the organic (Gramsci) and to the specific intellectual a la Foucault. If the poet cannot but speak from the perspective of his subject positionality and the political activist from his, how is the totality of Indias national condition to be interpreted with reference to the two very different sets of credentials? Should the poets suggestion be discarded on the grounds that his expertise is irrelevant in the present political context? Does this mean that the immediate context of political struggle only needs a pragmatic strategic generalist, and not the services of poets, visionaries, and philosophical thinkers? Will there time come at a later stage, i.e., after the immediate priorities are resolved satisfactorily in purely opportunistic terms? But what if the Poet were to argue that his critique indeed does have something to contribute to the formulation of the immediate plan of action? Can a poet not speak politics and speak about politics, and can the agitator not have an opinion on scansion and prosody? The issue of representation here fuses with the problem of appropriate credentials. This is indeed a richly contemporaneous debate, i.e., given all the controversies about the World Bank, IMF, and the condition of so-called underdevelopment. Who are the experts and who says so? Who can speak on what platform and on what basis? The second motif has to do with temporality; indeed with the problem of multiple temporalities within the same historical horizon. Indeed, if one were to introduce Frantz Fanon and other cultural nationalists who have also been freedom fighters and mujahuddeens, it is possible to bridge the gap or even create ideological alignments between Gandhis rescuing of the indigenous Sita from the foreign monsters and the poets untrammelled dalliance with the gopis. There are many profound and richly layered passages in The Wretched of the Earth where Fanon describes the birth of new genres and new modes of artistic activity that maintain their relative autonomies even as they re-discover themselves with reference to decolonization and the birth of the new nation. It is in this context that Fanon seeks to separate out the neo-colonial from the native postcolonial, repressive universalisms from egalitarian universalisms that are in search of a new humanity beyond the colonizer-colonized divide. In other words, it is possible, contrary to Tagores fears and anxieties, to delineate an aesthetic ideology in solidarity with an emerging political formation. Fanon gives us moving descriptions of how both the form and the content of literature, poetry, and theater change in the creation of a new national subjectivity that is as much cultural as it is political and economic. Of course, the big difference here is that whereas to Fanon culture is a hot site for the forging of a national consciousness, to Tagore the realm of culture, poetry, and intellectual creativity belong in the realm of transcendent spirituality and inwardness.

The third theme has to do with the articulation of the new with the old. Gandhi identifies himself with the plodding but rigorous worker who has to retool old equipment towards new and different futural possibilities. The Poet on the other hand is a free, proactive and non reactive creator who creates ex nihilo all the time. Gandhis understanding, though not quite in those terms, is that the Poet qua poet works, or at least likes to think that he works, sui generic, much like the swayam-bhu in Hindu spiritual thought who is conditioned by no temporality and no historicity that is not of its own making. The only temporality and the only duration are those that pertain to the sheer process of making and unmaking, creating and destroying: the sheer ahistorical immanence of poesis. Gandhi as the historically situated politician, on the other hand, has to work with the given-ness of history and some how find a way to transform that given-ness into a model as well as instrument of radical transformation. To emancipate his people from an oppressive history, Gandhi has to work in and through history and inaugurate meaningful revisionist projects with the objective of overthrowing British Colonialism. Gandhi clearly acknowledges that having discovered something, he has to cling to it. It is possible for the poet to dream the perfect perennial revolution, and in the name of that dehistoricized temporality, refuse to cling to the determinate duration of politics and history. Much like the contemporary theorist of post-ality Tagore the poet of the temporality to come can indulge in revolutions of the always already persuasion; and as a romantic, he can afford immense emotional and aesthetic investment in radical breaks from the maya of real history. Gandhi, on the other hand, has to put the energies of given history to work, much like Marx who has to concede that no revolution, however macrologically radical, is born armed with its own proper methodologies and weapons. The revolution will have to be crafted in active and critical conjunction with a specific quarrel with an oppressive history. Of momentous importance in all this is the difference in the ways in which Tagore and Gandhi conceptualize the very category of history. Is history the same as reality? Are historical truths at one with the deeper truths of Ontology and Spirituality? Is it valid to make distinctions between the legitimacy of ones own histories and the oppressions of colonialist and other dominant historiographies? If a