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Savitri, – The Story of the Divine Mother

 

The Grand Epic of all Times

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 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 themselves 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 the real journey taking place behind the outer story of our outer life. The inner story is one 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. We may say therefore that Savitri is the grand epic of all times, the epic of creation written by the Divine with matter as the page. But the story is not yet over. Its last pages are yet to be written. After the chapter on man in Ignorance, or man the slave, there is yet to be written the chapter on man in Knowledge, or man set free. Along with this epic journey and closely connected with it is the story of man rising from the stone and the plant and the bird and beast and climbing further to still greater heights of Supermanhood.

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 time when the Divine Mother came to the forefront of creation and took up the human quest and its unsolved questions and struggled 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 descend 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’s victory. 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’s 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.

 

The Journey of the King-Yogi

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, Cantos 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 Avatar, 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 ascends to the higher possibilities that lie in wait for our humanity. Having seen these secret possibilities awaiting man’s climb through a long-winding 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 on 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 the 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.

 

The Divine Mother’s Advent

With this starts the second part of the divine adventure as narrated from Book Four 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. Travelling through the wilderness She finds Satyavan. A mutual inner recognition leads to their betrothal 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 a way to make our very life and body share the immortality of the soul.

The fated hour arrives and Satyavan dies in her arms one fine day after 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 awful 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 step higher. But this one step is indeed a huge step which changes the story from an individual conquest to a collective one and brings out the full import of the legend and its future implications. 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 will 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.

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 revelation after revelation 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, womanhood, to its highest possibility. That highest possibility of a woman is not to be a slave and serf, a nurse and pampered doll. The truth of womanhood is not exhausted even in the images of Durga and Kali, or of Lakshmi and Gauri, figures 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 in a symbolic human figure a portion of the Divine Mother Herself. 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 by 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.” [723][1]

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.” [724]

 


 

Savitri, – The Song of the Infinite

 

The Mantra of Transformation

Savitri, the mantra of transformation, as the Mother put it so powerfully and so beautifully, is regarded by some as the fifth Veda. In a sense, it follows the line of Vedic poetry where revelation mounts upon revelation and intuition is overleaped by intuition. The sounds, words, style, substance all touch a highest intensity of Truth and Beauty and Power whose ultimate result on the hearer and the reader, whether they understand the inner and inmost sense or not, is a delight, a reflection of the Delight that is at the background of Creation and at the Apex of all things. Savitri releases this Delight as the rhythms of the higher hemisphere of existence roll down through the sound symbols and word symbols into the sphere of sorrow and mortality. The result of this meeting is a transmutation of consciousness, a growing out of our present state of darkness and ignorance into Light and Freedom and Immortality.

The Mother has called Savitri a mantra of transformation. This is significant since each mantra brings us into contact with the deity whom we invoke and the power that it contains. Savitri invokes the Divine Mother Herself and its power is to open the doors of the future destiny bequeathed to earth and man by the twin tapasya of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. It is indeed a mantra received from above by the soul of the Seer; a soul vision of truths witnessed by an immaterial sense. It opens us or even creates corresponding states within us. That after all is the real power of the mantra, that even if we do not fully understand its true meaning, — and when has man with his mind ever truly understood these profound truths — it still receives something of the Force contained within the word and sound symbols and undergoes a change by its inherent power. The mantra is like a capsule of Light opening up distant horizons to sight. This effect is described perfectly in Savitri itself:

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: [375]

In a sense all of Sri Aurobindo’s writings after his attainment of the silent Nirvanic consciousness in 1907 are mantric. They are the result of a ‘spiritual seeing’ and not the usual mental analysis through the labouring mind. The mind of the thinker in him was already transmuted into the mind of the seer and all of the Arya writings bear witness to this stamp of Light and Fire that courses through the words and sounds as they swim into our ken from a higher sphere of Truth-Light. But in Savitri, the attempt is to give this higher consciousness and the mantra that descends from there into the mind of the seer a most perfect rhythm and expression.

Savitri follows the trail of Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga. As He ascended to higher and higher planes and as the natural instruments underwent the transmutation in the wake of this ascension, Sri Aurobindo wrote and rewrote the divine epic from that newly attained state of ascension. Naturally, this continued right up to the very last days of His bodily sojourn. Therefore, Savitri is special among His writings. It is not just the seeing of the Seer and the revelation that accompanies this seeing but the outpouring of this higher seeing in the most perfect words and sounds that human speech can ever envisage. The expression is as close to perfection as the consciousness experiencing it. Thus it contains within its word-body and sound-body the power to help us not only to come into contact with the state of consciousness that is expressed here but even more to actually ascend into that state. It has not only a revelatory power, the power to change our thoughts and understanding which revelation gives, but the power to transmute us as well; that is to say, it helps us to grow into that which it embodies, not just in thought and understanding but also in feeling, willing and the very body’s sense.

 

Message of the Superconscient Fire

It is a Veda in another sense as well. For the truths revealed here are not those that are ordinarily experienced by our narrow range of senses but those that are beyond the limits of our mortal sight and mortal hearing and yet touch and fill everything that we sense and experience with a diviner experience:

Releasing things unseized by earthly sense:
A world unseen, unknown by outward mind
Appeared in the silent spaces of the soul.
He sat in secret chambers looking out
Into the luminous countries of the unborn
Where all things dreamed by the mind are seen and true
And all that the life longs for is drawn close. [27]

A reporter and scribe of hidden wisdom talk,
Her shining minutes of celestial speech,
Passed through the masked office of the occult mind,
Transmitting gave to prophet and to seer
The inspired body of the mystic Truth.
A recorder of the inquiry of the gods,
Spokesman of the silent seeings of the Supreme,
She brought immortal words to mortal men.
Above the reason’s brilliant slender curve,
Released like radiant air dimming a moon,
Broad spaces of a vision without line
Or limit swam into his spirit’s ken. [39]

That is why it is idle to understand it with the labouring intellectual mind and clamp its free rhythm to any known rhythms and metres. The mind can strive and sometimes this striving is a necessary helpful stage through which an aspiration to understand is kindled within it. But it is only when the labouring mind understands its inherent limitations and falls silent and opens upwards and inwards towards the very Source from where Savitri has descended opening to the consciousness of the Author himself that one begins to truly understand a little. This does not mean that the divine poem can neither be understood nor has any rhythm. That would be neither poetry nor truth. It simply means that we have to adopt another method and use other means to ‘understand’ it and enjoy its rhythm. Revelation has to be received, and with the humility and aspiration that one naturally feels when face to face with a great truth. It is this that opens an inner door and the sense of the words and the rhythm of the sounds is revealed to us by the gods and the consciousness of Truth that has brought down the poem and given it a form of human speech and a birth among the mortals. Indeed, the mantric poem is a boon to earth that has been brought down through the arduous tapasya of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The best we can do is to be grateful to Them for this boon and receive it with a mind open to Light through aspiration and a heart open to Love through a seeking and longing for the Divine. Is this not the book of Love itself, the song of Delight, the message of the Superconscient Fire to which our ears are sealed and our hearts closed to its subtle intimations?

 

The Veda of the New Age

We can see how each time Sri Aurobindo withdrew from the immediate and the outward scene, He placed in the midst of seeking and suffering humanity something that would redeem him and carry him through the dark and perilous passage that one has to pass in the divine dispensation of things. Thus, when he withdrew from the scene of Indian Nationalism, he had kindled and awakened in the heart of the nation the living Presence of Bhavani Bharati, the guardian deity of India’s destiny whom He invoked by recharging the mantra Bande Mataram with the strength of his love and sacrifice for the Indian nation in whose resurgence he saw the hope of the redemption of all mankind and an important condition for the awakening of the world to a new and higher Light. Having established the settled will for freedom in the soul of a nation, he moved on to establish a settled will for another kind of freedom and another type of revolution in the soul and mind of humanity. Here too, once he had opened the path and worked out the major lines of advance, he withdrew behind the external scene, but not before installing the Divine Mother in the temple of the earth and amid an ignorant yet aspiring humanity. Finally, when the necessities of the work demanded that he withdraw one step further and work from behind the iron curtains of death where our earthly sight reaches not, he placed once again in the hands of the striving human race the magical mantra of Savitri to help, to heal, to carry the human march forward with a song of hope in its heart and a ray of the Supreme Light to chase away the darkness that hangs around our earthbound soul.

