Absolute, Perfect, Alone

Let’s look at this passage referenced in Savitri In-Between:

The Absolute, the Perfect, the Alone
Has called out of the Silence his mute Force
Where she lay in the featureless and formless hush
Guarding from Time by her immobile sleep
The ineffable puissance of his solitude.

The Absolute, the Perfect, the Alone
Has entered with his silence into space:
He has fashioned these countless persons of one self;
He lives in all, who lived in his Vast alone;
Space is himself and Time is only he.

The Absolute, the Perfect, the Immune,
One who is in us as our secret self,
Our mask of imperfection he has assumed,
He has made this tenement of flesh his own,
His image in the human measure cast
That to his divine measure we might rise;
Then in a figure of divinity
The Maker shall recast us and impose
A plan of godhead on the mortal’s mould
Lifting our finite minds to his infinite,
Touching the moment with eternity.

This transfiguration is earth’s due to heaven:
A mutual debt binds man to the Supreme:
His nature we must put on as he put ours;
We are sons of God and must be even as he:
His human portion, we must grow divine.

Our life is a paradox with God for key.

It scans and chants so, in fourteen beats per line (shown in seven beat halves):

1       2       3       4       5       6       7
The_    A^b     so_     lu_te,  ~       the_    Pe^r
fe_ct,  ~       the_    A_      lo^ne   ~       ~
Ha_s    ca^lled ou^t    ~       ~       o_f     the_
Si^     le_nce  ~       hi_s    mu^te   Fo^rce  ~
Whe_re  she_    lay^    ~       i_n     the_    fea^
tu_re   le_ss   ~       a_nd    fo^rm   le_ss   hu^sh
Gua^r   di_ng   ~       fro_m   Ti^me   ~       by_
he_r    i^m     mo_     bi^le   ~       slee^p  ~
The’i_n e^ff    a_b     le_     pui^    ssa_nce ~
o_f     hi_s    so^     li_     tu_de.  ~       ~

The_    A^b     so_     lu_te,  ~       the_    Pe^r
fe_ct,  ~       the_    A_      lo^ne   ~       ~
Ha_s    e^n     te_red  ~       wi_th   hi_s    si^
le_nce  ~       i_n     to_     spa^ce: ~       ~
He_     ha_s    fa^     shio_nedthe_se  cou^nt  le_ss
pe^r    so_ns   ~       o_f     o^ne    se^lf;  ~
He_     li^ves  i_n     a^ll,   ~       who_    li^ved
i_n     hi_s    Va^st   ~       a_      lo^ne;  ~
Spa^ce  ~       i_s     hi_m    se^lf   ~       a_nd
Ti^me   ~       i_s     o^n     ly_     he^.    ~ 
The_    A^b     so_     lu_te,  ~       the_    Pe^r
fe_ct,  ~       the_    I^m     mu_ne,  ~       ~
O^ne    ~       who_    i_s     i_n     u^s     ~
a_s     ou^r    ~       se^c    re_t    se^lf,  ~
Ou_r    ma^sk   ~       o_f     i^m     pe_r    fe^c
tio_n   ~       he_     ha_s    a_s     su^med, ~
He_     ha_s    ma^de   ~       thi_s   te^     ne_
me_nt   o_f     fle^sh  ~       hi_s    ow^n,   ~
Hi_s    i^m     a_ge    ~       i_n     the_    hu^
ma_n    mea^    su_re   ~       ca^st   ~       ~
Tha_t   to_     hi^s    di_     vi^ne   mea^    su_re
~       we^     ~       mi_ght  ri^se;  ~       ~
The_n   ~       i_n     a_      fi^     gu_re   ~
o_f     di_     vi^     ni_     ty_      ~       ~
The_    Ma^     ke_r    ~       sha_ll  re_     ca^st
u_s     ~       ~       a_nd    i_m     po^se   ~
A_      pla^n   ~       o_f     go^d    hea_d   ~
o_n     the_    mo^r    ta_l’s  mou^ld  ~       ~
Li^f    ti_ng   ~       ou_r    fi^     ni^te   mi^nds
~       to_     hi_s    i_n     fi^     ni_te,  ~
Tou^    chi_ng  ~       the_    mo^     me_nt   ~
wi_th   e_t     e^r     ni_     ty_.     ~       ~

