n this book the reader will discover an extract from Kalidasa's epic, Kumarasambhava. In the canto presented here, the poet describes the great tapasya of Parvati.
"Tapasya" so often wrongly translated as "penance" was one of the greatest instruments used by ancient seekers of Truth. As Sri Aurobindo says, it implies "a fierce and strong effort of all the human powers towards any given end". In this case, an extreme tapasya is undertaken by Parvati herself, in order to awaken Shiva from his trance.
Tapasya includes three stages. Firstly, one clearly sees and comprehends that a sacrifice is necessary to achieve one's object. Secondly, one determines to give oneself in sacrifice: integral self-giving, concentration of the will, and gathering of all the different parts of the being around one's purpose are included in this stage. When this is achieved, the desired object is finally attained and the tapaswin or tapaswini experiences a feeling of renewed energy, inner fulfilment and harmony.
The book looks at this key-element in ancient Indian culture, and how it could be seen and described through the eyes of a great artist.
The task of preparing teaching-learning material for value-oriented education is enormous.
There is, first, the idea that value-oriented education should be exploratory rather than prescriptive, and that the teaching-learning material should provide to the learners a growing experience of exploration.
Secondly, it is rightly contended that the proper inspiration to turn to value-orientation is provided by biographies, autobiographical accounts, personal anecdotes, epistles, short poems, stories of humour, stories of human interest, brief passages filled with pregnant meanings, reflective short essays written in well-chiselled language, plays, powerful accounts of historical events, statements of personal experiences of values in actual situations of life, and similar other statements of scientific, philosophical, artistic and literary expression.
Thirdly, we may take into account the contemporary fact that the entire world is moving rapidly towards the synthesis of the East and the West, and in that context, it seems obvious that our teaching-learning material should foster the gradual familiarisation of students with global themes of universal significance as also those that underline the importance of diversity in unity. This implies that the material should bring the students nearer to their cultural heritage, but also to the highest that is available in the cultural experiences of the world at large.
Fourthly, an attempt should be made to select from Indian and world history such examples that could illustrate the theme of the upward progress of humankind. The selected research material could be multi-sided, and it should be presented in such a way that teachers can make use of it in the manner and in the context that they need in specific situations that might obtain or that can be created in respect of the students.
The research team at the Sri Aurobindo International Institute of Educational Research (SATTER) has attempted the creation of the relevant teaching-learning material, and they have decided to present the same in the form of monographs. The total number of these monographs will be around eighty to eighty-five.
It appears that there are three major powers that uplift life to higher and higher normative levels, and the value of these powers, if well illustrated, could be effectively conveyed to the learners for their upliftment. These powers are those of illumination, heroism and harmony.
It may be useful to explore the meanings of these terms -illumination, heroism and harmony - since the aim of these monographs is to provide material for a study-of what is sought to be conveyed through these three terms. We offer here exploratory statements in regard to these three terms.
Illumination is that ignition of inner light in which meaning and value of substance and life-movement are seized, understood, comprehended, held, and possessed, stimulating and inspiring guided action and application and creativity culminating in joy, delight, even ecstasy. The width, depth and height of the light and vision determine the degrees of illumination, and when they reach the splendour and glory of synthesis and harmony, illumination ripens into wisdom. Wisdom, too, has varying degrees that can uncover powers of knowledge and action, which reveal unsuspected secrets and unimagined skills of art and craft of creativity and effectiveness.
She wanted the impossible.
Her aim was nothing less than to win the heart of the supreme ascetic, silent and motionless in his abode of ice and snow. The great Shiva clothed in ashes, whom neither desire nor grief can touch, whose meditation is- like Infinity contemplating Infinity, by whom worlds are created and worlds are destroyed, who can immobilise the raging Ganges streams in his matted locks and bear in his throat the fire of the primordial poison - on that god, Parvati, the lovely daughter of Himalaya, had set her eyes. This was not for the first time. She had been his from the beginning of time, in other lives, under other names. But in this birth as daughter of the Rocs, Shailaja, she once again had to seek Him and awaken his love and be recognised by Him as a part of Himself.
She had grown up on the slopes of the Himalaya; she had heard the music of the wind blowing in the hollow bamboos like a heavenly voice; as a child she had played on the sandy banks of the Ganges and wandered freely in the fragrant cedar woods. She was filled with the wonders and delight and vivaciousness of Nature. As for Him, somewhere on a high peak lost in whiteness, seated on a tiger's skin, He was immersed in trance, eyes closed. The dark mass of his matted hair rose upward and in the strange moonlight that streamed from his brow, one could distinguish the gleaming of a snake that tied up the hair like a thread. She was beautiful as a lotus blooming under the sun; her gait was as graceful as if swans had been her dance masters. She had approached Him and placed flowers at His feet - but He had not paid any attention. Beauty did not move Him. And neither did passion: Kama, the god of Desire, whose arrows succeed even where Indra's lightning bolt fails, had made Spring appear miraculously in this inhuman solitude; he had made trees suddenly blossom and birds sing; under his influence the elephant-cow drew closer to her bull and lovingly offered him a mouthful of water; the antelope approaching his doe fondly scratched her with his horn while she closed her eyes in pleasure; even the old sages of the mountain were hardly able to prevent sensuous images from entering their minds; but when Kama had been ready to shoot his arrow of mango-buds at Shiva's heart, a blazing fire had flown out of the third eye of the great God, angry to be disturbed in his meditation. Only ashes were left where the god of Desire had stood.
Not by desire indeed was Shiva's love to be won. He, who is "a-roopa-haarya", cannot be vanquished by beauty. Parvati understood then that she had to go beyond beauty, beyond desire, beyond love. She had to throw something more at His feet. The thing that she willed so passionately, union with Shiva, she had to will it even more; she had to make every part of her being, all recesses of her body, heart and mind will it even more intensely; she had to concentrate all her will, gather all her energies and capacities and focus them on this sole purpose. All other preoccupations had to be discarded. For His sake she must be ready to ignore social conventions and brave the reprobation of the world. Her body had to forget all needs or enjoyments, her mind reject all thoughts, her hearts abandon all attachments. Only the need for Shiva, the thought of Shiva, the love for Shiva should exist. In a bold effort she must refuse to be anything else than an intense flame burning only for Shiva.
So for the love of Shiva, the Lord of Tapas, Parvati resolved to undertake a great tapasya. The word "tapasya" so significantly derived from the root tap, to heat, is sometimes wrongly translated as "penance".
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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