There is yet another similarity between Savitri and the Vedas. The theme of the Vedas is the epic of human ascension from the mind to a higher and supramental status of being; it is a document that reveals to us the human journey from the dark womb of things to the eternal Light. In Savitri too we have a detailed description of this epic climb, not only of the human soul but also of the earth nature from its first insect crawl to the most glorious of flights that is yet to come. In fact, the book starts with this dense veil of Night, this black pall of Inconscience that covers all things. It ends with the dream of a greater dawn for earth and man. So too, the Vedas speak of the Dawn emerging after the battle with the forces of Darkness and Ignorance that hold earth nature in their powerful grip. In Savitri, these forces are typified in the being of Death whose compelling logic seems to stifle any will and aspiration for a divine life upon earth. But She conquers Death not only by the power of Her mastering omniscient Thought but even more by Her omnipotent Will. What is foreseen in the Vedas is here fulfilled in Savitri, — ‘The end of Death, the death of Ignorance’, to use lines from the book itself. Sri Aurobindo reveals in the Secret of the Vedas about this Dawn, the bringer of illumination for earth and men:

“Usha is the divine illumination and Dakshina is the discerning knowledge that comes with the dawn and enables the Power in the mind, Indra, to know aright and separate the light from the darkness, the truth from the falsehood, the straight from the crooked, vṛṇīta vijānan. The right and left hand of Indra are his two powers of action in knowledge; for his two arms are called gabhasti, a word which means ordinarily a ray of the sun but also forearm, and they correspond to his two perceptive powers, his two bright horses, harī, which are described as sun-eyed, sūracakṣasā and as vision-powers of the Sun, sūryasya ketū. Dakshina presides over the right-hand power, dakṣiṇa, and therefore we have the collocation dakṣiṇe dakṣiṇāvān. It is this discernment which presides over the right action of the sacrifice and the right distribution of the offerings and it is this which enables Indra to hold the herded wealth of the Panis securely, in his right hand. And finally, we are told what is this secret thing that was placed for us in the cave and is concealed in the waters of being, the waters in which the Thought of the Fathers has to be set, apsu dhiyaṁ dadhiṣe. It is the hidden Sun, the secret Light of our divine existence which has to be found and taken out by knowledge from the darkness in which it is concealed.”

The Secret of the Vedas, CWSA 15: 194-195

We have in Savitri these marvellous lines that are comparable in their splendour only to the inner Dawn that our forefathers once witnessed in their inner consciousness:

The persistent thrill of a transfiguring touch
Persuaded the inert black quietude
And beauty and wonder disturbed the fields of God.
A wandering hand of pale enchanted light
That glowed along a fading moment’s brink,
Fixed with gold panel and opalescent hinge
A gate of dreams ajar on mystery’s verge.
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.
Then through the pallid rift that seemed at first
Hardly enough for a trickle from the suns,
Outpoured the revelation and the flame.
The brief perpetual sign recurred above.
A glamour from unreached transcendences
Iridescent with the glory of the Unseen,
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.
An instant’s visitor the godhead shone.
On life’s thin border awhile the Vision stood
And bent over earth’s pondering forehead curve.
Interpreting a recondite beauty and bliss
In colour’s hieroglyphs of mystic sense,
It wrote the lines of a significant myth
Telling of a greatness of spiritual dawns,
A brilliant code penned with the sky for page.
Almost that day the epiphany was disclosed [3-4]

 

Veda of the Future

The struggle between Darkness and Light, between Evil and Good or as the Vedic sages saw it between the gods and the titans, is not the whole truth. It is a passage, an important practical distinction that we can ill-afford at our present stage of evolution. Yet, in the end, the two seeming opposites stand reconciled in the vision of the All-Wonderful. The Player of the flute, the divine Beloved of the gopis is also the slayer of Kansa and reveals Himself as Time, the Destroyer on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. The great and sole omnipotent Goddess hiding her heart of Beauty and Love appears before our ego-self as Kali, the fierce and the terrible; Rudra and Shiva are a single god! The Vedic epiphany describes the wonderful vision of the One who stands behind all things, the eternal seed and core of transient things, not only ‘things’ and objects extended in Space but also ‘things’ and events that unfold in Time. Savitri carries this vision of the One also to its ultimate grand culmination. There are passages of exquisite beauty and power and grace that bring out this vision of the One to our mist-laden eyes ever struggling to make sense of the evil that one sees within and around oneself. Our eyes see only division while Truth is supreme unity and sublime harmony. God and world, soul and nature, Spirit and matter are not two eternally separate but are two poles of a single unity:

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. [59]

   All here where each thing seems its lonely self
Are figures of the sole transcendent One:
Only by him they are, his breath is their life;
An unseen Presence moulds the oblivious clay. [60]

   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. [67]

The whole canto of “The Secret Knowledge” is a grand synthesis, a tremendous divine reconciliation of the paradox called this world, a reconciliation not only in Knowledge, as attempted by the Vedic mystics and the great seer of the Isha Upanishada in their profound and bold utterance Ishā vāsyam idam sarvam, yat kincha jagatyām jagat, but a reconciliation also in Power (as the Tantric yogis attempted). This double reconciliation of the static and dynamic sides of the One Reality is carried to its ultimate possibility wherein the seemingly two, God and the world, oneness and the multiplicity of creation, soul and nature, Brahman and Maya are reconciled in a grand and happy marriage of heaven and earth:

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. [61]

One is reminded of the great and mysterious message of the Isha Upanishad:

6. But he who sees everywhere the Self in all existences and all existences in the Self, shrinks not thereafter from aught.

7. He in whom it is the Self-Being that has become all existences that are Becomings, for he has the perfect knowledge, how shall he be deluded, whence shall he have grief who sees everywhere oneness?

8. It is He that has gone abroad — That which is bright, bodiless, without scar of imperfection, without sinews, pure, unpierced by evil. The Seer, the Thinker, the One who becomes everywhere, the Self-existent has ordered objects perfectly according to their nature from years sempiternal.

9. Into a blind darkness they enter who follow after the Ignorance, they as if into a greater darkness who devote themselves to the Knowledge alone.

10. Other, verily, it is said, is that which comes by the Knowledge, other that which comes by the Ignorance; this is the lore we have received from the wise who revealed That to our understanding.

11. He who knows That as both in one, the Knowledge and the Ignorance, by the Ignorance crosses beyond death and by the Knowledge enjoys Immortality.

12. Into a blind darkness they enter who follow after the Non-Birth, they as if into a greater darkness who devote themselves to the Birth alone.

13. Other, verily, it is said, is that which comes by the Birth, other that which comes by the Non-Birth; this is the lore we have received from the wise who revealed That to our understanding.

14. He who knows That as both in one, the Birth and the dissolution of Birth, by the dissolution crosses beyond death and by the Birth enjoys Immortality.

CWSA 17: 7-9

Savitri brings this greatest of all ‘formulas’, if formula there can ever be, of Truth, the highest wisdom ever uttered by the human speech, closer to us, not only to the mind but also to the heart and our very body’s self:

   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. [66-67]

Finally, we find in the lore of the Vedic seers an effort to grow into the Godhead through the law of sacrifice and mutual giving, — the seers offering sacrifice to the gods thereby increasing them and the gods pouring down all their riches in turn upon man to fashion in him a godlike strength and light and joy. Savitri takes this truth too to its greatest and highest possibility. Not just to grow into the likeness of the gods but to grow into the very likeness of the Divine, the Knowledge, Power, Freedom, Glory and Perfection of the Divine, the God who dwells secret within our heart. This is the wisdom that is secret to our mind and the ignorant groping of the senses, and yet it is this transcendent Wisdom that works secretly within all things, within earth and much more so within man who is meant to serve as a bridge between heaven and earth.

“Pent up behind this ignorance is a secret knowledge and a great light of truth; prisoned by this evil is an infinite content of good; in this limiting death is the seed of a boundless immortality.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Secret of the Vedas, CWSA 15: 191

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. [67]

 

The Mystery of Divine Incarnation

But there is yet something greater, the greatest of all mysteries known to man. It surpasses even the Vedic lore. The Gita speaks of it as a great mystery, etad rahasyaṁ uttamam, the mystery of the Divine birth in Time, the assumption of a transient mortal body by the eternal Divine, the Immortal descending amidst our mortality, consenting to pass through the narrow gates of death and birth to redeem this sphere of sorrow by the Grace divine. Savitri, above all things, is the story of the Avatara, the Divine becoming human to redeem humanity, ‘paying here God’s debt to earth and man’ as Savitri puts it. It is not just about the human ascension and the path of sacrifice that man must undertake to grow into a diviner mould. It is much more about the Divine’s descent, the sacrifice that the Divine undertakes to uplift man and earth. It is the other side of the story, as seen by the eyes of God and revealed to our souls by none else than ‘the All-Wise who leads the unseeing world’. This is the supreme value of Savitri, one that no poetry can surpass since it has flowed from the authentic experience of none other than the Avatara Himself. It is the story of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo’s life, of that dimension that the human eyes cannot see. The Mother put it so succinctly:

Savitri the supreme revelation of Sri Aurobindo’s vision

* * *

About Savitri:

1) The daily record of the spiritual experiences of the individual who has written.

2) A complete system of yoga which can serve as a guide for those who want to follow the integral sadhana.

3) The yoga of the Earth in its ascension towards the Divine.

4) The experiences of the Divine Mother in her effort to adapt herself to the body she has taken and the ignorance and the falsity of the earth upon which she has incarnated.

CWM 13: 24

Thus we see that it is the story of earth, the story also of man, the inner story of the divine unfolding upon earth and in man. It is the story, the path, of all who have and continue to inwardly struggle and battle for the victory of a divine life upon earth. Many mystics and saints and yogis and sages will find some of their experiences documented here. In fact, in the third canto of the first book, one finds a detailed description of almost all the major spiritual experiences that mystic literature has recorded over the millennia. But that is only the starting point of a great and tremendous journey, one that has never been undertaken so far and yet it is the same journey that runs as an undercurrent of every life since creation began, — the journey of the Divine in matter and His progressive revelation through evolution, albeit in terms of matter, assuming many names and forms till at last it reaches that giant point where the glory hidden in our depths begins to shine out through the cloak of mortal man and the eyes of God look out through human eyes. But this too only serves for a yet greater start, a leap from one peak of realisation to another till that Reality is found in ‘whom the world and self grow true and one’.