Thi_s   tra^ns  fi_     gu_     ra^     tio_n   ~
i_s     ea^rth’sdue^    ~       to_     hea^    ve_n:
A_      mu^     tu_     a_l     de^bt   ~       bi^nds
ma^n    ~       to_     the_    Su_     pre^me: ~
Hi_s    na^     tu_re   ~       we_     mu_st   pu_t
o^n     ~       a_s     he^     pu_t    ou^rs;  ~
We_     a_re    so^ns   ~       o_f     Go^d    ~
a_nd    mu^st   be_     e^v     e_n     a_s     he^:
Hi_s    hu^     ma_n    po^r    tio_n,  ~       we_
mu_st   grow^   ~       di_     vi^ne.  ~       ~

Ou_r    li^fe   ~       i_s     a_      pa^     ra_
do_x    wi_th   Go^d    ~       fo_r    ke^y.   ~

Here’s a chanting at 6s per line.


29 thoughts on “Absolute, Perfect, Alone

  1. This is excellent, but the absoluteness of the power which is there in the text somewhat becomes feeble in the song-mood. There is a kind of affirmative insistent spirituality which also must get reflected in the rendering. Possibly one may have to be selective in terms of passages that can come in the mode of P-C-S. Yet I like and breathe in this the quiet calm that is there in the original, the Shanta Rasa which is the base Rasa of Savitri.

  2. Is the loss of strength due to pauses and elongations or due to the length (period) of each line or something else?

    I’ll try the same section at a different period, perhaps 4s or 5s, and we can see how that feels.

    How would you read this section? Audio sample will be great – in fact, it’d be great to hear other readers as well.

  3. Here’s a simple reading that roughly follows the pauses and elongations given above, but doesn’t constrain the lines to the same duration for each.

  4. So, gentle readers, which version do you prefer?

    As for myself, I like the 6s version the most, followed by the simple reading and finally the 4s version.

  5. It will be absolutely fantastic to hear this passage in Nirod, Amal, Udar voices – please let me know the links as soon as you have them.

  6. The Absolute, the Perfect, the Alone
    Has called out of the Silence his mute Force
    Where she lay in the featureless and formless hush
    Guarding from Time by her immobile sleep
    The ineffable puissance of his solitude.

    The opening passage of Savitri speaks of “the first and the last Nothingness”. Here are the two Great Nothingnesses, two Cyphers, the Bright Cypher and the Dark Cypher, the two extreme Indeterminates. The word “cypher” itself has its etymological origin in “śubhra”, which in Sanskrit means shining, bright, radiant, or white as colour. At the same time, it is kind of an all-potent Blank, with no measure to define it, no quality to describe it, that which cannot be even called infinity and eternity which themselves are aspects of a manifestation. Yet the last Nothingness is a derivative Nothingness whose origin is the first Nothingness. When the first Nothingness empties itself out fully then can arise the last Nothingness. This is the original Avyakta or the Non-Manifest, that which has not expressed itself in any way, the omnipotencies held back within itself. But when an urge arises in it, when there is the Wish, icchā, or Desire, kāma, when it wills, makes a samkalpa, then can there be a manifestation. One result of this could be the appearance of the last Nothingness, the Unmanifest, a Void seeded with newer possibilities which can continuously grow, making it in a certain sense richer than the first Non-Manifest; it might be a long and painful process worked out in the unfolding process of time but it has the joy of being multitudinously wide.

    In the present passage the description is about the first Nothingness,—the Absolute, the Perfect, the Alone. This Absolute is at once the Perfect and the Alone, the sense as if being conveyed to our perception by three qualities. In its perfection is absoluteness as much as the absoluteness having in it perfection of the perfect; there is nothing else needed to complete it, and therefore it is singular also: it is Alone, it alone is. The three are but one elucidation, this Absolute which is the Perfect which is the Alone holding in it the Power to express itself. That Power is inherent in its absoluteness, in its perfection, in its aloneness. When that Power emerges, that Shakti of his, inherent in him, the work of manifestation could then become possible. He wills; she then makes it manifest. In fact she becomes the executive chief of all activities.

