Solar Meditation Dome-01
Solar Mediation Dome

For current 2018 Study Group information, up-coming Workshops/Retreats
and any other information you may need regarding the Sri Aurobindo Learning Center
please contact one of the following or use our
Contact form:

SALC - Sri Aurobindo Learning Center
83 Baca Grant Way / P.O. Box 88 - Crestone, Colorado 81131
Additional contact information:




Savitri and Death, Audio Session 1,
August Immersion, Crestone 2017

August 2017 session 1

2017 Summer Savitri Immersion Workshop
Sunday, August 13 to Friday Aug. 18
Sri Aurobindo Learning Center in Crestone, Colorado

Summer Savitri Immersion August 2017-1

The annual Savitri Immersion Workshop with Rod Hemsell took place from
Sun. August 13 to Fri. Aug. 18 at the Sri Aurobindo Learning Center in Crestone, Colorado.

The theme of this workshop will be the same as the one
recently presented in Belgium and Spain:
Savitri and Death,
based on Books 9-11.

The conquest of death is in fact the primary aim of the Integral Yoga of Transformation,
as we learn from the many volumes of Sri Aurobindo's philosophy of yoga, and from
the Mother's Agenda. And Savitri is the mantric transmission of the will and force that
are activated in this Yoga for that purpose. The principles of such a yoga are stated
throughout Savitri and many of the practices known to various schools of yoga are also
described. But in the cantos of Books 9-11 the process of the conquest of death and
rebirth is narrated and the path defined with explicit detail. The aim of this workshop
will be to see and hear through the power of the Sruti this teaching.


"A Savitri Immersion Workshop with Rod Hemsell will take place in St. Helena, California,
from Nov 24 in the evening to Nov 27 in the morning, with a special focus on the application of traditional
Raja Yoga and Integral Yoga systems in Sri Aurobindo's Yoga.
The cost is $250 including food and lodging.
Iyengar Yoga practices will also be included in the daily program.
Please let us know by Oct 1st if you are interested in attending ."

Sponsored by Sri Aurobindo Learning Center, Crestone, CO
c/o Anya - anyaland2000@yahoo.com,
or Rod - rodhemsell@yahoo.com (206-963-0989)
The workshop location is YogaShala, Napa Valley,
1350 Community Drive, just off Bonita Ave., in St. Helena,
approximately 14.8 miles north of Napa from
the Trancas / Redwood Rd. / Hwy 29 intersection,
and approximately .9 miles south of the center of downtown St. Helena.

Thanks for posting the notice to Centers and friends.


Fulfilling 0ur Mission

The annual Savitri Immersion Workshop (see below),
led by Rod Hemsell, was held this year from August 14-19, with 22 participants,
including 11 from out-of-state, four of whom were here for the first time and travelled
from as far away as New York and Virginia. Fortunately the season of dry heat and mosquitos had passed
and everyone could enjoy the pleasant high-altitude Colorado climate. Another workshop, held just eight months
ago during the winter season, was similarly blessed with our famous white landscapes and sunny days.
Both Immersions consisted of deep plunges into
Savitri, accompanied by intense thematic contexts – the one in
December focusing on the experience of death, in both
Savitri and Tibetan Buddhist teachings,
and the recent one on the Yoga Siddhis in the
Sapta Chatusthaya text.

At both retreats there were also the usual art workshops, mountain hikes,
hot springs bathing, and plenty of good food to relieve the sore-butt syndrome that
accompanies several hours of sitting in the solar dome every day –
a profound experience for everyone in more ways than one.

Dr. Eric Weiss has conducted a weekly study group in
The Synthesis of Yoga here, for the past six months,
and some followers from other locations are able to connect on-line using the Zoom platform.
The Immersion Workshops are also recorded and available for download from
Anyone interested may contact Rod at <

Aided by grants from FWE and TSL Partners, SALC and the University of Human Unity project in Auroville
co-sponsored a very successful three-day seminar on the 'Integral Paradigm of Knowledge'
in February in Auroville this year, and all of the presentations can be viewed on the University of Human Unity website.

Each of these activities represents the fulfillment of the mission of the SALC Foundation which is an educational
trust dedicated to furthering the study of the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and the development
of Auroville. For more information and on-going activities, please visit our website at <

Immersion art 2

Immersion art 1
Immersion art 3

Savitri Immersion Workshop - Summer 2016
August 14-19, 2016
Crestone, Colorado

Savitri Summer Immersion August 2016

The Yoga of Transformation

Rod Hemsell

In a series of teachings at our annual Savitri Immersion Workshop
in August this year, we were able to observe closely, over six days
of readings and meditations, the important connections between

yogasutra, yogamantra and yogashakti.

Instead of treating each separately, as distinct stages in the
practice of Yoga, we could see how the three movements in combination
can intensify and illumine such practices in a particularly powerful way.
For example, in a sutra teaching such as Sri Aurobindo's
Sapta Chatusthaya, combined with the Savitri mantra,
the presence of the Divine Shakti is invoked, and received directly,
by a clarified mind and opened heart, which is truly transforming.

In the Sapta Chatusthaya (seven sets of four yoga siddhis or perfections)
Sri Aurobindo explains what it means to be a yogin.

“The basis of internal peace is samata, the capacity
of receiving with a calm and equal mind all the attacks
and appearances of outward things, whether
pleasant of unpleasant, ill-fortune and good fortune,
pleasure and pain, honor and ill-repute, praise and blame,
friendship and enmity, sinner and saint, or physically,
heat and cold, etc. The complete Yogin receives
all of this with with an equal, a sama ananda (delight in all).
He comes to change all the ordinary values of experience ...”

This sutra teaching, followed by an invocation of the mantric transmission,
is then seen and felt as a vivid, tangible possibility, above the mind's
natural doubts or attempts to understand how such a thing could be.
For example, reciting the Canto titled In the Self of Mind,
we see and hear:

“He stood on a wide arc of summit Space
Alone with an enormous Self of Mind
Which held all life in a corner of its vasts.
Omnipotent, immobile and aloof,
In the world which sprang from it, it took no part:
It gave no heed to the paeans of victory,
It was indifferent to its own defeats,
It heard the cry of grief and made no sign;
Impartial fell its gaze on evil and good,
It saw destruction come and did not move.
An equal Cause of things, a lonely Seer
And Master of its multitude of forms,
It acted not but bore all thoughts and deeds,
The witness Lord of Nature's myriad acts
Consenting to the movements of her Force.”

Such descriptions of the yogic state of udasina,
being seated above the ordinary reactions to things,
are repeated frequently, and typically followed
by an inflow of blissful force:

“It led things evil towards their secret good,
It turned racked falsehood into happy truth;
It's power was to reveal divinity.
All grew to all kindred and self and near;
The intimacy of God was everywhere,
A constant touch of sweetness linked all hearts.”

Into the silence that follows such an invocation there
actually flows a luminosity and peace that shifts
one's consciousness into a sphere of possibilities that is
perhaps always there, within – the tantric force.


This “immersion” week was attended by a delightful group of devotees from seven different
states of the US, plenty of good food, pleasant rainfall, flowing streams, and a darshan moon.


Sri Aurobindo Learning Center
Savitri Immersion Workshop - Summer 2016
August 14-19, 2016
Crestone, Colorado

Rod -1

Rod Hemsell - Presenter

“The Formless and the Formed were joined in Her.”

This line from Savitri seems to me to express the essence of the goal of
Buddhist and Hindu Tantra, and it is not an idea or a concept; it is a spiritual experience.
It is the special character and importance of Sri Aurobindo's
that it can transmit this experience.

“The silent Soul of all the world was there:

It bore within itself a seed, a flame,
A seed from which the Eternal is new-born,
A flame that cancels death in mortal things.
All grew to all kindred and self and near;
The intimacy of God was everywhere...”

The goal of the Savitri Immersion Workshop is to hear and see this
sruti of Sri Aurobindo,
this intuitive revelation of the spiritual Self in us - fully, directly,
experientially, and then to know that “This Word was seed of all the thing to be.”


The workshop starts with an introduction on Sunday afternoon, August 14,
and proceeds throughout the week until Friday evening August 19,
with two-hour readings and meditation twice daily,
communal living and sharing, mountain walks, art, music,
and healing activities, hot springs, and good food.
Alan Nett will join us again for Pranayama practice.

