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At the Feet of The Mother

Approaching Book Two of Savitri

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Talk at Savitri Bhavan on August 22, 2009 (Invocation 31:10-32)

On March 1, 2009 Dr. Alok Pandey continued the tradition started by our late revered friend Dr. M.V. Nadkarni by concluding his post-Darshan Savitri Study Camp at the Sri Aurobindo Society Beach Office in Pondicherry with a closing session held at Savitri Bhavan. The Study Camp had dealt with Book One, as well as embarking on the early cantos of Book Two. In the closing session Dr. Pandey gave an overview of all these cantos, as well as a look at the next one, Book Two, Canto Three: The Glory and the Fall of Life.

Savitri, as we all know, is not an intellectual poetry. Our intellect is so much dependent on the data of the senses, but here there is no data of the senses and the sense-mind. It is the result of a seeing from very high planes of consciousness. It is not just a seeing, but an action, the result of an identification with the creative Consciousness. It is Knowledge and Power of the highest kind. What the senses can’t tell us, all that, Sri Aurobindo describes and brings it so close to us. These are not images, but facts of inner experience. Very often there is a tendency to interpret these descriptions as images, but the truth is just the other way round: if we look at it from the other angle, we would say that it is this physical world that is a world of images, shadows and reflections from a Reality that exists elsewhere in the Beyond. But the images that we see here are not perfect images; they are ‘broken reflexes of an indivisible unity’. Today as we were sitting in the Dining Room, someone read out a line that mentions ‘seas of self’. It is quite natural for the human mind to think that Sri Aurobindo is using these words metaphorically: we have seas on earth and in a similar image he is describing ‘seas of self’. But the reality is the other way round. Seas of self exist, and our physical seas are nothing but a broken reflection of that. This physical world is an image and a symbol, trying to translate a deeper reality and truth. This is the first thing that we learn from Savitri.

The Book of Beginnings, which we just finished studying in our Camp, is in a way a summary, a seed of everything else that is to come in the poem. The first canto gives us the backdrop – not just the physical backdrop but the psychological and, still deeper, the spiritual backdrop – not only of this story, but of the great epic of the creation itself. It reminds us that Her touch is on every atom. There is a touch of benediction. The Mother has said in one of her Prayers that a kiss of benediction is laid upon the struggling atom. This is the first thing that Sri Aurobindo tells us, as a backdrop.

In the second canto Sri Aurobindo tells us about ‘The Issue’. This is not just a story but a divine Event – an event of universal significance, a great drama that takes place in everybody’s life. In us too, Satyavan is lost in the forest of Ignorance. In us too, Savitri struggles to liberate him from the clutches of darkness, from the forest of human life. In us too, Aswapati labours with his power of tapasya, to bring that love, that glory, that grace, closer to us. In us too there is Dyumatsena, blind, fallen, forfeiting his kingdom; and this becomes not just a story of Savitri and Satyavan in far remote times, but the story of man, the story of creation. It is our own story, and as long as there is even one blind soul struggling in ignorance, Savitri would remain relevant, and not just relevant – it will be a power to redeem us.

In Canto Three, Sri Aurobindo tells us how this Lord of Tapasya, Aswapati, this power, uplifts the human soul from a state of ignorance to a state of Light and Knowledge – and all the major experiences of the way. This ignorance is the result of a sense-bound mind, it is the result of ego, the great division. As the mind begins to be free from the clutch of the senses, from all that we see and hear and touch and believe to be real, as it begins to be liberated, the whole range of experience broadens. A new kind of knowledge, a wide world-knowledge, a new God-knowledge, begins to pour down in streams of inspiration, flashes of revelatory sight, as intuition. The human mind begins to change into something else than what it is right now, so heavily dependent upon the outside. It begins to awaken to the inside, and this inside illumines the outside with new lines, new colours, new views, new patterns, new meanings, new significance – even new ways of feeling. This is the first change, as the human soul draws out of a state of ignorance.

But for Aswapati this is not enough. He goes deeper into the heart of even these higher states. He discovers ‘The Secret Knowledge’, the Knowledge of the Triune Reality, the triple status of the one Divine, and the three poises in which the one Purusha plays with the one Prakriti: bound; witness and free; and master and king. All this Aswapati discovers, which completes one line of yoga, the Vedantic yoga, the yoga of the soul’s liberation and its utter unity with God.

