‘Savitri: a Brief Introduction’ by Kailas Jhaveri

Kailas Jhavery (11.06.1926 – 10.05.2021), photo from 1970.

 

Savitri is a magnificent epic poem of over 23,803 lines, covering such a vast range of Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual experiences on all the levels of consciousness in the most powerful mantric language that it beautifully evokes the mystic images of these planes of consciousness. I would like to quote these passages, but it is difficult to introduce the subjects in such a short space. This is just an introduction, which I hope will inspire you to read the original which contains not only an inexhaustible treasure of knowledge, but many uplifting passages to fill you with an unsurpassable delight.

The story of Savitri and Satyavan is a classical legend taken from the Mahabharata. Sri Aurobindo turns this legend into a beautiful symbol of His own spiritual experiences, keeping intact the main lines of the development of the story. The legend achieves its most profound significance in the hands of Sri Aurobindo.

The names of the characters of the story have a meaning appropriate to its theme and the role of each character. Here they are not just personified qualities, but emanations of the conscious and active Forces working in the universe. The light of Truth-Consciousness with which Sri Aurobindo has written Savitri, lays bare before us all these forces, their play and significance in the evolutionary march towards the divine life upon earth.

Savitri represents an aspect of the Divine Consciousness. The word Savitri, being a derivation from Savitr, meaning the Sun, symbolises the Truth. She comes down upon earth in response to the aspiration and the call of terrestrial humanity, represented by Aswapati, its protagonist and leader, in order not only to help and save mankind, but to lead it so as to transcend the ego-centric divisive and fumbling mental consciousness and reach to the plane of the Truth-Consciousness.

Satyavan is the soul, carrying the divine truth of being within himself, but unconscious of it due to the soul’s original descent into the grip of the Inconscient from which it has evolved. He has developed into a fine being, but his is a search for reconciliation between the Self and the world or between Spirit and Matter. It is not by renouncing the world and its forms, but by an active participation in it that he seeks to establish Truth in the very conditions of this terrestrial life. He has tried to realise this but in vain. However, he feels the possibility of this realization in his meeting with Savitri.

Aswapati means the Lord of Tapasya or Energy. The name literally means the Lord of the Horse, but in spiritual parlance the horse signifies energy. Aswapati by his spiritual askesis represents the controlled and concentrated energy of a spiritual endeavour. Sri Aurobindo describes His own spiritual experiences through Aswapati.

The epic of Savitri consists of twelve books. We must note the title of the first Book, ‘The Book of Beginnings’, and its first canto, entitled ‘The Symbol Dawn’. Dawn, in the Indian spiritual tradition, represents the first radiance of the new light and symbolically it represents the beginning of a cycle of evolution of a new consciousness, to manifest a New Creation.

The first canto is vividly and penetratingly described in symbolic language, introducing the central theme of the epic, which is the work Savitri has come to do by confronting Death, Time and Fate to establish a promise and a hope for the light of a New Consciousness in the heart of the earth.

Sri Aurobindo chooses one particular night before ‘the day when Satyavan must die’ to represent the state of the Inconscient universe before the very beginning of creation. He opens the canto with the most striking line:

It was the hour before the Gods awake. Sri Aurobindo gives a powerful description of the Night through many symbols and vividly striking images, created out of His own spiritual experience:

Across the path of the divine Event
The huge foreboding mind of Night, alone
In her unlit temple of eternity,
Lay stretched immobile upon Silence’ marge.[1]

One must mark the subtle meaning of each chosen word and phrase: ‘foreboding mind of Night,’ ‘unlit temple of eternity,’ Lay stretched immobile’ and ‘upon Silence’ marge.’ There is inertia and unwillingness in the deep darkness of the night to receive the light. The mind of the night is secretly aware of the coming event, but dreads this since it would disturb the peace of its sleep. The earth which is the self-chosen temple of a great Divinity was still unlit, because the foreboding mind of night lay there stretched out immobile in torpor on the brink of Silence.

It is the most powerful description of the Night to make us aware of the state of the rock of Inconscient Matter whose deep darkness refuses any ray of light to enter. As Sri Aurobindo says, ‘one who is lost in that Night does not think of the other half of the earth as full of light; to him all is night and the earth a forsaken wanderer in an enduring darkness.’ We are poignantly enlightened by the intensity of His spiritual experience and power of creative faculty which are maintained throughout the epic.

