Loretta reads Savitri:Six.I "The Word of Fate" part 5

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Transcript of:
Savitri: Book Six, Canto I (part 5 of 5)
by Loretta, 2018 (32:36)
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Savitri Book 6 Canto I icon.jpg  Loretta reads Savitri
Book Six: The Book of Fate
Canto I: The Word of Fate
Part 5 of 5, pages 431-436
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Narad, the messenger of the gods, has finally delivered the message he came to give. Satyavan, Savitri's mate, her chosen husband, has only one year left to live. He is fated to die exactly one year from the day Savitri and her parents learn of his destiny. The great all-knowing sage and singer of the gods has said that:

Twelve swift-winged months are given to him and her;
This day returning Satyavan must die. (p.431)

Last time we saw that Savitri's mother had asked Narad not to hide their doom. She had become alarmed because he was subtly hinting at coming disaster. And we saw last time that even though she had attained wisdom and tranquility, when she feared for her own child's future, she allowed the lower vital forces to express themselves through her, and she fell to the lot of common man. She opened her doors to grief. And “as a common man beneath his load / Grows faint and breathes his pain in ignorant words” (p.427), she expressed all her dark forebodings.

Although the queen was wise, in this moment of fire testing her great soul, she ignorantly accused the world-power, and the impartial, impersonal One supreme, of injustice and perversity. She accused them of action turned away from what is right. Then she complained of the karma that returns to pay us back for our own cruelties and the sufferings that we have inflicted on others. Finally, she said that although she was strong enough to bear her own punishment – because she knew it was just – she could not bear the sufferings of others. And now, this is her own beloved child, and her child is going to have to face a disastrous fate.

So although knowing it is hard to bear, the fear of the unknown doom – that she doesn't know what's going to happen, but it's going to happen to her child – the fear of unknown doom is worse. She says it is best to know.

And Narad set free the springs of fate. He said, “The truth thou hast claimed; I give to thee the truth.” (p.429). He described Satyavan's great value, and his beauty. And then he said that “Heaven’s greatness came, but was too great to stay.” (p.431). And when he said, “This day returning Satyavan must die”, the queen's cry broke forth once more.

One of the great truths that Sri Aurobindo and Mother teach is that our attitude, our inner response to what life brings us, comes back to us in what happens to us in our daily life. We have to be vigilant to escape our own selves. It's a constant and endless surrender of all that we think and feel that is negative, and a constant choice to be positive at every second. Here we have a good example of the queen not being able to do this. So we will see in this part of the canto that the queen is human still, and like all of us, her knowledge contains a mixture of wisdom and ignorance. We can see how upset she has become by what she says. She says:

… “Vain then can be heaven’s grace!
Heaven mocks us with the brilliance of its gifts,
For Death is a cupbearer of the wine
Of too brief joy held up to mortal lips
For a passionate moment by the careless gods.
But I reject the grace and the mockery. (p.431)

She tells her daughter that her heart has stooped to a misleading call. She must ride again through the world, and make another choice. She must leave this fated head of Satyavan, because here love's sweetness sleeps in the pale marble hand of Death. She even tells Savitri not to argue with her about it; she says, “Plead not thy choice, for death has made it vain.” (p.431)

This part of Canto I is all dialogue between Savitri and her mother. In it we can hear the echo of perhaps millions of conversations between parents and children all over the world, down through the ages, in every country. Here, it is a parent of relatively less-evolved consciousness speaking to a much more evolved child. It could be the other way around, and everything in between – but it's the same echo. The parent is trying to convince their child that they know better, and the child should change what it was planning to do.

