Psychological Insights in Sri Aurobindo's Savitri with Dr. Soumitra Basu

Start Date:08-Jan-2024

End Date:13-Jan-2024



This online certificate course with Dr. Soumitra Basu was organised by NAMAH, the Journal of Integral Health from 8th -13th January 2024 to explore the psychological symbolisms and truths contained in Canto 1 & 2 in Book 1 of the epic, Savitri, a poetic masterpiece.

In the first session, Dr. Basu gave a brief description of Savitri as an adventure in the realms of consciousness that simultaneously unfolds at every poise of reality, at the individual, cosmic, and transcendental levels. The discussion progressed with an elaborative description of the scene of pre-creation, the void of nothingness vibrant with potentialities because of the fire from the transcendent and the role of Gods in the manifestation as corrective psychological master- forces needed to restore harmony in the chaos created by the adverse forces. Further, Dawn as a symbol of God-light was explained; the need for the goddess of Dawn to replace the goddess of night and each Dawn of Evolution is not an isolated event but accepts all the essence of the past to carve out a new niche in the bosom of the future. The two psychological landmarks regarding creation; that there is no beginning and no end, there is always forward progression and each dawn is something new and each creation adds a new element in the repertoire of cosmic consciousness were the key takeaways from this session.

The second session focused on the intrinsic joy in the creative play. Dr. Basu explained how modern psychology acknowledges that each piece of human behaviour has some motivation or the other but for the futuristic consciousness-based psychology, the integration and harmony of the being is to be achieved by cultivating the poise of motiveless joy, just like the Heedless Mother of the universe and the child of eternity who stimulated the renewal of creation from a poise of motiveless bliss. The discussion then focused on the other side of boundlessness, the poise of superconscient/creative will, from where a messenger light pierced the resistance of darkness to convey the renewal of creative activity as it sowed the seeds of thought and sense and revived the memory traces preserved in the cosmic inconscient to quiver out from quiescent to initiate a pre-creation movement. Dr. Basu reinforced the key message in Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga, any manifestation needs a simultaneous operation of two equally important forces, the aspiration to grow that gets consolidated at ground-zero or the inconscient must be supplemented by the transformative Grace, which emanates from the luminous void of the Superconscient. The beautiful God-light guides the transition at each step of the evolutionary leap and calls all to participate in the hour of mutation and kindles the fire of aspiration in a world inert and resistant to change.

The third session began with a discussion about the great resistance of the Inconscient due to which the God-light withdraws, leaving behind a lingering sacred yearning, ensuring continuity of remembrance through aspiration, worship and optimism and traces to be consolidated by the prophets of Light / The Avatars. Dr. Basu then shared the role and characteristics of a Messiah and every Messiah forerunner has a unique task to perform, in Savitri’s case she was destined not only to carry the anguish of grief but also a dark foreknowledge of an impending doom. This foreknowledge was not based on speculation but a specific intuitive knowledge. Savitri maintained a stoic stance, though her outward self suffered, inwardly she was the Child of Immortality and Infinity and she had bared herself to the Spirit in all. The session progressed with a detailed description of Savitri carrying the foreknowledge of the inevitable doom representing the cosmic burden and her confrontation with fate and ended with Savitri’s description as the incarnation of the creatrix Divine Mother, symbolising the unravelling of the pathways of immortality. Simultaneously being human and divine, Savitri has a feminine principle, and is a mediator between two other feminine principles; the luminous goddess Dawn and the dark personification of the inconscient.

The fourth session began with Dr. Basu explaining Sri Aurobindo’s view on Karma and important steps in dealing with past karmas. He shared that it is the soul-principle that willfully chooses a myriad area of experiences as it spirals through many lives. The chain of karma only binds the movement of nature and not the soul. An individual needs to work on the physical mind and consciously align the individual will with the Divine Will for the psychic being to replace the ego for the identification with the undying self thus leading to full and creative freedom from the past resulting in the transformation of life. The session proceeded with the beginning of Canto Two of Book One, based on the discussion on Karma. Dr Basu explained that Savitri readies herself to confront Fate by two movements: by shifting from being in the linearity of time to the poise of being a witness of non-linear time that held the past, present and future simultaneously at every moment and by shifting from the surface self to the ungarbed soul-entity within to the psychic being or soul-element in the evolutionary poise. The session further led to a discussion of the third movement needed by Savitri; a naked spirit to confront Death that can be achieved by the spirit when it shakes off all its past bonds, and its past Karmas and frees itself from the ramifications of the unforgiving Law and the inevitable saga of universal pain. The session ended with highlighting the rider to this discussion, Is the Jivanmukta (one who is identified with the Unborn Spirit) bound by past deeds or free from them? Sri Aurobindo says in the Upanishads, “Mukti prevents one’s future deeds from creating bondage but what of the past deeds which have already created bondage? Prakriti attached to this Jivatman must be allowed to work out its effects, otherwise, the chain of causation is snapped and the whole economy of nature is disturbed and thrown into chaos.”

The fifth session was a vivid description of the strength and courage of Savitri as she awaited patiently for the dreaded moment with all the time at her disposal. Dr. Basu gave an in-depth explanation of Savitri’s Love and her self-poised unstumbling will as he explained the Mother’s Yoga through the description of Savitri. Savitri’s knowledge and will have come together at a higher level of consciousness and therefore it was a self-poised stumbling will as the will was aligned with perfect knowledge. The Mother’s Yoga was the Yoga of the Cells, a new spirituality (of the body) that had to come. We already had the spirituality of the mind and the vital (we were told to overcome desires to be perfect and religious and had notions of morality to be pure). For Savitri, love was residing in the body in the same way as in the vital and the mind (same purity and consciousness) and the body consciousness carried a certain sense of joy in it. The session ended with a discussion on the awareness of the body consciousness slowly spreading in the universal consciousness and coming into practice, today people are becoming more sensitive towards the body and it is been respected, and ecological awareness has also increased. 

In the sixth session, Dr. Basu explained ‘the soul’s issue’ to  ‘win or lose the godlike game for man’ and the challenge given to Savitri by the godhead of Fate and Doomsday to establish a higher meaning of life that was burdened with struggle and death in the bosom of dumb matter. Dr. Basu elaborated that human life, as we know it, is an ephemeral life fluttering on the screen of Fate, tossed helplessly in the gulfs of Circumstance, always subservient to the yoke of Doom. In psychological terms, this means that even if one boasts of carrying the limitless soul, one is actually limited in action while on earth due to Nature, which has not only to support the human out-flowering but also the Inconscience and its resultant, Ignorance for these are also valid phenomena of Nature and also because of the great phenomenon of Karma. He further addressed the concern, ‘Can a single soul facilitate the descent of a cosmic or transcendent power, by sharing  Sri Aurobindo’s words: “A prayer, a master act, a king idea” can actually “link man’s strength to a transcendent Force”. Then, almost miraculously, “One mighty deed can change the course of things” and “A lonely thought becomes omnipotent”. The session ended with the faith and assurance that it is Savitri who could take this challenge being a missioned child, a flaming warrior from the eternal peaks. Savitri, carrying both the burden and the aspiration of humanity grew in stature to identify with the great World-Mother to shatter the visage of death by bursting the bounds of consciousness and Time.

In these six days, Dr Basu explained in depth the first two cantos of Book One of Savitri which helped participants to develop an understanding of deeper truths of existence hidden in the symbolism of Sri Aurobindo’s poetic rendition.

“It helped me understand my journey better.”