Savitri, The Story of The Divine Mother

I.
Savitri is the story of the Divine Mother. But since the Divine Mother has become the creation itself, Savitri is also the story of creation, in fact of all of us, since that is what we are in our secret self – a portion of the Divine Mother who has entered into Time and Space to play with fate and circumstance. We have plunged into the play at Her behest, with Her Gracious assurance that She will be with us in this journey. Indeed She is always with us as the sole omnipotent Goddess ever veiled, working from within, pushing things from behind towards their intended end. That destined goal bequeathed to earth and men is the transformation of earthly life into a life Divine, of the human animal into a divinised humanity and of matter into a spiritualised substance for the free play of the Spirit. This is the great and difficult task that the Divine Mother has undertaken upon Herself so as to fulfil the Will of the Lord who stands behind creation. She hopes to fulfil it through the human instruments made ready through the long and tardy evolutionary process, instruments ready to surrender itself to Her Light and Love and Grace. Such a human instrument is Satyavan, and all of us who, though struggling in the forest of ignorance and losing our celestial privileges and divine sight, are yet ready to lay all at Her Feet for Her sake and the joy of belonging to Her. For this the human soul accepted the great adventure of creation, and such is our real journey taking place behind the outer story of our life. It is the story of a progressive growth out of a limited and divided consciousness with its attendant darkness and obscurity towards a vast and illimitable consciousness of Light and Truth and Oneness and Love.

Though the Divine Mother has never left the earth since its inception and has always been there with Her Grace and Light and Love to help and heal, yet at some crucial junctures of history when some major decisive work is to be done, She comes to the forefront assuming a human form and name to directly take charge of earth and men and not as She governs now through a veil of Nature. Two are the veils She has woven around Herself for this work, – a veil of darkness where She conceals Herself as the dark Mother, and a veil of Light where She stands revealed as the radiant and resplendent Mother, – Diti and Aditi, as they were called respectively in ancient Indian thought and experience. Savitri is an incarnation of the Divine Mother in one such far back times when the Divine Mother came to the forefront of creation, and took up the human quest and its unsolved questions and struggles so as to hew the ways of Immortality and to help the Light and Truth to grow and win over darkness and obscurity and falsehood that gain ascendance at certain points of time. Such Divine Descents are known in India as the Avataras, who descends during certain critical moments of earth’s evolutionary history. Sri Aurobindo saw that now again humanity has been going through such a critical evolutionary crisis, ‘the Hour of God’, and the Divine Mother had once again assumed a human body to lead and to deliver earth and humanity through this dark and suffocating passage towards a higher and greater Light. Therefore Sri Aurobindo beautifully with His masterly Hand links the two stories using the framework of the former tale of the Vedic cycle to pour in the inner truths of creation and earth and humanity as well as to reveal the deeper and profound truths of Her present incarnation.

Thus Sri Aurobindo, the Divine Poet, turns the legend of Savitri into a most powerful and evocative spiritual symbol of the epic of life and a drama of hope and courage and love, that takes place in our life where the forces of Light and Love struggle in our human hearts and Truth wrestles with falsehood to carve a way for the Divine victory upon earth. The stage of such an inner conflict is upon earth and more specifically within the soul of man and the field of nature through which we move. The Divine Mother accepts the hard conditions of the ambiguous play and uses danger and difficulty and even death to eventually lead us towards the Eternal’s Peace and the Immortal’s Bliss. She shows and leads the way for humanity to follow through Her own personal example. But for those who like Satyavan are strong and ready and willing to surrender to Her Love and Grace, She happily carries their load, fighting for us in our battle against Death and Doom. Such is Her Love, or rather the mystery of Her Divine Love that has woven the stars as a necklace and kindled the suns as jewel lamps in our passage through the night of human ignorance. Savitri is the song of victory, the victory of Love over Death, when the human soul has willingly and joyously given itself to Her and accepted and acknowledged Her Grace in its life. This is the mystic marriage of the human soul with the Divine, the marriage of Satyavan and Savitri, that assures us of the Divine victory and the destined transformation regardless of Fate and circumstance. Even Death and disaster cannot stand in the way and become only a passage for the inborn strength of the human soul. Savitri is an invitation to this grand adventure that we are called upon to undertake, that all are called to undertake who are willing to renounce immediate success and the play of our little self, centred around the ego and the small plot of human life, for the sake of the True, the Right, the Vast, the Illimitable.

II.

