Thursday, September 13, 2007

Nirod was aware that faculties can grow, in fact, had the firm conviction that they must grow

Re: A Spiritual Biography of Savitri by RY Deshpande on Wed 12 Sep 2007 09:05 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link A Road by the Heart
Apropos of the series Spiritual Biography of Savitri, Arun Vaidya calls my comments a “Katha by Deshpande” which, I must say, is an inspired and felicitous description, an apt description also. This is indeed an interesting way of putting things together, of the associations with the educative tradition of the Indian society of the recent era, of the religious discourses that, during the days of political subjugation, kept the spirituality intact at the collective level in another way, and of the symposia-colloquia of the learned gatherings of the professionals debating matters of deeper concern. Also, Arun almost suggests that the present work, belonging to the bloggers of the web-age, is a worthwhile undertaking which can be quite rewarding from many points of view. His general assessment that it is “a highly refined and noteworthy scholastic undertaking… enriched with spiritual insight” is flattering to me, flattering in more than one respect. I must feel happy if it should mean that the past cultural and the present techno-based approaches can come together and serve a useful purpose of self-discovery and of cosmicisation of thought, that it could possibly open the prospects of post-human destiny in a more agreeable, more acceptable, more comprehensive a manner.
Arun brings the reference of the 13th century yogi-poet Jnaneshwar who, just at the age of fifteen or so, gave us in Marathi the text of the Gita; the work is popularly known as Jnaneshwari which consists of about ten thousand verses. Such was the power of the devotional and authoritative rendering by Jnaneshwar, that it was immediately accepted as a dependable commentary on the Scripture, the Gita. He had achieved “two most significant goals: first, he brought the spiritual teachings of Bhagavat Gita to the Marathi speaking community that did not adequately know Sanskrit; secondly, he paved the path of devotional practice—Bhakti Yoga in the Marathi speaking community that was predominantly and traditionally pursuing Jnana Yoga only.” Carrying forward this comparison, of the work on the Gita, the Jnaneshwari, and the present one on Savitri, Arun says enthusiastically that the Spiritual Biography will succeed in arousing the “meditative and contemplative affinity” in the minds and hearts of its readers, readers of Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri.
It will be wonderful if this happens, if the Spiritual Biography should prove to be spiritually contagious, communicable, transmittable. More it will be if it can bring out revelatory subtleties, provide intuitive understanding of the yogic-occult matters. But… and frankly, I don’t know. There are blue turquoise depths below bright blue turquoise depths in Savitri, and there are topaz heights above luminous topaz heights, and there are creamy white widenesses of the wide transcendental Vast, the Brihat. It will therefore be too presumptuous on our part to make any claim that we can ‘know’ Savitri. The prescription that we should approach Savitri with the heart, that, as the travel guide says, “the direct road to Savitri is by the heart”,—this is compelling indeed, unmistakably, luminously valid for Savitri.
Sri Aurobindo himself wrote in a letter “…what I am trying to do everywhere in the poem is to express exactly something seen, something felt or experienced.” How can that then be grasped unless that something is seen, that something felt or experienced by us? Our difficulty lies exactly there. Unless we grow spiritually, we cannot know what Savitri is. But then Savitri itself can become a wondrous means to grow spiritually; by it one can have all those loaded golden experiences, by it can come its own transformative realisations—and more than what is said in its richness.
One needs spiritual experiences—says the Mother apropos of understanding Savitri: “I think that man is not yet ready to receive it. It is too high and too vast for him. He cannot understand it, grasp it, for it is not by the mind that one can understand Savitri. One needs spiritual experiences in order to understand and assimilate it. The farther one advances on the path of Yoga, the more does one assimilate and the better. No, it is something which will be appreciated only in the future, it is the poetry of tomorrow of which He has spoken in The Future Poetry. It is too subtle, too refined,—it is not in the mind or through the mind, it is in meditation that Savitri is revealed.”
And can that understanding be universal? Sonia Dyne recollects one of her meetings with Nirodbaran: “A few years ago I had the good fortune to be sitting near to Nirodbaran, the ‘scribe’ to whom Sri Aurobindo dictated so much of the final version of Savitri. I told him very briefly about our plan to try a new approach. He commented: ‘Do you want everyone to learn Savitri by heart?’ Since then, how many others have asked the same question! The answer is ‘Regretfully, no, we have something else in mind’—regretfully, because learning favourite passages by heart, enjoying them, meditating upon them, making them part of our lives, allowing them to inspire and guide us, is the best approach of all.” Yes, we always have something in mind and we miss Savitri. The Mother said, “all that we need we will find in Savitri.” But, regretfully, we always have something in mind.