Besides the images seen in His own vision, Sri Aurobindo uses universal symbols as well as those images peculiar to the Indian mystics which are often present in the Vedas. These images are authentic experiences of Sri Aurobindo and therefore effective in transmitting the force of His experience. He is the drista (seer) who sees the vision by the power of His consciousness and he is also the kavi (poet) who expresses his spiritual experiences in an inspired flow of verse, charged with mantric force carrying all the subtle and deep vibrations of His experience.

As Sri Aurobindo explains: ‘A symbol expresses not a play of abstract things or ideas put into imaged form, but a living Truth or inward vision or experience of things, so inward, so subtle, so little belonging to the domain of intellectual abstraction and precision that it cannot be brought out except through symbolic images.’

One must read Savitri again and again with one-pointed concentration and in silence to feel the impact of ‘the abysm of the unbodied Infinite’ when ‘a fathomless zero occupied the world.’ It was a bottomless, unfathomable emptiness or an abysm of the infinite Zero. But this is not the zero of the Buddhists — shunya or Nihil. It is the Zero that contains all in its silent bosom.

In the very beginning the movement of Nature is blind and mechanical — ‘eyeless’ — not knowing the purpose of existence or its goal and without any conscious control over it. It does its work like a somnambulist who is unconscious of his acts while in sleep. But this is a creative slumber — ‘eyeless muse’. Yet one wonders, out of these seemingly mechanical orbitings of the earth what can emerge in the heavy stupor of Nescience?

Earth wheeled abandoned in the hollow gulfs
Forgetful of her spirit and her fate.
The impassive skies were neutral, empty, still.[2]

But the Supreme Consciousness is there involved in its extreme opposite state of Nescience, secretly waiting to evolve as a tree waits in its seed. So,

Something that wished but knew not how to be
Teased the Inconscient to wake Ignorance.

And a blank Prescience yearned towards distant change.

Insensibly somewhere a breach began: [3]

The goddess Dawn sends out a scout of reconnaissance to find out if there is a place on earth to receive her, meaning any opening in the rock of the Inconscient. Sri Aurobindo gives us a vision of the beginning of creation out of inconscient Matter and its gradual evolution by the slow penetration of a ray of the light of consciousness through a slight crack in Matter, an opening, revealing its willingness to receive it. And we begin to see the emergence of the goddess Dawn in her full glory and splendour, representing a promise and a hope for the Supramental Light, which is the work Savitri has come to fulfil on earth. Thus ‘Dawn built her aura of magnificent hues’ and left her message of grandeur and greatness on earth.

Its message crept through the reluctant hush
Calling the adventure of consciousness and joy.[3]

All can be done if the God-touch is there.

The persistent thrill of a transfiguring touch
Persuaded the inert black quietude
And beauty and wonder disturbed the fields of God.[4]

In the second canto, entitled ‘The Issue’, Sri Aurobindo begins with its central theme, which is the destined death of Satyavan that Savitri has come to solve by staying the wheels of destiny. He puts in bold perspective this issue. Sri Aurobindo describes in powerful terms the character of Savitri who has come with the Consciousness-Force of the great World-Mother to press back the hands of Karmic Necessity presented by Fate and win back Satyavan from Death.

Sri Aurobindo introduces the heroine of the epic by the most magnificently sublime description of Savitri as an emanation of the Divine Mother on earth. It is so powerful in its mantric effect that when read with absolute silence and profound receptivity, one is filled with the power of Savitri’s character. As a matter of fact, all knowledge and powers are within oneself, but in order to realise them, one must first silence the mind, its narrow, half-lit knowledge and beliefs, doubts and questionings and reach the profound depths of one’s being, where the true individual godhead lies hidden.

After introducing the theme of Savitri, Sri Aurobindo takes us back to review in retrospect the necessity which compels the birth of Savitri through the Yoga of Aswapati — Book II — which describes Sri Aurobindo’s own spiritual experiences. Aswapati travels from the world of subtle Matter, Life and Mind in their lower and higher planes of consciousness, meets the godheads or the powers of these typal worlds and describes their influence on the beings of this world. He shows the path of the Integral Yoga one must follow for the evolution of consciousness to transform our egocentric personality to a being of truth by the light of the Supramental Consciousness.

