Aspects of Amal Kiran
Aspects of Amal Kiran
Some people are blessed to have the touch of Goddess Saraswati on their fingers and Her kiss in their hearts; as a result they are able to compose remarkable verses. Due to this special blessings, they can dive into the ocean of thoughts and realizations and bring out the most precious pearls which they knit together to form a priceless necklace. This necklace is also known as “poetry”. There are some who think, analyze and evaluate subjects and occurrences of incidents from a different angle or perspective and produce their thinking on paper in the form of prose (this, however, does not include the story-tellers). They are the intellectuals and researchers who not only think but make others think as well. Then, there is another class of people who are gifted with the special power of speech. They are superb conversationalists who mesmerize the audience whenever they speak. They have the touch of the Goddess of Learning in their tongue. The fourth category of people is entirely different from the three types mentioned earlier. They are the seers, the Yogis—who, despite being a part of this world, belong to the Divine. They are here to guide us, help us, lead us from Darkness to Light and Falsehood to Truth. They enlighten us with their wisdom (practical and spiritual) and we feel secure when we are in their company. Their life and basic existence are consecrated to the Divine who chooses them as His instruments for the execution of His work on earth.
But is it possible to have these four aforesaid traits in a single body? An ordinary brain might reply in the negative. But the fact is “yes”; it is indeed possible. There are some (few in numbers and that is why they are so precious) who possess such diversified features in their personality. Luckily, we still have such great men amidst us; and the most notable among them is K. D. Sethna alias Amal Kiran, who is not only a great Yogi but also a poet par excellence, a researcher, an Indologist, a prose-writer, a critic and what not! In this article, we shall try to discuss the various aspects of Amal Kiran, the universal genius.
Amal Kiran: the Poet
What is poetry? Ruskin defined poetry as “the suggestion, by the imagination, of noble grounds for the noble emotions”. Amal Kiran too defined poetry in the following words: “A moved rhythmical expression, which is at the same time precise and widely suggestive.” A spark gives rise to fire and a small spark in his life arose the fire of poetry hidden within him. His cousin was penning light-hearted, romantic poems about a girl named Katie; once he informed the young Amal Kiran that he had composed two hundred lines of poetry. Amal kiran decided “to outdo him” and that he did by composing five hundred lines of poetry. That was the beginning. He also wrote the lives of Napoleon Bonaparte and Shivaji in verse form, followed by “an imaginary account of a Utopia in verse” and “thousands of couplets”. The strong influence of Byron made him compose “two interminable poems in the Byronian ottava rima based on the surreptitious feasting on Beppo and Don Juan” but he was disallowed to read them at home.
“When I started writing poems, I was in the second standard,” writes Amal Kiran at a later age, “and at that time I thought the poems would be correctly metered if I could make each line the same length. So, a certain length on the page I fixed upon. If any line was a bit too long, I wrote in small script. I believed that there ought to be a measure. And after that, I wrote more natural poems, which I would like to call love poems. I was greatly moved by the beauty of a certain young woman. And so I had to create a sort of Shelleyan Romantic verse.”
And in a letter dated 15 August 1986, Amal Kiran writes: “There is a whole bunch of poems by me of the pre-Pondi time- intense in thought and sensuousness passing often into an artistic sensuality edged with a topsy-turvy idealism. Much of it was published under the soubriquet of “Maddalo”, the name given by Shelley as “Julian” to Byron. (My identity had to be concealed to save my grandfather from jumping out of his orthodox seventy-year-old skin.) Before I came to the Ashram I destroyed all the copies I could lay my hands on.”
However Amal Kiran blossomed into a poet of international stature after joining the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in 1927. Sri Aurobindo, who called himself the ‘Head of the Poetry Department’ encouraged verse-composition and other expressions of art as they were consonant with and also a part of Sadhana. In his book The Human Cycle, Sri Aurobindo writes: “To us poetry is a revel of intellect and fancy, imagination a plaything and caterer for our amusement, our entertainer, the nautch-girl of the mind. But to the men of old the poet was a seer, a revealer of hidden truths, imagination no dancing courtesan, but a priestess in God’s house commissioned not to spin fictions but to imagine difficult and hidden truths; even the metaphor or simile in the Vedic style is used with a serious purpose and expected to convey a reality, not to suggest a pleasing artifice or thought. The image was to these seers a revelative symbol of the unrevealed and it was used because it could hint luminously to the mind what the precise intellectual word, apt only for logical or practical thought or to express the physical and superficial, could not at all hope to manifest.”
The Ashram, at that time, was illumined by the presence of distinguished poets like Dilip Kumar Roy, Nirodbaran, his niece Jyotirmoyee, Arjava, Harindranath Chattopadhyay, Nishikanta Raichaudhury, Sahana Devi, Pujalal and of course, Amal Kiran. Dilip Kumar Roy, Nirodbaran and Arjava were not born poets but due to the practise of the Integral Yoga, their psychic beings came to the front and they blossomed into marvellous poets. Under the guidance of Sri Aurobindo, they came in contact with the spiritual levels above the mind and this resulted in the growth, expansion and development of their poetic, intellectual and of course spiritual capabilities. In his book Beyond Man, Georges Van Vrekhem writes: “It is remarkable that Sri Aurobindo, besides all the work he was doing, sill found the time and the interest to make the Ashram into a hotbed of poets. To him, however, culture was not a superficial layer of varnish; it was the product of a dimension, or of dimensions, without which the human being is not fully human. And poetry, to him, was not an irrational fancy of characters who cannot manage reality: it was a direct contact with the ‘overhead’ regions between our ordinary mental consciousness and the Supramental. To Sri Aurobindo, writing poetry was not a fanciful flight of the imagination, but a means of access to higher worlds and therefore a form of spirituality if practised with the right attitude. The great poets have never doubted the reality of their inspiration or the concreteness of what they saw and where they saw. Here now was somebody with a knowledgeable, practical, everyday involvement with those worlds, for whom poetry was a higher form of experience of great importance, and who helped his disciples with sufficient capacities or interest in their efforts to express those overhead worlds in words, to become aware by means of the word, as part of their sadhana. (page 174)
While we write from the mind or the heart, Amal Kiran wrote from different levels of consciousness. The inspirations that came to him were not from the ordinary levels of mind but from the Higher Mind, the Illumined Mind, the Intuitive Mind and still further from the Overmind. Sri Aurobindo has beautifully described the origin of the lines in the poems composed by Amal Kiran in his letters to the poet; the interested reader would find the poems and the comments from the Guru in Amal Kiran’s Overhead Poetry and Poems by Amal Kiran and Nirodbaran with Sri Aurobindo’s Comments. Let’s quote a few of the poems to illustrate explicitly what Amal Kiran wrote and what Sri Aurobindo remarked:
1. INVOCATION TO THE FOURFOLD DIVINE
O Void where deathless power is merged in peace!
O myriad Passion lit to one self-fire!
O Breath like some vast rose that breaks through form!
O Hush of gold by whom all truth is heard!
Consume in me the blinded walls of mind:
Wing far above dull thought my speech with flame,
Make my desire an infinite sky’s embrace,
A joy that feels through every colour’s throb
One single heart kindling the universe—
And by strange sleep draw heaven closer still,
Blotting all distances of space and time!
Sri Aurobindo commented: “That is perfect — it is all of one piece, an exceedingly fine poem expressing with revelatory images the consciousness of the cosmic Self into which one enters by breaking the walls of individual limitation. Higher Mind, touched with Illumined Mind, except lines 3,4,8,9 which are more of the Illumined mind itself.”(Overhead Poetry, p. 23)
Each form a dancer whose pure naked sheen
Mirrors serenity, a moving sleep
White-echoed out of some mysterious deep
Where fade life’s clamouring red and blue and green—
The priestess of virgin reverie
Sway through the cavern heart of consciousness,
A marble rapture fronting frozenly
The cry of mortal hunger and distress,
A love superb moulded to rocks of flame,
A ring of rhythmic statues worship-hewn
From the pale vistas of a perfect moon—
They guard with silences the unbreathable Name.
Sri Aurobindo commented: “Very fine throughout. It is a combined inspiration, Illumined Mind with an element of Higher Mind coming in to modify it and sometimes rising to touch Intuition— even what might be called Overmind Intuition. The last touch is strongest in lines 2,3, there is something of it in lines 5,6,7, a little in the last three lines.
It is, I suppose, some Anandamaya rhythm of the divine inmost Silence lifted above the vital life, that is the significance of the image.”(Overhead Poetry, p. 31)
He brought the calm of a gigantic sleep:
Earth’s mind— a flicker gathering sudden gold—
Merged with unknowable vistas to come back
A fire whose tongue had tasted paradise.
A plumbless music rolled from his far mouth:
Waves of primeval secrecy broke white
Along the heart’s shores, a rumour of deathless love
Afloat like a vast moon upon the deep.
Sri Aurobindo remarked: “A very fine poem, lines 1,4 are from the Illumined Higher Mind. The second comes very splendidly from the Illumined mind, the third is Higher Mind at a high level. The fifth comes from the Higher Mind—the sixth, seventh and eighth from the Illumined Mind touched with something from the Overmind Intuition, though the touch is more evident in 6 and 8.”(Overhead Poetry, p. 49)
4. NIGHT OF TRANCE
Closing your eyes, outstretch vague hands of prayer
Beyond the prison-house of mortal air….
Then, soul-awakened, watch the universe thrill
With secrets drawn from the Invisible—
A force of gloom that makes each flicker-stress
Bare the full body of its goldenness
And yield in that embrace of mystery
A flaming focus of infinity,
A fire-tongue nourished by God’s whole expanse
Through darknesses of superhuman trance.
