A Complete and Integral Realisation of Truth
There is however another even more important factor with Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri, which I would say is a Veda in its own right. On the one hand Savitri contains practically all the major important realisations of the Vedic Mystics, on the other hand each of these experiences have been carried to their utmost fullness and given an ampler scope. This makes it easier for us to connect with the experience itself through the door of everyday life opening before us. Take the example of the famous realization of the Vedic mystics, ekamevadwitiyam, the One without a Second. To the ancient experiences of the Vedic mystics he has added new realisations. There are passages where the expression seems to be as if taken straight from the Vedas. For example:
There was no second, it had no partner or peer;
Only itself was real to itself.
A pure existence safe from thought and mood,
A consciousness of unshared immortal bliss,
It dwelt aloof in its bare infinite,
One and unique, unutterably sole.
A Being formless, featureless and mute
That knew itself by its own timeless self,
Aware for ever in its motionless depths,
Uncreating, uncreated and unborn,
The One by whom all live, who lives by none,
An immeasurable luminous secrecy
Guarded by the veils of the Unmanifest,
Above the changing cosmic interlude
Abode supreme, immutably the same,
A silent Cause occult, impenetrable,—
Infinite, eternal, unthinkable, alone.
[Savitri 308 – 309]
But Sri Aurobindo’s vision being Integral, he is not content with any one-sided realization. Hence we see him further including the other side of the same realization to complete it. This totality and integrality heals the division we see often in post-Vedic period, wherein lines were drawn between which one is higher, – the Vedantic or the Tantric, Buddhist or Illusionist and many others, which find a perfect place in harmony with each other in Savitri. For example:
Even while he stood on being’s naked edge
And all the passion and seeking of his soul
Faced their extinction in some featureless Vast,
The Presence he yearned for suddenly drew close.
Across the silence of the ultimate Calm,
Out of a marvellous Transcendence’ core,
A body of wonder and translucency
As if a sweet mystic summary of her self
Escaping into the original Bliss
Had come enlarged out of eternity,
Someone came infinite and absolute.
A being of wisdom, power and delight,
Even as a mother draws her child to her arms,
Took to her breast Nature and world and soul.
Abolishing the signless emptiness,
Breaking the vacancy and voiceless hush,
Piercing the limitless Unknowable,
Into the liberty of the motionless depths
A beautiful and felicitous lustre stole.
The Power, the Light, the Bliss no word can speak
Imaged itself in a surprising beam
And built a golden passage to his heart
Touching through him all longing sentient things.
A moment’s sweetness of the All-Beautiful
Cancelled the vanity of the cosmic whirl.
A Nature throbbing with a Heart divine
Was felt in the unconscious universe;
It made the breath a happy mystery.
A love that bore the cross of pain with joy
Eudaemonised the sorrow of the world,
Made happy the weight of long unending Time,
The secret caught of God’s felicity.
Affirming in life a hidden ecstasy
It held the spirit to its miraculous course;
Carrying immortal values to the hours
It justified the labour of the suns.
For one was there supreme behind the God.
A Mother Might brooded upon the world;
A Consciousness revealed its marvellous front
Transcending all that is, denying none:
Imperishable above our fallen heads
He felt a rapturous and unstumbling Force.
The undying Truth appeared, the enduring Power
Of all that here is made and then destroyed,
The Mother of all godheads and all strengths
Who, mediatrix, binds earth to the Supreme.
[Savitri 312 – 313]
There is also the grand unity shown between the two aspects of the One:
He is the Maker and the world he made,
He is the vision and he is the Seer;
He is himself the actor and the act,
He is himself the knower and the known,
He is himself the dreamer and the dream.
There are Two who are One and play in many worlds;
In Knowledge and Ignorance they have spoken and met
And light and darkness are their eyes’ interchange;
Our pleasure and pain are their wrestle and embrace,
Our deeds, our hopes are intimate to their tale;
They are married secretly in our thought and life.
