Dealing with death, Books VIII – IX. Recorded on March 5, 2000 at Savitri Bhavan in Auroville.
This talk was the concluding session of the Savitri Study Camp held in the Beach Office Hall of the Sri Aurobindo Society from February 23 onwards. As has now become customary, the final session of the camp was held under the trees in the Savitri Bhavan garden – a very joyous meeting of many Savitri lovers. Dr. Nadkarni gave a summary of the themes studied during the camp.
Last year when we met here, we read the concluding part of Book Seven, Canto Seven. Now it looks to me as if those magic lines have created a vibration which has brought here many more people than were here last time. Those magic lines were about the cosmic consciousness which Savitri attains. And once she attains the cosmic consciousness, as we have seen in this study camp when we began the study of Book Eight, then begins Savitri’s yoga with death.
I don’t call it a confrontation with death. You and I confront death, but Savitri doesn’t. She does the yoga of death. And she undertook this yoga not for her own sake, but to free us from the hold of death. She does that to make a spiritual community possible, she did that to make Auroville possible, and we are very very happy that when we read about Savitri dealing with Death in Books Eight and Nine, we are once again here in this wonderful atmosphere of Savitri Bhavan.
There are several peculiarities about Book Eight: one of them is that it is the shortest book in the poem; another is that it consists of only one canto, which is not called Canto One: it is called Canto Three for various reasons. And the most important and interesting thing about it is that this book has 177 lines, of which 108 remain exactly what they were in the very first draft of Savitri made by Sri Aurobindo in October 1916. The poem as a whole underwent expansion many, many times. Some cantos were revised and expanded 18 times, or more. But this particular canto has 108 lines that are exactly the same as Sri Aurobindo first wrote them down in 1916. He subsequently changed 25 lines and added 44 new ones. We know from Nirod-da’s reminiscences that during the last year when they were working on Savitri, after Sri Aurobindo had finished dictating the long passage which comes before the concluding paragraph of Canto Two of Book Six, he looked at Nirodbaran and asked, “What now remains to be done, any other parts?” Nirod-da answered, “Yes, the Book of Death and the Epilogue”. And Sri Aurobindo seems to have said, “We’ll see about that later.” Well, that ‘later’ didn’t come, and there are all kinds of speculations about why it didn’t come, but there is so much in Savitri that there is no point in speculating about things which are not there. I think we will concentrate on what is there, and as you see this is called Canto Three. Here the editors have given a helpful note: “The Book of Death was taken from Canto Three of an early version of Savitri which had only six cantos and an epilogue. …” In that early version this part was Canto Three. So they have retained this title to highlight the fact that this book has not received much subsequent revision at Sri Aurobindo’s hands. They say: “It was slightly revised at a late stage and a number of new lines were added, but it was never fully worked into the final version of the poem. Its original designation, ‘Canto Three’ has been retained as a reminder of this.”
And of course there are other reasons too. As you know, the action that is described in Savitri takes place within one day, within 24 hours. This was the day when Satyavan was to die, and the dawn of that day is described in Book One, Canto One. The time span between about 6am and 9am is described in Canto Two of Book One. After that comes the flashback of Ashwapati and his yoga, Savitri’s birth and growing up, etc. -and we are still waiting at the time of Book One, Canto Two for the flashback to finish. So now here, in Book Eight, the flashback is over, and we are ready to continue the story from where we left it at the end of Canto Two of Book One. Now comes the narration that describes what happens between about 10 am and noon of that day. And therefore naturally this would be Canto Three, because it continues where we left off at Canto Two. So there are various ways in which we can understand why this is Canto Three.
As we will see, this is a brief canto and what happens in it is very simple and straightforward: that day in the morning Savitri approaches Satyavan’s parents and seeks their permission to accompany Satyavan as he goes out for his daily work in the forest. They go off together and Satyavan is very delighted, as Savitri has never before gone out with him into the forest. She has heard about it often from Satyavan. Satyavan has many friends there: the trees and birds and deer, the lakes and hills are all friends, he grew up in that environment, and now for the first time he is taking Savitri with him to explore it.
