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At the Feet of The Mother

Prof. Mangesh Nadkarni: Invitation to Savitri | 23. Book 6 Canto 2 (Part 3)

A series of talks by Prof. Mangesh V. Nadkarni on Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri in Pondicherry in 1995.

Man’s perspective is what, 70 years, 80 years? Can you see what is going to happen 5000 years from now? Do you know what our ancestors thought about 5000 years ago? So, ultimately it is possible to know God’s purpose, it is possible to know how creation came up, but not with the limited human instrument called the human mind.

Therefore, all religions tell us various kinds of stories about creation. Stories are not Reality, but stories are parables of Reality. Because Reality itself is incomprehensible for us, unless our consciousness is as universal, as cosmic as the Creator’s consciousness. Until then, it is like trying to tell a little child of four years the story of Romeo and Juliet. Why did Juliet and Romeo have to die? Did he not make her up? Can we not send her a telegram? Children ask these kinds of questions. A little child doesn’t understand these things, because their life experience is so limited. Imagine telling the story of King Lear to a little child of four! He would be baffled. You need life’s experience to even understand and make sense of these things. And so to understand and make sense of God’s creation—how it came about, why He made this—you only can tell stories. Christianity has a story, Hinduism has a story, the Koran has a story, science also has a story. These are all different stories. You choose which story suits your temperament, and that’s all there is to it. Therefore, the story of creation generally is a parable, a little story. And the Mother very often says, I’m going to explain this to you as I would tell children a story.

And Sri Aurobindo discusses it in The Life Divine, but here it has been converted into poetry. He says:

Once in the immortal boundlessness of Self,
In a vast of Truth and Consciousness and Light
The soul looked out from its felicity.
It felt the Spirit’s interminable bliss,
It knew itself deathless, timeless, spaceless, one,
It saw the Eternal, lived in the Infinite.
Then, curious of a shadow thrown by Truth,
It strained towards some otherness of self, I
t was drawn to an unknown Face peering through night.
It sensed a negative infinity,
 A void supernal whose immense excess
Imitating God and everlasting Time
Offered a ground for Nature’s adverse birth
And Matter’s rigid hard unconsciousness
Harbouring the brilliance of a transient soul
That lights up birth and death and ignorant life.
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 454

The Divine felt fascinated by what looked like its very opposite. People ask, why should the Divine feel fascinated by its opposite? It’s a funny idea. In The Life Divine Sri Aurobindo asks, why not?  The Divine is free. The Divine could have brought out any number of worlds out of his infinity. He chose to bring out one particular world made of matter. So he took a plunge into the inconscient. The superconscient became inconscient. Immortality became deathbound. What was basically bliss became the original home of pain and suffering. Sat became Asat. Consciousness disappeared and became its opposite. And from this, the Divine wanted to emerge back and manifest in multifold glory. The One wanted to be the Many. The Divine, the Supreme was One, and he wanted to experience his oneness, his glory, his beauty, his bliss, his truth, in Many.

Sri Aurobindo asks in The Life Divine, why do you look so surprised? Doesn’t the Divine have the freedom to choose what he wants to be? You don’t understand it because you are not the Divine! There is no such thing that you have to understand why the Divine does something unless you become the Divine.

But there is also a human way of understanding it. Why did the Divine use such an impossible medium like matter? So difficult, exactly the opposite of everything you attribute to the Divine. Why did he do this? For the challenge of it? For the joy of it? Just imagine, you are an expert wrestler, and you have the idea of giving someone a handicap. Alright, I’ll wrestle you, but you use both your hands, I’ll have both my hands tied and I’ll still wrestle with you. If you are an expert wrestler, you will have greater joy for having accepted this limitation. You will have greater scope for exercising your skill. Then a man comes and says, Ok, not only will I have my hands bound, I will also have my legs and feet bound. You are free to do what you like. Well, because my hands and feet are bound, I won’t be able to throw you down in five seconds, which I normally would need, it may take five years, but it is a glorious five years. The Divine may not be able to manifest his glory, his fullness, because he has chosen something so opposite to his real nature like matter. So it has already taken 15 billion years, it’s going to take longer, why should you complain? It’s not your billion years. Time is His. Space is His. What do you have to complain about? So this is how the Divine became its very opposite, and that is why you cannot suppress the Divine from emerging. Nobody has been able to suppress the emergence of life from matter. Nobody has been able to suppress the emergence of mind from life. And by the same count, nobody will be able to suppress the emergence of supermind from mind.  And when that comes, nobody will be able to suppress the emergence of the Divine in matter.

