Intuitive knowledge leaping into speech
Hearing the subtle voice that clothes the heavens,
Carrying the splendour that has lit the suns,
They sang Infinity's names and deathless powers
In meters that reflect the worlds,
Sight's sound waves breaking from the soul's great
deeps. -- Sri Aurobindo in Savitri.
1. TO HIM WHO STANDS BEHINDS US
That which the Gita teaches is not a human, but a
divine action, not the performance od social duties,
but the abandonment of all other standards of duty or
conduct for a selfless performance of the divine will
working through our nature, not social service, but
the action of the Best, the God-possessed, the
Master-men done impersonally for the sake of the world
and as a sacrifice to Him who stands behind man and
Nature. -- Sri Aurobindo in Essays on the Gita
2. STYLE IS MAN
As students of English literature, we are
told that style is the skin and not a coat, and that
style is the man. We are told about the le mot juste,
and then that the proper word in the proper place
tells most. We are told that the level of the subject
or theme determines the stylistic level.
The FAQs on
style in undergraduate examinations are about the
style of those like a Milton, a Burke, a Carlyle, a
Ruskin, or an Arnold. While all these are great
stylists and the statements made above are true, style
is a matter of the given writer's upbringing and
education; scholarship and accomplishment in terms of
creative expression, the quality and level of
thinking, the choice of the subject and the object of
3. UPANISHADIC SOUL INWARD AND ENGLISH LANGUAGE OUTWARD
For an efficient and fruitful understanding
of Sri Aurobindo's style both in prose and poetry, the
admiring should go into all these aspects. Sri
Aurobindo was born in India, but at five he was sent
to a convent school in Darjeeling and at seven taken
to England to be put to school in Manchester and
slightly later in London. He was brought up, not in
his mother tongue but in English. His father, an
avowed atheist, was particular that he shouldn't be
allowed to mix with Indians. He studied in the best
of schools and later at the best of institutions in
England. At Cambridge he studied Greek and Latin.
This upbringing under the Drewitts (to whose
charge his father committed him) and the education
lent richness to a thinking creative mind. He
declined Civil Service for which he had qualified
brilliantly to take up service in India under the
Gaekwar of Baroda only to emerge as a sage, a seer, a
prophet and poet, for, the culture of Aryavarta, the
Upanishadic vision of Man, ran in his blood. This new
orientation was a factor of his upbringing and
education. What remained in him of England as the
motivating force had just been the language.
4. ABSTRACT AND ABSTRUSE LANGUAGE IN SPIRITUAL MATTERS
In matters spiritual, god-related, abstract
and abstruse language cannot be helped. The author
does not a have any target reader in his mind: he
writes basically to perceive his own clarity, the
vision that he has the good fortune in him to see.
Egalitarianism and elitism are not terms either
pejorative or adulatory in by themselves. Exclusivity
and elitism, say, while talking of egalitarian concept
of democracy are not complementary terms.
5. LANGUAGE AND BOOKS FOR ALL TIME
learning and higher capacity of understanding are
essential for understanding any spiritual discourse.
Ruskin, Carlyle's disciple and himself another prose
master of the Victorian Age, makes the point while
talking to the members of the Working Men's Institute.
The author's meaning is the rich gold. The reader has
to be an ardent Australian mine and dig deep. This is
particularly relevant in the case of the books for all
time as against the books of the hour. The miner's
trope (Ruskin goes on to talk of pickaxes and muscular
arms too) is relevant for all books on spirituality
and the other world.
The scriptures demand greater
effort, sharper, stronger and sterner tools to dig
deep into the intended meaning of the great author.
The great ones do not and cannot come down to the
level of the common reader. The common reader has to
become an initiated one. Therein he must help himself.
6. LANGUAGE OF SAVITRI
Savitri is scripture as pregnant as lofty as
the Upanishad. The lines cited above as an epigraph
are from the holy text. The lines are mantra,
revealed to the drashtas of yore with blessed
resources of spiritual inwardness describing how
language offers itself and performs the most sublime
function through a visionary.