Realisation of the impersonal universal, or the transcendent Divine, is one line of approach. It is enough if one wants only to come out of this circle of ignorance, and be lost in the coils of the Infinite, not to return. But Aswapati goes further. He must discover the Power that is at work in this cosmos. In Canto Five, ‘The Yoga of the Spirit’s Freedom and Greatness’, Aswapati realises and becomes one with that great Power which has emerged out of the heart of the Supreme. This transcendent Power is at work in the blind atom, in the dumb mass, lost as mechanical Prakriti. It is at work in the countless worlds which have been fashioned out of the very substance of the Great Being. It is lying hushed in the heart of the Supreme. It is He who has brought this transcendent Power out of that hush, out of his own heart, and Space and Time are born: ‘Space is himself, and Time is only he’ [67]. This is the great secret. It is such a hope and such a joy to know that He is all this that exists, and He is also all that does not yet exist. This is the beauty of this creation.

In Book Two, which we just started, Sri Aurobindo reveals to us the secret of this creation. In the Gita it is spoken of as the Aswattha tree, the creation, whose roots are above and the branches are below. The scientific view is just the reverse, quite naturally, because we are in the ignorance and we see the roots below in matter and the soul flowering out of the mind. Very naturally we think soul is nothing but a glandular secretion in the human mind. This is a very homogenous and a very sympathetic crowd I would say, but if we were to speak about all this in certain other kinds of crowds people might say, ‘Oh, it is nothing but neurons babbling.’ If it is just a matter of babbling neurons then one could question the veracity of anything at all – including any theory or any hypothesis. But that apart, here in Savitri it is made clear that the whole story of creation begins from above; and not only does Brahman become Time and Space – he enters into it.

There is a double descent which Sri Aurobindo speaks of. The first descent is the descent of the Shakti, the holocaust of the Supreme Mother, who has consented to enter into this world of ignorance and darkness and death, chosen to pass through the gates of this birth which is a death, for thus alone could creation be redeemed. She becomes all these countless energies and fills the bodies of the Purusha with forces and energies that play in many worlds. This is the first descent. The whole process starts in the supramental Gnosis, where out of Himself four typal Truth-Forms emerge. Following the Vaishnava tradition, Sri Aurobindo speaks of these four Truth-Forms as the four personalities of the one Ishwara: Mahavira, Balram, Pradyumn and Aniruddh. Mahavira is the personality which represents Knowledge and Truth and Light; Balram, the Strength and Force; Pradyumn, the aspect of Love and Beauty and Harmony; and Aniruddh, the power that organises this whole creation, its many rhythms, and holds them together and enters into its processes in detail. As a counterpart there are the four great Mahashaktis: Maheshwari, Mahakali, Mahalakshmi, and Mahasaraswati. Thus far they are One even in their differentiation. But as the creation leans towards the Overmind, Sri Aurobindo tells us that the first division begins to appear. It is an appearance, there is not yet the real division, but each power does its own work, though holding back all the rest behind. But just one more step and we have the world of the formateurs, what are called in the Indian tradition Prajapatis and Dhyanamurtis. The Mother has spoken of them as formateurs. She speaks of these four great Beings as the Being of Light and Truth, the Being of Bliss, the Being of Life and the Being of Consciousness; and she tells how they become just their opposites. This is the fourfold Being who is One. As creation descends, these formateurs – though they look like creators they are not creators – they are supposed to receive a Truth from above and reflect it and project it onto this Earth. Each picks up one aspect and goes on projecting that. His power is the power from above. But like all middlemen they are not very nice: they hold back a lot of things, and the distortion begins to appear from there. I suspect that the malady or disease of middlemen started there! Mother has spoken about it, saying that they hold back something. Even in the return the same thing applies. She speaks of how each of the great Beings that chooses to be a representative or an intermediary in the work, how each holds back something, not just in the transmission but in the return.

One way or the other, each time the creation descends one level, something is held back, something becomes broken, something becomes distorted – maybe just a little. As it enters the level of what we now call the embodied mind, there is a fragmentation, a real division. At the level of the mind we are always fighting, because it is my opinion versus your opinion, my idea versus your idea. Everything has become divided here.

As this mind descends into the plane of life, somewhere on the borders where mind is subservient to life, we have the birth of the great Asuras, not in the original sense of the Vedic Asuras who are asu-ra, which is different, but in the original Vedic sense of the word which means representing the Force aspect of the Divine. This is the sense in which Sri Aurobindo speaks of the Asuras in the Durga Stotra, the Asuras who put their mind at the service of the life-force – this is their hallmark. They can be very brilliant minds, so we should not be too much carried away by human brilliance. There are great intellectuals who are great Asuras, because they use their brilliance of mind only to serve the interests of the life-force, and for aggrandising the ego. They may be very capable people like Ravana, who was very good in playing music and had read the scriptures, but all their knowledge is at the service of the ego and the life-force.