On p. 455, he goes on talking about it:

It tired of its unchanging happiness,
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 455

Sri Aurobindo must have thought, these fellows won’t understand why would the Divine want to be its opposite. Alright, let me add a little to it, expand a little. He says, the Divine felt lonely. The Divine never feels lonely, but you and I understand the notion of loneliness. So in order to be able to communicate to us, he is telling this story.

It tired of its unchanging happiness,
It turned away from immortality:
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 455

I would like to taste some mortality. I have had immortality for far too long.

It was drawn to hazard’s call and danger’s charm,
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 455

There is hazard here, danger here, death is surrounding you from all sides, the inconscience from all sides. And from the depths of this ground, I’m going to plant Godhood’s seed, so that the tree blossoms here and bears flowers.

It yearned to the pathos of grief, the drama of pain,
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 455

How can there be any drama of pain? Well, if you’re a good actor, you’d like to play a very complex role. You probably would like to play the role of the heroine. These days, heroines only dance, but at one time, a lot of crying used to be a part of this. So the Divine felt enamoured of playing the role of a crying heroine. What’s wrong with it?

Harishchandra’s life was pathetic. But I remember as little kids we used to go to the theatre and cry when Harishchandra stood there in the cemetery, his son was dead, his wife had no money.  We all cried. Why do you go there? To shed tears. We pay money to shed tears. That is the rasa of art. This is God’s creation. God’s rasa. Why can’t he have his own little delight? So he is saying,

Perdition’s peril, the wounded bare escape,
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 455

It’s very thrilling to have a bare escape. I just managed from the clutches of ignorance and inconscience, I just succeeded in manifesting life here. It was touch and go. That thrill, that excitement.

The music of ruin and its glamour and crash,
The savour of pity and the gamble of love
And passion and the ambiguous face of Fate.
A world of hard endeavour and difficult toil,
And battle on extinction’s perilous verge,
A clash of forces, a vast incertitude,
The joy of creation out of Nothingness,
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 455

Isn’t that wonderful? Take a handful of earth, like that, a tree is born. Suddenly you find this earth is able to draw sustenance from the rain, from the sun, is able to convert it into leaves, into flowers, into fruit. Matter has now learned to multiply itself by becoming life. Wonderful! A little later: animal, bird; and more freedom, more godlike. After that, human beings. We can go to the moon, dive deep into the ocean, solve the most intricate problems, create music like Beethovan, write poetry like Shakespeare and Sri Aurobindo. The excitement of all these things! This is what God wanted. He wanted to be Many! But some people are in a hurry. Let’s go back, let’s go back, the shortest route to Nirvana! What about this drama, this play? Can’t you wait a little bit and enjoy all this? That’s what he is saying.

 A clash of forces, a vast incertitude,
The joy of creation out of Nothingness,
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 455

I give you a piece of paper: convert it into a dove. Next time, make it a rabbit. What do you have? A piece of paper. Next time, make an Einstein. Isn’t God doing wonderful things here already? So, this is how it came, and God is in the process of manifesting himself fuller and fuller because he chose to manifest himself in matter.