    We have thus the fourth term in the description of the Non-Manifest: the Absolute, the Perfect, the Alone, and the Force. This one, as though fourfold, is the source of all manifestation. It is its Womb. We could very well call this as the Womb of the Spirit. The emergence of the Spirit again is in its fourfold aspect: Existence-Consciousness-Bliss-Knowledge, Sat-Chit-Ananda-Vijnan, Vijnan or Supermind being that faculty of this Fourfold by which it knows what it itself is. It is by the Supermind Sachchidananda knows itself as Sachchidanada. This Fourfold, Sat-Chit-Ananda-Vijnan, is the first Manifestation of the Non-Manifest, of the Avyakta. If we are to call this Fourfold,—the Absolute, the Perfect, the Alone, and the Force,—as the Origin of All, simply as the Absolute, and Sat-Chit-Ananda-Vijnan as the Spirit or Brahman, then the Absolute is the Womb of the Brahman, it is Brahmayoni, in it the Brahman is conceived and it is from it that it emerges. There is the significant mention of Brahmayoni in the Mundaka Upanishad; the translation of the relevant passage by Sri Aurobindo is as follows:

    Two birds, beautiful of wings, close companions, cling to one common tree: of the two one eats the sweet fruit of the tree, the other eats not but watches his fellow. The soul is the bird that sits immersed on the common tree; but because he is not lord he is bewildered and has sorrow. But when he sees that other who is the Lord and the beloved, he knows that all is His greatness and his sorrow passes away from him. When, a seer, he sees the Golden-hued, the maker, the Lord, the Spirit who is the source of Brahman, then he becomes the knower and shake from his wings sin and virtue; pure of all stain he reaches the supreme identity.

    In this translation Sri Aurobindo also reveals esoteric contents of the original verses. The Sanskrit compound brahmayoni admits two alternative meanings, both perfectly valid: Brahman is the Womb or Source of the Spirit; or else the Spirit is the Womb or Source from which comes Brahman. In contrast to Shankara, Sri Aurobindo fixes the second alternative to be appropriate, the Spirit as the Source of everything, including the Brahman. This makes Purusha, the Lord, the Spirit more fundamental; from it issues out this entire manifestation. It must be recognized that the movement is now turning towards the cosmic manifestation. But more fundamental is the Absolute from which the Spirit-Brahman comes. Surely, then, Sri Aurobindo does not have to say Brahman to be the source of inferior Brahman, rending it eventually illusory. It would also dismiss the Tagorean sense of Reality revealed in our imaginative and emotional build-up. Although the Upanishad is finally leading us on the Path of Renunciation, Sannyasa Yoga, taking us to the City of Brahman, Brahma-Puri or Brahma-Dhama or Brahma-Loka, the sense of all this magnificent universe, viśvam˙ idam˙ varişţham, as Brahman immortal and naught else is emphatically asserted, asserted without any ambiguity; it is this Brahman which “stretches everywhere”, stretches downward. It is in its wide effulgence that all is effulgent. We could discern three stages: the Absolute, the Sachchidanandaic Brahman or the Transcendental, and in it the Brahman poised for cosmic manifestation.

    If we have to speak from a metaphysical point of view, it is clear that the present passage is heavily loaded with it. One then wonders to what extent it can be set to any musical recitation. the timbre and the pitch are of a different type. This needs to be re-looked into.

  7. How do you suggest it should be recited? May be we can look at the Nirod-Amal-Udar recitations when the links are up. The rhythmic with 4s period is too compressed for this passage, imo. The non-rhythmic can be direct. The rhythmic at 6s period carries the movement well, but the inter-sentence gap of a full measure is rather long.