Please remember that this is what is called jeshtha amavasya, jeshtha which is the hottest month of the year, and amavasya the darkest night of the month; and Satyavan has almost forgotten that he should not be speaking so much, he shouldn’t be exposing himself to the sun. But he is excited, he has forgotten time and he has gone up to a tree, he says, “I’ll just finish one last bit of work -I just have to finish cutting some dry wood for the kitchen and the sacrificial fires …” He is going up and chopping the branches of the tree, and suddenly his entire body is racked with pain. As you know, Savitri was the only one who knew that this was the day when Satyavan must die. Nobody else knew about it. So Savitri is as it were waiting for death to strike. She knows this is going to be the day, but she does not know exactly at what time it was going to happen. And then Satyavan comes and lies down on the ground with his head on Savitri’s lap. I’ll read a few lines so that you can get the flavour of this poetry, which was written 35 years before most of the rest of the epic.
But as he worked, his doom upon him came.
The violent and hungry hounds of pain
Travelled through his body biting as they passed
Silently, and all his suffering breath besieged
Strove to rend life’s strong heart-cords and be free.
Then helped, as if a beast had left its prey,
A moment in a wave of rich relief
Reborn to strength and happy ease he stood
Rejoicing and resumed his confident toil
But with less seeing strokes. Now the great woodsman
Hewed at him and his labour ceased: lifting
His arm he flung away the poignant axe
Far from him like an instrument of pain.
She came to him in silent anguish and clasped,
And he cried to her, “Savitri, a pang
Cleaves through my head and breast as if the axe
Were piercing it and not the living branch.
Such agony rends me as the tree must feel
When it is sundered and must lose its life.
Awhile let me lay my head upon thy lap
And guard me with thy hands from evil fate:
Perhaps because thou touchest, death may pass.”…
But now his sweet familiar hue was changed
Into a tarnished greyness and his eyes
Dimmed over, forsaken of the clear light she loved …
But once before it faded wholly back,
He cried out in a clinging last despair,
“Savitri, Savitri, O Savitri,
Lean down, my soul, and kiss me while I die.”
And even as her pallid lips pressed his,
His failed, losing last sweetness of response;
His cheek pressed down her golden arm. She sought
His mouth still with her living mouth, as if
She could persuade his soul back with her kiss;
Then grew aware they were no more alone.
(p. 564 – 565)
There is another presence, a third presence, and the two concluding lines of the canto tell us who this presence was:
She knew that visible Death was standing there
And Satyavan had passed from her embrace.
Satyavan is dead, the God of Death is facing them and another character is introduced in this epic poem: Yama, the Lord of Death. Now a great deal has been said about the God of Death, in the Puranas, in the Upanishads, in the Gita, in the Vedas and so on. But Sri Aurobindo’s characterisation or understanding of the God of Death here is in many ways unique. In the Vedas Yama is very often given as another name for the Supreme Lord; and he has also very often been described as ‘the controller of dharma‘, dharmaraja. He is the one who controls righteous conduct. These two aspects Sri Aurobindo does not emphasize. Here he emphasizes another aspect, which is of Yama as the power which resists the manifestation of the Divine.
Here Yama represents the rock-most bottom of the inconscient. But as we know, beneath this rock-most bottom, the bottommost part of the inconscient, there is the superconscient – but Yama has not yet realised this. As we will see in the succeeding cantos and books, there is a very very interesting development here. As Savitri proceeds, confronting the God of Death, the God of Death is made to realise himself, and for the first time he is being given an opportunity to realise his true self. Under Savitri’s grace as it were, the God of Death realises he is really the God of Love masquerading as the God of Death. In other words, Death has really no essential reality. Behind it there is some other truth.
Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have spoken a great deal about the conquest of death, as we all know. The physical conquest of death on earth is very often regarded as one of the aims of the Integral Yoga which Sri Aurobindo and the Mother developed. But at a first glance, this might seem to be the most materialistic aim any yoga could have. Most yogas regard the body as the most material part and have therefore concentrated on the soul and its immortality. Now here is a group of people who look as if they want to cling on to the body, so they have made the immortality of the body the aim of their yoga.
This is only a popular myth. In fact Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have revealed many new secrets about death. We won’t have time to talk about them in detail here, but I do feel that it is essential to refer to some broad outlines of their approach to death. For one thing, they have very clearly said that victory over death is possible only if two conditions are fulfilled: first, that we have no egoistic attachment to the body and bodily life; and secondly, that we be entirely free from any fear of death. Death can be conquered if you have no attachment to the body, and if you have absolutely no fear of death. Now I have spoken about both these conditions in the course of this camp in Pondicherry and supported them by quotations from Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s writings. They point out that both these things become possible by growing into the immortal part of our being. There is a mortal part of our being, as it is, and an immortal part of our being. We must grow in the consciousness of the immortal part of our being.
Now very often the question is asked, ‘What is the proof that man has an immortal soul?’ And secondly, ‘What exactly is the content of this immortality, what do you mean by immortality?’ Sri Aurobindo has written very glorious paragraphs on this and tells us that once you grow in the consciousness of your soul, once you have felt the breath of your soul, once you have experienced what your soul is, you will never raise this question of whether the soul is immortal or not. For you will instantaneously feel immortality, you will feel the immortality of the soul as a matter of experience, just as when you stand under the sun and feel the sun’s heat and rays come pouring down on your body you don’t say ‘I need proof that there is a sun’, for you can feel the sun on your entire body. In exactly the same way the experience of immortality is entirely natural to somebody who has experienced his soul. And they go on to say what the content of this immortality is. And this is very interesting. They say that there are two kinds of immortality. One they call timeless immortality, and the other is time immortality. One is to be aware that you have a being which was never born and which is therefore never going to die, it is always timeless, the soul described in the Gita. But there is another kind of immortality, and unless you have this other kind of immortality as well, you are likely to look upon your life in this world as meaningless. Once that begins you are likely to withdraw from this life, and that is totally against what Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have been advocating: because you are immortal, because you have an immortal being, that doesn’t mean that your becoming is false – your becoming also is equally true. And there is an experience that even in this becoming, first you are a little child, now you are a young man, now you are an old man, then you leave, give up this body, and then you come back again. In all this becoming there is a consciousness, you can develop a consciousness that all this is a Becoming of the Being. It’s not as if Being is true and Becoming is false; Being and Becoming are both divine, and unless you have this kind of integral approach to immortality, then yoga generally ends up by discarding this world, dismissing the world as a thing of no consequence. And as you know very well, Sri Aurobindo and Mother’s yoga does not encourage this kind of approach.
They also point out why death comes. Many people think that once you begin yoga you begin to fall ill more often than other people. Sri Aurobindo has denied this widespread assumption. The basis for this assumption is that once you take to yoga seriously, your inner parts, the higher parts of your being, begin to change. Their evolution is accelerated. But the body, which is the most inert part of our being, has so far been denied the touch of the Divine. We have always said, ‘O God, your domain ends here, you can’t go beyond this; beyond this is the body’. And so the body has always remained untouched, uninfluenced by anything that comes from above. And therefore it has always remained inert, dull, tamasic and does not change in tandem with the rest of our being. Inevitably, once that happens there develops an imbalance between the inner and outer being, and once this imbalance develops then comes illness. And it is the same imbalance that later on results in death. So the reason that human beings die is not that death is an inalienable fact, a fact that cannot be changed, it is simply because the body has not yet learned to change, to evolve and keep pace with the soul as it is developing.