Eventually, evil was let out as a kind of by-product of this process. What you call evil and pain is just a by-product of this process. It will be there so long as a certain area, a certain region of consciousness is not transcended. Once that is transcended, even this evil will fall off. That is why evil is not an inherent property of Reality, it’s an incidental circumstance in this full manifestation of the Divine. It starts at a certain point, and it will end at a certain point. It’s too bad that we are caught in the middle. If we had chosen to come to birth maybe 5000 years from now it probably would have been a different situation. Evil would have lost its hold on mankind, maybe. While we are here, we wonder how it is here, why it came. This is the story according to Sri Aurobindo.

Strange meetings on the roads of Ignorance
And the companionship of half-known souls
Or the solitary greatness and lonely force
Of a separate being conquering its world,
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 455

And he goes on to say, at the end of that section:

Thus came, born from a blind tremendous choice,
This great perplexed and discontented world,
This haunt of Ignorance, this home of Pain:
There are pitched desire’s tents, grief’s headquarters.
A vast disguise conceals the Eternal’s bliss.”
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 456

The one who is evolving, the one who is crying, the one who is showing that the suffering has become unbearable; what is his real nature? Bliss. But he is enjoying this role, like the weakling in the school. God’s real nature is bliss, he is putting on this play, he chose this. God has the freedom to shackle himself, to do what he wants. How does the philosopher have the right to say, I don’t like the way God does these things? Who are you? This is what he explains in The Life Divine.

Then we go on. This is still not a complete answer to the question of ignorance and pain. There are other things which he develops in The Life Divine. But here, in this story, Aswapati, meanwhile, is asking a question.

“Is then the spirit ruled by an outward world?
O seer, is there no remedy within?
But what is Fate if not the spirit’s will
After long time fulfilled by cosmic Force?
I deemed a mighty Power had come with her;
Is not that Power the high compeer of Fate?”
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 456

Aswapati wants Narad to reveal to him the whole story. He thought Savitri was an Avatar, he thought Savitri had come here with some divine Power in her. Don’t you think she will be able to conquer death? What would you expect Narad to say, yes or no? If he says yes, then there would hardly be any interest left in the story. Narad therefore cleverly avoids this question and he says,

 “O Aswapati, random seem the ways
Along whose banks your footsteps stray or run
In casual hours or moments of the gods,
Yet your least stumblings are foreseen above.
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 456

I can assure you one thing. I don’t know whether Savitri will ultimately succeed; he doesn’t refer to that question at all. He avoids that by saying, I can tell you one thing, in this world, there is nothing like chance or accident:

 Infallibly the curves of life are drawn
Following the stream of Time through the unknown;
They are led by a clue the calm immortals keep.
This blazoned hieroglyph of prophet morns
A meaning more sublime in symbols writes
Than sealed Thought wakes to, but of this high script
How shall my voice convince the mind of earth?
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 456

Sri Aurobindo must have thought, how do I convince human beings they’re not little things weighted by death and ignorance, they’re children of immortality? They can be immortal, they can win here in the human body God’s perfection. How do I convince men? The world has not been willing to accept this. They are all saying, it’s all very nice, it’s a dream. Nobody has said this was possible. No Acharya ever said this is possible. How do we take this? He has been saying it for 80 years. It is possible. Now, after a whole century has gone by, more and more people are coming round to, maybe there is something to this, that what he has predicted is not all folktale, not a fairy story. One thing Sri Aurobindo doesn’t do, he never says, ‘maybe’,’ would be’, ‘should be’. He is absolutely confident supermind is going to come; man is going to transcend his mind. How does he know? I don’t see any proof. Intellectuals are very impressed if you say ‘maybe’, ‘would be’, ‘should be’. Here is somebody with supreme confidence; he says, I know this is going to happen. That is the reason people say, avoid him. Because what he is saying is so unsettling to us. He doesn’t say ‘maybe’, ‘should be’. He says it will happen. This was the problem. How to convince earth’s mind, the mind of modern man? He says: man is not a weakling, wakes up in the midnight, cries alone, I don’t know what to do with my life, I’m so miserable, I’m so small.

How shall my voice convince the mind of earth?
Heaven’s wiser love rejects the mortal’s prayer;
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 456

Narad says, I can tell you one thing: heaven doesn’t grant you all your prayers, because heaven is wiser than you. If all your prayers were granted, you would one day rue that heaven was so liberal in its grace.

