That Ancient Problem of the Physical Body by R.Y. Deshpande

In his Secret of the Veda Sri Aurobindo writes about the Gods of the Veda as follows: “… existence is not simple in its infinite oneness. Matter is prithivi, tanu or tanva (terra), a wide yet formal extension of being; but behind matter and containing it is a term of being, not formal though instrumentally creative of form, measuring and containing it, mind, mati or manas. Mind itself is biune in movement, modified mind working in direct relation to material life (anu, the Vedantic prāṇa) and moulding itself to its requirements in order to seize and enjoy it, and pure mind above and controlling it. For each of these three subjective principles there must exist in the nature of things an objective world in which it fulfils its tendencies and in which beings of that particular order of consciousness can live and manifest themselves.”

The Vedic Rishis spoke of the body as an unbaked earthen vessel or ataptatanu in which so far no tapas has been done. In their marvellous pursuit they had arrived at this stage but got stuck because it is the descent of the Supermind that alone can bring about the transformative and creative miracle.

There is also a causal body by means of which one enjoys the Bliss of God and holds communion with Him. The Tantra calls it the Bhagavati Tanu, the Divine Body. Beyond all these there is the Mahākāraṇa, the Great Cause.

Now the supramental Avatar comes here as Aswapatiin Savitriand does intense yoga-tapasyā in the physical, makes ready the desired body, brings out the taptatanu, a well-baked dull ochre terra-cotta vessel, an earthen pot. In his occult-yogic pursuit is prepared in the field of ignorant and stumbling Nature the ground for his Executive’s world action, a universal possibility.

The gods, the Ribhus, the Artisans of Immortality, with solar Illumination spread wisdom, it extending over the wide mid-region, they extending it by their own might, they become the powers of luminous Intelligence. The inert body heavy with tamas, inactivity, great knowledge gone inert, like an unmoving rigid mountain in whose womb lies asleep the being,—that is the blossoming of knowledge and power.

Soma is the Lord of the wine of delight, the wine of immortality, amṛta. He is the Lord of Ananda, the true creator who possesses the soul and brings out of it a divine creation. But it is not every human system that can hold, can sustain and enjoy the potent and often violent ecstasy of that divine delight. [Rig Veda I.20,The Ribhus, Artisans of Immortality]

“But it is not every human system that can hold, sustain and enjoy the potent and often violent ecstasy of that divine delight. Ataptatanūrna tad āmoaṣnute, he who is raw and his body not heated does not taste or enjoy that; śṛtāsa id vahantas tat samāśata, only those who have been baked in the fire bear and entirely enjoy that. The wine of the divine Life poured into the system is a strong, overflooding and violent ecstasy; it cannot be held in the system unprepared for it by strong endurance of the utmost fires of life and suffering and experience. The raw earthen vessel not baked to consistency in the fire of the kiln cannot hold the Soma-wine; it breaks and spills the precious liquid. So the physical system of the man who drinks this strong wine of Ananda must by suffering and conquering all the torturing heats of life have been prepared for the secret and fiery heats of the Soma; otherwise his conscious being will not be able to hold it; it will spill and lose it as soon as or even before it is tasted or it will break down mentally and physically under the touch.”

There has been in those long ages of fiery spiritual intensity and thrust the aspiration, the precious desire, the will for a body that could hold in it the divine Ananda. The Hymn to Ananda in the Taittiriya Upanishad is a glowing evidence of the urge for it:


He knew Bliss for the Eternal. For from Bliss alone, it appears, are these creatures born and being born they live by Bliss and to Bliss they go hence and return. …

Pursue thou Him as the firm foundation of things and thou shalt get thee firm foundation. Pursue Him as Mahas, thou shalt become Mighty; pursue Him as Mind, thou shalt become full of mind; pursue Him as adoration, thy desires shall bow down before thee; pursue Him as the Eternal, thou shalt become full of the Spirit. Pursue Him as the destruction of the Eternal that ranges abroad, thou shalt get thy rivals and thy haters perish thick around thee and thy kin who loved thee not. The Spirit who is here in man and the Spirit who is there in the Sun, lo, it is One Spirit and there is no other. He who has this knowledge, when he goes from this world having passed to the Self which is of food; having passed to the Self which is of Prana; having passed to the Self which is of Mind; having passed to the Self which is of Knowledge; having passed to the Self which is of Bliss, lo, he ranges about the worlds, he eats what he will, and takes what shape he will and ever he sings the mighty Sāma. “Ho! ho! ho! I am food! I am food! I am food! I am the eater of food! I am the eater! I am the eater! I am he who makes Scripture! I am he who makes! I am he who makes! I am the first-born of the Law; before the gods were, I am, yea, at the very heart of immortality. He who gives me, verily, he preserves me; for I being food, eat him that eats. I have conquered the whole world and possessed it, my light is as the sun in its glory.” Thus he sings, who has the knowledge. This, verily, is Upanishad, the secret of the Veda.

This is an ardent and forceful Hymn of Glory and Triumph. In the inconceivable Pit of Darkness Savitri sings of it to Death. With its matter of divine felicity is the reign of heavenly phenomenon.

‘A secret air of pure felicity

Deep like a sapphire heaven our spirits breathe;

Our hearts and bodies feel its obscure call,

Our senses grope for it and touch and lose. ||142.1||

If this withdrew, the world would sink in the Void;

If this were not, nothing could move or live. ||142.2||

A hidden Bliss is at the root of things. ||142.3||

The All-Wonderful has packed heaven with his dreams,

He has made blank ancient Space his marvel-house;

He spilled his spirit into Matter’s signs:

His fires of grandeur burn in the great sun,

He glides through heaven shimmering in the moon;

He is beauty carolling in the fields of sound;

He chants the stanzas of the odes of Wind;

He is silence watching in the stars at night;

He wakes at dawn and calls from every bough,

Lies stunned in the stone and dreams in flower and tree. ||142.5||

At last the soul turns to eternal things,

In every shrine it cries for the clasp of God. ||142.14||

In the vast golden laughter of Truth’s sun

Like a great heaven-bird on a motionless sea

Is poised her winged ardour of creative joy

On the still deep of the Eternal’s peace. ||142.18||

Out of the Void this grand creation rose,—

For this the Spirit came into the Abyss

And charged with its power Matter’s unknowing Force,

In Night’s bare session to cathedral light

In Death’s realm repatriate immortality. ||142.19||

Love must not cease to live upon the earth;

For Love is the bright link twixt earth and heaven,

Love is the far Transcendent’s angel here;

Love is man’s lien on the Absolute. ||142.32||

But all this means nothing to stiff and insensitive Death. For him it is a song good enough to quickly deceive oneself, with the mind spinning out yarns of fancy and imagination. With an ironic laughter in his voice he tells that it is so that men cheat the Truth with splendid thoughts. They will hire the glorious charlatan Mind only to clutch greedy dark red passions. Savitri is living in a world of a mystic dream and she must accept her futile birth. Death from the incredulous Darkness sent its cry:

O priestess in Imagination’s house,

Persuade first Nature’s fixed immutable laws

And make the impossible thy daily work. ||142.44||

How shall thy will make one the true and false? ||142.47||

Where Matter is all, there Spirit is a dream:

If all are the Spirit, Matter is a lie,

And who was the liar who forged the universe? ||142.48||

The Real with the unreal cannot mate. ||142.49||

He who would turn to God must leave the world;

He who would live in the Spirit, must give up life;

He who has met the Self, renounces self. ||142.50||

The voyagers of the million routes of mind

Who have travelled through Existence to its end,

Sages exploring the world-ocean’s vasts,

Have found extinction the sole harbour safe. ||142.51||

Two only are the doors of man’s escape,

Death of his body Matter’s gate to peace,

Death of his soul his last felicity. ||142.52||

In me all take refuge, for I, Death, am God. ||142.53||

A dead point Savitri has reached in her logomachy with hard-wearing and inflexible Death, she yet unable to defeat him in his cold grave supposition that death is a perpetuating habit of life and that the habits cannot be changed. This has been the long given of the routine spirituality, throughout the ages. Deepest Ananda is everywhere and nothing would exist without Ananda. Yet there is the material affliction and there is the law of decay-disintegration-death in the unregenerate state of Matter.

… there is the one fundamental necessity of the nature and object of embodied life itself, which is to seek infinite experience on a finite basis; and since the form, the basis by its very organisation limits the possibility of experience, this can only be done by dissolving it and seeking new forms. For the soul, having once limited itself by concentrating on the moment and the field, is driven to seek its infinity again by the principle of succession, by adding moment to moment and thus storing up a Time-experience which it calls its past; in that Time it moves through successive fields, successive experiences or lives, successive accumulations of knowledge, capacity, enjoyment, and all this it holds in subconscious or superconscious memory as its fund of past acquisition in Time. To this process change of form is essential, and for the soul involved in individual body change of form means dissolution of the body in subjection to the law and compulsion of the All life in the material universe, to its law of supply of the material of form and demand on the material, to its principle of constant intershock and the struggle of the embodied life to exist in a world of mutual devouring. And this is the law of Death.

‘This then is the necessity and justification of Death, not as a denial of Life, but as a process of Life; death is necessary because eternal change of form is the sole immortality to which the finite living substance can aspire and eternal change of experience the sole infinity to which the finite mind involved in living body can attain. This change of form cannot be allowed to remain merely a constant renewal of the same form-type such as constitutes our bodily life between birth and death; for unless the form type is changed and the experiencing mind is thrown into new forms in new circumstances of time, place and environment, the necessary variation of experience which the very nature of existence in Time and Space demands, cannot be effectuated. And it is only the process of Death by dissolution and by the devouring of life by Life, it is only the absence of freedom, the compulsion, the struggle, the pain, the subjection to something that appears to be Not-Self which makes this necessary and salutary change appear terrible and undesirable to our mortal mentality. It is the sense of being devoured, broken up, destroyed or forced away which is the sting of Death and which even the belief in personal survival of death cannot wholly abrogate.

