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Mother's Mantra and Savitri

Author: Rod Hemsell

Last Updated: June 13, 2007

Mothers Mantra and Savitri How Savitri illumines Om Namo Bhagavate. (12/17/05, a talk and reading by Rod at Savitri Bhavan in Auroville) Tonight I will be speaking about mantra. Please forgive any errors or omissions, which will surely occur when we get to the point of attempting an authentic rendering of Savitri. It is my aspiration, nonetheless, that at that point we will not be merely speaking about mantra but hearing mantra. But first I would like to make a few observations about Savitri and the Mothers mantra. (I would be surprised if no one has made these before, but they seem original to me because I havent read them anywhere yet.) You might remember that the Mother elaborated on her mantra to Satprem in 1965, and at that time she said: Of all the formulas or mantras, the one that has the most direct effect on this body is the Sanskrit mantra: OM NAMO BHAGAVATE. The first word, OM, represents the supreme invocation, the invocation to the Supreme. The second word, NAMO, represents total self-giving, perfect surrender. The third word, BHAGAVATE, represents the aspiration, what the manifestation must become Divine. (Feb. 1965) A few years earlier she frequently commented on this mantra and its effects, for example: When I sit in meditation or I have a minute of quiet for concentration, this mantra arises from the solar plexus, and there is a response in the cells of the body: they all start vibrating. Everything gets filled with Light! The other day, in my bathroom, it came and took hold of the entire body. It rose and rose and all the cells were trembling. So I remained still and let the movement develop by itself. The vibration kept mounting and mounting, expanding as the sound itself mounted, and all the cells of the body were seized with an intensity of aspiration as if the entire body was swelling. It became so overwhelming I felt the body was about to burst. Had I continued, something might have happened, in the sense that the cells balance would have been affected. Unfortunately, I was unable to continue because I didnt have time; I was going to be late. So I slowly withdrew. I put on the brakes and the effect was interrupted. But since then, whenever I repeat this mantra everything starts vibrating. I repeat my mantra constantly, when I am awake and even when I asleep. I say it when I get dressed, when I eat, when I work, when I speak with people. It is there all the time, in the background of everything. That is the normal state. It creates an atmosphere of intensity almost more material than the subtle physical. And it has a great effect: it can prevent an accident. Sometimes, one can go from a state of more or less mechanical and efficient repetition to a state of true repetition, full of power and light. I understand why some tantrics advise saying the mantra in the heart center. When one applies a certain enthusiasm, when each word is uttered with a certain warmth of aspiration, it changes everything. I could feel the difference in myself. Perhaps for the mantra to become true, it needs to be repeated with a kind of joy, of elation, of warmth especially joy. (Compiled from Mothers Agenda, 1958-60) Bhagavate We know the importance that Sri Aurobindo gave to the Vedic gods: Bhaga, Bhaga Savitri. Bhaga Savitri is the creative force and bliss of the Supreme Mother, Aditi, Bhaga Savitri, Surya Savitri. Its interesting to me to note that in 1965 and Ill be referring tonight primarily to the Mothers Agendas of 1965 and 1969, and to passages from Savitri in Book Seven, The Book of Yoga in 1965, curiously, on three different occasions through the year, while speaking with Satprem about Savitri, the Mother drew his attention to one particular line: Annul thyself that only God may be. That line is from a passage in Savitri from The Book of Yoga: Consent to be nothing and none, dissolve times work Cast off thy mind, step back from form and name. Annul thyself that only God may be. (p.538) Om is the supreme invocation. Namo is the perfect sacrifice, the perfect self giving. Bhagavate is the affirmation, of the power and the light. Annul thyself that only God may be. She didnt draw this connection specifically, but thats what I would like to do tonight. In 1969, for example, she said: The only way is that the ego must go! Thats it. When, instead of I, there is nothing left, just a vast sense of evenness in everything not expressed with words, but a very stable sensation of What you will, as You will. Truly, the concrete sensation that this body doesnt exist; it is just being used, and there is nothing but That. That pressing on things. An all-embracing, conscious immensity. Its almost as if I could see it, not visually, of course. But its so concrete, far more concrete than images the vision of this immense Force, immense Vibration that keeps pressing and pressing and pressing, and the world wriggling beneath it! Then something inside opens up, allowing it to come in and spread upon earth. Its the only solution. All the rest is aspirations, beliefs, hopes. Its still superhumanity, but not the supramental. Its still a higher humanity trying to pull its own humanity upward, but its hopeless, completely hopeless. I have a very clear vision of all this humanity struggling to raise itself, to grasp something up above, but refusing to give itself. It only wants to take! But that doesnt work. It must annul itself. Only then can something else come in and take its place. Thats the whole secret. Yes, to annul oneself to the point of disappearance. This is the most difficult of all: to learn to disappear. (Dec. 69, free trans.) I would like to reinforce this concept