Still further down, somewhere in the mid-worlds of life we have those beings who have no consciousness of good or bad. They exist only for the expansion of the empire of joy and love: the Gandharvas, the Kinnaras, the great celestial musicians. Many of the heavens and hells are located in these vital worlds. Much of our art, our painting and poetry, is inspired from these vital worlds, and also many illnesses.

As the consciousness descends further, the energy becomes more and more turbulent and we have the lower vital worlds with their denizens: the Djinns, the Pisachas, the bloodsucking vampires who suck away energy whenever they enter any atmosphere. They feed on the vital force of others. Wherever there is an accident these fellows are around, because they like to create accidents and they enjoy them. They love drama of a very low kind, and because of these denizens, these dark obscure forms, there is in human consciousness a love for tragedy, even an attraction for it. They push us towards failure, towards fall, sometimes on a seemingly heavenly road.

Still further on we have the plane which we read about yesterday, a plane where perfect forms exist, forms of beauty, and its little beings, the fairies, the gnomes, the imps, the elves, the dwarfish creatures. They can be very nice and sweet and helpful. They are like little physical gods who govern one or the other aspect of material creation. In the Indian tradition, they are even said to preside over some organs and illnesses. There are traditions in which if one prayed to these deities one could get rid of some illnesses – it used to be there.

Still further we have this atomic void, the Inconscient from which the world is being pulled out. This is the great descent. Into all these worlds the one Being has entered. So it is not a single descent but a double descent.

There is a third descent also, which is more relevant to us. The Infinite, within himself, has many many seeds or seedlings. He holds the jivatmans, the individual atman, the jiva, which is above time and space. These individual jivatmans are like so many centres of his Unity. Each projects a little ray into this creation, and through a process of evolution becomes the psychic being. The jivatman stands outside time and space, but projects something of itself, which would become first the psychic consciousness and then the psychic being which will play with creation and become a link between all the infinities of the Divine and this manifold play, the multiplicity of this material creation: therefore, the immense importance of the psychic being in Sri Aurobindo’s yoga.

There is a fourth descent, which is new. We are here for that: the descent of the new consciousness, of the supramental Light and Truth and Power, for which Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in their Grace have prepared this earth. We read those beautiful lines which describe this descent which Aswapati experiences. We can read those lines, and then proceed on to ‘The Glory and Fall of Life’. This descent happens to Aswapati as his soul, after rising out of a state of ignorance, and having discovered the Secret Knowledge, yet aspires to bring down a greater world which he knows to exist. He wants to bring the superhuman form into this world here.

In a divine retreat from mortal thought,
In a prodigious gesture of soul-sight,
His being towered into pathless heights,
Naked of its vesture of humanity. [80]

The human consciousness cannot reach there. Aswapati is now climbing to levels where no mortal consciousness has ever gone – not even dared:

As thus it rose, to meet him bare and pure
A strong Descent leaped down. A Might, a Flame,
A Beauty half-visible with deathless eyes,
A violent Ecstasy, a Sweetness dire,
Enveloped him with its stupendous limbs
And penetrated nerve and heart and brain
That thrilled and fainted with the epiphany: [80-81]

What Sri Aurobindo has brought down is not easy for the human consciousness to bear. Even one like Aswapati, Sri Aurobindo himself, as he is rising, who has been prepared with so much tapasya, who carries within himself an aspiration that would call the very highest worlds down, even he, when he meets this descent – and what a descent it is – it is stupendous, something worth living for, something worth dying for, a thousand times being reborn for:

… A Might, a Flame,
A Beauty half-visible with deathless eyes,
A violent Ecstasy, a Sweetness dire,
Enveloped him with its stupendous limbs
And penetrated nerve and heart and brain
That thrilled and fainted with the epiphany:
His nature shuddered in the Unknown’s grasp. [81]

