Overview of the Webinar

Speaker Introductions

Dr Prema Nandakumar: She obtained her Ph.D. in 1961 for her study of Sri Aurobindo’s epic poem

Savitri. Since then, she has been an independent researcher, publishing critical and biographical works. As a translator, her career spans half a century, with the UNESCO publishing her book on Subramania Bharati. A prolific writer, her recent works are Srimad Bhagavatam: At Each Step a Luminous World (2014) and Matter’s Logic and Spirit’s Dreams: A Sheaf of Essays (2016.) Her latest works are Sri Ramanuja:The

Great Integrator and Sister Nivedita and Sri Aurobindo. A creative writer in Tamil, Dr Nandakumar draws her inspiration from sources as varied as the Vedas, Sanskrit and Tamil epics, and modern Indian literature.

She is the recipient of several awards including Abhinava Andal Award, the Sri Aurobindo Puraskar (Calcutta), Pandita Ratna (Warangal), U.V. Swaminatha Aiyar Award (Coimbatore) and the Thamizh Thendral Thiru.V. Kalyanasundaram Award by the Government of Tamil Nadu.

Dr Nirupam Rohatgi: is currently serving as Professor in Dept. of Mechanical Engineering at MNIT Jaipur. He is a graduate, postgraduate and doctorate in mechanical engineering, all from IIT Delhi. He successfully qualified Indian Civil Services and joined Western Railways as IRTS Officer in 1988. After serving Indian Railways for 4 years, as class one officer, he resigned from Railways and joined MNIT, Jaipur as faculty in mechanical engineering. He is associated with Sri Aurobindo Society, for over 25 years and looking after the post of Vice Chairman of Sri Aurobindo Society, Rajasthan. He primary interest is in Savitri. He also has a keen interest in the Gita,Vedas, and Upanishads. He had been conducting ‘Savitri-Varta’ fortnightly since 2002 at the SAS-Jaipur Branch and he also runs a YouTube channel, a Facebook page, and a website dedicated to Savitri..

Dr Charan Singh Kedarkhandi: is a teacher, seeker and poet. Based in Joshimath near the holy shrine of Badrinath Himalayas in Uttarakhand, he has earned his PhD on Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri and is working in the capacity of assistant professor in English at Govt. P.G. College Joshimath Uttarakhand. In 2015 he became instrumental in establishing the Sri Aurobindo Study centre in Joshimath.

WELCOME NOTE by Dr Sampadanada Mishra

Dr Sampadananda Mishra welcomed all the participants and went on to explain the etymology of the word ‘Savitri’ where he explained that Savitri comes from the base word ‘Savitr’ which means ‘that which belongs to Savitr’ which again comes the root sound ‘Su’ which means ‘to create’. He explained that ‘Soma’ which means ‘the delight of existence’ also comes from the same root sound ‘Su’. Hence, ‘Savitr’ is both the creator and the delight of the existence. He explained that the main purpose of Sri Aurobindo’s epic Savitri is to change human destiny from the state of mortality to immortality and experience the eternal Ananda. He also added that Sri Aurobindo spoke of Savitri as an experiment to see how far poetry could be written from one’s own yogic consciousness and how it can be made creative.

KEYNOTE ADDRESS by Dr Alok Pandey

Dr Alok Pandey started by mentioning that the Vedas are the documents created by the Vedic mystics of their mystic experiences and discoveries some of which have an eternal relevance. He elaborated that the Vedic mystics documented all their experiences in the Vedas on two aspects as follows:

  • The eternal truths which are
  • The way/law of life or Dharma based on the eternal truths – which constitutes fundamental truths (e.g.: Humility, Delight etc) which again are not subject to change and external/outer aspects of life (for g.: Rituals, practices and forms of behaviour) which are subject to change as time unfolds.

Dr Pandey then explained that Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri is also in the same lines of the Vedas in that Savitri is also a revelation of the highest order which Sri Aurobindo had mentioned what his soul saw. Explaining the difference between Vedic mystics and Sri Aurobindo, Dr Alok Pandey mentioned that the Vedic mystics saw the eternal truth through the luminous veil but that Sri Aurobindo was able to transcend this veil and go beyond and become one with the eternal truth. Dr Pandey described that Sri Aurobindo through Savitri takes the whole project of the Vedas to the next higher level of divine fulfilment. He touched upon 5 key themes of Savitri which he described as below:

  • Sri Aurobindo’s vision of the one integral experience – Integral Yoga where the purusha, the passive force described in the Veda and the shakti, the dynamic force describes in the tantra both come together to create ‘Creation’.
  • Savitri contains the cosmic power/forces that we are meant to choose from – The evolutionary (light) forces and retrograde (Dark) We see in Savitri both these forces as necessary to work together for the soul and the divinisation of the body towards the life divine – the dark, retrograde forces give us the strength and wisdom and the evolutionary forces give us sweetness and delight. Savitri also gives the answer of what will happen to the Darkness/dark forces – that it will be transformed into light.
  • In Savitri, Sri Aurobindo has used more modern symbols that are more easily relatable and understandable now rather than horse (for progress) or the cow as mentioned in the Vedic E.g.: mystics today might see a flight or space travel for progress instead of the horse.
  • Goal of Savitri is to discover the truth/immortality within, unite with it and establish that delight (Ananda) here on Earth in the physical body so that every experience of ours is filled with that nectar of immortality/delight.When the Vedas talk about taking us from darkness to light,

Sri Aurobindo through Savitri takes it to the next higher level of light to greater light. In the traditional Veda, it was about finding the soul’s immortality where as in Savitri it is about seeking for the physical immortality and supramental transformation.

  • Savitri is a mantra of transformation, the guru, the divine mother becoming human, which can be used for coming in direct contact with the

Mentioning that Savitri is the story of the divine mother becoming human, Dr Alok Pandey went on to read and explain a few passages from Savitri – Invocation of the divine mother (page 314), asking for the truth to be established here on Earth (page 345), the 3 status of the divine – The transcendent, the universal and the individual. He emphasised that now the age is where the supreme is in direct contact with matter. Dr Alok ended his talk by also mentioning that Aditi, the divine consciousness, puts us into the womb of diti (the dark mother) so that we become individuals through the right choices and then

surrender to Aditi, the divine mother. He added that Savitri embodies the future vision—an adventure of ascending to the higher truth and that we are here to make a home for that truth.

KEYNOTE ADDRESS by Dr. Prema Nandakumar

Dr Prema Nandakumar started her address by mentioning that her journey with Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri started with her father guiding and inspiring her to do her Ph.D. on Savitri, the first by anybody on the epic. She raised the following questions—how much do we know about Veda that we can call Savitri a Veda. How much have we understood of Savitri to think of both Veda and Savitri as guiding our future? She went on to explain that Savitri is giving us a legend which is ageless and that the first time we hear about the name Savitri as part of contemporary literature is in the Mahabharata (which means that the story of Savitri is older than Mahabharata) as described in the Vana Parva when Rishi Markendeya tells Yudhisthira about the story of great women who have suffered a lot Like Damayanti (who has won) and Savitri (who will also win like that).

Dr Prema said that it is enough if you grasp one or two sentences of the Veda to understand its purpose and added that the Veda mentions that ‘It is by the strength of your tapasya and by the grace of God that you win’. Similarly, in our new Veda, Savitri, it is mentioned that ‘all things can be done if the God touch is there’ and this one sentence is enough to give you that strength of purpose, she added. Dr Prema mentioned that Vyasa shows Savitri to us as a very strong women, a Vedic woman and the queen unparalleled of her in-law’s/husband’s house who performs the triratra vrata to strengthen herself to face Yama. She is chosen by Sri Aurobindo as the title for this Epic poem Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol.

How are we going to justify the title – The Veda of the future?

Dr Prema said that Sri Aurobindo’s tapasya has been poured into each line of Savitri and that if you take any line, you can see that they are powerful and similar to that of the Vedas where it teaches you how to be a perfectly strong person. She reemphasised that Sri Aurobindo chooses a woman to be the

heroine of his epic and she is shown to us as an avatar. She added that Sri Aurobindo realised that there is more to Vedas than just rituals and that Sri Aurobindo learned the Vedic Sanskrit when he realised that there is more in the Vedas than what is generally known to people. She added that Sri Aurobindo himself says that ‘Madhvacharya’ (whose works include an intuitive commentary on the Rig Veda) was the first to realise this fact that there is more in the Vedas than just rituals.

Dr Prema concluded her talk by mentioning that Sri Aurobindo wrote the epic in English because he knew that English will be the language of the future (and will be used the world over) and that Savitri is the Veda of the future.

PANEL DISCUSSION

Nilima Bhat started the panel discussion by summarising the 5 key themes of Dr Alok Pandey’s keynote session and then went on to welcome the panellist’s Dr Nirupam Rohatgi and Dr Charan Singh Kedarkhandi to talk about the relevance of Savitri in modern times and how can it reshape human destiny.

Dr Nirupam Rohatgi shared that he approached Savitri as a seeker and that all his queries were answered by the epic.Talking about the similarities between the Vedas and Savitri, he said that the first primary similarity is that Savitri was revealed to Sri Aurobindo like the Vedas were revealed to the rishis. He went on to talk about the difference between the knowledge that is acquired through the mind and the knowledge that is acquired through the heart or that is revealed to us. He said that everything that

is acquired through the senses – eyes, ears and mind are fallible because mind always conveys the image to us and does not convey the reality. He added that Savitri says that the real source of knowledge is in the lord in his heart. It is the verbal form of the inner Veda or the luminous reality which seats inside us. He said that since this is knowledge that is received directly from God, they are authentic and this fact is true for both the Veda and Savitri.