of the mantra with another passage from the same year. She said to Satprem one day: More and more the body has been learning that what happens (what happens every second) is the best thing that can happen given the general condition. Its entirely convinced of that. And its content to do like this (gesture of self-abandon) and say, Let your will be done. Thats all. If it can do that in a vary continuous and peaceful way, then things are fine. Its only when it tries to find out why and how and then things go wrong. It has to be like this (same gesture of self-abandon): Let Your Will be done. Then its all right. It doesnt ask to know, only theres the old habit. At the critical moment (there are critical moments), at the critical moment, this surrender (its even more than surrender, its a complete abdication of everything, of its existence and everything) it is filled with light and force. Thats the Response. So then, the various functions are taken up in turn, in a marvelously logical order, following the bodys functioning. Its something marvelous, only the body is a poor thing, a very poor thing thats true. Some cells even (as I have said) spontaneously repeat the mantra. Spontaneously, the mantra goes on and on being repeated, sometimes with a very great intensity; sometimes there is a sort of (do you know the English word shyness ?), a shyness to invoke the divine, so strongly That is felt. But it melts it melts in an awareness, a concrete perception of such a Clemency! Unbelievable unbelievable, unthinkable, its so wonderful (Feb. 69) Its present. Shall we not invoke it also, in an attitude of self-abdication? I think this idea that Om Namo Bhagavate and Annul thyself that only God may be convey the surrender, is essential in the teaching of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother: the surrender, the sacrifice. If you think about Om Namo Bhagavate in the Vedic sense, you have what Ill be referring to (in the course on Savitri thats coming up in January) as the Vedic structure. There is the invocation, there is the sacrifice, and there is the affirmation. Sri Aurobindo has explained this so thoroughly in The Secret of the Veda. This idea really begins to become explicit, in this particular book, when Savitri realizes the hopeless state of humanity. And she begins to resolve herself to accept death, because it is just not worth the trouble. This desperation arises in her spontaneously, it is the cry of nature against its mortality, and there is a response that comes from her higher self. The voice of her higher self responds. It questions her purpose and her mission, deeply, accusingly, until she can only say, in response: Speak to my depths, O great and deathless Voice, Command, for I am here to do thy will. (p.476) And when the Voice replies, we get a transmission from Sri Aurobindo of the fundamental, essential, primal movement of the yoga of transformation. Remember why thou camst: Find out thy soul, recover thy hid self, In silence seek Gods meaning in thy depths, Then mortal nature change to the divine. Open gods door, enter into his trance. Cast thought from thee, that nimble ape of Light: In his tremendous hush stilling thy brain His vast truth wake within and know and see. Cast from thee sense that veils thy spirits sight: In the enormous emptiness of thy mind Thou shalt see the Eternals body in the world, Know him in every voice heard by they soul, In the worlds contacts meet his single touch; All things shall fold thee into his embrace. Conquer thy hearts throbs, let thy heart beat in God: Thy nature shall be the engine of his works, Thy voice shall house the mightiness of his Word: Then shalt thou harbor my force and conquer Death. (p.476) She hears this word, she proceeds to obey, and the interim result: Only her soul remained, its emptied stage, Awaiting the unknown eternal Will. (p.536) What would it be like to live in that state? Isnt it our job to find out? The Mother, as she herself says in those very passages, has made sentences about it. Savitri has the power to give us perceptions of it, without which I think few of us would ever know, quite certainly, its nature, the thing itself. But with it, as she also said, its possible for many of us to follow this path, all the way. She said in fact, as we know, that Savitri is enough to take us all the way to the transformation. But one must know how to hear Savitri. There are two passages that follow immediately after the souls emptied stage, that are almost identical, but they are in successive Cantos. (This is an interesting subject in itself. It may be simply said here that it is an indication of an aspect of the Vedic structure that there is a gradation of possible responses to each cycle of sacrifice. We may see this pattern of successive gradations of experience recurring throughout Savitri.) And both passages describe what living in that state of surrender is like. I am going to read the latter passage, in the first section of Book Seven, Canto Seven, because it covers quite perfectly the movement that we have been discussing. Although the mind should not run after such associations, I think we should be receptive to certain parallels that we can passively observe between the Mothers descriptions of her experience, and those narrated in Savitri, such as, for example, her phrases a vast sense of evenness in everything and the body doesnt exist, it is just being used, as it were, by That and in Savitri, All was a still and even infinity and Impassive the body claimed not its own voice,/But let the luminous greatness through it pass (see p.553-54 below). The Discovery of the Cosmic Spirit and the Cosmic Consciousness (Savitri, Bk. VII, Canto VII) In the little hermitage in the forest's heart, In the sunlight