It is not easy to receive the clasp of God. Every shred of ego is torn out. The Mother says in one of her passages ‘My child, you are so small, so small, so small – how will you receive the Supermind?’ One of the conditions put for receiving the Supermind is to be completely free from the ego, and being equal in all conditions and circumstances: equal to heat and cold, to the touches of pleasant and unpleasant, to ill-repute and good repute, ill-fortune and good fortune, to this or that way of thinking and way of life. If we look at it, we would feel that maybe for another hundred years we have to prepare ourselves for this. All these schools which have sprung up all over the world, which are capitalising on the Supermind in spiritual supermarkets, selling cakes of transformation – for how many dollars or rupees I don’t know – they are everywhere: with some nice music and some virtual reality we are made to experience something of the Supermind. Thank God, the Supermind doesn’t come down like that. Mother says, ‘My child, don’t pull. Mostly you will end up pulling a vital being and think you are playing with God. If at all that violent ecstasy comes down, you will suffer a breakdown. First play football, go to the Playground, go to the Gymnasium, don’t be all the time meditating: prepare the body and brain and nerve.’

When we look at life from that view, we see that all the events of life and circumstances are such a beautiful preparation. When something good happens it is a preparation, when something bad happens it is a greater preparation. That is why the Mother says, ‘When you ask for a prayer and I say yes, it is a Grace; when I say no it is a greater Grace.’ As Sri Aurobindo says, ‘Heaven’s wiser love rejects the mortal’s prayer’ [456]. For her rejections are not rejections but only postponements. She never rejects, she postpones – and each postponement is a preparation for us. Many times people revolt, they say, ‘Oh, they think I am not fit?! I am fit. God is not fit! He is not fit enough to accept me, who is so great, so beautiful, so intelligent! What does he know? He is losing some very precious person.’ Vanity, vanity, vanity – the sole cause of so much ill in this world! If only we could look at it like this and see that we are not ready. A thousand lives are nothing, if we have to be ready to experience even a touch of this:

… A Might, a Flame,
A Beauty half-visible with deathless eyes, [81]

Even with the eyes of the immortals we cannot see it.

A violent Ecstasy, … [81]

… the clasp of Mahakali, cutting off our head and wearing it in her garland – that is surrender and sacrifice.

… a Sweetness dire, [81]

Not a weak sweetness, but a sweetness whose burden is difficult to bear. There is a line in Savitri where Sri Aurobindo speaks of ‘Bearing the burden of universal love,’ [695] – it is so difficult! Here he says:

… a Sweetness dire,
Enveloped him with its stupendous limbs
And penetrated nerve and heart and brain
That thrilled and fainted with the epiphany:
His nature shuddered in the Unknown’s grasp.
In a moment shorter than death, longer than Time, [81]

What words can describe this? The power comes from a plane where all human sense of time is lost.

By a Power more ruthless than Love, happier than Heaven [81]

Can love be ruthless? Yes, divine Love can be ruthless. When God takes to loving us, he tears away every covering of ego, strips us naked of all defence. What is the ‘Hour of God’? When God gives us a clasp. That is why in ‘The Hour of God’ Sri Aurobindo says,

In the hour of God cleanse thy soul of all self-deceit and hypocrisy and vain self-flattering that thou mayst look straight into thy spirit and hear that which summons it. All insincerity of nature, once thy defence against the eye of the Master and the light of the ideal, becomes now a gap in thy armour and invites the blow. [CWSA 12: 146]

That touch makes us defenceless. It is love, but we don’t experience it as love. We say, ‘Oh, Divine – you are so cruel, so torturing!’ In the exhibition we read about the Chaldean legend – the flowers of divine Love. What a sacrifice! To receive a drop of that Love one has to be ready to lose one’s life.

By a Power more ruthless than Love, happier than Heaven,
Taken sovereignly into eternal arms,
Haled and coerced by a stark absolute bliss,
In a whirlwind circuit of delight and force
Hurried into unimaginable depths,
Upborne into immeasurable heights,
It was torn out from its mortality
And underwent a new and bourneless change. [81]

What happens with this transformation? In a few lines Sri Aurobindo summarises it:

An omniscient knowing without sight or thought [81]

At the level of our humanity we know things either by thought or by sight. It may be a higher sight – we might see a vision, or revelation takes the form of a thought. But here the knowing is by identity, how I know myself.

An omniscient knowing without sight or thought,
An indecipherable Omnipotence, [81]

How does it act, how does it work? It can use any instruments, all instruments, dispense with everything and yet it is omnipotent.