This too must now be overpassed and left,
As all must be until the Highest is gained
In whom the world and self grow true and one:
Till That is reached our journeying cannot cease. [238]

 

The Song of Hope

We see therefore that, not only in its conception and sense but also in its method and source, Savitri is a divine poem. Its power and purpose are not only to acquaint us with diviner things, of the ways divine, but to uplift us through its touch divine into higher and higher states of consciousness. That is why each time we read and re-read it, another and greater meaning begins to dawn upon us. We move as if from dawn to greater dawn. In the ever-enlarging circle of our vision, as we climb from hill to hill of an inner sight, we behold the beauty and the wonder of this creation, the deep utility of tears and the apparent justification of death and struggle and error and pain in a world that has issued forth out of the womb, not of some original darkness, but, as Savitri puts it:

All here is a mystery of contraries:
Darkness a magic of self-hidden Light,
Suffering some secret rapture’s tragic mask
And death an instrument of perpetual life.
Although Death walks beside us on Life’s road,
A dim bystander at the body’s start
And a last judgment on man’s futile works,
Other is the riddle of its ambiguous face:
Death is a stair, a door, a stumbling stride
The soul must take to cross from birth to birth,
A grey defeat pregnant with victory,
A whip to lash us towards our deathless state.
The inconscient world is the spirit’s self-made room,
Eternal Night shadow of eternal Day.
Night is not our beginning nor our end;
She is the dark Mother in whose womb we have hid
Safe from too swift a waking to world-pain.
We came to her from a supernal Light,
By Light we live and to the Light we go. [600-601]

What greater song of hope can there be than this? In a world torn by inner and outer conflicts, collapsing under its heavy load, there comes in the persona of Savitri the Grace that saves, the Word of Light made flesh, the power of the all-creative Spirit, the sole omniscient, omnipotent Goddess ‘of whom the world is an inscrutable mask’. Leaning across the wideness of inner Space which is the home of her birth, she travels through the silence of Space entering the heavy and pain-laden atmosphere of earthly life. The sole purpose of this divine descent is to awaken matter to its spiritual Reality and earth to its supreme goal. Towards this end, there is another consenting player, — man, in and through whom this divine destiny of earth has to be realised. Man is the meeting point of the two poles that seem like opposites to our limited and dividing mental vision. On one side, we have the stamp of the Inconscience in every cell of our being. It takes many hues and colours: the seal of heredity, the defeatist murmur that ever rises to slay the faith, the whispers of the dark denizens that often steal into the chambers of our mind and speech and corrupt all that is good and beautiful and true by their foul breath. Many are the masks of Death, many are its entry points into our lives. It can even assume divine looking masks that allure us to an other-worldly realisation of the Perfection we seek here upon earth as embodied beings. But this is only one side of the story of man’s life, not the totality of his being. However much science and philosophy may deny or reason fail to grasp, there dwells within us the One who can create and destroy universes with a single breath. He is the evolutionary Godhead whose secret pressure keeps us moving forward despite ourselves. He is the hope of earthly life, the leader of the human march. It is He who brings down to earth by the power of his one-pointed aspiration and tapasya Savitri, the Light of the Supreme. He is Aswapati, the human father of Savitri but also the sole seer and the Lord of Yoga who brings ‘down to earth’s dumb need her radiant power’. Man, the meeting point of the two in whom the play of contraries has taken a rather acute turn is Satyavan, the one who holds the truth somewhere in his secret depths. But now he has lost it, outcast from the glory that must be his, he struggles and stumbles upon this earth with his uncertain mind. The mind of man, blind and error-prone is not all his earthly climb can reach. There are shining summits of Glory and Wisdom to which mind can climb and from which mind itself is born. But entering an earthly embodiment, trapped by the senses that ever condition and limit and blind it rather than reveal the truth, it is ever striving to reclaim and rediscover the glory it has lost. This is represented by Dyumatsena, the human father of Satyavan, the illumined mind that has here fallen blind. It must recover its lost sight and regain its celestial kingdom.

 

The Epic of Human Life

These are the four main characters of the drama of earthly life as it unfolds itself towards the future cycle. The divine Poet reveals this inner truth and symbolism of Savitri to us:

“The tale of Satyavan and Savitri is recited in the Mahabharata as a story of conjugal love conquering death. But this legend is, as shown by many features of the human tale, one of the many symbolic myths of the Vedic cycle. Satyavan is the soul carrying the divine truth of being within itself but descended into the grip of death and ignorance; Savitri is the Divine Word, daughter of the Sun, goddess of the supreme Truth who comes down and is born to save; Aswapati, the Lord of the Horse, her human father, is the Lord of Tapasya, the concentrated energy of spiritual endeavour that helps us to rise from the mortal to the immortal planes; Dyumatsena, Lord of the Shining Hosts, father of Satyavan, is the Divine Mind here fallen blind, losing its celestial kingdom of vision, and through that loss its kingdom of glory. Still this is not a mere allegory, the characters are not personified qualities, but incarnations or emanations of living and conscious Forces with whom we can enter into concrete touch and they take human bodies in order to help man and show him the way from his mortal state to a divine consciousness and immortal life.”

Savitri, Author’s Note

We are told that this is not merely an allegory or a symbol but concrete and immense realities taking on a human shape. Their earthly drama, for which they came down in a particular epoch assuming a certain name and form, does not cease with a single victory. This first victory of which Savitri bears witness and is a record paves the way for other similar victories if we too can surrender our soul and self into the hands and being of Savitri and become the happy recipients of Her Grace. This is the mystic marriage that our being waits for, the marriage of our earthbound soul with the heavenly Grace of which the All-seeing Sun and the gods are the sole witnesses and the earth itself the ground of the sacred ceremony. This eternal marriage of the Lord and His Spouse is to be enacted in many bodies and lives. But for that our nature must be lifted to its utmost possibility where the eternal Lord and His Shakti are one. Only the power of Aswapati, the Supreme Lord, and the Grace of Savitri, the Divine Mother, can achieve this hoped-for miracle in man. When this happens there truly begins a New Age and a new cycle of earthly life. Then is the being of Satyavan fulfilled, and then a new chapter of destiny opens for earth and one master-act changes fate. This master-act of which Savitri and Satyavan are the living example is the act of luminous faith and surrender, even as Satyavan who recognising in the persona of Savitri the illuminating Grace of an All-transfiguring divine Love surrenders:

But thou hast come and all will surely change:
I shall feel the World-Mother in thy golden limbs
And hear her wisdom in thy sacred voice.
The child of the Void shall be reborn in God,
My Matter shall evade the Inconscient’s trance.
My body like my spirit shall be free.
It shall escape from Death and Ignorance”

Even a brief nearness has reshaped my life.
For now I know that all I lived and was
Moved towards this moment of my heart’s rebirth;
I look back on the meaning of myself,
A soul made ready on earth’s soil for thee. [406]

Descend, O happiness, with thy moon-gold feet
Enrich earth’s floors upon whose sleep we lie. [408]

This great act of surrender to the divine Grace with an absolute trust is only for the great in spirit. This is the supreme wisdom, the wisdom that saves us from many a complication and takes us through the shortest and surest route towards this predestined great end. This is the supreme word of Savitri, the greatest and the wisest advice ever given to man, the advice of surrendering all he is and does to the Divine Master within or the Avatar without, the two who are a single being; one unseen and hidden within our depths, the other standing before our eyes as the Leader of the human march through the great battle of life. When we thus surrender ourselves to the spirit of Savitri that is as living and real today as it was yesterday; when we approach Her in the spirit of humility as a child would seek his mother not so much through the pride of the intellect but the door of love in our heart, then Savitri herself begins to reveal her mysteries. It is not a book that we read but try to enter into the atmosphere of a living and conscious Deity, the Being of the Divine Mother of whom Savitri is an embodiment, then She Herself takes us by the hand through every passage and, carrying us in Her arms helps us understand what we see and hear and sense and feel till the true Knowledge awakens and our soul and mind and body are thrilled by the rapture of the epiphany. She becomes then the Teacher and awakens in us the inner listener, the hearer of the divine Word which is seated within our soul. Nothing is impossible or difficult for one who has thus opened and given himself to Savitri, the living embodiment of Light and Truth and Love divine:

“Lay all on her; she is the cause of all.” [723]

The Mother reveals:

“The direct road is through that — the heart……Try and you will see how very different it is, how new, if you read with this attitude, with this something at the back of your consciousness, as though it were an offering to Sri Aurobindo. You know it is charged, fully charged with consciousness; as though Savitri were a being, a real Guide. I tell you, whoever wants to practice Yoga, if he tries sincerely and feels the necessity, he will be able to climb with the help of Savitri to the highest rungs of the ladder of Yoga, will be able to find the secret that Savitri represents. And this without the help of a Guru. And he will be able to practice it anywhere. Savitri by itself will be his guide, for all that he needs he will find in Savitri.”

Sweet Mother: Luminous Notes: Conversation
with the Mother by Mona Sarkar, pp. 51-52

 


 

Savitri, – The Story of Creation and its Goal

 

The Beginning of Beginnings

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’s 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 which has been documented in the earliest dawns of humanity. This is the Vedic Dawn, the goddess who comes bringing illumination and the 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 [2-3]

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. [4]

Paradoxically, the master Poet also describes here the dawn that breaks upon the day when Satyavan must die. It is a bit paradoxical that 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 the 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. [7]

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. [8]

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. [10]

 

The Real Issue of Human Life

The second canto deals with the real issue of earthly and human life, their 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 our homes and in 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 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 Avatar, the Divine’s descent into 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 and 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, while the accomplishment is done by the embodied Grace. The first three cantos of his journey are reflected in Book One, Cantos 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 is mapped out. Nothing is hidden from his unsealed eye of Truth. One day man too shall have these experiences as naturally as he breathes and thinks today since the path for him has been cleared by the incarnate Divine.