‘But this process is a necessity of that mutual devouring which we see to be the initial law of Life in Matter. Life, says the Upanishad, is Hunger which is Death, and by this Hunger which is Death, aśanāyāmṛtyuḥ, the material world has been created. For Life here assumes as its mould material substance, and material substance is Being infinitely divided and seeking infinitely to aggregate itself; between these two impulses of infinite division and infinite aggregation the material existence of the universe is constituted. The attempt of the individual, the living atom, to maintain and aggrandise itself is the whole sense of Desire; a physical, vital, moral, mental increase by a more and more all-embracing experience, a more and more all-embracing possession, absorption, assimilation, enjoyment is the inevitable, fundamental, ineradicable impulse of Existence, once divided and individualised, yet ever secretly conscious of its all embracing, all-possessing infinity. The impulse to realise that secret consciousness is the spur of the cosmic Divine, the lust of the embodied Self within every individual creature; and it is inevitable, just, salutary that it should seek to realise it first in the terms of life by an increasing growth and expansion. In the physical world this can only be done by feeding on the environment, by aggrandising oneself through the absorption of others or of what is possessed by others; and this necessity is the universal justification of Hunger in all its forms. Still what devours must also be devoured; for the law of interchange, of action and reaction, of limited capacity and therefore of a final exhaustion and succumbing governs all life in the physical world.’ [Death, Desire and Incapacity: The Life Divine]

Given the impeccable logic of the entire process, of the growth of life through death, sages and savants have accepted death as the universal hunger to promote life’s thousand propensities and possibilities. The necessity to change form through death has been the current modus operandi, of life-and-death working in tandem. But a question can be asked if that alone could be the final and indispensable mode of operation. It is here that the new spirituality of Savitri and the Essential Agenda makes a different proposition. It seeks not the bodily immortality but the richer condition of deathlessness, in which form can be changed not out of inexorability but at will and as per the soul’s need.

The problem has all along been that of the unbaked vessel, ataptatanu, a body in which not enough tapas has been done, no spiritual light and force have been made operative in the dynamics of progress and growth and expansion. Rishi Agastya exposed his body like a piece of cloth to the sun, but it could not bear its intensity. Besides, it has not just to be an individual’s attainment; it has to be a vaster collective gain in the universal working of nature, in the awakened body of God himself.

While the Upanishad asserts that all this is for the habitation bythe Lord, Īśāvāsyam, it speaks of the final state of the body as nothing but ashes, bhasmāntaṃśariraṃ. [Isha Upanishad]

‘All this is for habitation by the Lord, whatsoever is individual universe of movement in the universal motion. [1]He who knows That as both in one, the Birth and the dissolution of Birth, by the dissolution crosses beyond death and by the Birth enjoys Immortality.[14]The Breath of things is an immortal Life, but of this body ashes are the end. [17]O god Agni, knowing all things that are manifested, lead us by the good path to the felicity; remove from us the devious attraction of sin. To thee completest speech of submission we would dispose.’ [18]

The objective of immortality, amṛatatva, is very well stipulated and all practising spirituality is aimed at it. But that has been the classical goal; the Breath of things is an immortal Life, in a world somewhere else and not on this hard yet delightful earth. Here, in the final reckoning, the poor body suffers the fate of getting turned into dust and ashes. The test of all endeavor finally lies in the divinity of the corporeal vessel. The prayer to Agni, the Lord of physical propitiousness and immortality, has yet to do its job.

Sri Aurobindo says: “In the inner sense of the Veda Surya, the Sun-God, represents the divine Illumination of the Kavi which exceeds mind and forms the pure self-luminous Truth of things. His principal power is self-revelatory knowledge, termed in the Veda, ‘Sight’. His realm is described as the Truth, the Law, the Vast. He is the Fosterer or Increaser, for he enlarges and opens man’s dark and limited being into a luminous and infinite consciousness. He is the sole Seer, Seer of Oneness and Knower of the Self, and leads him to the highest Sight. He is Yama, Controller or Ordainer for he governs man’s action and manifested being by the direct Law of the Truth, satya-dharma, and therefore by the right principle of our nature, yāthā-tathyataḥ, a luminous power proceeding from the Father of all existence, he reveals in himself the divine Purusha of whom all beings are the manifestations. His rays are the thoughts that proceed luminously from the Truth, the Vast, but become deflected and distorted, broken up and disordered in the reflecting and dividing principle, Mind. They form there the golden lid which covers the face of the Truth. The Seer prays to Surya to cast them into right order and relation and then draw them together into the unity of revealed truth. The result of this inner process is the perception of the oneness of all beings in the divine Soul of the Universe.”

Yet, this ancient revelation falls short of recognising the problem of the material corporeal body proper. It is true also in the case of the Gita. Dismissing the un-Aryan ignorance and frailty the Teacher exhorts in strong words of the immortality of the soul and the change of form a practical necessity. Here is set the Creed of the Aryan Fighter in the Essays on the Gita:

‘There is no such thing as death, for it is the body that dies and the body is not the man. That which really is, cannot go out of existence, though it may change the forms through which it appears, just as that which is non-existent cannot come into being. The soul is and cannot cease to be. This opposition of is and is not, this balance of being and becoming which is the mind’s view of existence, finds its end in the realisation of the soul as the one imperishable self by whom all this universe has been extended. Finite bodies have an end, but that which possesses and uses the body, is infinite, illimitable, eternal, indestructible. It casts away old and takes up new bodies as a man changes worn-out raiment for new; and what is there in this to grieve at and recoil and shrink? This is not born, nor does it die, nor is it a thing that comes into being once and passing away will never come into being again. It is unborn, ancient, sempiternal; it is not slain with the slaying of the body. Who can slay the immortal spirit? Weapons cannot cleave it, nor the fire burn, nor do the waters drench it, nor the wind dry. Eternally stable, immobile,all-pervading, it is for ever and for ever. Not manifested like the body, but greater than all manifestation, not to be analysed  by the thought, but greater than all mind, not capable of change and modification like the life and its organs and their objects, but beyond the changes of mind and life and body, it is yet the Reality which all these strive to figure.’

That is all very eloquently said, that, maybe, the body is slain, but can never the soul; weapons cleave it not, nor the fire burn it, nor do the waters drench it, nor the wind dry it. But even this logic will become inapplicable for the transformed body, a divine body for a divine life. There is no question of the body being slain there. The Law of Righteousness, Satya-Dharma, has in its reckoning the needs and demands of the meritorious body itself. Old ethics and old criteria are no longer valid for it.

New operative dynamism is seen in the Mother’s prayers and meditations. Everything is psychically opened to the Divine.

‘Silent and unseen as always, but all-powerful, Thy action has made itself felt and, in these souls that seemed to be so closed, a perception of Thy divine light is awake. I knew well that none could invoke Thy presence in vain and if in the sincerity of our hearts we commune with Thee through no matter what organism, body or human collectivity, this organism in spite of its ignorance finds its unconsciousness wholly transformed. But when in one or several elements there is the conscious transformation, when the flame that smoulders under the ashes leaps out suddenly illumining all the being, then with joy we salute Thy sovereign action, testify once more to Thy invincible puissance and can hope that a new possibility of true happiness has been added to the others in mankind.

‘O Lord, an ardent thanksgiving mounts from me towards Thee expressing the gratitude of this sorrowing humanity which Thou illuminest, transformest and glorifiest and givest to it the peace of Knowledge.’ [25 March 1914]

‘All that has been conceived and realised so far is mediocre, banal, insufficient beside what ought to be. The perfections of the past no longer have any force now. A new puissance is needed to transform the new powers and to subject them to Thy divine will. “Ask and this shall be”, is Thy constant answer. And now, O Lord, Thou must create in this being a constant aspiration, uninterrupted, intense, passionate, in an immutable serenity. Silence, peace are there: there must also be the persistence of the intensity. Oh, Thy heart sings a halleluiah of gladness as if what Thou willest were on the way to its fulfilment…. Destroy all these elements, that from their ashes may emerge new elements adapted to the new manifestation.

‘Oh, the immensity of Thy luminous Peace!

Oh, the omnipotence of Thy sovereign Love!

‘And beyond all that we can imagine, the ineffable splendour of what we feel to be coming. Give us the Thought, give us the Word, give us the Force.

‘Enter the arena of the world, O new-born Unknown One!’ [17 June 1914]

“Oh, Thy heart sings a halleluiah of gladness as if what Thou willest were on the way to its fulfilment…. Destroy all these elements, that from their ashes may emerge new elements adapted to the new manifestation.” From the pyre of the old civilisation has arisen a new world in the joy and glory of a new consciousness in which is even the body is a happy participant. A new birth, a dateless birth, has occurred in the lyric gladness of life in the following from Sri Aurobindo:

Not soon is God’s delight in us completed,

    Nor with one life we end;

Termlessly in us are our spirits seated,

    A termless joy intend.

Our souls and heaven are of an equal stature

    And have a dateless birth;

The unending seed, the infinite mould of Nature,

    They were not made on earth,

Nor to the earth do they bequeath their ashes,

    But in themselves they last.

An endless future brims beneath thy lashes,

    Child of an endless past.

Old memories come to us, old dreams invade us,

    Lost people we have known,

Fictions and pictures; but their frames evade us,—

    They stand out bare, alone.

Yet all we dream and hope are memories treasured,

    Are forecasts we misspell,

But of what life or scene he who has measured

    The boundless heavens can tell.

Time is a strong convention; future and present

    Were living in the past;

They are one image that our wills complaisant

    Into three schemes have cast.

Our past that we forget, is with us deathless,

    Our births and later end

Already accomplished. To a summit breathless

    Sometimes our souls ascend,

Whence the mind comes back helped; for there emerges

    The ocean vast of Time

Spread out before us with its infinite surges,

    Its symphonies sublime;

And even from this veil of mind the spirit

    Looks out sometimes and sees

The bygone aeons that our lives inherit,

    The unborn centuries:

It sees wave-trampled realms expel the Ocean,—

    From the vague depths uphurled

Where now Himâloy stands, the flood’s huge motion

    Sees measuring half the world;

Or else the web behind us is unravelled

    And on its threads we gaze,—

Past motions of the stars, scenes long since travelled

    In Time’s far-backward days.

