About the Book
To awaken Shiva from his trance, all the beauty of this world took the form of a woman. Parvati is Nature, Prakriti, and from her union with the Eternal Purusha, a being is to be born who will defeat evil. Parvati is the soul of us all, human beings searching for God. He is destined to met Him and unite with Him. Yet for attaining Him, whom Kama's weapon cannot touch, in a fierce effort she has herself to become the bow, stretched to the extreme, and the arrow, solely pointed at Him. Although She is the great goddess, in order to take her right place on Shiva's lap She has to give up entirely what She was. What a paradox that for conquering the supreme Soul the divine Mother must throw herself into the fire of sacrifice! Even for Her, there is a price to pay, as it were. It is why this story had been called a "supreme fable": it reveals a great secret of human life and demonstrates the nature of action.
The present monograph presents an episode of the life of the goddess as recounted by Kalidasa n his epic Kumarasambhava. The poet describes one of the greatest instruments used by ancient Indian seekers in their quest, the method of Tapasya, here undertaken by Parvati herself for the sake of love. Tapasya can be said to include three stage. 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 tapaswini or tapaswini experiences a feeling of renewed energy, inner fulfillment and harmony. He or she plunges into great depths of joy and ecstasy. This monograph is aimed at presenting 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, auto- biographical 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 (SAIlER) 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 upliftrnent. 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.
Heroism is, essentially, inspired force and self-giving and sacrifice in the operations of will that is applied to the quest, realisation and triumph of meaning and value against the resistance of limitations and obstacles by means of courage, battle and adventure. There are degrees and heights of heroism deter- mined by the intensity, persistence and vastness of sacrifice. Heroism attains the highest states of greatness and refinement when it is guided by the highest wisdom and inspired by the sense of service to the ends of justice and harmony, as well as when tasks are executed with consummate skill.
Harmony is a progressive state and action of synthesis and equilibrium generated by the creative force of joy and beauty and delight that combines and unites knowledge and peace and stability with will and action and growth and development. Without harmony, there is no perfection, even though there could be maximisation of one or more elements of our nature. When illumination and heroism join and engender relations of mutuality and unity, each is perfected by the other and creativity is endless.
This present monograph is entitled Parvati's Tapasya. It presents an episode of the life of the goddess as recounted by Kalidasa in his epic Kumarasambhava. The great poet describes one of the greatest instruments used by ancient Indian seekers in their quest, the method of tapasya, here undertaken by Parvati herself for the sake of love. Tapasya can be said to include 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. He or she plunges into great depths of joy and ecstasy. This monograph is aimed at presenting this key-element in ancient Indian culture, and how it could be seen and described through the eyes of a great artist.
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 Roes, Shaila-ja, 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.
Then Parvati understood that she had to go beyond beauty, beyond desire, beyond love. She had to throw at His feet some- thing more. 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 heart 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.
Thus for the love of Shiva, the Lord of Tapas, did Parvati resolve to undertake a great tapasya. The word tapasya so significantly derived from the root tap, to heat, is sometimes wrongly translated as ''penance''. But as Sri Aurobindo says, it implies "a fierce and strong effort of all the human powers towards any given end", the end being, in this case, Shiva's love. Tapasya means a tremendous concentration of the will "which sets the whole being in a flame, masses all the faculties in close ranks and hurls them furiously on a single objective." It is true that ancient Indians thought that this could be done most effectively by making the mind the master of the body and, in the course of time, the word came to be confined to the sense of ascetic practices having this object. It is also true that given the tendency of the ancient Indian mind to follow each pursuit of life to its farthest point and to sound its utmost possibilities, many were those who in later days sought the Eternal through extreme physical austerities (such as the dwelling between five fires), but one should not lose sight of the original meaning of tapasya, which was "concentration of the will", - a concentration so intense that it produced heat - heat, that is to say energy, force.
To awaken Shiva from his trance, all the beauty of this world, the need and aspiration of this earth took the form of a woman. Parvati is Nature, Prakriti, and from her union with the Eternal Purusba, a being will be born who will defeat evil. She is the soul of us all searching for God. She is destined to meet Him and unite with Him. Yet, for attaining Him, whom Kama's weapon could not touch, in a fierce effort she has herself to become the bow, stretched to the extreme, and the arrow, solely pointed at Him. Although she is the great goddess, in order to take her right place on Shiva's lap she has to give up entirely what she was . What a paradox that for conquering the supreme Soul the divine Mother must throw herself into the fire of sacrifice! Even for her, there was a price to pay, as it were. Thus this "supreme fable" conceals a great lesson in human life and demonstrates the nature of action. One is reminded of the Gita, in which it is stated that all action involves a tapasya, all action involves a giving of what we are, and all action supposes a sacrifice. These are the three elements inherent in all works. They are inevitable, though they may be undertaken more or less voluntarily, more or less actively, more or less consciously. So the story of Parvati seeking after Shiva (symbolic at more than one level) is an image of man's condition in the world. Striving to realise our own perfection, we have no other choice than to move, to act - and tapasya, giving and sacrifice, are the means of our action.
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