Sri Aurobindo remarked: “Lines 5 to 8 are from the Illumined Mind touched with the Intuition—the rest seem to be mainly from the Higher Mind, except that the last two have a force of Illumination also… Perhaps the sustained intensity is less than that of your very best poems: that does not mean that it is a semi-success – it is a difference of shade rather than of category.” (Poems by Amal Kiran and Nirodbaran with Sri Aurobindo’s Comments, p. 19)
The poet is a bard as well. Not only does he sing or write about what he feels or realizes but he also writes about what he has seen— in Man, Love, Joy, Trust, Failure and lastly, in himself. The transformation of one’s consciousness is the greatest subject of poetry and biography (that is what the author feels and believes) and Amal Kiran has expressed, through his poems, how he has evolved from an atheist in his youth to one of the greatest sadhaks of the Integral Yoga. In his poems, an invitation is obtained – to share his creative bliss and his world of beauty. And when he is not writing about the outer or the inner worlds, he is writing about his Gurus, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother; after all, his entire worlds (inner and outer) revolve around them only. The emergence of the radiant yet calm face of Sri Aurobindo made him write:
“All heaven’s secrecy lit to one face
Crowning with calm the body’s blinded cry—
A soul of upright splendour like the noon.
But only shadowless love can breathe this pure
Sun-blossom fragrant with eternity—
Eagles of rapture lifting flickerless
A giant trance wide-winged on golden air.”
(Overhead Poetry, p. 23)
“Bard rhyming earth to paradise,
Time-conqueror with prophet eyes,
Body of upright flawless fire,
Star-strewing hands that never tire—
In Him at last earth-gropings reach
Omniscient calm, omnipotent speech,
Love omnipresent without ache!
Does still a stone that cannot wake
Keep hurling through your mortal mind
Its challenge at the epiphany?
If you would see this blindness break,
Follow the heart’s humility—
Question not with your shallow gaze
The Infinite focused in that face,
But, when the unshadowed limbs go by,
Touch with your brow the white football:
A rhythm profound shall silence them all!” (The Master)
And whenever Amal Kiran thought of the Mother, he sang out:
“Great Mother, grant me this one boon I crave:
I will forgo all triumphs of the mind
And grandiose honours for which men have pined
If in its search for Thee my life be brave.
Beyond earth’s crowded hours of brief delight,
Of passionate anarchy whose eyes are blind,
Let me on feet of calm devotion find
The lonely soul’s sweet contemplative height.
And from the crest of that serenity
Whence Thy far infinite face can be divined,
An endless song let all my ardour be
To reach Thy beauty, leaving lust behind—
No stern forced worship but love self-consigned,
A river’s leap towards the pristine sea.”
(Overhead Poetry, p. 95)
“A Goddess rapt in the sun of her timeless self
Waits ever aloof with shut eyes and lips sealed,
Both arms lifted to a bodiless blue beyond.
A mystery burns that I can never grasp:
I search and search through void eternities
And my blood is a song in the dark with drift unknown.
But, while that face is a superhuman dream
And the figure a farness of transcendent bliss,
The feet touch earth and give themselves to me—
Feet that are standing still, yet with a calm
As of all boundaries reached and journeys done:
Here time lies conquered neath a weight of trance.
Light has come down – a heaven close to clay
Keeps offering to my bewildered brow
A strength to rest on, to my longing lips
A warmth of love to kiss. By refuge here
My heart feels in its own brief blinded cry
The overture of some crescendoed life
Through which mortality shall kindle up
And seize truth’s perfect form with minstrel hands!”
(The Adventure of the Apocalypse, p. 121)
Seeing the Mother playing tennis, the admirer in Amal Kiran expresses:
“She seems but playing tennis—
The whole world is in that game!
A little ball she is striking—
What is struck is a huge white flame
Leaping across time’s barrier
Between God’s hush, man’s heart,
And while the exchange goes on speeding
The two shall never part.
In scoring the play’s progress
The result of minds that move,
One word in constant usage
Is the mystic syllable “Love”.
And the one high act repeated
Over and over again
By either side is “Service”
And it never is done in vain.
For, whether defeat or triumph
Is the end, each movement goes
Soulward: through this short pastime
Eternity comes more close!”
(Tennis with the Mother)
Seeing the signature of Sri Aurobindo, the devotee in Amal Kiran sang out:
“Sharp-hewn yet undertoned with mystery,
A brief black sign from the Incommunicable
Making the Eternal’s Night mix with our day
To deepen and deepen the shallow goldenness
We hug to our heart! Laughing whip-lash of love
That leaves a wonder-weal holding bright secrets
Within its snake whose coils are centuries
But whose straight sweep is the backbone of One Bliss!
The characters go flaming up and down
With all time’s venture twixt two ecstatic ends.
Clutching with gentle finger our dumb desire
A slanting full-bodied soar loops a firm loop
Of light around some lone invisible peak—
Followed by steady twin strokes toward the same goal,
Yet smooth and statured close to the human heart.
Then one curve-straightening gracefully girdled stance,
A peace and pulchritude and potency,
A slender pyramid chasing a viewless line
Within, to an upright noon that knows all truth.
Soon from the girdle a quick smiling leap
Across, spaced with a pair of vertical dreams
Still hinting unfallen heights, and then the term
Of all this labour and rapture in a full sweet circle,
Lackless, complete with godhead boundless in a point.
But, never a stagnant splendour, it casts a hook
Answering the curl before, with which the Name
Of the Nameless unwound in the hours, by a curl behind
Downward to dig and drag the dark Divine
Out of some heaven made hell, the Abyss that is All!”
(The Adventure of the Apocalypse, p. 8)
And when in absolute silence in and around him, Amal Kiran sits in front of the Samadhi, his realizes:
“Majestic master of the immutable Light,
Love like a universe thronged within your heart:
Brooding in silence across lonely years
On secret heavens a-dream in infinite hell,
You found the hammer to break the Dragon’s sleep
And free from burying black the fallen stars.
But from each throb of God kindled in earth
You flung a human heart-beat out of Time:
You shortened your sovereign life to greaten the dust.
Your body, dropped from your spirit’s hold on high,
Lays the foundation of a clay-built sky!
Always the Light came down from the limitless blue,
Gold gushing through the head to a heart God-drunk.
Now from the soul’s sleep rose one dazzling wave,
Uttering a secret of eternity locked
In caves dumbfounded with a vast black bliss.
It say how sheer divinity grew dust,
The miracled love which left the heart of the sun
And crouched with folded fire below Time’s feet
To give huge wings to the atom’s reverie.
The surge of light lifted our bodies up
As though in laughing answer to heaven’s leap down
Into the poisoning space of bone and flesh,
Earth now was ready to enter infinitude.
A blind snake that had swallowed all the stars
Unrolled a boundless mystery flecked with flame
And undulated shining centuries.
But none riding the rapture of the glow
Saw the still King of the new life’s luminous realm
Tamer and charmer of mortality’s night—
One Heart whose deep on gold-dense deep of love
Measured the abyss whose cry is the whole world’s death!”
(At the Samadhi of Sri Aurobindo)
Amal Kiran’s forte lies in his style of playing with the English language. Just as Pandit Bhimsen Joshi or Pandit Jashraj plays with the seven tunes of music, similarly, Amal Kiran plays with the words that express his deep-rooted emotions and realizations. Dilip Kumar Roy, in one of his articles on Rabindranath Tagore, had written: “…the poet’s métier is to see and sing whereas the sage’s is to think and philosophize.”(Six Illuminates of Modern India, page 63)But Amal Kiran is no ordinary poet and of course, no ordinary sage as well. He reaches out for the horizons which were never trodden and describes those regions in his poetry. For instance, if one reads his poem The Hierarchy of Being (Overhead Poetry, page 120, one would be baffled to find its precise meaning (the author himself was baffled when he had read it for the first time) but then one finds the explanation of the poem in one of Amal Kiran’s letters to Sri Aurobindo in which he wrote: “Here is a poem about all the planes, briefly characterising them. It starts with the “inconscient” physical, then proceeds to the vital and the mental, with the psychic innermost recess between them—then sums up the Higher Mind, the Illumined Mind and the Intuitive and finally goes to the Overmind; the Supermind and the unmanifest Absolute. Do you think a special key is necessary to explain the poem or does it possess a sufficiently intelligible suggestiveness as a whole as well as in each part to give an intuitive sense of coherent meaning?” Sri Aurobindo replied: “I can hardly say— it is quite clear to me, but I don’t know what would happen to the ordinary reader. It is a fine poem, the last stanza remarkable.” Therefore Sri Aurobindo too had expressed his doubt whether the average reader would be able to grasp the meaning of the poem or not. But Amal Kiran did not restrict his poetic movements over there; he went ahead and saw what was beyond the higher planes. He reproduced what he saw in the following lines of the poem Absolute:
“Lustre whose vanishing point we call the sun—
Joy whose one drop drowns seas of all desire—
Life rendering time-heart a hollow hush—
Potence of poise unplumbed by infinite space!
Not unto you I stain, O miracled boons,
But that most inward marvel, the sheer Self
Who bears your beauty; and, devoid of you,
His dark unknown would yet fulfil my love.”
In 1948, Amal Kiran was conducting a research on the Theory of Relativity and Quantum Theory and due to the excessive strain his body and mine had to endure, he collapsed on 8 May. The doctor advised him to rest and not to leave his bed; but the word “rest” has a different meaning in his dictionary, so he rested in a different but creative way. He felt a stream of constant inspiration coming to him when he was supposed to rest and when he held his pen, the inspiration took the shape of poetry and flowed down from his pen. However, in none of the poems he composed during that period will one find any trace of suffering or fatigue which his body was subjected to. On the contrary, those poems (later included in the book The Adventure of the Apocalypse) spoke of the cosmic rhythms, the knowledge of truth, the vastness of eternity, the forms behind man, the secret of God and his other realizations and observations. While lying on his bed, he realized:
“Now cosmic rhythms are a laughter in my pulse,
For the heart stands back immense and knows no aim,
Cool core of a body of tortuous paths to power.