In The Secret of Veda Sri Aurobindo writes:

‘Finally in the Isha Upanishad we find Surya and Agni prayed to and invoked with as much solemnity and reverence as in the Rigveda and indeed in language borrowed from the Rigveda, not as the material Sun and material Fire, but as the master of divine God-revealing knowledge and the master of divine purifying force of knowledge, … to reveal the ultimate truth to the eyes of the Seer and to raise the immortal part in us that lives before and after the body is ashes to the supreme felicity of the perfected and sinless soul.’

And in The Harmony of Virtue Keshava speaking about the Isha Upanishad tells a few pertinent things. “We have nothing to learn from savages; but there is a vast deal to be learned from the errors of civilised peoples. Civilisation is a failure, not a mistake. Civilisation was necessary, if the human race was to progress at all. The pity of it is that it has taken the wrong turn and fallen into the waters of convention. There lies the failure.”

And he continues, the legend of Purusha, the son of Prithivi and his journey to the land of Beulah, a short allegorical story.

‘And down this branch he went, for ever allured by unreal glimpses of a dawning glory, until he has descended into the abysmal darkness and the throne of ancient night, where he walks blindly like a machine, carrying the white ashes of hope in the funeral urn of youth, and knows not whence to expect a rescue, seeing the only heaven above him is the terrible pillared roof, the only horizon around him the antre with its hateful unending columns and demo-gorgon veil of visible darkness, and the beautiful gods he imagined are dead and his heart is no longer sweetened with prayers, and his throat no longer bubbles with hymns of praise. His beautiful gods are dead and her who was his lovely guide and wise monitress, he no longer sees as the sweet and smiling friend of his boyhood, but as a fury slinging flame and a blind Cyclops hurling stones she knows not whither nor why and a ghastly skeleton only the more horrible for its hideous mimicry of life. He sends a wailing cry to heaven, but only jeering echoes fall from the impenetrable ceiling, for there is no heaven, and he sends a hoarse shriek for aid to hell, but only a gurgling horror rises from the impenetrable floor, for there is no hell, and he looks around for God, but his eyes cannot find him, and he gropes for God in the darkness, but his fingers cannot find him but only the clammy fingers of night, and goblin fancies are rioting in his brain, and hateful shapes pursue him with clutching fingers, and horrible figures go rustling past him half-discerned in the familiar gloom. He is weary of the dreadful vaulted ceiling, he is weary of the dreadful endless floor. And what shall he do but lie down and die, who if he goes on, will soon perish of weariness and famine and thirst? Yet did he but know it, he has only to turn back at a certain angle and he will see through a chink of the cavern a crocus moon with a triple zone of burning stars, which if he will follow, after not so very painful a journey, not so very long an elapse of hours, he will come into a land of perennial fountains, where he may quench his thirst, and glistening fruit-groves where he may fill his hunger, and sweet cool grass where he may solace his weariness, and so pursue his journey by the nearest way to the wavering tree-tops, and the blooming gardens and the acres in their yellow gaberdines for which his soul has long panted.’

But the inconscient Reality is another proposition and not Yama of the classical benevolence is one to whom does any prayer reach. There is the stubborn existence meant to oppose all that is precious and divine and promotional in the spirit’s realms.

Death is carrying the spirit of Satyavan to the Abode of the Dead in the deep South and Savitri is following him. She tells him:

‘I know the calm Transcendent bears the world,

The veiled Inhabitant, the silent Lord:

I feel his secret act, his intimate fire;

I hear the murmur of the cosmic Voice.’ ||137.132||

‘I know my coming was a wave from God. ||137.133||

For all his suns were conscient in my birth,

And one who loves in us came veiled by death.’ ||137.134||

‘Then man was born among the monstrous stars

Dowered with a mind and heart to conquer thee.’ ||137.135||


‘In the eternity of his ruthless will

Sure of his empire and his armoured might,

Like one disdaining violent helpless words

From victim lips Death answered not again.’ ||137.136||

‘He stood in silence and in darkness wrapped,

A figure motionless, a shadow vague,

Girt with the terrors of his secret sword.’ ||137.137||

‘Half-seen in clouds appeared a sombre face;

Night’s dusk tiara was his matted hair,

The ashes of the pyre his forehead’s sign.’ ||137.138||

In the frightening grimness of that opposing silence Savitri is moving without any hope.

‘Once more a Wanderer in the unending Night,

Blindly forbidden by dead vacant eyes,

She travelled through the dumb unhoping vasts.’ ||137.139||

‘Around her rolled the shuddering waste of gloom,

Its swallowing emptiness and joyless death

Resentful of her thought and life and love.’ ||137.140||

‘Through the long fading night by her compelled,

Gliding half-seen on their unearthly path,

Phantasmal in the dimness moved the three.’ ||137.141||

A point Savitri has reached in the cruel debate when she has to assert that to her the secrets of the gods are plain, that

‘The great stars burn with my unceasing fire

And life and death are both its fuel made.’ ||142.92||

‘Life only was my blind attempt to love:

Earth saw my struggle, heaven my victory;

All shall be seized, transcended; there shall kiss

Casting their veils before the marriage fire

The eternal bridegroom and eternal bride.’ ||142.93||

So, that is the beauty of the entire thing! The great stars burn with her fire, its faggots being life and death both. But now that death has to be the fire of pure love only. There in a deep room, in Savitri’s meditation house, could dwell the soul’s firm truth,

‘Imperishable, a tongue of sacrifice,

It flamed unquenched upon the central hearth

Where burns for the high house-lord and his mate

The homestead’s sentinel and witness fire

From which the altars of the gods are lit.’ ||142.104||

That is the power of Savitri’s yoga-yajña. In it is cleared the way for her exceptional victory. The occult procession was, the spirit of Satyavan, behind him Death, and behind them both Savitri; but now it is such that she has the bridles in her hands, she has become the leader of the march from behind. It is in her will and strength that things are going to happen:

‘The mortal led, the god and spirit obeyed

And she behind was leader of their march

And they in front were followers of her will.’ ||142.105||

‘A heaven bird upon jewelled wings of wind

Borne like a coloured and embosomed fire,

By spirits carried in a pearl-hued cave,

On through the enchanted dimness moved her soul.’ ||142.107||

‘Death walked in front of her and Satyavan,

In the dark front of death, a failing star.’ ||142.108||

In it has been transformed the denial by Death into consent for a life divine in a divine body.

‘His darkness and his sad destroying might

Abolishing for ever and disclosing

The mystery of his high and violent deeds,

A secret splendour rose revealed to sight

Where once the vast embodied Void had stood.’ ||149.4||

‘Night the dim mask had grown a wonderful face. ||149.5||

The vague infinity was slain whose gloom

Had outlined from the terrible Unknown

The obscure disastrous figure of a god,

Fled was the error that arms the hands of grief,

And lighted the ignorant gulf whose hollow deeps

Had given to nothingness a dreadful voice.’ ||149.6||

‘A marvellous form responded to her gaze

Whose sweetness justified life’s blindest pain;

All Nature’s struggle was its easy price,

The universe and its agony seemed worth while.’ ||149.7||

‘There was no more the torment under the stars,

The evil sheltered behind Nature’s mask;

There was no more the dark pretence of hate,

The cruel ictus on Love’s altered face.’ ||149.9||

The cause of the body becoming the ashes, or a worn-out piece of cloth has disappeared. What Savitri has achieved is carried to its grand finale by the Essential Agenda.


About the Author: Born on 17 April 1931 Dr. RY Deshpande is a professor, philosopher, author, poet and inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. After graduating from Osmania University, Hyderabad, he joined the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai as a research physicist in 1955 and worked in this organization till 1957. In 1957 he joined the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai where he worked till 1981 and headed several Atomic Energy and Space Projects in Advance Technology with Dr. Raja Ramanna. Having received his Ph.D. in nuclear physics in 1964, he worked at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Berkeley, California USA from 1964 to 1965. He has some fifty research papers published in national and international scientific journals. He was also an examiner for a number of Ph.D. theses in the field of Solid State Physics. In 1981 Deshpande joined Sri Aurobindo Ashram of Pondicherry. For thirty years, he taught physics and a few other subjects such as Astrophysics, Savitri, The Future Poetry, Science and Society at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education. For eight years he was the associate Editor of Mother India, a Monthly Review of Culture, published by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. During 2007-2008 Deshpande was the editor of a web-magazine titled Science-Culture-Integral Yoga founded in Los Angeles. His published works in prose and poetry include titles like Sri Aurobindo and the New Millennium, Vyasa’s Savitri, The Ancient Tale of Savitri, “Satyavan Must Die”, All Life is Yoga, Nagin-bhai Tells Me, The Rhododendron Valley, All is Dream-Blaze, Under the Raintree, Paging the Unknown, The Wager of Ambrosia, Savitri: Notes and Comments, Elements and Evolution, Sri Aurobindo’s Narad, The Birth of the Sun-God, Hymns to Becoming, These Mountains, The Secret Knowledge, Savitri Talks: The Symbol Dawn, Islam’s Contribution to Science, Big Science and India, Running Through Savitri, A Look at the Symbol Dawn: Observations-Comments-Discussions, Savitri: The Poetry of Immortality,  and Sanatana Dharma: An Aurobindonian Perspective to name a few. He has also edited the following books: Nirodbaran: Poet and Sadhak, Amal Kiran: Poet and Critic and Perspectives of Savitri

19 Replies to “That Ancient Problem of the Physical Body by R.Y. Deshpande

  1. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother had realized that in order solve the problems of the physical body, it would be essential to transform it. One of the main objectives of the Integral Yoga is the transformation of the physical self so that the new man—the Gnostic being—would have a divine body and lead a divine life. But how would the supramental body be like? The Mother answers this question during one of Her talks:

    “Transformation implies that the whole purely material set-up [of the human body as it is now] be replaced by a set-up of concentrations of force consisting of certain types of vibrations which replace each organ by a centre of conscious energy, moved by a conscious will and directed by a movement coming from above, from the higher regions. No stomach any longer, no heart, no circulation, no lungs, etc. All that will disappear. But it will be replaced by a set of vibrations representing what these organs are symbolically. For the organs are nothing but the material symbols of centres of energy, they are not the essential reality. They simply give a form [to the reality behind them] or in certain circumstances a support.