But here, Savitri has been through the deepest, most moving experience of her life. She knows something her mother has not realized. And she has found what everyone dreams of. She is united with the eternal partner of her own immortal soul: her true mate, her mate of countless lifetimes. This meeting of soul with soul has awakened her soul within her; it is very much prominent in her being. It is with the wisdom of her soul that she speaks. And now she speaks eternal truths, truths that come from the immortal wisdom that all souls have, because our soul is the immortal part of us, and is always connected to its supreme origin. Now Savitri tells her mother:

Once my heart chose and chooses not again.
The word I have spoken can never be erased,
It is written in the record book of God. (p.432)

In “The Book of Love”, when they met, we saw that even when she first looked at Satyavan with her heart, her very heart knew that he was closer to her than her own heartstrings. Even then, her inner vision, still remembering, knew him from all her past. But she doesn't yet explain these things to her parents. She tells her mother:

My heart has sealed its troth to Satyavan:
Its signature adverse Fate cannot efface,
Its seal not Fate nor Death nor Time dissolve. (p.432)

She says, “Those who shall part who have grown one being within?” (p.432). She's telling her mother her great truth, but her mother cannot hear it. She also says:

I am stronger than death and greater than my fate;
My love shall outlast the world, doom falls from me
Helpless against my immortality. (p.432)

But the queen is too involved and too upset. All the queen hears in Savitri's words is the voice of a self-chosen doom. And the queen responds with words showing the lesser consciousness of her vital being.

And Sri Aurobindo points out to us that the queen, although talking to Savitri, is really answering to her own despair. He says, “To her own despair answer the mother made” (p.432). The queen speaks like someone who knows only the movements of outer material life. She says things like “All passes here”; “He whom thou lovest now, a stranger came / And into a far strangeness shall depart”. He will move to other places and other people. “The body thou hast loved is cast away” (p.433). Our souls are forever turning on the wheel of God, forever married, forever torn apart. We can only cry to an unsiezed bliss – and when it comes, it's not enough, it fails. The queen is talking about vital attachment, not real love. She says love dies in our breast, even before our lover goes. She speaks of our emotions being “high and dying notes” of a wild music, changed by the passionate moments of a seeking hour.

All this is the activity of vital love. A love that wants to get all it can, all the time, and a love that even wants to control the object of its love – its own dear beloved. Mother and Sri Aurobindo taught a lot about vital attachment and real love. Real love gives unselfishly, gives all the time. Real love waits patiently. Real love is happy just to love. They teach that love is a great universal force, seeking to express itself in all the instruments that it can find.

Sri Aurobindo told us back in Book One, Canto II, when first we met Savitri, that love found that he could move in her as in his natural home. The queen loves her daughter, but in this upset moment, she cannot see very clearly.

Savitri has ended her speech by saying, “Fate’s law may change, but not my spirit’s will” (p.432). In response to this, the queen advises Savitri that she must not take the way of the Titan and the giant, whose own fierce will is their only law. And who serve neither Truth nor Light, nor God. But they only “dash their lives against the eternal Law / And fall and break by their own violent mass” (p.434).

The Titan is the Asura, one of the kinds of demons that Sri Aurobindo described at the beginning of “The Book of Fate”. When Narad came singing down from Paradise, down to Aswapati's palace, he sang of how they're ready to go back, to give up their terrible job. Their job – the job that they can only do unless they agree to be converted, which apparently they don't do very often – is to oppose, resist, and slow down the progress of the Light. When Narad sang of the transformation and the ecstasy to come:

...the demons wept with joy
Foreseeing the end of their long dreadful task
And glad release from their self-chosen doom
And return into the One from whom they came. (p.417)

Sri Aurobindo has said that these asuras are very clever in carrying out their purpose. They know how to work out results. A disciple once said that the Asura gives you power. And Sri Aurobindo answered:

“The Asura gives you nothing. He only uses you for his purpose and, when your use is over, throws you aside.”[1]

So it's no wonder that Savitri's mother, who is completely overcome by vital emotion, and believes that Savitri's true love is only a passing vital impulse, is cautioning her daughter not to be like an asura here. Not to be blindly willful. She tells Savitri to take the middle path made for thinking man – thinking man who is given calm reason for his guide.

In “The Book of the Traveller of the Worlds”, King Aswapati travels through all the levels of mind. And when he comes to reason, Sri Aurobindo teaches us that our reason is a limiting process, and a limited process, and we have to open to higher planes of mind. Mother teaches that we need to live by reason, until we are beyond desires and preferences and ego. And we have to be completely beyond being open to any adverse influence. Not only that: in order to get out of reason, we have to be totally surrendered to the divine Will. It's a stage of very advanced spiritual development; and in Book Two, once reason is passed, then the traveller of the world starts receiving wonderful higher things from the higher stages of mind in the creation.