A mystic Form that could contain the worlds,
Yet make one human breast its passionate shrine,
Drew him out of his seeking loneliness
Into the magnitudes of God’s embrace. [81]

This is the great transformation that Aswapati has experienced. He is given now the charge of this creation:

This bizarre kingdom passed into his charge. [86]

All its powers and forces and energies and beings he must set right. This transformation which he is experiencing individually must be for all. This is what he will ask subsequently, saying ‘How can I be satisfied with my lonely mortal days – I who have looked upon thee and have experienced this? I want it for the entire humanity.’ And Savitri will say, ‘My spirit’s liberty I ask for all’ [649]. Aswapati must prepare the field; but he must first see the field, with all its possibilities and problems.

We have finished Book Two, Cantos One and Two, and now we should read a little bit of Canto Three as it is a continuation – ‘The Glory and the Fall of Life’. This high transformation is envisaged, a practical omniscience and a practical omnipotence, for man: an ecstasy, a sweetness, a love, a joy without limits. But now when Aswapati turns his gaze to the field of human life, what does he see? What is this human life for which he wants to bring down that power?

He crossed the limits of embodied Mind [116]

When we are in embodied mind we don’t look at it like this, but he crosses beyond and looks at the fields of life.

And entered wide obscure disputed fields [116]

Much like our patta-transfer problems these are disputed fields; what belongs to whom we don’t know.

Where all was doubt and change and nothing sure, [116]

Now he is seeing to where he has to bring this light, this consciousness.

A world of search and toil without repose.
We can recognise ourselves in it.
As one who meets the face of the Unknown,
A questioner with none to give reply,
Attracted to a problem never solved,
Always uncertain of the ground he trod,
Always drawn on to an inconstant goal
He travelled through a land peopled by doubts
In shifting confines on a quaking base. [116]

When we look at our own life, where is the certitude? We feel ‘This is definite’ but the next moment it changes. In the morning we take a resolution, in the evening we break it. One day we are convinced of something, another day we are unconvinced; a third day we are filled with doubts about everything, from ourselves to all that is around us, to God. The fourth day something happens and we are all joy and happiness again. This is human life – everything shifting, everything floating. Much further on in Savitri we read:

Always he builds, but finds no constant ground,
Always he journeys, but nowhere arrives; [337]

This is our human life. All the time we journey but we arrive nowhere.

What is the law of life here? We all start with great dreams and sometimes these dreams are nourished, sometimes they are thwarted, but at the end of it what happens? ‘A huge inconsequence was her action’s law’ [117]. At the end we realise, ‘This is not what we really wanted.’ We were actually looking for something else. We go on and on, we build and rebuild, and destroy and rebuild. At the end we discover:

A huge inconsequence was her action’s law,
As if all possibility must be drained,
And anguish and bliss were pastimes of the heart. [117]

We are not satisfied with only bliss. We want a little anguish. Our hearts are not happy with only peace, we are not happy only sitting in the Ashram. We want to chat, and not only have pleasant, beautiful thoughts. We must also discuss about problems – in other people, not our own of course! That is left to others to discover our problems, so we discuss somebody else’s problems, somebody else will discuss our problems, and that is our pastime, a universal pastime. Sri Aurobindo knows everything.

In a gallop of thunder-hooved vicissitudes
She swept through the race-fields of Circumstance, [117]

We are shaped by ‘Circumstance’ in this ignorance. This is not the truth of our life, of our deeper soul, but outwardly this is how it is. We keep complaining of circumstances: ‘Oh, this is good, this is bad, what can I do?’ And all our life we only complain, complain and complain. The Mother would tell us, ‘My child, never complain or grumble. When you complain, all kinds of forces enter into you.’ Of course, it is understood, adverse forces, wrong forces. ‘Never complain.’ She says, ‘What do circumstances matter? What matters is the attitude we have towards them.’ But in our ordinary consciousness, our life is swept through the race fields of circumstance. We are shaped by circumstances. If we are in surroundings which are pleasant then we say, ‘Oh, I am so happy, I am so lucky, God is so kind.’ If the circumstances are not very nice to our ego we say ‘God is very unkind’. We have that famous aphorism of Sri Aurobindo;

Sir Philip Sidney said of the criminal led out to be hanged, “There, but for the grace of God, goes Sir Philip Sidney.” [CWSA 12: 426]

He was a great statesman and writer. When seeing a criminal his heart is full of compassion. The criminal is going to the gallows, and he says ‘But for the grace of God, I could have been there.’