Collective transportation will be provided from Denver International Airport on Saturday August 13,
and a public bus from Denver to Moffat (near Crestone) is available once daily from Denver at 2 PM
and back from Moffat at 7 AM. Accommodations are available at our center on a first come basis when
booked in advance
or Accommodations of Choice, Crestone

For more information please call Brian at 719-256-6010, Ginny at 719-256-4917,
or Rod at 206-963-0989.

The requested basic contribution for the week is $300 ($60/day) for non-local participants
and $240 ($50/day) for local participants.

We look forward to you joining us - Namaste

The Sri Aurobindo Learning Center
83 Baca Grant Way
Crestone Colorado 81131


Winter Immersion Workshop - 2015

Dear Friends

The Sri Aurobindo Learning Center in Crestone is planning to hold a second Savitri Immersion Workshop this year from Dec 20th to 24th.
Understanding that the Christmas season may make it difficult for many to attend, and that the weather in Crestone can be challenging,
but recalling the deep and powerful August immersion and the wish of many to have more occasions for such experiences, which definitely
help us to ground the Divine Force in our lives and to open ourselves to the mysteries of Savitri - we are going to try the experiment.

Many have participated already in planning for this event and are scheduling flights in on the
19th and out on the 27th, which will help us in arranging transport.
Please inform us as soon as possible if you plan to come so that the necessary arrangements can be made.

The theme of this immersion will be the transformation of death, Books 10, 11, 12 of Savitri,
and there will be additional commentary based on the Tibetan Buddhist teachings that are now available
from many Lamas and scholars. This is something that I have thought for several years should
be undertaken, now that so many of us have been steeped in the
Yoga of Aswapati and Savitri in Part 1 and Part 2,
but we have never really plunged into Part 3.
Perhaps the time has come!

All the best to each of you, with gratitude for your support and participation,
which make these teachings and gatherings a powerful experience for us all.




Summer Immersion Workshop - 2015


Savitri and the
Philosophy of Consciousness



In the same way that the mantric poem Savitri has been explored in previous seminars to
illumine such contexts as the Tantric systems of yoga, the Kena Upanishad, and the
philosophy of religion through the ages, in this seminar the philosophy of consciousness
will be explored in Savitri, the Goddess of Illumined Speech. There are trends
in the ancient philosophies of the East and the West that attempt to understand
"consciousness" both rationally and intuitively. This is true again today, with massive
efforts being made in science and philosophy to re-examine the question,
What is Consciousness?
If it ultimately can be answered only intuitively, as Sri Aurobindo as well
as other of his contemporaries suggest, by direct spiritual knowledge,
Savitri is the key.

The Sri Aurobindo Learning Center
83 Baca Grant Way
Crestone Colorado 81131
719-256-4917 / 719-256-6010
Monday August 10th - Saturday August 15th 2014

Preliminary schedule:

Monday check-in 9-11am. Workshop introduction 3-5pm.
Daily pranayama and chi gong 8-9am, breakfast 9-10am,
Savitri Immersion 10-12am, Lunch break 12-3pm
3-4pm Art, Music, Nature Explorations
Savitri Immersion 4-7pm
Evenings dinner, performances, discussions, therapies

Recommended contribution $50/day, $250 (6 day workshop, includes food)

Make check payable to SALC and mail to:

P.O. Box 88 Crestone, Colorado 81131

For lodging information and reservations:
Sri Aurobindo Learning Center sriaurobindolc@gmail.com
719-256-4917 / 719-256-6010
Accommodations of Choice, Crestone

announcement 2-3
email: rodhemsell@yahoo.com

For Rod’s publications see: universityofhumanunity.org


Savitri Immersion Workshops - 2014


Evolutionary Spirituality and Savitri:
the Mantric Poetry of Sri Aurobindo



Friday May 30th – Sunday June 1st 2014
The Garden Sanctuary
3070 Prather Lane  Santa Cruz California 95065 


Friday June 20th - Sunday June 22nd 2014
12329 Marshall St 
 City , CA 90230

Monday August 11th - Saturday August 16th 2014
The Sri Aurobindo Learning Center
83 Baca Grant Way
Crestone Colorado 81131


What is being transmitted by Savitri is fundamentally not information for the mind. What Sri Aurobindo is trying to do is to transmit the force of truth from the highest planes of consciousness. At some point in our development and our ability to hear, we are no longer gathering information or interpreting anything, but we are in the presence of the Goddess of Illumined Speech. She is invoked, becomes present, and fills one with the divine force.

The focus on the teaching of Sri Aurobindo in this workshop emphasizes the doctrines of faith and sacrifice in
Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity, and the importance of the creative Word, the Sruti, the Logos, in each of these traditions, present especially in the symbolism of The Divine Trinity. The Upanishads and the Gita in particular were the subject of many commentaries written by Sri Aurobindo, which clarify these doctrines and transmit their essential truth and force. Through Yoga we learn to draw back from preoccupations with the forms of things to their essences, and through their universal essences we can perceive their divine origin. When we do that we are on the path of spiritual transformation. The mantric transmissions of Savitri create the bridge above mind to the Overmind illuminations that bring the path to its goal.


For Rod’s publications see:
The Poetry of Sri Aurobindo - Mantra, Metrics, and Meaning
The Philosophy of Religion – Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity


3070 Prather Lane,  Santa Cruz, CA 95065 

MAY 30 – JUNE 1
Friday check-in 1:30-3pm. Workshop introduction 3-5pm.
Saturday: 8-9am Yoga, Tea 9-10am.
Savitri Immersion from 10-12. Lunch Break 1-3pm.
Savitri Immersion from 3-5pm. and 7:30-9:30
Sunday Savitri Immersion 2-5pm
Closing at 5:30

For information contact Savitri Joy at   8054033550@txt.att.net


12329 Marshall St, Culver
 City , CA 90230

JUNE 20-22

For information: Contact 310-390-9083


Sri Aurobindo Learning Center
83 Baca Grant Way, Crestone Colorado 81131

Savitri Immersion Workshop Schedule
August 11-16, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 5.05.31 PM

For information: Contact Brian Dyer


Savitri belongs to the tradition of Vedanta - Veda and Upanishad - as Sri Aurobindo explains in The Secret of the Veda. And his commentaries on the Upanishads, which form the basis of The Life Divine, dwell upon the creative power of divine speech. Their vision is brought vividly to the hearer in that language of the ancient Rishis which is so essential to the process of transformation, by the language of mantra, by Savitri. And this is the movement of the 'new synthesis': the tantric synthesis of the Divine Mother, the creative word of Brahma, Mahashakti.
( 8 lectures 2013 )

is a complementary study which discovers the principle of divine revelatory speech at the foundation of each of the world's major religions. The essential movements of spiritual transformation are shown in these lectures, which form the basis of the present series of workshops, to be essentially the same in each of these traditions, and they have been conveyed with characteristic power by Sri Aurobindo in the vivid and illuminating language of
( 10 lectures, 2014 )


Recommended contribution
$250 (6 day workshop, includes food)
Contribute before June 30th - $225
$75 (3 day workshop)
Contribute before June 30th - $65
Checks may be paid to SALC and mailed to
P.O. Box 88 - Crestone, Colorado 81131
or payment can be made online here.

email: rodhemsell@yahoo.com


Savitri Summer Workshop at Crestone, CO - 2013

P8150438 - Version 2

2013 Summer Workshop participants at The Sri Aurobindo Learning Center
Crestone, Colorado August 11-16

We have just finished a very beautiful and intense Savitri Immersion - the culmination of my summer journey. thanks to everyone for your support.
During the week of August 11-16 a series of lectures on the Kena Upanishad, and readings from
Savitri corresponding to the Upanishad, were presented to a wonderful group of listeners and devotees in the Savitri Solar Dome. The group shared many delightful experiences together throughout the week, including visits to several of the beautiful and powerful spiritual centers here.  Their intimate and luminous time together  included discussions on the philosophy of evolution, a presentation on the theory and practice of Thai Massage, with many personal demonstrations, an evening of Kirtan, an art workshop, hikes in the mountains, and visits to the hot springs. The celebration of Sri Aurobindo’s birthday on the 15th included a Lakshmi Puja performed by Santosh, who is a priest at the Mt. Madonna temple in Santa Cruz, and also instructed the group in Pranayama practices.
The focus on the teaching of Sri Aurobindo in this workshop emphasized the inspirational sources of both his philosophy of evolution and his use of the technique of mantric transmission based on the Upanishads. The Kenopanishad in particular was the subject of many commentaries written by him, and in those texts we learn that he found answers to the problem of evolution in the idea that the universal principles of consciousness such as sight, hearing, and speech, truth, beauty, and power, actually precede the evolution of form. The forms that we perceive reveal the essences of structure such as quality, proportionality, mutuality, and meaning, because those principles exist eternally in the One. Through yoga we learn to draw back from preoccupation with the forms of things to their essences, and through their universal essences we can learn to perceive their divine origin.
The Savitri Solar Dome in Crestone is open to meditators almost any time, and the library of Sri Aurobindo’s teachings, as well as study groups and discussions, are available to students and devotees by appointment. 


