“... Space is a vast experiment of the Soul”
Inspired by the epic poem SAVITRI, A Legend and a Symbol by Sri Aurobindo – Book Two, The Book of the Traveller of the Worlds, Canto One, ‘The World-Stair’
The question that haunts all seekers of Truth is ‘Why?’ Why would the eternal, imperishable, immutable, infinite Oneness create a universe filled with unimaginable suffering, heartbreaking loss, and pain — along with unending beauty and the grace of bliss?
The Oneness surely is already complete in Its Self and needs nothing. As the God-within begins to expand in our being, we become more sensitive to the pain of others, indeed the suffering we see around the planet becomes ours. The thorns in the heart haunt us. It often feels that our growing compassion, kindness and gentleness open us to a state where “all thorns will come” as the Sufi Hazrat Inayat Khan says.
Because we know that we are the world, we are the others, our friends, family, and even our enemies – and thus we naturally feel compassion for their sorrows. Compassion is deemed of primary importance in Buddhism. But this compassion is grounded in wisdom and is not to be confused with sympathy and ‘feeling sorry’ for someone, nor does it require that we enable a victim consciousness. Over multiple lifetimes each of us has created and brought our suffering upon ourselves. We are each responsible for our every action and all our sorrows.
Yet the question remains — why Life at all? The answer given in the Sanskrit texts is the word ‘LILA’ meaning the Divine Play. The Oneness is perceived as an innocent child playing in Time and Space. The great master Jesus told his disciples that they must become like little children [Matthew 18.3]. The consciousness of a child simply ‘IS’ and with fresh purity, like a blank page or canvas, a baby begins moving into each new incarnation through five-sense perception. Most of us remain unaware of our previous lives and the tendencies, those inclinations, the imprints left on the subconscious as samskaras, that we carry embedded in our spirit bodies.
The metaphor of God’s Divine Play is often lost on those of us indoctrinated in western ideas: we who have been conditioned in the belief that we can fix things, improve and better life for ourselves and others if we just try hard enough. Shouldn’t modern technology and hard work eventually make life on earth a paradise?
Just as all wisdom-knowledge must be experienced, so the answer to ‘Why?’ can only be reached through profound feelings in the Silence of the Heart. I felt the sublime Joy of the Creator in Sri Aurobindo’s epic poem, ‘Savitri, a Legend and Symbol.’ His words in ‘Book Two, Canto I, The World Stair’ are so intensely infused with his own enlightened consciousness and Realization that they have the power to elevate the reader.
Sri Aurobindo describes Space as 'the vast experiment of the Soul'. There is only one Soul. We all share the same Soul. We are each and every one of us, the Oneness. As that One we have created the temporal differentiated five-sense perception that Veils and deludes us into the illusion that we are in a state of separated-ness. We are not separate, we are the One, sharing one Soul – and Space is described as our experiment, the experiment of the one Soul.
“A self-creation without end or pause
Revealed the grandeurs of the Infinite:”
The one Soul is bursting with potency, with endless infinite possibilities and potentialities for creating billions of worlds, infinite realms, the vast expanse of galaxies spreading extending beyond.
“It flung into the hazards of its play
A million moods, a myriad energies,
The world-shapes that are fancies of its Truth
And the formulas of the freedom of its Force.”
The one Soul is described as flinging “the hazards of its play.” The idea of ‘flinging’ implies projecting, moving out away through space from the source and origin in endless trajectories. The image of “the hazards of its play” is wonderful in its implied contradiction. Play is innocent, harmless and yet along with play ‘hazards’ are there, suggesting peril, danger, risk and adventure, chance, even accident and luck.
The “world-shapes” are everything, all form, and pictured as “fancies of its Truth.” Again we see the use of contradiction to get beyond linear mind and so often found in the Sanskrit texts. How can Truth be mere fancy? Yet as we live out our brief lives and perhaps reach down into the years, we cannot help but notice that things don’t always seem to work out in any way we would consider just and practical. Justice is blind. The whims of Fate are well known to all. 'Fancy’ is defined simultaneously both as impulse, urge, caprice, desire - and delusion, dream, imagination, mirage, phantasm. Yet underneath it all, pervading the substructure, as the Sufi poet says ‘beneath the curtain of each atom’ there is and can only be Truth, the One — the Face of the Beloved.
