Sixty-three years ago today, on December 9, 1950, Sri Aurobindo’s body was put into the white marble Samadhi that had been built for this purpose in the central courtyard of the Ashram after his passing away on the 5th.
On the longer sides of the Samadhi was engraved, in English on one side, in French on the other side, the Prayer written and signed by the Mother:
“TO THEE WHO HAST BEEN THE MATERIAL ENVELOPE OF OUR MASTER, TO THEE OUR INFINITE GRATITUDE. BEFORE THEE WHO HAST DONE SO MUCH FOR US, WHO HAS WORKED, STRUGGLED, SUFFERED, HOPED, ENDURED SO MUCH, BEFORE THEE WHO HAST WILLED ALL, PREPARED, ACHIEVED ALL FOR US, BEFORE THEE WE BOW DOWN AND IMPLORE THAT WE MAY NEVER FORGET, EVEN FOR A MOMENT, ALL WE OWE TO THEE.”
When I arrived in Auroville in 1972, I was but a young woman who basically knew nothing yet about Sri Aurobindo except that he had written ‘The Life Divine’, the incredible, magnificent book that had at last decided me to live on, because it had revealed to me at last the true, complete, illuminating meaning of Life on Earth: the divinely driven and guided process of Evolution that was happening here and was now nearing its decisive stage, the advent of the Supramental Era.
Having read also after that a few more books on that Vision, but not knowing anything yet about the actual lives of either Sri Aurobindo or the Mother, and having no idea yet of all the tremendous amount of work both of them had indeed quietly accomplished for the Earth, when I read that Prayer by the Mother as I came for the first time near the Samadhi, I was struck by its extraordinary beauty and intensity, but the mental part of me, still imbued with some of the typical Western arrogant ignorance, couldn’t help but assume that the Mother must have exaggerated a little in her appreciation of what we owe to Sri Aurobindo.
Forty years later, I know better, and would like to share with you all today, some at least of what I have discovered over those many years, that we indeed all owe to Sri Aurobindo.
Exploring the shorter writings of Sri Aurobindo as well as his longer, better known ones, I had discovered his poetry, starting with his sonnets, and then graduating to his other poems. Most of it was extraordinary inner experiences that for me were exhilarating and inspiring, stars to reach myself some day perhaps.
The first real hint of the unimaginable difficulty of the full purpose of Sri Aurobindo hit me through one specific poem of his I read:
A God’s Labour
I have gathered my dreams in a silver air
Between the gold and the blue
And wrapped them softly and left them there,
My jewelled dreams of you.
I had hoped to build a rainbow bridge
Marrying the soil to the sky
And sow in this dancing planet midge
The moods of infinity.
But too bright were our heavens, too far away,
Too frail their ethereal stuff;
Too splendid and sudden our light could not stay;
The roots were not deep enough.
He who would bring the heavens here
Must descend himself into clay
And the burden of earthly nature bear
And tread the dolorous way.
Coercing my godhead I have come down
Here on the sordid earth,
Ignorant, labouring, human grown
Twixt the gates of death and birth.
I have been digging deep and long
Mid a horror of filth and mire
A bed for the golden river’s song,
A home for the deathless fire.
I have laboured and suffered in Matter’s night
To bring the fire to man;
But the hate of hell and human spite
Are my meed since the world began.
For man’s mind is the dupe of his animal self;
Hoping its lusts to win,
He harbours within him a grisly Elf
Enamoured of sorrow and sin.
The grey Elf shudders from heaven’s flame
And from all things glad and pure;
Only by pleasure and passion and pain
His drama can endure.
All around is darkness and strife;
For the lamps that men call suns
Are but halfway gleams on this stumbling life
Cast by the Undying Ones.
Man lights his little torches of hope
That lead to a failing edge;
A fragment of Truth is his widest scope,
An inn his pilgrimage.
The Truth of truths men fear and deny,
The Light of lights they refuse;
To ignorant gods they lift their cry
Or a demon altar choose.
All that was found must again be sought,
Each enemy slain revives,
Each battle for ever is fought and refought
Through vistas of fruitless lives.
My gaping wounds are a thousand and one
And the Titan kings assail,
But I cannot rest till my task is done
And wrought the eternal will.
How they mock and sneer, both devils and men!
“Thy hope is Chimera’s head
Painting the sky with its fiery stain;
Thou shalt fall and thy work lie dead.
“Who art thou that babblest of heavenly ease
And joy and golden room
To us who are waifs on inconscient seas
And bound to life’s iron doom?
“This earth is ours, a field of Night
For our petty flickering fires.
How shall it brook the scared Light
Or suffer a god’s desires?
“Come, let us slay him and end his course!
Then shall our hearts have release
From the burden and call of his glory and force
And the curb of his wide white peace.”
But the god is there in my mortal breast
Who wrestles with error and fate
And tramples a road through mire and waste
For the nameless Immaculate.
