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At the Feet of The Mother

The Return of the Light

1.      The Mother on the Meaning of Two Sri Aurobindo’s Aphorisms

35 – Men are still in love with grief; when they see one who is too high for grief or joy, they curse him and cry, “O thou insensible!” Therefore Christ still hangs on the cross in Jerusalem.
36 – Men are in love with sin; when they see one who is too high for vice or virtue, they curse him and cry, “O thou breaker of bonds, thou wicked and immoral one!” Therefore Sri Krishna does not live as yet in Brindavan.

[the disciple] I would like to have an explanation of these two aphorisms [of Sri Aurobindo].

When Christ came upon earth, he brought a message of brotherhood, love and peace. But he had to die in pain, on the cross, so that his message might be heard. For men cherish suffering and hatred and want their God to suffer with them. They wanted this when Christ came and, in spite of his teaching and sacrifice, they still want it; and they are so attached to their pain that, symbolically, Christ is still bound to his cross, suffering perpetually for the salvation of men. As for Krishna, he came upon earth to bring freedom and delight. He came to announce to men, enslaved to Nature, to their passions and errors, that if they took refuge in the Supreme Lord they would be free from all bondage and sin. But men are very attached to their vices and virtues (for without vice there would be no virtue); they are in love with their sins and cannot tolerate anyone being free and above all error. That is why Krishna, although immortal, is not present at Brindavan in a body at this moment. [CWM 10: 59-60]

But the death of Christ was the starting-point of a new stage in the evolution of human civilisation. This is why Sri Aurobindo tells us that the death of Christ was of greater historical significance, that is to say, it has had greater historical consequences than the death of Caesar. The story of Christ, as it has been told, is the concrete and dramatic enactment of the divine sacrifice: the Supreme Lord, who is All-Light, All-Knowledge, All- Power, All-Beauty, All-Love, All-Bliss, accepting to assume human ignorance and suffering in matter, in order to help men to emerge from the falsehood in which they live and because of which they die. [CWM 10: 61]

2. The Birth of the Light

Christmas has returned with its share of messages and gifts. The Mother reveals to us the truth behind Christmas celebrations in one of Her Christmas messages:

‘Long before the Christian religion made December 25th the day of Christ’s birth, this day was the festival of the return of the sun, the Day of Light. It is this very ancient symbol of the rebirth of the Light that we wish to celebrate here.’

We know that the winter solstice begins by the 21st or 22nd December. From this day onwards the daylight begins to increase. In the polar regions this is a very significant event and calls for celebration. But behind its celebration hides a beautiful symbol of human life. The four seasons of the earth are also symbols of the four seasons of human life. The first three months are the months of birth when Autumn begins to thaw and life finds a chance to return again. The return of Light is also the return of Life. However long and dark be the Night, however momentarily overpowering it may seem, Light returns and returns again and again preparing earth and men for the New Creation. In fact even darkness serves as a preparation. It is a period when life returns back to its roots to draw new strength and, after a moment of reconstituting rest and assimilation of all that it has absorbed during the period of its youthfulness, it is ready to start again, to begin afresh. The Christmas celebrations begin with the return of the Light during the last week of December and extend into the first week of January as if the old year was giving a handshake to the new year. It is itself a symbol of continuity. Thus though the new year seems to start abruptly as the old year ends, yet there is a continuity. The New Light is not altogether new. It marks a new ascension of the Light that has gone into the roots of creation at the very origin as the Biblical phrase puts it mystically: ‘And God said let there be Light and there was Light.’ This Light is the Light of the Truth that has gone into creation. All creation is essentially a progressive manifestation of this Eternal Truth in terms of space, time and causality. Each Avatar or Divine Descent in creation helps the emergence of this Light, leading creation through a ladder of the ascension of Light and with it of Life itself. Christ himself was one such Avatar. Sri Aurobindo reveals this secret Truth in the Essays on the Gita.