My blood is the singing attar of that Rose
Rooted in rest beyond all universe.
Seraphs are crossing my brain that is wonder-wide
Smiling to see even here an Eye like the sun,
And, where they halt, my love’s touch breaks out wings.
All is perfection, thought and word and tune,
Because the Ineffable shines through each interspace.” (p. 5)
When he touched the “Vast of the supracosmic Self”, he found out that there is no night or day in it but both lie in “a mighty measureless mood/Coloured with That for which no word is born”; this resulted in the emergence of the following observation:
“He bears the smile that makes all things divine,
His stainless fingers touch truth everywhere.
Ear cannot seize his rhythm of deathless life,
But if deep calm can drown the universe
The rapt enchanter slips into our soul
And through his own self-hearing reverie
We learn the secret of the eternal Vast.” (p. 31)
And when he saw the inmost truth behind the form of man, he learnt:
“A pyramidding miracle based above
Hangs downward concentrating to pass on
The immense and the intense of deathless power
To the intense and the immense of the force
Pyramidding upward out of mutable time.
Lo the soul’s magic kindles their touch and thrill,
Then their deep fusion to a single Self
Making the soul Its new creation’s cry
Sent from the inmost to the outermost:
A huge star breaks with halo of boundlessness,
And the mask of mind becomes the face of God!” (p. 76)
“I walk a pearly roadstead
Beyond all drowsy days—
A curve to heaven drawn by
That Silver Smile of Your face.
Deep and more deep within,
I am guided to my rest
Where the wells of deathless nectar
Hide in each mortal breast.” (p. 28)
When Sri Aurobindo was sent the manuscript of The Adventure of the Apocalypse, he informed Amal Kiran in a letter dated 25 December 1948: “Amal, I have gone through your manuscript of poems and I propose that they should be immediately published without further delay.”
Let’s now peep into the world of Amal Kiran’s blank verses. But before that it is essential to remember that we are discussing the poetic genius of not only a great poet but also a great Yogi as well. While an average poet would loiter around the regions of the mind, he moves in the higher levels of consciousness. Therefore his poetry carries the subtleties of sound affecting the layers of consciousness. That’s why his advised, in one of his conversations with Supriyo Bhattacharya: “I want you to remember that poetry never comes into its own unless it is read aloud and attention is paid to every change of tone.” Therefore, his mystic poems contain a certain kind of vibration which can be felt even by the body( the author himself has experienced it) when one recites them aloud. A striking feature of his blank verses is that there exists a silent rhythm in most of them. Another trait of his blank verses is that the words used in the poems are not interchangeable and some words are used in such a manner that they reflect multiple meanings. Hence, a reader would not be able to grasp the meaning of the poem or the message it attempts to convey if he just goes through them; one has to ponder and realize the significance of each and every line to understand its subtle meaning. Moreover, in the words of Amal Kiran:
“…to appreciate poetry as an art is a difficult job, calling for a large sensitivity, an intense penetrativeness. If one does not gather oneself up in a book to meet the rigours of this occupation one is very likely to disperse one’s energy and be unsuccessful. The field is often entered but rarely mastered.”(Introduction, Sri Aurobindo: The Poet)
In his book The Poetic Genius Of Sri Aurobindo, Amal Kiran writes about blank verse: “Blank verse is the hardest to infuse with poetic life: the inspiration has to balance the lack of grace of rhyme by deft assonances and consonances, suggestive designs of stress and changing positions of the pause: a vital energy of most sensitive sound has to be at work in it if it is to pass that crucial test of poetry—exquisite enchantment or delightful disturbance by word-music. The creative pressure it demands for success is the clinching proof of the genuine poet.”
But a question comes: how contemporary is Amal Kiran’s poetry with reference to the changing world around us? No, we shall not try to answer the question because the best person to give an apt reply would be none other than Amal Kiran himself. So let’s quote what he has written in his book Sri Aurobindo: The Poet:
“To be contemporary, a poet must not be expected to be, as some of the Victorians thought, the expressive channel of popular currents or, like modernists, the mouthpiece of the exaggerations of his age. Fundamentally, to be contemporary can mean nothing more than to be, in every period of one’s life, aware of the experience that is offered to one in ways never quite the same before. How much one stresses or does not stress the peculiar ways, how far one works within their terms or ranges outside them affects in no wise one’s contemporaneity. Again, a poet’s momentousness for his age (or for all history) is not determined by any of these factors. It depends on the meaning with which his attitude is fraught and, inasmuch as the meaning is an integral part of his poetry, on the art by which his matter and manner fuse and kindle up.”(p. 59)
In a nutshell, Amal Kiran’s poetry is not limited to a certain period. His poetry belongs to eternity. That is why his poems are special in their own ways.
Regarding his own poems, Amal Kiran had once told Supriyo Bhattacharya: “You see, my poetry showed always the bringing into play of the overhead planes, the plane of larger thought, the plane of illumination, the plane of intuition, the plane of something more than mere intuition. All these things the poet in me strove to bring into play with Sri Aurobindo in my heart.”
But what is the ultimate satisfaction that he has attained from his poems? In his own words: “Who cares for what the world says when those great wide eyes, deeper than oceans, fell on these poems and accepted them as fit offerings to His divinity? The Lord’s look, the Lord’s smile— that is what I have lived for.”(Overhead Poetry)
Such is Amal Kiran, the poet of the Overmind!
Amal Kiran: the Prose-writer
The pen has always been considered to be stronger than the sword. While the sword destroys, the pen creates and anything that creates is always looked upon as something that is more favourable than something which destroys. As a marvellous researcher and an intellectual with the deepest insight, Amal Kiran has produced numerous volumes of such creative writings in prose which compels us to cease all our incoming thoughts and concentrate more and more on what he has written. When he chooses a problem or a subject, not only does he go to the innermost depth as a researcher but also analyzes them from a point of view which no one else has been able to do so. He brings out those facts which our narrow consciousness has ignored and reveals its actual significance. As a prose-writer, he has penned volumes on a number of subjects whose diversity fascinates even the most complex brain and his works include Indology( Ancient India in a New Light, Problems of Ancient India, The Problem of Aryan Origins: From an Indian Point of View, Karpasa in Prehistoric India: A Chronological and Cultural Clue), History (The Beginning of History for Israel, Is Velikovsky’s Revised Chronology Tenable: A Scrutiny of Four Fundamental Themes, Problems of Early Christianity, The Virgin Birth and the Earliest Christian Tradition, The Greco-Aramaic Inscription of Kandhar: Its Call for a Revolution in Historical Ideas), Sociology( India and the World Scene, The Indian Spirit and the World’s Future, Evolving India: Essays on Cultural Issues), Philosophy and Metaphysics ( Aspects of Sri Aurobindo, The Development of Sri Aurobindo’s Spiritual System and the Mother’s Contribution to it, Science, Materialism, Mysticism, Teilhard de Chardin and Our Time, The Vision and Work of Sri Aurobindo, The Passing of Sri Aurobindo: Its Inner Significance and Consequence, “Raised from the Dead”: An Approach to the Problem of the Resurrection of Jesus from the Descriptions of his “Risen” Body, Mandukya Upanishad: English Version and Commentary), Reminiscences ( The Mother: Past-Present-Future, Our Light and Delight: Recollections of Life with the Mother), Literature ( The Parnassians, Adventures in Criticism, Blake’s Tyger: A Christological Interpretation, Classical and Romantic: An Approach Through Sri Aurobindo, Inspiration and Effort: Studies in Literary Attitude and Expression, The Inspiration of Paradise Lost, “A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal”: An Interpretation from India, Sri Aurobindo: The Poet, Sri Aurobindo on Greece, Sri Aurobindo on Shakespeare, The Thinking Corner: Causeries on Life and Literature, “Two Loves” and “A Worthier Pen”: The Enigmas of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, The Obscure and the Mysterious: A Research in Mallarme’s Symbolist’s Poetry, The Poetic Genius of Sri Aurobindo), and Epistolary literature ( Life-Poetry-Yoga: Personal Letters by Amal Kiran, Indian Poets and English Poetry, A Follower of Christ and a Disciple of Sri Aurobindo); the list is still not complete.
Jugal Kishore Mukherjee in his book The Wonder That is K.D.Sethna alias Amal Kiran writes: “A great thinker, Amal-da has almost a fascination for all that is intellectually challenging and difficult. The brilliance of his mind is simply of the first order. He brings in profound insight in all that he deals with. He has a flair for sustained and meticulous research. Also, he has developed a consummate skill in lucidly communicating to his readers the findings of his sustained investigation.
