Loretta reads Savitri:Seven.II "The Parable of the Search for the Soul" part 1
|Loretta reads Savitri
Book Seven: The Book of Yoga
Canto II: The Parable of the Search for the Soul
Part 1 of 3, pages 474-478
The year has changed from the light of summer, to the darkness of the falling monsoon rainstorms. Savitri is overcome by grief and suffering. The day of Satyavan's death is approaching, ever approaching – and she has given up all hope. She feels depressed; and we have seen how she tortures herself with her grief.
When Savitri first found Satyavan, and went home to tell her parents, the sage Narad was there; and when she told them that she had found her chosen husband, and Narad said that he would die in one year, Savitri said:
- I have found the deep unchanging soul of love.
- My spirit has glimpsed the glory for which it came,
- If for a year, that year is all my life.
- And yet I know this is not all my fate
- Only to live and love awhile and die. (p.435)
- Let Fate do with me what she will or can;
- I am stronger than death and greater than my fate (p.432)
At that time, Savitri had just met Satyavan at the edge of the wild Shalwa forest. And their two lives had just joined – their two souls had joined again in an eternal moment of the gods. An eternal moment of endless love. Savitri was filled only with the great immortal presence of pure love. And her immortal soul had come forward in her being. Therefore at that time, her being was living in the consciousness of eternal truth: the eternal truth that we are eternal. Savitri saw and felt only a world of eternal love. She couldn't even imagine that they would ever be separated. This is the state that we all live in when real immortal love can fill our being.
Sri Aurobindo has written that “Rare is the cup fit for love’s nectar wine” (p.398). And then he has said:
- Too far from the Divine, Love seeks his truth
- And Life is blind and the instruments deceive
- And Powers are there that labour to debase.
- Still can the vision come, the joy arrive. (p.398)
Mother told the Ashram school children that pure love only gives. It does not think of itself; it does not want. So when we are in this state, we don't think of ourselves – we think only of the beloved one, the object of our love. We don't try to control them. We don't insist on anything from them; instead, we want to do everything for them. We are the ecstasy, and satisfied, living in pure love.
But people don't seem to be able to keep this high state. And they fall back into thinking about what they want for themselves, instead of what they can give to their beloved. If we look at this in the context of marriage, in daily life, there is a famous saying: “the honeymoon is over”. It means that the purity of love has been covered over by the lower parts of our being. And one can find countless books, telling couples and partners how to get along with each other in their marriage or in their partnership, after this time of pure love which has brought them together.
When we are living this high state of pure love, we are also living in the consciousness of our soul. It is a soul-consciousness – part of the pure soul-consciousness. And our soul knows what we should be doing. And our soul guides us to do it in the right way.
Now, in the monsoon, as Satyavan's death is approaching, Savitri is no longer living in her own high soul-consciousness. In Canto I, just before this, Sri Aurobindo said:
- Still veiled from her was the silent Being within
- Who sees life’s drama pass with unmoved eyes,
- Supports the sorrow of the mind and heart
- And bears in human breasts the world and fate.
- A glimpse or flashes came, the Presence was hid.
- Only her violent heart and passionate will
- Were pushed in front to meet the immutable doom (p.470)
We saw by that time that all she thought about was what she wanted for herself, and what she would lose when she lost Satyavan. And by doing this to excess, she had lost her inner balance. She had lost her good judgment, and she had certainly lost her inner peace. And we saw how she even made it worse for herself. She tortured herself with sorrow. And finally it ended up that grief and fear made her life a life of torment. The last lines of Canto I told us again that she was only living in her outer being:
- A still self hid behind but gave no light:
- No voice came down from the forgotten heights;
- Only in the privacy of its brooding pain
- Her human heart spoke to the body’s fate. (p.473)
So now we as begin Canto II, where Savitri will begin the search for her soul – her search for this “still self”, this silent being within her – we find her feeling depressed, we find her feeling hopeless. To begin this canto, Sri Aurobindo writes:
- As in the vigilance of the sleepless night
- Through the slow heavy-footed silent hours,
- Repressing in her bosom its load of grief,
- She sat staring at the dumb tread of Time
- And the approach of ever-nearing Fate,
- A summons from her being’s summit came,
- A sound, a call that broke the seals of Night.
- A mighty Voice invaded mortal space.