The universe is an endless masquerade:
For nothing here is utterly what it seems;
It is a dream-fact vision of a truth
Which but for the dream would not be wholly true,
A phenomenon stands out significant
Against dim backgrounds of eternity;
We accept its face and pass by all it means;
A part is seen, we take it for the whole.
Thus have they made their play with us for roles:
Author and actor with himself as scene,
He moves there as the Soul, as Nature she.
Finally, the experience is made more dynamic and living and real with reference to our everyday life. For example:
One who has shaped this world is ever its lord:
Our errors are his steps upon the way;
He works through the fierce vicissitudes of our lives,
He works through the hard breath of battle and toil,
He works through our sins and sorrows and our tears,
His knowledge overrules our nescience;
Whatever the appearance we must bear,
Whatever our strong ills and present fate,
When nothing we can see but drift and bale,
A mighty Guidance leads us still through all.
After we have served this great divided world
God’s bliss and oneness are our inborn right.
I wonder if there is one single book where we find in a harmonious synthesis all the diverse spiritual experiences, found in the Vedas as well as other mystic literature. Not only all these different experiences are documented here, but they are each put in their due place, taken to their absolute fullness, and finally connected with our everyday life. That is why I feel that Savitri is a miniature Veda (and much more) in its own right. Besides, the language is both contemporary and brought close to our life. All this makes it easier for us to connect Savitri than with the Vedas. It needs no special skills in language except a bit of poetic ear. Most of us are fairly familiar with English, and in times to come it will be even more so. The ancient terms have been given a new scope and brought nearer to our mind. It is as if the entire essence of all that has happened in the spiritual history of mankind were brought together in a single book for posterity. Is that not rescuing the Vedas in the real sense. Of course, Sri Aurobindo also wrote about the Vedic texts, and his original insights born of authentic spiritual realisations help us decode the Vedic texts much more easily. But in Savitri he goes beyond the ancient texts and reveals the yet unwritten Vedas, that remained so far still hidden inside the human heart or scripted secretly in earthly matter and material forms.
The Supreme Mystery
This is however only one part of it. There is something in Savitri that we do not find in the Vedas, that which is hinted in the Gita and developed to some extent in the Puranas. It is the mystery of God’s birth in Time, termed as the supreme Mystery by the Gita. The average Vedantist finds it difficult to believe that God can be born within the limits of Space and Time and confine Himself to Name and Form, since by ‘definition’ He is beyond these. Sri Aurobindo deals with this secret at several places – in his numerous letters and particularly in ‘Essays on the Gita’, for example. It is one of the central pillars on which His yoga stands. But in Savitri it is brought out with great force and lucidity. In fact Savitri is the story of a past incarnation of the Divine Mother, which Sri Aurobindo connects with the Divine Mother’s present incarnation. But the possibility and purpose of Avatarahood itself is brought out in these marvelous lines of sublime poetry:
The master of existence lurks in us
And plays at hide-and-seek with his own Force;
In Nature’s instrument loiters secret God.
The Immanent lives in man as in his house;
He has made the universe his pastime’s field,
A vast gymnasium of his works of might.
All-knowing he accepts our darkened state,
Divine, wears shapes of animal or man;
Eternal, he assents to Fate and Time,
Immortal, dallies with mortality.
The All-Conscious ventured into Ignorance,
The All-Blissful bore to be insensible.
Incarnate in a world of strife and pain,
He puts on joy and sorrow like a robe
And drinks experience like a strengthening wine.
He whose transcendence rules the pregnant Vasts,
Prescient now dwells in our subliminal depths,
A luminous individual Power, alone.
The Absolute, the Perfect, the Alone
Has called out of the Silence his mute Force
Where she lay in the featureless and formless hush
Guarding from Time by her immobile sleep
The ineffable puissance of his solitude.
The Absolute, the Perfect, the Alone
Has entered with his silence into space:
He has fashioned these countless persons of one self;
He has built a million figures of his power;
He lives in all, who lived in his Vast alone;
Space is himself and Time is only he.