    “The transformed body will function by means of its real centres of energy and no longer through their symbolic representations such as have been developed in the animal body. Therefore you must first know what your heart represents in the cosmic energy, and what the circulation represents, and what the stomach represents, and what the brain represents. You must be conscious of all that to begin with. Then you must have at your disposal the original vibrations of that which is symbolized by these organs. Then you must slowly gather together all these energies in your body and change each organ into a centre of conscious energy, which will replace the symbolic movement by the real one.

    “You think it will take only three hundred years to do that? I think it will take much more time to obtain a form with qualities which will not be like those we know, but much superior. [There will be] a form that one naturally dreams to be changeable: as the expression of your face changes according to your feelings, so the body will change — not the form, but within the same form — according to what you want to express with your body. It can become very contracted, very expanded, very luminous, very motionless, with a perfect plasticity, a perfect elasticity, and a lightness in accordance with one’s will…

    “There is no end to the imagination: to be luminous whenever one wants, to be invisible whenever one wants. Naturally, bones too are no longer needed in the system, for it is no longer a skeleton with skin and viscera, it is something different: it is concentrated energy obeying the will. This does not mean that there will no longer be any definite and recognizable forms. The form will be built by qualities rather than by solid particles. It will be, by way of speaking, a practical and pragmatic form. It will be supple, mobile, light at will — in contrast to the fixity of the gross material form.” [‘Collected Works of the Mother’, Volume V, pp. 60-61]

  2. While giving an idea of the supramental body to Mona Sarkar, the Mother has said:

    “You know, if there is something over there on the window sill and I want to take it, I stretch out my arm and it becomes so long, and I hold the thing in my hand without even having to get up from my chair… Physically I shall be able to be here and elsewhere at the same time, I shall be able to be in many places. I shall be able to communicate with many people at the same time. To have something in my hand, I’ll just have to wish for it. I think of something, I want it, and it’s already in my hand. In the transformed body I shall be free from the fetters of ignorance, pain, mortality, and unconsciousness. I shall be able to do many things at the same time. The transparent, luminous, strong, light, elastic body won’t need any material stuff to subsist on… It will be a true being, perfectly proportioned, very, very beautiful and strong, light, luminous or transparent..” [‘Sweet Mother, Volume II, p. 19]

  3. But how would this transformation of the body take place? How would the bone-structure and internal organs be replaced? And, if they are replaced, how would their counterparts work? Would the transformation of the organs take place simultaneously or one-after-the other? These questions does baffle a thinking mind? After all, this transformation of the man-human into the man-divine is much more greater than the transformation of the animal-man into man-human. Let’s recall what the Mother has said in this context:

    “This would be a transition from man to a being that would no longer be built in the same manner, that would no longer function in the same manner, that would be like a densification or a concretization of “something”… Up to now this corresponds to nothing we know physically, unless the scientists have found something I don’t know of… ‘You see, it’s the leap that seems so enormous to me.” [‘Collected Works of the Mother’, Volume 11, pp. 46-47]

    1. The aforementioned questions were asked by Georges Van Vrekhem as well in his last book (published posthumously) entitled ‘The New Spirituality’. He asks and he explains:

      ‘But what exactly was the goal of this transformation? What would be the qualities of a transformed body? A divine body, as Sri Aurobindo described it, will be activated by a divine consciousness, a unity-consciousness. It will be able to be present in several places at the same time, and to alter its shape at will; being divine, it will be immortal; it will not be subject to illnesses, accidents or fatigue. Its substance will consist of light-stuff and be fully responsive to the variations of the central divine will in all their functions. That apparently impossible effort of a transition from the evolutionary phase represented by us, animal man, into the divine superman was Mother’s work. Her body was the battlefield on which the forces of an established world fought for their survival against the forces of a future world.’

  4. The Mother was the Divine Mother but She had a human body consisting of the same matter just like us. And here was the ‘Avataric’ burden that She had to endure. Let’s recall what Sri Aurobindo has written about the Sadhak of the Integral Yoga in his book, ‘The Synthesis of Yoga’:

    ‘He has not only to bear his own burden, but a great part of the world’s burden too along with it, as a continuation of his own sufficiently heavy load. Therefore his Yoga has much more of the nature of a battle than others; but this is not only an individual battle, it is a collective war waged over a considerable country. He has not only to conquer in himself the forces of egoistic falsehood and disorder, but to conquer them as representatives of the same adverse and inexhaustible forces in the world… Often he finds that even after he has won persistently his own personal battle, he has still to win it over and over again in a seemingly interminable war, because his inner existence has already been so much enlarged that not only it contains his own being with its well-defined needs and experiences, but is in solidarity with the being of others, because in himself he contains the universe.’ [‘Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library’, Volume 20, p. 71].

    Owing to all the preparatory work the Mother had done on the cells of Her body during the course of Her Yoga, She was capable of universalizing them because She was ‘in solidarity with the being of others’ and in Herself She contained the universe, to quote from ‘The Synthesis of Yoga’.

    It is obvious that a supramental body would function differently as compared to a human body. The Mother’s body—accustomed to the familiar way of working—was gradually effectuating a transition from ‘an ordinary automatic way of functioning to a way of functioning under the direct guidance and influence of the Supreme…’ [‘Notes on the Way’, p. 33] But how can one change from an animal-human body into a body which is supramental? It was this very experiment that the Mother went on conducting till 1973.

  5. This is the Mother, on 14 March 1970, the “physical is capable of receiving higher light…”, very categorical, never asserted or seen in the entire spiritual history. It cannot come without she experiencing and realising it. New spirituality has opened out with it:

    All the experiences that others have had, which were in order to come in contact with the higher worlds, left here below the physical as it is…. How to say it? From the beginning of my life till Sri Aurobindo’s departure, I was in the consciousness that one can go up, one can know, one can have all the experiences (indeed, one did have them), but when one came back into this body… it was the old mental laws, for-mi-da-ble, which ruled things. And then, all these years have been years of preparation—preparation—liberation and preparation, and these days now it has been… ah! the physical recognition, made by the body, that it has changed.

    It has to be “worked out”, as it is said, it has to be realised in all the details, but the change is done—the change is done.

    That is to say, the material conditions elaborated by the mind, fixed by it (Mother closes her two fists), that appeared to be inevitable to such an extent that those who had a living experience of the higher worlds thought that one must flee from the world, give up this material world if one wanted to live in the truth (that is the basis of all these theories and faiths); but now it is no longer like that. The physical is capable of [p.229] receiving the higher Light, the Truth, the true Consciousness and of manifesting it.

    It is not easy, it needs endurance and will, but a day will come when this will be quite natural. It is just, just the door opened—that is all, now one must go on.

  6. What is death? It is only a step or a passage in the continuous flow of eternal life. Sri Aurobindo writes in ‘The Life Divine’:

    ‘Death has no reality except as a process of life. Disintegration of substance and renewal of substance, maintenance of form and change of form are the constant process of life; death is merely a rapid disintegration subservient to life’s necessity of change and variation of formal experience.’ [p. 164]

    About the necessity and significance of death, Sri Aurobindo writes in his ‘Thoughts and Glimpses’:

    ‘Death is the question Nature puts continually to Life and her reminder to it that it has not yet found itself. If there were no siege of death, the creature would be bound for ever in the form of an imperfect living. Pursued by death he awakes to the idea of perfect life and seeks out its means and its possibility.’ [p. 22]

    Let’s analyze death in a different way. This physical body of ours is perishable and cannot be changed at will to match the requirements of the evolving Spirit. Therefore, a change of form and personality becomes indispensable. And this change is effected only by the dissolution of the body caused by death. We recall a statement of the Mother in this context:

    ‘Yet if we could infuse into this matter sufficient consciousness so that its rhythm of growth falls in line with that of the subtler parts of the being and if it becomes plastic enough to follow the inner progress, then the rupture of the equilibrium would not occur and death would no longer be a necessity.’ [Bulletin of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, April 1957, p. 83]

    Death is only a passage from one life to another. It cannot be an end in itself. It acts as a chain which links the series of lives which is formulated by a soul for its gradual progress. In other words, death enables a mere spark to evolve into a conscious being. That is why Sri Aurobindo has described Death in ‘Savitri’ as :

    ‘Death is a stair, a door, a stumbling stride
    The soul must take to cross from birth to birth,
    A grey defeat pregnant with victory,
    A whip to lash us towards our deathless state.’ [‘Savitri’, Book X, Canto I, p. 234]

    Let’s also not miss the following important comment of the Mother regarding the presence of death:

    ‘… along with this [death] there is in the cells an intensity of the call for a Power of Eternity which would not be there but for this constant menace. Then one understands, one begins to feel in quite a concrete manner that all these things are only ways of intensifying the Manifestation, making it more and more perfect.’ [Bulletin of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, August 1963, p. 47]

  7. No matter how death is looked upon generally, the fact is it is only a change-over from one state of being to another—in other words—from the material world to the subtler regions of existence without causing any break in the non-stop process of the life of the soul. The Mother has said in this context:

    ‘… there is really nothing like death. There is only an appearance, … based on a limited view. But there is no radical change in the vibration of the consciousness… the importance given to the difference of condition is only a superficial importance, based upon the ignorance of the phenomenon in itself. One who is able to maintain a means of communication could say that for himself it makes no considerable difference.’ [Bulletin of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, April 1967, p. 37]

    But can death be conquered? Is the attainment of physical immortality possible or would it be a grand but unrealized dream? There is a hint in the following statement:

    ‘There is a means to attain physical immortality and death is by our choice, not by Nature’s compulsion. But who would care to wear one coat for a hundred years or be confined in one narrow and changeless lodging unto a long eternity?’ [‘Thoughts and Aphorisms’, p. 60]

    In ‘Savitri’, Sri Aurobindo speaks of a power much greater than death which is capable of vanquishing death. And it is only the supreme Truth and Love which has this grand power.