We travel with Aswapati, the protagonist and forerunner of humanity, through the typal worlds of Consciousness. We descend with him into the abyss of Night and enter into the region of the Inconscient and Ignorance. We see there the world of Falsehood, meet the Mother of Evil and the sons of Darkness. As Sri Aurobindo writes: ‘None can reach heaven who has not passed through hell.’ But He reminds us again and again:

A deathbound littleness is not all we are:
Immortal our forgotten vastnesses
Await discovery in our summit selves;
Unmeasured breadths and depths of being are ours.[5]

It is the story of the evolutionary march of man from the Inconscient Matter to the Superconscient Spirit. And as we journey with this world traveller Aswapati, the leader of humanity, to the highest region of Consciousness, presided over by the Divine Mother, we discover the significance of our birth in Time and find the key to our magnificent evolutionary destiny. Through this journey of Aswapati, Sri Aurobindo lets us know that this world is neither a chance, nor a whim, nor an illusion or Maya. There is a purpose and a plan in human birth and its struggles which finally lead man to the divine manifestation on earth. Till then, ‘… never can the mighty traveller rest…. And never can the mystic voyage cease.’

He stood fulfilled on the world’s highest line
Awaiting the ascent beyond the world,
Awaiting the Descent the world to save. [6]

Infinity swallowed him into shoreless trance:
As one who sets his sail towards mysteried shores
Driven through huge oceans by the breath of God,
The fathomless below, the unknown around,
His soul abandoned the blind star-field, Space. [7]

For Aswapati this was not the end of his search. He had travelled to find an answer to the problems of the earth and to build the kingdom of heaven on earth. He awaits the Word that is born from the supreme Silence.

Towards the end of Aswapati’s journey, in Book III, Sri Aurobindo gives us the most poignantly luminous and inspired revelation of the Divine Mother. Here, Aswapati partakes of the Truth, Beauty and Bliss of this highest plane, but he feels himself powerless to help his brethren below on earth. He therefore appeals to the Divine Mother to send down upon earth a ray of Her consciousness embodied in a human form. A Voice speaks to him:

“O son of strength who climbst creation’s peaks.

…but ask no more. [8]

All things shall change in God’s transfiguring hour. [9]

I ask thee not to merge thy heart of flame
In the Immobile’s wide uncaring bliss,

Aloof from beings, lost in the Alone.
Thy soul was born to share the laden Force;
Obey thy nature and fulfil thy fate: [8]

The Divine Mother tells him that man is not yet ready for such an event: ‘Man is too weak to bear the Infinite’s weight. Truth born too soon might break the imperfect earth. … All things shall change in God’s transfiguring hour.’ Aswapati boldly replies:

I know that thy creation cannot fail: [10]

But “How shall I rest content with mortal days

How long shall our spirits battle with the Night

Where in the greyness is thy coming’s ray?
Where is the thunder of thy victory’s wings? [9]

He pleads earnestly with a powerful cry from his heart:
O Wisdom-Splendour, Mother of the universe,
Creatrix, the Eternal’s artist Bride,
Linger not long with thy transmuting hand
Pressed vainly on one golden bar of Time,
As if Time dare not open its heart to God.

Incarnate the white passion of thy force,
Mission to earth some living form of thee.

Let a great word be spoken from the heights
And one great act unlock the doors of Fate.” [10]

The Mother hears his ardent prayer and grants him this boon:
One shall descend and break the iron Law,
Change Nature’s doom by the lone Spirit’s power.

A sweet and violent heart of ardent calms
Moved by the passions of the gods shall come.

Nature shall overleap her mortal step;
Fate shall be changed by an unchanging will.” [11]

Savitri, a portion of the Divine Mother, is born as Aswapati’s daughter. We go through the period of her growth and youth. She searches for a partner equal to herself among her companions, but in vain:

They could not keep up with her tireless step;

For even the close partners of her thoughts
Who could have walked the nearest to her ray,
Worshipped the power and light they felt in her
But could not match the measure of her soul. [12]

Her greater self lived sole, unclaimed, within. [13]

Then, her father, Aswapati, king of Madra, sends her out to different countries to find her soul-mate. Finally, she finds Satyavan cutting wood in the forest. The meeting of Satyavan and Savitri is described beautifully with a short discourse on love.

