Loretta reads Savitri:Four.I "The Birth and Childhood of the Flame" part 1
|Loretta reads Savitri
Book Four: The Book of Birth and Quest
Canto I: The Birth and Childhood of the Flame
Part 1 of 2, pages 349-352
We are no longer on our journey with the great traveller king. He has returned home; he has had a long and successful inner journey. Again he will move amid material scenes. Our journey with him has reached a successful close, because he's worked for us ‒ we've seen it. He has ceaselessly and passionately sought the Divine Mother through all the worlds of being. And he finally received her promise to incarnate here in a human body. To come and “break the iron Law” (p.346). To change Nature's doom by the power of the spirit; to change the fate of earth and man.
We're now beginning Part II of Savitri; Part II tells the story of Savitri's birth, her growth, her development. It tells the story of her quest for her own mate ‒ the partner of her soul. It tells the story of her love. It's an incredibly beautiful love story.
And after some time, we will also be with Savitri's yoga, just as we were with the yoga of the king. Savitri does her yoga to prepare herself. She's going to have to face Death. She's going to have to argue with Death, to bring the soul of her husband back to her.
At the end of the last canto, Sri Aurobindo brought the king back to earth, brought us back to earth. And now, in the first part of this canto ‒ in “The Book of Birth [and Quest]” ‒ Sri Aurobindo brings us even more down to earth. He describes here the changing seasons, as earth turns ‒ turns always to follow the endless journey of the sun. And here again, Sri Aurobindo uses mystic poetry. Mysteriously, he refers to the Divine Mother's endless following of the Supreme, her endless infinite attraction to the supreme Master. The endless attraction of nature to the soul.
Sri Aurobindo tells us that in her ceaseless motion, earth moved towards some undisclosed event: a dawning, “some mighty birth to come” (p.351). But still kept secret, hidden in dawns to come.
This part of the canto has nothing in it but the description of the changing seasons. It goes all the way up to spring, when “The sunlight was a great god’s golden smile”, and “All Nature was at beauty’s festival” (p.352). He writes a lot about the monsoon, which is particularly appropriate, because here in Auroville we're having a really strong monsoon. It's lasted a very, very long time. And he uses a vocal word for what in the West is called the ‘nightingale’ ‒ a bird that he calls the ‘coïl’. So when he speaks of the lyrical song of the coïl, people from the West can understand that it's the singing of the nightingale.
Mother said that our planet has a particular part to play for the whole cosmos. Our planet has been created as the first place in the cosmos for new changes to take place. Once the evolutionary changes ‒ the great evolutionary changes of the creation ‒ happen here, then they naturally pass into the rest of the creation. Here today, we get a dramatic picture of earth, with her monsoon, with her summer. We get a lovely description of the coming of spring, on this special, most important planet. Everything is preparing the earth for the special, most important arrival of the Divine in a human body.
This canto naturally divides itself into two parts. This first part is the smaller part of the canto; and we have a little time to go into the meaning that is in the word ‘flame’. Sri Aurobindo calls this canto “The Birth and Childhood of the Flame”. Why would he call the Divine Mother a flame, that's born on earth?
Sri Aurobindo studied the ancient scriptures; he translated many. He translated 28 hymns to the flame, that are in the Rig Veda. The flame is called by the name ‘Agni’. And Sri Aurobindo when he gives us his translation in the book, The Secret of the Veda, he gives an introduction where he kind of summarizes everything that's being said in these slokas. He tells us that the Vedic diety Agni, the flame, is the very first of the powers that issue from the Supreme. And we know that the Mother is the very first power that the Supreme creates out of himself, to be his power of creation.
Sri Aurobindo writes that “Agni is the form, the fire, the forceful heat and flaming will” of the supreme Godhead. By this flame, this conscious-force, the worlds have been created. And they are governed from within from this conscious control of Agni, the flame. Giving us the information from the ancient seers who wrote the Rig Veda, and who saw these things, Sri Aurobindo tells us that this flame is “the solar godhead of love and harmony and light... who leads men towards the Truth”. If it seems familiar to us, it's because Sri Aurobindo tells us the same thing about the Divine Mother, when he writes about her, when he tells us who she is and what she does.
In the Rig Veda, Agni the flame is referred to as a masculine deity. Sri Aurobindo writes:
- “His mission is to purify all that he works upon and to raise up the soul struggling in Nature from obscurity to the light, from the strife and the suffering to love and joy, from the heat and the labour to the peace and the bliss.”
