Loretta reads Savitri:Four.II "The Growth of the Flame" part 2
|Loretta reads Savitri
Book Four: The Book of Birth and Quest
Canto II: The Growth of the Flame
Part 2 of 2, pages 363-368
Savitri is growing up. She's become a very special young lady. In the first part of this canto, Sri Aurobindo told us that she felt inside herself:
- A boundless knowledge greater than man’s thought,
- A happiness too high for heart and sense (p.362)
She felt it locked in the world, yearning for release. And in herself, she could feel it ‒ she could feel it wanting form, wanting to manifest on the material plane. Her soul also “saw beyond heaven’s limiting boundaries” (p.362); and her soul met a great light from the unknowable. And of course this is Mother; Sri Aurobindo is telling us about Mother, about the work she came to do.
In the first part of the canto, we saw how she grew, and we already saw how the people were not even developed enough to respond to all that Savitri had to offer. She wanted to raise all living things out of the Inconscient; she wanted to make all living things one ‒ one with her, and one with God.
We've heard a lot now, about how people can't keep up with Savitri ‒ how they cannot match the measure of her soul. Now we're going to hear a lot about the way people related to the Mother. And we hear it as the way people related to Savitri. These words are full of Sri Aurobindo's love for the Mother ‒ his compassion, his understanding. And behind it, this great love that he had for her.
It's easy to guess, reading this, that they must have had a lot of experience with this in the Ashram. Every sentence is a new and clear story about a different response, a different way people took the Mother's greatness and her light and her bliss. And it's a lot about resistence; a lot about rebellion. People want the light, but they can't handle it, and these things come up. He writes like this:
- They moved unable to forego her light,
- Desiring they clutched at her with outstretched hands
- Or followed stumbling in the paths she made.
- Adoring with a turbid human love,
- They could not grasp the mighty spirit she was
- Or change by closeness to be even as she.
- To see her was a summons to adore (p.363)
- Her heart’s inexhaustible sweetness lured their hearts
- Their lives replied to hers, moved at her words:
- They felt a godhead and obeyed a call,
- Answered to her lead and did her work in the world;
- She held their hands, she chose for them their paths
- They felt a larger future meet their walk (p.364)
This is only a very little of what we're going to have; it's all wonderful. It's all ringing with truth. And seeing it this way, we can see the Mother in the Ashram. And then, Sri Aurobindo goes deeper into the resistance. He says:
- Some turned to her against their nature’s bent;
- Divided between wonder and revolt (p.364)
- Impatient subjects, their tied longing hearts
- Hugging the bonds close of which they most complained,
- Murmured at a yoke they would have wept to lose,
- The splendid yoke of her beauty and her love (p.365)
And as one might expect, there are a number of these kinds of descriptions. It gives a clear picture of the very early days ‒ the resistance to the new force. The sense of what Mother and Sri Aurobindo had to deal with (and in fact still have to deal with).
Everybody spoke about the Mother's beauty – everybody. People wrote about it, went into raptures about it. We have a really good example of a great description of Mother's beauty in the autobiography of Surendra Nath Jauhar. Surendra Nath is the man who founded the New Delhi Ashram, and ran the Ashram for many, many years.
The New Delhi branch of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram is the single and only real branch of the Ashram. Mother specifically said that whatever other places would come, they could not be called ’Sri Aurobindo Ashram’, or ‘branch’ of the Ashram. There is only one Ashram: in Pondicherry; and only one branch: in New Delhi.
Surendra Nath Jauhar, along with his wife, was jailed as a freedom fighter in the Mahatma Gandhi movement – the Quit India Movement of 1942. He had been involved in politics since 1919. He became a leading member of India's Congress Party; and he became a member of Parliament. He was a very wealthy man.
Surendra Nath was a wonderful storyteller – a raconteur of wit and charm. And we have his story of the first time he ever saw the Mother.
In 1939, Surendra Nath took a tour – a yatra, a spiritual tour – throughout India. He took his 9-year-old son, and he went with Dr. Indra Sen – now known as a very famous Sri Aurobindo scholar. Eventually, they made their way to Pondicherry, when they heard about an Indian yogi who had an ashram. And thus they arrived at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. They found that they could not recognize anything in the design and architecture of the buildings, which even faintly suggested it was an ashram. Looking around, they couldn't see anybody who looked even remotely like the kind of ashramites they were familiar with. And then, wonder of wonders, they were told that they could not even see the yogi of this strange place. Sri Aurobindo was in his room, and nobody saw him, except four days a year. (And then, they could only stand in a line and walk past him.)