Erect and lofty like a spear of God
His figure led the splendour of the morn.

The joy of life was on his open face.
His look was a wide daybreak of the gods,
His head was a youthful Rishi’s touched with light,
His body was a lover’s and a king’s. [14]

…the god touched in time her conscious soul.

Her soul flung wide its doors to this new sun. [15]

He turned to the vision like a sea to the moon

He met in her regard his future’s gaze,
A promise and a presence and a fire,
Saw an embodiement of aeonic dreams,

A spell to bring the Immortal’s bliss on earth,

To live, to love are signs of infinite things,
Love is a glory from eternity’s spheres.

He is still the Godhead by which all can change. [16]

The mist was torn that lay between two lives;
Her heart unveiled and his to find her turned;

A moment passed that was eternity’s ray,
An hour began, the matrix of new Time.” [17]

When she returns home radiant and happy, the heavenly sage Narad is present. Savitri reveals her choice to her father who asks Narad for his blessings. Narad praises Satyavan but when pressed, reveals that he is destined to die at the end of twelve months of their marriage. The queen, perturbed by this revelation, asks Savitri to choose once more. Irrevocably, Savitri replies:

“Once my heart chose and chooses not again.

My heart has sealed its troth to Satyavan.

Its seal not Fate nor Death nor Time dissolve.

Let Fate do with me what she will or can;
I am stronger than death and greater than my fate;

Fate’s law may change, but not my spirit’s will.” [18]

The queen tries to reason with Savitri:

Only the gods can speak what now thou speakest.
Thou who art human, think not like a god. [19]

But Savitri replied with steadfast eyes:

“My will is part of the eternal will,
My fate is what my spirit’s strength can make,
My fate is what my spirit’s strength can bear;
My strength is not the titan’s, it is God’s.

Only now for my soul in Satyavan
I treasure the rich occasion of my birth: [20]

I have seen God smile at me in Satyavan;
I have seen the Eternal in a human face.” [21]

Here in the ‘Book of Fate’ Sri Aurobindo gives us, through the discussion that takes place between the Queen, Aswapati and Narad, an excellent insight into the problem of Fate and how it can be resolved. Through Narad’s words of wisdom to the queen who feels herself to be ‘a wanderer in this beautiful sorrowful world’, where everything seems to her ‘Illusion’s reign’, the soul ‘only a dream’ and ‘Eternal self a fiction sensed in trance’, we receive Sri Aurobindo’s insight:

“Was then the sun a dream because there is night?
Hidden in the mortal’s heart the Eternal lives:

O queen, thy thought is a light of the Ignorance,
Its brilliant curtain hides from thee God’s face. [22]

Thy mind’s light hides from thee the Eternal’s thought,
Thy heart’s hopes hide from thee the Eternal’s will,
Earth’s joys shut from thee the Immortal’s bliss.

Pain is the hammer of the gods to break
A dead resistance in the mortal’s heart,
His slow inertia as of living stone.
If the heart were not forced to want and weep,
The soul would have laid down, content, at ease.
And never thought to exceed the human start
And never learned to climb towards the Sun. [23]

Pain is the hand of Nature sculpturing men
To greatness: an inspired labour chisels
With heavenly cruelty an unwilling mould. [24]

“O mortal who complainst of death and fate,

Thou art thyself the author of thy pain. [25]

Narad continues his discourse on Fate, answering Aswapati’s query whether the Power Savitri is born with is not ‘the high compeer of Fate’:

A greatness in thy daughter’s soul resides
That can transform herself and all around,
But must cross on stones of suffering to its goal. [26]

O King, thy fate is a transaction done
At every hour between Nature and thy soul
With God for its foreseeing arbiter. [27]

Sometimes one life is charged with earth’s destiny,
It cries not for succour from the time-bound powers.
Alone she is equal to her mighty task. [28]

O queen, stand back from that stupendous scene. [29]

God-given her strength can battle against doom
Intrude not twixt her spirit and its force
But leave her to her mighty self and Fate.” [30]

Then Narad leaves, chanting in ‘a high and far imperishable voice… the anthem of eternal love’.

