13 September 95
It is said in Indian thought that the real seeking is not a philosophical seeking but Brahma Jigyasa – the desire to know what the Brahman is. This of course can be a preliminary to philosophy also but more than that, the greater intensity comes when there is need to know the secret of liberation – ‘mumushuktva’ how to liberate ourselves. I felt in this group, it is not philosophy but mumukshutva that is much more evident and this is a greater reason for study. If it was only a philosophical inquiry then the reason for continuing in this form would have been much less. But if it is an inquiry into the means of liberation and the secret most knowledge that is pertaining to liberation then it has a greater meaning.
Actually Kathopnishad deals with this very question, what is bondage and what is liberation? Perhaps later on we may take up Kathopanishad, it is a very difficult Upanishad and there is a lot of symbolism, the language is very packed and certain things are very clear and certain very secret. In a sense you might say one feels that one understands and yet one does not understand. So I thought even as a preliminary to Kathopnishad something else is needed.
There is one chapter in Sri Aurobindo’s book called the ‘The Life Divine’ which would be directly relevant to our enquiry because that chapter directly deals with the problem of the soul, karma and immortality so I thought we can take up this chapter. As everyone knows ‘The Life Divine’ is a very difficult book, not only the language but the force of argument and the arrangement of argument is very vigorous. Every word in the book is very weighted and no word is written superfluously. Sri Aurobindo is, according to the Cambridge history which has been recently published, the best writer of English in the present century, and that will be evident when you read even this one chapter. It has to be studied very slowly, without any impatience or without any great hurry. Moreover, since this is a chapter taken from the middle of the book, there is another special difficulty if you read the whole book from the beginning to the end then the argument would run like a thread and you might say there is an interconnection of thought. But when you take out a chapter from the middle of the book then one does not know what has gone before and what is to come later. It is very similar to our human birth. We do not know what has gone before this particular birth and we do not know what is to come later. But it would still help us, if we knew what this book is from which this chapter is taken and what is its basic argument?
Sri Aurobindo wrote this book from 1914 to 1921– seven years, when he was editor of a journal called ‘Arya’ which he published from Pondicherry. In this journal in a serial form chapter after chapter of this book was written. This was not the only book being written. He was writing simultaneously seven books. Every month seven books were appearing serially. It is a feat of human consciousness and how he wrote is a marvel. And each book is a formidable book and each on a different subject. He wrote ‘The Life Divine’, ‘The Synthesis of Yoga’, third he wrote ‘The Secret of the Vedas’, the fourth the ‘Essays on the Gita’, fifth he wrote ‘The Human Cycle’, it is a story of human society from the earliest times to the present day and indication as to how the future of society will be in days to come. The sixth book he wrote was ‘The Ideal of Human Unity’ which is a study of the notion of the State, of the Government and Institutions of the Government. It is the study of the State right from the earliest times to the present day. And how the future of the state will be in the coming years? The Seventh book he wrote was called ‘The Future Poetry’. And he wrote the longest poem in English literature ever written – ‘Savitri’. Sri Aurobindo was primarily a poet, although very well known as a philosopher. But basically he was a poet and in the field of poetry he was supreme; in fact the most supreme poet of the 20th Century. And he wrote the longest poem in English Literature ever written and that is ‘Savitri’. It is 24,000 lines. But in this particular book, ‘The Future Poetry’, he discussed what is poetry; is poetry a mere fictitious imagination or is it itself a means of knowing the Truth. Normally people do not believe that poetry is a means of knowing the Truth. It is felt that it is an imagination of the poet to look at the moon and feel joy about it, express the joy about the moon and that is all. It is a subjective experience of the moon. But that poetry can be a means of discovering the Truth and expressing Truth and expressing the truth in a beautiful form so as to create a delight in the soul – this specific characteristic of poetry he has discussed in this book and in doing so he has examined the course of English poetry from Chaucer to the present day; Chaucer, Shakespeare and many other English poets, metaphysical poets like Keats, Shelley, Wordsworth, and Byron, then the new poets of the present day, Whitman and so on, right up to present day and then has indicated that English poetry has a possibility of expressing what the Indian poets call mantra.
Just as the Vedas are mantric poetry. Sanskrit language had the possibility of expressing mantra and mantric poetry. Similarly English poetry has a possibility in future to arrive at a kind of experience and capacity so that mantra can be expressed. Then he defines what mantra is. According to him Mantra has three important characteristics. First of all it must have the highest Truth vision. Unless poetry is able to discover the Truth, the poetry cannot become mantric, so there must be Truth vision. Not the ordinary Trust vision but the highest Truth vision. Secondly, it must have the highest power of rhythm. In a sense you might say poetry is nothing but rhythmic words. Just as painting is nothing but color and line, similarly, poetry is nothing but rhythmic word. Whenever you can express a word that is rhythmic, it is poetry. It must be highest form of rhythmic word should be present in mantra. And then the form and the style in which it is written must be appropriate to the rhythm and to the Truth vision. When these three intensities are combined together then mantra is born. Sri Aurobindo conceives that the future of poetry in English language has a possibility of turning into it. To give an example of it he wrote ‘Savitri’ in English language. ‘Savitri’ is a mantric poetry.