Savitri Immersion Workshops presented by Rod Hemsell this summer, on the theme of Kena Upanishad and Savitri, will include:

July 26-28 at the East West Cultural Center, Los Angeles, CA

August 11-16 at the Sri  Aurobindo Learning Center, Crestone, CO

For more information you may contact the centers or Rod at <


University of human unity
A Supplement to The Poetry of Sri Aurobindo – Mantra, Metrics and Meaning 2008

By Rod Hemsell

Contextualizing Savitri :
Sutra, Mantra, and Tantra

is a mantric transmission of the experiences of Yoga written by Sri Aurobindo which, through reading rhythmically aloud, encourages purification and transformation of the mind, vital and physical consciousness by the Divine Shakti. The structure and process of Savitri therefore belong to the traditions of Tantric Hinduism and Buddhism, with deeper roots in Raja Yoga and the Rg Veda, and as such form a central aspect of Sri Aurobindo’s synthesis of Yoga. This lecture is an attempt to situate Savitri in the context of these traditions.

Contextualizing Savitri : Sutra, Mantra, and Tantra

In all of these comparative studies, we realize that there are identities and differences that together constitute the reality of the things. And when we speak about sutra and tantra and the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo, we won’t see that these things are all the same. And we won’t see that they are all different. We will see that there are identities and differences which constitute their essential nature. If we don’t recognize that, then we won’t really know what any of them are. This is a contribution of the French school of philosophy known as deconstruction, which is based on fundamental Hegelian concepts, and Sri Aurobindo certainly recognized the validity of that methodology and applied it himself early on, as did Heidegger, at about the same time in fact – the former in his interpretations of the ancient Sanskrit and the latter in his interpretations of the ancient Greek wisdom.

So, when we look at
The Future Poetry originally written in 1920, and a supplement to that text that Sri Aurobindo wrote in the ‘Forties’ titled On Quantitative Meter, - which are not so much about the future poetry in fact but all about mantra, - we find definitions of mantra throughout these works, which have been combined in a recent edition of The Future Poetry (1997). There are references to English poetics and prosody in this book, and people find it easy to categorize the work as such and put it on the shelf, because when they try to read it they realize that they don’t understand what he is talking about. This is therefore not a very much read or understood work of Sri Aurobindo, just as Savitri is not widely read or understood, because this is tantric teaching.

We know that in both Hinduism and Buddhism it is common to be on the path of
sutra teachings for a considerable period of time before being ready to enter into the tantric teachings. Anyone who has studied a school of Yoga in Hinduism or Buddhism has probably realized something like that; there is a secret teaching that depends on transmission usually by the guru through mantra, which is essential, but it usually doesn’t happen at the beginning of the practice. It is understood that first the individual needs to work on purification and to discover the difference between Purusha (Self) and Prakriti (Nature-force), in order to achieve a certain degree of liberation of the Self, and then it is possible to receive the yoga mantra transmission.

Sri Aurobindo defines
mantra like this: “The Mantra is a direct and most heightened, and intensest, and most divinely burdened rhythmic word which embodies an intuitive and revelatory inspiration and ensouls the mind with the sight and the presence of the very self, the inmost reality of things” (1997, p. 218). And further, in order to qualify the special energy that such expression requires, and to distinguish it from what we normally consider poetry to be, he says: “The Mantra, poetic expression of the deepest spiritual reality, is only possible when three highest intensities of poetic speech meet and become indissolubly one, a highest intensity of rhythmic movement, a highest intensity of interwoven verbal form and thought substance, style, and a highest intensity of the soul’s vision of truth. …But it is only at a certain highest level of the fused intensities that the Mantra becomes possible” (1997, p.19).

The ‘things’ that
mantras speak about, by the way, are not the everyday things that the mind is most familiar with. When he says that the inmost reality of things is transmitted in a most vivid and real way, he is speaking about things that we would normally not know anything about. This is a fact of tantric spirituality which is understood in all of the traditions. You cannot access the content of that consciousness without a direct transmission by someone who dwells in that spiritual consciousness. The human being who dwells in the Overmind consciousness has a view and an energy that is the essence of the transmission. It’s that view and that energy that is received. This idea of mantra is not an abstract concept. It is a certain energy of consciousness that we are capable of realizing but it is not by any means easy to generate. Only someone who has practiced for a long time and achieved that realization, or siddhi, really knows anything about it.

Nowadays, a lot of things are being published in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, secret teachings that are being translated and commented on, quite plentifully, which is quite different from when I was a student back in the ‘Sixties’. Then there were only the few texts by Evans-Wentz. For example, now you can get the
Kalachakra Tantra (1999), and The Gelug/Kagyu Tradition of Mahamudra (1997) by the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, and other texts such as this Vajrayogini Tantra by Geshe Kalsang Gyatso (1991), which is a secret Vajrayana teaching, in which you will find hundreds of pages of mantras in Sanskrit and English. In the Vajrayogini tantra, you will read: “Om namo bhagavate vajra varahi bam, hum, hum, phat.” Now, Bhagavate vajra varahi can also be read in Hindu tantra. Varahi is a mother goddess and there are many temples in India from around the 9th Century with the goddess/statue of the Divine Mother who has the head of a boar with tusks. In south Indian Hindu tantra, and in Kashmiri Hindu tantra, and in Tibetan Buddhist tantra, she is the Divine Mother, she is the Shakti, and she has many names. Another mantra in this tradition, and there are many that we may recognize as being related to the Vedic deities, says: Om agniye ahdiba ahdiba ambisha ambisha maha shriye …om ah hum.

Om agniye, O fire… This is the phrase with which the ‘hymns to the mystic fire’ often begin, of which hundreds were translated by Sri Aurobindo from the Rg Veda, which became the foundation of his Yoga, his cosmology, and his psychology of spiritual transformation. And mahashriye is of course none other than Mahalakshmi, Sri Shakti of the south Indian Lakshmi Tantra. These are the deities, the principles, the powers and qualities of existence, that Sri Aurobindo has written thousands of lines of mantric English poetry to convey to us, of which we would otherwise probably never become directly aware unless we seriously followed the teachings of one of these tantric traditions.

Now if we don’t read the Vedic
mantras translated by Sri Aurobindo in a spirit of sacrifice, of offering ourselves to the flame of purification, to the gods, then we aren’t likely to hear anything meaningful in them. The form of that early Sanskrit is hardly understood by anyone today, in the first place, and it is extremely mystical. Similarly, these Tibetanized Sanskrit mantras and translations quoted above can be somehow understood in the context of Sri Aurobindo’s translations and commentaries of Hymns to the Mystic Fire, but otherwise you would need to have a substantial practice on the visualizations, symbols, and texts with a Lama, before you would experience the fruition of these teachings, especially since we don’t know the Sanskrit and Tibetan language, and the translations of course aren’t mantric. And yet these teachings are given to anyone who wants them by many Lamas. For example, let us read a translation of the Om agniye mantra above: “O deity who eats what is burned in the fire/ King of Rishis and Lord of the spirits/ together with the hosts of fire deities from the southeast/ to you I make offerings, praises, and prostrations/ please enjoy this sacrifice that I offer you!” We can read the same thing, or something quite similar, in Sri Aurobindo’s translations of the Rg Veda, but he has done something unique. He is a mantra guru who had the gift of transmitting mantric teachings in English. And this is extraordinary. For example, let us listen to a few verses of this hymn, rendered in that highest intensity of rhythmic speech that he said characterizes mantra:

    Rg Veda, Mandala Six, Sukta 16, Hymns to the Mystic Fire, p. 276-278

    At some point he stopped translating and commenting on the scriptures and concentrated on transmitting the spiritual knowledge in English. Most of his written works are not translations and commentaries; they are original yogic formulations from that consciousness which is the goal, and they have the power to illumine. The conventional meaning of
    mantra is ‘word of power’. And as I often point out, Sri Aurobindo’s writings are sound-based; he is writing as if he were speaking, or chanting, and he is conveying a knowledge that was originally the product of an oral tradition. Savitri, in the Veda, is a goddess of illumined speech, and Surya Savitri is the truth-force and truth-consciousness that creates the planes of this lower world of mind, life, and body through the inspired Word.