    “O Death, if thou couldst touch the Truth supreme
    Thou wouldst grow suddenly wise and cease to be.’ [Book X, Canto IV, p. 290]


    ‘Love’s golden wings have power to fan thy void:
    The eyes of love gaze starlike through death’s night,
    The feet of love tread naked hardest worlds.
    He labours in the depths, exults on the heights;
    He shall remake thy universe, O Death.’ [Book IX, Canto II, p. 226]

    So, in order to be able to conquer death, man must exceed his original animal consciousness and evolve into a higher being—the superman—who would have an active connection with the Supramental world or the world of Truth-Consciousness. Unless the physical body transforms—and it will be the last to undergo transformation—the conquest of death would remain an unattainable reality. Let’s recall a statement of the Mother:

    ‘It is a race between Transformation and Decadence, because there are only two things that could be the final points for judging as to how far one has succeeded: either success, that is to say, become a superman—when one can naturally say, “Now I have reached the result’—or death. Till that, one is normally on the way.’ [see ‘Bulletin of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education’, February 1959]

    To conclude in the words of ‘Savitri’:

    ‘For in the march of all-fulfilling Time
    The hour must come of the Transcendent’s will:
    All turns and winds towards his predestined ends
    In Nature’s fixed inevitable course
    Decreed since the beginning of the worlds
    In the deep essence of created things:
    Even there shall come as a high crown of all
    The end of Death, the death of Ignorance.’ [Book XI, Canto I, pp. 330-331]

    And let’s also not forget the immortal lines from Sri Aurobindo’s pen:

    ‘Shall I accept death or shall I turn and wrestle with him and conquer? That shall be as God in me chooses. For whether I live or die, I am always.’ [‘Thoughts and Aphorisms’, p. 60]

  8. 9 August 1969
    Oh, there’s still that old sentimental attachment. No, as long as death is there, the sense of the necessity of reproduction is there; it’s the presence of death that makes things like that, like a need. But if death were no longer there…

    Oh, there’s still that old sentimental attachment. No, as long as death is there, the sense of the necessity of reproduction is there; it’s the presence of death that makes things like that, like a need. But if death were no longer there…
    13 November 1963
    Ultimately, as long as there is death, things always come to a bad end.

    Only when the victory is won over death will things cease to come to a bad end… that is to say, when the return to Unconsciousness will no longer be necessary to allow a new progress.

    The entire process of development, at least on the earth (I don’t know how it is on other planets) is that way. And perhaps (I don’t know very much about the history of astronomy) universes too—do they know if universes perish physically, if the physical history of the end of a universe has been recorded?… Traditions tell us that a universe is created, then withdrawn into pralaya, and then a new one comes; and according to them, ours is the seventh universe, and being the seventh universe, it is the one that will not return to pralaya but will go on progressing, without retreat. This is why, in fact, there is in the human being that need for permanence and for an uninterrupted progress—it’s because the time has come.
    9 March 1963
    On a few occasions, you know, I was like this (Mother makes a gesture of hovering between two worlds7), as if I were really put in contact with what I have called “the death of death.” It was the unreality of death. From a COMPLETELY material standpoint. It was a question of cells and of the consciousness in the cells. Like when you are within an inch of something: “There it is! I’m going to catch it, there it is!…” But then it fades away. It has stayed as an impression.
    16 March 1963I had several experiences of the kind—quite a number of them. And since that last experience [the death of death], which lasted a second, I’ve had the feeling… the same kind of feeling. Before that, whenever I intervened for people, either to prevent them from dying or to help them once they were dead—hundreds and hundreds of things I used to do all the time—I did them with the sense of Death like this (gesture above Mother), as something to be conquered or overcome, or the consequences of which had to be mended. But it was always that way, Death was… (laughing) just a little above. And from that moment [the death of death], the head emerged above—the head, the consciousness, the will were above. On the side of the Lord.

    I had an experience quite a long time ago, when Sri Aurobindo was here: one night I had the experience of being in contact with the Supreme Lord, and it was concrete:

    “One dies only when You will it.”[p.86]

    I don’t remember in detail (I wrote it down), but the idea was like this: the Lord makes you die only with your consent—your consent is necessary for you to die. And unless He decides, you can never die. Those two things: for you to die, something (the inmost soul, that is) must consent, the soul must say yes, then you die; and when the soul says yes, it’s for the Lord to decide. Ever since that experience, there had been the certainty that you can die only when the Lord wills it, that it depends entirely and exclusively on His Will, that there are no accidents, no “unforeseeable mishaps,” as human beings think—all that doesn’t exist: it’s His Will. From that experience till this latest one [the death of death], I lived in that knowledge. Yet with the feeling of… not quite the unknown but the incomprehensible. The feeling of something in the consciousness which doesn’t understand (what I mean by “understand” is having the power to do and undo, that’s what I call “to understand”: the power to realize or to undo, that’s the real understanding, the POWER), well, of something which eluded me. It was still the mystery of the Infinite Supreme. And when that experience [the death of death] came, then, “Ah, there it is! I have it, I’ve caught it! At last, I have it.”
    8 September 1965The great stars burn with my unceasing fire
    And life and death are both its fuel made.
    Life only was my blind attempt to love:
    Earth saw my struggle, heaven my victory.


    She says, Life and death are the fuel, then, In my blind attempt[p.235] LIFE ONLY was my attempt to love.1 Because my attempt to love was blind, I limited it to life—but I won the victory in death.

    It’s very interesting. (Mother repeats:)

    Earth saw my struggle, heaven my victory.

    Yet, earth should see the victory? The victory should be on earth, shouldn’t it?

    Yes, but she couldn’t win the victory on earth because she lacked heaven—she couldn’t win the victory in life because she lacked death and she had to conquer death in order to conquer life.

    That’s the idea. Unless we conquer Death, the victory isn’t won. Death must be vanquished, there must be no more death.

    That’s very clear.


    According to what he says here, it is the principle of Love that is transformed into flame and finally into light. It isn’t the principle of Light that is transformed into flame when it materializes: it’s the flame that is transformed into light.

    The great stars give light because they burn; they burn because they are under the effect of Love.

    Love would be the original Principle?

    That seems to be what he is saying.

    I didn’t remember this passage. But I told you, my experience2 is that the last thing as one rises—the last thing beyond light, beyond consciousness, beyond…—the last thing one reaches is love. “One,” this “one” is… it’s the “I”—I don’t know. According to the experience, it’s the last thing to manifest now in its purity, and it is the one that has the transforming power.

    That’s what he appears to be saying here: the victory of Love seems to be the final victory.


    He said, Savitri, a Legend and a Symbol; it’s he who made it a[p.236] symbol. It’s the story of the encounter of Savitri, the principle of Love, with Death; and it’s over Death that she won the victory, not in life. She could not win the victory in life without winning the victory over Death.

    I didn’t know it was put so clearly here. I had read it, but only once.

    It’s very interesting.

    How many times, how many times have I seen that he had written down my experiences…. Because for years and years I didn’t read Sri Aurobindo’s books; it was only before coming here that I had read The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, and another one, too. For instance, Essays on the Gita I had never read, Savitri I had never read, I read it very recently (that is to say, some ten years ago, in 1954 or ‘55). The book Sri Aurobindo on Himself and on the Mother I had never read, and when I read it, I realized what he wrote to people about me—I had no idea, he had never told me anything about it!… You see, there are lots of things that I had said while speaking to people—that I had said just like that, because they came (gesture from above) and I would say them—and I realized he had written them. So, naturally, I appeared to be simply repeating what he had written—but I had never read it! And now, it’s the same thing: I had read this passage from Savitri, but hadn’t noticed it—because I hadn’t had the experience. But now that I have had the experience, I see that he tells it.

    It’s quite interesting.

    Maybe we’ll have to reread Savitri?…

    In fact, if we wanted to be really good, we would try to translate the whole of Savitri, wouldn’t we? What we are doing now with the end [Book X], we would do with all the rest. There is a part I tried to translate all alone, but it would be fun to do it together. We could try. Not for publication! Because there is immediately a debasing: everything that is published is debased, otherwise people don’t understand. We would do it for ourselves.

    But it’s very interesting.

    Just the other day I noted something down on the subject (Mother looks for a note, then reads it):

    “Very rare and exceptional are the human beings who can understand and feel divine Love, because divine Love is free of attachment and of the need to please the object loved.”[p.237]

    That was a discovery.
    29 June 1968
    Every minute a discovery. You know, an absolutely accelerated movement. And do you know what set it off? It’s the text you read[p.181] me the other day, by Sri Aurobindo, in which he says that the fear of death in man was the memory of the animal. It seems to have opened a door wide.

    It’s like a study—a really accelerated study, you can’t imagine, one minute after another, like this (snowballing gesture)—from the standpoint of the work, that is, the purpose of physical existence in a body, and the usefulness of physical presence. And the absolutely clear, precise vision, in minutes” detail, of what’s real and what’s illusory, what’s truly necessary and what’s only imagination (that of others, but also, at times, one’s own). But I would need hours to tell it all…. With (is it a basis?) the perception in the consciousness (but a detailed perception—I don’t mean ideas, it has nothing to do with ideas or principles, etc.: there’s no mental translation), the perception of what, in the work, demands or depends on the bodily presence (I am purposely not saying “physical presence,” because there’s a subtle physical presence that’s independent of the body), the bodily presence. And then, at the same time, such a clear, precise, detailed vision of the relationship each one has with this body (a relationship which is thought, feelings and physical reactions all at once), and that’s what gives the impression of the necessity of bodily presence—gives its measure also.
    21 November 1964
    And there is always something—something that comes from a very absolute region—which makes me feel or understand or grasp the uselessness of death.

    Why am I thus made to feel the uselessness of death?…

    God knows, never, not one minute in my life, even when things were the darkest, the blackest, the most negative, the most painful, not once did the thought come, “I would like to die.” And ever since I had the experience of psychic immortality, the immortality of consciousness, that is, in 1902 or 3, or 4 at the latest (sixty years ago now), all fear of death went away. Now the body’s cells have the sense of their immortality. There was also a time when I almost had a sort of curiosity about death; it was satisfied by my two experiences in which, according to the surface illusion, my body was dead, while, within, I had a wonderfully intense life (the first time, it was in the vital, the other time, way up above2). So that even that curiosity (I can’t call it “curiosity”), even that question is no longer asked by the cells. But the possibility does present itself: according to the ordinary outer logic, if this isn’t transformed, it must necessarily come to an end. And always, always, I receive the same answer, which isn’t an answer with words, but an answer with a knowledge (how can I put it?…), a FACTUAL knowledge: “It’s no solution.” To say things in quite a banal way, this is the answer: “It’s no solution.”

