Rainer Maria Rilke
By Vijay Phanshikar :
“Oh, I who long to grow,
I look outside myself,
And the tree inside me grows.”
- Rainer Maria Rilke,
These lines have a haiku-like quality -- to communicate so much in words so few! The thought embodied in these words, however, has certain universality, certain spirituality, certain invitation to look within. This has been the thrust of entire realm of spirituality, of course. Real growth takes place within, and looking outside for it is running counter to the idea of the soul where there are seeds of sublime growth. Yet, like everybody else, the poet, too, craves for growth and starts looking for such a prospect outside of him -- possibly realising rather too late that the tree within him had already started growing, flourishing, branching, spreading, bearing flowers and fruits, offering those to others, again pollinating for a greater spread. But then, has this not been the story of all of us -- or at least most of us? Don’t we look outside of ourselves for the solace within, for the satisfaction of what we loosely describe as our soul? However, most of us realise late in the day that our actual growth is not taking place outside of us, but inside our being. Out head acquires more information, learns to process it properly. Our heart starts maturing and understanding our own internal emotional persona.
Our human qualities also mature -- like accommodation, like assimilation, like accentuation of the virtue we keep building, like enhancement of our willingness to make sacrifices. These are some of the major parts of the tree of spiritual growth, and we do not find that outside of us. Contrary to general belief, that tree of growth is actually inside us -- first in the form of a seed, which then sprouts, and then starts growing silently before we ourselves realise its presence. So the poet says -- “Oh, I who long to grow, I look outside myself, And the tree inside me grows.” With that realisation of the growth within -- inner growth -- comes, the feeling is of extreme happiness, bliss! That point is where one’s personality begins assuming an inexplicable glow on the face and the body, acquires certain lilt, certain resonance -- all beyond words, all beyond common comprehension.
The yogis have such an experience. The sages -- though not the practitioners of Yoga per se -- also have such an experience of inner growth. And, to be sure, poets or persons with poetic bend of mind, also are capable of having such encounters with themselves -- in a way proving that poetry and spirituality are at least distant cousins. For, both look within habitually. Both engage themselves in search of self. And both also know that sprout of good thought or spiritual virtue comes up in the domain within. This realisation has a special quality that goes far beyond the mundane.