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Transcript of the Talk on April 18, 1999
[originally published in Invocation No 4, 1999]
I’ve been in this Ashram for 62 years, so I’m an old soul – nothing new about it. I’ll go back to the very early days of the Ashram, even before I heard the name of Savitri: Mother used to give me a rose every morning, she used to put a rose in my buttonhole – I still wear one. One day, in addition to the rose she gave me a small white flower. I took it from her without asking why. The second day again she gave me the white flower, and again I took it without asking why. On the third day she said, “Don’t you want to know why I’m giving you this?” I said, “Mother, when you give me something, I take it, I don’t know what the reason is, but anyway …” She said, “The meaning of this flower is ‘Gift of Expression’, and one day you will know why I give this to you”. So if I am able to recite Savitri, it is purely a gift of the Mother. It’s nothing to do with me. I am not a poet, I am not a classical scholar, I’m an engineer, I’m comfortable with pliers and screwdriver and hammer – not with poetry. But Mother gave me a gift, and I have to use it. That’s just as a beginning.
After some time, the Mother gave me the opportunity of working in Sri Aurobindo’s room. She asked me to make the furniture for Sri Aurobindo’s room, and after it was all made she took me there and said, “Now Udar, I asked Sri Aurobindo if Udar can look after the furniture and he said all right”. So I was allowed to go and work there. I used to be there mostly at the time when Sri Aurobindo was dictating Savitri to Nirod. I was a listener there. Of course I didn’t know anything about Savitri, but it was very beautiful to hear Sri Aurobindo’s voice. He had a beautiful voice – a typical English accent, what I would call a Cambridge accent, and a beautiful voice. But he was dictating, he was not reciting. There is a difference between dictation and reciting. So I can’t say that I can copy him, because it would have no meaning. For a long time Mother never told me anything about Savitri. But one day, much later on, she spoke to me very very strongly. She never mollycoddled me – she always used to speak to me sternly, and I liked that. She said, “Udar, Savitri is a mantra for the transformation of the world, and I want you to make Savitri your life… “ That’s all. From that day I got involved in Savitri, and now I am completely involved in it. So I’ve come here as part of my life, to talk to you about Savitri.
What is going to come
I would suggest that we start with the very early part of Savitri, where Sri Aurobindo gives an idea of what is going to come. He starts like this:
Thus will the masked Transcendent mount his throne.
When darkness deepens strangling the earth’s breast
And man’s corporeal mind is the only lamp,
As a thief’s in the night shall be the covert tread
Of one who steps unseen into his house.
A Voice ill-heard shall speak, the soul obey,
A Power into mind’s inner chamber steal,
A charm and sweetness open life’s closed doors
And beauty conquer the resisting world,
The Truth-Light capture Nature by surprise,
A stealth of God compel the heart to bliss
And earth grow unexpectedly divine.
In Matter shall be lit the spirit’s glow,
In body and body kindled the sacred birth;
Night shall awake to the anthem of the stars,
The days become a happy pilgrim march,
Our will a force of the Eternal’s power,
And thought the rays of a spiritual sun.
A few shall see what none yet understands;
God shall grow up while the wise men talk and sleep;
For man shall not know the coming till its hour
And belief shall be not till the work is done. (p. 55)
After that comes the description of his Raja Yoga. He calls it “The Yoga of the King”. “The Yoga of the King” has two meanings here: it is supposed to be the yoga of King Aswapati. Now Sri Aurobindo says that Savitri is “A Legend and a Symbol”. Sri Aurobindo himself is symbolised in King Aswapati, the father of Savitri – that is Sri Aurobindo himself, but he writes of him in the third person. And Savitri is the Mother. These two things you must keep in mind: when we talk of Savitri, we talk of the Mother, when we talk of King Aswapati, it’s Sri Aurobindo himself.
How will Sri Aurobindo and the Mother come back?
