Savitri starts with creation itself, the moment before the coming of Dawn, the state of utter Night in which the divine possibility is hidden. It is the Divine plunge into darkness that has allowed creation to be. Therefore creation is a divine act. It is as much a spiritual fact as it is a material one. It is moving towards a great divine event, that is the perfect play of the Divine in material terms, His full emergence in earthly life. This spiritual destiny is bequeathed to earth and its emergence is as certain as tomorrow’s sun. Yet this journey is not without its peril and pain. Though inheritors of a divine destiny our life starts from apparent darkness and the clouds of ignorance pursue us through the days and nights. Days collapse into nights and night becomes a passage for a returning Light. This is the opening scene of Savitri, this dark beginning of all things; the dark mother or the dark womb of things, aprakritim salilam, the ocean of Inconscience. Hidden in the womb of darkness is the Light Supreme. It must emerge with the passage of Time. This emergence in terms of Time and Space is necessarily sequential and creates the law of Cause and effect. In fact there is no such inexorable law but simply patterns thrown out in space and upheld by Time. Repeating themselves, they appear as laws. But all law is simply a habit and of all habits the most obstinate is Death, this unfortunate tendency for all things to collapse into the dark and unconscious base. Yet because of the secret presence of Light within the core of this darkness, nothing can remain for long in this well of unconsciousness. Sooner or later it must be propelled upwards again; it must resume its Godward toil towards Light, Freedom, Bliss, Immortality. This is the journey of life….out of darkness we still grow towards Light. This emergence, this first stir of growth towards Light is the experience of Dawn to a deeper sense within us but the surface consciousness that is asleep and habitually in love with its obscurity feels it as a struggle and a pain. The cosmic riddle of Light sleeping within the womb of darkness, becomes in the evolutionary journey a struggle and a tussle within the individual elements of creation. In man, this struggle becomes most acute because we stand at a threshold where we become, partly at least, conscious of our unconsciousness and there also develops a conscious longing and an aspiration for Light documented in the earliest dawns of humanity. This is the Vedic Dawn, the goddess who comes bringing illumination and call to a greater adventure. Her coming opens doors to wide expanses, luminous riches and powers that were hidden within us but held back from our sleeping state. What is experienced, seen and felt in the physical world is also the story of our inner life and our spiritual growth.
All this is beautifully summarised in the opening Canto, The Symbol Dawn:
Intervening in a mindless universe,
Its message crept through the reluctant hush
Calling the adventure of consciousness and joy
And, conquering Nature’s disillusioned breast,
Compelled renewed consent to see and feel.
A thought was sown in the unsounded Void,
A sense was born within the darkness’ depths,
A memory quivered in the heart of Time
As if a soul long dead were moved to live:
But the oblivion that succeeds the fall,
Had blotted the crowded tablets of the past,
And all that was destroyed must be rebuilt
And old experience laboured out once more.
All can be done if the god-touch is there……
One lucent corner windowing hidden things
Forced the world’s blind immensity to sight.
The darkness failed and slipped like a falling cloak
From the reclining body of a god……
A message from the unknown immortal Light
Ablaze upon creation’s quivering edge,
Dawn built her aura of magnificent hues
And buried its seed of grandeur in the hours.
Paradoxically the Master Poet also describes here the Dawn that breaks upon the day when Satyavan must die, and Dawn the giver of hope and illumination brings on this day the fateful stroke of an ‘adverse’ destiny. So it seems to man’s ignorant consciousness. But then how else will man evolve and new possibilities emerge but through the challenge of death faced by the immortal soul within us? Savitri, the Incarnate Divine is the embodiment of this hope and strength that Dawn brings. She must face and conquer the disillusioned heart of nature that awakes slowly to the call and the effort divine. She must face the grim resistance of the abyss that whispers in the human heart and wrestle with fate that dodges all effort towards a greater climb. This is the mystery of mysteries, the Divine become human and thus taking upon Himself or Herself the burden of the ignorant death-bound human race:
Too unlike the world she came to help and save,
Her greatness weighed upon its ignorant breast
And from its dim chasms welled a dire return,
A portion of its sorrow, struggle, fall.