His style of writing is natural and graceful. Felicitous phrases appear at every turn of his writing. His presentation is always well-reasoned and crystal-clear, never betraying any obscurity or obfuscation.”(p. 12)
Amal Kiran is the embodiment of knowledge and in all of his works (prose or poetry), one gets the reflection of his profound insight. Let’s quote some passages from his multi-luminous prose works to give our readers some glimpses of the treasures he has gifted to us:
I) From Amal Kiran’s literary criticisms and sociological writings:
(a) “ Sri Aurobindo writes of things he has actually seen and known: his poetry is the revealing words of realities that are supernormal to our mind but close and concrete to the subtle sense of the Yogi. To feel the power of such an inspiration we must bring an intense aesthesis free of old ideas and tempos, we must cultivate a profound sympathetic insight. Else we shall tack on labels that hang most oddly, pick out affinities and differences with a superficial eye and altogether shoot wide of the living soul, the passionate uniqueness of this work.”(Sri Aurobindo: The Poet, p. 41)
(b) “Indeed all poetry has to establish some sort of contact with familiar things, but a world of difference lies between the Unknown being dripped by our customary consciousness and our customary consciousness being dripped by the Unknown. In the latter phenomenon, not only the meaning but the very words and their combined vibrations seem to leap from entranced God-inhabited heights: the Divine and the Eternal find their own speech, large, luminous, fathomless— the meaning becomes visioned and felt as though man were no longer mental merely but poised on a level beyond mind. This type of poetry Sri Aurobindo calls “overhead”, because it comes as if by a wide sweeping descent from an ether of superhuman being, high above our mind’s centre in the brain.”(Ibid., p. 134)
(c) “It is not always easy to distinguish the overhead style or to get perfectly the drift of its suggestion. There must be as much as possible a stilling of ourselves, an in-drawn hush ready to listen to the uncommon speech; and we must help the hush to absorb successfully that speech by repeatedly reading the verse aloud, since it is primarily through the rhythm that the psychological state with which an overhead poem is a-thrill echoes within us, stirring the eye to open wider and wider on spiritual mysteries and the brain to acquire a more and more true reflex of the transcendental that is the truth of things, waiting for manifestation.”(Ibid., pp. 135-136)
(d) “Not only is the whole intricate truth of love seized in idea but the force of it is thrilled to in every shade of passion, while an alert eye converts the complete idea-feeling to a concrete pictorial power of suggestion and each phase of it is given a perfectly representative rhythm to make it not merely glow and be seen but also vibrate and be heard in the heart of the aesthetic sense.”(The Poetic Genius of Sri Aurobindo)
(e) “As we might expect of a mind trained to careful intellectuality, Chadwick—or Arjava, as he came to be known from the name Arjavananda (meaning “Joy of straightforwardness”) given him by Sri Aurobindo—did not achieve closeness to the Ideal through a lavish spontaneity whose very breath is song. A deliberate self-critical compact perfection belonged to him. Instead of taking the Kingdom of Heaven by a stormy frontal assault, he laid slow siege to it and won its treasures by patient compulsion— a victory no less complete though differing in plan and technique. Here too is a superb energy of imagination expended not so much in a royal diffusion as in concentrated exquisiteness or magnificence…Naturally, the result is less prolific— a volume of merely 327 short poems with 2 playlets in verse, published soon after their author’s untimely death in 1939— but a greater stress is brought to bear upon the understanding, a stress which produces a peculiar intensity of rapture packed with haloed mysteries, so to speak— unfamiliar twilights, symbolic enchantments, hieratic seclusions – and yet no narrowness in the ultimate revelation made: the sole difficulty lies in turning the key which throws the esoteric doors wide open into expanse on shining expanse of heights and depths.
It is an art which may be a little baffling at first, but for those who can absorb its strange atmosphere there awaits a reward often of a beauty which takes one’s breath away by its magic spell or by its grave amplitudes of spirituality.
…Chadwick’s most majestic work seems to be those flights where bursts upon the gaze an imaginative colour widening every moment into some “objective correlative” of high philosophy charged with the profoundest spiritual illumination…
The large and the lofty utterance met with in the major Upanishads— carrying with it an echo of some rhythm infinitely vibrating out of a stupendous Unknowable, is indeed a rara avis in the atmosphere of English language. Hardly any recent poets of the British Isles writing with a marked mystical penchant shows even a glimmer of it…Not the substance by itself confers that pure zenith; what is necessary is a profound intonation vitally one with substance and language, and John Chadwick at his finest reflects something of this triple intensity because his English mind has more consistently steeped itself in Yoga and caught a breath from what we may call the luminous spaces of Sri Aurobindo’s inner life.”(Inspiration and Effort: Studies in Literary Attitude and Expression)
(f) [Regarding the ideal flag for India, i.e. Sri Aurobindo’s flag for Mother India] “Here is a flag charged with India’s authentic mission, the mission of rendering victorious the Divine Mother, the Infinite Self and Shakti. In this flag we have the suggestion not only of a sky with an ethereal lotus poised in it, but also of a stretch of water with an earthly lotus afloat. The ever-existing ideality above and the secret wonder that is to be revealed below are both compassed in a satisfying symbolism. The full-blown circular lotus with two rows of petals seems to be the true inspired emblem which was hovering, so to speak, in the nation’s inner mind but which through an insufficiently receptive imagination our leaders miscaught as Asoka’s wheel. Here too is a wheel-like design, but suffused with a superb meaning attuned to the Rig-Veda which is hidden in the heart of man and which the Indian consciousness has heard down the ages. Foremost here of all suggestions by the wheel-like design is the Presence of God as intuited by our country’s Seers and Saints— the Presence of God within a lotus-chakra that is the centre of a luminous life on every level of the profound recesses of our subliminal and supraliminal being. In the colours, too, though we may see several implications pertaining to our existence, the master implication by virtue of this particular pattern remains the Infinite and the Divine.(The Indian Spirit and the World’s Future, pp. 37-38)
(g) “A poet is primarily a seer of hidden perfections at once beckoning earthly things to their own luminous harmonies and reaching out to the earth with those high rhythms. The thrill which accompanies this seerhood is a strange happiness that is never complacence and that, while full of laughter and love amidst the creatures and objects of the dust, is yet a creative criticism of them and, while acknowledging their value, points ever higher and often combines affection with irreverence, enthusiasm with a witty perception of frailities and foibles.” (Ibid., p. 74)
II) From Amal Kiran’s philosophical and autobiographical writings:
(a)[Regarding the passing of Sri Aurobindo] “Supramentalisation involves, among its final elements, freedom from disease, duration of life at will and a change in the functionings of the body— all, of course, as a material expression of the divine nature emerging in the human and not as an outer aggrandisement of an expanding inner egoism. But to compass these final elements which alone would found with utter security a supramental earth-existence, the Yogi has to tackle at last the bed-rock of the Inconscience, the dark basis of the submerged Divine from which evolution seems to issue. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, taking upon themselves as representative pioneers the agelong difficulties of all human nature, have been striking against this bed-rock for the last decade and a half…(page 13)…he[Sri Aurobindo] held the Supermind embodied in his subtle sharira and that he was under no occult necessity, no law of subtle Nature, to give up the latter for the purpose of returning to some plane of the soul’s rest before being reborn with a new subtle body as well as a new gross one. Sri Aurobindo, at the hour of his physical withdrawal, was in a position to do much more than be the cosmic and transcendent Purusha that his supramental Yoga had made his incarnate personality. He could actually be that Purusha active in an indissoluble subtle body at once divine and human, in a far more direct constant touch with the material world than could the forms which mystics have visioned of past Rishis and Prophets and Avatars. (p. 21)… whatever sacrifice is made by Sri Aurobindo or the Mother cannot be one imposed on them by personal defects. Theirs the unique adhars or vehicles of Yoga which could, if left to themselves, surmount every obstacle. This, in the present context of Sri Aurobindo’s departure, means that death is not anything he was obliged to undergo on account of some lack in himself. It is some stupendous crisis of the evolving earth-consciousness – some rebellious clouding upsurge of the divinely attacked Inconscient— that has been diverted to his own life, concentrated in the mortal risk of the uraemic coma and utilised by the master strategist for an occult advantage to the work he had assumed—the work which was always more important than direct personal consummation.
But it would be of the essence of the sacrifice and the strategy, as well as typically Aurobindonian, that a keenly struggling resistance should be there together with the large and tranquil acceptance. That is why we have said that Sri Aurobindo has gone down fighting. (p. 18)
Nothing except a colossal strategic sacrifice of this kind in order that the physical transformation of the Mother may be immeasurably hastened and rendered absolutely secure and, through it, a divine life on earth for humanity may get rooted and be set aflower – nothing less can explain the passing of Sri Aurobindo.” (The Passing of Sri Aurobindo, p. 16)
(b)[Regarding the passing of the Mother] “We may briefly say that in the interests of her work for the earth’s transformation, for the ultimate divinisation of the very cells of the human body with the power of that great discovery of Sri Aurobindo and herself, the truth-conscious all-illuminative Supermind, she chose to give up her physical sheath. The advantage resulting from such an act, under the challenging circumstances prevalent in earth-life, is suggested in an utterance of her own. There she conveys to us that Sri Aurobindo now possesses more power for action than when he was in his body and that only by means of his so-called death could he get the increased capacity which had become necessary. We may further mark that the Mother characterises the action of Sri Aurobindo as “concrete” and almost “material”. The same holds for her own action today. If we are to understand her passing in the terms she has herself set up vis-à-vis Sri Aurobindo’s, there can be no other conclusion.
