The thirteen articles collected in this book were originally published in the journal The Advent from 1962 to 1965. The premise of the series of essays is to demonstrate the correspondences between Sri Aurobindo's description of the Yoga of Savitri, as seen in Cantos I, IV, V, VI and VII of Book VII, and the Mother's record of her own experiences in her Prayers and Meditations. Combining a detailed explication of lines from these Cantos with an examination of his broader themes, the author gives his insights on such topics as the personality of Savitri as an avatar, her encounter with the three aspects of the World Mother, or the triple soul-forces, and her work to build the bridge for man to cross over into the highest realm of consciousness and realise the new Gnostic Soul.
This review is by Dr Mangesh Nadkarni, who passed away on 23 September 2007 at the age of 74. He earned his doctorate in linguistics from UCLA, and was a Professor at the National University of Singapore and at the Central Institute of English in Hyderabad. A frequent contributor to various publications, he also lectured extensively in India and abroad on Sri Aurobindo's vision and the spiritual heritage of India, and recently wrote a book India's Spiritual Destiny: Its Inevitability and Potentiality. He was especially known for his series of seminars on Savitri and Essays on the Gita, which drew attendees to Pondicherry from around the world. His book review is on a subject about which he cared deeply, and was probably one of the last things he wrote for publication.
I commend Savitri Bhavan most heartily for bringing out this singular book which tries to elucidate the spiritual content of Book VII of Savitri
, one of the most difficult and therefore less studied sections of the epic. Most books on Savitri
, while acknowledging that it is a spiritual epic, fight shy of talking directly about its spiritual content. They focus, rather, on other aspects of this epic-its literary excellence, the metaphysics of Integral Vedanta, its humanistic idealism, its criticism of contemporary life and our scientific and technological civilization, its arguments that only the supramental consciousness is the ultimate answer to all our problems, etc.
Professor Seetaraman's book is one of the earliest studies on Savitri
; it was first published as a series of articles in the journal The Advent
between 1962 and 1965, only twelve years after Savitri
was issued as a book. When he wrote these essays, Seetaraman was in his early forties but he seems to have been equipped by his destiny for this task. He was a professor of English literature and at the same time also a spiritual aspirant; he was not an intellectual dilettante but a sadhak
In this book Professor Seetaraman finds correspondences between Savitri's spiritual experiences as described in Book VII and the Mother's spiritual experiences as described in her diary Prayers and Meditations
. In comparing them, he has enriched our understanding of Book VII and of many prayers in the Mother's diary. This comparison brings us another benefit-it makes Savitri almost our contemporary and not just a figure belonging to ancient Indian mythology.
In the first three articles the author elucidates the three major themes found in Canto One of Book VII-the enigma of fate and free will, the union of Satyavan and Savitri which blends the qualities of Romantic, Platonic and Christian love and brings them to their culmination in Divine love, and the work of Savitri, the Avatar
. In the fourth article the author discusses Savitri's meeting with the three Madonnas and with their perverted alter egos which still rule earth-nature. Nowhere else have I seen a more satisfying treatment of this canto than the one in this book.
In the remaining eight articles Professor Seetaraman presents a bold interpretation of the spiritual experiences of Savitri described in Cantos Five, Six and Seven of Book VII. He suggests that when Savitri meets with her soul (in Canto Five), she crosses the overmental border and enters the hemisphere of the Supramental consciousness; and there realizes her identity with the very source of the powers of the Supermind. The subsequent description of the descent of the Kundalini
indicates that these Supramental powers descend into her own being. In Canto Six Savitri faces an unprecedented attack from the Inconscient. Confronted with its ominous power, she receives an inner command to hide the Supramental treasure in her heart until it gets established in the collective consciousness; in this way she can triumph over the siege of the Inconscient. She then prepares herself to be God's void by discovering within herself the All-Negating Absolute. In Canto Seven Savitri discovers the means to become the conscious bridge between the Eternal and the temporal, the Infinite and the finite, the Superconscient and the Inconscient.
Although it is generally agreed that Savitri
is a manifesto of the Supermind, very few scholars have presented a clear idea about when the Supramental enters in Savitri's yoga, and how she deals with it. Professor Seetaraman has put forward the view that it happens in Canto Five. Some scholars may feel that this hypothesis is too conjectural, but the author has made it seem fairly plausible; the onus of contradicting it and suggesting a better one lies on those who disagree with him. Savitri, The Mother
is an uncommon book; it is addressed to the Savitri
-lover, not to the casual reader or to the English Lit. specialist. It is Professor Seetaraman's heart's adoration to Savitri
and its author. I salute this South Indian scholar and sadhak
for bequeathing to all Savitri
-lovers such an invaluable gift.
Dr Mangesh Nadkarni