 

The Divine Representative

Book One, Cantos Three, Four and Five concern 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 Ishwara 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 their fallen states are mapped out. The vital worlds have their highest heaven described in Canto Nine, ‘The Paradise of the Life-Gods’. But one must first take a dip into the purifying fire of hell which is a veritable battleground. It is only when the soul has successfully battled these ominous forces that it is ready for entrance into Paradise. Even as the vital worlds, the mind worlds also have their ascending peaks in the kingdoms of little Mind and then the greater Mind. 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 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 reunites 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. It is the core of the manifested universe but there is beyond it the Unmanifest, and beyond the Manifest and the Unmanifest there is the secret Womb of Light, the Undivided Consciousness, Aditi, from whom all have emerged. He must find and knock at those gates, at the border where Form and the Formless meet. He must dare to enter the empire of the Sun even as he has faced and dared the dark, chill 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 hidden 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 here 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.

 

The Embodiment of Divine Love

Time rolls by and the Supreme Mystery, The Divine Mother Herself, 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 this divine work is just as important. It is the other self of the Divine Beloved who seeks the aspiring soul as much, and even more, as we seek the Divine. If Her work can be done successfully on one symbol type, it can then be replicated and extended in the whole of 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. It is by the coming together of the consenting and collaborating, the aspiring and surrendered human soul with the divine Grace and Love that the divine life can manifest here upon earth.

This coming together of the human soul that, even though caught up in ignorance, recognises in a moment of the apocalypse, suddenly as it were, the Divine Mother and gives itself to Her in a grand act of love and surrender that is described in Book Five. This act changes the very course of destiny which we see in Book Six, ‘The Book of Fate’.

She must completely identify with all that is human, experience the 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 the 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. 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 Five reveals how by surrendering ourselves to the divine Grace even fixed destiny can be changed. Book Six describes the process and the forces that weave Fate and how Savitri has come to change all that.

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 questions 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. She has come with the mandate and armed with the power to change the law. 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.

 

The Wrestle with Fate

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 the god 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, 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 his masks such as doubt, denial, distrust, fear, scepticism and all the rest. Books 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 her. 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 or is rather transformed 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 hidden 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, who had robed Himself in the veil of Night once again tries to charm and allure Savitri to ascend to the highest status of being along with her lover Satyavan. He concedes her the boon of immortality that she asks for Satyavan, but only as an extra-terrestrial realisation. He is the fourfold Being whose Glory is described in the Upanishads. He bids her 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 fulfil 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 only 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 return 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 fulfil it with powers that have not yet manifested upon earth. The seers who witness this strange miracle are filled with wonder. Satyavan reveals the secret of this miraculous change even as the hearts of the seers who have gathered around her are 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.” [723]

But Savitri reveals her secret in such marvellous 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.” [724]

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 towards a yet greater Dawn she seeks to bring down for earth and man.

 

The Lyric of Love that Waits through Time

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, in its essence, of course, and as seen by the Divine’s 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 for our high unease. In the reconciliation of these two tendencies in us — the earthward and the 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 we 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. The 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 are 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. [314]

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. [315-316]

 


 

Savitri, – the Ancient Story

 

The Ancient Legend

Savitri is an ancient Indian tale of conjugal love conquering death. The story, belonging to the Vedic cycle is, like many other such stories, clearly symbolic. It has been preserved in the memory of the race through tradition and ritual. Even though its deeper meaning often remains veiled to the common understanding, yet it points to a possibility of the future as well as inspiring us to live with courage, hope, love and faith. Unlike the later fatalistic thought that we see creeping into the Indian mind, Savitri (and other such tales of earlier times) show us how to face and take on the challenge of destiny. Destiny can be changed though not through wishful thinking or crying to evoke sympathy of the gods. The greatest Godhead, the Lord and Master of Existence, dwells within us and it is through His intervention that destiny can be changed. This is one of the powerful messages of Savitri.

The persona of Savitri is often regarded as the quintessence of ideal womanhood whose love has the power to change destiny and bring back the dead to life. The story is a stark contradiction to later Indian thought that became fatalistic. The Rishis of the Vedic Age however believed that man can change his fate if he discovers the strength that resides within his soul. They had discovered a way to make this discovery which was for them the most important discovery, one that could change not only their inner orientation of life, their psychological being, but also impact and influence outer events and circumstances however challenging they may be. This indeed is the beauty of this story that it integrates our inner and outer life. Savitri’s yoga is not done for her own sake, not for finding some peace or the silence of Nirvana here or in an after-life. It is undertaken rather to establish the supremacy of love over all else, to find the pathways to immortality even while surrounded by the shadow of death, to master the most external being and outer nature to the extent as to make it escape from the ‘seemingly inescapable’ law of death.

In the ancient story, the legend is narrated to King Yudhisthira, the eldest of Pandavas when he along with his brothers and wife is wandering through the forests. He has lost his kingdom in a game of dice through the cunning and deceit of Duryodhana, the eldest son of Dhritrashtra, the Kuru emperor. During their sojourn through the forest, the Pandava brothers meet the sage Markandeya, reputed to have won immortality. On seeing him, the eldest Pandava asks if there ever was one as unfortunate as his wife Draupadi, the princess of a royal lineage of King Drupada, who has been humiliated at the hands of the Kaurava brothers and has to now wander through the forest for no fault of hers. In reply, the sage narrates the story of Savitri, who not only faces but overcomes an adverse fate.

 

Born of Fire

It is interesting to note the strange parallels between the story of Savitri and Draupadi. Both are born through a yajna performed by their father for a progeny. While King Aswapati, Savitri’s human father, has performed the yajna to bring down a portion of the Divine Mother upon earth, King Drupada (Draupadi’s father) performs the yajna to beget a child who would destroy his arch-rival (earlier a bosom friend) Dronacharya. Savitri is born embodying the Divine Mother’s power of victorious Love. Draupadi is born embodying the Divine Mother’s power of victory over evil, Her Kali aspect. Both are warriors in their own right and are instrumental in changing the destiny of mankind.

Savitri is regarded as the ultimate word in chastity along with Lord Rama’s wife Sita and seer Atri’s wife Anusooya. On the other hand, Draupadi has been married to five men due to a strange twist of fate. Yet in her heart she bears only Krishna, her Lord and friend whom she calls during every crisis in her life and finds the needed response. Savitri is chaste in her body and soul, Draupadi is chaste in her inner being and her soul that is given only to the Lord. Both must meet the challenge of adverse fate despite their divine origin.

Savitri, when she comes of age, is sent forth by her father to find for herself a suitable mate. This is so much in contrast with later day India, where conservatism took a strong hold of the mind, and women were made subservient to males. But in the hey-days of Indian civilisation women had an equal status. They composed the Vedas, excelled in arts and letters as well as participated in wars and the governance of kingdoms. Savitri, in the course of her journey, discovers Satayavan, the son of a blind king who has lost his kingdom and now lives on the forest verge along with his wife and son. Satyavan manages their life and his own as a woodcutter and yet he has developed a deep and profound inner knowledge through his daily contact with Mother Nature in her pristine purity. Savitri chooses Satyavan as her husband and returns back to the kingdom for approval of her parents.

The parents are happy to approve of her choice except for one big issue that they suddenly discover. Narada, the heavenly sage, prophesies that Satyavan, though a wonderful person will die in a year from now. Savitri, however, sticks to her choice and takes the challenge of adverse fate to try to change destiny rather than change her lover and beloved. Thus, she engages in a threefold austerity (tapasya of three nights as described in the legend). This gives her the power to confront Death when it arrives to take away Satyavan. She follows Death who repeatedly cautions her against such an impossible venture. However, soon enough he is touched by Savitri’s persistence and is ready to grant her whatever boon she may desire except her husband. Savitri at first asks for the return of the sight and kingdom of Satyavan’s parents. Having exhausted two boons, for the last boon she asks for a hundred offsprings. Yama, the lord of Death, cannot refuse it since she has not breached the conditions as she has not asked for Satyavan’s return to life. But now another dilemma, the dilemma of dharma grips the lord of Death, who in earlier Indian thought is also the king of Justice, Dharmaraja. How can Savitri beget a hundred offsprings if she does not marry again? The only way is to return Satyavan from the land of Death to earth. Pleased and impressed by Savitri’s wisdom, he reluctantly changes his law for the sake of a greater law. His law is the law of death that once dead one cannot return to earth in the same body. But Savitri challenges this law by the law and power of Love that remains steadfast and one-pointed in her love for her husband. Thus, the story ends on a happy note. Savitri and Satyavan return to see their father’s sight and kingdom restored, and all due to the strength and wisdom and love of one woman, Savitri.

 

A Symbolic Tale

This ancient legend preserved in the memory of the race through millennia is a symbol of the victory of Love over Death. Savitri, as the name suggests, is the supreme creatrix Power, bearer of the Sun’s Light and Energy. Satyavan is the soul of man that carries truth within itself but is here entangled with the law of death that stifles all its dreams of beauty and truth and love upon earth. The father of Satyavan is the fallen state of nature, sightless and powerless. The desired offsprings of the last boon are the children of Immortality who shall inhabit earth due to the dual labour and mutual love of the Divine and the human soul, Savitri and Satyavan.