Finally, Savitri is married to Satyavan and goes to live in the simple dwelling with Satyavan, son of Dyumatsena, the blind and exiled king. The word Dyumatsena literally means a “master of light” and “lord of the shining hosts.” Here significantly, his luminous mind, encased in the ignorant mental consciousness of man, has lost the vision of the celestial kingdom. Savitri performs all her duties gracefully and lovingly, keeping the knowledge of her fate secret to herself and happily spends her days with Satyavan, inwardly preparing to meet her destined fate.

Still veiled from her was the silent Being within
Who sees life’s drama pass with unmoved eyes,
Supports the sorrow of the mind and heart
And bears in human breasts the world and fate.
A glimpse or flashes came, the Presence was hid. [31]

First, she thinks that if Satyavan dies, she too will die with him. What need is left for her to live? The human part of Savitri was still unaware of her inner strength.

And when she is sitting silent, a Voice touches her and her body becomes a ‘rigid golden statue of motionless trance, a stone of God lit by an amethyst soul.’ It is as if the spirit seated within questions her:

“Why camest thou to this dumb deathbound earth,

Tied like a sacrifice on the altar of Time,
O spirit, O immortal energy,
If ‘twas to nurse grief in a helpless heart
Or with hard tearless eyes await thy doom?
Arise, O soul, and vanquish Time and Death.” [32]

Savitri answers like any ordinary woman:

“My strength is taken from me and given to Death,
Why should I lift my hands to the shut heavens,
Or struggle with mute inevitable Fate
Or hope in vain to uplift an ignorant race
Who hug their lot and mock the saviour Light [33]

Savitri is ready to forget man and life, forget even Eternity’s call, and forget God. The Voice questions her:

…“Is this enough, O spirit?
And what shall thy soul say when it wakes and knows
The work was left undone for which it came? [34]

Cam’ st thou not down to open the doors of Fate,
The iron doors that seemed forever closed,
And lead man to truth’s wide and golden road
That runs through finite things to eternity? [35]

She is awakened to the power within which answers to the still voice:

“I am thy portion here charged with thy work,
As thou myself seated forever above,
Speak to my depths, O great and deathless Voice,
Command, for I am here to do thy will.” [35]

A silent communion takes place within her. She hears the command of the Voice:

…“Remember why thou cam’st:
Find out thy soul, recover thy hid self,
In silence seek God’s meaning in thy depths,
Then mortal nature change to the divine.
Open God’s door, enter into his trance.
Cast Thought from thee, that nimble ape of Light:
In his tremendous hush stilling thy brain
His vast Truth wake within and know and see.
Cast from thee sense that veils thy spirit’s sight:
In the enormous emptiness of thy mind
Thou shalt see the Eternal’s body in the world,
Know him in every voice heard by thy soul,

All things shall fold thee into his embrace.
Conquer thy heart’s throbs, let thy heart beat in God:
Thy nature shall be the engine of his works,
Thy voice shall house the mightiness of his Word:
Then shalt thou harbour my force and conquer Death.” [35]

She looked into herself and sought for her soul. [36]

There are greatnesses hidden in our unseen parts
That wait their hour to step into life’s front:
We feel an aid from deep indwelling Gods:
One speaks within, Light comes to us from above. [37]

Then, we move with Savitri discovering the inner countries of sense life, life force and the mental region, ‘the home of cosmic certainty’. Savitri sees the enormous powers of the mind. But she presses forward crying out to the powers to reveal to her ‘the birthplace of the occult Fire.’ One of the powers answered her: ‘Follow the world’s winding highway to its source. There in the silence…thou shalt see the Fire burning…and the deep cavern of thy secret soul.’

First creation. (Painting by Shiva Vangara)

Savitri meets the triple soul-forces of Sympathy, Pity and Love, Might or Power and Light, who give a temporary relief to the problems which besiege humanity, but cannot resolve them permanently. Savitri recognises them as parts of herself, though incomplete. She promises that one day she would return with the perfect force of consciousness to help them.

Onward she passed seeking the soul’s mystic cave.
At first she stepped into a night of God.
The light was quenched that helps the labouring world,
The power that struggles and stumbles in our life;
This inefficient mind gave up its thoughts,
The striving heart its unavailing hopes.

In a simple purity of emptiness
Her mind knelt down before the unknowable.