And then Sri Aurobindo says,

Wiser, had he said, “There, by the grace of God, goes Sir Philip Sidney.” [CWSA 12: 426]

Even when you go to the gallows it is a grace of God. That is the consciousness we can enter. Describing the way we are, Sri Aurobindo says:

Or, swaying, she tossed between her heights and deeps,
Uplifted or broken on Time’s inconstant wheel. [117]

We are caught like a fly on the wheel of time. There is a giant wheel, I think it is everywhere but we have seen it in India during festivals, and you go in it. As you are moving upwards, there is ‘Aah!’ from everybody. As you are going down, you feel you are going to fall.

This is human life. We don’t even realise that somebody else is calling the shots. We are happy about it, like a fly mounted on the wheel of circumstance.

Amid a tedious crawl of drab desires
She writhed, a worm mid worms in Nature’s mud, [117]

A crawl of desires – from this object to that object to a third object.

We are reminded of the great mahavakya in The Life Divine:

The ascent to the divine Life is the human journey, the Work of works, the acceptable Sacrifice. This alone is man’s real business in the world and the justification of his existence, without which he would be only an insect crawling among other ephemeral insects on a speck of surface mud and water which has managed to form itself amid the appalling immensities of the physical universe. [CWSA 21-22: 42]

But the greatness in us is there still, that he will tell us.

Then, Titan-statured, took all earth for food, [117]

It doesn’t matter whether it is a dinosaur size or the size of a worm – it is still that life crawling for drab desires.

Ambitioned the seas for robe, for crown the stars
And shouting strode from peak to giant peak,
Clamouring for worlds to conquer and to rule.
Then, wantonly enamoured of Sorrow’s face,
She plunged into the anguish of the depths
And, wallowing, clung to her own misery. [117]

Life is not satisfied with anything. Too much happiness it cannot bear – it must feel sad. Not only feel sad – it clings to its misery. This is the problem: when we are depressed it’s not just that we are depressed – we enjoy our depression: ‘Ah, it is so nice, I am depressed. After all, I can be depressed also; I am human!’ Otherwise we feel ‘Only happy, only happy – something is wrong with us.’ Even sometimes doctors will doubt, you know: ‘Always happy? Are you OK?’ We must have sometimes a pulled face, some tears … then it’s OK. We love this depression. Sitting in one room, the Lord knew everything, better than us.

In dolorous converse with her squandered self
She wrote the account of all that she had lost, [117]

What do we think during those moments of misery? ‘I lost this, I lost that, my life is useless, meaningless.’ It is nothing but a play of life.

Nothing is lost because nothing was gained. To begin with, the idea itself was false: ‘I gained it, I have it, I possess it!’ All belongs to God. When we live with that consciousness, what is gained and what is lost? But life feels like that.

Or sat with grief as with an ancient friend. [117]

We must have a glass of beer in hand, and grief must sit on one side and depression on the other, and we must recount to each other our tales of woe – and feel happy that my grief is a little less than yours.

And sometimes there is a competition there: if I am less unhappy, I am not happy about it: ‘Oh, what do you say? Your unhappiness is nothing – I’ll tell you what I have gone through in life.’ There is a great competition. Some people will make a show of their guilt, ‘I have confessed so many sins.’ – ‘Oh, only so many? You don’t know how many sins I have committed and confessed.’ This is human life.

A romp of violent raptures soon was spent, [117]

Clubs, parties, all this … violent raptures; thrills of the flesh, spent too soon.

Or she lingered tied to an inadequate joy [117]

Half happy, half sad.

Missing the turns of fate, missing life’s goal. [117]

And why? When we were clinging on to these inadequate things, so many times God came and knocked at the door, ‘Come, come, come with me, come …’ There is a beautiful poem of Sri Aurobindo, ‘The Dream Boat’, in which he describes this state:

Who was it that came to me in a boat made of dream-fire
With his flame brow and his sun-gold body?
Melted was the silence into a sweet secret murmur.
“Do you come now? Is the heart’s fire ready?”
[CWSA 2: 576]

The great God is asking, ‘Do you come now? Is your heart’s fire ready?’ And then he describes the human state, like an accountant he is measuring.

