Gitanjali: Song Offerings, Section 50

Author

Tagore, Rabindranath

Genre

Poetry

Overview

Celebrated writer Rabindranath Tagore, a friend of Gandhi and a participant in the Indian nationalist movement, was born in Calcutta in 1861. Tagore studied for a time in England and translated his own poems from Bengali into English, soon winning an international following. Though most famous for his poetry, Tagore was also a prolific dramatist, fiction writer, essayist, artist and composer. In this selection from the Gitanjali or ʺSong Offerings,ʺ for which Tagore received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913, the narrator is a beggar who, hoping to be the recipient of charity, is instead asked to give it. Tagore’s parable invites us to consider the motives and limits of our giving. When do we expect to be the recipient of others’ gifts? What do we receive in return for our own? What would it mean to give ʺ[our] all,ʺ as the narrator wishes he had done?

Full Text*

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Source

Hearing the Call Across Traditions: Readings on Faith and Service. Ed. Adam Davis. Woodstock, VT: Skylight Paths Publishing, 2009, p. 106.

Type

Reading

Themes

Giving and ReceivingWisdom and Contemplation

Big Questions

How much should I give? What, if anything, might limit my giving?What does good giving require?What makes a good gift?When I give, what do I expect in return? What do I receive?How do we become wise?What is wisdom? How do we learn how to make wise choices?

Publication

Hearing the Call Across Traditions

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. What does the beggar expect from the rider in the chariot?
  2. Do you agree that the rider should have expected something from the beggar in exchange for alms?
  3. When we give, do we expect anything in return?
  4. How much should we give others?
  5. What is wise giving? Is there a better way than others to give?
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