Her self was nothing, God alone was all,
Yet God she knew not but only knew he was. [38]

At last a change approached, the emptiness broke; [39]

There was no step of breathing men, no sound,
Only the living nearness of the soul.
Yet all the worlds and God himself were there,

She felt herself made one with all she saw.
A sealed identity within her woke;
She knew herself the Beloved of the Supreme:
These Gods and Goddesses were he and she:
The Mother was she of Beauty and Delight,

Then through a tunnel dug in the last rock
She came out where there shone a deathless sun.
A house was there all made of flame and light
And crossing a wall of doorless living fire
Then suddenly she met her secret soul.

A being stood immortal in transience,

The Spirit’s conscious representative,
God’s delegate in our humanity,
Comrade of the universe, the Transcendent’s ray,
She had come into the mortal body’s room
To play at ball with Time and Circumstance. [40]

There was no wall severing the soul and mind,
No mystic fence guarding from the claims of life.
In its deep lotus home her being sat
As if on concentration’s marble seat,
Calling the mighty Mother of the worlds
To make this earthly tenement her house. [41]

A transformation of her being was achieved by which ‘ever y act of Savitri became an act of God’. Thus her body became a firm ground for the descending light and bliss of God. And the mind cries out victoriously: ‘A camp of God is pitched in human time.’

Then, once when she was trying to make her joy a bridge between earth and heaven, suddenly she experienced an abyss beneath her heart, saying: ‘I am Death… I am Kali…I am Maya….’ This was the voice of the Abyss. Then, she hears a greater voice from the heights:

But not for self alone the self is won:

Adventure all to make the whole world thine,

Thou hast come down into a struggling world
To aid a blind and suffering mortal race,

The day-bringer must walk in darkest night. [42]

‘…be God’s void…And the miraculous world he has become… Annul thyself that only God may be.’ Then only can the transformation of Matter be achieved.

Savitri passes through the experience of Nirvana. Most of the spiritual realizations stop here. Forsaking the world and its struggles, one desires to live in the peace of this union and opts for Nirvana or the merging of the soul in the divine Source. But for Savitri, who has come upon earth to bring God into the lives of men in order to lead the earth from Darkness to Light, from Falsehood to Truth, from Death to Immortality, the choice is different. Savitri therefore decides to pass through the black Void and journeys in an Eternal Night, unafraid of the voice of the Darkness. As she finds her soul and the strength within, she is fully prepared to meet her adversary, Death.

Now we must bear in mind that the Book of Death was not revised by Sri Aurobindo. It is reported by Amal from the conversation that took place between Nirod-da and Sri Aurobindo when He was recasting Savitri to bring it to the state of perfection in the light of His consciousness: “Some months before passing, Sri Aurobindo as if in foreknowledge of the event, said: ‘I want to finish Savitri soon.’ There seemed a race with time.” After revising the second canto of the Book of Fate, when He inquired what remained to be looked into, He was told about the Book of Death, the Epilogue and The Return to Earth. He simply remarked: ‘Oh that? We shall see about that afterwards.’

On the day when Satyavan is to die, she takes the permission of her mother-in-law to accompany Satyavan to the forest. Satyavan happily shows her the wonders of this green kingdom, unaware of his fate. Then, suddenly she sees him flinging away his axe like an instrument of pain. She came to him. He cried to Her:

Such agony rends me as the tree must feel
When it is sundered and must lose its life.
Awhile let me lay my head upon thy lap
And guard me with thy hands from evil fate:
Perhaps because thou touchest, death may pass.” [43]

Savitri rests his head on her lap. She knows that Death is inevitable and is prepared, griefless and strong. Suddenly, ‘an awful hush had fallen upon the place.’ She knew that visible Death was standing to take away the soul of Satyavan. Yama asks her to release him from her grasp, but Savitri is determined to follow him wherever Yama takes him.

There follows a long, detailed and enlightening dialogue between Yama and Savitri in the Canto entitled: ‘The Debate between Love and Death’, which one must read. One finds all the arguments of the worldly-wise and of those who cannot see beyond the frontiers of their mind by which Death tests the strength of Savitri. It is a sheer delight to read Savitri’s answer to them:

…Thou speakest Truth but Truth that slays,
I answer to thee with the Truth that saves. [44]

Yama questions her motives, calls her love transitory, beguiles her in many ways, and forces her to fight the great battle with the inborn strength of her awakened Spirit. Savitri outwits all the stratagems of her adversary and finally Death is dissolved into the Light by the power of Her Truth-Consciousness.