To live with grief, to confront death on her road,—
The mortal’s lot became the Immortal’s share……
As one who watching over men left blind
Takes up the load of an unwitting race,
Harbouring a foe whom with her heart she must feed,
Unknown her act, unknown the doom she faced,
Unhelped she must foresee and dread and dare……
All the fierce question of man’s hours relived.
The sacrifice of suffering and desire
Earth offers to the immortal Ecstasy
Began again beneath the eternal Hand.
The Second Canto deals with the real Issue of earthly and human life, its riddle and the resolution. The problem of life is not about survival and the procurement of food, shelter and clothing. Nature has already arranged for that. It has created means and mechanisms to ensure this bare minimum. The problem of man is that he is a dual consciousness, – an immortal soul within and a mortal, limited nature without. The inmost Soul seeks for freedom and expansion, for Truth and Love and Joy but the outer nature is limited and bound within a narrow range of possibilities. The cosmic forces do not allow man’s nature to go beyond a certain boundary. This boundary that prevents us from knowing and relating with all that is outside this small frame is what is called Ignorance. It is Ignorance that ties us to the stake of suffering and pain and opens the doors to doom. It keeps us bound to the circle of birth and death repeating the same drama through blind laws and mechanical habits. We know neither our past nor our future, we know not all that surrounds us and all that stirs within us, we know not the goal and direction of life. We live as blind men caged inside a box and the irony is that we do not even know it and even perhaps are content in this state. Such is the grip of Ignorance upon our life! This Ignorance pursues us wherever we go, in homes and marts, in isolated forests and solitary confinement, in the ascetic’s cave and the mountain tops. It is the dress we wear and even when we discard this dark and unseemly robe for a while after Death, we come back and wear the same or a similar dress again. The story of our life does not end with the death of the body. We return to complete the curve of energies we have let out in one life-time. All this must change and human life must be freed from the clutch of Ignorance and Death. The laws of earthly life itself must change and we must be able to live as a conscious being in a conscious world. Savitri, the incarnate Grace and Love has come to change the law. Therefore She must pass through the doors of Doom through which earth’s children pass. She must pay the tax of the Night in full for all of us who seek and aspire for a higher life. She must balance and settle the dark account for good so that man is rid of this karmic burden and can make the needed ascent out of this mortal state into the state of immortality. This is Her great mission and divine Work. She comes to open the door to man struggling in the darkness of Ignorance, caught in the forest of life, his kingdom of glory lost and his celestial vision forfeited. She comes to open the door denied and closed.
But who or what brings down this Glory to earth? One is here who dwells within this mortal frame and yet is the All-knowing Guide. He is hidden behind His works, moving things and forces from behind towards the great goal, the leader of the evolutionary march. Yet sometimes he stands in front as the visible Godhead, the Avatara, the Divine descent in humanity, the Supreme wearing the human mask, embodying earth’s anguish and pain, carrying in his lonely heart the seeking and the longing that burns unseen within the human depths. He embodies this seeking and calls down the Grace and Love that alone can save. This is Aswapati, the seer and the tapaswi whose force of concentrated energy prepares the earth for the descent of Grace. He is the human father of Savitri; even as he is the divine seer who does the tapasya for man for the birth of the Incarnate Grace amidst our blind and ignorant humanity. He prepares humanity to receive the mould of the future type. From the third Canto onwards we have a detailed description of Aswapati’s Yoga that is done to open the way for this descent. He is the forerunner who opens the path, the accomplishment is done by the embodied Grace. The first three Canto of his journey are reflected in Book One, canto three, four and five. They reveal the path that Aswapati undertakes to ascend out of the human field of Ignorance and journey through higher and luminous worlds that will be one day man’s natural station. The experiences and findings of this most fascinating inner journey are described in great detail in these three Cantos. This is followed up in Book Two (The Traveller of the Worlds) by an even greater detailed description of the different worlds, their energies and forces and beings as well as their role and influence upon earthly life and men. The whole cosmic field is seen and reclaimed for the work, the entire universe mapped out. Nothing is hid from his unsealed eye of Truth. One day man too shall have these experiences as naturally as he breathes ad thins today since the path for him has been cleared by the incarnate Divine.
