Today in the series “Sri Aurobindo’s Life through His Poems” we read some of the poems that reveal to us a beautiful divinely human side of Sri Aurobindo as the Lover of Humanity.
ROSE, I HAVE LOVED
Rose, I have loved thy beauty, as I love
The dress that thou hast worn, the transient grass,
O’er which thy happy careless footsteps move,
The yet-thrilled waysides that have watched thee pass.
Soul, I have loved thy sweetness as men love
The necessary air they crave to breathe,
The sunlight lavished from the skies above,
And firmness of the earth their steps beneath.
But were that beauty all, my love might cease
Like love of weaker spirits; were’t thy charm
And grace of soul, mine might with age decrease
Or find in Death a silence and a term,
But rooted in the unnameable in thee
Shall triumph and transcend eternity.
A Passage from ‘The Ishavasyopanishad with a Commentary in English’
… This liking in this way created is the liking of the protoplasmic sheath for whatever gives it sensual gratification, the liking of the vital sheath for whatever gives it emotional gratification, the liking of the mind sheath for whatever gives it aesthetic gratification, the liking of the knowledge sheath for whatever gives it intellectual gratification. But beyond these there is something else not so intelligible, beyond my liking for the beautiful body of a woman or for a fine picture or a pleasant companion or an exciting play or a clever speaker or a good poem or an illuminative and well-reasoned argument there is my liking for somebody which has no justification or apparent reason. If sensual gratification were all, then it is obvious that I should have no reason to prefer one woman over another and after the brute gratification liking would cease; I have seen this brute impulse given the name of love; perhaps I myself used to give it that name when the protoplasmic animal predominated in me. If emotional gratification were all, then I might indeed cling for a time to the woman who had pleased my body, but only so long as she gave me emotional pleasure, by her obedience, her sympathy with my likes & dislikes, her pleasant speech, her admiration or her answering love. But the moment these cease, my liking also will begin to fade away. This sort of liking too is persistently given the great name and celebrated in poetry & romance. Then if aesthetic gratification were all, my liking for a woman of great beauty or great charm might well outlast the loss of all emotional gratification, but when the wrinkles began to trace the writing of age on her face or when accident marred her beauty, my liking would fade or vanish since the effect would lose the nutrition of a present cause. Intellectual gratification seldom enters into the love of a man for a woman; even if it did so, more frequently the intellectual gratification to be derived from a single mind is soon exhausted in daylong and nightlong companionship. Whence then comes that love which is greater than life and stronger than death, which survives the loss of beauty and the loss of charm, which defies the utmost pain & scorn the object of love can deal out to it, which often pours out from a great & high intellect on one infinitely below it? What again is that love of woman which nothing can surpass, which lives on neglect and thrives on scorn & cruelty, whose flames rise higher than the red tongues of the funeral pyre, which follows you into heaven or draws you out of hell? Say not that this love does not exist and that all here is based on appetite, vanity, interest or selfish pleasure, that Rama & Sita, Ruru & Savitri are but dreams & imaginations. Human nature conscious of its divinity throws back the libel in scorn, and poetry blesses & history confirms its verdict. That Love is nothing but the Self recognizing the Self dimly or clearly and therefore seeking to realise oneness & the bliss of oneness. What again is a friend? Certainly I do not seek from my friend the pleasure of the body or choose him for his good looks; nor for that similarity of tastes & pursuits I would ask in a mere comrade; nor do I love him because he loves me or admires me, as I would perhaps love a disciple; nor do I necessarily demand of him a clever brain, as if he were only an intellectual helper or teacher. All these feelings exist, but they are not the soul of friendship. No, I love my friend for the woman’s reason, because I love him, because in the old imperishable phrase, he is my other self. There by intuition the old Roman hit on the utter secret of Love. Love is the turning of the Self from its false self in the mind or body to its true Self in another; I love him because I have discovered the very Self of me in him, not my body or mind or tastes or feelings, but my very Self of love & bliss, of the outer aspect of whom the Sruti has beautifully said “Love is his right side” etc. So is it with the patriot; he has seen him Self in his nation & seeks to lose his lower self in that higher national Self; because he can do so, we have a Mazzini, a Garibaldi, a Joan of Arc, a Washington, a Pratap Singh or a Sivaji; the lower material self could not have given us these; you do not manufacture such men in the workshop of utility, on the forge of Charvaka or grow them in the garden of Epicurus. So is it with the lover of humanity, who loses or seeks to lose his lower self in mankind; no enlightened selfishness could have given us Father Damien or Jesus or Florence Nightingale. So is it finally with the lover of the whole world, of whom the mighty type is Buddha, the one unapproachable ideal of Divine Love in man, he who turned from perfect divine bliss as he had turned from perfect human bliss that not he alone but all creatures might be saved.
I walked on the high-wayed Seat of Solomon
Where Shankaracharya’s tiny temple stands
Facing Infinity from Time’s edge, alone
On the bare ridge ending earth’s vain romance.
Around me was a formless solitude:
All had become one strange Unnameable,
An unborn sole Reality world-nude,
Topless and fathomless, for ever still.
A Silence that was Being’s only word,
The unknown beginning and the voiceless end
Abolishing all things moment-seen or heard,
On an incommunicable summit reigned,
A lonely Calm and void unchanging Peace
On the dumb crest of Nature’s mysteries.
ULOUPIE (concluding fragment)
…Let us not lose then, O Chitrangada,
One moment’s possibility of love
Which being squandered, we shall then regret.
Fate that united once, may when she will
Divorce, but cannot the sweet meaning spoil
Of these warm kisses.” He embraced her wholly
Confounding her with bliss; so for that time
The Shadow fled and joy forgot his close.
But one pale morn Chitrangada rose wan
And to the stable through the grey hushed place
Descending, with her little deft hands yoked
Urjoona’s coursers to the car,—persuading
Thrust in their whinnying mouths the bit, fastened
The traces, harmonised the reins, then led
Into the sad dim court trampling his steeds;
And with a strange deep look of love and hate
Caressing said, faint with her unshed tears:
“You brought him here who now shall bear away,
O horses yoked to fate. How often yet
Will you deceive us shaking wide your manes
And trampling over women’s hearts with hooves
Thunderous towards battle? Yet your breed perhaps
Shall bring him to my wrinkled age.” And now
Urjoona came: his mailed and resonant tread
Rang in her very heart, his corslet blazed
Towards the chill skies and his heroic form
Seemed to consent with the surrounding hills.
But in the marble face and eyes august
The light of his tremendous fate had dawned
Like a great sunrise. Calm her shuddering body
He took into his bosom and with no word
Under the witnessing, unmoved heavens
Kissed her pale lips. Then to his car he rose.
And now she did not weep, but silently
Took and returned his kiss. So he went forth.
Thundering the great wheels jarred upon the stones.
Of the wide court and echoes filled the air
With a triumph of warlike sound. Outside,
The city’s nobles, waiting, saw the car
Emerge, and bowed down to their king. They spoke
No word, but stood austerely watching still,
A mist over their stern and savage eyes,
His going, as men in darkness watch a light
Carried away that cheered them for an hour,
Then turned back homeward. But Chitrangada
Waited till the last thunders died away
And far off on a hill the warlike flag
Waved in the breeze and dipped below the edge;
Then to her chamber slowly went alone.