    So we are after another solution, since death isn’t considered to be a solution. And it’s obvious that it is no solution.

  9. Dialogue between Savitri and Yama in the Mahābhārata as presented by Vyāsaमार्कण्डेय उवाच

    सा समासाद्य सावित्री भर्तारमुपगम्य च |
    उत्सङ्गेस्य शिरः कृत्वा निषसाद महीतले ||६||
    ततः सा नारदवचो विमृशन्ती तपस्विनी |
    तं मुहूर्तं क्षणं वेलां दिवसं च युयोज ह ||७||
    मुहूर्तादेव चापश्यत् पुरुषं रक्तवाससम् |
    बद्धमौलिं वपुष्मन्तमादित्यसमतेजसम् ||८||
    श्यामावदातं रक्ताक्षं पाशहस्तं भयावहम् |
    स्थितं सत्यवतः पार्श्वे निरीक्षन्तं तमेव च ||९||
    तं दृष्ट्वा सहसोत्थाय भर्तुर्न्यस्य शनैः शिरः |
    कृताञ्जलिरुवाचार्ता हृदयेन प्रवेपती ||१०||

    Markandeya said
    Savitri, finding him so, immediately went closer to her husband and sat on the ground and took his head in her lap. [6]

    Remembering what Narad had said, that devout woman, observer of the ascetic practices, began reckoning the day, the time, even the hour and the moment. [7]
    Within a short while she saw present there a bright person in red attire, with a tiara on his head; hand¬some and brilliant he looked, as though the Sun-God himself had appeared there. [8]
    His body, dark in hue, was lustrous, and his eyes were blood-red, and he had a noose in his hand which inspired great fright; standing close behind Satyavan he was steadfastly gazing at him. [9]
    She, noticing him there, laid aside her husband’s head on the ground and stood up with folded hands and, trembling in her heart, spoke in an anxious longing voice to him. [10]

    दैवतं त्वाभिजानामि वपुरेतद्ध्यमानुषम् |
    कामया ब्रूहि देवेश कस्त्वं किं च चिकीर्षसि ||११||

    Savitri said
    I take you to be some noble god as you have a form other than the human; if it pleases you, pray tell me who you are and what you propose to do, O god! [11]

    यम उवाच
    पतिव्रतासि सावित्रि तथैव च तपोन्विता |
    अतस्त्वामभिभाषामि विद्धि मां त्वं शुभे यमम् ||१२||
    अयं ते सत्यवान् भर्ता क्षीणायुः पार्थिवात्मजः |
    नेष्यामि तमहं बद्ध्वा विद्ध्येतन्मे चिकीर्षितम् ||१३||

    Yama said
    O Savitri, as you are devoted to your husband, and as you practise askesis, I can converse with you; know me, O virtuous lady, to be Yama. [12]
    Your husband Satyavan, earth-born as he is, his life is over, and I have come to bind him forcibly and take him away with me; yes, this is what I propose to do. [13]

    श्रूयते भगवन् दूतास्तवागच्छन्ति मानवान् |
    नेतुं किल भवान् कस्मादागतोसि स्वयं प्रभो ||१४||

    Savitri said
    O Lord, what I have heard is that you send your ministers when human beings are concerned; and how is it then that you have come here yourself in person, O Master? [14]

    मार्कण्डेय उवाच
    इत्युक्त्: पितृराजस्तां भगवान् स्वचिकीर्षितम् |
    यथावत् सर्वमाख्यातुं तत्प्रियार्थं प्रचक्रमे ||१५||
    अयं च धर्मसंयुक्तो रूपवान् गुणसागरः |
    नार्हो मत्पुरुषैर्नेतुमतोस्मि स्वयमागतः ||१६||
    ततः सत्यवतः कायात् पाशबद्धं वशं गतम् |
    अङ्गुष्ठमात्रं पुरुषं निश्चकर्ष यमो बलात् ||१७||
    ततः समुद्धृतप्राणं गतश्वासं हतप्रभम् |
    निर्विचेष्टं शरीरं तद् बभूवाप्रियदर्शनम् ||१८||
    यमस्तु तं ततो बद्ध्वा प्रयातो दक्षिणामुखः |
    सावित्री चैव दुःखार्ता यममेवान्वगच्छत |
    नियमव्रतसंसिद्धा महाभागा पतिव्रता ||१९||

    Markandeya said
    When asked in this manner, the King-father Lord duly began narrating everything, all in a sequence, for her satisfaction and happiness. [15]
    As he is conjoined in the dharma and has beautiful features and is an ocean of noble qualities, it is not in propriety that he be taken by my ministers; for this reason I have come myself in person. [16]
    Then Yama pulled out with force Satyavan’s soul, the being no bigger than the thumb, who is fettered by his body and subject to it. [17]
    With the departure of the life-breath his respiration ceased; his body, bereft of all lustre, remained immobile and was not pleasing to look at. [18]
    Yama then tied it up and started moving towards the South; and Savitri, afflicted with agony, went behind Yama, following in his steps. That great lady, devoted to her husband, could do this having obtained the siddhi, the fulfilment, of the vow. [19]

    Savitri explains to the inmates of the hermitage how she got five boons from Yama himself:

    सुप्तं चैनं यमः साक्षादुपागच्छत् सकिङ्करः |
    स एनमनयद् बद्ध्वा दिशं पितृनिषेविताम् ||३८||
    When he fell asleep Yama himself came there, accompanied by his assistants; he subdued him and tied him and started moving in the direction of the departed, the abode of the forefathers. [38]

    Then to the eminent God I offered, with the utterances of the Truth, gratifying eulogies; he granted me five boons about which you will presently hear from me. [39]
    अस्तौषं तमहं देवं सत्येन वचसा विभुम् |
    पञ्च वै तेन मे दत्ता वराः शृणुत तान् मम ||३९||
    Sri Aurobindo has revealed the importance of the Savitri-myth by saying that it belongs to the Vedic cycle. It is not just a great tribute, but is an assertion of the Divine Word expressing itself in a new manifestive glory here. The fact that its structural outline can hold the profundity and the wideness, the twofold infinity of his spirituality, is itself a recognition of the substantiality of its splendour. We must understand that, although it is a symbol, people moving in it are not algebraic substitutions of abstract characters, cartoon pictures jerkily portraying a cinematographic sequence; but they are dynamic personalities in flesh and blood shaping and fulfilling the drama of life: they 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…” The legend has therefore a certain historical basis as well, though may be not at one single point of space and time but spread over events in larger dimensions, yet all of them together unfolding the secret destiny. This is the Savitri we must accept and present and not the goody- goody stuff that is often given to us by the pious sentiment. It appears that the title of the poem as Pativratā Mahātmya was provided by the compilers-authors of the Mahābhārata when they neatly incorporated it as a tale in the huge and cumbersome body of the Epic; it should actually be called Savitri Mahātmya to bring out the glory of the Vedic cycle it recreates in a new milieu to recreate that milieu itself in its spirit. The Word of the Rishi has that power and its object is to set out the universal Truth in the working of man and his soul, to achieve through its mantric utterance a concreteness of reality triumphing over all that opposes it in the worldly affairs, that it be the vehicle of the highest dharma, of the inner movement finding its way in cosmic modalities. Savitri Mahātmya can therefore be appropriately proclaimed as the tale of a decisive divine action in this evolutionary unfoldment. If it is to be considered as a book, then it would qualify to be the precious life-blood of a master-spirit.

  10. “Doom” in Sri Aurobindo’s “Savitri”

    All came back to her: Earth and Love and Doom,
    The ancient disputants, encircled her
    Like giant figures wrestling in the night:
    The godheads from the dim Inconscient born
    Awoke to struggle and the pang divine,
    And in the shadow of her flaming heart,
    At the sombre centre of the dire debate,
    A guardian of the unconsoled abyss
    Inheriting the long agony of the globe,
    A stone-still figure of high and godlike Pain
    Stared into space with fixed regardless eyes
    That saw grief’s timeless depths but not life’s goal. ||2.35||

    As in a many-hued flaming inner dawn,
    Her life’s broad highways and its sweet bypaths
    Lay mapped to her sun-clear recording view,
    From the bright country of her childhood’s days
    And the blue mountains of her soaring youth
    And the paradise groves and peacock wings of Love
    To joy clutched under the silent shadow of doom
    In a last turn where heaven raced with hell. ||3.4||
    Twelve passionate months led in a day of fate. ||3.5||

    An image fluttering on the screen of fate
    Half-animated for a passing show,
    Or a castaway on the ocean of Desire
    Flung to the eddies in a ruthless sport
    And tossed along the gulfs of Circumstance,
    A creature born to bend beneath the yoke,
    A chattel and a plaything of Time’s lords,
    Or one more pawn who comes destined to be pushed
    One slow move forward on a measureless board
    In the chess-play of the earth-soul with Doom,—
    Such is the human figure drawn by Time. ||4.17||

    In her own self she found her high recourse;
    She matched with the iron law her sovereign right:
    Her single will opposed the cosmic rule. ||4.33||
    To stay the wheels of Doom this greatness rose. ||4.34||

    A dim and dreadful muteness fell on her:
    Abolished was her subtle mighty spirit
    And slain her boon of child-god happiness,
    And all her glory into littleness turned
    And all her sweetness into a maimed desire. ||36.23||
    To feed death with her works is here life’s doom. ||36.24||
    So veiled was her immortality that she seemed,
    Inflicting consciousness on unconscious things,
    An episode in an eternal death,
    A myth of being that must for ever cease. ||36.25||
    Such was the evil mystery of her change. ||36.26||

    A hidden Puissance conscious of its force,
    A vague and lurking Presence everywhere,
    A contrary Doom that threatens all things made,
    A Death figuring as the dark seed of life,
    Seemed to engender and to slay the world. ||55.7||

    Then in a fatal and stupendous hour
    Something that sprang from the stark Inconscient’s sleep
    Unwillingly begotten by the mute Void,
    Lifted its ominous head against the stars;
    Overshadowing earth with its huge body of Doom
    It chilled the heavens with the menace of a face. ||62.6||
    A nameless Power, a shadowy Will arose
    Immense and alien to our universe. ||62.7||