Book One, Canto three, four and five are Aswapati’s individual Yoga. In this part, he is shown attaining freedom from Ignorance and uniting with the Divine, in both the Static and the Dynamic aspects of Iswara and Shakti. In Book Two, he reveals the next step, the stage of Universalisation. He discovers and unites with the Cosmic Divine in all His aspects and powers and on all the universal planes of the manifested worlds. Each of the triple lower worlds of mind, life and matter are described in their essence and their effects, their high peaks and low points; their glorious and fallen state mapped out. Of special importance to us is the way these planes and their forces have influenced earthly life that has so far evolved under the stress of these lower planes. Exploring these planes in their fullness, Aswapati’s yoga takes him further to the Self of the Mind where thought becomes still and the word is mute. Great Yogis have stopped here since it frees them from earthly grief and care. But Aswapati is not looking for any selfish personal gain, even it be the silence of Nirvana. He is on another trail, the search for the perfect solution to the cosmic riddle. Not a mutilated and half victory but the complete triumph, the fullest Perfection that re-unites the body and soul and weds the earthly life to heaven’s altitudes. Therefore his journey does not end there. Passing beyond the flaming stairs of the higher worlds and the silence of the Self, he ascends further to the secret Source of all. He dives deep into the heart of the universe and discovers the World-soul that stands behind this ambiguous net of world-forces that we experience as so many cosmic systems or worlds. But not here can the cosmic puzzle be solved. Its is the core of the manifested universe but there is beyond it the Unmanifest, and beyond the Manifest and the Unmanifest is the secret Womb of Light, the Undivided Consciousness, Aditi from whom all has emerged. He must find and knock at those gates, the border where the Form and the Formless meet. He must dare to enter the empire of the Sun even as he has faced and dared the chill dark Night of Hell.
It is here that Aswapati stands compelled to a tremendous choice. He can, if he so wills now plunge from this highest point into the utter infinity of God, the Absolute who is hid behind the worlds of relativities. Thus have the greatest of Yogis in the past used these gates of the Sun to pass to the Beyond never to return. None can come back having once entered through these golden gates. Aswapati too can plunge and vanish into this greatest of all Mysteries like so many others, undoing the entire thread of Cause and effect, forgetting earth, forgetting Time and Space, forgetting Man. However as he looks down from that highest line he sees the struggling universe ascending through the long zigzag serpentine path created through the complex play of forces. On the other hand looking into the heart of that Mystery he glimpses the Beauty and Light that await their hour to manifest below. They are there in the heart of the Unmanifest, ever existing in an eternal dance. But there is still too much of the play of division and darkness. Refusing the temptation to merge into the ineffable Bliss of Infinity, he invokes the Grace Supreme to come down and heal the earth’s pain. The Great Mystery persuades him to leave this endeavour for a later time. It tests him with the offer of the highest status that any soul can seek for its individual self. But by now, Aswapati has grown one with every heart. As a deputy of the aspiring world, he asks Her Bliss, Her Freedom, Her Light, Her Love for earth and men. This is the theme of Book Three. It is the state where Aswapati transcends the universe and is face to face with the Transcendent Eternal. But instead of merging and losing himself into That, he rather aspires to bring down That Glory and Greatness into the earth play. The boon is granted and Aswapati returns with the great divine assurance.