fundamental problematization of the very category of history is to be inaugurated, where and how should this project be embodied? Should such a second order revolution be conceived in conjunction with a determinate overthrow of an oppressive history; or should it be conceived of as a pure epistemological transformation? Is history an occidental ruse that has and should have no roots in Indian soil? Is the historical imagination the circumstantial product of antagonisms among peoples, races, nations; and if so, should a spiritual account of mankind refuse any engagement with such antagonisms and quarrels? And finally, to put a Tagorean twist to the question, is the imperative to historicize the most compelling seduction that leads humanity astray from its true measure? Tagores search is for that domain where Truth is at home: in its unconditional and universal domain. To Tagore, historical truth is but a devalued version of the real Truth that dwells in all humanity otherwise. As I have argued elsewhere, in sympathetic critique of Guha on Tagore, all truths are generic productions, and no truth can be evaluated except with reference to the propriety of the genre of which it is a product. When there is a sharp conflict between historical truth and poetic truth, it is not enough to decide in favor of the rectitude of

historical truth on the assumption that truth somehow belongs naturally to history, whereas it resides perversely or idiosyncratically in the heart of poetry. In other words, the very valence of truth is born only at that moment when such a truth is acknowledged as the truth of a particular genre. This is indeed a surreal postmodern scenario, rife and rampant with the seductions of petite narratives, a scenario lacking in any kind of binding universal master narrative. Tagore, unlike the postmodern rebel, has a cause and a belief that enable him heal the trauma caused by history: his cause is Universal harmony, and his belief is in Spirituality. To Tagore, universal harmony intended by human spirituality has nothing to do with the violent universalist blueprints drafted by dominant historiographies. Spirituality is neither collective nor individualistic; nor is it conceived as antagonistic, as negative, or as a differential effect to be produced through power plays within or between/among humans. It is a state of being whose coming into its own is forever marred, mangled, misrecognized, and mis-spoken for by historical regimes. It is indeed in the nature of history to function as provincial regimes, and therefore, it is futile and unintelligent to look for the resolution of historical blunders through historical processes. Tagore seeks, from an advaitic spiritual perspective, to destabilize a number of canonical categories that have shaped human destiny: the biggest culprit here is the category called history. Though I find it disquieting to see Tagore destabilizing regnant categories not in the name of a future to come through political struggle and ethico-epistemological persuasion, but rather in the name of a smug future anterior that seems securely lodged in Tagores poetic pocket, I am persuaded by Tagores lofty and rigorous suspicion of categories in general. After all, Tagore is not the only thinker to express a fundamental disillusionment with history and its truths. Nor is he the only thinker to align the obsession with history with a sickly and jaundiced nay-saying to life. He is not the only one either to exhort human beings both in the concrete and in the abstract to wake themselves up from the nightmare of history. But the problem is: wake up into what state of being or consciousness? Does such a state pre-exist human habitation? Is it more real than the realities of history? It is obvious throughout Tagores discourse that he does not want to equate the Real with history. What is more difficult to determine is whether he even wants history to participate in the discovery of the Real. Should the human subject work its way historically through history to get over to the other Real, or are history and its claims to be rejected altogether as the human subject attempts to live the Real? Gandhis response to this problem, as is to be expected, is primarily political but has epistemological implications. The Poet thinks that the charkha is calculated to bring about a deathlike sameness in the nation and thus imagining he would shun it if he could. The truth is that the charkha is intended to realize the essential and living oneness of interest among Indias myriads. Behind the magnificent and kaleidoscopic variety, one discovers in nature a unity of purpose, design and form which is equally unmistakable. No two men are absolutely alike, not even twins, and yet there is much that is indispensably common to all mankind. And behind the commonness of form there is the same life pervading all. The idea of sameness or oneness was carried by Shankara to its utmost logical and natural limit and he

