Guiding Light of The Month

THERE is a great difference between being in the midst of active work, of external action, while keeping one’s thought constantly fixed on Thee, and entering into that perfect union with Thee which leads to what I have called “absolute Consciousness, true Omniscience, Knowledge”. - The Mother

The joy of union; the ordeal of the foreknowledge of Death and the Heart’s grief


All-love was hers and its one heavenly cord
Bound all to all with her as golden tie.




Botanical Name: Ocimum Basilicum
Common Name: Common Basil
Spiritual Significance: Joy of Union with the Divine


These she controlled, nothing was shown outside:
She was still to them the child they knew and loved;

The sorrowing woman they saw not within;
No change was in her beautiful motions seen:
A worshipped empress all once vied to serve,
She made herself the diligent serf of all,

Nor spared the labour of broom and jar and well,
Or close gentle tending or to heap the fire
Of altar and kitchen, no slight task allowed
To others that her woman’
s strength might do.

-          Savitri, Sri Aurobindo

From the Editor’s Desk (Jul 2018)

  The July edition of our Newsletter has as its theme the lead chapter of Book Seven of Savitri, the Book of Yoga. With this book, we are led into the wonder and miracle of Savitri’s Yoga which brings her from the throes of deepest grief into worlds where she stands alone with the strength within her and eventually wins for herself and the rest of existence the heavens promised. Interestingly, her intense Yoga which is to be described in this book, begins with, “The Joy of Union; The Ordeal of the Foreknowledge of Death and the Heart’s Grief and Pain” all contained within the first chapter of Book Seven.

Released from the clutches of her past, leaving behind sights and scenes of her childhood and bringing with her the little foundation of all the growth she had attained till then, in this life and lives before, Savitri approaches her future’s abode and the work awaiting her for which she came to earth. She joins Satyavan in his hermitage after a brief separation during which time she learnt of Satyavan’s fate from Narad’s lips. A new Savitri approaches Satyavan, one curiously in knowledge of the secret of his fate, his impending death in the next year or so. 

Savitri’s joy in this union probably comes from a sense of obeying her innermost call at the time she met him in the emerald glades. An act carried out in identification with one’s innermost truth surely is a joy? And the manifestation of that love truly was nothing but Joy? And so she spends her time with Satyavan, deeply in love and he with her, equally, if not more, in love. However, the foreknowledge of the future, though a boon, acts itself out against this joy of union. It pricks and prods her constantly with its insistence, far but ever so near. That was Savitri’s ordeal; each time she looks at the face of her beloved, the joy is instantly replaced by grief at the foreknowledge. The irony was that that Joy was not a lasting sunshine. The dark clouds gathering in the corner, threatening to engulf the joy of her heart’s call constantly dogged her. That was fate’s iron law which plunged itself time and again upon Savitri’s path. There was her heart’s grief, now multiplied folds by the condition that she was the only one who knew, in that blessed household and had none else to confide in. Circumstances worked themselves up to deny Savitri the fortune of resting on her joy lest she forgets the work at hand, perhaps.  

Sri Aurobindo penned this significant chapter as a prelude to the intense Yoga she would eventually plunge herself in as the one and only option left for her, come what may. Savitri was, as it were, swept to the very edge of a flat earth, compelled to jump off it, not knowing what would await her following the plunge. One can imagine what this means in our own life, if at all we would have lived such an ordeal as she. Ordeals may be aplenty, in any mortal’s life. However, with what spirit one confronts ordeals, with what faith and for what life’s aim makes all the difference. Savitri stands before us with all the strength of character and purity of soul before the ordeal fronting her, though tortured and tormented by it.

We will agree that this is one of the chapters, besides the one just passed, “The Way of Fate and the Problem of Pain” that we can relate with in all our humanness. Sri Aurobindo draws us, along with Savitri, through familiar human pathways and prepares us to stand with Savitri when she finally takes the plunge into the unknown to know herself and the secret of all life and her life’s purpose.

Savitri, a journey of Love and Light


Although life-born, an infant of the hours,
Immortal it walked unslayable as the gods:
Her spirit stretched measureless in strength divine
An anvil for the blows of Fate and Time:
Or tired of sorrow’
s passionate luxury,
Grief’
s self became calm, dull-eyed, resolute
Awaiting some issue of its fiery struggle,
Some deed in which it might for ever cease,
Victorious over itself and death and tears.

(Savitri)


It was all her life, became her whole earth and heaven.


'Fix fate: Free will' is the seeming paradox at the heart of existence. Man has freedom of choice, but once the choice has been made, he cannot control the consequences. As we sow, so shall we reap. Is even the act of choice no real choice at all but an item of unalterable predestination? Is, then, 'free will' itself a delusion?
                                               
Man's hopes and longings build the journeying wheels
That bear the body of his destiny
And lead his blind will towards an unknown goal.
His fate within him shapes his acts and rules;
Its face and form already are born in him,
Its parentage is in his secret soul:...
Nature and Fate compel his free-will's choice.