There are two or rather three parts of the story. After initiating us into the central plot of the story that is centred around the incarnate Divine Mother, Savitri, in Book 1, Canto 1 and 2, Sri Aurobindo, the Divine poet takes us through a long journey that King Aswapati has undertaken to prepare the field for the Divine Mother’s coming. King Aswapati is himself a being descended from the higher planes, an avatara, so to say, whose work is to prepare the fields of nature and the earth for Her coming. He prepares while the Divine Mother fulfils. But for this Aswapati must first identify with the human consciousness since then alone can he be a true representative of the human race and its sublimest aspirations as well as greatest difficulties. He must take upon himself the burden of the race that knows neither its aim nor the path. Accepting the dark and obscure human cloak he yet must labour to bring in it the Light of  an undying Truth, the aspiration for Immortality, the hope of a divine change in humanity. But first he must free himself from the mask of ignorance that he has assumed for the work.

Thus Aswapati’s yoga is in two parts. First he frees himself from the Ignorance that surrounds human nature and ascend to the higher possibilities that lie in wait for our humanity. Having seen these secret possibilities awaiting  man’s climb through a long-winded evolution, he must now undertake a long and arduous journey through all the ranges of Being to find the key to hastening this process of evolutionary transformation that is slowly working in the heart of the spheres. Following this trail king Aswapati arrives at the point where the worlds of form and name meet the formless essence of all things. But here he meets with a strange problem. All these worlds that he has travelled, the worlds of beauty and light no less than the fallen worlds of darkness and obscurity seem to vanish into a Nameless, Formless Infinity that offers no support to the mind or heart of man to either know IT or relate with IT. A tremendous choice awaits him at this high point where all relativities simply vanish in the Absolute without leaving a trace. Is then there no issue in this world, no possibility of perfection of the race? Is extinction then the last word of the soul’s adventure into Time and Space? But then it makes no sense as to why the adventure began at all. What secret need impelled the Formless Infinite Truth to assume a name and form and play in a limited Space and Time?

Even as Aswapati reflects this he meets an even greater Truth. It is the Presence of a Heart of Love, of Grace, of an Omniscient, Omnipotent Power that lays asleep within the Silence of the infinite and yet has built the worlds with its single Ray. That Absolute Power residing in Absolute silence is the Power and Grace and Love and Light of the Supreme Goddess, the Infinite Shakti or simply the Divine Mother. It is She who has built the stars and  determined the drift of the galaxies and the emergence and dissolution of the universes by Her sheer Will. It is She alone who has the absolute mandate and the power to change things here. Even as Aswapati is drowned in rapture of eternal things filled with adoration and wonder at the vision of that ultimate Supreme Glory, he is led into Her secret heart where he witnesses a marvellous Creation, a collective life based upon Unity and Love, rooted in Truth and Oneness, full of Harmony and Bliss. Yes, this is the blueprint of the future, the possibility of a truly divine individual and collective life that Aswapati has been seeking. Here is the master key, the magic leverage for the golden change he has sought and aspired for earth and men.

The Divine Mother, knowing Aswapati’s aspiration, cautions him that earth and men are not yet ready for this higher possibility. Men are still too much in love with their ignorance, too attached to the life of the ego, too much tied down to the laws and habits of their animal past and the human present to be able to bear this greater Truth and be transmuted by Its Touch. Aswapati in turn prays that still She must come and change the scheme of things here by Her lone power that alone is capable of the ultimate victory. Finally the Divine Mother consents to incarnate upon earth and change the tardy evolutionary journey, running through fixed grooves of fate and rigid lines of a limited nature, tied down to the outposts of Ignorance. She promises to descend here and break the iron bands that prevent the higher possibilities from being born in man. Assured of Her coming, Aswapati now steps into the background for the Divine Mother to come and do Her Work. It is evident that king Aswapati of the epic poem is none other than the divine author Sri Aurobindo Himself and the experiences of Aswapati’s journey are the experiences of Sri Aurobindo in His blazing trail to seek the divine life and a divine humanity upon earth.

III.

With this starts the third part of the divine adventure as narrated from Book Three onwards. The Divine Mother is upon earth in a human form. Though human in appearance, She is inwardly fully conscious of Her divine mission. She has brought with Her all that is needed for Her Work. Her mind and heart are well equipped for this high divine purpose. The force of life in Her draws a breath from the higher spheres. Her very body shares Her divinity and is instinct with the beauty and joy of diviner worlds. Her Wisdom and Love knows no bounds. Above all, Her Will is an omnipotent flame, an indomitable and invincible warrior that brings with it the strength of the Gods.