Then they were told that the Mother of the ashram was not an Indian lady at all. She was a French lady; and there wasn't even a way for them to see her personally. Surendra Nath writes:
- “Then what sort of ashram was this? It was so bewildering. At last, someone told us that meditation was held in the evening, which we could join. As directed, we reached the meditation hall about 7:00pm. A few scores of men and women were already seated there, with their eyes closed, lips virtually sealed, and heads bowed. All the lights had been put out. And in that near-total darkness was just a glimmering of light. It was so quiet and calm; the atmosphere of meditation was infectious, and I felt a strong prompting to join it and close my eyes. But I wanted to see what was happening, hence I kept watching intently.
- Now there was a complete hush – but lo! My eyes suddenly beheld something which looked so utterly superb, but dreamlike. A slender lady draped in light, and wearing a gold m___ on her forehead, was coming down – stepping lightly on the heavily-carpeted curved staircase.
- In her gait there was a majesty; on her face glowed grace. In her eyes flashed gleams which pierced the darkness below and around. My gaze was fixed on that fairylike figure, whose calm and beautiful face was radiating light, and making the whole atmosphere so supernatural that she looked every inch an angel descending from Heaven.
- She now stopped, and stood on the landing of the staircase, her wide eyes surveying the scene from one end of the hall to the other. In a few moments, she went into trance, which made her look even more rapturous. While she stood there, statue-like, I felt as if she were suddenly soaring above, though her eyes were locked in embrace, and I almost saw them passing sweet messages, and exchanging glances, with something, or somebody, that was not perceptible.
- All her limbs seemed blended in harmony, and her entire figure was wrapped in ecstasy. The halo of serenity and divinity around her was like a circular rainbow in the multicolours of which my eyes perceived visionary images and indications.
- And now, suddenly, a smile dawned on her lips. And with the speed of lightning it stole across her cheeks, eyes, the whole face. The smile blossomed into a flower, and then petals of blessing and grace showered down on the entranced devotees, who in deep gratitude lifted their eyes, only to behold that she suddenly turned to return to her abode.
- Her departure was as blissful and mysterious as her advent. And my racing gaze, in a few moments, lost the heavenly track on which trod that divine figure. As the congregation dispersed, we learned that she was the Mother, that French lady.”
Surendra Nath Jauhar knew that his destiny had been decided. A die was cast. He said that the fleeting glance of a few moments had brought him a light which the toils of a whole life often fails to achieve.
He gave his whole life to the Mother. He gave his children, he gave his wife, his money, his land. All of the time that he possibly could. The Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Delhi branch, is a stronghold of Mother's living force and work. One can easily stay there when in Delhi. And people from Auroville do stay there often.
He is gone now; his daughter Tara, whom many people know, runs the Ashram.
The feeling that comes with reading the inner experience of Mother's presence, that Surendra Nath describes, is accurate for me. I had the same experience every time I was in her presence, some 34 years later than Surendra Nath's first meeting (although of course the outer situation was completely different). That same presence comes back to me, when I read. So this must be the experience of those who Sri Aurobindo describes here in Savitri. And we see that there's a blissful moment, and then continuous contact brings many things out of the being. But who could leave this?
Then Sri Aurobindo speaks about how there was none equal to be Savitri's mate. No one comes who is the partner of her higher task. No one comes who is the comrade of her soul – her other self.
Then Sri Aurobindo tells us soon a sense of this great being starts to come into the universal consciousness. He does it so beautifully. In one line, he shows us how she became known. (He has other lines, but this line gives us everything.) He says:
- Her name ran murmuring on the lips of men (p.367)
This cannot happen literally: names don't run. Names don't [murmur]. But this is how it went: “Her name ran murmuring on the lips of men”. But then he says:
- No equal heart came close to join her heart (p.367)
- Whoever is too great must lonely live.
- Thus was it for a while with Savitri.(p.368)
This broadcast begins with one mantra, and ends with another mantra. We use both mantras as hymns to Savitri as the Divine Mother, who takes birth to bring consciousness to men, in our times.