- It seemed to come from inaccessible heights
- And yet was intimate with all the world
- And knew the meaning of the steps of Time
- And saw eternal destiny’s changeless scene
- Filling the far prospect of the cosmic gaze. (p.474)
This is the voice of Savitri's Jivatman, her own personal portion of the Atman, the self that is the all. We have Sri Aurobindo's definitions of the Sanskrit word ‘Atman’: it means ‘the cosmic self’; ‘the immutable existence of all that is in the universe’; and it is also “the Supreme Self transcendent of its own cosmicity and at the same time individual-universal in each being”.
A ‘Jiva’ is a person – an individual living entity. So Sri Aurobindo translates the word ‘Jivatman’ as the Atman “seem[ing] to limit its power and knowledge so as to support an individual play of transcendent and universal Nature.” This is the individual portion of the Self – the Self of all living beings. (All living human beings.)
Every human person has their own Jivatman; its place is above our head. Our Jivatman is immutable, unchanging, undying, and unborn. It does not take birth. It does not come into our birth. It does not enter into our manifested being the way our soul does. Our soul is the part of the Supreme that grows through our many lifetimes, and at the same time, it evolves us back into our divine consciousness.
We're going to see the Jivatman in greater detail in Canto V of this Book, when Savitri finds her soul. There, Sri Aurobindo tells us that the Jivatman:
- ...puts forth a small portion of herself,
- A being no bigger than the thumb of man
- Into a hidden region of the heart
- To face the pang and to forget the bliss,
- To share the suffering and endure earth’s wounds
- And labour mid the labour of the stars. (p.526)
This is the portion that is our soul – our psychic being. If this had been forward in Savitri's being – enduring, labouring, helping – she would not have suffered the way she did.
We have already seen the presence and the working of Savitri's Jivatman in Book Four, Canto IV: “The Quest”, the time that Savitri started her journey to look for Satyavan. As she drove her high carven chariot through the land, Sri Aurobindo writes:
- Upon her silent heights she was aware
- Of a calm Presence throned above her brows
- Who saw the goal and chose each fateful curve;
- It used the body for its pedestal;
- The eyes that wandered were its searchlight fires,
- The hands that held the reins its living tools;
In this way he's telling us that her Jivatman is guiding her – guiding her to find Satyavan, so she can carry out her destiny.
Our soul, this small portion of the Jivatman – which is no bigger than the thumb of man, and which resides in our hearts – keeps the essence of all that we have learned through our many lifetimes, and keeps its consciousness and connection with our divine source. With all of these things, it is the best thing in us that we have to deal with life, and to help us to progress. Sri Aurobindo and Mother constantly stressed the need for us to live in our soul. They said it was necessary to have this consciousness in order to succeed in the difficult task of doing the yoga. And now, in order to be successful in conquering Death, Savitri must find her soul and live in its consciousness.
And also now, in this great crisis in Savitri's life, when her soul is not forward to influence and guide her, she has lost her purpose in life. So her Jivatman steps forward to guide her once again. This happens to all of us when we need our Jivatman to guide us, it is always there – even if our surface consciousness isn't aware of it. And we see that here, Savitri receives here almost a kind of scolding from her own Jivatman. Just as though it were a loving and wise parent, who knows what is best for her, and knows just how to talk to her. It tells her that she is an immortal energy, a spirit; and it asks her, “Why did you come to this dumb, death-bound earth, and this ignorant life, if you are going to nurse grief and a helpless heart, or wait for your doom with hard tearless eyes?” “Arise,” it says, “Arise, O soul, and vanquish Time and Death.” (p.474).
But Savitri is feeling too hopeless and too depressed. And her heart replies in refusal. It says, “My strength is taken from me and given to Death.” (p.474) Her heart complains. She feels it is useless to try to help ignorant man. She feels that God sits in peace; God leaves man unable to do anything about his omnipotent Law, and Inconscience, and Death. It is better for her to agree with her fate and follow Satyavan; and then they can forget man, and life, and time. They can forget eternity's call. And they can forget God.
It reminds us a little of Savitri's mother's complaint, when she expressed the grief of common man over the fact that her beloved daughter was doomed to die. But then, Savitri's Jivatman scolds her even more, and asks her:
- ...what shall thy soul say when it wakes and knows
- The work was left undone for which it came? (p.475)
- Cam’st thou not down to open the doors of Fate ...?
- Is this then the report that I must make,
- My head bowed with shame before the Eternal’s seat, —
- His power he kindled in thy body has failed,
- His labourer returns, her task undone? (p.476)
We all have our task in this lifetime. We are all important – completely, totally important – in the divine scheme of things. Our task may not be on the universal, all-affecting level that Savitri's task is; but in another way, it is all the same work. Every act that we do that leads us to greater light, moves the whole cosmos toward greater light. So fundamentally, it is the same thing, but on a smaller scale.