    Always the dark Adventurers seem to win;
    Nature they fill with evil’s institutes,
    Turn into defeats the victories of Truth,
    Proclaim as falsehoods the eternal laws,
    And load the dice of Doom with wizard lies;
    The world’s shrines they have occupied, usurped its thrones. ||63.6||

    In vague tremendous passages of Doom
    He heard the goblin voice that guides to slay,
    And faced the enchantments of the demon Sign,
    And traversed the ambush of the opponent Snake. ||64.25||

    A seed shall be sown in Death’s tremendous hour,
    A branch of heaven transplant to human soil;
    Nature shall overleap her mortal step;
    Fate shall be changed by an unchanging will. ||91.9||

    But greater spirits this balance can reverse
    And make the soul the artist of its fate. ||114.4||
    This is the mystic truth our ignorance hides:
    Doom is a passage for our inborn force,
    Our ordeal is the hidden spirit’s choice,
    Ananke is our being’s own decree. ||114.5||

    To access the Savitri text use the following URL, with
    So our last sentence will have the URL:

  11. Here is Death as a being, a person, in Sri Aurobindo’s epic “Savitri”; in the classical tale he is known as Yama, son of Vivaswān. Death of Satyavan has taken place and he comes to take possession of his soul. Savitri looks at him, the Denier of all being:

    A moment yet she lingered motionless
    And looked down on the dead man at her feet;
    Then like a tree recovering from a wind
    She raised her noble head; fronting her gaze
    Something stood there, unearthly, sombre, grand,
    A limitless denial of all being
    That wore the terror and wonder of a shape. ||135.8||
    In its appalling eyes the tenebrous Form
    Bore the deep pity of destroying gods. ||135.9||
    A sorrowful irony curved the dreadful lips
    That speak the word of doom. Eternal Night,
    In the dire beauty of an immortal face,
    Pitying arose, receiving all that lives
    For ever into its fathomless heart, refuge
    Of creatures from their anguish and world-pain. ||135.10||
    His shape was nothingness made real, his limbs
    Were monuments of transience and beneath
    Brows of unwearying calm large godlike lids
    Silent beheld the writhing serpent, life. ||135.11||
    Here is how Death is seizing the soul of Satyavan. The beauty is, he becomes instrumental to reveal “luminous Satyavan” otherwise not seen in his mortal body:

    Then Death, the king, leaned boundless down, as leans
    Night over tired lands when evening pales
    And fading gleams break down the horizon’s walls,
    Nor yet the dusk grows mystic with the moon. ||135.24||
    The dim and awful godhead rose erect
    From his brief stooping to his touch on earth,
    And like a dream that wakes out of a dream,
    Forsaking the poor mould of that dead clay,
    Another luminous Satyavan arose,
    Starting upright from the recumbent earth
    As if someone over viewless borders stepped
    Emerging on the edge of unseen worlds. ||135.25||
    In the earth’s day the silent marvel stood
    Between the mortal woman and the god. ||135.26||

    To access the Savitri text use the following URL,
    in which the last entry is the sentence number, here, for example, 135.26

  12. Towards Death’s Abode

    In voiceless regions they were travellers
    Alone in a new world where souls were not,
    But only living moods. A strange, hushed, weird
    Country was round them, strange far skies above,
    A doubting space where dreaming objects lived
    Within themselves their own unchanged idea. ||136.22||
    Weird were the grasses, weird the treeless plains,
    Weird ran the road which like fear hastening
    Towards that of which it has most terror, passed
    Phantasmal between pillared conscious rocks
    Sombre and high, gates brooding, whose stone thoughts
    Lost their huge sense beyond in giant night. ||136.23||
    Enigma of the Inconscient’s sculptural sleep,
    Symbols of the approach to darkness old
    And monuments of her titanic reign,
    Opening to depths like dumb appalling jaws
    That wait a traveller down a haunted path
    Attracted to a mystery that slays,
    They watched across her road, cruel and still;
    Sentinels they stood of dumb Necessity,
    Mute heads of vigilant and sullen gloom,
    Carved muzzle of a dim enormous world. ||136.24||

    To access “Savitri”-text use
    in which the last entry is the sentence number.

  13. Here is Death’s iron-hearted roar:

    Then a sound pealed through that dead monstrous realm:
    Vast like the surge in a tired swimmer’s ears,
    Clamouring, a fatal iron-hearted roar,
    Death missioned to the night his lethal call. ||137.29||
    “This is my silent dark immensity,
    This is the home of everlasting Night,
    This is the secrecy of Nothingness
    Entombing the vanity of life’s desires. ||137.30||
    Hast thou beheld thy source, O transient heart,
    And known from what the dream thou art was made? ||137.31||
    In this stark sincerity of nude emptiness
    Hopest thou still always to last and love?” ||137.32||
    The cruel ironic tone boastingly affirms:

    What shall the ancient goddess give to thee
    Who helps thy heart-beats? Only she prolongs
    The nothing dreamed existence and delays
    With the labour of living thy eternal sleep. ||137.36||
    A fragile miracle of thinking clay,
    Armed with illusions walks the child of Time. ||137.37||
    Aimless man toils in an uncertain world
    Lulled by inconstant pauses of his pain,
    Scourged like a beast by the infinite desire,
    Bound to the chariot of the dreadful gods. ||137.48||
    Back from the grandeur of my perilous realms
    Go, mortal, to thy small permitted sphere! ||137.69||
    Hasten swift-footed, lest to slay thy life
    The great laws thou hast violated, moved,
    Open at last on thee their marble eyes. ||137.70||
    I made the worlds my net, each joy a mesh. ||137.84||
    A Hunger amorous of its suffering prey,
    Life that devours, my image see in things. ||137.85||
    Mortal, whose spirit is my wandering breath,
    Whose transience was imagined by my smile,
    Flee clutching thy poor gains to thy trembling breast
    Pierced by my pangs Time shall not soon appease. ||137.86||
    And thou, what art thou, soul, thou glorious dream
    Of brief emotions made and glittering thoughts,
    A thin dance of fireflies speeding through the night,
    A sparkling ferment in life’s sunlit mire? ||137.101||
    Wilt thou claim immortality, O heart,
    Crying against the eternal witnesses
    That thou and he are endless powers and last? ||137.102||
    Death only lasts and the inconscient Void. ||137.103||
    I only am eternal and endure. ||137.104||
    I am the shapeless formidable Vast,
    I am the emptiness that men call Space,
    I am a timeless Nothingness carrying all,
    I am the Illimitable, the mute Alone. ||137.105||
    I, Death, am He; there is no other God. ||137.106||
    All from my depths are born, they live by death;
    All to my depths return and are no more. ||137.107||
    I have made a world by my inconscient Force. ||137.108||
    My force is Nature that creates and slays
    The hearts that hope, the limbs that long to live. ||137.109||
    If thou desirest immortality,
    Be then alone sufficient to thy soul:
    Live in thyself; forget the man thou lov’st. ||137.124||
    My last grand death shall rescue thee from life;
    Then shalt thou rise into thy unnamed source. ||137.125||
    Savitri of course does not give up:

    Once more a Wanderer in the unending Night,
    Blindly forbidden by dead vacant eyes,
    She travelled through the dumb unhoping vasts. ||137.139||
    Around her rolled the shuddering waste of gloom,
    Its swallowing emptiness and joyless death
    Resentful of her thought and life and love. ||137.140||
    Through the long fading night by her compelled,
    Gliding half-seen on their unearthly path,
    Phantasmal in the dimness moved the three. ||137.141||

    To access “Savitri”-text use, for instance,
    in which the last entry is the sentence number.

  14. Finally, Savitri vanquishes Death:

    The two opposed each other face to face. ||147.28||
    His being like a huge fort of darkness towered;
    Around it her life grew, an ocean’s siege. ||147.29||
    Awhile the Shade survived defying heaven:
    Assailing in front, oppressing from above
    A concrete mass of conscious power, he bore
    The tyranny of her divine desire. ||147.30||
    A pressure of intolerable force
    Weighed on his unbowed head and stubborn breast;
    Light like a burning tongue licked up his thoughts,
    Light was a luminous torture in his heart,
    Light coursed, a splendid agony, through his nerves;
    His darkness muttered perishing in her blaze. ||147.31||
    Her mastering Word commanded every limb
    And left no room for his enormous will
    That seemed pushed out into some helpless space
    And could no more re-enter but left him void. ||147.32||
    He called to Night but she fell shuddering back,
    He called to Hell but sullenly it retired:
    He turned to the Inconscient for support,
    From which he was born, his vast sustaining self:
    It drew him back towards boundless vacancy
    As if by himself to swallow up himself:
    He called to his strength, but it refused his call. ||147.33||
    His body was eaten by light, his spirit devoured. ||147.34||
    At last he knew defeat inevitable
    And left crumbling the shape that he had worn,
    Abandoning hope to make man’s soul his prey
    And force to be mortal the immortal spirit. ||147.35||
    Afar he fled shunning her dreaded touch
    And refuge took in the retreating Night. ||147.36||
    In the dream twilight of that symbol world
    The dire universal Shadow disappeared
    Vanishing into the Void from which it came. ||147.37||
    As if deprived of its original cause,
    The twilight realm passed fading from their souls,
    And Satyavan and Savitri were alone. ||147.38||
    But neither stirred: between those figures rose
    A mute invisible and translucent wall. ||147.39||
    In the long blank moment’s pause nothing could move:
    All waited on the unknown inscrutable Will. ||147.40||

    To access “Savitri”-text use, for instance,
    in which the last entry is the sentence number.

  15. The marvellous Transfiguration — Death turning back to his original supreme Godhood. This is not known to the ancient Knowledge.

