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At the Feet of The Mother

The Pursuit of the Unknowable 1, pp. 305-307 (SH 154)

Savitri Class in Hindi with Alok Pandey
Savitri Book Three: The Book of Divine Mother, Canto One: The Pursuit of the Unknowable

Aswapati, the King-sage, has broken through the boundaries of mortal consciousness and entered into other Time-Space domains, higher and vaster than our own. He has freed himself from the fundamental ignorance that holds us captive to the dualities of pleasure and pain, sorrow and happiness. He has found the mystic Truth that stands behind all these changing appearances, discovered the secret Knowledge hidden by our mind, life and body. Thus has he grown into the stature of a demi-god shaping the lives of men, a Master, Yogi and Guru. But his yoga did not stop there. He went further, to explore uncharted domains of consciousness in search of the Power that can transmute our life here and change it into a life Divine. He has glimpsed through a veil the Glories of the kingdom of the Spirit but not yet found a way to enter and live there. He has also experienced the great Descents and its transforming delight. But his aspiration has grown to embody the aspiration of the race. The Glory he has glimpsed must be his Home, the transforming Force that touches him and retires must establish Itself here upon earth as a permanent Power of the Earth Consciousness, standing and acting in the forefront of the human quest and not from behind as It acts now.

His search for this alchemist Power has led him to explore the entire fabric, the warp and woof of the interlacing system of countless worlds arranged hierarchically as a stair or a ladder. He stands now at the top of this evolutionary ladder of Consciousness but the One Power he is in search of still eludes him. He has crossed the boundaries of form and the limits of the manifested worlds. These are the threefold worlds of Mind, Life and Matter or the mental, vital, physical worlds. Each is characterized by its own substance that responds to corresponding vibrations and energy. The substance and beings of the mental world respond to thought, those of the vital world to feelings and desires, those of the physical world of which we are normally conscious to physical forces and material energies. He has sounded their depths, become one with their energies, acquiesced their powers, become their master and king through the yoga he has pursued so far.

If his goal was to free himself from the magic fence of ignorance that surrounds our life, then his yoga would have ended long ago. Or else if his aim was to acquire the knowledge and power of these occult worlds, to dwell in the higher regions of the spiritual mind and experience the godlike energies and powers that reside there, then his yoga would have come to an end. Yet he discovers that even the highest limits of this knowledge of different worlds that rise and fall in a scale is still a cosmic Ignorance. He must find the Source of all things, – human and divine. He must find the occult womb of Creation from where these countless systems of worlds, their energies and beings and powers and forces have emerged. He must find the ultimate and absolute Power, the Infinite of whom these finites are the shadows and veils and partial reflections. Once again he is called upon to the great enunciation, a renunciation of all that he is and has so as to find that which is yet beyond or beyond the beyond so to say. That Consciousness cannot be known by the highest powers of the mental consciousness, not even by the spiritual mind. The seers and sages who reach the apex of creation can only sing Its Glory but know It not. Or they can plunge and annihilate themselves into that Greatness and Glory, unnamable and indefinable and find release from birth and death and fate. This Consciousness now confronts Aswapati, this state that contains all and yet transcends all. He stands at the gates of the Unknowable.     

What we mean by this is that all our measures, standards, understanding fail and fall away in the wake of this experience. It is the experience of the Infinite. Sri Aurobindo reveals:

‘The Absolute Parabrahman is unknowable to us, not because It is the nothingness of all that we are, for rather whatever we are in truth or in seeming is nothing but Parabrahman, but because It is pre-existent &supra-existent to even the highest & purest methods and the most potent & illimitable instruments of which soul in the body is capable.

 In Parabrahman knowledge ceases to be knowledge and becomes an inexpressible identity. Become Parabrahman, if thou wilt and if That will suffer thee, but strive not to know It; for thou shalt not succeed with these instruments and in this body.

 When thy soul retiring within from depth to depth & widening without from vastness to vastness stands in the silence of its being before an unknown & unknowable from which & towards which world is seen to exist as a thing neither materially real nor mentally real and yet not to be described as a dream or a falsehood, then know that thou art standing in the Holy of Holies, before the Veil that shall not be rent. In this mortal body thou canst not rend it, nor in any other body; nor in the state of self in body nor in the state of pure self, nor in waking nor in sleep nor in trance, nor in any state or circumstances whatsoever for thou must be beyond state before thou canst enter into the Paratpara brahman.

 That is the unknown God to whom no altar can be raised and no worship offered; universe is His only altar, existence is His only worship. That we are, feel, think, act or are but do not feel, do not think, do not act is for That enough. To That, the saint is equal with the sinner, activity with inactivity, man with the mollusc, since all are equally Its manifestations. These things at least are true of the Parabrahman & Para Purusha, which is the Highest that we know & the nearest to the Absolute. But what That is behind the veil or how behind the veil It regards Itself and its manifestations is a thing no mind can assume to tell or know; and he is equally ignorant and presumptuous who raises & inscribes to It an altar or who pretends to declare the Unknown to those who know that they can know It not. Confuse not thought, bewilder not the soul of man in its forward march, but turn to the Universe & know That in this, Tad va etat, for so only & in these terms It has set itself out to be known to those who are in the universe. Be not deceived by Ignorance, be not deceived by knowledge; there is none bound & none free & none seeking freedom but only God playing at these things in the extended might of His self-conscious being, para maya, mahimanam asya, which we call the universe.

The Supreme is knowable to itself but unknowable to mind, inexpressible by words, because mind can grasp and words coined by the mind can express only limited, relative and divided things. Mind gets only misleading inadequate indefinite impressions or too definite reflective ideas of things too much beyond itself. Even here in its own field it grasps not things in themselves, but processes and phenomena, significant aspects, constructions and figures. But the Supreme is to its own absolute consciousness for ever self-known and self-aware, as also to supramental gnosis it is intimately known and knowable.