I asked the Mother one day, “Mother, how will Sri Aurobindo come back? Will he be born?” Because I can’t imagine Sri Aurobindo coming as a baby, I told Mother. She said, “No Udar, he will not be born, he will not come as a baby. He will come ready-made, projected into the world”. Ready-made: that is, a complete being, that will remain like that: it will not grow older, it will remain constantly the same being. And in Savitri come these lines, in the canto called “The House of the Spirit and the New Creation”:
In these new worlds projected he became
A portion of the universal gaze,
A station of the all-inhabiting light,
A ripple on a single sea of peace. (p. 325)
So in Savitri itself it is confirmed that Sri Aurobindo will come back in quite a different way, what Mother called “the supramental way”. And Mother herself said, “If I leave my body, I will also come back in a supramental way”. And that is given in a passage that comes later:
A seed shall be sown in Death’s tremendous hour,
A branch of heaven transplant to human soil;
Nature shall overleap her mortal step;
Fate shall be changed by an unchanging will. (p. 346)
Sri Aurobindo’s yoga
There is another passage that I would like to recite, because Mother told me that Sri Aurobindo was not born an avatar, he became an avatar. Some avatars were born, and some became. Jesus Christ and Krishna were born avatars. Buddha and others became avatars. And Mother said that becoming an avatar is a very very tremendous physical strain. She said it is impossible for us to realise how much Sri Aurobindo suffered physically, to pass through that stage. He had to overcome all the recalcitrant parts of our being and go beyond. And he writes of “anguish”:
In anguish we labour that from us may rise
A larger-seeing man with nobler heart,
A golden vessel of the incarnate Truth,
The executor of the divine attempt
Equipped to wear the earthly body of God,
Communicant and prophet and lover and king. (p. 342)
Sri Aurobindo went through all of the Raja Yoga, and came to the final goal of all yoga. The final goal of yoga is what they call moksha. Moksha is when you realise the self of your own being, and you realise that that self and the Divine are the same, so that there is merging, a union of the Divine and the self. And that is the end of all endeavour. Once you come to God, you don’t need to go any further. And up to now this has been the goal of all spiritual effort, I would even say all true religion has the goal of going to God. And once you reach God, you don’t need anything else. Up to now that has been the accepted goal. Now, for the first time in the history of the world, somebody has said it is not enough – and that is Sri Aurobindo. It is not enough to go to God. We must bring God down here on this earth and make him work here, not just in heaven! This is Sri Aurobindo, and this is what I like about him. I find this wonderful. We must find God and make him work here, not go off into some heaven. He calls that an escape. Here are the lines:
O soul, it is too early to rejoice!
Thou hast reached the boundless silence of the Self,
Thou has leaped into a glad divine abyss;
But where hast thou thrown Self’s mission and Self’s power?
On what dead bank on the Eternal’s road?
One was within thee who was self and world,
What hast thou done for his purpose in the stars?
Escape brings not the victory and the crown!
Something thou cam.st to do from the Unknown,
But nothing is finished and the world goes on
Because only half God’s cosmic work is done.
Only the everlasting No has neared
And stared into thy eyes and killed thy heart:
But where is the Lover’s everlasting Yes,
And immortality in the secret heart,
The voice that chants to the creator Fire,
The symbolled Om, the great assenting Word,
The bridge between the rapture and the calm,
The passion and the beauty of the Bride,
The chamber where the glorious enemies kiss,
The smile that saves, the golden peak of things?
This too is Truth at the mystic fount of Life.
A black veil has been lifted; we have seen
The mighty shadow of the omniscient Lord;
But who has lifted up the veil of light
And who has seen the body of the King? (p.310-311)
This is what he wants, the body of the King. As I say, this is the first time in the history of the world that somebody has said that going to God is not enough. And for this reason you must understand that this is a yoga that is not at all like other yogas. Many people, even in the Ashram, don.t realise that. They think that Sri Aurobindo is a great yogi, a maharishi, and they come to him for blessings and all that. But you can go to so many yogis and get blessings from them – Sri Aurobindo is something completely different. So Sri Aurobindo is doing his yoga. The Divine Mother addresses him as “Son of Strength”.