We find another exegesis of the workings and ascent of thought in the
drashta, the seer Sri Aurobindo's poem Thought the
Paraclete. The mystic mind bursts forth in effulgent
thought (the very spur to expression and language)
aspiring to become one with the universal radiance and
ultimately merging itself into its origin. The
heightened sensibility in the inspired mind releases
expressive, electrifying language. It flows forth
bubbling, seeking, electrifying expression.
7. A FLOOD OF DISCOVERED LIGHT: A HEIGHTENED LANGUAGE EXPERIENCE
of such language is that, in the initiated reader, it
is capable of throwing a flood of discovered light
through the medium of speech, vaak or musical sound,
naada. The poem speaks of Thought as the Holy Spirit
leading the mind upward through stages: the higher
mind, the illumined mind, the intuitive mind and the
over mind to the supra mental region which finally
leads to the identification of the finite to the
8. SO MUCH A MATTER OF THE DIMENSION OF THE INNER SPIRIT
What is significant here is that it is not
so much a matter of style as a dimension of the inner
spirit, which defies analysis. It is a highly
'intuited' revelation. P.Lal who translated The
Mahabharata into English calls some passages in the
master narrative epiphany passages. Sri Aurobindo's
writing is replete with such.
9. HERO AS POET
Sri Aurobindo remains a perfect example of
Hero as Poet and Hero as Man of Letters expounded by
Thomas Carlyle. The poet is a heroic figure belonging
to all ages; whom all ages possess. He is the vates
sacer, the sacred seer seen by Carlyle in Dante and
Shakespeare. Carlyle delivered his Hero lectures in
1840 and had he lived into another century he would
have talked of Sri Aurobindo too. A scholar in
England during 1877-1893, Sri Aurobindo could not have
been unfamiliar with this Calvinist thinker and his
magnum opus Sartor Resortus (Tailor Retailored) and
his Hero lectures.
10. TO BRING NEW FIRE FROM HEAVEN
Sri Aurobindo answers Carlyle's description
of the Poet and inspired Maker; who Prometheus-like,
can shape new symbols, and bring new fire from Heaven
to fix it here. "A musical thought," we are told by
the Sage of Chelsea, Carlyle, "is one spoken by a mind
that has penetrated into the innermost heart of the
thing; detected the inmost mystery of it; namely the
melody hidden in it; the inward harmony of coherence
which is its soul whereby it exists, and has a right
to be here in the world.
11. POWER OF LANGUAGE TO ALTER HUMAN LIVES
All inmost things, we may
say are melodious, naturally utter themselves in
song." In this sense there is little difference
between prose and poetry for the seer, the drashta.
Everything is music and every thing is mantra.
Everything is sweet and everything is luminous and
light emitting. But, Sri Aurobindo as he said
himself somewhere about his Savitri, wrote the poem just
for himself. We don't find in Sri Aurobindo the
despair Carlyle was said to have felt "in the face of
a nature dis-godded and language desacralized."
Our seer and saint Sri Aurobindo has
in him the power of language to alter human lives, to
take the initiated reader, his disciple and follower
godward. He did re-god nature and re-sacralize
12. AUROLANGUE: VEHICLE FOR DEEPER SUBLIMITY
When a devout reader approaches the Gita , an
Upanishad or a piece of any sacred text of an inspired
genius, say like Sri Aurobindo, the very subject of
the discourse is sublime and the appreciation of style
is automatic along with the loftiness of thought,
understanding, insight and intuition. The quality of
communication itself is holy. Understanding.
Aurolangue goes to the domain of saadhakas and
enlightened ones slowly initiated and introduced to
the higher realms. This is caviar to the general.
13. A SPRINGBOARD: NOT A BOARD FOR DISSECTING
Aaryavarta has a hoary tradition of language
reflecting the complexity and the sublimity of thought
of her great sages, saints and seers. This unique
aspect of language is reason for its glory amidst
diversity and multiplicity. Here language is only a
springboard to launch the reader into the spiritual.