Let me also refer to Arun attending Nirodbaran’s brief Savitri-sessions in the evenings: “In my opinion, possibly the greatest value contribution anyone can make about helping others to learn from or about Savitri is to kindle an aspiration to seek Sri Aurobindo within and use Savitri as the magnificent divine grace made available to each of us. It was my great privilege to attend to Nirod-da’s Savitri Sessions during my visits to Sri Aurobindo Ashram. He used to recite and briefly comment but he never discoursed. He used to uplift my spirit to the serene spiritual domain. I would go into a trance and experience the mantric vibrations of Sri Aurobindo’s written words with Nirod-da’s utter devotion. It used to be a very exhilarating and almost metamorphic experience.” Nirod was the first and only person to have received Savitri directly, to have heard it directly from the lips of Sri Aurobindo,—and surely listening to him, to Nirod, has its deep occult connotations.
In the same informal vein, I too might quickly recount a part of my Savitri-association with Nirod. This was a little more than twenty years ago. One day he made, all of a sudden, a very surprising suggestion. This was in the nature of a question: “Why shouldn’t we read Savitri together?” I don’t know what had prompted him but, of course, I immediately jumped at this opportunity. This was at the beginning of our school vacation. And the result was, straightaway, we started reading, rather doing, Savitri together. Later also, during holidays and on Sundays, we used to meet regularly in the morning, the sessions consisting of breakfast in his small downstairs ‘pantry-cum-kitchen-cum-living-room’ followed by Savitri in the upstairs verandah, in front of the Darshan Room. We used to have quite a good breakfast, and assuredly enough his ‘famous’ tea also, prepared by himself; he served me always with warm gracious care and fondness, with a parental touch. This would be over by 7.30 or so, when he used to take ‘rest’ for about half an hour; but then this gave me a wonderful opportunity of going upstairs and being there of my own, till his arrival at 8. Our sessions would end by 9.15 when arrangements for the visitors to Sri Aurobindo’s Room would commence.
We started doing Savitri not at the beginning but with Book II Canto VII, The Descent into Night. What a strange beginning, straight with the most frightful part of the Epic! Nirod asked me to open the book and it opened there, in that Canto, almost in the middle of Part I of the two-volume edition of Savitri. The Canto has some eighteen pages (pp. 202-19) with 609 lines. After completing this Canto, in little more than half a dozen sessions, we continued onward, in a regular sequence, till we finished the last Book, Epilogue; the earlier five Cantos of Book I and six Cantos of Book II, the first two hundred pages, were then serially covered, thus completing the ‘reading’ of the whole of Savitri. This easily took us a couple of years to go through the entire poem, line by line, page by page, canto by canto. After this Savitri-reading we didn’t take any other work of Sri Aurobindo though in various contexts we used to meet often and talk everything under the sun.
About our Savitri-sessions, about Savitri-reading, let me briefly explain the procedure we followed. I thought he would read the text and I would quietly, contemplatively, listen to it, without asking a single question. It was not so. Firstly, he wanted me to read the text. He would have his copy of Savitri open in front of him and I would read the text. I would read the text in my own manner, in the manner of an Indian reading English, more particularly in the manner of a stiff abrasive Maharashtrian, reading heavily and ponderously.
Naturally, Nirod just didn’t like it. He told me bluntly: “You don’t know how to read Savitri.” I was mortified, but then I replied to him: “Nirod-da, you are absolutely right! How can you really appreciate anyone else reading Savitri when you heard Savitri directly from the lips of Sri Aurobindo himself?” I told him effectively: “It is impossible to speak English the way Sri Aurobindo spoke it.” That pure English tone, that grandeur, that softness, that beauty of the language,—it doesn’t come out in our recitations, cannot come out. In fact he even said at one time that the Mother’s reading of Savitri is somewhat forceful—it is not the kind of Savitri which he heard from Sri Aurobindo, the Master. So I said: “Nirod-da, how can you appreciate anyone else’s reading Savitri when you have heard it from Sri Aurobindo himself?” With that, I kept quiet. He understood what I meant and asked me to read in my own way.
But the sessions were not just reading the Savitri-text. They cannot be, reading hardly a couple of pages for about hour and a quarter. In fact, Nirod wished to ‘discuss’ everything that was there in the text and all that is connected with it, its poetry, its philosophy, its spirituality, its occultism, all that was feasible for us to do, all that could be reached by our best faculties. And of course he was aware that faculties can grow, in fact, had the firm conviction that they must grow. Promoting human faculties is an aspect of the widening spirit, the spirit expressing itself in countless ways in this creation. Well, it was an experience for me, of mind leaping into the possibilities intuition. “You can bite quite a bit into Savitri”—he said on one occasion and encouraged me to do so. There are many aspects connected with this and we could take them later. RYD Science, Culture and Integral Yoga

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