“O Son of Strength who climbst creation’s peaks,
No soul is thy companion in the light;
Alone thou standest at the eternal doors.
What thou hast won is thine, but ask no more.
O Spirit aspiring in an ignorant frame,
O Voice arisen from the Inconscient’s world,
How shalt thou speak for men whose hearts are dumb,
Make purblind earth the soul’s seer-vision’s home
Or lighten the mystery of the senseless globe?
I am the Mystery beyond reach of mind,
I am the goal of the travail of the suns;
My fire and sweetness are the cause of life.
But too immense my danger and my joy.
Awake not the immeasurable descent,
Speak not my secret name to hostile Time;
Man is too weak to bear the Infinite’s weight.
Truth born too soon might break the imperfect earth.
Leave the all-seeing Power to hew its way:
In thy single vast achievement reign apart
Helping the world with thy great lonely days. (p. 335)
This “great lonely days” is something that touches me very well, because as I told you, I used to be working in Sri Aurobindo.s room, and I would see him … of course sometimes he would be dictating Savitri, but at other times he would be just sitting there looking into eternity, just like that. And these words, “great lonely days” bring back to me the picture of Sri Aurobindo just sitting and looking, not a word, not a movement – a wonderful sight.
And there is another line in Savitri:
Lonely his days and splendid like the sun’s. (p. 45)
That is the picture of Sri Aurobindo to me.
How did man come on Earth?
Now we come to the question of how Man came to the earth. Of course the scientists say that man evolved out of the ape. Sri Aurobindo does not accept that. The ape certainly went to a certain extent, but there was not a change from ape to man. Man came completely differently. He describes it here:
A lightning from the heights that think and plan,
Ploughing the air of life with vanishing trails,
Man, sole awake in an unconscious world,
Aspires in vain to change the cosmic dream.
Arrived from some half-luminous Beyond
He is a stranger in the mindless vasts;
A traveller in his oft-shifting home
Amid the tread of many infinities,
He has pitched a tent of life in desert Space.
Heaven’s fixed regard beholds him from above,
In the house of Nature a perturbing guest,
A voyager twixt Thought’s inconstant shores,
A hunter of unknown and beautiful Powers,
A nomad of the far mysterious Light,
In the wide ways a little spark of God. (p. 336)
That is man. He has not come from the apes. So there are things like that, that must be understood, and all these things are given in Savitri.
The Mother’s blessings
My light shall be in thee, my strength thy force.
Let not the impatient Titan drive thy heart,
Ask not the imperfect fruit, the partial prize.
Only one boon, to greaten thy spirit, demand;
Only one joy, to raise thy kind, desire.
Above blind fate and the antagonist powers
Moveless there stands a high unchanging Will;
To its omnipotence leave thy work’s result.
All things shall change in God’s transfiguring hour. (p.340-341)
Now here there is one very important line that I want you to note:
Only one boon, to greaten thy spirit, demand.
The Mother told me, “People come and ask me for blessings, for so many things, they want to pass their examinations, they want to get a job, they.re going on a journey, this thing, that thing, for so many things they come and ask my blessings – I give blessings, but for only one thing: that is, the growth of the spirit”. To greaten the spirit – this is the only boon we should demand. She said: “That’s the only thing that interests me in anybody – the growth of the spirit”. And she said, “Sometimes it’s a bit dangerous to ask blessings for a marriage”. She said, “Sometimes my blessings can break up a marriage, so be careful when you ask me for blessings for marriages”. Mother had quite a good sense of humour you know – both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
What we need
The next thing I’ll tell you about: Sri Aurobindo makes a complaint to the Divine:
How shall I rest content with mortal days
And the dull measure of terrestrial things,
I who have seen behind the cosmic mask
The glory and the beauty of thy face?