We are here to evolve, to change, and therefore it is not mortality but immortality that is our birthright. You will be quite surprised if you look up the evidence from biology: biologists have come to the conclusion that mortality is an accident, immortality really characterises all forms of life. Now I won’t go into this, this is not the time, and I don’t know enough about biology to convince you about this. But there is the literature, and it is growing, more and more evidence is coming up which suggests that death appeared at a late point in the evolution of multi-cellular organisms; even now, there are many simpler forms of multi-cellular organism which do not die. Death became necessary later for certain reasons and it has become habitual, but death is not a permanent feature of life, life is the important thing. Sri Aurobindo develops this theme beautifully, that death is a process of life.
We are looking at death from the wrong end, regarding death as the most important thing. Death is not the important thing, it is life that is the most important thing, and death is only a process of life. Life has been given to us so that the soul can develop, the soul can grow. And as the soul keeps growing, the body, as I said, cannot keep pace with the soul and therefore the soul, which is anxious and eager to grow more, eventually finds itself saddled with a body which can no longer serve its purpose. So instead of allowing the body to be a drag on the soul, why not discard the body and take another body, another set of circumstances, another time and place for a new set of experiences so that you can keep growing? This is why death has come. Death has come because the body has been saying “Sorry, I cannot keep pace with your other development.” Now what Sri Aurobindo and the Mother believe is that it is possible to make the body supple enough, to make the body consciousness light enough, to make the body transparent enough, to make the body plastic enough, so that the body need not be out of step with the rest of the human spirit. The Integral Yoga therefore believes in offering the body to the descent of the Divine. And now, after 29th February 1956, circumstances are propitious for this change to happen. The force, the grace, the power that is necessary for the body to adapt, for the body to acquire these new features, that consciousness has already come down. So this is their attitude towards death: death is accidental just as pain and suffering are accidental. They came in because at a certain point in our evolutionary journey they became necessary, and they will continue as long as they are necessary. It is only by growing in consciousness that we can prove to Death that he is no longer necessary, and then he will be more than ready to say goodbye and disappear.
Now this is a very profound knowledge, and Sri Aurobindo and the Mother want man to conquer death, not because they would like us to be attached to any single body, but as a sign of our being’s perfect mastery over our becoming, so that we become masters of all levels of consciousness. That is central to their philosophy of death, of the physical conquest of death. As I said, this is not a materialistic goal. It is probably the most spiritual goal conceivable that the spirit should triumph over matter, even at the level of the body. And during my talks over the sessions of this camp I have developed this theme of what is the real issue of mortality, immortality and the conquest of death.
Now we have just looked at Book Eight. As I said, it has only one canto. Now we come to Book Nine, which has two cantos. The first of them is called “Towards the Black Void”. Now the Mother has spoken and written in many places about what happens to a human being when he dies, to what regions he goes. She and Sri Aurobindo have also written about what happens to a person who is very evolved, what happens when a very evolved person dies, and the journeys, the terrains they go to are different terrains. But here it is Satyavan who is dead, and Satyavan is a godlike being, a very fully evolved being, so his afterlife journey cannot be that of any ordinary man. His is a special journey and it becomes more special because here in a way it is Savitri who is taking Death on a tour of self-discovery, so that the various areas of death are exposed one by one. We shall find that this continues over a stretch of 6 to 8 cantos, and here we are just at the beginning of it.
Death, as you know, feels that he is so powerful and human beings are so weak, that he feels disdain and scorn and just dismisses Savitri as of no consequence at all. But before that happens, before Death can speak, when the Lord of Death has just arrived, Savitri simply refuses to look at him. Now the first thing that happens when you refuse to look at the God of Death, is that he becomes a little nervous. You see, the God of Death first captures you just by his presence, by terrorizing you. Savitri shows that she will not be intimidated; she takes her own time, the God of Death tries to attract her attention, but she does not move. At that moment a great power descends into her:
Then suddenly there came on her the change
Which in tremendous moments of our lives
Can overtake sometimes the human soul
And hold it up towards its luminous source.
The veil is torn, the thinker is no more:
Only the spirit sees and all is known.
Then a calm Power seated above our brows
Is seen, unshaken by our thoughts and deeds,
Its stillness bears the voices of the world:
Immobile, it moves Nature, looks on life.