“The formulas of the freedom of its Force” are pursued by science and metaphysics as over the centuries the intricacies of Creation are sought, interpreted, overturned, rejected and revised over and over by parades of men and women observing the wondrous workings of appearances. All these ever-shifting theories are but mere transitory fragments, Reflections of the One in us as Its mirror. The word ‘freedom’ is something we all long for — and obviously the One does have total freedom! Its Force, the mighty pulse of power in every sense of the word and at every level of the extruded expanding manifested projected universe, the temporal illusory hologram, operates in absolute freedom.
Sri Aurobindo was said to have spent 50 years reworking and revising his epic poem Savitri, thus it is unlikely that he used any one word arbitrarily. Each word must be the result of deep contemplation. Aurobindo studied at King's College, Cambridge in England and was equally skilled in Sanskrit and English. Sanskrit words contain layers of multiple meanings on many levels of consciousness. In his work ‘Secrets of the Veda’, Aurobindo discuses the word ‘force’ in connection with the Sanskrit word and deity Agni, who is “the Son of Force or of Energy… Force in status, action, movement, light, feeling is the inherent quality of the [Sanskrit] roots AG and ANG from which we have Agni and Angirah. Force but also, in these words, Light. Agni, the sacred flame, is the burning force of Light [inner luminosity]…”
“It poured into the Ever-stable’s flux
A bacchic rapture and revel of Ideas,
A passion and motion of the everlastingness.”
Lately I have been sweetly laughing, lovingly smiling, saying to my friends when they ask me a question, “Well, you know God is crazy!” I mean no irreverence and the fact that I can even say such a thing is based in the wisdom-knowledge that God is Love, and I know from my own inner experience that God loves me. God loves everyone, so that Love includes me – no matter what, and Aurobindo’s idea of 'bacchic rapture' feels quite natural to me.
Shiva is often pictured as a madman, an ascetic enjoying the company of wild bizarre demon ghouls and drinking something – perhaps soma or the milky bhang – out of a human skull. For years I was uncomfortable with this image of Shiva, but now I understand. The Oneness is everything and Shiva is that aspect of the One intoxicated with 'bacchic rapture' and revelling in pregnant fissions of seed Ideas. Shiva is the unending “passion and motion of the ever lastingness.” God is crazy, wild and quite big-bang supernova mad, astonishing, awesomely creative crazy, simultaneously a majestic unfathomable Violence and perfect Peace. God is Love, the ultimate unified Field.
“All, even pain, was the soul’s pleasure here;
Here all experience was a single plan,
The thousand fold expression of the One.”
One Soul expressing, manifesting in Time and Space, experiencing its Creation through every man, woman, and child – the All! When one suffers, another is suffused in bliss; when one of fails and falls down into the abyss, another climbs high in success; when one dies, another is born – always. We are the forms, the “million moods, a myriad energies, the world-shapes that are fancies of its Truth” eternally moving together, coming apart, rising and falling, appearing and disappearing, Forgetting and Remembering. When we are weary at last, we move into Returning to the One, our Home, our Home that in Truth we never left. Separation is only an appearance. We never left Home.
SAVITRI, A LEGEND and A SYMBOL, by Sri Aurobindo [written over a 50 year period & first edition in 1950-51]; Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, WI., 1995, 2003.
SAVITRI is also available online as a PDF.
SECRET of the VEDA, by Sri Aurobindo (written between 1914-20); Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, WI; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry India, 1995.
Beneath the curtain of each
Atom lies concealed,
The Life increasing Beauty
Of the face of the Beloved.
Mahmud Shabistari, 14th century Sufi
Mahmud Shabistari: The Secret Garden; translated by Johnson Pasha; Octagon Press, 1969, London.
"The Inner Life" by Hazrat Inayat Khan [Sufi]; Shambala Boston & London, 1997.
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