Saturday, December 16, 2006

One may keep reading the epic for half a century

"The Ascent of Sight in Sri Aurobindo's Savitri" - by J.K. Mukherjee Review by Prema Nandakumar Sabda Newsletter, June 2002: by rjon on Fri 15 Dec 2006 06:12 PM PST Permanent Link
Re-reading Savitri is ever a new experience. One may keep reading the epic for half a century like Jugalda, and each reading brings a fresh insight into the inexhaustible springs of the narrative. The process of ascent from an ordinary seeing to the spiritual vision in the higher ranges of thought and beyond as stated in Savitri is a fascinating phenomenon. Especially so, when Jugalda is our Paraclete. As always, Jugalda does not tease us with an impossible mystic diction. He is the ideal acharya who swoops down like the eagle in the classroom and then rises slowly and majestically past the green crests of life holding the hands of the reader-student.
In the course of his precise teaching, he jots down points for us to memorise and meditate upon as we go about our chores. There are the innumerable references to “sight” (also allied terms like gaze, eye) with or without adjectives in the epic. The physical eye’s co-extensive association with the inner eye of consciousness is a marvel that defies explanation. Eight elements are at play in this act and no object or thought can be seen in clinical isolation, for necessarily we have the riches of all our yesterdays and the possibilties of all our tomorrows converging in the present moment of time. The same object can be seen from many stances and thus it may acquire different contours as well. What we see in the physical is not the same as what we perceive in the subtle-physical. Such a two-fold vision (the surface and the inscape) is familiar enough for many aspirants in their spiritual journey. The physical sight is, of course, woefully limited to the “here”: on the other hand, visions bring the aspirant into “a first contact with the Divine in his forms and powers”. It was because Sri Aurobindo plunged his spiritual gaze “into the siege of mist” that the lines of Savitri appeared before him. As he wrote in a 1947 letter: “Savitri is the record of a seeing”; hence the Mother’s advice that reading Savitri is yoga. The reading repeatedly turns our gaze inward and helps us rise in consciousness; the rise being in proportion to the aspirations of the reader.
Pointing out significant passages from the epic where every rift is loaded with spiritual ore, Jugalda also speaks of the pitfalls in taking up the yoga of consciousness-probe without a proper guide. By keeping oneself safe from the allure of false visions and tempting sights, it should be possible to stand at the threshold of sight in the Superconscient, since “there is a range of being and consciousness far transcending all these elements of our constitution, which is superconscient to all the other provinces of our existence.” The supramental sight, of course has the capacity to see “the Eternal’s many-sided-oneness”. It does not miss any attention to detail, nor does it ignore the Whole. In the supramental seeing, time also gets annihilated, since there is no artificial barrier imposed on what needs be understood as an eternal present in an “unpartitioned time-vision”. The Ascent of Sight concludes with an enormously challenging question: Does the Divine have a supra-physical form for being envisioned? Or is the Supreme formless? Jugalda, rising from the milky ocean of Aurobindoneana with droplets of Aurobindonian phrases dripping, gives the answer with gentle understanding. Form and Formlessness are not mutually exclusive after all. We are dealing with “Absolute Existence as a reality” and its mystery is illimitable. Well, the Flute Player of Brindaban could not have appeared from a positive zero!
There is then the possibility that the supramental transformation might change our sense of sight (physical, spiritual) also and give us a natural sense of unity which is the need of today’s fractured world. One may conclude reading The Ascent of Sight; but the conclusion also begins our own personal endeavour to tune our physical sight with the psychic and the spiritual. For such is the magic of the teacher in Jugalda who can transform a student of today into an achiever of tomorrow.Prema Nandakumar

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