There is a linear as well as cyclic movement of time. We are all accustomed to note the linear movement; that is why we say that Time always moves forward. True as it is there is also a cyclic movement in time, in the sense that Time returns, seasons return, psychological states of consciousness return, The past movements seemingly lost and forgotten return, everything seems to move in an ever recurring cyclic motion, as if defining a repetitive motion. Even fate and Fortune, happiness and sorrow are known to have a cyclical pattern, like the change of seasons beautifully conjured in the famous line: ‘If Autumn is there can spring be far behind’ as also another one with an even more profounder significance, ‘At the end of the tunnel there always is the Light.’ A common example of this cyclic movement is in our everyday life, in the form of cycles of sleep and waking, night and day, life and death and rebirth, and, possibly also of illness and health. Each day represents a forward or linear movement but it also represents a return of another day with a return of possibilities, a renewal of hope, a renewal of energy, a renewal of the joy of life pursuing its quest since time immemorial. If we understand this deeper truth that operates in nature then it becomes easy to understand the significance of birthdays. While each year represents a forward movement, it also represents a return of something more fundamental, a return to our core that persists through life and death even as it changes names and forms and personalities. For what else is birth but a taking up once again of the unfulfilled and incomplete task our souls have undertaken since it first ‘dared death and suffered life.’ This script of our destiny is embedded in our soul as a blue print of the future. It is found in the heart as our deepest faith and will to be, it builds up in our brain as thought and understanding, it rises from our soul-depths as an intuition and an aspiration towards the Future.
This takes us to the mystery of birth itself. If death is a mystery, then birth is an even greater mystery. We can regard death as a natural consequence of birth but what is the reason behind birth itself? To understand this question in all its depths and full implications we have to dwell into the mystery of creation itself. However instead of going into its intricacies we may say that birth is a self-limitation of the Infinite. To understand it further we can take a simple example. We have a certain amount of clay at hand. Now with this clay we can make a number of things, shape a number a forms. But once we decide upon a particular form then we begin to keep aside other possibilities and start working on one particular shape. Similarly, each soul is a potentially having infinite possibilities before it. However it chooses to express a few out of these infinite possibilities and thereby limits or rather fixes its line of self-limitation through which it is going to evolve as well as express the divine possibilities inherent within it. We see something similar take place at the most physical level. As we know the human genome is built of a limited number of amino acids, twenty to be precise and four bases. However out of this it can create multiple varied combinations giving rise to a great degree of differentiation. This happens as one set of genes express themselves while the others are suppressed. So too at the cellular level, each cell is at its origin potentially totipotent but it chooses or begins to differentiate along a particular line and thereby becomes a specialized cell with a specific function. These are lessons from nature that point towards a general truth that operates at multiple levels.
To put it differently we may say that each human body is an extension of the genetic material of its parents, each unique personality is the extension of its bio-psycho-social milieu in which we are born and function. But these are temporary extensions, so to say. There is, as recognized by yogic experience, a more durable extension, a line of growth and evolution that persists through numberless forms and changing names and forgotten old personalities. It is an extension of our soul’s aspiration that passes from one birth to another with an inter-regnum of death, which is in fact a period of reconstituting rest and an assimilation of the experiences of the immediate life it leaves behind. It is this deeper reality that is born again with the birth of a human body and the assumption of a new personality. In other words our birth is a continuation of our old adventure under a new name and form. This adventure, this aspiration of the soul, this mode of its self-expression, this manifestation of a divine possibility it has chosen since time immemorial returns back to us with the passing of each year. It is like a reminder of our tryst with destiny. It comes to turn our thoughts and will once again towards the purpose for which we are born into this oblivious material field. It is a rekindling of our fire of aspiration that burns in our depths, a remembrance of our original faith and will-to-be. It is our moment with the Divine, when we are once again face to face with the Creator who pours into the human vessel shaped by universal Nature, His Peace and Light and Strength and Love to carry us further in the line of evolution we have chosen. This is the first gift with which we are all born and each birthday is a renewal of this gift. If we have misused the gift or lost it or even forgotten about it, this is a day when we can once again receive it most easily. For the divine gifts are always there for those who seek but on birthdays we are more open and hence can receive better. From a linear point of view it is one more step forward towards our true goal. From a cyclic point of view it is a return to our core aspiration, a renewal of our deepest energy-springs, a refreshing of our real program of life, a relook and a re-setting of our directions by the inner compass of faith, a rekindling of the fire of aspiration that burns unseen within our mortal frame. In fact like all births it is a moment to develop some new element or new quality that will help us to approach our goal better. The Mother reminds us:
‘From the viewpoint of the inner nature the individual is more receptive on his birthday from year to year and thus it is an opportune moment to help him to make some new progress each year.’
This is not to say that we cannot progress otherwise. The one who is vigilant never lets go of an opportunity to progress, even if it comes concealed in the most adverse of circumstances or the most distressful moments. In fact we can and must arrive at a state when each day if not each moment is a new birth, a song of new discovery, and each dawn brings some new progress. Then is our life filled with gifts divine and each day becomes our birthday. But meanwhile we should well take advantage of these windows opening in time through which we can momentarily come into contact with the Eternal. It is most unfortunate if we lose these precious moments in partying all night, choosing the heady wine of lust that saps our energies and the spirit that makes us bound to unconsciousness, over the wine of divine delight that rejuvenates and the Spirit’s touch that sets us free.
Still all is not lost forever. Even in our unconsciousness there is hope, even when we turn our backs against Truth and prefer the sleep of Ignorance over Wisdom, the Truth-Light still continues to shine upon us doing Its work to awaken us and fill us with life and light and hope and love. Such is assurance and promise of the Lord that we find in Savitri, a promise that the Divine remembers even when we have quite forgotten it:
One who has shaped this world is ever its lord:
Our errors are his steps upon the way;
He works through the fierce vicissitudes of our lives,
He works through the hard breath of battle and toil,
He works through our sins and sorrows and our tears,
His knowledge overrules our nescience;
Whatever the appearance we must bear,
Whatever our strong ills and present fate,
When nothing we can see but drift and bale,
A mighty Guidance leads us still through all.
After we have served this great divided world
God’s bliss and oneness are our inborn right.
A date is fixed in the calendar of the Unknown,
An anniversary of the Birth sublime:
Our soul shall justify its chequered walk,
All will come near that now is naught or far.