Hidden in the recesses of the heart something shuddered,
It recalled all that the life’s joy cherished,
Imaged the felicity it must leave lost for ever,
And the boat passed and the gold god vanished.
[CWSA 2: 576]

Then what happens? Once one has felt the touch of God’s love, no love can satisfy. Once one has felt the touch of God’s joy, no earthly joy can satisfy. Once one has felt the touch of God, the world appears hollow within the breast. So he says:

Now within the hollowness of the world’s breast inhabits —
For the love died and the old joy ended —
Void of a felicity that has fled, gone for ever,
And the gold god and the dream boat come not.
[CWSA 2: 576]

Here he says:

Missing the turns of fate, missing life’s goal. [117]


A scene was planned for all her numberless moods
Where each could be the law and way of life
But none could offer a pure felicity. [117]

It is amazing: when we live in the life-world and are driven by the vital we don’t even realise it. It can be really amazing. Just a few days back I received a mail from a student – a very bright student, very open to something beautiful – just about 19, a psychology student. She writes, ‘Da, there is this girl whom I am very fond of, and I tell her, “Why do you spend your life drinking and doing all this? There is a better way to live.” But now I begin to feel …’ She doesn’t realise how in company there are interchanges and how they can affect us.

‘I have begun to feel maybe I too should drink, before I can tell her with certainty.’ As if, by that standard, every doctor must experience heart-attack! And for me the situation would be very difficult, being a psychiatrist, I must experience every malady of the mind. This is perverse logic, but life gives this logic. Who knows? We have already gone through it in the past, we don’t have to go through everything in every life. We don’t have to taste mire and say ‘Oh, it’s very bad in taste.’ But human life is like that, the vital moves us like that.

A spirit of her self and aim unsure,

The vital is never sure.

Tired soon of too much joy and happiness
She needs the spur of pleasure and of pain
And the native taste of suffering and unrest: [118]

We are restless because of peace. Earlier Sri Aurobindo describes why this spirit is pulled back from the unwilling gulfs:

The restless nether members tire of peace; [34]

We don’t want peace; we want restlessness.

She strains for an end that never can she win.
A perverse savour haunts her thirsting lips: [118]

Only human beings can be so stupid as to like the taste of tobacco and alcohol. Animals won’t take it. Mother tells the story of when a monkey was given alcohol: it immediately threw it away, because it tastes so horrible. And tobacco is so horrible in smell and everything. But human beings have some perverse savour. What kind of life we have drawn into ourselves!

A perverse savour haunts her thirsting lips. [118]

People walk for miles to find a glass of drink and a cigarette.

For the grief she weeps which came from her own choice [118]

One chooses, then one suffers and one weeps. This is human life. We choose, we suffer, we weep. But sometimes we do worse things, like blaming someone else. Here he is saying:

For the grief she weeps which came from her own choice,
For the pleasure yearns that racked with wounds her breast; [118]

How many wounds the human consciousness endures through all the things that it tastes, and yet we want more: ‘Maybe this time, maybe this one, maybe this is going to be really good.’ Where is that perfection in the human scheme? And yet we seek for the pleasure ‘that racked with wounds her breast.’

Aspiring to heaven she turns her steps towards hell. [118]

There are people who have visited Pondicherry. You ask them, ‘What did you do? Did you go to the Ashram?’  ‘Ashram? Is there an Ashram there also?’ ‘So what did you do?’ ‘We went to Rendezvous.’ ‘What else did you do? You didn’t go to the Dining Room?’ ‘Dining Room? What Dining Room?’ ‘What did you do?’ ‘We had nice wine, Pondicherry is famous for wines.’ We come so close, and then we go so far.

Something in the person’s soul, I really believe, brought them so close, ‘Aspiring to heaven’ and the steps turn towards hell, and one goes back and says ‘Pondicherry is a lovely place.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Because the wine is so good.’ What about the Divine? That’s not what we want.

Chance she has chosen and danger for playfellows; [118]

God’s protection we don’t want. Mother says somewhere, to someone very close to her: ‘My child, you are really going out of my protection again and again.’ We don’t want that. We want to have some danger, some fun.

Fate’s dreadful swing she has taken for cradle and seat. [118]

One can envisage all the fast-running motor-cycles … ‘cradle and seat’. Sri Aurobindo in his description is so perfect that one can see the whole thing. Some people go with such a speed, and if they don’t knock themselves down, they end up knocking someone else.

In the Ashram recently we had at least four or five fractures, thanks to this. Fate’s dreadful swing she has taken for cradle and seat. Yet …

Now here comes the hope. In The Synthesis of Yoga Sri Aurobindo has examined in great detail the question: Can such a life be transformed? He says ‘Yes, because in its heart there is still something beautiful and divine.’ That is the hope of life.

Yet pure and bright from the Timeless was her birth, [118]

That is why. When we live in the world of life or by the world of life something in us still feels, a little bit of that memory still lingers in our heart, that joy we have left behind, that carefree laughter of the gods, the sense of an absolute power. What drives the reckless youth, so self-confident and self-assured, but the memory in life? – ‘Nothing can happen to me. I am all-capable.’ Here Sri Aurobindo describes that.