Such is this powerful and significant ancient Indian tale which assumes a new and vaster significance with the Light shown upon it by the seer vision of Sri Aurobindo. Not only does Sri Aurobindo give us a deeper understanding but he also gives us a new Power to take upon the challenge of life and fight the battle against all that denies its divine right. According to Sri Aurobindo life is divine in its origin even though it struggles and has become severely limited in its expression here. This is partly due to the restrictions imposed upon it by the laws of matter and physical existence and partly due to the Ignorance of the lower nature that limits its power and will-to-be. But since it has leapt out from the Transcendent Itself, life is destined to eventually discover its inherent divinity and breaking free from the magic circle of Ignorance and conquering the laws of physical nature transmute this earthly life into the life divine. This is the story of the slow evolutionary emergence of life, a story yet not finished, a story so far half-written and its chapters often ending with a tragic close. Yet the last chapters of life are still to be written. Though already held in some divine conception, man is destined to be the part author or at least an instrument to complete this half-written tale, provided that he exchanges his surface egocentric conceptions and preoccupations of life with a new diviner conception and orientation. Savitri reveals to us the goal and way to do so. It gives us the deeper Knowledge and the Power to participate in the great evolutionary adventure and fulfil our divine destiny.

 

The Two Who are One

Savitri is not just a book but a consciousness, an embodiment of Sri Aurobindo’s Wisdom and Power that he had won through an intense and unprecedented tapasya (spiritual austerities). It is thus a prasada, a gift of Grace for mankind. Moved by a divine Compassion at the fate of earthly beings and a will to find the radical remedy for our lasting ills, Sri Aurobindo had engaged in an intense yoga that has come to be known as the Integral Yoga or the Supramental Yoga. Its object is not personal mukti or individual salvation (since that has already been done before) but a transformation of earthly life, here and not elsewhere, a radical change in our everyday living and not some beatific experience or an ecstatic realisation of the Beyond achieved through a withdrawal from life and its manifold activities. He had seen this possibility in the course of his own sadhana but aspired for the results of his yoga to have a wider scope. His individual yoga, therefore, turned into a collective yoga taking along with him more and more individuals as a representative humanity towards the great Future for earth that was lurking behind the present darkness. In the words of Savitri:

His single freedom could not satisfy,
Her light, her bliss he asked for earth and men. [315]

He reveals this wonderful Future waiting for us, nay being prepared for us through the present darkness and turmoil, thereby making Savitri a song of divine Hope. Thus it differs from other traditional spiritual scriptures that often promise a state of salvation to the faithful few but often predict a dismal end to the civilisation at large. To once again share some immortal lines from Savitri itself:

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. [55]

Above all, Savitri is a song of Love. Love indeed is the central theme, the keynote message of Savitri. But this is not the love that humanity experiences, a brief turmoil in the heart or moments of high uplifting emotion and sublime passion that can hardly sustain itself.

Sri Aurobindo reveals to us the truth behind this legend:

“The tale of Satyavan and Savitri is recited in the Mahabharata as a story of conjugal love conquering death. But this legend is, as shown by many features of the human tale, one of the many symbolic myths of the Vedic cycle. Satyavan is the soul carrying the divine truth of being within itself but descended into the grip of death and ignorance; Savitri is the Divine Word, daughter of the Sun, goddess of the supreme Truth who comes down and is born to save; Aswapati, the Lord of the Horse, her human father, is the Lord of Tapasya, the concentrated energy of spiritual endeavour that helps us to rise from the mortal to the immortal planes; Dyumatsena, Lord of the Shining Hosts, father of Satyavan, is the Divine Mind here fallen blind, losing its celestial kingdom of vision, and through that loss its kingdom of glory. Still, this is not a mere allegory, the characters are not personified qualities, but incarnations or emanations of living and conscious Forces with whom we can enter into concrete touch and they take human bodies in order to help man and show him the way from his mortal state to the divine consciousness and immortal life.”

Savitri, Author’s Note

Thus Savitri and Satyavan are not beings confined to a single body but immortal beings that take earthly form from Age to Age, in different places and climes assuming different names and forms. In our Age, they have come once again to us in the divine persona of Sri Aurobindo and the Divine Mother. As revealed in Savitri itself:

O Satyavan, O luminous Savitri,
I sent you forth of old beneath the stars,
A dual power of God in an ignorant world,
In a hedged creation shut from limitless self,
Bringing down God to the insentient globe,
Lifting earth-beings to immortality.
In the world of my knowledge and my ignorance
Where God is unseen and only is heard a Name
And knowledge is trapped in the boundaries of mind
And life is hauled in the drag-net of desire
And Matter hides the soul from its own sight,
You are my Force at work to uplift earth’s fate,
My self that moves up the immense incline
Between the extremes of the spirit’s night and day.
He is my soul that climbs from nescient Night
Through life and mind and supernature’s Vast
To the supernal light of Timelessness
And my eternity hid in moving Time
And my boundlessness cut by the curve of Space.
It climbs to the greatness it has left behind
And to the beauty and joy from which it fell,
To the closeness and sweetness of all things divine,
To light without bounds and life illimitable,
Taste of the depths of the Ineffable’s bliss,
Touch of the immortal and the infinite.
He is my soul that gropes out of the beast
To reach humanity’s heights of lucent thought
And the vicinity of Truth’s sublime.
He is the godhead growing in human lives
And in the body of earth-being’s forms:
He is the soul of man climbing to God
In Nature’s surge out of earth’s ignorance.
O Savitri, thou art my spirit’s Power,
The revealing voice of my immortal Word,
The face of Truth upon the roads of Time
Pointing to the souls of men the routes to God.
While the dim light from the veiled Spirit’s peak
Falls upon Matter’s stark inconscient sleep
As if a pale moonbeam on a dense glade,
And Mind in a half-light moves amid half-truths
And the human heart knows only human love
And life is a stumbling and imperfect force
And the body counts out its precarious days,
You shall be born into man’s dubious hours
In forms that hide the soul’s divinity
And show through veils of the earth’s doubting air
My glory breaking as through clouds a sun,
Or burning like a rare and inward fire,
And with my nameless influence fill men’s lives. [702-703]

The Mother reveals this truth in a direct and simple manner:

“You know, mon petit, I said one day that in the history of earth, wherever there was a possibility for the Consciousness to manifest, I was there [“Since the beginning of the earth, wherever and whenever there was the possibility of manifesting a ray of the Consciousness, I was there.” March 14, 1952.]; this is a fact. It’s like the story of Savitri: always there, always there, always there, in this one, that one — at certain times there were four emanations simultaneously! At the time of the Italian and French Renaissance. And again at the time of Christ, then too….

….. with the present incarnation of the Mahashakti (as he described it in Savitri), whatever is more or less bound up with Her wants to take part, that’s quite natural. And it’s particularly true for the vital: there has always been a preoccupation with organizing, centralizing, developing and unifying the vital forces, and controlling them. So there’s a considerable number of vital beings, each with its own particular ability, who have played their role in history and now return.”

Mother’s Agenda, June 27, 1962

“But with this present incarnation of the Mahashakti (Mother referring to Herself)…. She is the Supreme’s first manifestation, creation’s first stride, and it was She who first gave form to all those beings. Now, since her incarnation in the physical world, and through the position She has taken here in relation to the Supreme by incarnating in a human body, all the other worlds have been influenced, and influenced in an extremely interesting way…..

It was always through Emanations, while now it’s as Sri Aurobindo writes in Savitri — the Supreme tells Savitri that a day will come when the earth is ready and ‘The Mighty Mother shall take birth’…. But Savitri was already on earth — she was an emanation….

They were all emanations, right from the beginning. So we have to say: ‘With the present incarnation.’ …. I have been in contact with all those gods, all those great beings, and for the most part their attitude has changed. And even with those who didn’t want to change, it has nonetheless influenced their way of being.”

Mother’s Agenda, June 30, 1962

 


 

Savitri, The Book

 

The Diamond Script of the Imperishable

Savitri is best described in Savitri itself in these luminous words:

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. [232]