There follows a long description of this new power that comes to her and finally settles in her. For Savitri is no ordinary housewife. As we saw throughout the whole of Book Seven with its seven cantos, Savitri has already realized the supramental consciousness, realized the cosmic consciousness, and all these powers are available to her whenever she needs them. And now the most crucial moment of her life has come, the moment for which she was born. Savitri is born just for this confrontation with Death. At this moment this change comes to her and she is totally transformed. The first section of Book Nine, Canto One is essentially a description of this transformation, of the change that comes over Savitri.
Then comes a description of the God of Death:
Something stood there, unearthly, sombre, grand,
A limitless denial of all being…
He is a limitless denial of all being. This represents what in Sanskrit is called antaka, one who denies, one who negates, one who annihilates all being.
A limitless denial of all being
That wore the terror and wonder of a shape.
In its appalling eyes the tenebrous Form
Bore the deep pity of destroying gods;
A sorrowful irony curved the dreadful lips
That speak the word of doom. Eternal Night
In the dire beauty of an immortal face
Pitiying arose, receiving all that lives
For ever into its fathomless heart, refuge
Of creatures from their anguish and world-pain.
His shape was nothingness made real, his limbs
Were monuments of transience and beneath
Brows of unwearying calm large godlike lids
Silent beheld the writhing serpent, life.
So when Death looks at life, the whole of life writhes like a helpless serpent. This is how Sri Aurobindo describes the terror that the form of Death inspires in the hearts of all beings. And then he says:
The two opposed each other with their eyes,
Woman and universal god. …
Then the God of Death has waited long enough. Yet he cannot take Satyavan’s soul without Savitri’s consent, because her entire being has captured Satyavan and is holding him, so that the God of Death is unable to take him out of the body. And therefore he speaks:
…”Unclasp”, it cried,
“Thy passionate influence and relax, O slave
Of Nature, changing tool of changeless Law,
Who vainly writh’st rebellion to my yoke,
Thy elemental grasp; weep and forget.
Entomb thy passion in its living grave.
Leave now the once-loved spirit’s abandoned robe:
Pass lonely back to thy vain life on earth.”
“Please,” he is saying, “release Satyavan from your iron grip so that I can take him away.” And what about Savitri? She is to “weep and forget”.
Savitri is not willing to do anything that he wants her to do. But finally she does release Satyavan, and the God of Death casts his noose and captures Satyavan’s soul. But as they are walking away Savitri follows. First goes Satyavan, following him the God of Death; but Satyavan has no will of his own now, the God of Death is controlling him. And following them is Savitri.
The brings us to Canto Two. This is a fairly long canto. I will read out just a few excerpts, to give an idea of what Death stands for and what his attitude is. The God of Death does not even look back, because he is confident that Savitri will soon stop. Once he crosses over into his own realm, no living human being can ever follow. But lo and behold, the faster he goes and the farther he moves away into this weird realm of his own, he still finds Savitri following him. He cannot understand, and he begins to create a kind of psychological terror to make Savitri afraid so that she will leave. I’ll read that part. This warfare between Savitri and the God of Death is going on without any exchange of words. They are not speaking to each other. Just quietly the God of Death is creating this terror, expecting Savitri to retreat:
A mystery of terror’s boundlessness,
Gathering its hungry strength the huge pitiless void
Surrounded slowly with its soundless depths,
And monstrous, cavernous, a shapeless throat
Devoured her into its shadowy strangling mass,
The fierce spiritual agony of a dream.
Savitri felt as if she was being
Sucked into a cavernous throat of darkness.
