Gibranism and Bengali culture

I was strolling in the gardens of an insane asylum when I met a young man who was reading a philosophy book.
His behavior and his evident good health made him stand out from the other inmates.

I sat down beside him and asked: ‘What are you doing here?’

He looked at me, surprised. But seeing that I was not one of the doctors, he replied:

‘It’s very simple. My father, a brilliant lawyer, wanted me to be like him.
“My uncle, who owns a large emporium, hoped I would follow his example.
“My mother wanted me to be the image of her beloved father.
“My sister always set her husband before me as an example of the successful man.
“My brother tried to train me up to be a fine athlete like himself.

“And the same thing happened at school, with the piano teacher and the English teacher – they were all convinced and determined that they were the best possible example to follow.
“None of them looked at me as one should look at a man, but as if they were looking in a mirror.

“So I decided to enter this asylum. At least here I can be myself.”

(A story by Kahlil Gibran )

I preferred starting this blog with this small story, with a thought that it would be enough for even a layman to understand the vision behind Khalil Gibran and the philosophy of ‘Gibranism’ that this man had managed to achieved.
Many of us are aware of this name, Khalil Gibran as the author of the much acclaimed English book The Prophet, which made him the third best-selling poet of all time.
But most don’t know this name, as question like, ‘Who is Gibran?’ would often arise. In a community of stereotypical individuals, middle east often represents a wrong image of ‘oil-rich’ emirs, the Arabian nights and a image of jihadis and terrorism.
But there is more than that, enriched philosophers have also emerged from this part of the world, be it Prophet Hazrat Muhammad, who gifted the world with the idea of Islam or Prophet Zarathustra of Persia and many more, mentioning each one of them would lead to this article becoming rather lengthy. Beside this theosophical aspect of middle eastern philosophy, there were another group of philosophers who rose to prominence notably Muhammad Iqbal, Hossein Nasr etc.
In my opinion Gibran too counts among those philosophers who managed to leave a mark on the world.
[For further research on Khalil Gibran and his works, I would suggest the viewers to go through the article on Wikipedia or go through his works]

laced with spirituality, musings from arabian sands, romantic and mystical, Khalil Gibran’s works bridge both popular culture and serious philosophy. He was remembered as a versatile writer and artist not only of his time but of all times.
The cadence and the ecstasy of his works and his knack of joking in a strange metaphor make him popular among both the seasoned readers and the young.
Gibran celebrates the serenity and beauty of love and there is also the touch of the biblical in his works.

Now coming to the topic, as it would focus on the vital aspects of Khalil Gibran’s philosophy and the cultural side of the Bengali community in general. Bengalis are paradox, as it would confuse anyone that this community with so many stereotypes sometimes goes liberal to a great extent.
Mainly the contemporary generation of Bengalis ( or do they prefer calling themselves ‘Bongs’) are liberal in terms of many aspects of religious stereotypes. Still that doesn’t stops us from waiting on the road when a black cat crosses our path,(something that is predominant in other communities too) or ironically worshipping female goddesses and practicing female foeticide ( again, a widespread practice in India). Earlier, any person with liberal spiritual views was termed as ‘Melaccha’ by the elders of the household. But somehow that trend has gone into oblivion as multicultural exposure has managed to nullify the affect of these age old practices.
Similarly Gibran offered a dogma-free universal spiritualism as opposed to orthodox religion, and his vision of the spiritual was not moralistic. In fact, he urged people to be non-judgmental.
Thorough his works he always tried to explore the ideas of equality, discovering oneself and forbidding hypocrisy.
Discovering oneself is perhaps a very important aspect of life and perhaps our very own lineage of Bengal born philosophers agree to this, and this aspect has been a major theme in many of Khalil Gibran’s work.
He was born in Lebanon and later shifted to USA. Perhaps to be an emigrant is alien, but to be an emigrant mystical poet is thrice alienated. To geographical alienation is added estrangement from both conventional human society at large and also the whole world of spatio-temporal existence.
This feeling of alienation is also seen among a large number of dwellers of the bong community, where battle lines, between ‘Bangal’ and ‘ghoti’ is perhaps an archaic battle still to be won.
‘Bangal’ is the term given to the emigrants from Bangladesh, who despite contributing to the betterment of the community still feels alienated at times, and this approach heightens whenever there’s a football match East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. As the emotions of Bengalis and football are intertwined for generations.
There are many more instances like this where knowingly or unknowingly Gibranism is blended into our society, our emotions and our thoughts.
Khalil Gibran perhaps dreamt of an Utopia. A dream which incepted with Sir Thomas Moore and goes from generations to generations, much like an Olympic torch relay.
We Bengalis too dream, a dream of an utopian civilization with the very uniqueness of the day starting with the morning song of Akashvani radio, the trams and tongas on the roads, the lazyness that follows after lunch and a perfect blend of old and new. As an utopia of perfection is hardly achievable, but what’s achievable is the removal of another’s bad with our own good.


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