exclaimed that there was only one Truth, one God Brahman, and all form, nam rupa was illusion and illusory, evanescent. We need not debate whether what we see is unreal; and whether the real behind the unreality is what we do not see. Let both be equally real if you will. The cardinal difference between the two thinkers has to do with the relationships they forge between gnana kshetra and karma kshetra. To Tagore, the indivisible Oneness of Being is a conceptual spiritual given at a level and scale that is coextensive with all of humanity. But Gandhi cannot afford to take such a risk and acquiesce in the reality of such a benign assumption. He has to produce such a Oneness through appropriate programmatic action that has to represent not just humanity at large in one cosmic move, but rather a particular people who have been beleaguered by history at a specific time in a determinate way. Also, he is a leader, who unlike the poet, does not have the luxury of fetishizing the individual or of questioning authority or the politics of representation just for the sake of problematizing authority. It is through the category of symbolic action that Gandhi seeks to realize the essential and living oneness of interest among Indias myriads. Unlike Tagore, Gandhi does not wish to let the oneness remain nameless in the spirit of the oceanic commonality of all humanity. He has to name it as the one-ness of the Indian people under specific circumstances. To be even more precise, Gandhi is not referring to an ontological oneness; the one-ness is at the level of interests. More like a Marx who produces the solidarity of class along lines of shared perspectives and interests, Gandhi makes the important diagnosis that it is only on the basis of an underlying common interest that a people become one. Tagores perspective, as we have already had the chance to observe, is utterly disinterested and disjunct from all worldly and political considerations. What Gandhi achieves with the activation of interest is not a spiritual but a political ontology. Where Gandhi parts company perhaps with Marx is in his assertion that there already pre-exists an essential unity among Indias myriads; but on the other hand, in line with the Marxian rationale of production, Gandhi does insist that this oneness has to be produced into existence. The other crucial word here is living; Gandhi is referring to a native or indigenous vitality that has been crushed by the engine of colonialism. The difference between Gandhism and Marxism is that the former is not intended as an invasive procedure that treats either nature or the people as raw material to be redeemed by epistemology. Gandhi would have been horrified and outraged by Marxs descriptive phrase, the idiocy of rural life. But this last claim that I made on behalf of Gandhian methodology is suspect in many ways. Is Gandhi just passively representing a living populism that is already there; or is he not in fact, in the name of polemical interest, producing a force called people? And, isnt the charkha not the bearer of Gandhis didacticism on behalf of the people? The charkha is indeed a regime as well as regimen that Gandhi prescribes and imposes on the people; but of course it is in the name of the people that he exercises this authority. There are two related issues here: representation and pedagogy. Tagore does not contest the first issue. Gandhi is of the people, and India and its multitudes are fortunate to have found the Mahatma in their hour of dire need. But Tagore objects to Gandhis pedagogy of issuing nothing but instruction after instruction to the people. It is Gandhis anti-intellectualism as a teacher that bothers Tagore. Is the reality of the leader

different from that of the people? Is the reality of the intellectual different from that of the political leader? What about the reality of the poet as visionary? How many realities are there, and is there a way to tell the really real from fake realities? Gandhis response to Tagore about the epistemology of the real is superbly and disarmingly tactical. While recognizing the importance of that debate, Gandhi also delimits its scope and relevance. Even as he concedes, let both be real, he also makes the strong suggestion that there really is no need to debate the issue conclusively and come up with a winner. It is Gandhis way of saying that this discussion about the reality of the real is merely academic and as such makes no difference. It has no bearing on the practical political decisions to be made. If indeed reality is structured in double-ness, so be it, says Gandhi. Let each layer of reality, the superficial and the deeper layer, enjoy its own measure of authenticity. Gandhi is suggesting that there is no need for the one to demystify the other out of existence. Even without such a demystification it is possible to acknowledge and celebrate the underlying oneness of human reality and its inherence in nature. As Akhil Bilgrami has recently argued in the context of Gandhi and modern medicine, Gandhi makes it possible for us to locate the human subject on two levels without creating an untenable philosophical paradox. What is crucial however in Gandhis anti-anthropocentric thinking is that there is an inviolable relationship between the nature of the human and nature as reality. Both Gandhi and Tagore are deeply invested in the valorization of the One that underlies the myriad kaleidoscopic play of differences. Which register do they identify as the realm of the One, and how is this realm accessible to the human agent/subject during times of praxis? Where then do they locate the human, the intra-human, the interhuman, and the human-nature spheres of experience, perception, and cognition? In the name of what transcendent principle do they legitimate human action, and how do they make human performance permeable to that transcendent principle? In the passage quoted above, Gandhi makes it clear that to him that the unity of purpose obtains as a fundamental organizing