  8. Take the following line:

    I am, I love, I see, I act, I will. ||137.127||

    It is a perfect monosyllabic pentametric line with all feet as iambs. Now, you can stretch out each foot and make it a song, stretch out as much as you like, 4 s, 6 s, 10 s … and these may sound acceptable too. But in all of them the yogic force of the assertive kind which is there in the line would get enfeebled. Deliberate forceful pauses after each foot have the hammer-stroke effect to drive home the assertion. In fact it is a mantric line with sharp and quick accentuation on the “tum”part of the “ti-tum” iambic movement. The metrical and the musical aspects need to be separately seen and the study carried forward in the origin of their sound-source.

  9. Take, for instance, the following two sentences I’d mentioned in another context. Perhaps these will lend themselves more easily to musical recitation.

    Earth nursed, unconscious still, the inhabiting flame,

    Yet something deeply stirred and dimly knew;

    There was a movement and a passionate call,

    A rainbow dream, a hope of golden change;

    Some secret wing of expectation beat,

    A growing sense of something new and rare

    And beautiful stole across the heart of Time. ||97.2||

    There expectation beat wide sudden wings,

    As if a soul had looked out from earth’s face

    And all that was in her felt a coming change

    And forgetting obvious joys and common dreams,

    Obedient to Time’s call and the spirit’s fate,

    Were lifted to a beauty calm and pure

    That lived under the eyes of Eternity. ||101.4||

    You will notice the difference between these and the Absolute-passage. Maybe you would like to try. We can then add further variations.

  10. By Aditi in response to RY Deshpande:
    My god this is like being led to the very verge of Brahmapuri. Here is one of the highest experiences of entering into the Source of Creation.
    A very favorite passage, here Sri Aurobindo in the refrain puts Immune in place of the Alone.
    Here is the essence of All Knowlege.
    Like the choric song in Greek plays, we shall need to work out a tune, tone n tenor in group singing n magnificent chamber music or a rising crescendo of organ music. That’s how I visualize it.
    Your expansion of this passage makes it ocean vast. The Vijyan (Supermind) makes the All-Supreme aware of itself.
    Your comment needs to be read over n over again to get even a little sense of that Brihat which underlies, overlies, is the Source n the Goal of all Existence.
    Let it seep in us, then a fine musical form will emerge n appear from our inner ears.
    This passage takes the mind to dizzy heights and throws the little heart into raptures, welling tears as a humble offering.
    I shall work with my rich voiced Pupils n creatively inspired music teachers.
    Thanks sincerely.

  11. My interest was essentially on that single line: I am, I love, I see, I act, I will. ||137.127|| When read contextually it appears weak. Contextually, this is a dramatic passage and the presentation could tend to be epic-dramatic—narrative and debatal. It is a line which comes from one invisible infinity, stands in front of us for a while, and disappears into another invisible infinity. Imagine a huge luminous canvas of velvet hush and on it golden letters calligraphed in the boldness of utterance. That is my visualisation of it. It should seem to descend from the blue-gold sky of spiritual truth and love and action. …

  12. I don’t know if I would like it to drift, say, towards Kate Smith’s God Bless America which is wonderful but belonging to another greatness.

  13. It may appear somewhat tangential, which it is, but is not altogether irrelevant; explaining it would need an elaborate thesis, and for the time being I would leave it as it is. It is essentially a question of perception.

  14. The God Bless America video seems like an institutional patriotic propaganda, probably to garner support for war. What is needed is a setting for revelation and dynamic action. I’ll leave it at that for Aditi and her rich-voiced pupils …

  15. I’ll go by the song and presentation that are professionally commendable; other aspects need not come in our considerations. There is something remarkable in its rendering, and that kind of produces a benchmark for taking things forward.

  16. I have heard of an alternative etymology of cypher – came from the Arabic sifr which came from sifara which means to be empty.
    The semitic and Proto Indo-European languages are two different families, so I would not try to fit a sifr in the Sanskrit vocabulary.
    there is a synonym in english which means a secret code. Could have been derived from the fact that a zero reveals nothing, same as a riddle. In a sense this latter meaning of the potent ( and inscrutable) Nothingness makes sense.

    As for chanting Savitri, Rod Hemsell has been doing it and conducting retreats. His style is forceful intonation of the words in a sort of monotone. The volume is very high and perhaps that is why not all chapters render themselves well in this style. He reads the Book of Yoga most often. He says mantric poetry needs to be read powerfully to transmit its potency.