And we're going to see that this is what Savitri has to do. And of course this is the work of the Divine Mother, as we already found out last week. Last week we were reading from the last chapter of Sri Aurobindo's little book, The Mother. And this is something else that he writes about, and it's so beautiful:
- “The One whom we adore as the Mother is the divine Conscious Force that dominates all existence, one and yet so many-sided that to follow her movement is impossible even for the quickest mind and for the freest and most vast intelligence. The Mother is the consciousness and force of the Supreme and far above all she creates.”
- “The one original transcendent Shakti, the Mother stands above all the worlds and bears in her eternal consciousness the Supreme Divine.”
- “Nothing can be here or elsewhere but what she decides and the Supreme sanctions; nothing can take shape except what she moved by the Supreme perceives and forms after casting it into seed in her creating Ananda.”
So now, the Divine Mother, all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-existent, is putting on the cloak of our mortal ignorance. She's going to bring the divine Force directly into matter, here on earth. She's bringing into this special earth ‒ where the Divine Mother does the work first, and then the result of her work goes out to the whole cosmos. Our earth is waiting for the Divine Mother, as we read last week. She's going to pass through the portals of the birth that is a death, and bear the attacks and torturing influences of the powers of the Darkness and Falsehood ‒ which we all bear, all the time, here in our human body.
And we're going to see when we read about Savitri's life that Savitri will take upon herself the pangs and the sorrows and the sufferings of the creation. Sri Aurobindo writes that the Divine Mother does this since it seems that thus alone can the creation be lifted to the light, and joy, and truth, and eternal Life.
This broadcast begins and ends with a Sanskrit mantra from the Rig Veda ‒ but it's not one of the 28 hymns to Agni. This one was translated by Nolini. It comes from “The Symbol Dawn” ‒ that is to say, it was used in Sunil's music in the very first canto of the very first book, called “The Symbol Dawn”, the very beginning. It is the part where Savitri awakens in the dawn on the day that her husband is going to die, and she has to start her particular work. Now, in this case, ‘the symbol dawn’ is many things; one of them is the dawning of consciousness itself. And we're going to use it here to honor the incarnation of the Divine Mother into matter, to begin Savitri's own history here in the body. Because Savitri brings the dawn of the new consciousness for earth and men.
Here's the mantra in English:
- “Dawns appear, luminous and omnipotent, for the sake of the mortal who makes the offering.
- Even like the God of Life, they bestow as the right impulsions break forth, life's energies; and these he enjoys who has the immortal drink purified.
- O Mother of the gods, the very Army of Aditi, the flaming knowledge of sacrifice, shine forth in thy vastness.
- O Creator of the perfect expression, manifest yourself in us for the sake of the supreme word: O All-desirable, bring us to birth in the birth.
- The varied work which Dawns bring forward for him who accomplishes the sacrifice, who gives the perfect expression ‒ that is the Supreme Good,
- That may Mitra and Varuna, and Aditi, and the waters and Earth and Heaven protect for us.”
The Book of Birth and Quest, part 1, “The Birth and Childhood of the Flame”.