    The definition of
    mantra that I read from Sri Aurobindo above, is difficult for anyone to understand, and maybe most difficult for people who are working in the Sanskrit tradition. If you are working in that tradition you are probably not going to think that mantra is this. (This is in fact a subject of on-going research and debate in our institution, concerning Vedic speech and Sanskrit.) Sri Aurobindo explains that if the word is mantra, you will see the reality at the same time that, or within a short time after, you hear it. It is not an intellectual content for the mind. He also says, in a longer explanatory comment on language and meaning, “The words which we use in our speech seem to be, if we look only at their external formation, mere physical sounds which a device of the mind has made to represent certain objects and ideas and perceptions, (i.e. the representational use of language) - a machinery nervous perhaps in origin, but developed for a constantly finer and more intricate use by the growing intelligence; but if we look at them (ie. words, language) in their inmost psychological and not solely at their more external aspect, we shall see that what constitutes speech and gives it its life and appeal and significance is a subtle conscious force which informs and is the soul of the body of sound: it is a superconscient Nature-force raising its material out of our subconscience but growingly conscious in its operations in the human mind that develops itself in one fundamental way and yet variously in language. It is this force, this Shakti to which the old Vedic thinkers gave the name of Vak, the goddess of creative speech.”

    Surya Savitri. Ishwara Shakti. Surya (Lord of Light) represents Ishwara (Supreme Self), and Savitri (Creative Word) represents Shakti (Divine Force). The original creative power of idea, truth, force, form, and eventually body, life, and mind that are created in the descent from that highest plane of Consciousness-force (which is present in this room although we are normally not aware of it) becomes evolutionary form and process in time and space. This is Sri Aurobindo’s cosmology. Creation is a process of descent from the timeless, infinite energy of Being, and its evolutionary becoming in forms in time and space. And this is also the process of Yoga. Sri Aurobindo teaches that in spiritual development, it is not just a process from below upward but there is also a corresponding descent from above which responds to the fire of Agni that is generated from below. The idea of
    pashyanti vak is the idea of the creative word in Vedic Sanskrit. And it was Sri Aurobindo’s endeavor to create a language that can transmit truths from this plane of consciousness and force above mind, which is not familiar to the ordinary practical and logical mind, and which he called Overmind. One of the basic techniques that he used for this purpose, as he explained in detail in The Future Poetry, is quantitative meter, which allows the poet to achieve those highest intensities of language that we heard about earlier.

    The biggest mistake that people make in reading
    Savitri is to read it silently and try to understand it, which we do because of the mental habit of reading with the eye and making mental associations in order to understand something, which is a method we have learned over a few hundred years of intellectual conditioning. But Sri Aurobindo has explained that each metric unit of a line of mantric poetry has sound-weight, and the weight carries the meaning of the phrase. But we can only perceive this through hearing the phrases which carry the meaning rhythmically to the hearer. As he says, “the eye can’t get it”. If that meaning is spiritual and is conveyed through hundreds of lines, which are designed to convey certain truths and experiences rhythmically through sound units that carry optimal meaning, when we understand it, it is because we have heard it, and not because we have thought about it and figured it out. The technique that we have learned for reading and understanding text is not going to work with Savitri.

    So let us look for a moment at this rhythmic structure of
    Savitri. It has been called iambic pentameter but it could as well be called anapestic or dactylic pentameter, but even this does not describe the metric structure. And he has explained that if we scan the lines for these traditional structures we will miss the actual rhythm. Each line is generally either three or four quantitative feet long. For example, listen to these four lines:

    A leisure/ in the labour/ of the worlds/
    A pause/ in the joy/ and anguish/ of the search/
    Restored/ the stress/ of Nature/ to God’s calm/,
    A vast/ unanimity/ ended life’s debate/.

    We can hear the weight in each of the metric units of each of these lines which carries the meaning, and we can hear that the units in each line follow the pattern 3/4/4/3. And we can notice here, and in many instances on every page, that a phrase like ‘ended life’s debate’ is a single unit because of the meaning as well as the sound weight: it is life’s debate that is ended; these terms cannot be separated if we are to understand their meaning. These lines are from Book One, Canto Three, p. 32, which is a section on the realization of the traditional goal of
    sutra yoga, the detachment and liberation of Purusha from Prakriti. When we hear them in the context of the whole section they will have another dynamis, which we will notice in a striking way. And this will also demonstrate how a section of a Canto, which is clearly demarcated by Sri Aurobindo, is the complete and concentrated transmission of a theme or principle or experience and can be taken as such, with a completeness and totality in itself that is not dependent on the whole Canto or Book for its meaning and power. The section is the mantra.

    In the field of Hindu and Buddhist Yoga it is widely recognized that there is a methodology which comes down to two streams of practice:
    sutra and tantra. We are probably familiar with the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (see for example the recent, excellent translations and commentaries by Edwin Bryant, 2009). And if we read Sri Aurobindo’s Synthesis of Yoga, we will find that he has incorporated quite thoroughly the yoga sutra teachings of Patanjali, or Raja Yoga. For example, in the fourth part of the Synthesis there are the teachings about samata, mukti, samyama, samadhi, purification, meditation, renunciation, surrender, liberation, etc. which are common terms in yoga sutra teachings. And only toward the end of the book does he speak about the essential role of Shakti in the transformation of mind, life, and body. But then, after writing the Synthesis, he writes Savitri for twenty-five years, and it is very different. It is a continuous invocation of the divine Shakti.

    If we look into some of the Tibetan Buddhist teachings, for example the writings of Lama Yeshe, who established centers and taught in the USA in the ‘Eighties’, or the works by the Dalai Lama cited above, we get a clear definition of the differences and relations between
    sutra and tantra. A characteristic summary of these terms has been given by Lama Yeshe, who writes in his Introduction to Tantra, The Transformation of Desire (1987), “Before we can board the lightning vehicle of Tantra, we have to understand why it is both necessary and possible to abandon our ordinary limited view of ourselves and to generate in its place the enlightened self identity of a fully evolved being. …By generating the prerequisite renunciation, bodhichitta and wisdom, and by delving into the clear nature of our mind, we create the space in which true self transformation can take place. Yet it is not enough merely to know why such transformation is necessary and possible. We must also generate the strength and confidence that will enable us to follow this radical approach to fulfillment” (p.83).

    The processes of silencing and emptying the thought mind and vital impulses through meditation that are mentioned here have the same focus, objectives, and practices as Raja Yoga. And to answer the question as to why it is necessary to do this, which is always a fundamental task of
    sutra, we may recall Sri Aurobindo’s definition of the “two liberations” in The Synthesis of Yoga (1970 ed.), which also indicates the subsequent or complementary movement of tantra: “This inferior action of Nature in which we live has certain essential qualitative modes which constitute the whole basis of its inferiority. The constant effect of these modes on the soul in its natural powers of mind, life and body is a discordant and divided experience, a strife of opposites, dwandwa, a motion in all its experience and an oscillation between or a mixture of constant pairs of contraries, of combining positives and negatives, dualities. A complete liberation from the ego and will of desire must bring with it a superiority to the qualitative modes of the inferior Nature, traigunyatitya, a release from this mixed and discordant experience, a cessation or solution of the dual action of Nature. …A liberation from Nature in a quiescent bliss of the spirit is the first form of release. A farther liberation of the Nature into divine quality and spiritual power of world-experience fills the supreme calm with the supreme kinetic bliss of knowledge, power, joy, and mastery. A divine unity of supreme spirit and its supreme nature is the integral liberation” (1970, p. 655-656).

    “The first necessity is some fundamental poise of the soul both in its essential nature and its natural being regarding and meeting the things, impacts and workings of Nature. This poise we shall arrive at by growing into a perfect equality,
    samata. Its importance can hardly be exaggerated; for it is the sign of our having passed beyond the egoistic determinations of our nature, of our having conquered our enslaved response go the dualities, of our having transcended the shifting turmoil of the gunas, of our having entered into the calm and peace of liberation …To divinize the perfected nature, we have to call in the divine Power, or Shakti, to replace our limited human energy so that this may be shaped into the image of and filled with the force of greater infinite energy, daivi prakriti, bhagavat shakti” (1970, p. 655-666).

