2.3 The Indian Ending

Kurukshetra.jpg

[29] The story of separation which has animated Western civilization and which has now been imposed globally, must now end in a common story of reunion and redemption for all humanity. Edward O. Wilson, the eminent ecologist and Professor Emeritus of Biology at Harvard University, has been a champion of biodiversity for decades, and he recently enunciated the Half-Earth strategy for the regeneration of Eden, which humanity must adopt in our chrysalis phase[30]. Such reunion and redemption is the vision for humanity that the great 20th century seer and philosopher, Sri Aurobindo, espoused in his epic poem, Savitri[31].

Savitri is based on a story told in the Vana Parva of the Hindu epic, Mahabharata[32]. Savitri is a woman who takes birth as the daughter of a spiritually disciplined father, the King of Madra, Aswapathi. Savitri is so beautiful, pure and ascetic that no man dares to come forward to ask her hand for marriage. Therefore, Savitri sets out to choose her own husband.

She finds and marries Satyavan, the son of the blind king Dyumatsena, who has lost not just his sight, but his kingdom as well and is now in exile. The sage, Narada, tells Savitri that her chosen husband will die on their first wedding anniversary. But Savitri is determined to save her husband’s life. When Yama, the God of Death, arrives to take Satyavan’s life in the forest, she pursues him and argues with him until he relents and blesses her with eternal happiness. Then Satyavan awakens as though from a deep sleep to find Savitri by his side. When they return home, they discover that Satyavan’s father has his kingdom and sight restored as well.

As with all the stories in the Mahabharata, Savitri is a symbolic myth. Satyavan is the human spirit descended into ignorance and dissolution, born of the blind mind, Dyumatsena. Savitri is the Divine Word, born to save the human spirit. Aswapathi, her father, is the concentrated energy of spiritual endeavor that births the Divine Word. As Sri Aurobindo asserts in the introduction to his epic poem[33],

“This is not a mere allegory, the characters are not personified qualities, but incarnations or emanations of living and conscious Forces with whom we can enter into concrete touch and they take human bodies in order to help man and show him the way from his mortal state to a divine consciousness and immortal life.”

Savitri is pointing out that our feminine side has the power to redeem our fallen spirits. Indeed, women in the global North already have the power to transform the socioeconomic system since they control over 80% of all purchasing decisions[34]. Savitri is one of those rare myths that postulate Heaven can be right here on Earth. Who wouldn’t want to work towards that?

As the noted British historian, Arnold Toynbee, is reported to have said[35],

“It is already becoming clear that a chapter which had a Western beginning will have to have an Indian ending if it is not to end in self-destruction of the human race. At this supremely dangerous moment in human history, the only way of salvation is the ancient Hindu way. Here we have the attitude and spirit that can make it possible for the human race to grow together in to a single family”.

The Western beginning of this industrial civilization chapter is characterized by scientific discovery and a relatively free and advanced outer material life, but a relatively rigid and doctrinaire inner spiritual life. The ancient Hindu way is characterized by spiritual discovery and a relatively free and advanced inner spiritual life, but a relatively rigid and caste-based outer material life. As we now combine the best of both worlds, we can usher in an era of material and spiritual prosperity for all of humanity and ensure the flourishing of all Life. This is precisely what we are called to do in this axiomatic summary of the Bhagavad Gita:

“Everything that has happened, has happened for the best. Everything that is happening, is happening for the best. Everything that will happen, will happen for the best.”

For what Arnold Toynbee calls “the ancient Hindu way” is based on the simple idea that we are already living in a world of perfection.


[29] The material in this section was framed through extensive discussions with the notable author, speaker, educator and my surrogate mother in Sedona, AZ, Jayana Clerk.
   
[30] Please see E. O. Wilson, Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life, Liveright, March 2016, ISBN-13: 978-1631490828. http://amzn.to/1Rfrzwb

[31] http://savitrithepoem.com/

[32] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savitri_and_Satyavan

[33] Please see Sri Aurobindo’s commentary in http://savitrithepoem.com/the-poem.html

[34] Please check out the Forbes article and references therein: http://onforb.es/1sva0DM

[35] In a private conversation as reported in Swami Prabhavananda’s book, The Spiritual Heritage of India: A Clear Summary of Indian Philosophy and Religion (1979).