And when we think of both her and Sri Aurobindo— once joint Avatars of the Supermind— working together from a greater coign of vantage, there should be no grief or despondency on losing sight of that marvellous embodiment of divine love and loveliness that the Mother was for ninety-five years upon earth. The integral transformation of the world’s evolutionary life, down to its most material aspect, for which she toiled with the smiling “God-touch” that can accomplish all, shall take place as promised in God’s good time…
Who knows if the Mother’s physical presence itself will long be absent! We are aware that the Supramental Body was already with her, waiting to fuse with the human form she had worn for our sake. We are aware also that the lengthy struggle she recently went through was only the Yogic endeavour of the human form to open completely to the Supramental Body. Perhaps this form did enough and its exalted agony was needed no more to enable the Supramental Body to manifest. Perhaps that Body, having assimilated the achievement of the other and thereby gained sufficient density for its subtle-physical substance, can now materialise itself on its own in a not too distant future.”(The Mother: Past-Present-Future, pp. 16-17)
(c) “The Avatar, even the Supramental one, assumes certain human traits in right earnest: otherwise Avatarhood would be a flashing intrusion of the Divine and have no evolutionary significance for the world. In a very effective sense, God has to become like us in order to help us become like Him. God has to undergo our predicaments and take upon Himself our defects, pass through obscurities and come to terms with the manifold play of possibilities that work out the designs of the Supreme, a play calling for various adjustments and alterations, shifts of strategy and shufflings of tactics. The Incarnation takes his stand in the midst of a world-order that has gone on for centuries along lines often in opposition to new truths. The Incarnation enters a game proceeding according to rules partly dictated by the Ignorance through which evolution moves towards Knowledge. These rules are permitted to spring surprises even upon Divinity when It enters the human formula. The humanised Divinity holds on to Its basic vocation but needs to revolutionise Its methods, discard old projects, adopt startlingly new devices.”(Ibid., p. 143)
(d) “All of us talk of our souls— and not always vainly, for most of us have some feel of it in general, but we are apt to confuse it with our vital-mental self. Neither the mind’s ethereal abstractions nor the life-force’s ecstatic sensations are an index to the real psyche. They certainly have a veiled touch of it, for all extreme intensities of our psychology express it in however oblique a way: the psyche holds the pure essence, as it were, of all our faculties and it works to raise them to their finest articulations. But its proper presence rather than its oblique penetration through them is glimpsed only at rare moments. When the sight of beauty leaves us utterly breathless in a perfectly disinterested rapture, when the enthusiasm for a noble cause leads to a deep and all-enveloping dedication of our energies, when the common man in us rises out of his rut to a sudden height of heroism, when the social self breaks from its routine relationship into a passion of love which gives and gives without any thought of return, when “the still, sad music of humanity” moves us to a silent generosity forgetting every personal grievance and flowing forth in impartial help— when any of these moments in which a Heart of extraordinary sensitiveness, light, strength, sweetness and amplitude breaks into the open from behind our habitual source of sentiment and emotion, then the psychic being has out-flowered. And a veritable Rose of roses it is in its burst beyond the ego into a blaze of devotion to the Divine, invocation of the Infinite, possession by the Eternal.” (Our Light and Delight, pp. 156-157)
(e) “ The Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo may be expected to create in a more or less degree the Aurobindonian stance in its practitioners. One is never allowed to remain entrenched in this or that high experience. A pressure is put to grow on every side and dare fresh flights into the Unknown. In other spiritual paths one is content to be a Jnani (Knower), a Bhakta (Devotee) or a Karmayogi (Doer of Divine Works). Here one is called upon to be all of them together— and something enormously extra. No wonder Sri Aurobindo once said that where the other Yogas terminate we make our beginning. The release of the individual consciousness into Eternity, Infinity, Divinity, is the basis for us of the release of Eternity, Infinity, Divinity into all the parts of our being for a total transformation of mind, life-force and body. Eternity, Infinity, Divinity themselves are to us more than they have been to spiritual seekers so far. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have been bent on bringing into action a power of these Ultimates more radically effective in earth-consciousness than ever before. As a result the practitioners of the Integral Yoga have had experiences which have scarcely been tabulated in earlier spiritual histories. But they are urged to halt nowhere. Many of them, if permitted to go into the common world with whatever they have realised along the lines of Jnana, Bhakti or Karmayoga, could easily set up as Masters and shine out. In the Ashram they remain almost unmarked— and, instead of being complimented upon their triumphs, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have gone on asking from them still higher and deeper and wider explorations of the Spirit.” (Ibid., pp. 175-176)
(f) “Even when the Atman is realised in a universal poise free from the mental-vital-physical nature and there is no sense left of the ego in the inner consciousness, the ego still keeps colouring one’s thoughts and impulses and activities. To erase that colour there must be in the wake of the realisation of the static Atman a silence imposed by it on all the parts and then the emergence of the Psychic Being. Only when the Psychic Being with its intense movement of love for the Personal Divine takes charge of one the dynamic freedom from the ego occurs. Even if the Atman is not realised, the Psychic Being in full play in the mental-vital-physical nature can remove the twisting and turning ego by its spontaneous self-surrender to the Supreme Lord, the Eternal Mother. And this self-surrender will be most genuine, complete and effective— that is, most eradicative of the ego— if one’s Yoga depends on a condition which has been stressed in Indian spirituality from ancient times: the presence of a God-realised Master, the human-divine Guru. If the outer self is deeply attuned to the spiritual call, the Guru may not be indispensable. But, by and large, the ego does not wholly disappear unless the aspirant, guided by his Psychic Being, puts himself devotedly in the hands of the Guru. The Guru serves as an absolute check, leaving little room for the myriad self-deception for the sake of self-convenience to which man’s nature is prone. One is now enfolded completely by the Other and the ego is afforded no chance to play about. Through this concrete and quite often very discomfiting Other, facing even one’s most external form of mind and life-force, one gets intensely into relation with the egoless Lord of the universe, the creative Mother-Power of Grace— and that Perfect Divine Person starts permeating one’s human personality in every part. Then one is cleared of egoism with the greatest assurance.”(Ibid., p. 178)
(g) “There is a necessity for each part of the being to receive a separate independent descent. Not by an efflux from the Supermind already descended into the parts other than the gross-physical but by a direct pull from the latter upon the Supramental Consciousness, the Divine Gnosis, existing above in its own plane, would that Highest Reality be natural, authentic and inalienable to this part. Just as every component of us- the mental, the vital, the physical- must make its spontaneous individual surrender to the Supreme under the influence of the inmost psyche, in order to make integral our self-surrendering, so too the supramental descent must be accomplished essentially by a straight and unmediated relationship of each component to the Gnostic Truth. Even when the inner nature has been inhabited by that Truth, the consciousness in the outer substance has to act towards that higher Reality almost as if nothing of this Truth were achieved elsewhere in the being. No doubt, the consciousness of the outer substance would be influenced by the many-sided victory in the inner dimension and find its task helped to a certain degree; yet this victory could still leave room for a defeat in the outer region. The outer region has to pay its own crucial price for the laurel and the crown of supramentalisation to rest on its head. Thus alone would the Supermind “involved” in matter meet its free “overhead” counterpart and hold supramentalisation as if it were its innate dharma, its intrinsic self-law.”(The Development of Sri Aurobindo’s Spiritual System and the Mother’s Contribution to it)
(h)[Regarding the Mind of Light] “Beyond mental Gnosis the Mind of Light manifests, in complete assimilation of the human mental, the Gnosis proper and assumes its third and sovereign form. But what the two kinds of Gnosis are in the hierarchy above the human mental is not what they are here. There they are separate though connected levels, each a cosmos with its own type and function: here the one is merely the other partially unfolded. For, the Mind of Light is not anywhere anything else than the Supermind in progressive manifestation in embodied nature. As we have observed, its very inception signalises that the Supermind is acting directly and is in immediate presence on the level of the physical mentality. But in its initial and middle forms the directness and the immediacy are, in different measures, restrained: the third form employs them freely. The supreme divinity which releases a little of its magnificence under the form of an apparent continuation at the lower end of the Spiritual Mind’s gradation and then “an ampler ether, a diviner air” in the form of wholly descended mental Gnosis, is utterly laid open – a towering apocalypse in the terms of the human mental – by the third form the Mind of Light takes.” (The Vision and Work of Sri Aurobindo, p. 119)
(i) “What is spiritual life? Every moment a remembrance of God, every moment an offering to God, and no longer praying for any gift from God save God’s own self.
And what is God? An infinite stillness behind all motion, an infinite motion without losing that stillness. A pure radiance within, an immense grace above, a myriad love around, a dense delight below. A perfection that needs nothing yet refuses nothing—not even the least of tributes. He holds in Himself the fulfilment of all desire when He desired for His own sake. A King, He is to be served directly and not alone through service to His subjects: family, friends, society, the nation, all mankind, the whole earth, the entire universe—these you may serve yet not find Him unless you hold Him to be more than these. Nor is He a cold vacuity stripped of the colours of life: when life’s colours are stripped away from Him, they fall like clothes from a naked body burning with love. But remember that in the love of this nakedness your own body is lost and forgotten. (Ibid., p. 167)
These are a few pearls from the ocean of Amal Kiran’s writings which the author has tried to present to the reader. One can go on and on quoting significant passages from his writings; in fact almost each and every line penned by Amal Kiran is worth quoting. The world of his writings is pretty vast and one could spend a quarter of one’s life reading and realizing what he has gifted to us. Thick volumes of critical appraisal can be produced from each and every book penned by him. It is like a long journey whose ultimate destination is the ever-luminous Truth and the author is quite sanguine that the readers will enjoy each and every moment of the delightful and illuminating journey (that is, the reading of Amal Kiran’s diversified works) as it offers to them the nectar from the fountain of Paradise.
Amal Kiran: the Conversationalist
Silence has always been given more emphasis than speech. But one must not forget that though silence is golden, yet, speech is also silver. We all talk, sometimes with a purpose and often incoherently. The fact that conversing is an art is understood by a handful of people only. Good writers speak through their pen but often they are found to be average conversationalists. They are capable of organizing their thoughts and reproducing them on paper but often fail to give expression to them when asked to speak impromptu. A writer can impress and influence people more than a conversationalist but again a marvellous speaker can influence a greater number of people with the power of the spoken word. The writer’s pen hits the heart while the conversationalist’s uttered word hits the brain. How right was Dilip Kumar Roy when he wrote:“…if the pen is mightier than the sword, verbal eloquence is mightier than the avalanche.” Who can ignore the power of speech? Can anyone forget the impact on the Americans when they heard Swami Vivekananda saying, “Brothers and Sisters of America”? Can anyone forget how the Indians’ minds were ignited when Subhash Chandra Bose gave the call: “Give me blood and I will give you freedom”? And who can ignore the fact that hundreds and thousands of people across the world still study the “Gospels of Ramakrishna” which contains the conversations of the illumined Master? Is the reading of the Mother’s talks not a revelation itself? Few people are blessed with the boon of good speech and it would not be an exaggeration if one calls Amal Kiran one of the most notable conversationalists of the past century.