    One whom her soul had faced as Death and Night
    A sum of all sweetness gathered into his limbs
    And blinded her heart to the beauty of the suns. ||149.2||
    Transfigured was the formidable shape. ||149.3||
    His darkness and his sad destroying might
    Abolishing for ever and disclosing
    The mystery of his high and violent deeds,
    A secret splendour rose revealed to sight
    Where once the vast embodied Void had stood. ||149.4||
    Night the dim mask had grown a wonderful face. ||149.5||
    The vague infinity was slain whose gloom
    Had outlined from the terrible Unknown
    The obscure disastrous figure of a god,
    Fled was the error that arms the hands of grief,
    And lighted the ignorant gulf whose hollow deeps
    Had given to nothingness a dreadful voice. ||149.6||
    As when before the eye that wakes in sleep
    Is opened the sombre binding of a book,
    Illumined letterings are seen which kept
    A golden blaze of thought inscribed within,
    A marvellous form responded to her gaze
    Whose sweetness justified life’s blindest pain;
    All Nature’s struggle was its easy price,
    The universe and its agony seemed worth while. ||149.7||
    As if the choric calyx of a flower
    Aerial, visible on music’s waves,
    A lotus of light-petalled ecstasy
    Took shape out of the tremulous heart of things. ||149.8||
    There was no more the torment under the stars,
    The evil sheltered behind Nature’s mask;
    There was no more the dark pretence of hate,
    The cruel ictus on Love’s altered face. ||149.9||
    Hate was the grip of a dreadful amour’s strife;
    A ruthless love intent only to possess
    Has here replaced the sweet original god;
    Forgetting the Will-to-love that gave it birth,
    The passion to lock itself in and to unite,
    It would swallow all into one lonely self,
    Devouring the soul that it had made its own,
    By suffering and annihilation’s pain
    Punishing the unwillingness to be one,
    Angry with the refusals of the world,
    Passionate to take but knowing not how to give. ||149.10||
    Death’s sombre cowl was cast from Nature’s brow;
    There lightened on her the godhead’s lurking love. ||149.11||
    All grace and glory and all divinity
    Were here collected in a single form;
    All worshipped eyes looked through his from one face;
    He bore all godheads in his grandiose limbs. ||149.12||
    An oceanic spirit dwelt within;
    Intolerant and invincible in joy
    A flood of freedom and transcendent bliss
    Into immortal lines of beauty rose. ||149.13||
    In him the fourfold Being bore its crown
    That wears the mystery of a nameless Name,
    The universe writing its tremendous sense
    In the inexhaustible meaning of a word. ||149.14||

    To access “Savitri”-text use, for instance,
    in which the last entry is the sentence number.

  16. 26 February 1966
    After the translation of “Savitri” (the dialogue with Death)

    Behold the figures of this symbol realm….
    Here thou canst trace the outcome Nature gives
    To the sin of being and the error in things
    And the desire that compels to live
    And man’s incurable malady of hope.


    But she will answer you!… I’d like to know what she will answer him.


    If we follow to its end the idea with which Sri Aurobindo wrote this, Death would be the principle that created Falsehood in the world…. It’s obviously either Falsehood that created Death, or Death that created Falsehood.

    ‘It’s rather Falsehood that created Death!’

    Logically, yes.

    According to the story (if it can be called a story) that Théon told, it was Falsehood that created Death. But according to what we’ve just read, Death would be what created Falsehood…. Obviously it must be neither this way nor that! It must be something else, which we should find.


    Théon’s idea (which also fits with the teaching here in India in which they say it was the sense of separation that created the whole Disorder—Death, Falsehood and all the rest), Théon’s idea was that those first four Emanations, that is, Consciousness, Love, Life, and Truth (Love was the last, I think, but I no longer remember what he said), those four individual emanated Beings, according to him, in full consciousness of their power and existence, cut themselves off from their Origin. In other words, they wanted to depend only on themselves, they didn’t even feel the need to keep the connection [p. 43] with their Origin (I am putting it very materially). So then, that cut is what instantly caused Consciousness to become Unconsciousness, Love to become Suffering (it wasn’t Love—it was actually Ananda which became Suffering), Life to become Death and Truth to become Falsehood. And they hurled themselves into the creation like that. Then, there was a second creation, which was the creation of the gods, to mend the mischief caused by those four (the story is told in almost a childlike way in order not to be abstract, in order to become concrete). The gods are the second emanation and they came to mend. In India and everywhere, they were given various names and functions, and they are found in the Overmind region, that is to say, above the physical quaternary, the material quaternary. And the function of those gods is to mend the damage wrought by the others. And the region in which the others (the first Emanations) concentrated is the vital region.

    All this can be translated philosophically, intellectually and so on. It is told as a story so that the most physical intellectuality may understand. But in principle, it’s the separation from the Origin that created the whole Disorder. And, as far as I know, in India too the Upanishads say the same thing; Sri Aurobindo, at any rate, says that Disorder came with the sense of Separation. So those are different ways of saying the same thing. In one case, seen in a certain way, it’s a willed separation; in the other case, it’s an inevitable consequence—inevitable consequence of… of what? I don’t know.

    Because, according to theogonies, the gods have remained in contact with their Origin and they feel themselves to be the representation of the Origin, as in the Indian theogony in which they say that Shiva is the representative of the Supreme—Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the preserver, Shiva, the transformer—and all three are conscious representatives of the Supreme, but partial ones.

    It’s perfectly obvious that those are only manners of speaking. There are indeed entities, they do exist, but… it’s only a way of telling the story; in one way or another, it’s the same thing. Metaphysics is also one way of telling the story. And one isn’t truer than the other.


    But to me, the problem is to find… You know, I am after the process that will lead to the power to undo what was done.

    When people asked Théon, “How did things come to happen that way?” (he used to say that the first Emanation and the next [p. 44] three separated themselves), “Why did they separate themselves?”, he would reply very simply (laughing), “Why is the world as it is, in this state of disorder? Why is it like that?… That’s not the interesting point: the interesting point is to make it what it must be.” But after all those years, there is something in me that would like to have the power or the key: the process. And is it not necessary to feel or live or see (but “see,” I mean, see actively) how it went this way (Mother bends her wrist in one direction) in order to be able to go that way (she bends it in the opposite direction)? That’s the question.


    What’s interesting is that now that this mind of the cells has been organized, it appears to be going with dizzying speed through the process of human mental development all over again, in order to reach… the key, precisely. There is of course the sense that the state we are in is a false unreality, but there is a sort of need or aspiration to find, not a mental or moral “why,” nothing of the sort, but a HOW—how it got twisted this way (Mother bends her wrist in one direction), in order to straighten it out (gesture in the opposite direction).

    The pure sensation has the experience of the two vibrations [the false and the true, the twisted and the straight vibrations], but the transition from one to the other is still a mystery. It’s a mystery, because it cannot be explained: neither when it goes this way (gesture to the false direction) nor when it goes that way (gesture to the true direction).

    So there is something that says like Théon, “Learn to BE that way [on the true side] and stay that way.” But there is an impression that the “stay that way” must depend on knowing why one is that way or how one is that way?

    I don’t know if I make myself understood!…[p.45]
    But the Mother leaves the question who is the cause of whom, Death or Falsehood, unanswered: “Obviously it must be neither this way nor that! It must be something else, which we should find.” Has she settled it elsewhere? I don’t know. But we will go by “Savitri”.

  17. The logomachy between Savitri and Death is remaining unsettled, the occult weapons flung by one on the other have not brought any result even after such a prolonged ‘debate’. That of course is going to suit Death, and he is not going to release the soul of Satyavan but, obviously, that won’t do for Savitri. She enters into her Meditation’s House and sees a glorious Yajña going on there, The Lord and the Spouse, Ishwara and Ishwari, together, are making Fire-Offerings and at once things take a different turn.

    Thinking that Savitri cannot do it, Death makes a seeming proposal to her, as the last means to dismiss her:

    A blind Force, not Truth has made this ignorant world,
    A blind Force, not Truth orders the lives of men:
    By Power, not Light, the great Gods rule the world;
    Power is the arm of God, the seal of Fate. ||146.81||
    O human claimant to immortality,
    Reveal thy power, lay bare thy spirit’s force,
    Then will I give back to thee Satyavan. ||146.82||
    Or if the Mighty Mother is with thee,
    Show me her face that I may worship her;
    Let deathless eyes look into the eyes of Death,
    An imperishable Force touching brute things
    Transform earth’s death into immortal life. ||146.83||
    Then can thy dead return to thee and live,
    The prostrate earth perhaps shall lift her gaze
    And feel near her the secret body of God
    And love and joy overtake fleeing Time. ||146.84||

    And Savitri looked on Death and answered not. ||147.1||
    Almost it seemed as if in his symbol shape
    The world’s darkness had consented to Heaven-light
    And God needed no more the Inconscient’s screen. ||147.2||
    A mighty transformation came on her. ||147.3||

    In a flaming moment of apocalypse
    The Incarnation thrust aside its veil. ||147.5||

    Then a Voice was heard that seemed the stillness’ self
    Or the low calm utterance of infinity
    When it speaks to the silence in the heart of sleep. ||147.15||

    “I hail thee almighty and victorious Death,
    Thou grandiose Darkness of the Infinite. ||147.16||
    O Void that makest room for all to be,
    Hunger that gnawest at the universe
    Consuming the cold remnants of the suns
    And eat’st the whole world with thy jaws of fire,
    Waster of the energy that has made the stars,
    Inconscience, carrier of the seeds of thought,
    Nescience in which All-Knowledge sleeps entombed
    And slowly emerges in its hollow breast
    Wearing the mind’s mask of bright Ignorance. ||147.17||
    Thou art my shadow and my instrument. ||147.18||
    I have given thee thy awful shape of dread
    And thy sharp sword of terror and grief and pain
    To force the soul of man to struggle for light
    On the brevity of his half-conscious days. ||147.19||
    Thou art his spur to greatness in his works,
    The whip to his yearning for eternal bliss,
    His poignant need of immortality. ||147.20||
    Live, Death, awhile, be still my instrument. ||147.21||
    One day man too shall know thy fathomless heart
    Of silence and the brooding peace of Night
    And grave obedience to eternal Law
    And the calm inflexible pity in thy gaze. ||147.22||
    But now, O timeless Mightiness, stand aside
    And leave the path of my incarnate Force. ||147.23||
    Relieve the radiant god from thy black mask;
    Release the soul of the world called Satyavan
    Freed from thy clutch of pain and ignorance
    That he may stand master of life and fate,
    Man’s representative in the house of God,
    The mate of Wisdom and the spouse of Light,
    The eternal bridegroom of the eternal bride.” ||147.24||

    To access “Savitri”-text use, for instance,
    in which the last entry is the sentence number.

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