Modern models of the emerging stylistic evaluation,
translation technology and procedures of splitting,
and dissecting discourse to the level of morpheme and
phoneme is not much of an aid to understanding
Aurolangue. Hard effort in terms of pondering and
contemplation is essential to get at the pure metal of
the author's intuition and intent.. Hence the
relevance of Ruskin's famous trope. This could even be
a worthwhile caveat to readers approaching Sri
14. CHEWED AND DIGESTED!
Sri Aurobindo's works are for all time and
for all mankind. A mere reading would never do. Each
line or each sentence has to be taken in slowly
(chewed and digested is the Johnsonian dictum) for
contemplation, eventual enlightenment, and ultimate
spiritual joy, aananda. Here is a very brief example,
a bit of the poem The Rose of God, that could be a
useful beginning for fruitful contemplation:
Rose of God, smitten purple with the incarnate divine
Rose of Life, crowded with petals, colours' lyre!
Transform the body of the mortal like a sweet and
Bridge our earthward and heavenward, make deathless
the children of Time.
What more aspiration or prayer could there be than
this? Does this not echo many an Upanishad invocation?
The harnessing of the polychromatic variations in the
poem would take a separate paper for itself. The
springs of spiritual aspiration lay at the bottom of
the cadence and naada, which always runs as an
undercurrent yielding a benediction.
15. IMPOSSIBILITY OF INITIATION DIRECTED BY OTHERS
As for initiation, the individual reader must
fend for himself. Initiation is to being led into. A
reader would do well to slowly get familiar with the
seer's turn of expression with a degree of reverence.
His own thought should be above the mundane, the
commonplace and the routine. A basic familiarity with
or an understanding of spirituality would be a great
16. ALLUSIVENESS OF AUROBINDO'S STYLE
A great deal has already been written by
competent scholars about the allusiveness of Sri
Aurobindo's style both in prose and verse
compositions. Brought up on the Western classics in
Greek and Latin along with English poetry of the
highest order produced there, the spiritual
navigator's mind soars higher and higher charting the
areas of Over Mind and Super Mind. There have been
Shakespeare scholars, Milton scholars, and scholars
who have specialized in Eliot of recent years, for
these are of a different order.
The meandering and
flights of noble minds yield such infinitude of
thought that it takes several exegetes each pursuing a
line of one's own in for its exegesis. Sri Aurobindo's
writings, whether in prose or verse, demand and
deserve to be studied as scriptures and with the same
reverence, devotion and equipment as one approaches
the Upanishad of yore.
17. COMING INTO CONTACT WITH THE SPIRIT
Nolini Kant Gupta, one of the great disciples
of the seer-sage, in his book, A Century's Salutation
to Sri Aurobindo, wrote this:
If art is to express the soul of things, and
since the true soul of things is the divine element in
them, then certainly spirituality, the discipline of
coming in conscious contact with the spirit, the
Divine, must be accorded the regal seat in the
hierarchy of arts.
During the last several years, Sri Aurobindo
Ashram, Pondichery has been publishing the
saint-seer's works. Eventually, it is hoped that the
scholars there and elsewhere would produce bhashyaas
helpful to the uninitiated lay as well as the
enlightened saadhakas to get a comprehensive
understanding of one of our greatest spiritualists.
Genuine saadhakas look forward to this. Writing
extensive exegetic pieces on the saint-seer-saadhaka
would surely enable our scholars to redeem what is
termed rishi runa (the debt one owes to a rishi, the
teacher) in the hoary culture.
Suggested Further Reading
- Gokak, V. K. Sri Aurobindo Seer and Poet. Abhinav
Publications, New Delhi, 1973.
- Mathur, O. P. (Ed). Sri Aurobindo -- Critical
Considerations, Prakash Book Depot, Bareilly, 1997.