principle of nature. Whether the unity that Gandhi invokes at the level of historical political organization can even be derived from the first principles in nature is indeed open to debate. Surely, Gandhi cannot be suggesting that human nature follows and replicates Nature in blind obedience, as though the Cogito itself were a function of Nature. I am not for a moment impugning the anti-anthropocentric and ecosensitive thrust of Gandhian thought; my point rather is that the appeal to nature has limited appeal and effectiveness in human affairs for the simple reason that human historicity is not in any way anticipated in the order of nature. I would even contend that even the order of nature is not inherent in nature. Nature just is; that nature even means is an anthropocentric projection. Gandhi, I would think, would reject such a radical thesis of human discontinuity from Nature. More than reject, Gandhi would perhaps just not invest in this specifically epistemological issue just as, in the earlier instance, he has no difficulty conceding let both be real. If the unity in nature is nothing but the human understanding that there is unity in nature, that is fine by Gandhi. Perhaps I am not doing justice to Gandhis thought, but this is what I find Gandhi telling Tagore again and again when it comes to theoretical discussions of knowledge. Some issues are issues because epistemological thinking makes it so. Take for example the issue of anthropocentrism. Anthropocentrism becomes a problem or an issue only when

the human subject chooses to accord to epistemology a status and an autonomy over and above praxis. It is only the abstract and theoretical gnani who in taking his/her kshetradharma too seriously and absolutely creates problems that do not really exist within the continuum of human practice and action. I am reminded here of the famous Gandhi talisman. In his formulation of the talisman, Gandhi tells his interlocutor that both his self and his doubt will melt away as soon as he is able to determine the value of his action in the context of the weakest human being around and the needs of that being. It is important to note that Gandhi insists not that the doubt will melt away. He is claiming something even more fundamental. He is asserting that the very form of selfhood that accommodates such a doubt will disappear as though it were nothing more than a form of false consciousness. Right action undertaken in the name of common good dissolves theoretical doubt and a form of fake individual epistemological being. What Gandhi achieves over and over again, in is own under-theorized way, is ontological/political certitude in the face of epistemological self indulgence, or what I would like to call epistemological inflation. The references to nature in Gandhi and Tagore are numerous, but nowhere does the concept get defined with any kind of clarity. Is Nature physical? Is Nature the template of all that is Real? What is the relationship between nature and spirituality? Is Nature, as in the Prakriri-Purusha formulation a division within duality to be transcended in the name of spiritual harmony? Where stands human nature vis a vis Nature? Is there a mind in Nature? Is Nature purposeful and intentional, and is human intentionality a celebration as well as a reiteration of natures purposefulness? What is mind and what is matter? Why is it even important to invoke Nature in the context of political practice? Are people be as natural as Nature? What is the relationship, modal as well as epistemological, between the activity of spinning the charkha and repetitive motions in Nature? Is Nature an enemy, a partner, an ideal, a horizon, an exemplar, a categorical a priori that drives and regulates human conduct? Is Nature a standing reserve, in a Heideggerian sense, awaiting human application and labor: a potential awaiting actualization human agency? What is the connection between human work and the availability of Nature as raw material? Is Nature homogeneous or heterogeneous, mindlessly uniform or excitingly diverse? In the conversations between Gandhi and Tagore, Nature gets played out on multiple registers, often in a blur as the polemical context shifts. Tagore, for example, repeatedly resorts to the notion of mind to counter the machine. But whatever our shastras may or may not have said, this popular conception of the Creators doing is the very opposite of what he really did do to man at the moment of his creation. Instead of furnishing him with an automatically revolving grindstone-God slipped into his constitution that most lively sprightly thing called Mind. And unless man can be made to get rid of this mind it will remain impossible to convert him into a machine. In so far as the men at the top succeeded in paralyzing the peoples minds by fear-or greed or hypnotic texts, they succeeded in extorting-from one class of them, only textiles from their looms; from another class, only pots from their wheels; from a third, only oil from their mills. Now when from such persons as these it becomes

necessary to demand the application of their mind to any big work on hand, they stand aghast, Mind! cry they, What on earth is that? Why dont you order us what to do and give some text for us to repeat from mouth to mouth and age to age? Tagore posits mind simultaneously as something intrinsically and inalienably human and as a faculty that for lack of proper pedagogical cultivation could degenerate into a lower form and function.