Time rolls by and the Supreme Mystery is born upon earth as Savitri, his human daughter who is nevertheless born of the Fire of Aswapati’s tapasya and yearning. She grows up initially a stranger to earth’s ways but soon gathers all things into her deep and divine embrace. After all she is none else but embodied Love and Light and the supreme Grace that has consented to wear a human form. The birth and growth of Savitri is the theme of the Fourth Book, till she reaches that point in her life when she must consciously take charge of her Avataric mission and go out and summon the soul of Satyavan caught up into the net of Death and Ignorance like us mortals. The soul consenting to the divine work is as important. It is the other self of the Divine Beloved who as much, and even more, seeks the aspiring soul as we seek the Divine. If Her work can be done successfully on one symbol type, it can then be replicated and extended to the whole of the human race. Who else but the Divine Himself can play this difficult part as well? The Lord himself becomes Satyavan to lead the way and pass through Death.
Book Five and Six are Savitri’s entry into the human law and the human way of life. She must completely identify with all that is human, experience that grief that man experiences following the stroke of adverse Fate. Love and Fate are the two powers that together weave the life of man. In a deepest sense they are the double term of that yoga which goes on subconsciously in earth where Love aspires to unite all things while Fate works to divide and separate. Outwardly we rejoice and suffer destiny, inwardly we grow and evolve through both towards a greater life. Love gives us sweetness and strength, Fate gives us wisdom and force. They are the two sides of the One Godhead. Book Five brings together the two, Satyavan, the aspiring soul caught up in the grip of Ignorance, and Savitri. Book Six reveals the secret truth of Destiny and Fate that follow each such attempt to redeem life and fill it with the sweetness and fragrance of Divine Love.
Book Seven begins with the human struggle that Savitri experiences, the sign of the Incarnate’s perfect identification with our humanity. She suffers and struggles like an ordinary mortal and even ponders about the justification of fighting against fate. Why not simply accept the law and endure the stroke silently. But that is only for a brief moment. Soon her deeper Self wakes up to the divine mission for which she has come down, to show the path to man that would eventually deliver him from all forms of Ignorance including Death. She is the path-finder who must open the sunlit way for man to follow in her divine steps. After all that is why She had assumed the human form, to share the burden and to show the way. But where to find such a Strength that can conquer Death? The Strength is within us, in the depths of our being. The true reality of our being is not the ego-self, that is but a mask put on for a certain purpose, but the inner flame of Truth and Love, the psychic being that evolves through life and death and rebirth. This she must uncover. Savitri takes this high recourse within and finds her secret soul. Once the soul is found her nature blossoms into a figure of divinity; her being becomes a temple and a camp of God pitched in human time. Having found the secret way, now lost to man, she universalises her consciousness and being so that whatever she has discovered in her own depths can be given to man directly through her touch. Thus armed she waits for the great work, the fatal stroke of Destiny, the victory in the tournament with death.
Book Eight describes the death of Satyavan in the forest and thus links us back to the story. Book One, Canto One had started with the day when Satyavan must die. Now we are brought back to that fateful day after covering the background and the foreground of the story. Satyavan must pass through Death for such is the term and the rule of the game for the conquest. There is a reason why Death exists, why it has come into being, a function that it serves, a purpose that Death fulfils in the grand scheme of things. Step by step Savitri must follow in his trail and step by step see and answer the objections of death to the sought after change in this cosmic law that governs all creatures and things upon earth. She must transform Death into the being of Love and Light that it once was. This can only be done by Savitri entering into his dark infinity, the shadow from where he emerges into the play and filling these unconscious Spaces with Her Consciousness. She must enter there and recover the Light that is hidden behind his inscrutable mask. She must lay bare with her flame of Light all its masks such as doubt, denial, distrust, fear, scepticism and all the rest. Book Nine and Ten describe this conflict with the being of Death. It is the unseen Work, the Yoga that Savitri undertakes to clear the path of Immortality definitively for earth and men. She meets Death on his own ground and beats him at his own game. Eventually Death tries to match his power with hers. What follows is an apocalyptic vision in which the Incarnate Goddess thrusts aside Her human veil and stands face to face with Death. Unable to bear that powerful gaze, Death tries to make a hasty retreat calling upon all his occult source of power, but nothing helps. Light enters the dark abyss and eats up the body of Death. Eventually he succumbs to Her mastering power and gives up the hope to keep man forever in his iron grip, under his inflexible rigid law that would never allow the soul and nature, spirit and body, to be free and become one again.