Savitri is now given the supreme choice to return to the eternal peace and bliss of life in the Supreme. But she chooses to return to earth with Satyavan and says:

I climb not to thy everlasting Day,
Even as I have shunned thy eternal Night. [45]

Earth is the chosen place of mightiest souls;
Earth is the heroic spirit’s battlefield,
The forge where the Arch-mason shapes his works.
Thy servitudes on earth are greater, king,
Than all the glorious liberties of heaven. [46]

Then, the godhead of Death persuades this ‘too compassionate and eager Dawn’ to abandon the task of raising the earthly race to a greater Light. For,

Heaven’s call is rare, rarer the heart that heeds;
The doors of light are sealed to common mind [47]

O miracle, where thou beganst, there cease!” [48]

Cast off the ambiguous myth of earth’s desire,
O immortal, to felicity arise.” [45]

It is the most captivating dialogue that follows, filled with the power of Truth and the indomitable will of Savitri to win back Satyavan from Death. She answers with courage and conviction all the arguments of Death that come in the guise of truth which looks at an unfinished world. Sri Aurobindo makes it so convincing and powerful that one is filled with her invincible courage, beauty of true love and the delight of the battle. The text is full of memorable lines and must be read in full to be filled with its power of beauty and truth.

Savitri asks for that peace, oneness and bliss in the midst of the heroic battle on earth and power to fulfil God in life by invading mortality with the immortal beatitude of Sat-Chit-Ananda and thus become a luminous centre of its conscious expression in the world to build a bridge between earth and heaven, harmonising Matter and Spirit.

This yearning of Savitri is beautifully described in the concluding stanza of her soul’s choice:

“Thy embrace which rends the living knot of pain,
Thy joy, O Lord, in which all creatures breathe,
Thy magic flowing waters of deep love,
Thy sweetness give to me for earth and men.” [49]

The epic Savitri is a spiritual adventure, revealing mystery after mystery of the creation of the universe, its purpose and its glorious destiny. The Mother once said to Mona Sarkar that to read Savitri is to find help and guidance in one’s yoga. For, it is the description of Sri Aurobindo’s own experiences revealed with the mantric force of His most clear, lucid and powerful language. Savitri is replete with all philosophies, knowledge of occultism and descriptions of the hidden realities of forces in all the typal worlds of different planes of Consciousness which influence us.

There is a seeking in each aspiring soul for absolute and perfect love, for infallible light of Truth and everlasting Bliss. Blindly we search for the invariable bliss of existence. But trivial amusements distract man and waste the energy given to him to grow and transcend his egoistic consciousness. When can we realise this? Sri Aurobindo warns us in clear terms:

In moments when the inner lamps are lit
And the life’s cherished guests are left outside,
Our spirit sits alone and speaks to its gulfs.
A wider consciousness opens then its doors; [50]

It is when the Fire of aspiration, the inner Flame is lit and we offer in oblation all that we are and all that we have to the Supreme, invoking the Divine Grace to lift us out of the Darkness of Ignorance to the Light of Knowledge or the Light of the supreme Truth, that we can transcend the egoistic consciousness and realise the unalloyed, invariable bliss of existence.

“A mystic is one who sings of the sunrise in the darkness of the night.” And Sri Aurobindo heralds a Dawn of the New Creation with a new consciousness transcending the mental consciousness, when the earth is tired of making its rounds, spinning in vain and refuses to receive even a ray of light. For, man must rise to a higher consciousness if he is to solve the bewildering problems by which he is gripped and lost in utter confusion and chaos.

In Savitri Sri Aurobindo gives us the key to find the truth of our being and live according to the Truth, helping us all the way on the path to liberate ourselves from falsehood and ignorance. He shows us how to cross the different planes of consciousness in order finally to climb to the superconscient heights and bring down its truth, power, love, beauty and bliss into our life. One has to read Savitri again and again to imbibe its light of wisdom in every sphere of life, its thoughts, feelings and activities so as to remould oneself in the image of its perfection. What I have said is nothing compared to what Sri Aurobindo offers in Savitri. He transports us to another world of Love, Light and Bliss to such an extent that we no longer want to belong to any inferior existence.

