THE MICHAELMAS DAISY
Last smile of the departing year,
Thy sister sweets are flown;
Thy pensive wreath is far more dear,
From blooming thus alone.
Thy tender blush, thy simple frame,
Unnoticed might have past;
But now thou contest with softer claim,
The loveliest and the last.
Sweet are the charms in thee we find,
Emblem of hope’s gay wing;
‘Tis thine to call past bloom to mind,
To promise future spring.
An English poet, Letitia Elizabeth Landon wrote the poem “The Michaelmas Daisy” in the year 1820 for the Literary Gazette. The poem is about a flower named Aster Amellus, also called as Michaelmas daisy because it blooms during the Christian feast of St. Michael, an archangel and leader of heavenly armies and one who protects against the hostile forces. Because Michaelmas falls near equinox, it is associated in the northern hemisphere with the beginning of autumn, indicating farewell to a productive year and getting ready over the winter for a new beginning. Perhaps this is how a tradition started of giving a Michaelmas daisy to a loved one when saying farewell.
It is not surprising that the same flower symbolises Sincerity, one of the most important soul-qualities that the Mother says we must cultivate if we aspire to unite with the Divine. Sincerity begins with undeniable faith, sees us through the end, helps us achieve our goal, protecting us from the wickedness of this material world – a work similar to that of St. Michael.
It is easier said than done and the path is strewn with thorns, doubts and despair. But a sadhaka who has laid a strong foundation of sincerity will not falter. To be sincere is to be pure, but it is not a moralistic purity. It is the purity of intention, thought and deed. Sincerity means being open to only the influence of the Divine, Sri Aurobindo explains.
“Desire nothing but the purity, force, light, wideness, calm, Ananda of the divine consciousness and its insistence to transform and perfect your mind, life and body. (CWSA, Vol. 32, p.8)
Only Divine influence can bring complete purity of the heart. And unless the heart is filled with purity, sincerity is difficult to achieve. Isn’t it interesting that in some ancient cultures the odour resulting from burning of the aster flower was used to ward off serpents, evil spirits and impure minds?
Purity of heart is what makes one exude genuineness that is undeniable. No wonder Hathayoga begins with shat kriyas or cleansing practices that not only cleanse our physical body but also our subtle, emotional, vital and spiritual bodies.
For one who is on the path of yoga, ‘sincerity with intensity’ is a prerequisite. The Mother says that sincerity of a much higher magnitude is needed on the path to self-realization. It is not enough to be sincere in mind and body alone, one has to be sincere in every fibre and every feeling and emotion of one’s heart. This “Integral Sincerity” is the sine quo non for the supramental transformation which is the object of Integral Yoga. Patanjali also talks about the same intensity in his sutra in Samadhi Pada, “Tivra samveganam aasannah” which means that one with intense sincerity is near one’s goal.
One might say that sincerity is always intense. But digging deep we may realise that sincerity can be intense but intensity is not necessarily always sincere and pure. Steadfast faith, intensity, sincerity and purity of heart bring the hope and promise to a spiritual aspirant that one day he will unite with the Divine, no matter how arduous or long the path.
Asters are the last flowers to disappear in the wild before the harsh winters set in. It is as if they are telling us – don’t worry, we will all be fine and spring shall soon return. They instil a hope for a new beginning and remind us to stay sincere along the journey. American poet, Robert Frost, known for his poetic descriptions of the countryside, describes a solitary walk through a beautiful sombre landscape in his famous poem, “A Late Walk.” Towards the end of the poem, he speaks of the Aster flower as an emblem of hope to see us through the harsh winters.
I end not far from my going forth
By picking the faded blue
Of the last remaining Aster flower
To carry again to you.
Sincerity is what enables us to persevere. As the Mother reminds us –
“Fear not, your sincerity is your safeguard.”
(CWM, Vol. 14, p. 66)
~ Graphic design: Shahla Sayeed