Yet pure and bright from the Timeless was her birth,
A lost world-rapture lingers in her eyes, [118]

That is why, when we see those adolescents where the life-force is at its peak, they don’t worry about anything – ‘careless of suffering, heedless of sin and fall’ [117].

Her moods are faces of the Infinite:
Beauty and happiness are her native right,
And endless Bliss is her eternal home. [118]

Life, fallen on earth; life waking in the little reed, the grass we trample with our foot, writhing in the worm, crawling in its insect flights; life flying in the wings of the birds; life reaching out to vast vistas of thought, to unconquered horizons; life that goes beyond Man into domains that our embodied mind and cabined sight cannot see. All this is not a curse, it is a fall from the great heights.

In the Isha Upanishad there is a very beautiful description of this life. Where is its home? These waters which flow down: matariswar dhadhati – it is held in the bosom of the One. Life is one of the aspects of the Divine, which comes from its home of Bliss, and even in its worm-like food, even in pleasure and pain, it carries some memory of that original Delight. That is why human beings seek delight naturally.

It is one thing that we do not find because we are in ignorance, or our hearts clutch at forfeited bliss, but life in us keeps seeking, because that is what it has come from. So this is the great description.

We are reaching closing-time, but we can read a little more, because we should not end with this sad state of affairs. Sri Aurobindo will show us life’s ‘antique face of joy’. He has shown us the mask it has worn. Life here has worn this mask of pain, of suffering, of perverse pleasure, of thrills of the flesh, of momentary beauty, but there is a deeper truth of life, the endless Bliss which is her home.

This now revealed its antique face of joy, Now Aswapati sees life as it is in its own home, not as it is found here.

A sudden disclosure to the heart of grief
Tempting it to endure and long and hope.
Even in changing worlds bereft of peace,
In an air racked with sorrow and with fear
And while his feet trod on a soil unsafe,
He saw the image of a happier state. [118]

That is why, in spite of everything, in spite of sorrow, suffering, failure, fall, disaster, tragedy, something in us yet hopes – because, deep within, life carries the memory of a happier state. This Aswapati sees.

As far as heaven, as near as thought and hope,
Glimmered the kingdom of a griefless life. [118]

What is this kingdom? What a description he gives:

Too high and glad for mortal lids to seize
But near and real to the longing heart
And to the body’s passionate thought and sense
Are the hidden kingdoms of beatitude. [119]

If we plunge deep inside we can feel some touch of that beatitude.

In some close unattained realm which yet we feel,
Immune from the harsh clutch of Death and Time,
Escaping the search of sorrow and desire,
In bright enchanted safe peripheries
For ever wallowing in bliss they lie. [119]

There are kingdoms, there are beatitudes, in which one can always wallow in bliss, not in suffering and sorrow.

In dream and trance and muse before our eyes,
Across a subtle vision’s inner field,
Wide rapturous landscapes fleeting from the sight,
The figures of the perfect kingdom pass
And behind them leave a shining memory’s trail.
Imagined scenes or great eternal worlds,
Dream-caught or sensed, they touch our hearts with their depths;
They wake up the heart to a beauty, to a joy
Unreal-seeming, yet more real than life, [120]

When they touch us, our hearts wake up to a glad communion with our own deeper states.

Happier than happiness, truer than things true, [120]

And now comes one of Sri Aurobindo’s ironical punches:

If dreams these were or captured images,
Dream’s truth made false earth’s vain realities. [120]

Someone asked Sri Aurobindo ‘I feel love for the Divine inside, and I feel happiness inside when I turn to you. Is it all real or is it imagination?’ Sri Aurobindo says, ‘These feelings are spiritual feelings, they are real experiences.’ They are subjective. Experiences are not only seeing visions. These subjective states when we feel the nearness of God’s embrace – we feel it with an inmost heart. And Sri Aurobindo says here, Let them say if they are dreams or imaginations:

If dreams these were or captured images,
Dream’s truth made false earth’s vain realities.
In a swift eternal moment fixed there live
Or ever recalled come back to longing eyes [120]

Once we have touched that state we can call it back, so it is not just imagination. And what are these worlds?

Calm heavens of imperishable Light,
Illumined continents of violet peace,
Oceans and rivers of the mirth of God
And griefless countries under purple suns. [120]

And on that happy note we will close.