    Now we could as well present many pages of text from Tibetan
    sutra teachings as well as from the Raja Yoga sutras to demonstrate how identical these sayings of Sri Aurobindo are to the general content and style of what is known traditionally as yoga sutra. But what characterizes the essential teaching of the schools of tantra may be compressed briefly into three terms: guru yoga, mantra, and shakti. The Vajrayana school of Tibetan Buddhism has preserved this tradition for a thousand years since it first migrated from the Hindu schools of tantra such as Sri Vidya and the Swatantra Trika into Tibet. And it is because this teaching has been re-energized and given such extreme importance by Sri Aurobindo in Savitri that we must recognize it as a fundamental branch of his synthesis of Yoga, and as the primary importance of his extraordinary poetic creation.

    The most striking examples of this meaning and power of
    Savitri may be found at the beginning of the book, in Cantos Three and Five of Book One. Canto Three is a full exposition of the Raja Yogi’s experience of the liberation of Purusha, and Canto Five is a full exposition of the Raja Yogi’s union with the Divine Mother, and the descent and transformation of his mind, life, and body by the Divine Shakti. The liberation of Purusha, the identification with the Absolute, and the descent of the divine Shakti are repeated in numerous Cantos throughout Savitri in such a prominent way that this may be recognized as the fundamental intention of the mantra guru: to make this teaching, invocation, and transmission possible to those who approach it as his, Sri Aurobindo’s, mantra of spiritual transformation. It is these Cantos and incantations of power that make possible a vivid perception of the meaning of liberation, and that bring into the concrete experiential range of the hearer and seer of this embodiment of conscious-force, not a concept but the actual energy of transformation. If these lines are expressed with that highest three-fold intensity that the mantra requires, then the hearer is united with the guru, with the mantra, and with the Goddess-energy, each of which is united in the embodiment of force whose name is Savitri.

    This is the traditional structure of
    tantra in fact. As explained by the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of guru yoga, the devotee visualizes the deity, the Lama as a vessel of the deity, and the mantra mediates the union of the three. Another fundamental structure of tantra is that its goal is liberation and transformation through the death experience, which of course is the ultimate theme of Savitri. As explained by Lama Yeshe: “The sutra and tantra teaching diagnose the problems of cyclic existence in different ways, and also offer different solutions to these problems. According to sutra, the root of samsaric suffering is ego-grasping: the wrong view that holds onto a mistaken belief in a self-existent “I”, or ego-identity. The antidote for this ignorant conception is found by cultivating a completely opposite view. Instead of ignorantly assenting to our instinctive belief in self-existence, we are taught how to generate an insight into emptiness (in Raja Yoga the liberation of Purusha, mukti): the total negation of all notions of independent self-existence. …While the lightning path of tantra does not deny what sutra has to say, it offers a different, more radical approach to the problems of our life. According to these more advanced teachings, all difficulties are rooted in our ordinary uncontrolled experiences of death and what happens after death. …The cure for such uncontrollably recurring confusion is a type of meditation in which we transform our ordinary experiences of death, bardo, and rebirth into the enlightened experience of a Buddha. The tantric antidote, therefore, is not something that is the opposite of the problem – the way that the wisdom of emptiness is the opposite of the ignorance of ego-grasping – but rather something that is similar to it. …This ordinary rebirth experience can be transformed by the skilled practitioner in the same way that death and bardo were transformed. Instead of moving from the bardo to the next life under the force of insecurity and grasping, ignorantly falling into unconsciousness, the well-trained followers of tantra can choose their rebirth consciously” (1987, p. 103-104,113).

    This of course is precisely what happens in the last major section and ultimate thematic teaching of
    Savitri when the goddess who unites with the mortal soul, consciously passes through death in order to make the transformation of death possible. And this theme of sacrifice for the sake of humanity, which recurs periodically in Savitri with great force, is another typical aspect of the structure of tantra. As stated emphatically by the Lama, “…there is absolutely no way for us to reap the immeasurable benefits of tantra if our motivation is centered on our own welfare alone. The only type of person for whom tantra can work is someone who is primarily concerned with benefitting others and sees the tantric path as the quickest and most powerful way of accomplishing this altruistic aim” (1987, p. 14). To conquer death and win immortality, and thereby to gain the leverage necessary to bring about an evolutionary leap in the destiny of the human being, is the motive force and aim of the personified yogic consciousness in Savitri. And it is this mythological and spiritual purpose of existence itself, as stated in another, south Indian, tantric tradition, that of Narayana and Narayani in the Lakshmi Tantra, that is recalled in these powerful lines of Savitri that convey the trance-vision of cosmic purpose:

    A glimpse was caught of things for ever unknown:
    The letters stood out of the unmoving Word:
    In the immutable nameless Origin
    Was seen emerging as from fathomless seas
    The trail of the Ideas that made the world,
    And, sown in the black earth of Nature’s trance,
    The seed of the Spirit’s blind and huge desire
    From which the tree of cosmos was conceived
    And spread its magic arms through a dream of space.
    Immense realities took on a shape:
    There looked out from the shadow of the Unknown
    The bodiless Namelessness that saw God born
    And tries to gain from the mortal’s mind and soul
    A deathless body and a divine name.

    Savitri, Book One, Canto Three, p. 40

    In addition to the context of Sutra, Mantra, and Tantra, which I believe can make this work of Sri Aurobindo more accessible to readers with respect to his actual intention, it is equally important to emphasize the allegorical context. Allegorical interpretation originated with the Catholic theologian Origenos, who was a contemporary of St. Augustine, and they both studied under the great mystic Plotinus. According to this school of literary and scriptural interpretation, the sacred or inspired text has to be understood as conveying a veiled meaning that is revealed by the inner understanding and identification of the reader with the symbols and language through which it is conveyed. A textbook definition of allegory says that allegory is a hermeneutic of how our minds extract the true meaning in a symbolic story, and the allegorical mode is defined as controlled indirectness and double meaning. But it is more than this. When the allegory is conveyed with
    mantric force, it is a direct transmission of the mystery, and therefore we don’t need to perform an intellectual exercise of interpretation. We see and hear the difference and the sameness, the Word and the Truth. We separate the mystery from the narrative by an act of identification with the substance and meaning that are conveyed to us directly. But what is true here, as in allegory in general, is that the literary form arouses a response to different levels of meaning, and through this aroused awareness cultural and spiritual values are imparted and affirmed. Thus, the allegorical level of literary creation is said to impart the values of an elite which thereby ensures the continuation of the highest aims of humanity and culture. When Savitri, the goddess of illumined speech, descends and unites with the mortal, we feel the descent and are united and energized by its word of power, to rise to the heights of spiritual realization and the possibilities of a divine transformation of life and death.

    Finally, let us try to hear and see the
    mantras of descent, liberation, and the cosmic duality of Purusha and Prakriti, the Sanatana Dharma.