3. The Dark and Stark Resistance

Now as we have seen the birth of Light is what gives rise to Life. Both enter the cave of darkness of the World’s Inconscience. They must thereby face the stark resistance to the Divine Advent. Each Avatar has faced this resistance from earth and humanity in his own way and overcome it. The resistance comes from two sources. The first and original source is the stark Inconscient that denies matter its divine possibility. The story of resurrection and of the assumption of Mother Mary is symbolic of the eventual victory of the Spirit over Matter and the final redemption of life by the touch Divine. EACH Avatar quickens this process or the eventual victory by touching matter by assuming a mortal human body, the ‘Word become flesh’ so to say, so that the flesh too may become a perfect vessel of the supreme Word. At the same time Sri Aurobindo also reveals the predicament that each Avatar meets. While this resistance takes certain characteristic forms, one form that it takes to rob humanity of the great gain that the Avatar brings is to turn the new gospel into a fixed and formal dogma, worse still, into organised religion. The Mother reminds us well:

Religion belongs to the higher mind of humanity. It is the effort of man’s higher mind to approach, as far as lies in its power, something beyond it, something to which humanity gives the name God or Spirit or Truth or Faith or Knowledge or the Infinite, some kind of Absolute, which the human mind cannot reach and yet tries to reach. Religion may be divine in its ultimate origin; in its actual nature it is not divine but human. In truth we should speak rather of religions than of religion; for the religions made by man are many. These different religions, even when they had not the same origin, have most of them been made in the same way. We know how the Christian religion came into existence. It was certainly not Jesus who made what is known as Christianity, but some learned and very clever men put their heads together and built it up into the thing we see. There was nothing divine in the way in which it was formed, and there is nothing divine either in the way in which it functions. And yet the excuse or occasion for the formation was undoubtedly some revelation from what one could call a Divine Being, a Being who came from elsewhere bringing down with him from a higher plane a certain Knowledge and Truth for the earth. He came and suffered for his Truth; but very few understood what he said, few cared to find and hold to the Truth for which he suffered…. [CWM 3: 78]

The story of Christ is no exception. Sri Aurobindo has immortalised this aspect of the Divine sacrifice in the matter in Savitri:

Hard is it to persuade earth-nature’s change;
Mortality bears ill the eternal’s touch:
It fears the pure divine intolerance
Of that assault of ether and of fire;
It murmurs at its sorrowless happiness,
Almost with hate repels the light it brings;
It trembles at its naked power of Truth
And the might and sweetness of its absolute Voice.
Inflicting on the heights the abysm’s law,
It sullies with its mire heaven’s messengers:
Its thorns of fallen nature are the defence
It turns against the saviour hands of Grace;
It meets the sons of God with death and pain.
A glory of lightnings traversing the earth-scene,
Their sun-thoughts fading, darkened by ignorant minds,
Their work betrayed, their good to evil turned,
The cross their payment for the crown they gave,
Only they leave behind a splendid Name…. [Savitri: 7]

The Eternal suffers in a human form,
He has signed salvation’s testament with his blood:
He has opened the doors of his undying peace.
The Deity compensates the creature’s claim,
The Creator bears the law of pain and death;
A retribution smites the incarnate God.
His love has paved the mortal’s road to Heaven:
He has given his life and light to balance here
The dark account of mortal ignorance.
It is finished, the dread mysterious sacrifice,
Offered by God’s martyred body for the world;
Gethsemane and Calvary are his lot,
He carries the cross on which man’s soul is nailed;
His escort is the curses of the crowd;
Insult and jeer are his right’s acknowledgment;
Two thieves slain with him mock his mighty death.
He has trod with bleeding brow the Saviour’s way.
He who has found his identity with God
Pays with the body’s death his soul’s vast light. [Savitri: 445]

And yet it is this sacrifice that is the key to the final redemption of matter. The Mother reveals this deeper symbol thus:

Certain prophets in the past had this apocalyptic vision, but as usual things became mixed, and along with their vision of the apocalypse they did not have the vision of the supramental world that will come to uplift the consenting part of humanity and transform this physical world. However, to give hope to those born into this perverted part of the human consciousness, redemption through faith was taught: those who have faith in the sacrifice of the Divine in Matter will automatically be saved, in another world—faith alone, without understanding, without intelligence. They never saw the supramental world, nor did they see that the great Sacrifice of the Divine in Matter is that of an involution which will lead to the total revelation of the Divine in Matter itself. [CWM 9: 301-302]

4. The Second Coming

This sacrifice of the Divine that rescues the lost Light is the very core of Love. It is the Divine Love that comes to rescue Light and Life. It is then these three powers together, Light, Life and Love, with Divine Love at the apex that rescues creation and brings down the highest Light and with it the final and complete ascension. It is this that we find revealed in Sri Aurobindo’s symbol. While this return of the earthly Light is an annual event, the return of the Divine to carry on the ascension and the forward march of mankind happens from age to age. It is this that humanity waits for, often spoken of the second coming, sambhavami yuge yuge, of the Gita. The error that it makes is to imagine the second coming as only an enlarged edition of the old Gospel. But if that were so then its very purpose would be beaten. The second coming would mean that the ascension of light and life has taken one more step. It also means that a greater power of Love has entered into the persona of the New Avatar. It is this that gives continuity to creation just as rebirth gives continuity to life. Each Avatar takes on from the past and carries the work one step further. What begins with the first Avatar of Vishnu rescuing creation in the great Ark during the floods that drown earthly life, what brings the first radical change from the unillumined human vital animal to the enlightened man in the form of Rama, what brings the message of  Compassion and Love amidst humanity teaching it gentler and nobler ways to live through the life and teachings of Buddha and carried to its utmost extreme in the sacrifice of Christ, what brings to man the quintessential wisdom of the ages in the gospel of the Gita through the delightful personality of Krishna is carried further to the supreme consummation in Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.

In the eternity of becoming each Avatar is only the announcer, the forerunner of a more perfect realisation.
And yet men have always the tendency to deify the Avatar of the past in opposition to the Avatar of the future.
Now again Sri Aurobindo has come announcing to the world the realisation of tomorrow; and again his message meets with the same opposition as of all those who preceded him.
But tomorrow will prove the truth of what he revealed and his work will be done. [CWM 13: 29]

The return of the Light, though seemingly a repetition, is yet, like the changing of the seasons through blossoming in spring time, toil and effort during summer and the cleansing rains during the monsoons before the slow withdrawal during winters, also a forward movement. The earth too seeks a new ascension through the return of the sun in the Avatar of each age. Each Avatar gives the dharma and sets a new goal for the coming age of mankind. It is the same Supreme Source from where each comes and yet each takes up his field of action from a new station of consciousness, brings a greater power. It is this that is symbolised in the second coming, a return of the Sun. Let us hope that this time the sun that has come does not have to return back to the cave of darkness and the Divine sacrifice in matter eventually redeems it in the last Avatar. This is the meaning of Resurrection symbolised in the story of Christ. Let us close with this Mother’s passage:

Resurrection means, for us, the falling off of the old consciousness; but it is not only a rebirth, a sudden change which completely breaks with the past. There is a certain continuity in it between dying to your old self, your low exterior nature and starting quite anew. In the experience of resurrection the movement of discarding the old being is closely connected with that of the rising up from it of the new consciousness and the new strength, so that from what is thrown off the best can unite in a new creation with what has succeeded. The true significance of resurrection is that the Divine Consciousness awakes from the unconsciousness into which it has gone down and lost itself, the Divine Consciousness becomes once more aware of itself in spite of its descent into the world of death, night and obscurity. That world of obscurity is darker even than our physical night: if you came up after plunging into it you would actually find the most impenetrable night clear, just as returning from the true Light of the Divine Consciousness, the Supramental Light without obscurity, you would find the physical sun black. But even in the depths of that supreme darkness the supreme Light lies hidden. Let that Light and that Consciousness awaken in you, let there be the great Resurrection. [CWM 3: 147]

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