All Life Is Yoga: Savitri – A Mantra for the Transformation of the World (eBook)

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First edition 2020


Savitri, it has been said, is ‘the supreme revelation of Sri Aurobindo’s vision’.

Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950), who was educated in England, was called upon to play many parts during his lifetime. He was a lecturer in French and English literature, a revolutionary nationalist and political leader, an editor and writer on philosophy, political theory and Indology, a literary critic, and a yogi and spiritual guide. However, it was as a poet that he consistently saw himself, and it was to the writing of poetry that he always reverted whenever the pressure of his other activities allowed. His first verses were published when he was a boy of about ten, and shortly before his death, in his 78th year, he was concentrating on the revision of his great epic, Savitri.

Of his poetic output, which included drama and translations, Savitri was his master-work, and in one form or another he was probably working on it for over fifty years. In his earliest version, it was simply a poetic retelling and elaboration of an episode from the Sanskrit epic, Mahabharata, in which, as in Euripides’ Alcestis, a devoted wife wins back her husband from the power of Death. Later in his life, after the intensive practice of his Integral Yoga had begun at Pondicherry, and following his meeting with a French spiritual seeker subsequently known as ‘The Mother’, Sri Aurobindo’s treatment of the Savitri motif changed so that it became the record of his own and the Mother’s spiritual experience, and the vehicle for his entire teaching. The legendary tale became symbolic of the conquest of Death and of the perfecting of human life on earth: its epic theme the adventure of consciousness evolving towards its fulfilment in Divinity.

The structure of the completed poem may be outlined briefly as follows. It begins with a symbol dawn – the summoning of consciousness asleep in matter – seen in an actual dawn, the dawn of Satyavan’s last day upon earth, and the awakening of Savitri his wife, and the summons to her to confront Satyavan’s mortal fate.

The following cantos of Books II and III tell of the events leading to this day of crisis. They describe the personal sadhana (yogic discipline) of Savitri’s father, Aswapati, before her birth. He is the ‘Traveller of the Worlds’, who systematically explores the many planes or dimensions of existence, personal and cosmic, which are subliminal to our norm al awareness. He remains unsatisfied in his search for the meaning of earth-life, which appears doomed to frustration and suffering.

Holding to his naked intent, Aswapati invokes the Transcendent in the person of the Divine Mother, and asks on behalf of humanity his boon,

For knowledge to enter the darkness of the world
And love to rule a realm of strife and hate.

He asks for an incarnation whose intervention may break the iron law of nature as it is.

Books IV to VI tell the story of the Divine’s response: the birth of Savitri, her growing up, her meeting with Satyavan and their mutual love. Narad, the heavenly sage, foretells Satyavan’s tragic death after twelve months, but Savitri remains undeterred in her choice. Books VII and VIII describe Savitri’s own sadhana to realise the Divine Consciousness, and how, on the fated day, Death comes and takes Satyavan’s life a s predicted.

Books IX to XI contain the great debate between Savitri and Death for the life of Satyavan. Defeated at last by the revelation of Savitri’s true nature, Death vanishes into the void from which he came. There remains a final dialogue between Savitri and an ‘ensnaring voice’, which offers her the false choice between heaven and earth, and urges her to enter the transcendent fields of light, since Nature is incapable of redemption. But Savitri is open to the aspiration and cry ‘of the magnificent soul of man on earth’ and refuses to abandon him for any personal salvation. In a superb climax of poetic inspiration Sri Aurobindo closes Book Eleven with the affirmation of the Divine Mother that Savitri has been speaking with Her own voice, and that she and Satyavan are ‘A dual power of God in an ignorant world’ born to lift earth-beings to immortality.

An Epilogue describes Savitri’s return home with Satyavan. It is the night succeeding the day on which he was to die. Together they await the breaking of a greater dawn.

A selection from the epic such as that which follows must inevitably be a personal one. It is hoped, none the less, that there will be advantages: newcomers to the poem will not have to face its daunting length of nearly 24,000 lines, while others who know and love the work may find here a more compact and portable edition of the finest passages. Ultimately the hope of all selectors and editors must be that their work will lead people to the source from which they have drawn.