Heaven’s wiser love rejects the mortal’s prayer;
Unblinded by the breath of his desire,
Unclouded by the mists of fear and hope,
It bends above the strife of love with death;
 It keeps for her her privilege of pain.
A greatness in thy daughter’s soul resides
That can transform herself and all around
Bk 6, Canto 2, pp. 456-457

But, I can assure that Savitri has come, she has greatness within her, she can transform herself and she can transform the world.

But must cross on stones of suffering to its goal
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 457

That doesn’t mean that it all comes easy. She has to cross on stones of suffering. Then he says,

 Although designed like a nectar cup of heaven,
Of heavenly ether made she sought this air,
She too must share the human need of grief
And all her cause of joy transmute to pain.
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 457

Whatever is the cause of joy, she must go through a phase where everything that is a cause of joy becomes a cause of pain. What was her greatest cause of joy? Satyavan. As soon as she found him, she found death right behind him. So Savitri has this greatness within her, but she too must cross this path of danger, and for her, all her cause of joy transmute to pain.

On page 459, Narad assures him,

A vast intention has brought two souls close
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 459

Let me tell you this, whether Savitri will vanquish death and so on, that still remains to be seen. I can only tell you this, the coming together of Savitri and Satyavan is not a fortuitous thing. There is a vast intention. You know how fate conspired to bring them together, how cupid touched Savitri’s soul at the right moment, how destiny guided Satyavan’s footsteps on that particular path. Normally he never came to that verge of forest, but that day he found himself there, because Savitri was going to come. All this has happened.

A vast intention has brought two souls close
And love and death conspire towards one great end.
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 459

It is not only love who is conspiring towards this, death also is conspiring towards it without knowing. The supreme diplomat that the Divine is, he can make death an accomplice in his work.

 For out of danger and pain heaven-bliss shall come,
Time’s unforeseen event, God’s secret plan.
This world was not built with random bricks of Chance,
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 459

Scientists will tell you this is an accidental world. One accident led to another accident which led to another accident. The poet says,

This world was not built with random bricks of Chance,
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 459

It’s not as if all the children in the Mother’s International School were standing there every day and throwing a brick in this direction, and suddenly you have this multiple storeyed building. This building cannot be built by throwing random bricks.

 A blind god is not destiny’s architect;
A conscious power has drawn the plan of life,
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 460

You may not understand it―that’s a different matter―but there is a conscious plan behind this.

There is a meaning in each curve and line.
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 460

Every happening, every stumble, every fall, every rise has a meaning, has a purpose. Narad doesn’t want to reveal anything more and says, nothing is going to happen here which doesn’t have the Supreme’s sanction behind it. It’s all part of a well-conceived plan.

It is an architecture high and grand
By many named and nameless masons built
In which unseeing hands obey the Unseen,
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 460

You may not want to do things in a particular way, but your hands are forced by the unseen hand. It’s not just the monkeys, the vanara sena, that works for the Divine, it is also the Asuras, ultimately, who conspire towards the Divine’s purpose, without knowing it. This is the scheme of this world.

In which unseeing hands obey the Unseen,
And of its master-builders she is one.
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 460

I can assure you, among the master builders of this creation is Savitri. And then, about the original question that was asked, not by Aswapati but by Malawi, Aswapati’s wife, Savitri’s mother, Narad now turns to her and says,

 “Queen, strive no more to change the secret will;
Time’s accidents are steps in its vast scheme.
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 460

He says, accidents, they are only steps in the vast scheme. You simply don’t know the design, and therefore you don’t understand the purpose.

Bring not thy brief and helpless human tears
Across the fathomless moments of a heart
That knows its single will and God’s as one:
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 460

Savitri is one of those rare persons who has made her will one with the Divine’s will. Don’t bring your small private human concerns and try to intervene in what she is doing.