Hard is the doom to which thou bindst thy sons!
How long shall our spirits battle with the Night
And bear defeat and the brute yoke of Death,
We who are vessels of a deathless Force
And builders of the godhead of the race?
Or if it is thy work I do below
Amid the error and waste of human life
In the vague light of man’s half-conscious mind,
Why breaks not in some distant gleam of thee?
Ever the centuries and millenniums pass.
Where in the greyness is thy coming’s ray?
Where is the thunder of thy victory’s wings?
Only we hear the feet of passing gods. (p. 341)
That’s all – it’s a very sad thing. They all come, stay awhile and go: Krishna came, Christ came, everybody came, but they just stay for some time and then they go away. Nobody stayed on, ever. And Sri Aurobindo has come and Mother has come and they have gone away. We need somebody who can come and stay here, that’s what we need. So this is the cry.
And then comes the answer:
O strong forerunner, I have heard thy cry.
One shall descend and break the iron Law,
Change Nature’s doom by the lone spirit’s power.
A limitless Mind that can contain the world,
A sweet and violent heart of ardent calms
Moved by the passions of the gods shall come.
All mights and greatnesses shall join in her;
Beauty shall walk celestial on the earth,
Delight shall sleep in the cloud-net of her hair,
And in her body as on his homing tree
Immortal Love shall beat his glorious wings.
A music of griefless things shall weave her charm;
The harps of the Perfect shall attune her voice,
The streams of Heaven shall murmur in her laugh,
Her lips shall be the honeycombs of God,
Her limbs his golden jars of ecstasy,
Her breasts the rapture-flowers of Paradise.
She shall bear Wisdom in her voiceless bosom,
Strength shall be with her like a conqueror’s sword
And from her eyes the Eternal’s bliss shall gaze.
A seed shall be sown in Death’s tremendous hour,
A branch of heaven transplant to human soil;
Nature shall overleap her mortal step;
Fate shall be changed by an unchanging will.. (p. 346)
The flaming pioneers
Now this is very important:
A giant dance of Shiva tore the past;
There was a thunder as of worlds that fall;
Earth was o’errun with fire and the roar of Death
Clamouring to slay a world his hunger had made;
There was a clangour of Destruction’s wings:
The Titan’s battle-cry was in my ears,
Alarm and rumour shook the armoured Night.
I saw the Omnipotent’s flaming pioneers
Over the heavenly verge which turns towards life
Come crowding down the amber stairs of birth;
Forerunners of a divine multitude,
Out of the paths of the morning star they came
Into the little room of mortal life.
I saw them cross the twilight of an age,
The sun-eyed children of a marvellous dawn,
The great creators with wide brows of calm,
The massive barrier-breakers of the world
And wrestlers with destiny in her lists of will,
The labourers in the quarries of the gods,
The messengers of the Incommunicable,
The architects of immortality.
Into the fallen human sphere they came,
Faces that wore the Immortal’s glory still,
Voices that communed still with the thoughts of God,
Bodies made beautiful by the spirit’s light,
Carrying the magic word, the mystic fire,
Carrying the Dionysian cup of joy,
Approaching eyes of a diviner man,
Lips chanting an unknown anthem of the soul,
Feet echoing in the corridors of Time.
High priests of wisdom, sweetness, might and bliss,
Discoverers of beauty’s sunlit ways
And swimmers of Love’s laughing fiery floods
And dancers within rapture’s golden doors,
Their tread one day shall change the suffering earth
And justify the light on Nature’s face. (p.343-344)
How much do we really appreciate the light on Nature’s face? Such a beautiful light we get, but we take it for granted. What have we done to deserve that wonderful gift? Has anybody ever stopped to think of it? And so these people are going to justify the light that comes to us.