In 1946 Sri Aurobindo told K.D. Sethna, who corresponded with him on the poem, that Savitri was to be ‘A sort of poetic philosophy of the Spirit and of Life’. It was not, however, to be a product of thought in the usual sense – not a kind of versified textbook on metaphysics. Sri Aurobindo once said, ‘It is out of a silent mind that I write whatever comes ready shaped from above’, so that Savitri is, rather, the poetic creation of a seer who was concerned with the age-old preoccupations: God, Light, Freedom and Immortality.

This point was emphasised by Sri Krishnaprem (Ronald Nixon) in an early review, when he Wrote, ‘Savitri is neither subjective fantasy nor yet mere philosophical thought, but vision and revelation of the actual structure of the Cosmos and of the pilgrim of life within its sphere.’ It is this visionary, revelatory element in Savitri that gives it its unique quality.

Such a poem is not to be judged by existing literary criteria, for it is something new. A critical reader, demanding an elliptical concision, may find it diffuse and of unacceptable length; he may react, too, against some variations on the same theme and the reiterated use of certain words, several of them seeming abstract.

The long poem, it is true, has become unfashionable, but Sri Aurobindo aimed, he said, ‘Not at a minimum but at an exhaustive exposition of [his] world-vision or world-interpretation,’ and the repetition, also, was deliberate; helping to create a cumulative resonance and generative mood. He was aware of its likely rejection by ‘the common reader’, and wrote that ‘A new kind of poetry demands a new mentality in the recipient as well as in the writer.’ This new type of reader ‘must be open to this kind of poetry, able to see the spiritual vision it conveys ...’ because Savitri is ‘the record of a seeing, of an experience which is not of the common kind and is often very far from what the general human mind sees and experiences.’

It is a help, in reading the poem, to approach it with as calm and silent a mind as possible, and to relate to it with as much receptivity as one can. It will then create its own mantric effect upon the mind, and lead in fact to a meditation. Indeed, the Mother once said, ‘To read Savitri is ... to practise yoga, spiritual concentration. One can discover there all that is needed to find the Divine.’




  1. Savitri – This Wonderful Prophetic Poem
  2. Savitri – the Divine Mother
  3. The Composition of Savitri


  1. The Supramental Vision and Its Expression


  1. Theory of the Mantra
  2. Poetic Vision and the Mantra
  3. The Poetry of the Future


  1. Savitri – The Sun-Word
  2. Savitri – A Legend and a Symbol
  3. Savitri – A Revelation
  4. The Extraordinary Power of Savitri
  5. Messages from the Mother

V. SAVITRI – THE SONG OF THE INFINITE AND ETERNAL (Selections from Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri)

1. The Book of Beginnings

Canto 1: The Symbol Dawn

  1. Dark Beginning
  2. The Revelation and the Flame
  3. The God-Light
  4. Mortality and the Eternal’s Touch
  5. Savitri’s Inner Conflict
  6. The Day of Satyavan’s Death

Canto 2: The Issue

  1. The Many-Imaged Past
  2. Savitri and the God of Love
  3. The Immortal and the Snare of Time
  4. A Magic Leverage
  5. The Victory for God in Man

Canto 3: The Yoga of the King: The Yoga of the Soul’s Release

  1. The Seer, Savitri’s Father
  2. The Growing Divinity
  3. Aswapati’s Growth into Larger Self
  4. A Magical Accord
  5. The Inner Planes
  6. Time’s Drama
  7. New Discovery
  8. Silent Self
  9. Beyond Thought
  10. The Unseen Guide
  11. Inspiration
  12. The Universe as God’s Body
  13. Release from Ignorance

Canto 4: The Secret Knowledge

  1. Our Forgotten Vastnesses
  2. In Great Lonely Hours
  3. The Labour of the Earth Goddess
  4. The Immortals Vision
  5. Time’s Fulfilment
  6. The Certitude of our Divine Destiny
  7. Dream Truth
  8. He and She
  9. The Self-Determining Absolute
  10. A Nameless Resident
  11. The Voyager Soul