But here, the queen is taking a ‘reasonable’ position. She's advising her daughter in reasonable ways, to give up her unbending will that will lead to disaster. She advocates a reasonable life. She gives very convincing reasons to choose a safe, peaceful life so that she can raise her spirit slowly into timeless peace.

Now Savitri answers directly to the things that her mother is telling her. Now she explains how she feels, and why. She says that her will is part of the eternal will. Her strength is not the strength of the Titan – it is the strength of God. She explains that she has found the deep, unchanging soul of love. Her spirit has seen the glory for which it came. Her spirit has seen her eternity, always clasped by Satyavan's eternity, and the deep possibility always to love. She says that compared to this, the riches of a thousand fortunate years are poverty. There can never be another. There is only Satyavan. If it is only for a year, that year is all her life. But she knows that one year is not all her fate: only to live and love awhile and then to die. She knows this because she now knows why her spirit came on earth, and who she is, and who he is that she loves.

She has looked from her immortal self, and she has seen the eternal in Satyavan. And then, “none could answer to her words. Silent / They sat and looked into the eyes of Fate.” (p.436)

The Book of Fate, “The Word of Fate”. Narad has explained about Satyavan's doom; he said, “Twelve swift-winged months are given to him and her; / This day returning Satyavan must die.” (p.431)