Free will is a misnomer, then; yet this too is not the whole truth about the matter. The wages of sin, we know, is death; but Grace has limitless powers. By definition the Almighty is all-mighty; nothing is impossible for him. From the human end things may seem unalterable; but from the divine end? And where exactly do we draw the line that separates the human from the divine? Man ordinarily is a slave of circumstance, a pitiable victim of fate, a creature subject to the curbs of death, desire and incapacity. But humanity can range from the level of the near-inconscient to the dizzy heights of the superconscient—from the beast to the god. Thus it appears that to the adamantine law of fate there can be exceptions:

       But greater spirits this balance can reverse
       And make the soul the artist of its fate.

Savitri's resolution to keep faith with Satyavan in defiance of Sage Narad's premonitory forecast of the coming events is no mere exercise in willfulness but rather the measure of her own strength which, if put to the supreme test, may very well bend "the long cosmic curve" itself. But this consciousness of the indwelling power doesn't blot out the human Savitri, the creature of trembling sensibility, who has made a willing and total surrender of herself to Satyavan.

      Leaving her parental home a second time, Savitri speeds back to rejoin Satyavan. It is a sharp fundamental passage from the palace with its "tinged mosaic of the crystal floors" to the bare hermitage in the bosom of the forest. But affection and infinite consideration await her here, and so she commences in the wild woods her married life with Satyavan. This solitude strikes her for a time as the sweetest society:

      There was a chanting in the casual wind,
      There was a glory in the least sunbeam;
      Night was a chrysoprase on velvet cloth,
      A nestling darkness or a moonlit deep;
      Day was a purple pageant and a hymn,
      A wave of the laughter of light from morn to eve.

Can love with its divine accent and 'sex' with its human base ever fuse into the 'holy' wedded state? Before their 'fall', did Adam and Eve experience what C.S. Lewis has called 'paradisal sexuality'? John Keats could not imagine any mingling of 'goatish winnyish lustful love with the abstract adoration of the deity'. But nothing is impossible to the "greater spirits" who are called into being to enact the higher synthesis. The first realisations of the wedded life of Savitri and Satyavan are of this order:
                                                           

      A fusing of the joys of earth and heaven,
      A tremulous blaze of nuptial rapture passed,
      A rushing of two spirits to be one,
      A burning of two bodies in one flame…

The woman at no time is less than woman merely because she is also potentially divine.

       It is doubtless an intolerable situation for Savitri. She alone has the foreknowledge which Narad has communicated to her; Satyavan, his revered parents, the other inmates of the hermitage, all are spared the knowledge that continually lacerates her. She cannot share her pain, she musn't even give the remotest hint of it. Can she at least try to forget? She tries desperately, she tries to lose herself in love's divine frenzy:

Vainly she fled into abysms of bliss
From her pursuing foresight of the end.
The more she plunged into love that anguish grew;
Her deepest grief from sweetest gulfs arose.
Remembrance was a poignant pang, she felt
Each day a golden leaf torn cruelly out
From her too slender book of love and joy.

Vain is her attempt—vain are all her attempts—to escape the pain in her heart that is like her own inseparable shadow. Her life with Satyavan, although it is the very image of love's complete fulfilment, is for her now more and more a mask. Nor love's maddening excesses nor the minutiae of an ardent housewife's round of duties are an effective cure for the wound in her heart that she cannot bare to others, not even to her soul's mate, dear Satyavan. She brings more and more concentration into her routine movements, achieving thereby,
                                                                                               
A oneness with earth's glowing robe of light,
A lifting up of common acts by love.

From her actions flow peace and joy to others, and to her too, because others are happy; yet the void within remains, the space of the allotted year contracts, the tread of remorseless Time approaches. In a new frenzy of alarm she rushes to Satyavan's arms again:

      Intolerant of the poverty of Time
      Her passion catching at the fugitive hours
      Willed the expense of centuries in one day
      Of prodigal love and the surf of ecstasy;

Has Satyavan no hint of this hell that is hidden in her heart? Doesn't love give him a sixth window of sense to see the spectre she fain would hide? She will not tell him, she cannot tell him, yet he knows, however obscurely, that something, somewhere, somehow is wrong:

      Satyavan sometimes half understood,
      Or felt at least with the uncertain answer
      Of our thought-blinded hearts the unuttered need,
      The unplumbed abyss of her deep passionate want.

But the barrier of reticence remains. For his part, he readily, eagerly, gives her as much of his time as he can—still rushing to her from the forest after hewing wood or from attendance on his sightless father.
                                   