The first mantra, at the beginning, is extremely well-known. It's been chanted everywhere in India, and it is still chanted everywhere in India. Now with the advent of recording, one can buy whole CDs with nothing but this mantra on it. It's called the “Gayatri Mantra”. Sri Aurobindo has written it in the Sanskrit, and then translated for us in English. And this is often called ‘Sri Aurobindo's Gayatri’. Gayatri is the meter and verse of the Rig Veda; it is considered so holy, so powerful, that it is used as a sacred formula for the Brahmins when they are initiated into the wearing of the sacred thread. The usual Gayatri translates thus:
ॐ भूर्भुवः॒ स्वः तत्स॑वितुर्वरे॑(तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यं) ।
भ॒र्गो॑ दे॒वस्य॑ धीमहि ।
धियो॒ यो नः॑ प्रचो॒दया॑त् ॥
Oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ tát savitúr váreṇiyaṃ
bhárgo devásya dhīmahi
dhíyo yó naḥ prachodáyāt
“Earth, mid-world, heaven,
Let us meditate on that most excellent light of the Divine Sun
That it may illumine our minds.”
Sri Aurobindo's Gayatri speaks directly to the source and the goal. He says:
In his book The Secret of the Veda, Sri Aurobindo says:
- “Savitri [is] the Creator, he who brings forth from the unmanifest Divine the truth of a divine universe”
In the Rig Veda, Savitri is a male god; but Sri Aurobindo brings us Savitri, the Divine Mother, the Power of the Supreme, who – as he said – brings forth from the unmanifest Divine the truth of a divine universe. And that's us, in our universe.
At the end of the broadcast, we'll hear a different mantra, which was translated by Mother. Many, many people know this mantra well – and it is perhaps more well-known than the Gayatri Mantra.
Mother's translation was not published; the first time we have seen it was in a little book on mantras in Sunil's music. And here it is in Sanskrit, so many will know it:
- Om anandamayi chaitanyamayi satyamayi parame
The traditional translation is:
- Om, bliss-filled, consciousness-filled, truth-filled, Supreme
Mother translates it as a hymn to She who is one with the Supreme – not filled with these things which are the Supreme consciousness, but the Supreme himself. It's a translation that you can't even comment on:
- Om, She, the Delight
She, the Consciousness
She, the Truth
She, the Supreme.
Savitri, The Book of Birth and Quest, “The Growth of the Flame”.
… Admiring and amazed they saw her stride Attempting with a godlike rush and leap Heights for their human stature too remote Or with a slow great many-sided toil Pushing towards aims they hardly could conceive; Yet forced to be the satellites of her sun They moved unable to forego her light, Desiring they clutched at her with outstretched hands Or followed stumbling in the paths she made. Or longing with their self of life and flesh They clung to her for heart’s nourishment and support: The rest they could not see in visible light; Vaguely they bore her inner mightiness. Or bound by the senses and the longing heart, Adoring with a turbid human love, They could not grasp the mighty spirit she was Or change by closeness to be even as she. Some felt her with their souls and thrilled with her, A greatness felt near yet beyond mind’s grasp; To see her was a summons to adore, To be near her drew a high communion’s force. p.364 So men worship a god too great to know, Too high, too vast to wear a limiting shape; They feel a Presence and obey a might, Adore a love whose rapture invades their breasts; To a divine ardour quickening the heart-beats, A law they follow greatening heart and life. Opened to the breath is a new diviner air, Opened to man is a freer, happier world: He sees high steps climbing to Self and Light. Her divine parts the soul’s allegiance called: It saw, it felt, it knew the deity. Her will was puissant on their nature’s acts, Her heart’s inexhaustible sweetness lured their hearts, A being they loved whose bounds exceeded theirs; Her measure they could not reach but bore her touch, Answering with the flower’s answer to the sun They gave themselves to her and asked no more. One greater than themselves, too wide for their ken, Their minds could not understand nor wholly know, Their lives replied to hers, moved at her words: They felt a godhead and obeyed a call, Answered to her lead and did her work in the world; Their lives, their natures moved compelled by hers As if the truth of their own larger selves Put on an aspect of divinity To exalt them to a pitch beyond their earth’s. They felt a larger future meet their walk; She held their hands, she chose for them their paths: They were moved by her towards great unknown things, Faith drew them and the joy to feel themselves hers; They lived in her, they saw the world with her eyes. Some turned to her against their nature’s bent; Divided between wonder and revolt, Drawn by her charm and mastered by her will, Possessed by her, her striving to possess, Impatient subjects, their tied longing hearts p.365 Hugging the bonds close of which they most complained, Murmured at a yoke they would have wept to lose, The splendid yoke of her beauty and her love: Others pursued her with life’s blind desires And claiming all of her as their lonely own, Hastened to engross her sweetness meant for all. As