A curtain of impenetrable dread,
The darkness hung around her cage of sense
As, when the trees have turned to blotted shades
And the last friendly glimmer fades away,
Around a bullock in the forest tied
By hunters closes in no empty night
When it suits him, Sri Aurobindo can arrest an entire mood, an entire scene in a small image. In the old days when killing animals was quite fashionable, what people used to do was to visit the haunt of a tiger or a lion they wanted to shoot. But they didn’t have the courage to face it directly, so they would tie a bullock or calf in a very prominent place, and then climb up into the top of a tree to be at a safe distance. There they would train their guns on this bait, and after nightfall the tiger would come for its food, whatever calf or bullock they have tied there. Then while the tiger is busy eating, they can show their skill and kill the tiger. This used to be the sport of the leisured class in the good old days. Even now you find reports of this kind of thing in the newspapers. But here Sri Aurobindo says that Savitri was now like that poor calf, tied there to the tree. When this is done, there is still some light; then early evening comes and the light recedes and what at one time were clearly seen to be trees now become simply blotches of darkness, it is no longer possible to distinguish one from the other, darkness has settled in. And the poor animal is sensing the presence of the tiger and helplessly expecting to be attacked at any moment. This is what the God of Death wanted Savitri to feel. It is not an empty night. It is a night full of terror, and full of the tiger that the animal senses and expects. Savitri is made to feel like that by the God of Death.
This gives us some picture of what the God of Death does and how he tries to terrorise Savitri. This God of Death is a very clever person, he is very sophisticated, and when he begins to talk to Savitri, there is not only disdain and scorn, he also has many a convincing punchline here and there, and a beautifully epigrammatic style. He is trying to convince Savitri that she is too small a person, too insignificant a being, to take on something like Death with its vast power. After all who is Savitri? Savitri represents human beings, and what are human beings? Human beings are mere two-legged worms, crawling on a speck of dust in this infinity of space. “What can you do?” he says, “I have created this world, this world is mine, this world has arisen from the inconscient. I can snuff it out any time I want.” That is the attitude the God of Death takes.
You can also see that when Sri Aurobindo writes for the God of Death, there is no compromise. He writes as powerfully as when he writes for Savitri. This is the hallmark of the poet. He has no personal favourites. So I have always said that if you want to find valid criticism against Sri Aurobindo, please do not go anywhere else, you have it all in Savitri. Sri Aurobindo himself has provided it. There are other kinds of criticism but most other criticisms are based on misunderstandings or non-reading of Sri Aurobindo. But here is somebody who knows exactly what Sri Aurobindo has said and criticises expertly. That is the God of Death. And look at this epigram, I don’t know whether Shakespeare can match the sheer brilliance of it, which sums up in two lines the miracle that man is and his ultimate insignificance.
A fragile miracle of thinking clay,
Armed with illusions walks the child of Time
A fragile miracle made out of clay – that’s what we are. Some people have more of this clay and others have less, but basically we are all made of clay. But a miracle who has been to the moon, who is thinking of sending his children next holidays somewhere between the earth and Mars, who can fly into the sky, who can talk to friends in New York and London, wherever you want, at the touch of a finger … everything we have is a miracle, but what kind of miracle? A fragile miracle, finally made out of what? Thinking clay. As it says in the Bible, ultimately dust thou art, to dust thou returnest. We are still dust, but dust that has started to think, matter which has learned how to think, and that’s why what you have up here is called ‘grey matter’. It’s matter still. So he says:
A fragile miracle of thinking clay
Armed with illusions walks the child of Time.
Man is a child of time, he is born in time, therefore he dies in time, he is just a child, and what does he have for defending himself with? Illusions! And his greatest illusion is the one which is spelled G.O.D… That is his greatest illusion, and immediately Death goes on to say:
To fill the void around he feels and dreads,
The void he came from and to which he goes,
He magnifies his self and names it God.
Children suddenly wake up in the middle of the night, the parents are nowhere near… (Indian parents are always there, but in western countries, right from the early childhood, the child is made to feel independent. He sleeps in a room of his own.) He gets up at night and there is nobody. There is a thunderstorm, he feels scared by the fluttering of a curtain… then what does the child do? The child looks at the doll which he sleeps with, there is always a doll, some stuffed toy, and this stuffed toy gives the child a certain psychological relation, some kind of courage; he starts petting the toy, and then goes to sleep. We are exactly like that. When we wake up in the middle of our life without finding any mummy or daddy that we can call to, we need a toy, we need a doll. The name of that doll is God. God is this doll that you have made, God is this illusion you have armed yourself with:
To fill the void around he feels and dreads,
The void he came from and to which he goes,
He magnifies his self and names it God.