These lines appearing at the end of Book Two, Canto Eight (‘The World of Falsehood’) are an apt description of the book itself. Their context of course is that the Yogi-King Aswapati has descended into the densest darkness of the nether worlds to discover the secret cause of the world’s failure in all its upward efforts. But what happens as he descends into the very bottom, the last stronghold of the abyss, is that he suddenly touches upon an almighty spring of Love, a secret Wisdom brooding in the dark abyss that is suddenly released and carries him upwards in its mighty currents to realms of Beauty and Delight. The book Savitri also was started in its present form in 1916 when the world was descending towards the red heat of hell in the First World War. Its final birth of course was soon after the Second World War like a New Dawn appearing in the eastern sky after the bad dreams of the Night. The skilful penman fits beautifully with Sri Aurobindo who is the Master of the divine Word and uses it with such deftness and natural ease that only a mind hushed to the bright omniscience of the intuitive ranges of thought and beyond alone can do. Of course, it is well-known that Sri Aurobindo had realised the Silent Consciousness of Nirvana as early as 1907 even before his arrival to Pondicherry. Whatever he wrote henceforth was written or rather transmitted through this Silence from realms beyond Mind. Thus Savitri becomes a revelatory Scripture along the lines of the Vedas. It embodies the living experience and realisations of the author and hence can transmit to someone ready and receptive enough some glimpse of these higher states. To the man of literature, Savitri is sublime poetry. To the aspiring yogin it lays bare the experiences and realisations, the beings and forces and energies one encounters on the journey towards Light and Truth and Immortality. To those who are open and seeking for guidance in their yogic journey, Savitri can be a wonderful guide on the routes of Infinity. To a seeker of Truth, it helps to reveal Truth in its entirety as it is beheld by a cosmic vision. To the God-lover Savitri enthrals the heart and soul as it brings nearer to us the divine persona of Savitri, a partial incarnation of the Divine Mother and through her story grants us the liberating touch of Her Love and Grace. Sri Aurobindo regarded it as his ‘most important work’ and appearing in two parts in 1950 and 1951 (soon before and soon after Sri Aurobindo’s physical withdrawal on 5th December 1950) it becomes at once his last message, the gift of his tapasya created as a labour of Love for earth and man. The least we can do is to read and reread it. Whether we understand it or not, the very act of reading it will bring us in touch with Sri Aurobindo’s Consciousness and like fire awaken us to His Light and Power regardless of our understanding. Even as a mantra reveals the deity and the hidden truth it embodies, Savitri too reveals her truth and the Godhead embodied within to those who can open through the simple act of faith with a will to know and discover what still lies hidden to our mind and senses, with an aspiration to walk the way opened to earth and man by the twin Avataras of our Age, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. To such souls, Savitri reveals itself as the story of Sri Aurobindo and the Divine Mother written over the broad canvas of earth-life spanning across many lives from the very beginning of Time.

 

Sri Aurobindo’s Gift to Mankind

We shall, by and by, touch upon different aspects and dimensions of this wonderful work of Sri Aurobindo, his labour of Love and supreme gift to mankind. Sri Aurobindo regarded it as his most important work. Indeed, it is the result of his divine labour that spanned through several decades and in a way, is his first and last work. The earliest draft was started during his stay in Baroda and the last bit corrected just before his physical withdrawal. Sri Aurobindo writes in a letter regarding the birth of the book:

“I used Savitri as a means of ascension. I began with it on a certain mental level, each time I could reach a higher level I rewrote from that level. Moreover, I was particular — if part seemed to me to come from any lower levels I was not satisfied to leave it because it was good poetry. All had to be as far as possible of the same mint. In fact, Savitri has not been regarded by me as a poem to be written and finished, but as a field of experimentation to see how far poetry could be written from one’s own yogic consciousness and how that could be made creative. I did not rewrite Rose of God or the sonnets except for two or three verbal alterations made at the moment.”

CWSA 27: 272, 29 March 1936

Q: “We have been wondering why you should have to write and rewrite your poetry — for instance, Savitri ten or twelve times — when you have all the inspiration at your command and do not have to receive it with the difficulty that faces budding Yogis like us.”

Nirodbaran, Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo,
2nd series, p. 202

A: “Savitri was originally written many years ago before the Mother came, as a narrative poem in two parts, Part I Earth and Part II Beyond (these two parts are still extant in the scheme) each of four books — or rather Part II consisted of three books and an epilogue. Twelve books to an epic is a classical superstition, but the new Savitri may extend to ten books — if much is added in the final version it may be even twelve. The first book has been lengthening and lengthening out till it must be over 2000 lines, but I shall break up the original first four into five, I think — in fact I have already started doing so. These first five will be, as I conceive them now, the Book of Birth, the Book of Quest, the Book of Love, the Book of Fate, the Book of Death. As for the second Part, I have not touched it yet. There was no climbing of planes there in the first version — rather Savitri moved through the worlds of Night, of Twilight, of Day — all of course in a spiritual sense — and ended by calling down the power of the Highest Worlds of Sachchidananda. I had no idea of what the supramental World could be like at that time, so it could not enter into the scheme. As for expressing the supramental inspiration, that is a matter of the future.”

CWSA 27: 277, 31 October 1936

Nirod-da recounts its finishing moments:

“During the last four years, from 1946 to 1950, he laboured constantly on the unfinished parts and gave them an almost new birth, with the exception of The Book of Death and The Epilogue, which, for some inscrutable reason, he left practically unrevised…..

The revision of Savitri was going on apace with regular unabated vigour. Book after Book was getting done and fascicules of them released for publication. Some 400-500 lines of The Book of Everlasting Day were dictated on successive days, since we could not spare more than an hour a day for the monumental work and that too had often to be cut short to meet other demands. We were, nevertheless, progressing quite steadily. I marvelled at the smooth spontaneous flow of verse after verse of remarkable beauty. Once I had complained to him in my correspondence why, having all the planes of inspiration at his command, should he still labour like us mortals at his Savitri. Why should not the inspiration burst out like the “champagne bottle”? Now I witnessed that miracle and imagined that it also must have been the way Valmiki composed his Ramayana. At this rate, I thought, Savitri would not take long to finish. On everyone’s lips was the eager query, “How far are you with Savitri?

But Savitri, as I have mentioned, was not his sole preoccupation. Many other adventitious tasks were thrust upon him and he did not say “No” to them out of the magnanimity of his divine nature…..

The work on Savitri proceeded as usual, but slowed down in pace, especially when we came to a mighty confrontation with the two big Cantos of The Book of Fate. Revision after revision, addition of lines, even punctuations changed so many times! It seemed like a veritable “God’s labour” against a rock of resistance. At his time the Press sent up a demand for a new book from him. The Future Poetry was given preference and some passages which were meant to be dovetailed into the text of the chapters were written. But since he wanted to write something on modern poetry and for his works of modern poets were needed, orders were sent to Madras for them while whatever few books were available from our small library were requisitioned. As I read them out, he said, “Mark that passage,” or “These lines have a striking image” — (once the lines referred to were, I think, from C. Day Lewis’ Magnetic Mountain). He himself read out a poem of Eliot’s to — I don’t remember exactly which, and remarked, “This is fine poetry.” In this way we proceeded. Since we had to wait for the arrival of the books, he said, “Let us go back to Savitri.” His whole attention seemed to be focussed on Savitri, but again, the work had to be suspended owing to the pressure of various extraneous demands. They swelled up to such an extent that he was obliged to remark, “I find no more time for my real work.” When the path was fairly clear and I was wondering what his next choice would be, he said in a distant voice, “Take up Savitri. I want to finish it soon.” This must have been about two months before his departure. The last part of the utterance startled me, though it was said in a subdued tone. I wondered for a moment if I had heard rightly. I looked at him; my bewildered glance met an impassive face. In these twelve years this was the first time I had heard him reckoning with the time factor. An Avatar of poise, patience and equanimity, this was the picture that shone before our eyes whenever we had thought or spoken about him. Hence my wonder. We took up the same two Cantos that had proved so intractable. The work progressed slowly; words, ideas, images seemed to be repeated; the verses themselves appeared to flow with reluctance. Once a punctuation had to be changed four or five times. When the last revision was made and the Cantos were wound up, I said, “It is finished now.” An impersonal smile of satisfaction greeted me, and he said, “Ah, it is finished?” How well I remember that flicker of a smile which all of us craved for so long! “What is left now?” was his next query. “The Book of Death and The Epilogue.” “Oh, that? We shall see about that later on.” That “later on” never came and was not meant to come. Having taken the decision to leave the body, he must have been waiting for the right moment to go, and for reasons known to himself he left the two last-mentioned Books almost as they were. Thus on Savitri was put the seal of incomplete completion about two weeks before the Darshan of November 24th. Other literary works too came to an end.

And significantly The Book of Fate was the last Book to be revised. What I deemed to be minor flaws or unnecessary repetitions, and thought that a further revision would remove them, appeared, after his passing, to be deliberate and prophetic:

A day may come when she must stand unhelped
On a dangerous brink of the world’s doom and hers …
In that tremendous silence lone and lost…
Cry not to heaven, for she alone can save…
She only can save herself and save the world.

We know how true these words have proved.”

Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo, 4th ed (2010),
pp. 166, 185, 187-188

Savitri for Sri Aurobindo was not a book to be started and finished but an unending tapasya. Savitri has accompanied his spiritual journey and as he went further and further, higher and higher into the realms of the Unknown, he modified Savitri to further embody the states of consciousness that he experienced in course of his tapasya. Thus Savitri becomes an embodiment of Sri Aurobindo’s Consciousness, his Will bequeathed to earth and men. We as earthly beings can share this Will and be aligned to it thereby hastening its hour of fulfilment. For one thing is certain that however long and whatever it may take, this Will divine implanted in the soil of earth and written in the scroll of man’s destiny with the Divine’s signature upon it is bound to fulfil itself. As revealed in Savitri itself:

Even should a hostile force cling to its reign
And claim its right’s perpetual sovereignty
And man refuse his high spiritual fate,
Yet shall the secret Truth in things prevail.
For in the march of all-fulfilling Time
The hour must come of the Transcendent’s will:
All turns and winds towards his predestined ends
In Nature’s fixed inevitable course
Decreed since the beginning of the worlds
In the deep essence of created things:
Even there shall come as a high crown of all
The end of Death, the death of Ignorance.
But first high Truth must set her feet on earth
And man aspire to the Eternal’s light
And all his members feel the Spirit’s touch
And all his life obey an inner Force.
This too shall be; for a new life shall come,
A body of the Superconscient’s truth,
A native field of Supernature’s mights:
It shall make earth’s nescient ground Truth’s colony,
Make even the Ignorance a transparent robe
Through which shall shine the brilliant limbs of Truth
And Truth shall be a sun on Nature’s head
And Truth shall be the guide of Nature’s steps
And Truth shall gaze out of her nether deeps.
When superman is born as Nature’s king
His presence shall transfigure Matter’s world:
He shall light up Truth’s fire in Nature’s night,
He shall lay upon the earth Truth’s greater law;
Man too shall turn towards the Spirit’s call.
Awake to his hidden possibility,
Awake to all that slept within his heart
And all that Nature meant when earth was formed
And the Spirit made this ignorant world his home,
He shall aspire to Truth and God and Bliss.
Interpreter of a diviner law
And instrument of a supreme design,
The higher kind shall lean to lift up man.
Man shall desire to climb to his own heights.
The truth above shall wake a nether truth,
Even the dumb earth become a sentient force.
The Spirit’s tops and Nature’s base shall draw
Near to the secret of their separate truth
And know each other as one deity.
The Spirit shall look out through Matter’s gaze
And Matter shall reveal the Spirit’s face. [708-709]

If we can open ourselves to the consciousness of Savitri then the work will go faster and perhaps smoother. To hasten or slow down, to help it happen smoothly or temporarily hinder it through our hidden and overt resistances, is up to us. But in the end, either way, we shall only fulfil the word of a happy destiny for earth and men enshrined in Savitri. The transformative power of Savitri’s word is also revealed in Savitri itself, as indeed of all mantric word:

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: [375]

 


 

Savitri Veda

 

Introduction

Savitri, the epic poem of Sri Aurobindo, is regarded by many as a deeply mystical poem. The Mother revealed that the lines of Savitri are a mantra in their own right, a mantra of transformation, so to say. Sri Aurobindo’s own letters written in response to queries from poet-disciples reveal to us the immense labour that has gone into the poem with the sole intention of bringing down the very highest rhythms of Beauty and Truth and Delight into a body of sound and word. The very fact that Savitri embodies the very highest rhythms of Truth, termed in Indian thought as the mantra, and is the manifestation of the Seer-Vision, the spiritual-occult vision and experiences of Sri Aurobindo who had entered the deepest and highest realms of yogic realisations, makes Savitri a Veda in its own right. For what we mean by the Veda is not just a set of four holy books, the most ancient and revered sacred texts of Hindu Thought, but a document of occult vision and spiritual experiences of seers who sought for the Truth behind appearances and had found it. They have left for us invaluable documents as a priceless treasure for all the children of earth, regardless of their religion, to benefit from their discoveries by discovering and deciphering the Truth behind the texts.

This is however no easy task. Firstly, the language used is a rather archaic form of Sanskrit whose keys are not always easy to find. But even when one has found the keys, the texts themselves have been clothed in imagery that does not lend itself to an easy interpretation, a difficulty that even great scholars have experienced, not to speak of a common seeker. However, even if we have overcome these two challenges there is a yet another difficulty; there is the challenge of making the texts contextual so that the modern mind can connect with the profound truths contained within these wonderful texts. This is true not only of the truths contained but also for the path shown in the Vedas. Humanity has moved ahead much in its pursuit of Truth and it is difficult to imagine a life that the ancients lived and followed as part of their self-discipline and preparation for yoga.

It is for these reasons that many youths find a greater connection with the Gita with its stress on a psychological approach, rather than an occult and mystical one, as we see in the Vedas. Sri Krishna must have seen the necessity of recovering the Vedas from the state of obscurity and confusion in which their understanding had fallen, especially with a ritualistic interpretation and the emergence of more approaches than one towards the divine seeking. The Gita was his way of recovering the Vedas which is one of the many Works of the Avatar. But humanity has moved yet further. The Gita itself was being turned into a religious scripture and with the fast-growing strides of modern science, new questions were besieging mankind at the beginning of the previous century. Arjuna’s dilemma was largely a moral and ethical one. He hardly questioned the validity of spiritual experience nor was his mind caught up between the discoveries of material science and the ancient spiritual truths.

Our Age, endowed with new possibilities has also brought with it new challenges and difficulties. The Veda had to be recovered once again and put in a language more suited to our modern temperament. At the same time, this had to be done without compromising on the method followed by the Vedic seers, that is, of stating profound truths not merely as statements but as a powerful mantra that can act directly on the recipient, evoke in him the aspiration that moved the heart of the seer and inspire him to walk the Way giving all the needed guidance and Light and Power needed when we undertake the greatest of all adventures, — the search for Truth and Freedom and Bliss and Immortality. That mantra, that Veda is Savitri given to man by the Avatar of the Age, Sri Aurobindo.

 

Rescuing the Vedas

This is one of the works undertaken by the Avatar as is beautifully stated in this symbolic story which also reveals that the Vedas are more than a set of sacred scriptures. The real Veda is the Knowledge-Power, the Wisdom, prajna prasrato purano that has gone into creation. It is the blueprint of the Divine embedded in the heart of all creatures and is revealed as we dive deep within our core and come in touch with our soul. The Vedic seers were some of the early mystics who experienced this Wisdom, though they mention the forefathers who paved the way for them.

There are therefore two ways in which the Vedas can be understood. The first and common sense, the one in which it is generally understood, is to see them as a set of four books that have emerged as the very Word of God, traditionally from Brahma whose Word is also associated creation. But this very parallel in the story of both the Vedas and creation emerging from the same Source would indicate, or at least suggest, that there is another Veda and it is that which is involved in creation itself, not as a book but as the Knowledge that is inbuilt in the very warp and woof of existence. The soul recovers this Knowledge bit by bit as it goes through the countless experiences life after life. This second sense of the Veda makes it a much vaster Truth, one that cannot be confined to any number of books and would remain inexhaustible even if one were to take into account all the soul-experiences and soul-moments of all beings who have so far entered into the great play of the Creation. It would also mean that even if the creation were destroyed, as indeed records suggest it had been, it would still emerge again since ‘Knowledge’ cannot be destroyed. This Knowledge will invariably bring creation back into order.

Perhaps that is what is hinted at in the story of the very first Avatar in Hindu thought, the great Fish. During the great deluge (pralaya) everything is destroyed in its swell except the great King Satyavrata (significantly meaning one who holds to the Truth, — Truth is never destroyed) and those subjects whom he has placed in the great Arc. The Divine has come down as a Fish and steers the boat through the growing Waters. When questioned by the king as to what is its mission, the Divine-Fish, the Matsya Avatar, remarks that it has come down to save the Vedas! Surely it is not some set of holy books that were being rescued, but the Truth, the essential Knowledge that was being preserved for a New Creation that would follow the destruction of the old. One cannot but help remembering one of the experiences of the Divine Mother which is so very similar to this most ancient story that one may very well conclude that at least a certain section of humanity has just crossed over the great deluge. It is that section which clings to Truth and to the Divine. The rest is marked out for collapse sooner or later. Let us read through these experiences before we proceed:

“It was as if the doors of destruction had been flung open. Floods — floods as vast as an ocean — were rushing down onto … something … the earth? A formidable current pouring down at an insane speed, with an unstoppable power….

Right at the end, there was a place where the water had to turn to run down — this was the Great Passage. If you got caught in that, it was all over. You had to reach this spot and cross over before the water came. It was the only place you could get across. Then a last plunge, and like an arrow shot from a bow, full speed ahead, I crossed over and there I was.

And once on the other side, without even a rise in ground level (I don’t know why), it was immediately safe. And the current went on and on, waves upon waves, on and on, as far as the eye could see, but it was canalized here at the Great Turning; and as soon as it went past this point, the inundation was total, it spread out over something … over the earth. And the current turned — it turned — but I was already on the other side. And down below, everything was finished, the water rushed down everywhere. Only, as soon as I was on the other side, it could not touch me — the water could not get across, it was stopped by something invisible, and it turned away….

The vehicle’s path was not on earth, but up above (probably in interstellar regions!), a special path for this vehicle. And I didn’t know where the water was coming from; I couldn’t see its origin, which was off beyond the horizon. But it came raging down in torrents — not precipitously like a waterfall, but rather like a rushing torrent. My path passed between the torrents of water and the earth below. And I saw the water before me, everywhere, in front and behind — it was so extraordinary, for it looked like … it was everywhere, you see, except along my path (and even then, there was some seepage). Water speeding everywhere. But there was a kind of conscious will in this onrush, and I had to reach the Great Passage before this conscious will….

The vehicle and the forward movement are the sadhana, beyond the shadow of a doubt. I understood that the speed of sadhana was greater than the speed of the forces of destruction. And it ended in certain victory, there is not a shadow of doubt. This feeling of Power once I was firmly grounded there [in the ‘square’], enough power to help others.”

Mother’s Agenda, July 23, 1960

“One must rise above, surge forth into the Light and the Harmony, or sink back down into the simplicity of a wholesome, unperverted animal life.

But those who cannot be lifted up, who refuse to progress, will automatically lose the use of the mental consciousness and fall back into an infrahuman stage….

That part of humanity, of the human consciousness, which is able to unite with the Supermind and liberate itself will be completely transformed. It is moving towards its future reality as yet unexpressed in the outer form; the part very close to the simplicity of the animal, close to Nature, will be reabsorbed by Nature and thoroughly reassimilated. But that corrupted part of the human consciousness, which through its wrong use of the mind allows this perversion, will be abolished.

That kind of humanity belongs to an unfruitful attempt — and will be eliminated, like so many other abortive species which have vanished in the course of universal history.