Thus armed with the mandate and the will to change the scheme of things upon earth, the Divine Mother starts Her human lila. As She grows, Her divinity shines more and more through the human cloak. Finally the hour of destiny arrives, and king Aswapati, reminded of Her divine mission by an inner voice, sends Her into the wide world to search for Her partner and mate who would share Her work and mission. Traveling through the wilderness She finds Satyavan. An inner recognition betrothals them to each other in the lonely forest; their marriage watched by the sun and solemnised by the chant of the hill-top winds. Savitri returns to the palace and declares Her choice. Here starts the ambiguous play of fate to which all earthly life is subject and which She has come to change. Narad, the heavenly sage, prophesies that though a jewel among men, Satyavan has but one more year to live. The ordeal starts as Savitri sticks to Her choice and instead of changing Her mind or blindly bowing down to fate, She sets about the difficult and onerous task of finding the way to change destiny. Unknown to all, in the quiet forest home of her husband, She engages in a silent tapasya that brings out Her innate spiritual strength to the fullest. She finds and opens the way for man to find his soul and live in it and by it, for that is the first condition of conquering Death and discovering immortality. But this would still be only half the victory. Savitri wants to find the way to make our very life and body share the immortality of the soul.

The fated hour arrives and Satyavan lies dead in her arms one fine day while axing the branch of a tree. Savitri, the tapaswini follows him through the dark domains of Death, debating with the dread doom that afflicts all earthly life. Fearless and wise, She spurns all arguments of Death until eventually he too is surprised by Her wisdom and seeks to see if She has the power to challenge him. For then alone can She think of changing the law that Death has put in place. A moment of apocalypse follows his demand and the flaming divinity of the incarnate Mother is revealed to him with all Her glories and powers. The dreaded shape of Death is eaten by Her Light. His aweful form crumbles as he tries to flee and fly back to his den of Night. Satyavan comes back to life again.

Thus ends the story of the Mahabharata. But Sri Aurobindo takes the tale one notch higher. Death itself is merely an instrument of the grand Divine design. He is simply a mask that the Divine has assumed in His evolutionary aspect to spur the spirit of man towards Light and Truth through a narrow gate. If Death were abolished suddenly upon earth, a gross imbalance will be created. The chain that connects humanity with the rest of creation will suddenly be disrupted and creation enter into a chaos. Savitri is well aware of this dangerous possibility of a premature abolition of death and suffering upon earth. She Herself had cautioned Aswapati. But now She has put on the aspect of ‘the Will to change.’ Wisely, She asks the Supreme of whom She is the Shakti, to transform the human consciousness sufficiently with an influx of the highest Consciousness so that mankind can share the liberty of the Spirit, and earth be as rich and resplendent as the Heavens. The boon is granted and the Divine Destiny assured to earth in a near future, towards which everything will now move with swift steps instead of the slow and tardy evolutionary pace. Happy with this boon, Her mission accomplished, the Victory won, Savitri returns back to earth with Satyavan hand-in-hand.

IV.

Thus Savitri fights and wins the victory for us if only we can learn to surrender and give ourselves to the Divine Mother. This giving involves a complete trust and confidence in Her, and depending upon this choice of giving ourselves to Her, this choice of the Divine Mother in our life, a new curve of destiny begins to open out for us. It is interesting that Sri Aurobindo not only uplifts this sublime symbolic tale to a new level of understanding, He uses the framework of the story to pour down revelations after revelations until nothing is left unsaid of whatever essentially needs to be known about Man and Earth and the Creation itself. Interestingly He takes the feminine in us, the womanhood, to its highest possibility. That highest possibility of a woman is not to be the slave and serf, a nurse and pampered doll alone. The truth of womanhood is not exhausted even in the image of Durga and Kali, or of Lakshmi and Gauri, a figure of strength and love, harmony and bliss. Nor do we find the essence of womanhood in the deep wisdom and detailed perfection that dwells in her silent intuitive heart. The truth of womanhood goes much farther for she is upon earth, and in a symbolic human figure, a portion of the Divine Mother Herself, and if she can awaken the Shakti concealed within her then nothing will be impossible for her and she can then confront all the difficult and dangerous questions of life by her own native strength and emerge victorious and stronger with the ordeals that life subjects us to. And not only the woman but all mankind carries this eternal Feminine, Savitri, within itself, and if we can learn like Satyavan to ‘lay all on Her’ and worship and adore and love Her with all our heart and being, then nothing will be impossible for us anymore. Thus cries  Satyavan to the struggling soul of man upon earth:

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.”

Thus reveals Savitri to man the secret of a true and diviner life, the secret of immortal life and conquest over death:

“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.”

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