Govinda’s Disciple Analysis by Rabindranath Tagore

In this Govinda’s Disciple analysis, we will engage with the text at a deeper level. The relationship between a guru and his disciple is a sacred bond, central to the success of any spiritual endeavour. In order for a guru to be able to truly help his disciple, he needs to have transcended the hold that the material world has on each of us humans. Spiritual attainment can only be possible if the attachment to the material world is renounced – a worldview and lifestyle that is easier spoken about in scriptures than implemented in real life. It is then the job of the guru to engrain this difficult lesson into the psyche of their students. In this respect, Govinda’s Disciple is a powerful poem, for it shows how a guru ought to teach hard lessons to facilitate the spiritual pursuits of his students.

The disciple Raghunath, eager to win the favour of his guru, the great sage, Govinda, comes to him bearing the gift of two stone-studded gold bangles. His mind still plagued by the crutches of materialism, the foolish disciple thought that the gift of wealth would bring him closer to his guru. This is because the disciple was still in darkness – continuing to attach value to worldly possessions. This deep flaw in Raghunath’s thinking was effectively remedied by Govinda through lived experience. Govinda allowed the bangle to fall into the river. He then let his disciple look for the lost gift in vain. When Raghunath came to him pleading him to show the spot where he could find the bangle, Govinda threw the other piece into the river to show to his disciple where the first bangle was, implying that both the pieces were lost. This action of Govinda has deep significations. He could have simply explained in words to his disciple that material possessions are not the way to divinity but hindrances to one’s pursuit of the same. However, Govinda let his actions speak louder than his words. He wanted Raghunath to experience the pain of losing wealth to help him transcend his need of the same. By literally throwing the bangles away, Govinda, in the most effective figurative way, taught his student that he too should drown in the water his ties to the material world.

In today’s times when capitalism has even polluted spiritual leaders, the lesson taught by this poem is highly relevant. This poem shows how the spiritual world and the material world should be kept completely separate from each other to achieve the true salvation of lost souls. Gurus like Govinda are much needed today, when even spiritualism is becoming a business. A guru who throws away the gift of precious bangles to guide his student on the right path is a good role model for spiritual leaders to learn from. This poem also shows readers the kind of guru they should look for when seeking help on their pursuits of divinity.

Govinda’s Disciple Themes

Following are the Govinda’s Disciple themes:

Renunciation of materialistic attachments: A mind that still attaches value to materialistic possessions can never be entirely ready for spiritual fulfilment. The necessity to forego one’s attachment to wealth and external signifiers of prosperity forms the central theme of Govinda’s Disciple. In this poem, we have a foolish disciple who thinks he can earn the favour of the great sage, Govinda, by presenting to him the very expensive gift of gold bangles studded with precious stones and diamonds. Govinda’s act of throwing the bangle away into the river Jamuna is, in actuality, a powerful statement that the guru is making against preoccupation with worldly possessions. By throwing the bangles away, Govinda wants to show that the path to true spiritual learning can only be embarked on once one has renounced one’s ties to the material world.

The ideal guru-disciple relationship: The kind of relationship a guru and his disciple ought to share forms another theme of this poem. A lot of gurus who claim to be spiritual pathfinders are, in reality, money-hungry individuals who want to encash the faith their disciples have in them. No real spiritual learning can be imparted in such guru-disciple relationships that are polluted by attachment to wealth and materialistic possessions. By presenting to us a great guru like Govinda who, in a heartbeat, threw away the present of expensive bangles made to him, the poem tries to show us what an ideal relationship between a guru and his disciple should be like.

Govinda’s Disciple Poetic Devices

The poetic device of personification has used in the poem when talking about the bank of the river and river itself. The bank has been shown as frowning, which is a human facial expression. Similarly, the river has been given human attributes as it has been shown as stealing and hiding the gold bangles.

Govinda’s Disciple is a simple poem that delivers a very powerful message. Humans are often inclined to the spiritual aspect of their existence, with many engaging in pursuit of their divine purpose that would add meaning to their earthly existence. However, many disciples fail on their journey of spiritual fulfilment for they are, more often than not, being guided by gurus who are themselves attached to the material possessions, and hence cannot guide their students onto the right path. This poem shows that any relationship between a disciple and a guru can only be successful when the guru initiates his disciple on the path of renouncing all that is material in favour of real spiritual learning.

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