Speaking of the second similarity between the Veda and Savitri, Dr Nirupam said that they both have the same objective or at least they are on the same lines.The objective of Veda is God or realization of God (seeking God, truth and eternity) and Savitri is also talking of transcending the mind and seeking the truth within. He added that while both are talking about the manifestation of God on this earth, Savitri goes a step forward and says ‘when one has found God within, next the man has to work for the divine’s will’ (What is the divine’s will – it is to transform this earthly life into divine life and that is the central theme of Savitri) more explicitly and more emphatically than in the Veda and that is perhaps because of the time or the era in which Savitri has come in (it is the more recent).

Dr Nirupam also spoke of the similarity of the subject matter of the Veda and Savitri – that which is beyond the sense and intellectual.What cannot be known by observation or reason is known by Vedas which is its greatness, he said. Dr Nirupam mentioned that Savitri also is talking about the world invisible to us like the Soul, physic being, God, Daemons etc which are not perceptible to the human eye and that we need to understand this invisible world so that we can find our way to the goal of attaining the truth within.

Asking if we can call Savitri as the Veda of the future, Dr Nirupam said that the present-day man is a reasoning man. Science has resolved man’s existential problems and material life but Man is still not satisfied because there is still something lacking. Science is still limited as it is based on logic and senses

—observation, experimentation and analysis—and you cannot know or see the truth which man is seeking because it is focused only on the material world. However, Dr Nirupam added, that Savitri clearly says that man has to leave mind and reason behind if he wants to see the truth and use his heart for his way forward. He continued by pointing out that Savitri is entertaining man through reason, without discarding reason but showing man the limitation of reason (for mind can never touch the body of truth and mind can never see the soul of God) and then takes the help of faith, devotion and surrender as tools through which he can move ahead. He concluded that hence Savitri is the Veda of the future as it takes the help of reason to addresses the current state of humanity but it also talks of the future goal of humanity, which is divinising the earthly life.

Dr Nirupam ended his talk by mentioning that the Veda talks of God and immortality for the individual but it did not talk about the transformation of humanity into a divine being but in Savitri this particular aspect is explicitly mentioned—about this transformation of humanity and the advent of a new race of divine human beings.

Dr Charan Singh Kedarkhandi started his talk with the lines in page 314 of Savitri which describes the features of the Divine Mother and by emphasising that God is very much still on the driving seat and that it is by the divine’s design that everything is happening as it is in today’s world. He mentioned that Sri Aurobindo aims at the collective transformation of humanity and not for any specific individual, sect, religion, or region and that Sri Aurobindo through Savitri is talking of revolutionising

the whole earth’s consciousness and talks of the whole earth as being his sadhana’s work chamber for planting his seed divine.

Dr. Charan Singh said that according to The Mother, the present race of earth is not fit to receive the whole light of Savitri and that is why perhaps Savitri is talking about the future of humanity. He added that Sri Aurobindo, being a future oriented yogi, is drawing attention to a glorious future and this is one of the reasons why youth should read Sri Aurobindo – that Sri Aurobindo restores your belief in the beauty of the future and rescues humanity from the agony and pall of gloom of the present day.

Dr. Charan Singh spoke about The Mother hinting that it is in meditation that Savitri’s full light is received

—In peace and silence, the eternal manifests. He mentioned that Amal Kiran (K. D. Sethna) had said ‘to come close to the poem is definitely to come closer to the poet’. Saying that man is always in constant company of fear, Dr Charan Singh added that Savitri is fighting on behalf of humanity taking on death face to face where she has taken the form of the protective deity and adopted this earth to protect it from the dark forces.

Dr Charan Singh also spoke that life should be discussed now and here because the fundamental questions of existence are present here in this moment like the question of pain, failure, death etc and that Savitri has answers for all these questions. He added that as per The Mother, there is not a single problem that cannot be solved by reflecting upon the pages of Savitri—randomly open any page of Savitri after due reflection and you will find an answer to your question. He concluded his talk by mentioning that Savitri is the roadmap to Supermanhood and read a few passages from the epic.

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Renaissance, the monthly e-journal of Sri Aurobindo Foundation of Indian Culture (SAFIC), features inspiring articles, essays, book reviews, interviews, and reflections that speak of how the eternal spirit and creative genius of India are being reborn and renewed in various domains – spiritual, artistic, literary, philosophic, scientific, aesthetic.

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