    The Mantra of the descent of the Divine Shakti

    In a divine retreat from mortal thought,
    In a prodigious gesture of soul-sight,
    His being towered into pathless heights,
    Naked of its vesture of humanity.
    As thus it rose, to meet him bare and pure
    A strong Descent leaped down. A Might, a Flame,
    A Beauty half-visible with deathless eyes,
    A violent Ecstasy, a Sweetness dire,
    Enveloped him with its stupendous limbs
    And penetrated nerve and heart and brain
    That thrilled and fainted with the epiphany:
    His nature shuddered in the Unknown’s grasp.
    In a moment shorter than death, longer than Time,
    By a Power more ruthless than Love, happier than Heaven,
    Taken sovereignly into eternal arms,
    Haled and coerced by a stark absolute bliss,
    In a whirlwind circuit of delight and force
    Hurried into unimaginable depths,
    Upborne into immeasurable heights,
    It was torn out from its mortality
    And underwent a new and bourneless change.
    An Omniscient knowing without sight or thought,
    An indecipherable Omnipotence,
    A mystic Form that could contain the worlds,
    Yet make one human breast its passionate shrine,
    Drew him out of his seeking loneliness
    Into the magnitudes of God’s embrace.
    As when a timeless Eye annuls the hours
    Abolishing the agent and the act,
    So now his spirit shone out wide, blank, pure:
    His wakened mind became an empty slate
    On which the Universal and Sole could write.
    All that represses our fallen consciousness
    Was taken from him like a forgotten load:
    A fire that seemed the body of a god
    Consumed the limiting figures of the past
    And made large room for a new self to live.
    Eternity’s contact broke the moulds of sense.
    A greater Force than the earthly held his limbs,
    Huge workings bared his undiscovered sheaths,
    Strange energies wrought and screened tremendous hands
    Unwound the triple cord of mind and freed
    The heavenly wideness of a Godhead’s gaze.
    As through a dress the wearer’s shape is seen,
    There reached through forms to the hidden absolute
    A cosmic feeling and transcendent sight.
    Increased and heightened were the instruments.
    Illusion lost her aggrandising lens;
    As from her failing hand the measures fell,
    Atomic looked the things that loomed so large.
    The little ego’s ring could join no more;
    In the enormous spaces of the self
    The body now seemed only a wandering shell,
    His mind the many-frescoed outer court
    Of an imperishable Inhabitant:
    His spirit breathed a superhuman air.
    The imprisoned deity rent its magic fence.
    As with a sound of thunder and of seas,
    Vast barriers crashed around the huge escape.
    Immutably coeval with the world,
    Circle and end of every hope and toil
    Inexorably drawn round thought and act,
    The fixed immovable peripheries
    Effaced themselves beneath the Incarnate’s tread.
    The dire velamen and the bottomless crypt
    Between which life and thought for ever move,
    Forbidden still to cross the dim dread bounds,
    The guardian darknesses mute and formidable,
    Empowered to circumscribe the wingless spirit
    In the boundaries of Mind and Ignorance,
    Protecting no more a dual eternity
    Vanished rescinding their enormous role:
    Once figure of creation’s vain ellipse,
    The expanding zero lost its giant curve.
    The old adamantine vetoes stood no more:
    Overpowered were earth and Nature’s obsolete rule;
    The python coils of the restricting Law
    Could not restrain the swift arisen God:
    Abolished were the scripts of destiny.
    There was no small death-hunted creature more,
    No fragile form of being to preserve
    From an all-swallowing Immensity.
    The great hammer-beats of a pent-up world-heart
    Burst open the narrow dams that keep us safe
    Against the forces of the universe.
    The soul and cosmos faced as equal powers.
    A boundless being in a measureless Time
    Invaded Nature with the infinite;
    He saw unpathed, unwalled, his titan scope.

    Savitri, Book One, Canto Five, p. 80-83

    The Mantra of Liberation

    Ever his consciousness and vision grew;
    They took an ampler sweep, a loftier flight;
    He passed the border marked for Matter’s rule
    And passed the zone where thought replaces life.
    Out of this world of signs suddenly he came
    Into a silent self where world was not
    And looked beyond into a nameless vast.
    These symbol figures lost their right to live,
    All tokens dropped our sense can recognise;
    There the heart beat no more at body’s touch,
    There the eyes gazed no more on beauty’s shape.
    In rare and lucent intervals of hush
    Into a signless region he could soar
    Packed with the deep contents of formlessness
    Where world was into a single being rapt
    And all was known by the light of identity
    And Spirit was its own self-evidence.
    The Supreme’s gaze looked out through human eyes
    And saw all things and creatures as itself
    And knew all thought and word as its own voice.
    There unity is too close for search and clasp
    And love is a yearning of the One for the One,
    And beauty is a sweet difference of the Same
    And oneness is the soul of multitude.
    There all the truths unite in a single Truth,
    And all ideas rejoin Reality.
    There knowing herself by her own termless self,
    Wisdom supernal, wordless, absolute
    Sat uncompanioned in the eternal Calm,
    All-seeing, motionless, sovereign and alone.
    There knowledge needs not words to embody Idea;
    Idea, seeking a house in boundlessness,
    Weary of its homeless immortality,
    Asks not in thought’s carved brilliant cell to rest
    Whose single window’s clipped outlook on things
    Sees only a little arc of God’s vast sky.
    The boundless with the boundless there consorts;
    While there, one can be wider than the world;
    While there, one is one’s own infinity.
    His centre was no more in earthly mind;
    A power of seeing silence filled his limbs:
    Caught by a voiceless white epiphany
    Into a vision that surpasses forms,
    Into a living that surpasses life,
    He neared the still consciousness sustaining all.
    The voice that only by speech can move the mind
    Became a silent knowledge in the soul;
    The strength that only in action feels its truth
    Was lodged now in a mute omnipotent peace.
    A leisure in the labour of the worlds,
    A pause in the joy and anguish of the search
    Restored the stress of Nature to God’s calm.
    A vast unanimity ended life’s debate.
    The war of thoughts that fathers the universe,
    The clash of forces struggling to prevail
    In the tremendous shock that lights a star
    As in the building of a grain of dust,
    The grooves that turn their dumb ellipse in space
    Ploughed by the seeking of the world’s desire,
    The long regurgitations of Time’s flood,
    The torment edging the dire force of lust
    That wakes kinetic in earth’s dullard slime
    And carves a personality out of mud,
    The sorrow by which Nature’s hunger is fed,
    The oestrus which creates with fire of pain,
    The fate that punishes virtue with defeat,
    The tragedy that destroys long happiness,
    The weeping of Love, the quarrel of the Gods,
    Ceased in a truth which lives in its own light.
    His soul stood free, a witness and a king.
    Absorbed no more in the moment-ridden flux
    Where mind incessantly drifts as on a raft
    Hurried from phenomenon to phenomenon,
    He abode at rest in indivisible Time.
    As if a story long written but acted now,
    In his present he held his future and his past,
    Felt in the seconds the uncounted years
    And saw the hours like dots upon a page.
    An aspect of the unknown Reality
    Altered the meaning of the cosmic scene.
    This huge material universe became
    A small result of a stupendous force:
    Overtaking the moment the eternal Ray
    Illumined That which never yet was made.
    Thought lay down in a mighty voicelessness;
    The toiling Thinker widened and grew still,
    Wisdom transcendent touched his quivering heart:
    His soul could sail beyond thought’s luminous bar;
    Mind screened no more the shoreless infinite.
    Across a void retreating sky he glimpsed
    Through a last glimmer and drift of vanishing stars
    The superconscient realms of motionless Peace
    Where judgment ceases and the word is mute
    And the Unconceived lies pathless and alone.
    There came not form or any mounting voice;
    There only were Silence and the Absolute.
    Out of that stillness mind new-born arose
    And woke to truths once inexpressible,
    And forms appeared, dumbly significant,
    A seeing thought, a self-revealing voice.
    He knew the source from which his spirit came:
    Movement was married to the immobile Vast;
    He plunged his roots into the Infinite,
    He based his life upon eternity.