Death dies and in place of that dreadful form there emerges from behind the mask of terror and pain, the beautiful Godhead who had carefully and deliberately hid Himself in this mask so as to goad and prepare earth and mankind for this high consummation, the victorious emergence of man’s innate and now hidden divinity through the coats of an ignorant nature. Now Savitri has accomplished this fact and shown that the hour has come for this great possibility to be realised upon earth. But the great and beautiful Godhead, Hiranyagarbha, the golden womb of things, the bright guardian of the law and the way, once again tries to charm and allure Savitri to ascend to the highest status of being alongwith her lover Satyavan. He concedes her the boon of immortality she asks for Satyavan but only as an extra-terrestrial realisation. He bids her to ascend with Satyavan to some high Heaven of Immortality and Bliss and live there for all eternity. But that would leave the old and dusty laws of earth unchanged. A solitary victory cannot fulfill her mission. Not for herself but for man has she come down. The enchantment of the highest Heavens does not ensnare her for those were once her natural home and she had no need to come down upon earth and accept the burden and the ordeal of man if it was just to return back to where she came from. Refusing this offer, the divine lure of an individual realisation, Savitri remains steadfast in her high and divine resolve. Nothing can turn her away from her divine mission, the great work that her soul has chosen along with Satyavan, the soul of man to establish here upon earth the Life Divine. The great and beautiful Godhead is pleased and accepts to grant her wish but for that she must ascend to the utter oneness of the Infinite’s embrace. This is the home of the mysterious fiat of the Transcendent Will. The laws that govern us have their sanction there and it is there that they can be changed. The moment arrives when the Incarnate Godhead is face to face with her own eternal Self. The doors of destiny are thrown open before Savitri. Hearing the sob of things in earthly life, She chooses carefully and wisely the eternal gifts for the magnificent soul of man upon earth. Book Eleven ends with the grant of these boons that Savitri has won for earth and man.
Now comes the close of the great and grand epic of the divine struggle and hope that takes place within the human breast. Earth is the field of this struggle and man’s soul the main protagonist. But the central figure, the transmuting alchemist power is the Power and Grace and Love of the Divine Mother incarnate in the being and persona of Savitri. Satyavan has merely consented to her working, he has surrendered himself in the safe hands of the Incarnate Mother, the power that alone can change all things. Meanwhile as a result of the boons she has secured, not only does Satyavan returns back to earth from the domain of Death but his father Dyumatsena recovers his sight and his kingdom. In symbolic terms it means that not only does the human soul escape the snare of Death but also human nature discovers the greater powers of celestial Sight now lost to the mind and to that is added all the regal and royal riches that pour into nature and fulfill it with powers that have not yet manifested upon earth. The seers who witness this strange miracle is filled with wonder. Satyavan reveals the secret of this miraculous change even as the hearts of the seers who have gathered around her is filled with gratitude:
If this is she of whom the world has heard,
Wonder no more at any happy change.
Each easy miracle of felicity
Of her transmuting heart the alchemy is.
But Savitri reveals her own secret in such marvelous simple words:
Awakened to the meaning of my heart
That to feel love and oneness is to live
And this the magic of our golden change,
Is all the truth I know or seek, O sage.
Rejoicing they return homeward as night falls on the beautiful landscape where the great drama took place. But Savitri’s heart is already moving ahead of Time, a yet greater Dawn she seeks to bring down for earth and man.