Canto 5: The Yoga of the King: The Yoga of the Spirit’s Freedom and Greatness

  1. The Eternal’s Promise
  2. The Tessellated Whole
  3. Towards the Eternal
  4. The Transforming Descent
  5. Mind – A Mediator Divinity
  6. The Hierarchy of Worlds
2. The Book of the Traveller of the Worlds

Canto 1: The World-Stair

  1. The Ascending World Hierarchy
  2. Ladder Towards Deity
  3. The Mystery’s Process

Canto 2: The Kingdom of Subtle Matter

  1. Earth-Nature’s Origins
  2. Our Lives and Divine Intimations
  3. Earth’s Forms and Man’s Art
  4. The Finite Perfection and the Immeasurable

Canto 3: The Glory and the Fall of Life

  1. The Heavens of Light

Canto 4: The Kingdoms of the Little Life

  1. The Formless Yearning
  2. The Birth of Sense

Canto 5: The Godheads of the Little Life

  1. The Deeper Vision of the Spirit
  2. The Divine Influx

Canto 6: The Kingdoms and Godheads of the Greater Life

  1. Death – A Passage to New Worlds
  2. The Certitude of God’s Descent

Canto 7: The Descent into Night

  1. Life: Its Obverse and Reverse Faces
  2. The Abysm of Hell

Canto 8: The World of Falsehood, the Mother of Evil and the Sons of Darkness

  1. Aswapati Crosses the World of Falsehood

Canto 9: The Paradise of the Life-Gods

  1. The Life Heavens

Canto 10: The Kingdoms and Godheads of the Little Mind

  1. The Human Ascent
  2. Reason and the Infinite
  3. Great Thoughts

Canto 11: The Kingdoms and Godheads of the Greater Mind

  1. The Spirit of Mind
  2. Eternal Truth

Canto 12: The Heavens of the Ideal

  1. The Deathless Rose
  2. Our Hidden Centres
  3. The Deathless Flame

Canto 13: In the Self of Mind

  1. The Source of Knowledge
  2. The Mind-Self

Canto 14: The World-Soul

  1. Entry into the World-Soul
  2. The Interval Between Birth and Birth
  3. The Supreme Power

Canto 15: The Kingdoms of the Greater Knowledge

  1. Overmind and Oversoul
3. The Book of the Divine Mother

Canto 1: The Pursuit of the Unknowable

  1. The One

Canto 2: The Adoration of the Divine Mother

Self and World

  1. The Everlasting Yes
  2. The Experience of the All-Beautiful
  3. The Vision of the Supreme Mother
  4. The Descent of the Mother-Might

Canto 3: The House of the Spirit and the New Creation

  1. Aspiration
  2. The Universal Soul

Canto 4: The Vision and the Boon

  1. The Advent of the Divine Mother
  2. Aswapati and the Divine Mother
  3. Savitri and Her Mission
4. The Book of Birth and Quest

Canto 1: The Birth and Childhood of the Flame

  1. The Cycle of the Seasons
  2. Savitri’s Body

Canto 2: The Growth of the Flame

  1. The Truth of Ethics and Philosophy
  2. The Divine Word
  3. Towards Love’s Universality

Canto 3: The Call to the Quest

  1. The Working of the Mantra

Canto 4: The Quest

  1. Savitri’s Memory-Waking Quest
  2. Divine Providence
  3. Yogis and Nature
  4. The Fateful Search
5. The Book of Love

Canto 1: The Destined Meeting-Place

  1. The Meeting-Place

Canto 2: Satyavan

  1. The Meeting
  2. The Significance of the Meeting
  3. The Truth of Love
  4. Fitness to Receive Love
  5. Affinity Revealed

Canto 3: Satyavan and Savitri

  1. The Recognition
  2. Satyavan’s Inner Sight and Hearing
  3. Satyavan’s Deepening Vision of the Soul
  4. Satyavan Finds the Key to Transformation
  5. The Gold Link
  6. The Marriage Garland
  7. The All-Embrace
6. The Book of Fate