But sometimes things seem to be just too much for us. And here, Savitri's heart, so soaked with grief, stops speaking. It just stays quiet and does not answer. But her soul comes forward now. Sri Aurobindo writes:
- “I am thy portion here charged with thy work,
- As thou myself seated for ever above,
- Speak to my depths, O great and deathless Voice,
- Command, for I am here to do thy will.” (p.476)
This reply shows us clearly Savitri's soul: her soul answering to the command of its own individual part of the Supreme. The words are, “I am thy portion here charged with thy work, / As thou myself seated for ever above”. And then when she asks to be guided, when she's ready to listen, Savitri is beautifully guided by her Jivatman. It tells her:
- ...“Remember why thou cam’st:
- Find out thy soul, recover thy hid self,
- In silence seek God’s meaning in thy depths,
- Then mortal nature change to the divine. (p.476)
She is guided to cast out her thoughts, to quiet her mind; to cast away her senses, to go beyond her senses; and to conquer her untamed vital emotions. To conquer her individual heart's feelings. To conquer her heart's beats, and let her heart beat in God. Then her nature will only be the engine of God's works; she shall speak God's word. “Then,” the mighty voice tells to Savitri, “Then shalt thou harbour my force and conquer Death.”
So Savitri sat next to her doomed husband, in the black night, with the storm raging outside their rude forest hut, and witnessed the thoughts of mind, and the moods of life. And she looked into her self, and she sought for her soul.
Savitri's journey to her soul starts with a mystic dream. And in Savitri's dream we have another of Sri Aurobindo's descriptions of how our universe manifested, and how life itself formed our world. He gives us these descriptions in many different ways all throughout Savitri. So Savitri has a dream that “discloses the cosmic past”, where creation took its first mysterious steps. And it showed that a blind world-energy shaped a universe, and conscious perception formed a personality and mind. “A conscious being was by this labour made” (p.478). Next time, in the second part of this canto, Sri Aurobindo will go into really interesting detail about many of our functions in the current evolution of personality; many functions in the current evolution of mind. And he will speak about the way our present development makes so many problems for us (!).
For this part of the canto, the broadcast begins and ends with a Sanskrit mantra from the Katha Upanishad. This is something that Sri Aurobindo translated himself. Savitri has been commanded to quiet her mind, to go beyond her senses, to conquer her heart's emotional and vital impulses. Then mortal nature will turn to the divine. This mantra, thousands of years old, says clearly that this is the way to become immortal; and this is the whole teaching of the scriptures. And when we hear the words of the mantra, it really seems that this is the same guidance that Savitri receives from her Jivatman.
He hath not set His body within the ken of seeing, neither doth any man with the eye behold Him, but to the heart and mind and the supermind He is manifest. Who know Him are the immortals.
When the five senses cease and are at rest and the mind resteth with them and the Thought ceaseth from its workings, that is the highest state, say thinkers.
When all the strings of the heart are rent asunder, even here in this human birth, then the mortal becometh immortal. This is the whole teaching of the Scriptures.
Savitri, “The Book of Yoga”. “The Parable of the Search for the Soul”...
Canto Two The Parable of the Search for the Soul As in the vigilance of the sleepless night Through the slow heavy-footed silent hours, Repressing in her bosom its load of grief, She sat staring at the dumb tread of Time And the approach of ever-nearing Fate, A summons from her being’s summit came, A sound, a call that broke the seals of Night. Above her brows where will and knowledge meet A mighty Voice invaded mortal space. It seemed to come from inaccessible heights And yet was intimate with all the world And knew the meaning of the steps of Time And saw eternal destiny’s changeless scene Filling the far prospect of the cosmic gaze. As the Voice touched, her body became a stark And rigid golden statue of motionless trance, A stone of God lit by an amethyst soul. Around her body’s stillness all grew still: Her heart listened to its slow measured beats, Her mind renouncing thought heard and was mute: “Why camest thou to this dumb deathbound earth, This ignorant life beneath indifferent skies Tied like a sacrifice on the altar of Time, O spirit, O immortal energy, If ’twas to nurse grief in a helpless heart Or with hard tearless eyes await thy doom? Arise, O soul, and vanquish Time and Death.” But Savitri’s heart replied in the dim night: “My strength is taken from me and given to Death. Why should I lift my hands to the shut heavens Or struggle with mute inevitable Fate Or hope in vain to uplift an ignorant race p.475 Who hug their lot and mock the saviour Light And see in Mind wisdom’s sole