Lesson 31: The First Ascent
(Audio is not available for this lesson.)
Only an individual bent on no longer being miserable and no longer willing to live under the yoke of sorrow can consider the ascent. You can’t do it because you think you should. You do it because you’ve had enough and you realize that there is something more than what you have been taught and more than what you know. The ascent is undertaken under two different scenarios.
1. You choose the journey.
2. The journey chooses you.
Option one is that you have a choice. (unfortunate)
Option two is that you don’t have a choice. (fortunate)
But it’s important to consider that spirituality is developed. Spirituality is gained through discipline and more often than not, it is learned when you find yourself on the edge of the cliff. It is gained when you have been brought to your knees and decimated to the extent that you have a first-hand experience of realizing that you have no power or control. The pursuit of spirituality will not enhance what you currently know…it will annihilate it. Spirituality doesn’t change the world. It changes you. And it all begins with a single drop of willingness. Remember, it knows what it’s doing. You’re the one who doesn’t. So, be still, quieten, listen up. The voice that speaks to Savitri is the same voice that speaks to you if you will listen.
“O Savitri, I am thy secret soul
To share suffering of the world I came,
I draw my children’s pangs into my breast.
I am the nurse of the dolour beneath the stars;
I am the soul of all who wailing writhe
Under the ruthless harrow of the Gods.
I am woman, nurse and slave and beaten beast;
I tend the hands that gave me cruel blows.
The hearts that spurned my love zeal serve;
I am the courted queen, the pampered doll,
I am the giver of the bowl of rice,
I am the worshiped Angel of the House.
I am in all that suffers and cries,
Mine is prayer that climbs in vain from earth,
I am traversed by my creatures’ agonies;
I am the spirit world of pain,
The scream tortured flesh and tortured hearts
Fall’n back on heart flesh unheard by heaven
Has rent with helpless grief and wrath my soul.
I have seen the peasant burning in his hut,
I have seen the slashed corpse of the slaughtered child,
Heard woman’s cry ravished and stripped and haled
Amid the bayings of the hell-hound mob,
I have looked on, I had no power to save.
I have brought no arm of strength to aid or slay;
God gave me love, he gave me not his force.
I have shared the toil of the yoked animal drudge
Pushed by the goad, encouraged by the whip;
I have shared the fear-filled life of bird and beast,
It’s long hunt for the day’s precarious food,
It’s covert slink and crouch and hungry prowl,
Its pain and terror seized by beak and claw,
I have shared the daily life of common men,
Its petty pleasures and its petty cares,
Its press of troubles and haggard horde of ills,
Earth trail of sorrow helpless of relief.
The unwanted tedious labor without joy,
And the burden of misery in the strokes of fate.
I have been pity, leaning over pain
And the tender smile that heals the wounded heart
And sympathy making life less hard to bear.
Man has felt near my unseen face and hands;
I have become the sufferer and his moan,
I have laid down with the mangled and the slain,
I have lived with the prisoner in his dungeon cell.
Heavy on my shoulders weighs the yoke of Time:
Nothing refusing of creation’s load,
I have borne all and know I still must bear:
Perhaps when the world sinks into a last sleep,
I too may sleep in dumb eternal peace.
I have borne the calm indifference of Heaven,
Watched nature’s cruelty to suffering things
While God passed silent by nor turned to help.
Yet have I cried not out against his will,
Yet have I not accused’s his cosmic Law.
Only to change this great hard world of pain
A patient prayer has risen from my breast;
A pallid resignation lights my brow,
Within me a blind faith and mercy dwell;
I carry the fire that never can be quenched
And the compassion that supports the suns.
I am the hope that looks towards my God,
My God who never came to me till now;
His voice I hear that ever says ‘I come’;
I know that one day he shall come at last.”
Imagine the unbearable sight of the first responders at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Imagine the unbearable joy of childbirth. Imagine the unbearable moment of the finding the ovens in the concentration camps. Imagine the unbearable joy of watching a loved one be cured of cancer. I am the alpha and the omega says the secret soul of Savitri. That which you seek is that which you are. That which you need is that which you have. That which you have gone without is within. It is within you that you will find the endurance and the fire to take the next step. And the next step. And the next step. You are the creator of the joy and the pain in your life. You are the alpha and the omega. And yet, the old you is still alive and will argue for limitation.
“I am the Man of Sorrows, I am he
Who is nailed on the wide cross of the universe;
To enjoy my agony God built the earth;
My passion he is made his drama’s theme
He has sent me naked into his bitter world
And beaten me with his rods of grief and pain
That I might cry and grovel at his feet
And offer him worship with my blood and tears.
I am Prometheus under the vulture’s beak,
Man the discoverer of the undying fire,
In the flame he kindled burning like a moth;
I am the seeker who can never find,
I am the fighter who can never win,
I am the runner who never touched his goal;
Hell tortures me with the edges of my thought,
Heaven tortures me with the splendor of my dreams.”
Not done, the old you continued.
“Only by suffering can I excel.
I am the victim of titantic ills,
I was made for demonic deeds;
I was made for evil, evil is my lot;
Evil I must be and by evil live;
Nought other can I do but be myself;
What Nature made me, that I must remain.
I suffer and toil and weep; I moan and hate.”
This self-defeating thought is just that…it is just a thought. And when the thought argues for you to turn back, take a deep breath and realize it is just a thought. But it is a thought born from the past whose goal was to help you survive, to help you make sure that you would never have to feel that pain again. That thought, however limited it may be, did the best it could with what it knew. Don’t condemn yourself for that (omega). Bless that part of you (alpha). But now, your knowing is increasing…and so will that thought if you train it, discipline it, and direct it toward the next step, the ascent.
“Madonna of suffering, mother of grief divine,
Thou art a portion of my soul put forth
To bear the unbearable sorrow of the world
Because thou art, men yield not to their doom,
But ask for happiness and strive with fate;
Because thou art, the wretched still can hope.
But thine is the power to solace, not to save.
One day I will return, a bringer of strength,
And make thee drink from the Eternal’s cup;
His streams of force shall triumph in thy limbs
And Wisdom’s calm control thy passionate heart.
Thy love shall be the bond of humankind,
Compassion the bright key of Nature’s acts:
Misery shall pass abolished from the earth;
The world shall be free from the anger of the Beast,
From the cruelty of the Titan and his pain.
There shall be peace and joy for ever more.”
And for the first time, Savitri hints of the purpose of her ascent: what Aurobindo refers to as the supramental manifestation of humankind, the divinization of earth. But let’s keep it real and practical. Don’t worry about the supramental manifestation. Worry about you because that’s what Savitri is all about. Translate that for yourself and put it into a version of your own, unique, individual supramental manifestation: Your ascent, the reason you have come is to free yourself from _______________. What comes to mind? Be patient. Be clear. Name it.
And now, the first ascent begins.