Amal Kiran’s conversations are adorned with the presence of a rich humour which never made the talks boring. One could marvel at his puns and usage of humorous phrases during the course of the conversation. After all, is he not the disciple of Sri Aurobindo who himself was renowned for his subtle humour and who declared :“Sense of humour? It is the salt of existence. Without it the world would have got utterly out of balance…”
Spoken words are often lost; but that did not occur in the case of Amal Kiran whose talks were recorded for the benefit of posterity and later published in the form of books like Talks on Poetry and Light and Laughter: Some Talks at Pondicherry. While reading his conversations, one just marvels at the way he spoke on serious subjects and topics but even then he did not forget to sprinkle his usual wit and humour.
Let’s quote some passages from Amal Kiran’s serious but enlightening talks:
(a) “Well, if we have faith in this re-creation[of the universe, as stated by the Mother; here is what she said: ‘To give you an idea of the final height of spiritual rebirth, I may say that there can be a constant experience of the whole universe disappearing at every instant and being at every instant newly created!’] minute by minute, we can also feel we are not completely bound by what we call the chain of Karma. We are often upset over the hold of our past. Like a millstone round our neck the past seems to hang. But nothing really binds us down in an absolute sense. Of course, our power of re-creating ourselves in our lives is limited. But self-conscious beings, beings who can stand back and watch their own nature, inner and outer, with however small a detachment, beings who not only know that they know—such beings have at least a speck of true freedom, and from that speck they can alter their lives at any instant. This certainty I got when the Mother came out with that secret of secrets about the universe.” (Light and Laughter, p. 76)
(b) “The psychic being is the golden key of sadhana. Yet we must not jump to the conclusion that the mind is of no importance. If it is utterly negligible, why has Sri Aurobindo written such a large number of books, including the enormous Life Divine which is a veritable mind-cracker? I believe that it is necessary not only to attempt doing Yoga but also to attempt understanding Yoga. And the understanding can come best if you read what Sri Aurobindo has written on Yoga. Without the understanding you could be very much upset and develop a habit of being melancholy. For you may have a series of brilliant experiences and then all of a sudden find yourself completely shut. You may feel dull as ditch-water and blank as a wall. It may seem as though the time has come to pack your trunk and bid good-bye. But if you have read Sri Aurobindo, you would know that after a fine spiritual period there is generally a lull, a period of quiescence in which assimilation takes place, the experiences are absorbed by the ordinary consciousness. While this is happening, your outer self may have that desolating dullness and that unbearable blankness. No doubt, you feel as stupid as an ass while the assimilation goes on – but you mustn’t start kicking! You must keep quiet and let this period pass. Occasionally it can last rather long.” (Ibid., p. 86)
(c) “In sadhana the place of the mind is not only at the feet of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother: it is also between the pages of their books. The only thing to take care about is that you should not grow intellectually over-active. Otherwise you start analysing yourself all the time and that is hardly conductive to the Supermind’s coming or even to less spectacular progress.” (Ibid., p. 87)
(d) “…to seek the Divine we do not have to go far. He dwells within ourselves. He is as near and natural as our own heart. His flute is always playing there. And hearing it there I found that Yoga was not at all an unusual thing to do. However young you may be, you can always get in touch with the Divine’s luminous presence…
How to get more and more in touch with the Supreme Indweller is the whole business of Sadhana. If you ask me what is the simplest way, I shall quote to you three words of the Mother—“Remember and offer.” Wherever you are, whatever you do, you can always think of the Divine, and you can always make an offering of yourself and your doings. There is nothing too small, too trivial to be offered. Suppose I put this walking stick of mine in some place. Well, even that action can be and should be a gesture of offering. The inward movement has to be – “I am giving my stick to you, O God.” To take in everything into the practice of offering is to make the Yoga an integral part of your life.
It is not by cutting yourself off from people or by shutting out activity and locking yourself up in an impenetrable Samadhi that you meet the Divine. Yoga means being in touch with the Divine’s presence every minute. It is an all-time job, as Sri Aurobindo has often said.
And, if you live out the Mother’s formula of remembering and offering, you will feel that something extremely sweet and at the same time extremely strong is awakening in you. Soon you will feel as if a bright nectar were welling in your heart and flowing everywhere in your body. The whole of you will feel perpetually blessed and everything you lay your hands on will appear to you as if it were receiving blessedness. What awakens in you is— to use Sri Aurobindo’s phrase – “the psychic being”, the true soul in you. This soul is a part of the Divine and has come with its spark of divinity into the substance of matter to lead through birth after birth the evolution of life and mind in a material form. It is this soul that links us to the Divine dwelling within ourselves. And I may tell you that to experience the true psyche in us is not only sheer bliss but a bliss that is self-existent, independent of object, circumstance or person. That it because it comes from the Divine Ananda that is infinite Existence and Consciousness. Once the true psyche has been touched, we lose the taste for other enjoyments. All other enjoyments become dust and ashes. Owing to our habitual attachments we may still go in for them, but now we know their absolute inferiority.” (Ibid., pp. 98-99)
In the conversations mentioned above, Amal Kiran has beautifully narrated some of the key aspects of the Integral Yoga. By listening to his talks (in this case, reading them), one can get the essence and knowledge of the Truth hidden in several volumes of books written on that particular topic or subject. He is capable of going into the heart of things, hence, whatever he spoke of reaches our hearts directly without any hindrance.
Let’s now go through some of Amal Kiran’s humorous conversations:
(a) “Let me whisper into your ears at the top of my voice an unbelievable secret. It is this: twice in the Savitri, which is a legend and a symbol, Sri Aurobindo has referred to the present speaker, symbolically, although the speaker is very far yet from being legendary. The first reference runs:
But Mind, a glorious traveller in the sky,
Walks lamely on the earth with footsteps slow.
Surely the person intended is unmistakable…The second reference is also more or less like the first, not very complimentary but on the other hand not altogether unappreciative and after all to be mentioned in Savitri in any way, however veiled or even unrecognisable, is itself a compliment. The second reference goes:
A limping Yes through the aeons journeys still
Accompanied by an eternal No.
Lest you should misunderstand, I must hurry to say that if the “limping Yes” is Amal Kiran, the “eternal No” accompanying him is not his wife! I may admit that my wife does have a strong restraining influence on many of my extravagances and recklessness; but here I take Sri Aurobindo to be speaking of two sides of a movement within one single person— yes, a person single, even if married!” (Light and Laughter, p. 2)
We all make fun of others and laugh at them. But seldom do we come across people who make fun of themselves and make others laugh. This is also an art! And Amal Kiran is the foremost of such artists; because of his polio-stricken left leg, he preferred to call himself “leggicapped” and not “handicapped”. Who can equal him in such subtle humour!
(b) “When I passed my B.A. examination, I asked my grandfather to let me go to Oxford. He at once said: “Nothing doing. If you go to Oxford you will bring back an English wife.” I told him: “I promise you that I will not bring back an English wife.” He smelled the rat all right and said: “No, I am sorry you can’t go to England. Stick on here and study.” Well, I had to, because I was dependent on him at that time…Now when he heard that I was trying to do yoga he came out with an inviting proposition. He very sweetly said: “Why don’t you go to England?” Evidently, in his eyes an English wife was far preferable to the Divine Beloved!” (Ibid., p. 7)
(c) “Days passed in the Ashram. Every night I used to go to the pier. We had the old pier then— a long thing a quarter mile into the sea. I would go there at about 11 p.m. and sit in the dimness at the furthest end and attempt to mediate. I was hoping to see visions, but I saw nothing except when I opened my eyes at times and found hideous faces of fishermen in front of mine, uncomfortably close. They were peering into my face, seeming to wonder who this lunatic could be, coming at so late an hour all alone, and sitting with shut eyes.” (Ibid., p. 11)
(d)[Regarding his first Darshan of Sri Aurobindo] ‘“I saw him sitting very grandly, with an aquiline nose, smallish eyes, fine moustaches and a thin beard…I was examining him thoroughly. At length I made my pranam. He put both his hands on my head— that was his way— a most delightful way with his very soft palms. I took my leave, looking at him again. I observed to myself: “Quite an impressive Guru: he is very fine in appearance, very grand—I think I can accept him!”