Canto One The Birth and Childhood of the Flame A maenad of the cycles of desire Around a Light she must not dare to touch, Hastening towards a far-off unknown goal Earth followed the endless journey of the Sun. A mind but half-awake in the swing of the void On the bosom of Inconscience dreamed out life And bore this finite world of thought and deed Across the immobile trance of the Infinite. A vast immutable silence with her ran: Prisoner of speed upon a jewelled wheel, She communed with the mystic heart in Space. Amid the ambiguous stillness of the stars She moved towards some undisclosed event And her rhythm measured the long whirl of Time. In ceaseless motion round the purple rim Day after day sped by like coloured spokes, And through a glamour of shifting hues of air The seasons drew in linked significant dance The symbol pageant of the changing year. Across the burning languor of the soil Paced Summer with his pomp of violent noons And stamped his tyranny of torrid light And the blue seal of a great burnished sky. Next through its fiery swoon or clotted knot Rain-tide burst in upon torn wings of heat, Startled with lightnings air’s unquiet drowse, Lashed with life-giving streams the torpid soil, Overcast with flare and sound and storm-winged dark The star-defended doors of heaven’s dim sleep, Or from the gold eye of her paramour Covered with packed cloud-veils the earth’s brown face. Armies of revolution crossed the time-field, p.350 The clouds’ unending march besieged the world, Tempests’ pronunciamentos claimed the sky And thunder drums announced the embattled gods. A traveller from unquiet neighbouring seas, The dense-maned monsoon rode neighing through earth’s hours: Thick now the emissary javelins: Enormous lightnings split the horizon’s rim And, hurled from the quarters as from contending camps, Married heaven’s edges steep and bare and blind: A surge and hiss and onset of huge rain, The long straight sleet-drift, clamours of winged storm-charge, Throngs of wind-faces, rushing of wind-feet Hurrying swept through the prone afflicted plains: Heaven’s waters trailed and dribbled through the drowned land. Then all was a swift stride, a sibilant race, Or all was tempest’s shout and water’s fall. A dimness sagged on the grey floor of day, Its dingy sprawling length joined morn to eve, Wallowing in sludge and shower it reached black dark. Day a half darkness wore as its dull dress. Light looked into dawn’s tarnished glass and met Its own face there, twin to a half-lit night’s: Downpour and drip and seeping mist swayed all And turned dry soil to bog and reeking mud: Earth was a quagmire, heaven a dismal block. None saw through dank drenched weeks the dungeon sun. Even when no turmoil vexed air’s sombre rest, Or a faint ray glimmered through weeping clouds As a sad smile gleams veiled by returning tears, All promised brightness failed at once denied Or, soon condemned, died like a brief-lived hope. Then a last massive deluge thrashed dead mire And a subsiding mutter left all still, Or only the muddy creep of sinking floods Or only a whisper and green toss of trees. Earth’s mood now changed; she lay in lulled repose, p.351 The hours went by with slow contented tread: A wide and tranquil air remembered peace, Earth was the comrade of a happy sun. A calmness neared as of the approach of God, A light of musing trance lit soil and sky And an identity and ecstasy Filled meditation’s solitary heart. A dream loitered in the dumb mind of Space, Time opened its chambers of felicity, An exaltation entered and a hope: An inmost self looked up to a heavenlier height, An inmost thought kindled a hidden flame And the inner sight adored an unseen sun. Three thoughtful seasons passed with shining tread And scanning one by one the pregnant hours Watched for a flame that lurked in luminous depths, The vigil of some mighty birth to come. Autumn led in the glory of her moons And dreamed in the splendour of her lotus pools And Winter and Dew-time laid their calm cool hands On Nature’s bosom still in a half sleep And deepened with hues of lax and mellow ease The tranquil beauty of the waning year. Then Spring, an ardent lover, leaped through leaves And caught the earth-bride in his eager clasp; His advent was a fire of irised hues, His arms were a circle of the arrival of joy. His voice was a call to the Transcendent’s sphere Whose secret touch upon our mortal lives Keeps ever new the thrill that made the world, Remoulds an ancient sweetness to new shapes And guards intact unchanged by death and Time The answer of our hearts to Nature’s charm And keeps for ever new, yet still the same, The throb that ever wakes to the old delight And beauty and rapture and the joy to live. p.352 His coming brought the magic and the spell; At his touch life’s tired heart grew glad and young; He made joy a willing prisoner in her breast. His grasp was a young god’s upon earth’s limbs: Changed by the passion of his divine outbreak He made her body beautiful with his kiss. Impatient for felicity he came, High-fluting with the co¨ıl’s happy voice, His peacock turban trailing on the trees; His breath was a warm summons to delight, The dense voluptuous azure was his gaze. A soft celestial urge surprised the blood Rich with the instinct of God’s sensuous joys; Revealed in beauty, a cadence was abroad Insistent on the rapture-thrill in life: Immortal movements touched the fleeting hours. A godlike packed intensity of sense Made it a passionate pleasure even to breathe; All sights and voices wove a single charm. The life of the enchanted globe became A storm of sweetness and of light and song, A revel of colour and of ecstasy, A hymn of rays, a litany of cries: A strain of choral priestly music sang And, swung on the swaying censer of the trees, A sacrifice of perfume filled the hours. Asocas burned in crimson spots of flame, Pure like the breath of an unstained desire White jasmines haunted the enamoured air, Pale mango-blossoms fed the liquid voice Of the love-maddened coïl, and the brown bee Muttered in fragrance mid the honey-buds. The sunlight was a great god’s golden smile. All Nature was at beauty’s festival. ...