and the moonlight and the dark The daily human life went plodding on Even as before with its small unchanging works And its spare outward body of routine And happy quiet of ascetic peace. The old beauty smiled of the terrestrial scene; She too was her old gracious self to men. The Ancient Mother clutched her child to her breast Pressing her close in her environing arms, As if earth ever the same could for ever keep The living spirit and body in her clasp, As if death were not there nor end nor change. Accustomed only to read outward signs None saw aught new in her, none divined her state; They saw a person where was only God's vast, A still being or a mighty nothingness. To all she was the same perfect Savitri: A greatness and a sweetness and a light Poured out from her upon her little world. Life showed to all the same familiar face, Her acts followed the old unaltered round, She spoke the words that she was wont to speak And did the things that she had always done. Her eyes looked out on earth's unchanging face, Around her soul's muteness all moved as of old; A vacant consciousness watched from within, Empty of all but bare Reality. There was no will behind the word and act, No thought formed in her brain to guide the speech: Book VII: The Book of Yoga Canto VII: The Discovery of the Cosmic Spirit and the Cosmic Consciousness Page 552 An impersonal emptiness walked and spoke in her, Something perhaps unfelt, unseen, unknown Guarded the body for its future work, Or Nature moved in her old stream of force. Perhaps she bore made conscious in her breast The miraculous Nihil, origin of our souls And source and sum of the vast world's events, The womb and grave of thought, a cipher of God, A zero circle of being's totality. It used her speech and acted in her acts, It was beauty in her limbs, life in her breath; The original Mystery wore her human face. Thus was she lost within to separate self; Her mortal ego perished in God's night. Only a body was left, the ego's shell Afloat mid drift and foam of the world-sea, A sea of dream watched by a motionless sense In a figure of unreal reality. An impersonal foresight could already see, In the unthinking knowledge of the spirit Even now it seemed nigh done, inevitable, The individual die, the cosmos pass; These gone, the transcendental grew a myth, The Holy Ghost without the Father and Son, Or, a substratum of what once had been, Being that never willed to bear a world Restored to its original loneliness, Impassive, sole, silent, intangible. Yet all was not extinct in this deep loss; The being travelled not towards nothingness. There was some high surpassing Secrecy, And when she sat alone with Satyavan, Her moveless mind with his that searched and strove, In the hush of the profound and intimate night She turned to the face of a veiled voiceless Truth Hid in the dumb recesses of the heart Book VII: The Book of Yoga Canto VII: The Discovery of the Cosmic Spirit and the Cosmic Consciousness Page 553 Or waiting beyond the last peak climbed by Thought, Unseen itself it sees the struggling world And prompts our quest, but cares not to be found, Out of that distant Vast came a reply. Something unknown, unreached, inscrutable Sent down the messages of its bodiless Light, Cast lightning flashes of a thought not ours Crossing the immobile silence of her mind: In its might of irresponsible sovereignty It seized on speech to give those flamings shape, Made beat the heart of wisdom in a word And spoke immortal things through mortal lips. Or, listening to the sages of the woods, In question and in answer broke from her High strange revealings impossible to men, Something or someone secret and remote Took hold of her body for his mystic use, Her mouth was seized to channel ineffable truths, Knowledge unthinkable found an utterance. Astonished by a new enlightenment, Invaded by a streak of the Absolute, They marvelled at her, for she seemed to know What they had only glimpsed at times afar. These thoughts were formed not in her listening brain, Her vacant heart was like a stringless harp; Impassive the body claimed not its own voice, But let the luminous greatness through it pass. A dual Power at being's occult poles Still acted, nameless and invisible: Her divine emptiness was their instrument. Inconscient Nature dealt with the world it had made, And using still the body's instruments Slipped through the conscious void she had become; The superconscient Mystery through that Void Missioned its word to touch the thoughts of men. As yet this great impersonal speech was rare. Book VII: The Book of Yoga Canto VII: The Discovery of the Cosmic Spirit and the Cosmic Consciousness Page 554 But now the unmoving wide spiritual space In which her mind survived tranquil and bare, Admitted a traveller from the cosmic breadths: A thought came through draped as an outer voice. It called not for the witness of the mind, It spoke not to the hushed receiving heart; It came direct to the pure perception's seat, An only centre now of consciousness, If centre could be where all seemed only space; No more shut in by body's walls and gates Her being, a circle without circumference, Already now surpassed all cosmic bounds And more and more spread into infinity. This being was its own unbounded world, A world without form or feature or circumstance; It had no ground, no wall, no roof of thought, Yet saw itself and looked on all around In a silence motionless and illimitable. There was no person there, no centred mind, No seat of feeling on which beat events Or objects wrought and shaped reaction's stress. There was no motion in this inner world, All was a still and even infinity. In her the Unseen, the Unknown waited his hour. .

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