    Savitri, Book One, Canto Three, p. 31-34

    The Mantra of Purusha and Prakriti

    All here where each thing seems its lonely self
    Are figures of the sole transcendent One:
    Only by him they are, his breath is their life;
    An unseen Presence moulds the oblivious clay.
    A playmate in the mighty Mother’s game,
    One came upon the dubious whirling globe
    To hide from her pursuit in force and form.
    A secret spirit in the Inconscient’s sleep,
    A shapeless Energy, a voiceless Word,
    He was here before the elements could emerge,
    Before there was light of mind or life could breathe.
    Accomplice of her cosmic huge pretence,
    His semblances he turns to real shapes
    And makes the symbol equal with the truth:
    He gives to his timeless thoughts a form in Time.
    He is the substance, he the self of things;
    She has forged from him her works of skill and might:
    She wraps him in the magic of her moods
    And makes of his myriad truths her countless dreams.
    The Master of being has come down to her,
    An immortal child born in the fugitive years.
    In objects wrought, in the persons she conceives,
    Dreaming she chases her idea of him,
    And catches here a look and there a gest:
    Ever he repeats in them his ceaseless births.
    He is the Maker and the world he made,
    He is the vision and he is the Seer;
    He is himself the actor and the act,
    He is himself the knower and the known,
    He is himself the dreamer and the dream.
    There are Two who are One and play in many worlds;
    In Knowledge and Ignorance they have spoken and met
    And light and darkness are their eyes’ interchange;
    Our pleasure and pain are their wrestle and embrace,
    Our deeds, our hopes are intimate to their tale;
    They are married secretly in our thought and life.
    The universe is an endless masquerade:
    For nothing here is utterly what it seems;
    It is a dream-fact vision of a truth
    Which but for the dream would not be wholly true,
    A phenomenon stands out significant
    Against dim backgrounds of eternity;
    We accept its face and pass by all it means;
    A part is seen, we take it for the whole.
    Thus have they made their play with us for roles:
    Author and actor with himself as scene,
    He moves there as the Soul, as Nature she.
    Here on the earth where we must fill our parts,
    We know not how shall run the drama’s course;
    Our uttered sentences veil in their thought.
    Her mighty plan she holds back from our sight:
    She has concealed her glory and her bliss
    And disguised the Love and Wisdom in her heart;
    Of all the marvel and beauty that are hers,
    Only a darkened little we can feel.
    He too wears a diminished godhead here;
    He has forsaken his omnipotence,
    His calm he has foregone and infinity.
    He knows her only, he has forgotten himself;
    To her he abandons all to make her great.
    He hopes in her to find himself anew,
    Incarnate, wedding his infinity’s peace
    To her creative passion’s ecstasy.
    Although possessor of the earth and heavens,
    He leaves to her the cosmic management
    And watches all, the Witness of her scene.
    A supernumerary on her stage,
    He speaks no words or hides behind the wings.
    He takes birth in her world, waits on her will,
    Divines her enigmatic gesture’s sense,
    The fluctuating chance turns of her mood,
    Works out her meanings she seems not to know
    And serves her secret purpose in long Time.
    As one too great for him he worships her;
    He adores her as his regent of desire,
    He yields to her as the mover of his will,
    He burns the incense of his nights and days
    Offering his life, a splendour of sacrifice.
    A rapt solicitor for her love and grace,
    His bliss in her to him is his whole world:
    He grows through her in all his being’s powers;
    He reads by her God’s hidden aim in things.
    Or, a courtier in her countless retinue,
    Content to be with her and feel her near
    He makes the most of the little that she gives
    And all she does drapes with his own delight.
    A glance can make his whole day wonderful,
    A word from her lips with happiness wings the hours.
    He leans on her for all he does and is:
    He builds on her largesses his proud fortunate days
    And trails his peacock-plumaged joy of life
    And suns in the glory of her passing smile.
    In a thousand ways he serves her royal needs;
    He makes the hours pivot around her will,
    Makes all reflect her whims; all is their play:
    This whole wide world is only he and she.

    Savitri, Book One, Canto four, p. 60-63

    (Based on a series of lectures on Yoga Sutra, Yoga Mantra, and Yoga Tantra presented in 2012.)


    An Introduction to Savitri


    A video series workshop by Rod Hemsell
    An Introduction to Sri Aurobindo’s mantric poem Savitri in five parts, by Rod Hemsell, recorded Feb. 24, 2013.

    Part 1 - "Evolutionary spirituality" Sri Aurobindo’s yoga of transformation, beyond liberation

    Part 2 - "Vedic structure" Sri Aurobindo’s source of inspiration for Savitri in the Rig Veda

    Part 3 - "Mantra and quantitative meter" Sri Aurobindo’s technique of mantric transmission in English

    Part 4 - "The divine shakti" The invocation of Savitri is a force of spiritual transformation

    Part 5 - "Supermind" The invocation of Savitri is a force of spiritual transformation



    Savitri House Solstice Celebration
    December 21, 2012

    Savitri House is hosting a Solstice event on December 21
    st, with renowned Crestone Non-Dual teacher Sharon Landrith from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM, in both Savitri House and its adjoining Solar Dome. Silent meditation will take place alternately in both spaces, depending on weather, ending at 6:00 PM with a potluck dinner. For all those wishing to remain for meditation after dinner, Savitri House will be open until midnight. Everyone in the community is welcome to join in this special Solstice celebration.

    What makes this event especially unique , is that Barbara Marx-Hubbard, a famous evolutionary who is deeply connected to Sri Aurobindo’s vision of humanity’s cosmic evolution, is simultaneously celebrating this event by her “Birth 2012” presentations in globally transmitted performances held in Los Angeles and Byron Bay, Australia. The focus of “Birth 2012”, as well as our mediation, is to connect with all those around the planet committed to a profound shift in consciousness – a unitive, co-responsible and heart-centered humanity serving all life and our Mother as Creation.

    We will probably be able to connect to some of these presentations via the web during the day, making our connection through partnership with Barbara’s global outreach tangible.

    For further details contact Shila at
    http://sharon-landrith.com, or call Brian Dyer at 256-6010 for specific Savitri House information.


    Workshops and Special Events
    Summer 2012

    During summer months at SALC there has been an ongoing ( since 1994 ) series of workshops devoted to the writings of Sri Aurobindo
    and the Mother. The primary area of study and learning has been through the Savitri Immersion workshops that have been led by
    Rod Hemsell.
    These workshops have explored Sri Aurobindo's epic poem,
    Savitri, and the mantra that is discovered in the voiced reading of its words.


    The Mantric Poetry of Sri Aurobindo




    An Introduction to the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the mantric poem Savitri,
    by Rod Hemsell


    is a mantric transmission of experiences of yoga written by Sri Aurobindo that—through reading aloud, mantrically—encourages purification of the mind, vital and physical by the Divine Shakti. The structure and process of Savitri belong to the traditions of Tantric Hinduism and Tantric Buddhism, with deeper roots in Raja Yoga and Rig Veda, and as such form a central aspect of Sri Aurobindo’s synthesis of yoga. It provides a vehicle for the working of the Divine Shakti in us to transform consciousness. And what are the goals of that transformation? As Sri Aurobindo says,

    The first result will not be the creation of the true supermind (vijnyana), but the organization of a predominantly or even a completely intuitive mentality sufficiently developed to take the place of the ordinary mentality and of the logical reasoning intellect of the developed human being. The most prominent change will be the transmutation of the thought heightened and filled by that substance of concentrated light, concentrated power,, concentrated joy of the light and the power (anandamaya purusa) and that direct accuracy which are the marks of a true intuitive thinking (vivek buddhi, drishti, shruti, etc).

    The original texts of Sri Aurobindo referred to in this presentation are The Synthesis of Yoga and Savitri, which may be accessed on line at: http://www.sriaurobindoashram.org/ashram/sriauro/writings.php
    Additional resources that might be of interest, by Rod Hemsell, may be found on line at universityofhumanunity.org

    The Poetry of Sri Aurobindo - Mantra, Metrics, and Meaning.
    The Philosophy of Evolution
    Evolution and the Earth
    Heidegger and Sri Aurobindo
















    For Rod’s publications see:
    The Poetry of Sri Aurobindo - Mantra, Metrics, and Meaning. http://universityofhumanunity.org/topicdetail.php?tid=6

    For further information, schedule, accommodations and directions
    call Brian Dyer 719-256-6010 or email briandyer@fairpoint.net

    Sponsored by the Sri Aurobindo Learning Center – Crestone, CO

    The complete text of Savitri .


    2011 Savitri Workshops in Crestone, CO

    For the summer of 2011 we will experience a departure from the usual Savitri Workshops as The Sri Aurobindo Learning Center
    begins its explorations into other aspects of Sri Aurobindo's and the Mother's work and teachings
    and experience some exciting and illuminating new retreats and workshops. Please come explore with us.

    P4120228_2 SolarDome1

    Integral Soundscapes Intensive
    at the
    Sri Aurobindo Learning Center
    Crestone, Colorado

    Calling all vibrational beings (yes, that’s you)!

    Tuesday, July 26th, 5PM through Sunday July 31st at noon.

    The Sri Aurobindo Learning Center is hosting a potent retreat experience during the last week of July called an Integral Soundscapes Intensive. We have some talented people who will guide our exploration of sound/vibration, including Leigh Ann Phillips and her incredible crystal bowls, Jillian Klarl Ellzey leading a powerful practice called Yoga of the Voice, as well as kirtan; and renowned artist Marika Popovitz exploring the sound of color. Other planned activities include the yoga mantra of Savitri, sounding with instruments, listening to Nature, the sound of silence, Qi Gong & breathing, feeling into the vibrational qualities of food and variously treated water, and a full moon Chi practice and moonwalk at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

    The intention for this gathering is a kind of research – a deep and potent exploration and discovery of the impacts of sound and vibration, both audible and subtle. We ask you to bring a journal to record your experiences, as well as any instruments you want to add to the soundscape.

    In order to concentrate attention, we will remain in silence from 6AM to 6 PM each day, except for presenters and any focused inquiry or sounding that is evoked by them.

    Timing: Tuesday, July 26th, 5PM through Sunday July 31st at noon.