Canto 1: The Word of Fate

  1. The Descent of Narad
  2. His Vision of the Future
  3. The King’s Plea to Narad
  4. Man’s Tragic Struggle
  5. The Mystery of Pain
  6. Narad Describes Satyavan
  7. Savitri’s Resolute Will

Canto 2: The Way of Fate and the Problem of Pain

  1. World Pain and Its Necessity
  2. End of the Law of Pain
  3. Origin of Death and Fate
  4. The Working of Providence
  5. Narad on Death as the Spirit’s Opportunity
  6. The Heroic Strength
7. The Book of Yoga

Canto 1: The Joy of Union; the Ordeal of the Foreknowledge of Death and the Heart’s Grief and Pain

  1. Joy and Grief

Canto 2: The Parable of the Search for the Soul

  1. Mind’s Restlessness
  2. The Persistent Past

Canto 3: The Entry into the Inner Countries

  1. The Mission of the Avatar
  2. Savitri Enters the Inner Worlds
  3. Life’s Nether Realms

Canto 4: The Triple Soul-Forces

  1. Savitri to the Three Soul-Forces

Canto 5: The Finding of the Soul

  1. The Search for the Soul
  2. The Finding of the Soul
  3. The Rising of the Serpent Power

Canto 6: Nirvana and the Discovery of the All-Negating Absolute

  1. Autumnal Mellowness
  2. An Upsurge of the Inconscient
  3. The Saviour’s Labour
  4. Introversion
  5. Mystic Visitations
  6. The Mystery of the Genius
  7. The Stilling of Thought
  8. Nirvana

Canto 7: The Discovery of the Cosmic Spirit and the Cosmic Consciousness

  1. Unreal Reality
  2. Enlightenment
8. The Book of Death

Canto 3: Death in the Forest

  1. Satyavan’s Death
9. The Book of Eternal Night

Canto 1: Towards the Black Void

  1. A New Birth of Consciousness
  2. Savitri’s Spiritual Stature
  3. The God of Death
  4. Savitri in the Forest
  5. Savitri Pursues Death in the Occult Planes

Canto 2: The Journey in Eternal Night and the Voice of the Darkness

  1. Night Threatened by Light
  2. Savitri’s Challenge to Death
10. The Book of the Double Twilight

Canto 1: The Dream Twilight of the Ideal

  1. Night the Shadow of Day
  2. Twilight of the Gods
  3. A Dream World

Canto 2: The Gospel of Death and Vanity of the Ideal

  1. Love, the Rapturous Core of Suns
  2. Savitri’s Great Promise

Canto 3: The Debate of Love and Death

  1. The World as God Fulfilled
  2. The Tangle-Dance of the One
  3. The Growth of the Inner Light
  4. The Graded Ascent of Love
  5. Savitri on Love Linking Earth and Heaven
  6. Savitri’s Universal Heart
  7. Psychic Fire

Canto 4: The Dream Twilight of the Earthly Real

  1. Savitri, God and the World
  2. Beyond Law
  3. Most Bound Most Free
  4. The Overhead Planes
  5. Transformation – Its Phases
11. The Book of Everlasting Day

Canto 1: The Eternal Day: The Soul’s Choice and the Supreme Consummation

  1. God’s Everlasting Day
  2. The Delights of the Purified Heart
  3. The Dance Celestial
  4. Spirit – An Upsoaring Bird
  5. Revelation of the Supreme Divine
  6. The Divine’s Promise
  7. Savitri’s Universal Love
  8. Savitri’s Supplication
  9. Ordinary Humanity
  10. Savitri and Satyavan – Their Appointed Work
  11. Savitri and the Supreme Lord
  12. The Supreme Lord to Savitri
  13. The Things to Come
  14. The Descent to Earth
12. Epilogue

Canto 1: The Return to Earth

  1. Back to Life


  1. A Brief Introduction to Savitri
  2. References


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