tabernacle, In its harsh peak and its inconscient base A rock of safety and an anchor of sleep? Is there a God whom any cry can move? He sits in peace and leaves the mortal’s strength Impotent against his calm omnipotent Law And Inconscience and the almighty hands of Death. What need have I, what need has Satyavan To avoid the black-meshed net, the dismal door, Or call a mightier Light into life’s closed room, A greater Law into man’s little world? Why should I strive with earth’s unyielding laws Or stave off death’s inevitable hour? This surely is best to pactise with my fate And follow close behind my lover’s steps And pass through night from twilight to the sun Across the tenebrous river that divides The adjoining parishes of earth and heaven. Then could we lie inarmed breast upon breast, Untroubled by thought, untroubled by our hearts, Forgetting man and life and time and its hours, Forgetting eternity’s call, forgetting God.” The Voice replied: “Is this enough, O spirit? And what shall thy soul say when it wakes and knows The work was left undone for which it came? Or is this all for thy being born on earth Charged with a mandate from eternity, A listener to the voices of the years, A follower of the footprints of the gods, To pass and leave unchanged the old dusty laws? Shall there be no new tables, no new Word, No greater light come down upon the earth Delivering her from her unconsciousness, Man’s spirit from unalterable Fate? Cam’st thou not down to open the doors of Fate, p.476 The iron doors that seemed for ever closed, And lead man to Truth’s wide and golden road That runs through finite things to eternity? Is this then the report that I must make, My head bowed with shame before the Eternal’s seat,— His power he kindled in thy body has failed, His labourer returns, her task undone?” Then Savitri’s heart fell mute, it spoke no word. But holding back her troubled rebel heart, Abrupt, erect and strong, calm like a hill, Surmounting the seas of mortal ignorance, Its peak immutable above mind’s air, A Power within her answered the still Voice: “I am thy portion here charged with thy work, As thou myself seated for ever above, Speak to my depths, O great and deathless Voice, Command, for I am here to do thy will.” The Voice replied: “Remember why thou cam’st: Find out thy soul, recover thy hid self, In silence seek God’s meaning in thy depths, Then mortal nature change to the divine. Open God’s door, enter into his trance. Cast Thought from thee, that nimble ape of Light: In his tremendous hush stilling thy brain His vast Truth wake within and know and see. Cast from thee sense that veils thy spirit’s sight: In the enormous emptiness of thy mind Thou shalt see the Eternal’s body in the world, Know him in every voice heard by thy soul, In the world’s contacts meet his single touch; All things shall fold thee into his embrace. Conquer thy heart’s throbs, let thy heart beat in God: Thy nature shall be the engine of his works, Thy voice shall house the mightiness of his Word: Then shalt thou harbour my force and conquer Death.” Then Savitri by her doomed husband sat, p.477 Still rigid in her golden motionless pose, A statue of the fire of the inner sun. In the black night the wrath of storm swept by, The thunder crashed above her, the rain hissed, Its million footsteps pattered on the roof. Impassive mid the movement and the cry, Witness of the thoughts of mind, the moods of life, She looked into herself and sought for her soul. A dream disclosed to her the cosmic past, The crypt-seed and the mystic origins, The shadowy beginnings of world-fate: A lamp of symbol lighting hidden truth Imaged to her the world’s significance. In the indeterminate formlessness of Self Creation took its first mysterious steps, It made the body’s shape a house of soul And Matter learned to think and person grew; She saw Space peopled with the seeds of life And saw the human creature born in Time. At first appeared a dim half-neutral tide Of being emerging out of infinite Nought: A consciousness looked at the inconscient Vast And pleasure and pain stirred in the insensible Void. All was the deed of a blind World-Energy: Unconscious of her own exploits she worked, Shaping a universe out of the Inane. In fragmentary beings she grew aware: A chaos of little sensibilities Gathered round a small ego’s pin-point head; In it a sentient creature found its poise, It moved and lived a breathing, thinking whole. On a dim ocean of subconscient life A formless surface consciousness awoke: A stream of thoughts and feelings came and went, A foam of memories hardened and became p.478 A bright crust of habitual sense and thought, A seat of living personality And recurrent habits mimicked permanence. Mind nascent laboured out a mutable form, It built a mobile house on shifting sands, A floating isle upon a bottomless sea. A conscious being was by this labour made; It looked around it on its difficult field In the green wonderful and perilous earth; It hoped in a brief body to survive, Relying on Matter’s false eternity. It felt a godhead in its fragile house; It saw blue heavens, dreamed immortality. ...