    Accommodation: Limited housing options are available at the Center (call for details) and there is camping and many B&B’s in the area. We will do our best to help you find a suitable arrangement

    Cost: $235 includes all meals (vegetarian) from Tuesday dinner to Sunday breakfast. There will be a small additional fee for art supplies.

    The number of participants will be limited, so reserve your space soon!
    A $50 deposit will hold your space, and is fully refundable through July 15
    th 2011.
    Please let us know about any dietary restrictions when you register.

    For more information or to register:
    Phone: 719-256-4917
    Snail mail: SALC, PO Box 88,
    Crestone, CO 81131
    Website: www.sriaurobindolc.org


    Savitri Immersion Workshops – 2010
    The third in a series of three workshops at the Sri Aurobindo Learning Center finished on August 15
    th, the birthday of Sri Aurobindo and also the anniversary of Indian Independence, celebrated as Seyril, founder of the center, would have liked best – with a feast and a cake. One of the secret highlights of the sessions was in fact the exceptional quality of the food, prepared daily and often spontaneously by a talented assortment of participants from all over: India, France, California, Canada, Kentucky, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas… the spiritual footprint of Crestone is still growing!

    Summer workshop 2009

    August 2009 workshop participants in front of Solar Mediation Dome

    Although these Savitri retreats have been happening annually since the early nineties, usually in August, this is the first time that we have held three in one summer, and this has had the advantage - surely be appreciated by other centers and teachers - of allowing us to be exposed to a more thorough, in-depth treatment of the vision and yoga-teaching of Sri Aurobindo. The full intention of his teaching could be grasped better like this, to an extent often not possible for students even after many years of study, because of both the scope and intensity implied by the persistent exposure to a mantric transmission, renewed monthly, and assimilated over a period of several weeks by many participants. The purpose was not only for the participants to be brought face to face with the intention of Sri Aurobindo’s yoga of transformation, but also to make the real purpose of “Savitri” – as a mantric invocation of the divine Word - easily accessible and effective for new students as well as long-time devotees.
    The process was generally spontaneous, harmonious and fun, as it turned out, with opportunities for self expression through music, dance and painting, as well as cooking, in addition to deep meditation. Frequent references to parallels between the yoga of Savitri and other schools and practices of Buddhism and Hinduism were pleasantly reinforced by visits to the
    Haidakhandi Universal Ashram, the Tashi Gomang Stupa, and Dragon Mountain Zen Center. And a bonus, appreciated by many in the community, were the extra activities provided by visiting Aurovilians – Aurelio’s Om Choir, and Olivier’s dance workshop and his presentation of an alternative economic structure. Participation by friends from Auromesa in Taos and nearby Hummingbird Ranch, in New Mexico, will hopefully weld a more permanent tie between these centers and ours, strengthening the Auroville family and network in this region. Two other factors of the demographics of these workshops that were especially heartening were the increased participation by members of the local community, and the presence of three young PhD candidates from entirely different backgrounds – the former mostly graying but the latter very vibrantly headed for a wonderful future. The future is of course the focus of Sri Aurobindo’s light, and the participation of these diverse groups was one of many signs that it is definitely there, spiritually positive, and waiting on the horizon, drawing us luminously, ineluctably forward.
    Rod Hemsell
    August 2010 workshop

    Spirit and Word – An Exploration of the Poetry of Sri Aurobindo

    Crestone, Colorado, August 1-6 and 22-27, 2010

    One purpose of these workshops, and of the accompanying poetry notebook
    The Poetry of Sri Aurobindo – Mantra, Metrics and Meaning, is to explore this theory of poetry through a close reading of The Future Poetry, and to discover and experience what this poetry really means.

    When we read with the eye and filter the meaning through our highly conditioned mental instrument, we do not either hear or see the real meaning. So there must come into play another kind of reading in which rhythmic speech conveys the truth directly to the hearing and vision –
    shruti and smriti in the Sanskrit. This is the purpose of the poetic technique developed by Sri Aurobindo.

    We begin to see and feel levels of consciousness and force carried to us through mantric speech, of which we are not normally aware. And it is possible that these realities of force and consciousness can become permanent vibrational structures in us that can transform our minds and lives. The force that descends in response to the call of
    Savitri is - at the very least – an experiential demonstration of the prophetic truth of the poem itself, as stated in the line: “A few shall see what none yet understands”.

    Summer 2010 workshop trip to the Tashi Gomang Stupa.

    Spirit and Word

    Spirit, what we call spirit first manifests through sound and eventually through speech and meaning. Why do we say this, rather than something more traditional like spirit originally is breath, the finest element? The answer is because we mean by spirit essentially the truth of what is, its essence, or being. And this meaning implies the development of human consciousness, which has followed certain paths. From the most primitive or basic human sounds, or natural sounds, to the most sophisticated descriptions and theories, sound has helped us see spatially and temporally, beyond what our eyes can see in an immediate focused field. Sound guides consciousness or creates consciousness, vibrationally and through meaning, that covers a vaster field of space and time than the other senses can perceive.

    It is therefore through sound, and especially the expression of speech and language, that we become aware of the connectedness of things in time and space, and eventually of logic, truth, logos. It is a matter of metaphysical speculation, or perhaps occult vision, whether sound or logos was prior to human intelligence or even to cosmic manifestation. But in any case, we can be sure that it has been instrumental in forming our mental conceptions of things and our ability to communicate our understanding in very precise ways.

    The problem of course as recognized by spiritual seers for millennia, and as explored fully by the science of phenomenology is that what we see and express as our understanding is largely an illusion because our mental, conceptual, representative understanding of things is only partial, limited by our perceptions, our conditioning, our intelligence. The real truth of things is vaster, more complex, more powerful. And at this point of our development and realization we can grasp these inherent limitations of mind and its expressions. Phenomenology identifies our constrained, conceptual and impressionistic way of understanding things with the term enframing. But of course human beings have also discovered higher forms of expression through music and mantric speech, which can go beyond the framework of mental understanding if one has the vision and power. This is what we are exploring with Savitri.

    According to Sri Aurobindo, no age of human development has been so far from understanding this higher potentiality of language and expression than ours, and yet he devoted much of his life to changing this situation. His teaching says that thought is prior to language and not dependent on it. And higher than thought is the Real Idea or Truth-Consciousness, which all our sense faculties have been evolved to perceive and express. In other words, sight and hearing and thought and speech are created by Consciousness, and not the other way around. Therefore, he says, it is possible to rise above mind and its instrumentations into realms of pure thought and Truth, and to use the evolved instruments of mind and speech to convey Reality itself the being of things. This is the potentiality of mantric speech.

    One purpose of this workshop, and of the poetry notebook which explores this theory through a close reading of The Future Poetry, is for us to come to a direct understanding and experience of what this means. And since Sri Aurobindo has developed the technique of mantric poetry to convey the reality of spiritual consciousness and the inner reality of all the planes of manifestation and all their outer forms and experiences, we should be initiated by it into a consciousness of these things that are beyond our normal mental understanding. We should become capable of a more direct vision of the truth of things especially spiritual things, but also all kinds of things themselves. Sri Aurobindo points out that he is using mantric poetry and the epic form not only to convey the realty of gods and higher spiritual truth, which has been the case in the past, but also to convey the inner truth and reality of man and nature and life and the material creation.

    Now, he has explained that the technique he has developed for achieving this is primarily based on sound and rhythm. Therefore, he says, the eye cant get it. When we read with the eye and filter the meaning through our highly conditioned mental instrument, we do not either hear or see the real meaning. So there must come into play another kind of reading in which rhythmic speech conveys the truth directly to the hearing and vision shruti and smriti in the Sanskrit.

    Our next purpose, and also Sri Aurobindos purpose in writing this poetry, is to become conscious of higher planes of truth and force and how they can be brought down into mind and life to transform them. That is the aim of Integral Yoga and Savitri is the revelation and teaching of that path. Therefore we begin to see and feel levels of consciousness and force carried to us through this rhythmic speech, of which we are not normally aware. And it is possible that these realities of force and consciousness can become permanent vibrational structures in us that can transform our minds and lives. The force that descends here in response to the call of Savitri is at the very least a demonstration of the prophetic truth of Savitri itself, for example in such lines as: A few shall see what none yet understands

    We do not really understand, nor do we need to understand what is happening here, in the conventional sense. We need only to see the reality of it and associate ourselves with its truth and force in order to be on this path of transformation.

    Rod Hemsell
    July 2009

    For more Immersion and workshop photos click on