He calls the heavens to help his suffering hopes.
He sees above him with a longing heart
Bare spaces more unconscious than himself
That have not even his privilege of mind,
And empty of all but their unreal blue,
And peoples them with bright and merciful powers.
When man is in trouble, he goes down on his knees, raises his hands, looks at the sky, without realising that in the entire creation there is no creature more intelligent than he! There is nothing there, it is only empty. Up there, above, there is the blue of the sky, and the scientist will tell you that the blue of the sky is also unreal. And this is man, he believes that God is sitting there ready to help… rescue party, first aid party etc… There is nobody there. So he says, “These are the various illusions with which you have grown up, Savitri, but you can’t take me in, I have created this world out of the inconscient. I let it be at my pleasure, and when I don’t want it I will snuff it out, there is nothing you can do about it, you are so helpless. You continue to walk in this land which doesn’t belong to you. Go back. Human beings must live within their limitations, there they can be happy. Do not try to exceed yourself.”
But after all, exceeding oneself is the badge of humanness. If you don’t exceed yourself you are not human. In all of The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo keeps talking about this divine discontent that man has been blessed with. Today it has made science and technology possible, and this same discontent will one day make it possible for man to wake up from within, and walk like a living god on this earth. This discontent that man has, is a sign of his inner divinity. And that is why those who oppose the manifestation of God always advise you that you have a nice little corner to live in, that is where you belong, so stay there: eat, reproduce and live and die, but don’t try to exceed yourself. Savitri represents this human aspiration of overreaching, going beyond what man has so far achieved. The God of Death can’t stand that and therefore he says:
For the sea roars around him and earth quakes
Beneath his steps, and fire is at his doors,
And death prowls baying through the woods of life.
And all that he is saying amounts to one thing:
Hope not to win back to thee Satyavan (p. 587)
“Don’t ask for Satyavan.”
This debate between the God of Death and Savitri goes on and there are many many wonderful pasages here. The God of Death, ultimately, finally, when he has used all his terror tactics and Savitri remains undaunted, starts to reason with her. He says, “Savitri, I don’t know whether there is a God. But suppose there is a God and you want his immortality, in God’s immortality there is no Satyavan. You have to be by yourself to achieve immortality. You have to be what is called in India kaivalya -you have to be just yourself, there is no other. There is no Satyavan there, there is no love there, there is no action there, you just have to be by yourself. But what you are asking for, Savitri, is a world where there is room for love, where there is a place for action, a place for will. All this cannot coexist with immortality.” And Savitri keeps challenging the God of Death, denying whatever he is saying.
This goes on until we come to a point where she says:
I am, I love, I see, I act, I will.
“For me,” says Savitri, “to be, to live, means to love; to live means to will; to live means to conquer. To embrace God in all his perfection, that is what living really means to me.” And the God of Death retorts, “But what about knowing? If you really know then there is no scope for love; if you really know, there is no scope for building anything wonderful.” Then Savitri replies,
When I have loved for ever, I shall know.
There are two kinds of love: one is a limited love, the love of the ego, and the other is the love of the soul. That does not bargain. When I love, I will know that this entire world is a manifestation of one supreme reality. And then she says:
I know that knowledge is a vast embrace:
I know that every being is myself,
In every heart is hidden the myriad One.
God manifests in every being, so as God lives in me and lives in every being, the love I have is this thirst for union with the One. And that cannot have compromises, that cannot be transient. O God of Death, do not wage this war of words and reason with me. I will persist and I will continue. No matter where you take Satyavan, I will follow you.”
So I think with this I have given you a flavour of these two books, and we should stop at this point, and once more thank all the friends who have made this wonderful meeting possible. Thank you very much.