Re: 11: The Sun from which we Kindle all our Suns: Spirituality of affirmative life
A Vedic Rishi asked for cows and horses and sons, and a life of a hundred years. He lived in material plenty, with the corn in the fields rich with milk. In the pursuit of immortality he also cherished joys of the world in the nobility of their truth. And, then, we have in the Isha Upanishad one of the most persuasive claims of spiritual life in its affirmative values. No wonder, its life-positivism proved such a stumbling block to Shankara the metaphysician, when he considered the whole creation only on the basis of the experience of the Passive Brahman, making it life-negating, maintaining it to be illusory and false. The Upanishad opens with the following śloka:
All this is for habitation by the Lord, whatsoever is individual universe of movement in the universal motion. By that renounced thou shouldst enjoy; lust not after any man’s possession.
All this is for the habitation of the Divine—because the Divine is all and is in all. The whole philosophy of dynamic thrust in existence, with its yogic-spiritual process opening to greater potential, finds in this powerful verse a compacted utterance about the worthwhileness of this entire world, as if it springing straight from the Hand of God, suggesting that nothing of it can be really rejected or belittled. It holds in its contents the wide infinity of knowledge itself, knowledge asserting everywhere the possibilities of the essential self; it accepts no fundamental dichotomy between spirit and matter, no trenchant cleavage between Being and Becoming, between the phenomenal and the creative-expressive absolute. And look at the forcefulness with which the phrase and idiom comes through, scripted in the language of the seer of the truth as if he has put the whole of his tapasya into it, expression into the seen speech, paśyanti vāk, the creative Word with Sight. And the language of the Upanishad has such splendour and such density that it can make visible what is invisible, marking well its ‘seen’ or paśyanti aspect, making concrete and true for us that which is real-ideally unapproachable. It at once has the Truth-Word’s original rhythm, substance, and vision in their pleasing intensities which render it mantric.
Though invariably the Upanishadic poetry is quantitatively dense, with more of thought-substance than other elements in it, it can also have lyrical moments. Thus at times does the Rishi loudly chant the glory of the universal spirit in men and moments and happenings in the inexhaustible delight of existence rushing everywhere. There is the happy psychic inspiration in his poetry that bears a distinctive mark of the mantra:
Thou art woman and Thou art man also; Thou art the boy, or else Thou art the young virgin, and Thou art yonder worn and aged man that walkest bending upon a staff. Lo, Thou becomest born and the universe groweth full of Thy faces. Thou art the blue bird and the green and the scarlet-eyed; Thou art the womb of Lightning and the Seasons and the Oceans. Spirit without beginning, because Thou hast poured Thyself multifoldly into all forms, therefore the worlds have being. There is one Unborn Mother; she is white, she is black, she is blood-red of hue; having taken shape, lo, how she giveth birth to many kinds of creatures; for One of the two Unborn taketh delight in her and lieth with her, but the other hath exhausted all her sweets and casteth her from him. They are two birds that cling to one common tree; beautiful of plumage, yoke-fellows are they, eternal companions; and one of them eateth the delicious fruit of the tree and the Other eateth not, but watcheth His fellow.
Such wonderful lyricism and sweetness, such felicity of expression! And at times we have the cry of the bhakta speaking with another quality of the mantra, as in the Gita:
Thou art the ancient Soul and the first and original Godhead and the supreme resting place of this all; Thou art the knower and that which is to be known and the highest status; O infinite in form, by Thee was extended the universe. Thou art Yama and Vayu and Agni and Soma and Varuna and Prajapati, father of creatures, and the great-grandsire. Salutations to Thee a thousand times over and again and yet again salutation, in front and behind and from every side, for Thou art each and all that is, Infinite in might and immeasurable in strength of action. Thou pervadest all and art every one.
If in these verses we have Vedic fervour raised to epic loftiness, we also see in them the beginning of another kind of lyrical devotionalism entering into poetry. Still weighty, rather splendidly heavy, quantitative in its substantiality, still very solid and classical in its greatness and grandeur, yet in its poetry we begin to feel another component entering in. It brings in its poignancy the sweet and the melodious, the fascination of an ardent soul approaching with confidence the god of its adoration. The easy felicity in its flow is the new gift we receive from the Muse. Another landmark gets established in its beautiful revelatory mood.
But in the magic of Savitri there are present, together or variously, the luminous density of the Vedic intuitive-spiritual, the Upanishadic profundity of the seer-vision and seer-thought, and the Gita’s psychic warmth and enchantment flooded with the sheer Overhead. The wonderful result is, in the Adoration of the Divine Mother, we have not the submissive or acquiescent, the passive compliance of the Bhakta to the God of his Worship, not the dāsya-bhāva, but a surrender of another kind, almost as if both the devotee and the deity were each other’s comrades and companions, equals. It is not female but male surrender to the Divine that we see in it. The quality of the surrender of Aswapati is masculine, lofty, wonderful, full of knowledge and power, more spiritual than psychic. RYD