April 16, 2007

Indeed, the story of Savitri is both parable and pre-history

Re: 09: Her Mortal Birth by RY Deshpande
on Sun 15 Apr 2007 07:38 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link
A strange comparison Oftentimes a comparison is made between the original Savitri-tale in the Mahabharata and Sri Aurobindo’s epic Savitri. It is even asserted, rather too enthusiastically, that Sri Aurobindo’s work has nothing to do with the tale of conjugal love given to us by Vyasa. And yet the story-line runs more or less in the same sequence, with profound spiritual connotations and nuances, dhārmic and yogic. We should also keep in mind that Sri Aurobindo calls his Savitri both a legend and a symbol. Its deep symbolic connection with the legend is traced to one of the myths belonging to the Vedic cycle.
Indeed, the story of Savitri is both parable and pre-history. Its character is occult and its contents are spiritual. Given as a human tale, the story has several suggestions and is loaded with supernatural significance. In fact, its symbolic nature is quite evocative of the issues involved in this mortal creation, mŗtyuloka, the creation to which we belong. Therefore, before we pass any scholarly or academic comments on the ancient tale, we must acknowledge first the authentic truth-substance and truth-values it is in possession of. In fact, had it not been so, it would have hardly served for Sri Aurobindo the purpose of describing his spirituality, his philosophy of the life divine, his yogic attainments, and their possibilities. If it is such a wonderful support, ādhāra, it has to be outstanding in its spirit and in its matter. Not only the framework, but there is also something housed in the frame which is genuinely valuable.
The characters described in the story are “incarnations or emanations of living and conscious Forces with whom we can enter into concrete touch and they take human bodies in order to help man and show him the way from his mortal state to a divine consciousness and immortal life.” This aspect of the ancient description, of incarnation of conscious Forces, is something absolutely wonderful which only goes to show the greatness of the revelation made by it. In our hurry to elevate Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri we tend to pooh-pooh the past creations or presentations, least realising that, in the process, we are actually bringing down his Savitri from the spiritual majesty and loftiness it has in their midst.
A few things are at once revealed to us to grasp the truer significance of the Savitri-tale that has come down to us as a tradition. Savitri is an incarnation which took place in far past times when the whole thing had to be opened out. The work is to open out the ways of Immortality; but what is that “whole thing” that had to be opened out, for which she had come here? And how is she going to do that? These are important questions which arise in our mind vis-à-vis the gripping story of Savitri. That is its merit, its luminous plus point. There was that awareness of the “whole thing”, forming the quintessential truth of this entire evolutionary creation, a splendid awareness indeed.
It is in this background that we must dismiss some of the comments made while talking about the epic Savitri and the ancient story as is narrated in the Mahabharata: “The first mistake people can make regarding Savitri is to assume that it deals with the story as is told in the Mahabharata, Vana Parva. This is a fundamental mistake. It is true that the particular sage, the particular person who recites to Yudhişthira the story about the power of conjugal felicity, had the intuition of the Savitri story.” But the intention of Mārkaņdeya’s narration of the story is not regarding “the power of conjugal felicity”. It is about the power of dhārmic conduct in winning victory over the stubborn-most antagonist. The legend itself has already in it a powerful symbol.
Then, there are others who make puerile comparisons with Vyasa’s Savitri and the Savitri as given by Sri Aurobindo. It is said that the whole episode connected with Aswapati’s getting a boon from Goddess Savitri is sort of disposed of by Vyasa in just a few shlokas, whereas Sri Aurobindo gives it to us in about ten thousand lines. Is that really the greatness of Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri? What about the basic contents? The ancient realisation was that, it is by the power of Yajna that the righteous Dharma can be established to promote the conduct of life and it is that which must be followed in the greatness of its worth and value. We should not underrate this aspect in any way.
Sometimes it is also said that Savitri “resuscitated” Satyavan when he collapsed in her lap. That would totally knock off the occult basis of Savitri conquering Death.
The fundamental truth is that the birth of Savitri is related to the Yajna Aswapati performed over a long period of time, as if showing the “difficult and painful task” he was engaged in. The Gods don’t oblige so very easily, and particularly so if the boon is going to be of an exceptional kind. RYD

No comments:

Post a Comment