The next day I met the Mother and asked her: “Mother, did Sri Aurobindo say anything about me?” She answered: “Well, he just said that you had a good face.” Here was a piquant situation. When I was examining him, he was examining me—on the same level, it seems.’(Ibid., p. 13)
(e) “At that time there were only about 40 people here— just a handful…I cannot give you an idea of what all the 40 people looked like or acted like, but I have memories of some of them who could not be bypassed. Of course, Nolini was there, quite a young man but more or less the same. He used to go about with his eyebrows high up as if in concentration on some Beyond, not paying attention to outer things. When we were standing together and talking he would pass along, stand, look with a very interested air and say “What?” and just walk away. We tried to give him some answer but before that he was gone.” (Ibid., p. 20)
(f) [Regarding Nirodbaran] “I don’t know whether he wanted it, or liked it or not, but he established his reputation as the frowning physician. People used to come to him with a cold and he would stand and glare at them, and say, “What? you have a cold!” Poor people, they would simply shiver and this had a very salutary effect because they thought that it was better not to fall ill than face the doctor’s disapproval of any kind of illness which would give him any botheration.” (Ibid., p. 24)
(g) “There was a Telegu gentleman whom I had come to know because he and I used to eat opposite each other at a small table outside the Reading Room…This chap used to bring with him some ghee every time and pour it on all that he ate. When I look at people I always try to fix them in my mind by comparing them to some author or other. And this person looked like the famous novelist H.G.Wells. So I began to call him H Ghee Wells!” (Ibid., p. 27)
(h) “A French writer, trying to describe what good writing…should be, has said, “Claire, encore Claire, toujours Claire!”[meaning, ‘Clear, again clear, always clear!’] Well, I strongly suspect that when he made this pronouncement his wife was standing at his elbow and her name happened to be “Claire.” Oh my God! what have I done? I have made a dig at petticoat influence in connection with a name borne by a lady in the audience, who is very charming but also very dynamic. (Turning to the lady) I apologise to you, madam; I hope my life won’t be in danger.” (Ibid., p. 38)
(i) “I used to receive appeals for various kinds of things from people. Our Pavitra once sent me an appeal. He was not quite a master of English at that time. He sent me the note: “I want four blocks to understand my table.” I supplied to him what he required, with a reply-note: “Here are the needed blocks. Fortunately they are not blockheads: otherwise your table would never have been understood.” (Ibid., pp. 42-43)
(j) [When Amal Kiran returned to Bombay after spending six and a half years at Pondicherry, his future wife Sehra got angry when she saw him with a beard] “She made a disgusted face and said: “What is this?” Then I very calmly explained to her: “You see, I am a Yogi. God thrust on me the spiritual favour of a lame leg so that I might not run after anybody glamorous and I have spiritually favoured myself with a beard so that nobody glamorous may run after me.”(Ibid., page 46)
(k) “In those days in the Ashram there was a scarcity of specially qualified people. Now we have a dozen doctors, each diagnosing a different disease for the same patient. (Ibid., page 46)
(l)[Amal Kiran had shaved off his beard due to the influence of his relatives who had come to visit him from Bombay, but after that he observed that as a result, it appeared that half of his face had been cut off] “So much removed from under the chin so suddenly made my face look horribly small. And it was with this face that I went to the Darshan of Sri Aurobindo. He was a little puzzled: “Who is this funny-looking fellow with a face familiar but inexplicably halved?” Then he concentrated a little and recognised that here was Amal Kiran. Seeing his expression, I on my return home wrote at once to him: “How did you find me?” He replied: “Grow back your beard as fast as you can!” (Ibid., p. 62)
(m) [Regarding the Soup Distribution ceremony in the Ashram] “Each of us in turn would go and kneel before her [the Mother] and offer her our cup. The cup used to be called in the Ashram lingo “the animal cup”: really it was “the enamel cup” mispronounced! Perhaps the mispronunciation was quite appropriate: what we had to give the Mother was really an animal emptiness after all.” (Ibid., p. 64)
(n) “…a South Indian Yogi who had become a sadhak here…was supposed to be a great doer of tapasya…he would first sit in his room to meditate and then when he had got into the full swing of the inner consciousness he would come to the general meditation of the evening. In order to keep his room-meditation going on he would open only one eye and keep the other shut and come like that all the way so that all of the inner consciousness might not escape. With one eye shut, naturally several sorts of disasters could take place. The catastrophe that did frequently happen was that on his passage into the hall he put one of his feet right into the capacious lap of a fat lady named Mridu who used to sit just at the entrance. She was outraged and indignant, but it was impossible to make any protest when the Mother was deep in trance.” (Ibid., p. 63)
(o)[Once during the Soup Distribution] “The Mother was deep in trance. We tried to imitate her by shutting our eyes tight. Now, a big rat decided to join the Meditation. But it had a rather original way of meditating. It ran to and fro amongst us— I’m sure with its eyes shut like ours, because otherwise one cannot explain what it ultimately did: it rushed into Dara’s dhoti!
You can imagine poor Dara. He was in a terrible fix. Perhaps the word “fix” is not quite the mot juste, for he was extremely mobile. He jumped up on one side of his seat and jumped down on the other, he thrust out one leg, pulled in the other, and fumbled with both hands to catch the fellow within the folds of his dhoti. At last the rat ran out, but there was such a commotion that the Mother opened her eyes and looked for an explanation. Then Pavitra, in what he believed was a voice suitable to the solemnity of the Soup Distribution, said in a low rumble: “It is a Bandicoot!”(Ibid., p. 72)
(o) ‘“The Supermind came on the day I left Pondicherry. I must have been the biggest obstacle in its way. As soon as I was removed, it found its passage free and there it was!” Then I reflected: “Well, it’s pretty humble to think yourself such a big obstacle but pretty egoistic to believe the Supermind could depend on so insignificant a chap being there or not.” I further thought: “Perhaps it did not come at the expected time because India was the field of Manifestation. India is famous for unpunctuality.” (Ibid., p. 81)
The manner in which Amal Kiran narrates an incident or the way he describes the behaviour or appearance of a person enables us to visualize with extreme ease the whole incident in front of our eyes. Through his conversations he gives us light which in turn gives rise to immense delight in our hearts. This can be termed as Amal Kiran’s forte.
Amal Kiran: the Yogi and the Seer
Amal Kiran is a poet, a prose-writer, a critic and a researcher. But there is something that transcends all his multi-faceted abilities. It is his spiritual consciousness. It should be remembered that he is first a Yogi and that too a great one whose spiritual consciousness and abilities were developed by the Mother and Sri Aurobindo over the years. But surprisingly in his early years, he was not a believer; in fact he had lost his faith in God due to his study of the works of Plato, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Ernst Haeckel, Joseph McCabe and Bernard Shaw and also the influence of a Jesuit teacher which made him despise “cheap religionism, as well as cheap materialism, puritanical sham no less than erotic tawdriness.” He himself had made a candid confession:
“I suffered fits of somber depression, a tearing at the vitals made me miserable whenever I wanted to reject the unseen Friend whom I had taken to my heart so fervently in my early school days. Under the night sky I would sit with tears in my eyes at the prospect of infinite emptiness where there had once been an invisible omnipresence. I put up every argument I could to keep in its place the old religious conviction, but nothing was of any avail against the relentless march of the outward-looking analytic mind. At last I became an atheist.”
However the death of his father (with whom Amal Kiran had confrontations regarding his atheism) a year after his matriculation restored his lost faith in God. Thereafter, he started reading books on Raja Yoga and Hatha Yoga which in turn introduced him to the works of Swami Vivekananda. A few months later, on reading the news of the arrival of a Maharastrian Yogi named Yogi Devji in town, Amal Kiran went to meet him with a friend of his. When the Yogi touched his head, he felt an electric current running down his backbone. He requested the Yogi to give him some practical hints which would take him beyond his ordinary consciousness. The Yogi advised him to pull his consciousness from his feet up to his head and try to feel that he was on the top of his head; in case he was successful, he would see a ring of light above the head where he was instructed to dive into with his consciousness and that would lead him to the state of samadhi. Amal Kiran was deeply interested and every night he practised this lifting up of the consciousness and in due course of time mastered the art of going out of his body and float in the air above his own form and moved in his room from wall to wall.
During that period, a theosophist told Amal Kiran that a complex person like him will only be satisfied with Sri Aurobindo who has the cosmic consciousness. One day, Amal Kiran went to Crawford Market to buy a pair of shoes; when he returned home, he opened the shoe box and the newspaper sheet which wrapped the box fell open before him and his eyes fell on an article published in it titled “A visit to the Ashram of Aurobindo Ghose”. After reading the article, Amal Kiran realized that Pondicherry was the ideal place for him where he would realize the Goal of his life under the aegis of Sri Aurobindo. Later he wrote about it in his usual jest: “A few months later, I went to the Ashram…wearing those very shoes; they proved to be the shoes of a pilgrim on his march to the Goal. Most seekers are drawn to the Divine through their hearts or through their heads: He drew me through my feet. Quite a feat, I should think, even for an omnipotent God!”
Amal Kiran reached Pondicherry with his wife Daulat (renamed ‘Lalita’ by Sri Aurobindo) on 16 December 1927. He was taken to the room of A.B.Purani with whom he had corresponded earlier. From one of the windows of the room, he had his first Darshan of the Mother, who was walking on the terrace. The first Darshan of the Mother left an ever-lasting impression in his mind though he saw her from quite a distance. He had the Darshan of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on 21 February 1928 on the 50th birthday of the Mother.(Since the memories of the first Darshan is already discussed, we won’t repeat it.) By the time of the second Darshan on 15 August the entire being of Amal Kiran had opened up and according to him, “there had been moments of unbearable psychic ecstasy and a general effluence of the deep heart had become a part of my life.” During the Darshan, when Amal Kiran knelt at Sri Aurobindo’s feet, the Guru blessed him with both of his hands and Amal Kiran experienced “a tremendous bar of luminous steel entering the head from above and making me dizzy.” When he met the Mother that day in the afternoon, she took him to the Darshan Room and after blessing him, said: “Sri Aurobindo was very pleased with you. He said that there had been a great change.” This was the beginning!
Amal Kiran always aspired to know the higher truths, to realize the Divine. His first two years in the Ashram laid the foundation of his future yogic life and spiritual consciousness but his truest turn to the Yoga came when “something opened” in his heart. It was the psychic being! He writes about it: “When the inner work done in this period was over and the time arrived for the superstructure to be raised upon the part ascetic part psychic foundation, the old K.D.Sethna re-emerged with his complex modernism so that a proper natural form might be taken by the growing spiritual personality.” He was named K.D.Sethna by his parents and on 3 September 1930, he received the name of “Amal Kiran” from Sri Aurobindo. Regarding the significance of his name, Amal Kiran writes: “The very name I have been given by them—“Amal Kiran”, meaning “The Clear Ray”— is meant to point not only towards clarity but also towards radiancy— towards being on the mental plane the manifestation of a light above it, a sun of Truth from which a revealing ray acts in the mind.”
Regarding his sadhana, Amal Kiran once told Annie Nunnally: “The sadhana has not fundamentally changed since my first experience which was the opening of the heart center about six months or so after I settled in Pondicherry. I was persistently after this opening of the heart and several times I made the Mother touch me with Her hand in the middle of the chest asking Her to break open there and at last there was an opening. At that time, I realized just how shut human beings are in their heart region. With that opening came the sense not only of a great wideness but also of a lovely atmosphere full of flowers and fragrances accompanying this happy warmth. Sometimes the sense of the opening was so intense that I felt almost breathless and prayed that this heavenly feeling would never go away.”