    As for me I believe there could be several methods of readings Savitri and the same passage reveals itself differently to us depending on our receptivity ( can also be called mood )

  17. About cipher: historically it is a well known fact that the Indian shunya, shubhra, pujya, zero travelled through the glorious Abbasid period of Arab civilisation to Europe. Check some details here:


    The word zero came via French zéro from Venetian zero, which (together with cypher) came via Italian zefiro from Arabic صفر, ṣafira = “it was empty”, ṣifr = “zero”, “nothing”. This was a translation of the Sanskrit word shoonya (śūnya), meaning “empty”. The first known English use was in 1598.[4][5][6][7]

    In 976 CE the Persian encyclopedist Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Khwarizmi, in his “Keys of the Sciences”, remarked that if, in a calculation, no number appears in the place of tens, then a little circle should be used “to keep the rows”. This circle was called صفر (ṣifr, “empty”) in Arabic language. That was the earliest mention of the name ṣifr that eventually became zero.[8]

    Italian zefiro already meant “west wind” from Latin and Greek zephyrus; this may have influenced the spelling when transcribing Arabic ṣifr.[9] The Italian mathematician Fibonacci (c.1170–1250), who grew up in North Africa and is credited with introducing the decimal system to Europe, used the term zephyrum. This became zefiro in Italian, which was contracted to zero in Venetian.

    As the decimal zero and its new mathematics spread from the Arab world to Europe in the Middle Ages, words derived from ṣifr and zephyrus came to refer to calculation, as well as to privileged knowledge and secret codes. According to Ifrah, “in thirteenth-century Paris, a ‘worthless fellow’ was called a ‘… cifre en algorisme’, i.e., an ‘arithmetical nothing’.”[9] From ṣifr also came French chiffre = “digit”, “figure”, “number”, chiffrer = “to calculate or compute”, chiffré = “encrypted”. Today, the word in Arabic is still ṣifr, and cognates of ṣifr are common in the languages of Europe and southwest Asia.

  18. Here’s a link to Rod Hemsell’s talks: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCC8vcdVCLaxX2eZVl25-wOA. The third one is on meter. At 0:10 and 5:30 he recites some lines, and modulo inter-line pauses, they take roughly 6s per line. I have gone by the sound to insert intra-line pauses, whereas he goes by meaningful phrases. With sound, you get the meaning-phrase pauses plus you get a few more depending on the nature of sound within the phrase as well.

  19. Thank you for this treat! It’s a naturally spoken, stressed metrical cadence. A simple measurement gives the line durations as approximately: 6s, 5.6s, 6.5s, 5.5s, 5.8s, 5.5s, 6s, 5.6s, 6.1s, 6.1s, 6.2s, 5.3s, 4.1s, 4.7s, 4.1s, 7s, 7.7s, 5.6s, 5.0s, 5.1s, 6.2s, 5.2s, 5.1s, 5.8s, 5.6s, 7.7s – so no specific rhythmic pattern.

  20. Yes, it’s an accented metrical recitation, with an average of 6 s per line; it is perhaps there for any normal hearable reading. I’d say that’s how Sri Aurobindo would have dictated or read this poetry. But it is the depth of sound that counts, the occult-spiritual of it. Even while you hear it in the quiet you see colours associated with it, sight and sound going together in the luminosity and hush of the substance.

    If you can put an mp3 of this passage alone it might be useful for the reader to go along with the text.

  21. You say “dictated or read”. But isn’t there a difference? He must have dictated to make clear the words, punctuations, etc., along with the pauses to let the scribe write it down. But he might have read differently, to himself or in silence, for the rhythm.

  22. At one time Sri Aurobindo would read the passages he wrote the previous night to the Mother. She has said that those were exactly the experiences she had that night. The question of reading the passages or lines to Nirodbaran would not arise; he was dictating new composition to him, also making changes in the earlier with new inspiration where there could have been a possibility of uttering the full line or a few lines. Savitri-passages read out to the Mother belong to the composition in the second half of the 1930s; dictation started more or less from 1944 onward

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