The Vedas and the Upanishads speak of human life as a journey from Darkness to Light. The darkness is the state of Ignorance from which all seems to emerge. It is this Ignorance which is the cause of suffering and pain. Since we are ever surrounded by this Ignorance we fill it with all kinds of beliefs and conceptions. Our hopes create heavens, our shame creates hell. Our fears create Death. Thus we get trapped in our mental conceptions which take the place of Reality. These conceptions become the prison of our souls. How to break free from this state? Well, the way is to free ourselves from our Mind and senses that hold us a captive. But if mind sits a jailor and the senses build the jail walls, it is desires that become so many bars between us and the vast freedom and delight that is at the root of the creation. This need for freedom, this compelling urge in nature that climbs from a state of darkness towards Light as if drawn helplessly is beautifully described in the famous verse of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad:
Asado ma sadgamaya, tamaso ma jyotirgamaya, mrityor ma amritamgamaya……
[From Non-being to the true Being, from Darkness to Light, from Death to Immortality]
This is not to say that something corresponding to the state of heaven and hell does not exist. States of joy and peace (heavens) as well as states of suffering and despair (hell) exist. So also Death exists, not as we understand it but as a power of destruction in the universe. This destruction removes forms that can no longer serve the evolutionary purpose that drives creation. It is, we may even say, an indispensable complimentary to birth of forms. This destruction or the cessation of forms would not however carry so much horror attached to it if we were conscious of the immortal element within us and identified with it. Then it will be no more than changing of the clothes as the Gita puts it succinctly. It is our ignorance that gives to Death its awful shape of terror and fear. Due to this fear and terror that get associated with the destruction of forms, Death appears as something abominable to our limited consciousness. We begin to live in its shadow, which increases with every year of our life upon Earth, as if a grim reminder of the transience of all our joys and the brevity of our love. It seems to make all our efforts at perfection vain until we in our limited understanding of the ways of God in creation end up declaring all as an illusion and creation itself a vanity of vanities. Quite naturally, such a God if any, would not be the Wise and Compassionate Being we intuitively expect Him to be but some kind of a tyrant himself who builds these worlds merely to trap our souls in some illusion, to make us pray to him out of fear, to run towards Him out of the horror of creation. Such is often the god of religions, painted in the human mind through popular lore and certain scriptures. This fear and horror is due to the Ignorance and Inconscient that stands at the back of the world and from which not only our souls but also our nature seeks deliverance.
My will, my call is there in men and things;
But the Inconscient lies at the world’s grey back
And draws to its breast of Night and Death and Sleep.
Imprisoned in its dark and dumb abyss
A little consciousness it lets escape
But jealous of the growing light holds back
Close to the obscure edges of its cave
As if a fond ignorant mother kept her child
Tied to her apron strings of Nescience.
The Inconscient could not read without man’s mind
The mystery of the world its sleep has made:
Man is its key to unlock a conscious door.
But still it holds him dangled in its grasp:
It draws its giant circle round his thoughts,
It shuts his heart to the supernal Light.
But Truth is other than what we conceive of It with our limited consciousness. This world is other than what it seems. It is an illusion only in the sense that we do not perceive it correctly. But we can correct our perceptions, we can fill our minds with Truth-Light, flood our senses with the harmonious rhythms of Beauty that stands behind creation. Thus can this illusion be corrected and this nightmare ceases to be. Thus reveals Savitri to us:
But Maya is a veil of the Absolute;
A Truth occult has made this mighty world:
The Eternal’s wisdom and self-knowledge act
In ignorant Mind and in the body’s steps.
The Inconscient is the Superconscient’s sleep.
An unintelligible Intelligence
Invents creation’s paradox profound;
Spiritual thought is crammed in Matter’s forms,
Unseen it throws out a dumb energy
And works a miracle by a machine.
All here is a mystery of contraries:
Darkness a magic of self-hidden Light,
Suffering some secret rapture’s tragic mask
And death an instrument of perpetual life.
Although Death walks beside us on Life’s road,
A dim bystander at the body’s start
And a last judgment on man’s futile works,
Other is the riddle of its ambiguous face:
Death is a stair, a door, a stumbling stride
The soul must take to cross from birth to birth,
A grey defeat pregnant with victory,
A whip to lash us towards our deathless state.
The inconscient world is the spirit’s self-made room,
Eternal Night shadow of eternal Day.
Night is not our beginning nor our end;
She is the dark Mother in whose womb we have hid
Safe from too swift a waking to world-pain.
We came to her from a supernal Light,
By Light we live and to the Light we go.