earth claims light for its lone separate need Demanding her for their sole jealous clasp, They asked from her movements bounded like their own And to their smallness craved a like response. Or they repined that she surpassed their grip, And hoped to bind her close with longing’s cords. Or finding her touch desired too strong to bear They blamed her for a tyranny they loved, Shrank into themselves as from too bright a sun, Yet hankered for the splendour they refused. Angrily enamoured of her sweet passionate ray The weakness of their earth could hardly bear, They longed but cried out at the touch desired Inapt to meet divinity so close, Intolerant of a Force they could not house. Some drawn unwillingly by her divine sway Endured it like a sweet but alien spell; Unable to mount to levels too sublime, They yearned to draw her down to their own earth. Or forced to centre round her their passionate lives, They hoped to bind to their heart’s human needs Her glory and grace that had enslaved their souls. But mid this world, these hearts that answered her call, None could stand up her equal and her mate. In vain she stooped to equal them with her heights, Too pure that air was for small souls to breathe. These comrade selves to raise to her own wide breadths Her heart desired and fill with her own power That a diviner Force might enter life, p.366 A breath of Godhead greaten human time. Although she leaned down to their littleness Covering their lives with her strong passionate hands And knew by sympathy their needs and wants And dived in the shallow wave-depths of their lives And met and shared their heart-beats of grief and joy And bent to heal their sorrow and their pride, Lavishing the might that was hers on her lone peak To lift to it their aspiration’s cry, And though she drew their souls into her vast And surrounded with the silence of her deeps And held as the great Mother holds her own, Only her earthly surface bore their charge And mixed its fire with their mortality: Her greater self lived sole, unclaimed, within. Oftener in dumb Nature’s stir and peace A nearness she could feel serenely one; The Force in her drew earth’s subhuman broods; And to her spirit’s large and free delight She joined the ardent-hued magnificent lives Of animal and bird and flower and tree. They answered to her with the simple heart. In man a dim disturbing somewhat lives; It knows but turns away from divine Light Preferring the dark ignorance of the fall. Among the many who came drawn to her Nowhere she found her partner of high tasks, The comrade of her soul, her other self Who was made with her, like God and Nature, one. Some near approached, were touched, caught fire, then failed, Too great was her demand, too pure her force. Thus lighting earth around her like a sun, Yet in her inmost sky an orb aloof, A distance severed her from those most close. Puissant, apart her soul as the gods live. As yet unlinked with the broad human scene, p.367 In a small circle of young eager hearts, Her being’s early school and closed domain, Apprentice in the business of earth-life, She schooled her heavenly strain to bear its touch, Content in her little garden of the gods As blooms a flower in an unvisited place. Earth nursed, unconscious still, the inhabiting flame, Yet something deeply stirred and dimly knew; There was a movement and a passionate call, A rainbow dream, a hope of golden change; Some secret wing of expectation beat, A growing sense of something new and rare And beautiful stole across the heart of Time. Then a faint whisper of her touched the soil, Breathed like a hidden need the soul divines; The eye of the great world discovered her And wonder lifted up its bardic voice. A key to a Light still kept in being’s cave, The sun-word of an ancient mystery’s sense, Her name ran murmuring on the lips of men Exalted and sweet like an inspired verse Struck from the epic lyre of rumour’s winds Or sung like a chanted thought by the poet Fame. But like a sacred symbol’s was that cult. Admired, unsought, intangible to the grasp Her beauty and flaming strength were seen afar Like lightning playing with the fallen day, A glory unapproachably divine. No equal heart came close to join her heart, No transient earthly love assailed her calm, No hero passion had the strength to seize; No eyes demanded her replying eyes. A Power within her awed the imperfect flesh; The self-protecting genius in our clay Divined the goddess in the woman’s shape And drew back from a touch beyond its kind p.368 The earth-nature bound in sense-life’s narrow make. The hearts of men are amorous of clay-kin And bear not spirits lone and high who bring Fire-intimations from the deathless planes Too vast for souls not born to mate with heaven. Whoever is too great must lonely live. Adored he walks in mighty solitude; Vain is his labour to create his kind, His only comrade is the Strength within. Thus was it for a while with Savitri. All worshipped marvellingly, none dared to claim. Her mind sat high pouring its golden beams, Her heart was a crowded temple of delight. A single lamp lit in perfection’s house, A bright pure image in a priestless shrine, Midst those encircling lives her spirit dwelt, Apart in herself until her hour of fate. END OF CANTO TWO