Certain prophets in the past had this apocalyptic vision, but as usual things became mixed, and along with their vision of the apocalypse they did not have the vision of the supramental world that will come to uplift the consenting part of humanity and transform this physical world. However, to give hope to those born into this perverted part of the human consciousness, redemption through faith was taught: those who have faith in the sacrifice of the Divine in Matter will automatically be saved, in another world — faith alone, without understanding, without intelligence. They never saw the supramental world, nor did they see that the great Sacrifice of the Divine in Matter is that of an involution which will lead to the total revelation of the Divine in Matter itself.”

CWM 9: 300-301

 

Word of the New Creation

This divine Action of the embodied Divine, the Avatara, also takes the form of giving to the earth the New Word, the word of a New Creation that would embody the dharma of the Age that is dawning upon earth and mankind. In one of Her early notes She does mention this as one of Her works, something that we also find in Sri Aurobindo’s early statements, as we see in these quotes first from the Mother and then from Sri Aurobindo:

“The general aim to be attained is the advent of a progressing universal harmony.

The means for attaining this aim, in regard to the earth, is the realisation of human unity through the awakening in all and the manifestation by all of the inner Divinity which is One.

In other words, — to create unity by founding the Kingdom of God which is within us all. This, therefore, is the most useful work to be done:

(1) For each individually, to be conscious in himself of the Divine Presence and to identify himself with it.

(2) To individualise the states of being that were never till now conscious in man and, by that, to put the earth in connection with one or more of the fountains of universal force that are still sealed to it.

(3) To speak again to the world the eternal word under a new form adapted to its present mentality. It will be the synthesis of all human knowledge.

(4) Collectively, to establish an ideal society in a propitious spot for the flowering of the new race, the race of the Sons of God.”

CWM 2: 49

“My future sadhan is for life, practical knowledge & shakti, — not the essential knowledge or shakti in itself which I have got already — but knowledge & shakti established in the same physical self & directed to my work in life. I am now getting a clearer idea of that work & I may as well impart something of that idea to you; since you look to me as the centre, you should know what is likely to radiate out of that centre.

1. To re-explain the Sanatana Dharma to the human intellect in all its parts, from a new standpoint. This work is already beginning, & three parts of it are being clearly worked out. Sri Krishna has shown me the true meaning of the Vedas, not only so but he has shown me a new Science of Philology showing the process & origins of human speech so that a new Nirukta can be formed & the new interpretation of the Veda based upon it. He has also shown me the meaning of all in the Upanishads that is not understood either by Indians or Europeans. I have therefore to re-explain the whole Vedanta & Veda in such a way that it will be seen how all religion arises out of it & is one everywhere. In this way it will be proved that India is the centre of the religious life of the world & its destined saviour through the Sanatana Dharma.

2. On the basis of Vedic knowledge to establish a Yogic sadhana which will not only liberate the soul, but prepare a perfect humanity & help in the restoration of the Satyayuga. That work has to begin now but will not be complete till the end of the Kali.

3. India being the centre, to work for her restoration to her proper place in the world; but this restoration must be effected as a part of the above work and by means of Yoga applied to human means & instruments, not otherwise.

4. A perfect humanity being intended society will have to be remodelled so as to be fit to contain that perfection.”

CWSA 36: 177-178 (from a letter to Barin)

 

Imagery and Symbols

Savitri has many unique elements in it, both poetic as well as mystic. One such element is the use of imagery. Mystic literature, especially Vedic literature has made deft use of imagery, both to conceal as well as to communicate the experience! The Vedic seers often used imagery and words in such a way as to conceal the truth from the uninitiated. However, the truth could be decoded as it were by those who were initiated into the deeper mysteries of the Spirit. Both language and images were used for this purpose by mystics world-over. How else can one communicate experiences that belong not only to another domain but also to another dimension of existence? Our language fails since it has evolved largely to convey and communicate our normal experience encountered in our ordinary every-day living. It is because of this difficulty that mystics often become silent as they go deeper into the wonderlands of the Spirit.

However, the Vedic seers did attempt to communicate and express it for the sake of those who may follow after. Sri Aurobindo very much does the same. But the beauty of Sri Aurobindo’s expression is that the images used are often contemporary and it is easier to relate with them in our own times. Vedic imagery is, if one may say so, a bit dated since the flow of time has moved forward. That is one reason why the essence of the Vedas got progressively lost and had to be revived each time.

Another aspect is with regard to the language. Sanskrit is no doubt a wonderful language but it does not yet have a large outreach. Besides, even those who have studied the language well often find it difficult to connect with the language in its past forms. After all, languages also evolve and change as mankind evolves. There is much difference between Latin and modern English, though several roots may yet be found. A person well versed with modern English need not be equally a master in Latin. Sanskrit must have undergone several layers of shifts in the process of human evolution since its ancient origins making it difficult to connect with.

This is even more so when it comes to deeper states of consciousness often clothed in images of life that the Rishis of yore experienced around them. Often we find in the Vedas images that are taken up from natural surroundings and natural elements such as ocean, river, mountain, bird, cow, bull, horse, wolf, lightning, fire, day and night. Now Sri Aurobindo has with all the ingenuity of a Master kept some of these images that are still part of our everyday experience or where they correspond to mystic vision. But other images have been changed to suit the modern mind and its repertoire of experiences. We can take a few examples of each type.

The images of the sun and the river:

A fit companion of the timeless Kings,
Equalled with the godheads of the living Suns,
He mixed in the radiant pastimes of the Unborn,
Heard whispers of the Player never seen
And listened to his voice that steals the heart
And draws it to the breast of God’s desire,
And felt its honey of felicity
Flow through his veins like the rivers of Paradise,
Made body a nectar-cup of the Absolute. [236]

The image of fire:

We meet the ecstasy of the Godhead’s touch
In golden privacies of immortal fire.
These signs are native to a larger self
That lives within us by ourselves unseen;
Only sometimes a holier influence comes,
A tide of mightier surgings bears our lives
And a diviner Presence moves the soul;
Or through the earthly coverings something breaks,
A grace and beauty of spiritual light,
The murmuring tongue of a celestial fire. [48]

A treasure of honey in the combs of God,
A Splendour burning in a tenebrous cloak,
It is our glory of the flame of God,
Our golden fountain of the world’s delight,
An immortality cowled in the cape of death,
The shape of our unborn divinity.
It guards for us our fate in depths within
Where sleeps the eternal seed of transient things.
Always we bear in us a magic key
Concealed in life’s hermetic envelope.
A burning Witness in the sanctuary
Regards through Time and the blind walls of Form;
A timeless Light is in his hidden eyes;
He sees the secret things no words can speak
And knows the goal of the unconscious world
And the heart of the mystery of the journeying years. [49]

Modern images describing the Rakshasic and Asuric Maya

Then in Illusion’s occult factory
And in the Inconscient’s magic printing-house
Torn were the formats of the primal Night
And shattered the stereotypes of Ignorance.
Alive, breathing a deep spiritual breath,
Nature expunged her stiff mechanical code
And the articles of the bound soul’s contract,
Falsehood gave back to Truth her tortured shape.
Annulled were the tables of the law of Pain,
And in their place grew luminous characters. [231-232]

We could go on multiplying the examples but that would be a subject in its own right. For the moment it is enough to draw a quick comparison between the images used in the Vedas and in Savitri, — the similarities and new additions.

 

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 has 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 realisation 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 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. [308-309]

But Sri Aurobindo’s vision being integral, he is not content with any one-sided realisation. Hence we see him further including the other side of the same realisation to complete it. This totality and integrality heal the division we see often in the post-Vedic period wherein lines were drawn between which one is higher, — the Vedantic or the Tantra, 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. [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. [61]

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. [59]

I wonder if there is one single book where we find in a harmonious synthesis all the diverse spiritual experiences found in the Vedas, the Tantra, as well as other mystic literature. There are, for example, vivid descriptions of what is generally and loosely called Self-realisation and in all its facets and levels at which one can have it. There are all the experiences that yogis have when their inner being opens to the Divine, visions and lights and hearings and subtle sounds, the taste of nectar, the smell of subtle forces, the touch and perception and many other countless experiences through which certain lines of traditional yoga climbs towards its goal. There is the highest Vedantic experience of the One without a Second in which all can dissolve never to return again. There is also its complementary experience wherein the yogin experiences all things in the Divine, the Divine in all and the Divine as all. There are experiences of the Jivanmukti state, of the ecstatic bhakta absorbed in adoration mystical. There is an elaborate description of the Kundalini experiences and the highest reach of Tantra in the vision and adoration of the Divine Mother.

There are many others and many more than what has ever been known or experienced, for example, the experience of the transforming descent. 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 with 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 here, in Savitri, that which 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. Sri Aurobindo connects it to the present and the future by using this framework to connect it with the Divine Mother’s present incarnation. But the possibility and purpose of Avatarahood itself are brought out in these marvellous 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. [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 which its author had. It is simply to point out that a blind belief in Vedic texts, and that too, relied upon by the interpretation offered by Pundits is to turn the greatness of this vast and catholic scripture into another dogmatic religious text. 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 realised 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 symbolised 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. [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’, ‘the paean song of the free Infinite’, ‘the ideographs of the Ineffable’, ‘the lyric of the 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. [232]

 


  1. Throughout this book, all passages from Savitri are quoted from CWSA 33-34, with page numbers shown in inline square brackets.[]