[Savitri: 600 – 601]
…and the Mother:
The knowledge possessed by the Yogi is also an answer to the terrible theory that all that takes place is God’s direct working. For once you rise to the Supermind you immediately perceive that the world is false and distorted. The supramental truth has not at all found manifestation. How then can the world be a genuine expression of the Divine? Only when the Supermind is established and rules here, then alone the Supreme Will may be said to have authentically manifested. At the same time, we must steer clear of the dangerous exaggeration of the sense of the falsehood of the world, which comes to those who have risen to the higher consciousness. What happened with Shankara and others like him was that they had a glimpse of the true consciousness, which threw the falsehood of this world into such sharp contrast that they declared the universe to be not only false but also a really non-existent illusion which should be entirely abandoned. We, on the other hand, see its falsehood, but realise also that it has to be replaced and not abandoned as an illusion. Only, the truth has got mistranslated, something has stepped in to pervert the divine reality, but the world is in fact meant to express it. And to express it is indeed our Yoga.
[CWM 3: 162]
What is the way? The path is inbuilt within us. We have been already provided with the means to rectify the distortion. Deep within the heart of creation, in each and every particle of creation, in the very dust that constitutes this Earth, there is lit a flame, a flame of aspiration that ever burns and increases by the day and the night. It seeks for Beauty and Truth and Good even when all around is darkness and strife. It is the immortal elements in us that survives death and defeat, rises from the pyre and the grave, it persists in the effort and the pang despite a million obstacles and temporary failures. Savitri reveals to us the secret of this flame of God that resides within man:
But since she knows the toil of mind and life
As a mother feels and shares her children’s lives,
She puts forth a small portion of herself,
A being no bigger than the thumb of man
Into a hidden region of the heart
To face the pang and to forget the bliss,
To share the suffering and endure earth’s wounds
And labour mid the labour of the stars.
This in us laughs and weeps, suffers the stroke,
Exults in victory, struggles for the crown;
Identified with the mind and body and life,
It takes on itself their anguish and defeat,
Bleeds with Fate’s whips and hangs upon the cross,
Yet is the unwounded and immortal self
Supporting the actor in the human scene.
Through this she sends us her glory and her powers,
Pushes to wisdom’s heights, through misery’s gulfs;
She gives us strength to do our daily task
And sympathy that partakes of others’ grief
And the little strength we have to help our race,
We who must fill the role of the universe
Acting itself out in a slight human shape
And on our shoulders carry the struggling world.
This is in us the godhead small and marred;
In this human portion of divinity
She seats the greatness of the Soul in Time
To uplift from light to light, from power to power,
Till on a heavenly peak it stands, a king.
[Savitri: 526 – 527]
Savitri also assures us the eventual victory of this spark of God against the darkness of Ignorance that surrounds our life here. This flame which is a gift of Grace to life upon earth was implanted even before early life–forms emerged. It has been sent especially to Earth to assist the evolutionary process through the long winding roads of Time. But from time to time, when the play of earthly life becomes too dramatic, when creation is passing through a crucial phase and stands on the brink of chaos and collapse, a special Intervention takes place to assist the journey. A Breath of God comes down from the Heights and the Spirit becomes flesh again so that filled its divine afflatus, matter too can become conscious of the Spirit. These periods of Intervention when the otherwise slow and painful evolution takes a sudden and swift leap are called the ‘Hour of God’ and the special descents that change the course of Time and save creation from inevitable disaster are known as Avataras.
Of course God is always there hidden behind all things, behind creation as well as destruction, behind Good as well as Evil, using both as a means of the human ascension towards Freedom and Light and Truth and Immortality. He pushes things from behind using instruments for His grand design. But during these special descents, He Himself steps into the forefront of the journey, takes up the role of the Leader and the Guide, steers the wheel of Time and changes Destiny. Once the change is affected, the decisive turn takes, the victory of Light and Truth assured, the Breath of God retires for a while even as it now watches from the hills of silence from where it had descended. Then man must once again follow the labour of the stars now aligned rightly and set to course by the Divine Intervention. He along with Time must work out the great journey and its next step with faith as the compass and the awakened soul as the pilot and guide. It is one of these divine Interventions that is described in Savitri, the Hour of God, when the Divine Mother Herself descended into creation to lead it one step forward towards its inevitable Destiny, – Light and Truth and Freedom and Bliss. In fact the New Dawn is closest when the Night is thickest:
But when the hour of the Divine draws near
The Mighty Mother shall take birth in Time
And God be born into the human clay
In forms made ready by your human lives.
Then shall the Truth supreme be given to men:…
Even should a hostile force cling to its reign
And claim its right’s perpetual sovereignty
And man refuse his high spiritual fate,
Yet shall the secret Truth in things prevail.
For in the march of all-fulfilling Time
The hour must come of the Transcendent’s will:
All turns and winds towards his predestined ends
In Nature’s fixed inevitable course
Decreed since the beginning of the worlds
In the deep essence of created things:
Even there shall come as a high crown of all
The end of Death, the death of Ignorance.
But first high Truth must set her feet on earth
And man aspire to the Eternal’s light
And all his members feel the Spirit’s touch
And all his life obey an inner Force.