A lightning bright and nude the sentence fell.
But the queen cried: “Vain then can be heaven’s grace!
Heaven mocks us with the brilliance of its gifts,
For Death is a cupbearer of the wine
Of too brief joy held up to mortal lips
For a passionate moment by the careless gods.
But I reject the grace and the mockery.
Mounting thy car go forth, O Savitri,
And travel once more through the peopled lands.
Alas, in the green gladness of the woods
Thy heart has stooped to a misleading call.
Choose once again and leave this fated head,
Death is the gardener of this wonder-tree;
Love’s sweetness sleeps in his pale marble hand.
Advancing in a honeyed line but closed,
A little joy would buy too bitter an end.
Plead not thy choice, for death has made it vain.
Thy youth and radiance were not born to lie
A casket void dropped on a careless soil; p.432
A choice less rare may call a happier fate.”
But Savitri answered from her violent heart,—
Her voice was calm, her face was fixed like steel:
“Once my heart chose and chooses not again.
The word I have spoken can never be erased,
It is written in the record book of God.
The truth once uttered, from the earth’s air effaced,
By mind forgotten, sounds immortally
For ever in the memory of Time.
Once the dice fall thrown by the hand of Fate
In an eternal moment of the gods.
My heart has sealed its troth to Satyavan:
Its signature adverse Fate cannot efface,
Its seal not Fate nor Death nor Time dissolve.
Those who shall part who have grown one being within?
Death’s grip can break our bodies, not our souls;
If death take him, I too know how to die.
Let Fate do with me what she will or can;
I am stronger than death and greater than my fate;
My love shall outlast the world, doom falls from me
Helpless against my immortality.
Fate’s law may change, but not my spirit’s will.”
An adamant will, she cast her speech like bronze.
But in the queen’s mind listening her words
Rang like the voice of a self-chosen Doom
Denying every issue of escape.
To her own despair answer the mother made;
As one she cried who in her heavy heart
Labours amid the sobbing of her hopes
To wake a note of help from sadder strings:
“O child, in the magnificence of thy soul
Dwelling on the border of a greater world
And dazzled by thy superhuman thoughts,
Thou lendst eternity to a mortal hope.
Here on this mutable and ignorant earth
Who is the lover and who is the friend? p.433
All passes here, nothing remains the same.
None is for any on this transient globe.
He whom thou lovest now, a stranger came
And into a far strangeness shall depart:
His moment’s part once done upon life’s stage
Which for a time was given him from within,
To other scenes he moves and other players
And laughs and weeps mid faces new, unknown.
The body thou hast loved is cast away
Amidst the brute unchanging stuff of worlds
To indifferent mighty Nature and becomes
Crude matter for the joy of others’ lives.
But for our souls, upon the wheel of God
For ever turning, they arrive and go,
Married and sundered in the magic round
Of the great Dancer of the boundless dance.
Our emotions are but high and dying notes
Of his wild music changed compellingly
By the passionate movements of a seeking Heart
In the inconstant links of hour with hour.
To call down heaven’s distant answering song,
To cry to an unseized bliss is all we dare;
Once seized, we lose the heavenly music’s sense;
Too near, the rhythmic cry has fled or failed;
All sweetnesses are baffling symbols here.
Love dies before the lover in our breast:
Our joys are perfumes in a brittle vase.
O then what wreck is this upon Time’s sea
To spread life’s sails to the hurricane desire
And call for pilot the unseeing heart!
O child, wilt thou proclaim, wilt thou then follow
Against the Law that is the eternal will
The autarchy of the rash Titan’s mood
To whom his own fierce will is the one law
In a world where Truth is not, nor Light nor God?
Only the gods can speak what now thou speakst. p.434
Thou who art human, think not like a god.
For man, below the god, above the brute,
Is given the calm reason as his guide;
He is not driven by an unthinking will
As are the actions of the bird and beast;
He is not moved by stark Necessity
Like the senseless motion of inconscient things.
The giant’s and the Titan’s furious march
Climbs to usurp the kingdom of the gods
Or skirts the demon magnitudes of Hell;
In the unreflecting passion of their hearts
They dash their lives against the eternal Law
And fall and break by their own violent mass:
The middle path is made for thinking man.
To choose his steps by reason’s vigilant light,
To choose his path among the many paths
Is given him, for each his difficult goal
Hewn out of infinite possibility.
Leave not thy goal to follow a beautiful face.
Only when thou hast climbed above thy mind
And liv’st in the calm vastness of the One
Can love be eternal in the eternal Bliss
And love divine replace the human tie.
There is a shrouded law, an austere force:
It bids thee strengthen thy undying spirit;
It offers its severe benignancies
Of work and thought and measured grave delight
As steps to climb to God’s far secret heights.
Then is our life a tranquil pilgrimage,
Each year a mile upon the heavenly Way,
Each dawn opens into a larger Light.
Thy acts are thy helpers, all events are signs,
Waking and sleep are opportunities
Given to thee by an immortal Power.
So canst thou raise thy pure unvanquished spirit
Till spread to heaven in a wide vesper calm, p.435
Indifferent and gentle as the sky,
It greatens slowly into timeless peace.”
But Savitri replied with steadfast eyes:
“My will is part of the eternal Will,
My fate is what my spirit’s strength can make,
My fate is what my spirit’s strength can bear;
My strength is not the Titan’s; it is God’s.
I have discovered my glad reality
Beyond my body in another’s being:
I have found the deep unchanging soul of love.
Then how shall I desire a lonely good,
Or slay, aspiring to white vacant peace,
The endless hope that made my soul spring forth
Out of its infinite solitude and sleep?
My spirit has glimpsed the glory for which it came,
The beating of one vast heart in the flame of things,
My eternity clasped by his eternity
And, tireless of the sweet abysms of Time,
Deep possibility always to love.
This, this is first, last joy and to its throb
The riches of a thousand fortunate years
Are poverty. Nothing to me are death and grief
Or ordinary lives and happy days.
And what to me are common souls of men
Or eyes and lips that are not Satyavan’s?
I have no need to draw back from his arms
And the discovered paradise of his love
And journey into a still infinity.
Only now for my soul in Satyavan
I treasure the rich occasion of my birth:
In sunlight and a dream of emerald ways
I shall walk with him like gods in Paradise.
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.
For I know now why my spirit came on earth p.436
And who I am and who he is I love.
I have looked at him from my immortal Self,
I have seen God smile at me in Satyavan;
I have seen the Eternal in a human face.”
Then none could answer to her words. Silent
They sat and looked into the eyes of Fate.

  1. Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo, p.471, “On the Gods and Asuras”