Conclusion. The Message of Hope and Love
In its deepest essence Savitri is the story of Love labouring in the heart of creation to bring together the two seeming opposites, – Earth and Heaven. It is therefore also our own story, the story of our soul, the story of our inner life no less than the story of our outer life as well, in its essence of course, but as seen by the Divine eyes. Repeatedly we find in Savitri our Ignorant human view of things contrasted by the deeper and greater divine vision. This is another beauty of the divine poem that even in its highest flight it never loses hold of the earth. It is as if a benevolent Love is ever leaning down from its sublime heights to take account of the pain and struggle that the children of earth experience. We are a double birth, – our bodies are earth-born while our soul is heaven—born. That is the reason of our high unease. In the reconciliation of these two tendencies in us, – earthward and heavenward we have the key to the perfect harmony that we ever seek but never find. Either we end up abandoning the earth like the solitary ascetic in pursuit of Nirvana or the heavenly riches or else, like the average man, renounce all hope of a higher Truth and a higher life and stay within the limits fixed for us by Nature. But Savitri comes as a bridge to bring these two together. She is the golden bridge, the bridge of Light that links the two, – on the one side man’s ignorant, painful world, and on the other side the griefless worlds of a shadowless Light and unending Bliss.
It is the message of hope,- the hope that comes through this wisdom that the world is in its core and essence divine. There is hidden within its anomalous appearances a Sun of Secret Knowledge and Truth; there labours in its silent depths an untiring Love; there lies behind its back an infinite Bliss and an infinite Power. All limitation is a temporary phenomenon, our Ignorance is a passing phase, pain merely a stage in our further evolution. Night is simply an appearance; Death is an appearance, a temporary self-concealment of life needed for its grand and mighty purpose. We are inheritors of a divine destiny and the Divine will see to it that this high destiny is restored to us. Truth, Bliss, Immortality is our inborn right. From our side we have to learn to trust the Wisdom that has gone forth into the world, we have to make the courageous act of a supreme surrender, we have to take a leap of faith. Then the supreme alchemist Herself takes up the task of transforming us and remoulds our human nature into the divine nature and changes this earthly life into the life divine:
At the head she stands of birth and toil and fate,
In their slow round the cycles turn to her call;
Alone her hands can change Time’s dragon base.
Hers is the mystery the Night conceals;
The spirit’s alchemist energy is hers;
She is the golden bridge, the wonderful fire.
The luminous heart of the Unknown is she,
A power of silence in the depths of God;
She is the Force, the inevitable Word,
The magnet of our difficult ascent,
The Sun from which we kindle all our suns,
The Light that leans from the unrealised Vasts,
The joy that beckons from the impossible,
The Might of all that never yet came down.
All Nature dumbly calls to her alone
To heal with her feet the aching throb of life
And break the seals on the dim soul of man
And kindle her fire in the closed heart of things.
All here shall be one day her sweetness’ home,
All contraries prepare her harmony;
Towards her our knowledge climbs, our passion gropes;
In her miraculous rapture we shall dwell,
Her clasp shall turn to ecstasy our pain.
Our self shall be one self with all through her….
But vain are human power and human love
To break earth’s seal of ignorance and death;
His nature’s might seemed now an infant’s grasp;
Heaven is too high for outstretched hands to seize.
This Light comes not by struggle or by thought;
In the mind’s silence the Transcendent acts
And the hushed heart hears the unuttered Word.
A vast surrender was his only strength.
A Power that lives upon the heights must act,
Bring into life’s closed room the Immortal’s air
And fill the finite with the Infinite.
All that denies must be torn out and slain
And crushed the many longings for whose sake
We lose the One for whom our lives were made.
Now other claims had hushed in him their cry:
Only he longed to draw her presence and power
Into his heart and mind and breathing frame;
Only he yearned to call for ever down
Her healing touch of love and truth and joy
Into the darkness of the suffering world.
His soul was freed and given to her alone.