The Absolute, the Perfect, the Immune,
One who is in us as our secret self,
Our mask of imperfection has assumed,
He has made this tenement of flesh his own,
His image in the human measure cast
That to his divine measure we might rise;
Then in a figure of divinity
The Maker shall recast us and impose
A plan of godhead on the mortal’s mould
Lifting our finite minds to his infinite,
Touching the moment with eternity.
This transfiguration is earth’s due to heaven:
A mutual debt binds man to the Supreme:
His nature we must put on as he put ours;
We are sons of God and must be even as he:
His human portion, we must grow divine.
Our life is a paradox with God for key.
[Savitri: 66 – 67]
The purpose of all this is not to draw some detailed and scholarly comparison of the Vedic texts and Savitri, nor even to compare the realisations of the Vedic seers with those contained in Savitri and which its author had. It is simply to point out that to treat the Vedas as religious scriptures alone is to bury their deeper potential. At the same time to rely solely upon the interpretation offered by Pundits is to turn the greatness of this vast and catholic scripture into another limited dogma and belief.. For example, one of the common belief is that the mantra can only be in Sanskrit or that we need to take the words of the Vedas and Upanishads literally. This leads to a perpetuating of the ritualistic approach with homa-kundas and yajna-vedic and actual pouring of ghee and butter in it! Such ritualistic approach only skims the surfaces of Vedic thought, entangled in its external form it often misses the spirit that gave birth to these hymns and suktas. We memorise the texts and learn to pronounce perfectly but the true aspiration that would lead us to relive the experience of these ancient seekers eludes us. On the contrary, once we take the approach of the seeker of Truth where then can we end the seeking? Is not there always something in the Infinite that will always be there to seek and know, something even to become and manifest? Rather we need to look upon the Vedas as a text that is still to be completed and will always remain to be completed, since by its very nature there is always something more to be realized when we enter into contact with Infinity. Just as creation and earth and humanity are evolving, the Vedas too are bound to evolve, bringing out new secrets that were hidden in the heart of the One, new Knowledge contained in the bosom of the Infinite. Let us close on this note with some more lines that reveal this truth.
The first passage refers to the soul-vision symbolized through Satyavan:
A foster-child of beauty and solitude,
Heir to the centuries of the lonely wise,
A brother of the sunshine and the sky,
A wanderer communing with depth and marge.
A Veda-knower of the unwritten book
Perusing the mystic scripture of her forms,
He had caught her hierophant significances,
Her sphered immense imaginations learned,
Taught by sublimities of stream and wood
And voices of the sun and star and flame
And chant of the magic singers on the boughs
And the dumb teaching of four-footed things.
Helping with confident steps her slow great hands
He leaned to her influence like a flower to rain
And, like the flower and tree a natural growth,
Widened with the touches of her shaping hours.
The mastery free natures have was his
And their assent to joy and spacious calm;
One with the single Spirit inhabiting all,
He laid experience at the Godhead’s feet;
His mind was open to her infinite mind,
His acts were rhythmic with her primal force;
He had subdued his mortal thought to hers.
[Savitri: 393 – 394]
The second passage is a beautiful and true description of what the Veda really is, – the outflowing of intuition, the Wisdom embodied mind could not reveal, paean song of the free Infinite, the ideographs of the Ineffable, the lyric of love that waits through Time, the mystic volume of the book of Bliss, the message of the superconscient Fire:
The skilful Penman’s unseen finger wrote
His swift intuitive calligraphy;
Earth’s forms were made his divine documents,
The wisdom embodied mind could not reveal,
Inconscience chased from the world’s voiceless breast;
Transfigured were the fixed schemes of reasoning Thought.
Arousing consciousness in things inert,
He imposed upon dark atom and dumb mass
The diamond script of the Imperishable,
Inscribed on the dim heart of fallen things
A paean-song of the free Infinite
And the Name, foundation of eternity,
And traced on the awake exultant cells
In the ideographs of the Ineffable
The lyric of the love that waits through Time
And the mystic volume of the Book of Bliss
And the message of the superconscient Fire.