December 02, 2005

The Issue

Sonia Dyne
If your desire is to enter the magical world of Sri Aurobindo's Savitri, you can do no better than to start with the second canto of Book Two, called The Issue. It is almost a personal invitation to meditate with Savitri herself, at a crucial turning point in her life, and to share, as far as we are able, in her discovery of the inner divine Self.

This canto is best approached with some preparation on the part of the reader. Choose a time when you are not likely to be interrupted. Try to free your mind from all preconceived ideas about what you are going to read, and put aside for the time being any religious or spiritual teaching you may have encountered in your life. Most important of all, dismiss the notion that Savitri is difficult to understand, or that it has nothing to do with the ordinary business of living.

Before beginning to read, spend a few minutes thinking about the past - your past. Starting from yesterday, trace your own life back to earliest childhood. Be detached about this, reviewing events as if you were watching a film about a stranger. Then let your imagination run freely: where were you in a life before this one? What kind of work attracted you? What qualities or talents did you admire?
Now turn to the opening lines of The Issue. You will see that Savitri did something similar to what you have just done. If you tried this at a time of conflict or trial in your own life the similarity will be even more striking, for Savitri in her surface self faced the extinction of all her worldly happiness with the untimely death of her husband Satyavan. She was at a crisis point when all human resources fail:
'An absolute supernatural darkness falls
On man sometimes when he draws near to God:
An hour comes when fail all nature's means;
Forced out from the protecting ignorance
And flung back on his naked primal need,
He at length must cast from him his surface soul
And be the ungarbed entity within:
That hour had fallen now on Savitri.'

There are moments when life forces us to exceed ourselves; these moments bring what popular wisdom calls 'a blessing in disguise.' Later we will read some mysterious lines:
One dealt with her who meets the burdened great.
Assigner of the ordeal and the path
Who chooses in this holocaust of the soul
Death, fall and sorrow as the spirit's goads....

Someone asked the Mother: who is this 'one' who dealt with Savitri? And she answered 'You can call him the Master of Evolution if you like'. Those who are ready to make the discovery of the inner Self (or as Sri Aurobindo calls it, 'the psychic being’) will often pass through a period of trial or personal tragedy or serious illness which demands more of them than 'the surface soul' can provide. Only 'the ungarbed entity within' armed with the divine strength, courage and unconditional love can act in this world free from sorrow and 'armoured against all fear'.

Savitri's profound meditation leads her beyond the happy years of her childhood into the discovery of past lives and she realises the chain of causal links that bind all human life on earth. This link she must consciously break, and live as one without a past in order to be reborn in the freedom of the spirit. As she draws nearer to the realisation of the inner Self, the sense of herself as an individual being drops away, and the burden of the whole earth becomes hers. It is an experience of utter loneliness and desolation:
A combatant in silent dreadful lists
The world unknowing, for the world she stood;
No helper had she save the strength within......

Read on now to discover Sri Aurobindo's wonderful evocation of the earth's natural beauty. Here, as it is through out the whole epic, the magnificence of Nature unspoiled by human depredations is a backdrop to the action. It enters into Savitri's meditation, preparing her for the revelation to follow:
And the mighty wideness of the primitive earth
And the brooding multitude of patient trees
And the musing sapphire leisure of the sky
And the solemn weight of the slowly passing months
Had left in her deep room for thought and God.

Wideness, silence, peace and a profound contemplation - the very conditions needed for the revelation to come. And suddenly, it is there! A door opens onto a spiritual world of harmony and bliss. Divine Love takes on the aspect of a radiant Goddess, whom Savitri realises as her true Self. The old antagonism between spirit and matter is no more. The gulf between human and divine is bridged in Savitri, the embodiment of that Love:
In her he found a vastness like his own
His high warm subtle ether he refound
And moved in her as in his natural home.

Now Savitri can no longer live an ordinary human life in the world. 'A work she had to do, a word to speak.' And more significantly 'In her the superhuman cast its seed.' This is the first direct reference in Savitri to the advent of the supramental consciousness, the ultimate stage of human evolution. Savitri realising her identity with the in-dwelling Divine, realises in the same instant her divine and human destiny:
To wrestle with the Shadow she had come
And must confront the riddle of man's birth
And life's brief struggle in dumb matter's night.
Whether to bear with Ignorance and Death
Or hew the ways of Immortality,
To win or lose the god-like game for man
Was her soul's issue thrown with destiny's dice.

This challenge faces everyone who accepts to share the vision that inspired Sri Aurobindo. All are called upon to decide 'whether to bear with Ignorance and Death' or to discover the inner being and bring it out from behind the veil. This is the issue for us as well.

In every house there is a locked door. Most of us are unaware of its existence, or if we suspect it is there we are not very curious about it. If someone told us that the place where we live held a vast treasure no doubt we would make every effort to obtain it, even to the extent of demolishing all the walls. But when the treasure is a spiritual one, we do not remove even one brick! In Savitri Sri Aurobindo affirms the existence of the door, and describes in detail what lies behind it, and even gives us the keys.

So let us join Savitri in her meditation, and who knows what door may open within?

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