The Divine Mother has told me that these Omnipotent’s flaming pioneers have started coming down. They are souls that have waited for thousands of years for the right time to take rebirth and come down to prepare the world for the Transformation. The Mother asked me to inform this to all, so that any one of her disciples who is expecting a child could consciously aspire for one of these souls to come into the expected child. This has to be done before the third month of pregnancy, as the soul enters the foetus in the third month. The Mother also asked me to warn the expectant mothers who called down such a soul that the child born would not be as other children and would not behave in the way other children behave, and so they might have trouble with them. They would have to be patient and understand that the child has a great soul and give it every opportunity to develop.
As I told you, Mother says Savitri is a mantra for the transformation of the world. And there is one portion of Savitri which is the most powerful for this work. But In the first place, when we say mantra … what is mantra? It would be good to know what Sri Aurobindo himself said about mantra in Savitri. He describes mantra very beautifully.
As when the mantra sinks in yoga’s ear
Its message enters stirring the blind brain
And keeps in the dim ignorant cells its sound;
The hearer understands a form of words
And, musing on the index thought it holds,
He strives to read it with the labouring mind,
But finds bright hints, not the embodied truth:
Then, falling silent in himself to know
He meets the deeper listening of his soul:
The Word repeats itself in rhythmic strains:
Thought, vision, feeling, sense, the body’s self
Are seized unutterably and he endures
An ecstasy and an immortal change;
He feels a Wideness and becomes a Power,
All knowledge rushes on him like a sea:
Transmuted by the white spiritual ray
He walks in naked heavens of joy and calm,
Sees the God-face and hears transcendent speech …. (p.375)
This is Sri Aurobindo’s beautiful description of mantra. But Mother is down to earth, very very practical in everything she does. She has given another aspect of mantra, which I’ll tell you about.
Once we were having a very very serious drought situation in Pondicherry, a long time back; we had had no rain since I don’t know how long, and everything was hot and sticky, so after a game of tennis I asked the Mother, “Mother can’t you bring us some rain?. She said, “You want rain?” I said, “Mother, we haven’t had rain for months and months”. “Ooh,” Mother said, “I didn’t know. Come along”. So we went to the Playground, she brought a stick and made a kind of occult pattern, which she drew on the ground. There were about six of us there. She said, “I want the six of you to link your hands and walk around that symbol and recite a mantra”. I asked Mother, “What mantra?” Mother said “It doesn’t matter what the mantra is, but it must be given to you by your guru. I give you a mantra: We want rain, give us rain”. That’s a very simple mantra, isn’t it? So we chanted “We want rain, give us rain, give us rain …” And within half an hour we got it. The mantra worked. I don’t know where the clouds came from. The clouds came and the rain came – it actually worked. So that’s the Mother’s view of mantra.
A few years later, after Mother had left, again there was a bad drought situation in the south of India and the Government tried everything, but they didn’t succeed. They also thought of using mantra. So they arranged a very big yagna, a sacrifice, on the bed of a dried lake, they called all the Shankaracharyas from all around and made a big fire and had a big puja, and they recited all kinds of mantras for three days – and nothing happened. Nothing happened, no rain came. Why didn’t it come? There we come to the point that Mother said: the mantra must be given to you by your guru. That is the most important point of mantra. And for me, Mother has given the mantra of Savitri. So if anything’s going to work, I’m going to work it! That’s part of my job. I’m telling you this, because that’s why I am reciting. I’m not a poet, I’m nothing, but Mother has made me take up Savitri, and that’s why I’m telling you all these things.
So now I come to the last passage. I start where Savitri makes the prayer to the Divine, to the Lord:
Thy embrace which rends the living knot of pain,
Thy joy, O Lord, in which all creatures breathe,
Thy magic flowing waters of deep love,
Thy sweetness give to me for earth and men.
[Udar then recited the whole of the following passage on pages 697 to 702, ending:]
O Mind, grow full of the eternal peace;
O Word, cry out the immortal litany:
Built is the golden tower, the flame-child born.