 Parabrahman is beyond Knowledge because Knowledge cannot comprehend that which comprehends it & is anterior to itself.

 The beginning of Wisdom is to renounce the attempt to know the Unknowable. Nevertheless vast shadows of the Unknowable are reflected in Knowledge & to these infinities we give names, the Absolute, the Relative, Being, Non-Being, Consciousness, Force, Bliss, God, Self, the Personal, the Impersonal, Krishna, Shiva, Brahman.’

As Aswapati stands before the gates of the Unknowable seeking admittance, he must renounce and leave behind all that he has done and been so far. However great the experiences and achievements in the past, these must be left behind until the very Highest is seen, who alone can give the true value to everything. 

Thus starts the first movement of this Canto. This first movement will develop and eventually lead Aswapati to the threshold of the grand Vision of the Divine Mother.

ALL is too little that the world can give:
Its power and knowledge are the gifts of Time
And cannot fill the spirit’s sacred thirst.
Although of One these forms of greatness are
And by its breath of grace our lives abide,
Although more near to us than nearness’ self,
It is some utter truth of what we are;
Hidden by its own works, it seemed far-off,
Impenetrable, occult, voiceless, obscure.
The Presence was lost by which all things have charm,
The Glory lacked of which they are dim signs.
The world lived on made empty of its Cause,
Like love when the beloved’s face is gone.
The labour to know seemed a vain strife of Mind;
All knowledge ended in the Unknowable:
The effort to rule seemed a vain pride of Will;
A trivial achievement scorned by Time,
All power retired into the Omnipotent.
A cave of darkness guards the eternal Light.

This is the sacred darkness through which one must pass before standing face to face with the Supreme. All must drop away, all our hopes and longings, our gettings and havings, our knowings and willings, our very sense of self and world, our understanding of creation and God must be left behind. It is then that one is ready to discover the Divine Presence. This touch of the Divine is felt as a deep unconditional Peace, a stillness, an unnamable Joy, a sweet intimacy, a causeless delight and yet it eludes all definitions and descriptions. Once one has felt It then one becomes aware that it is this Divine Presence that gives value to life, to all that we are and do. Even the greatest actions appear dull and mechanical in Its absence, while the smallest actions fill us with sweetness and delight when one is in contact with That.

A silence settled on his striving heart;
Absolved from the voices of the world’s desire,
He turned to the Ineffable’s timeless call.
A Being intimate and unnameable,
A wide compelling ecstasy and peace
Felt in himself and all and yet ungrasped,
Approached and faded from his soul’s pursuit
As if for ever luring him beyond.
Near, it retreated; far, it called him still.
Nothing could satisfy but its delight:
Its absence left the greatest actions dull,
Its presence made the smallest seem divine.
When it was there, the heart’s abyss was filled;
But when the uplifting Deity withdrew,
Existence lost its aim in the Inane.
The order of the immemorial planes,
The godlike fullness of the instruments
Were turned to props for an impermanent scene.
But who that mightiness was he knew not yet.

It was ‘nothing’ and yet all things for nothing could exist but for IT. All names and forms were aspects of Itself and yet it could not be contained in any Name and Form. Near and far, It was everywhere and nowhere at the same time. The very effort to grasp and hold IT made IT escape and slip away.  We discover this ineffable Presence beyond the last pinnacle of thought or else feel it as a mystic closeness and sweetness in the depths of the heart.

Impalpable, yet filling all that is,
It made and blotted out a million worlds
And took and lost a thousand shapes and names.
It wore the guise of an indiscernible Vast,
Or was a subtle kernel in the soul:
A distant greatness left it huge and dim,
A mystic closeness shut it sweetly in:
It seemed sometimes a figment or a robe
And seemed sometimes his own colossal shade.
A giant doubt overshadowed his advance.
Across a neutral all-supporting Void
Whose blankness nursed his lone immortal spirit,
Allured towards some recondite Supreme,
Aided, coerced by enigmatic Powers,
Aspiring and half-sinking and upborne,
Invincibly he ascended without pause.
Always a signless vague Immensity
Brooded, without approach, beyond response,
Condemning finite things to nothingness,
Fronting him with the incommensurable.

Thus Aswapati moves through the Infinite until he reaches a point of bare infinity, a bare Reality, Nameless, Occult, Impenetrable. He must chose now, – whether to vanish in That, the Source from which all came and to which all is helplessly drawn, – or else to remake himself in That and by That.

Then to the ascent there came a mighty term.
A height was reached where nothing made could live,
A line where every hope and search must cease
Neared some intolerant bare Reality,
A zero formed pregnant with boundless change.
On a dizzy verge where all disguises fail
And human mind must abdicate in Light
Or die like a moth in the naked blaze of Truth,
He stood compelled to a tremendous choice.
All he had been and all towards which he grew
Must now be left behind or else transform
Into a self of That which has no name.
Alone and fronting an intangible Force
Which offered nothing to the grasp of Thought,
His spirit faced the adventure of the Inane.
Abandoned by the worlds of Form he strove.
A fruitful world-wide Ignorance foundered here;
Thought’s long far-circling journey touched its close
And ineffective paused the actor Will.
The symbol modes of being helped no more,
The structures Nescience builds collapsing failed,
And even the spirit that holds the universe
Fainted in luminous insufficiency.
In an abysmal lapse of all things built
Transcending every perishable support
And joining at last its mighty origin,
The separate self must melt or be reborn
Into a Truth beyond the mind’s appeal.

[Savitri: 305 – 307]

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