      Retired to the still secrecy of her heart, Savitri ponders whether, when the trial is upon her at last, she must not immolate herself and follow Satyavan "into the sweet or terrible Beyond". What would happen, then, to "those sad parents", Satyavan's mother and blind father? Who will "help the empty remnant of their day"? Nay more: the burden of the whole world's pain presses on Savitri, for in her own pain she recognises the world's as well. She is now like,

      .. .a dumb priest with hidden gods
      Unappeased by the wordless offering of her days,
      Lifting to them her sorrow like frankincense,
      Her life the altar, herself the sacrifice.

The sole year of permitted bliss now draws to a close. Like a jungle crouching in silence, Savitri waits in sombre expectancy.

 (An excerpt from “Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri – A study of the cosmic epic”, Dr. Premanandakumar, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Puducherry)

Flowers Speak…




Vital aspiration for the union with the Divine

It raises straight up in an intense and concentrated movement

All-love was hers and its one heavenly cord
Bound all to all with her as golden tie.

Savitri

***



Is it not a supreme sacrifice for the Divine to renounce the beatitude of His unity in order to create the painful multiplicity of the world?

Thus in the silent chamber of her soul
Cloistering her love to live with secret grief
She dwelt like a dumb priest with hidden gods
Unappeased by the wordless offering of her days,
Lifting to them her sorrow like frankincense,
Her life the altar, herself the sacrifice.
Savitri
(Flowers and Messages, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Puducherry)



All was fulfilled the heart of Savitri


All was fulfilled the heart of Savitri
Flower-sweet and adamant, passionate and calm,
Had chosen and on her strength’
s unbending road
Forced to its issue the long cosmic curve.

Once more she sat behind loud hastening hooves;
A speed of armoured squadrons and a voice
Far-heard of chariots bore her from her home.
A couchant earth wakened in its dumb muse
Looked up at her from a vast indolence:
Hills wallowing in a bright haze, large lands

That lolled at ease beneath the summer heavens,
Region on region spacious in the sun,
Cities like chrysolites in the wide blaze
And yellow rivers pacing, lion-maned,
Led to the Shalwa marches’
emerald line,
A happy front to iron vastnesses
And austere peaks and titan solitudes.

Here is an excerpt comparing the canto with the ancient tale of Savitri according to Mahabharatha
Aswapati began attending to the details of marraige. He invited the wise experienced Brahmins, and all the priests officiating at the holy sacrifice, and the chanters of the Riks. Choosing an auspicious day and time he, along with them and his daughter, commenced the journey to the forest-hermitage where dwelt the king-sage Dyumatsena. On reaching the place, and following the high tradition of proposing a marriage, he formally made a request to Dyumatsena to accept Savitri as a bride for his son, Satyavan. Dyumatsena was somewhat hesitant in the beginning, as he felt that he was living the life of a destitute, devoid of royalty, having lost his kingdom and having been driven out into the wilderness; he felt that he was in several respects no equal to King Aswapati to establish this tie. He also had the apprehension whether the young Princess would at all be able to adjust herself to their present pattern of cloistral life and bear the hardships of a forest-dwelling. But Aswapati assuaged his fears, and assured him that he had made the proposal in the full knowledge of all these circumstances, and pleaded not to be refused. He further told him it was with affection, and in the friendship which does not discriminate between persons according to their status, that he had approached him. Dyumatsena finally accepted the offer and confided in him that, in this relationship it was actually his own long-cherished desire that was getting fulfilled. The marriage was duly solemnised by the learned Brahmins in the presence of the great Rishis of the forest. Satyavan was happy that in Savitri he had found a beautiful wife with all the exquisite qualities of a high-born virgin; Savitri too was joyous that her heart’s desire had been so well fulfilled:
सत्यवानपि तां भार्यां लब्ध्वा सर्वगुणान्विताम्
मुमुदे सा तं लब्ध्वा भर्तारं मनसेप्सितम्

Satyavanapi tham bharyam labdhwa sarvagunanvitham
Mumudhe sa cha tham labdhwa bhartharam manasepsitham.

(The ancient tale of Savitri according to Mahabharatha, R Y Deshpande, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Puducherry)



The flower of grace



As a river flows through lands
Waterfalls silver down high mountains
The rain showers musically on earth
Her grace sings with the jingle of her bangles.

A sweet flower, over there in the mellifluous air,
A little shy, white and pink, smiling as the Sweet Mother,
Blossoms every day to fill the air with her Grace.
The flower of grace, Hibiscus mutabillis.

It sings of Her grace,
The grace that saves lives.
It invokes Her grace,
The grace that enriches lands
It brings her grace,
The grace that progresses lives.

A sweet music is Her grace,
It is her music for life on earth.

Sandhya