A voice cried, “Go where none have gone!
Dig deeper, deeper yet
Till thou reach the grim foundation stone
And knock at the keyless gate.”
I saw that a falsehood was planted deep
At the very root of things
Where the grey Sphinx guards God’s riddle sleep
On the Dragon’s outspread wings.
I left the surface gods of mind
And life’s unsatisfied seas
And plunged through the body’s alleys blind
To the nether mysteries.
I have delved through the dumb Earth’s dreadful heart
And heard her black mass’s bell.
I have seen the source whence her agonies part
And the inner reason of hell.
Above me the dragon murmurs moan
And the goblin voices flit;
I have pierced the Void where Thought was born,
I have walked in the bottomless pit.
On a desperate stair my feet have trod
Armoured with boundless peace,
Bringing the fires of the splendour of God
Into the human abyss.
He who I am was with me still;
All veils are breaking now.
I have heard His voice and borne His will
on my vast untroubled brow.
The gulf twixt the depths and the heights is bridged
And the golden waters pour
Down the sapphire mountain rainbow-ridged
And glimmer from shore to shore.
Heaven’s fire is lit in the breast of the earth
And the undying suns here burn;
Through a wonder cleft in the bounds of birth
The incarnate spirits yearn
Like flames to the kingdoms of Truth and Bliss:
Down a gold-red stair-way wend
The radiant children of Paradise
Clarioning darkness’s end.
A little more and the new life’s doors
Shall be carved in silver light
With its aureate roof and mosaic floors
In a great world bare and bright.
I shall leave my dreams in their argent air,
For in a raiment of gold and blue
There shall move on the earth embodied and fair
The living truth of you.
This was written by Sri Aurobindo on 31-7-1935.
I was so shattered by the shock of the horror and incredible beauty of it, I cried and cried, asking inwardly Sri Aurobindo to forgive us our deep unconsciousness. I was realizing for the first time what a Being had lived and died in our midst, while so few of us had any idea what exactly he was doing in the decades of solitary silence he spent in his room after 1926, inside that Ashram mostly full of naive disciples convinced they were gathered around a simple “guru” having a new approach to Yoga for them to learn and do their best to actually practice. Only a few had some notion, at least at the mental level, of what he was really doing, and why, and what tremendous importance it would have for the Earth when he would at long last succeed. Those slightly more aware disciples had made it a yearly habit to ask Sri Aurobindo each year on his birthday (August 15) how things were going with “the coming down of the Supramental”.
In 1935 Sri Aurobindo said he was making good headway and was rather optimistic, final success might come in not too long a time.
But 1935 turned out to be the year when Hitler, elected to full power in 1933, started implementing his real plans, that steadily brought about the Second World War in 1939, and ‘all hell broke loose’, that time literally and right here upon Earth, with the demoniac influence behind him rapidly threatening to engulf all countries one after the other under the Nazi ever expanding hegemony – to the point that Sri Aurobindo had to stop temporarily any further effort to bring down the Supramental, as the very first priority was now to prevent Hitler from winning altogether the War and having the whole world under Nazi Rule, which would mean absolutely no hope of the real, true New Evolutive Step happening in any near future.
So this is how in the end the secret inner action from Sri Aurobindo and Mother helped invisibly but powerfully the Allies to stop Hitler and the War; but even after that was done, in order to win the only irreversible Victory by accelerating the Supramental’s direct contact with the Earth, thus activating the same Supramental energy dormant inside Matter, Sri Aurobindo, as we have seen, had to sacrifice his own life and purposely leave his physical body on December 5th, 1950.
This ultimate action to save the world was accompanied by a last Gift, a sort of Testament he left, that could help us follow him and the Mother towards the Future of the Earth: the wonderful epic poem on Evolution that he had titled ‘SAVITRI’. It evokes in a thrillingly beautiful manner not only the past of terrestrial Evolution, but also its present unfolding, and the radiant future it prepares: the Life Divine here in this poor physical world that used to be considered so un-divine and un-redeemable.
It is now many years I keep reading ‘Savitri’, together with ‘Mother’s Agenda’. Somewhere in her ‘Agenda’ (her recorded Diary 1956-1973) Mother speaks of the whole Story of Sri Aurobindo’s invisible Action for the Earth, as something akin to a ‘Fairy-Tale of the Earth’, leading to the Transformation of Matter back into its veritable, divine nature.
Whenever I am reading ‘Savitri’, I feel I am reading ‘The Fairy-Tale of the Earth’…
And there too, but in an even more detailed and stunning description than in ‘A God’s Labour’, one finds out with total awe and wonder all that Sri Aurobindo has done for us (all that he describes is actually from his own inner experience and action), for which we may indeed pray, along with Mother, “THAT WE MAY NEVER FORGET, EVEN FOR A MOMENT, ALL WE OWE TO THEE”.