Sri Aurobindo gives us an insight into the evolution of our consciousness to the next stage:

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. [51]

A divine force shall flow through tissue and cell
And take the charge of breath and speech and act
And all the thoughts shall be a glow of suns
And every feeling a celestial thrill.

The spirit shall take up the human play,
This earthly life become the life divine.” [52]

Sri Aurobindo ends the twelfth Book with an Epilogue, which describes ‘The Return to Earth’ of Savitri with Satyavan.

Savitri tells Satyavan:

Our love has grown greater by that mighty touch
And learned its heavenly significance,
Yet nothing is lost of mortal love’s delight.
Heaven’s touch fulfils but cancels not our earth: [53]

The king Dyumatsena gets back his sight as well as his kingdom and comes to the woods with the queen and the royal entourage, looking for Savitri and Satyavan. And finding them radiantly luminous and full of bliss, they wondered what has brought about this change. Then, one among them who ‘seemed a priest and sage’ asks:

“O woman soul, what light, what power revealed,
Working the rapid marvels of this day
Opens for us by thee a happier age?” [54]

To this Savitri replied:

“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.” [55]

Savitri is the most potent expression of the poetic genius of Sri Aurobindo with a rhythm and revelation of his own, expressed in a language of symbols, embodying the spiritual wisdom natural to the mystics. It is the most perfect example of the poetry of the future.

Savitri begins with a magnificent description of Dawn which rises after the impenetrable dense darkness of the inconscient Night and ends with the promise of a greater Dawn after the ‘Night, splendid with the moon dreaming in heaven’ described in the last canto of Savitri:

Night, splendid with the moon dreaming in heaven
In silver peace, possessed her luminous reign.
She brooded through her stillness on a thought
Deep-guarded by her mystic folds of light,
And in her bosom nursed a greater dawn. [55]

There is a significant difference between the night in the first canto of the First Book and that of the last canto of the Twelfth Book. The night before the fateful day when Satyavan must die is opaque with the huge foreboding mind unwilling to receive the light — a mind that is ignorant and obscure, not ready to receive the spiritual light. But the night after Savitri brings back Satyavan is ‘splendid with the moon.’

The moon is the symbol of spiritual realization and hence Night is dreaming peacefully of a greater light. The splendour of the moonlit night is all-pervasive. It represents a spiritually awakened and enlightened mind which meditates in the stillness of its luminous depths and foresees the Dawn of the divine manifestation which will destroy all darkness and obscurity in a mind ready to abdicate the reign of the ego and ready to receive the light of the Supramental Dawn.”

Collaboration, Vol. 36, 2011

This essay was published as part of the book “I am with you”, Kailash Jhaveri, vols. II-III, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 2008, pp. 426-446.

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  1. All passages from Savitri are quoted from the Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo (CWSA), vols. 33-34, with page numbers,
    p. 1[]
  2. p. 1[]
  3. p. 2[][]
  4. p. 3[]
  5. p. 46[]
  6. p. 319[]
  7. p. 320[]
  8. p. 335[][]
  9. p. 341[][]
  10. p. 342[][]
  11. p. 346[]
  12. p. 363[]
  13. p. 366[]
  14. p. 393[]
  15. p. 395[]
  16. pp. 396-397[]
  17. p. 399[]
  18. p. 432[]
  19. p. 434[]
  20. p. 435[]
  21. p. 436[]
  22. p. 442[]
  23. p. 443[]
  24. p. 444[]
  25. p. 454[]
  26. p. 457[]
  27. p. 458[]
  28. p. 460[]
  29. p. 461[]
  30. p. 462[]
  31. p. 470[]
  32. p. 474[]
  33. pp. 474-475[]
  34. p. 475[]
  35. p. 476[][][]
  36. p. 477[]
  37. p. 485[]
  38. p. 522[]
  39. p. 523[]
  40. pp. 524-526[]
  41. p. 528[]
  42. pp. 536-537[]
  43. p. 564[]
  44. p. 621[]
  45. p. 685[][]
  46. p. 686[]
  47. p. 689[]
  48. p. 692[]
  49. p. 697[]
  50. pp. 47-48[]
  51. p. 709[]
  52. p. 710[]
  53. p. 719[]
  54. p. 723[]
  55. p. 724[][]