It can embrace its hostile destiny;
It sits apart with grief and facing death,
Affronting adverse fate armed and alone.
In this enormous world standing apart
In the mightiness of her silent spirit’s will,
In the passion of her soul of sacrifice
Her lonely strength facing the universe,
Affronting fate, asks not man’s help nor god’s:
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 460

It’s not that just you can’t help her, even gods can’t help her.

Sometimes one life is charged with earth’s destiny,
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 460

One life is charged with the destiny of the whole earth.

 It cries not for succour from the time-bound powers.
Alone she is equal to her mighty task.
Intervene not in a strife too great for thee,
A struggle too deep for mortal thought to sound,
Its question to this Nature’s rigid bounds
When the soul fronts nude of garbs the infinite,
Its too vast theme of a lonely mortal will
Pacing the silence of eternity.
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 460

Then comes a passage, which we have been told by Nirod-da, is the very last passage that Sri Aurobindo dictated. This is a passage, from the beginning of it almost to the end of that canto, which describes Savitri’s great destiny.

As a star, uncompanioned, moves in heaven
Unastonished by the immensities of Space,
Travelling infinity by its own light,
The great are strongest when they stand alone.
A God-given might of being is their force,
A ray from self’s solitude of light the guide;
The soul that can live alone with itself meets God;
Its lonely universe is their rendezvous.
A day may come when she must stand unhelped
On a dangerous brink of the world’s doom and hers,
Carrying the world’s future on her lonely breast,
Carrying the human hope in a heart left sole
To conquer or fail on a last desperate verge,
Alone with death and close to extinction’s edge.
Her single greatness in that last dire scene
Must cross alone a perilous bridge in Time
And reach an apex of world-destiny
Where all is won or all is lost for man.
In that tremendous silence lone and lost
Of a deciding hour in the world’s fate,
In her soul’s climbing beyond mortal time
When she stands sole with Death or sole with God
Apart upon a silent desperate brink,
Alone with her self and death and destiny
As on some verge between Time and Timelessness
When being must end or life rebuild its base,
Alone she must conquer or alone must fall.
 No human aid can reach her in that hour,
 No armoured god stand shining at her side.
 Cry not to heaven, for she alone can save.
For this the silent Force came missioned down;
In her the conscious Will took human shape:
She only can save herself and save the world.
O queen, stand back from that stupendous scene,
Come not between her and her hour of Fate.
Her hour must come and none can intervene:
Think not to turn her from her heaven-sent task,
Strive not to save her from her own high will.
Thou hast no place in that tremendous strife;
Thy love and longing are not arbiters there;
 Leave the world’s fate and her to God’s sole guard.
Even if he seems to leave her to her lone strength,
Even though all falters and falls and sees an end
And the heart fails and only are death and night,
God-given her strength can battle against doom
Even on a brink where Death alone seems close
And no human strength can hinder or can help.
Think not to intercede with the hidden Will,
Intrude not twixt her spirit and its force
 But leave her to her mighty self and Fate.”
Bk 6, Canto 2, pp. 460-462

This, we were also told, was among the passages, which almost came down, as if chiselled, and perfected in some other smithy, some other factory; it just came down. This was, as we have been told, the very last passage that was dictated.

After this, what more has Narad to do? He has done all that he wanted to do. He has steeled Savitri’s will, he has explained to Savitri’s mother what he believes pain is and how God created this world.

He spoke and ceased and left the earthly scene.
Away from the strife and suffering on our globe,
He turned towards his far-off blissful home.
 A brilliant arrow pointing straight to heaven,
The luminous body of the ethereal seer
Assailed the purple glory of the noon
And disappeared like a receding star
Vanishing into the light of the Unseen.
 But still a cry was heard in the infinite,
And still to the listening soul on mortal earth
 A high and far imperishable voice
Chanted the anthem of eternal love.
Bk 6, Canto 2, p. 462

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It is not the personality, the character that is of the first importance in rebirth — it is the psychic being who stands behind the evolution of the nature and evolves with it.