Amal Kiran has been kind enough to share with us the numerous spiritual experiences he had by the grace of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. He also narrates incidents, apparently trivial but profound in meaning, which exhibit how the Mother and Sri Aurobindo tried to lift the consciousness of their disciples from the lower levels and transform them. Let’s discuss a couple of them:
(i)While writing about yogic oblivion that may come up in any forms, Amal Kiran remembers that once, during the 1930s, he was awaiting the Mother with others to return from her car-drive in the evening. He forgot for a few seconds that he was in the Ashram, doing Yoga. When the awareness was back, he found himself “utterly shut in the heart and mind: no touch of devotion, no stir of aspiration, just a sense of darkness in the whole being.” When he asked the Mother how that could happen, she replied: “Suppose you are on a battlefield and you forget that fact. Do you realise what would happen to you? In the life of Yoga it is the same.”
(ii) Once, Amal Kiran was sitting at the top of a staircase leading to the Mother’s room. Sometimes she used to open the door and look at the people outside. That day she open ed the door and called Chinmayi[ a sadhika] in who was sitting next to Amal Kiran; she did not even look at him and when Chinmayi went inside the room, the door was closed on his face. Amal Kiran was “terribly upset” and a “great surge of jealousy” swept over him. But this particular incident taught him a lesson which is described in his own words: “…it broke open an inner vision. When I hung my head down and looked between my legs at the stairs, I did not see the stairs but a black abyss, a bottomless black abyss. At once I was shocked into saying: “Ah, so this is what jealousy is! It is a pit of darkness unfathomable which tries to suck us irrevocably.” And since that moment…I don’t think I have had any invasion of jealousy.” (Light and Laughter, p. 60)
(iii) A certain person was harassing Amal Kiran and the latter was finding it tough to conceal his resentment. He went to the Samadhi and prayed to the Mother for her guidance and requested her to tell him what he should do to check this harassment. In his own words: “Suddenly there was an exquisite explosion, as it were, in the occult-heart centre in the middle of the chest and, through the opening made there, an intense love flowed out towards the person who had been considered an enemy. Here then was the Mother’s unexpected answer to my appeal. This was the Mother’s mode of dealing with the hatred I had felt to be pouring against me. The psychic being had come forward to solve the problem. It spontaneously saw the Divine within everyone and strove to pierce to that reality behind all the masks and to dissolve the obstacles of the outer consciousness of both myself and the other party.” (Our Light and Delight, p. 181)
(iv) On 15 August 1947 Amal Kiran came to the Ashram after many years (since the late 1930s, he used to devote his time between Bombay and Pondicherry). When he went to have a Darshan of Sri Aurobindo, he saw that his Guru was looking at him in such a manner as if he did not recognize him. Amal Kiran writes about this: “I was upset as well as deeply benefited because it knocked the bottom out of my ego and the result was a very painful but most liberating transcendence of the idea of my own importance.”
(v) Once Amal Kiran received a letter from his mother, sister and brother who were residing at Bombay. He told the Mother that he had just heard from home. The Mother said with a slight ironical smile: “I have caught you out. You said ‘home’. Where is your home?” Amal Kiran understood “even in our outermost habit-ridden being we must let the inner truth, the soul’s choice and destiny, shine through. The commitment to the Integral Yoga has to be integral.”
(vi) Sri Aurobindo once said: “Amal once asked the Mother if he would realise the Divine. The Mother replied that he would unless he did something idiotic to cut short his life. And that is exactly what he very nearly did(he had consumed a huge quantity of a powerful drug prescribed by his doctor-friend during one of his visits to Bombay; he was on the verge of dying as it was 48 times the normal dose and was saved by a divine intervention)!” In 1966 the Mother said that if Amal Kiran took reasonable care of his body, he would “participate in the realization of the New World.” And on his sixty-sixth birthday, Amal Kiran requested the Mother: “I want to hang on till I see your Victory.” She replied: “Bien.”
(vii) In 1954, during the publication of Savitri under the editorship of Amal Kiran, he made a list of suggestions regarding Savitri and took it to the Mother. He wanted to include a Publishers’ Note mentioning that certain passages in Part 2 and Part 3 of the book were not revised by Sri Aurobindo; “otherwise,” according to him, “critics will think that they are what Sri Aurobindo intended them finally to be.” The Mother replied that there is nobody in the world who could judge Sri Aurobindo; she added: “And how do you know what Sri Aurobindo intended or did not intend? He may have wanted just what he has left behind. How can you say that he did not give the final revision? How can you judge?” She added: “It is presumptuous for anyone to have such an opinion. Who can enter into Sri Aurobindo’s consciousness? It is a consciousness beyond everything and what it has decided how can anyone know?”
Amal Kiran replied: “Mother, from the fact that Sri Aurobindo sometimes corrected his own things on our pointing out oversights we conclude that passages may be there which needed revision.”
The Mother ‘exploded like a veritable Mahakali’ and said: “Sri Aurobindo made many concessions out of politeness and a wish to be left in peace. When a great being comes down here to work he wants peace and not botheration. Yes, he was very polite and people took advantage of his compassion and misunderstood it and got all sorts of ideas.”
Amal Kiran writes: “The Mother’s whole outburst made me wonder about my discussions through the years with Sri Aurobindo over Savitri, the innumerable comments I used to make and used to welcome and consider patiently. Was he just being polite with me? It hurt very much to think that. It also seemed impossible, non-factual.” But he tried to open his being to the Mother and to accept wholly what she had said. “She had made in me a wide opening. I opened out into a sense of Sri Aurobindo’s vastness and divineness. Something in the physical mind seemed broken and to make room for the higher and wider Consciousness.” He realized that he should reject all these ‘self-regarding attitudes and truly grant that Sri Aurobindo might have been nothing more than polite and compassionate in considering’ all his suggestions which he made to his Guru. He also realized that his ego could be thrown out and his physical mind would become ‘clear’ and ‘receptive to the vast Consciousness of both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.” For the first time, he understood what his Gurus truly were. In his own words: “The whole poise of physical being experienced a change. A new life began, and I knew then that a fundamental obstacle— intellectual self-esteem— had essentially disappeared.”
(viii) On 12 February 1954 Amal Kiran was resting in his bed when he received a silent command to settle in the Ashram for ever. He felt one with the source of the command. “Almost simultaneous with the overhead impulsion which had strangely absorbed me into it,” writes Amal Kiran, “there was a pull from behind my back on a level with the heart and I seemed to exist no longer in the body but in some inmost profoundity of flame, independent of my personal, physical form.” His ‘great moment’ happened to be an action of the typal “I” instantly echoed by the evolution of its truth-image. There was a sense of something radical and undeniable that hung around his being and he understood that his road to the Ashram was cleared. His body existed without its usual reactions to the world and though ‘it did everything as before, I lived exclusively high up and out behind.’ He composed the following poem to immortalize the event:
Above my head I am one with God’s huge gold,
Behind my heart God’s white-fire depth am I;
But both these freedoms like far dreams I hold,
Wonderful futures caught in a cryptic eye—
A light without lids— suspended timelessly
’Twixt flickering glimpses of mortality.
I am they and yet no part of body or mind
Shares in their splendour : a nameless strength alone
Possesses every limb. A block of stone
Dead to all hungers, void of smile or sigh,
The outer self endures the strokes of time,
But feels each stroke flash from beyond, behind
The world of man, a smite of the God on high
And the God at my back to rouse from the rapt peace
Of my stone-mass a shapeliness sublime
That shall be God to the very finger-tips
By the falling of brute superfluities.
Treasuring that sculpture yet unborn, I wait
For the luminous outflowering of my fate—
Blindness that is a locked apocalypse!
(ix) In 1973 Amal Kiran was in Bombay to undergo a cataract operation. When he was lying on the operation table waiting for the cataract to get operated, he began to have a slight cough which was something totally undesirable. To cure himself, he tried a yogic trick. “There is a Purusha (Self) at each spot of the body behind the Prakriti (Nature) working there. I now separated the Purusha in the throat from the Prakriti which was indulging in that local irritation. And this Purusha, standing back, refused sanction to what Prakriti was up to. Immediately the movement to clear the throat stopped…” (The Mother: Past-Present-Future, p. 122)
(x)In September 1973, soon after his cataract operation, Amal Kiran’s body was attacked by a viral infection. His body experienced cough and cold with fever and a sense of a ‘monstrous little presence’ in the stomach. Then something happened on 29 September. He writes about it: “From behind the head of the right side and from behind the right side of the upper part of the body a mysterious power acted. It was as if a subtle arm were stretched forth with a clenched fist, asserting an irresistible decision. I felt a thrust of the mind and a drive of the life-force, supported by the secret soul. Just one moment of decision and I knew that the viral infection had been completely pushed out of the body. There was no process, no gradual betterment: everything was instantaneous…At once I declared to Ferdauz [his nephew] that I was well.” (Ibid., p. 126)
(xi) The Mother often came to Amal Kiran in his dream-visions. On the night of 17 December 1973, she appeared to him in a dream with a bunch of red roses which she told him to put on his head. On that very day, in the evening, she had left her body.
(xii) What follows is the description of Amal Kiran’s experience of the Psyche coming to the front in his own words: “…every time I closed my eyes to meditate I got a vague pain in my chest as if something wanted to come out and was baulked by a barrier. I spoke to the Mother about the pain. She said: ‘Don’t worry. I know what it is. It will pass.’ A few months later, suddenly I had the sense of a wall breaking down in my chest—and there was instead a shinning space, as it were, within which indescribable flames and fragrances sprang up and a wide happiness without a cause pervaded my whole being. I was resting in bed in the afternoon when this opening took place. I lay breathless for a while. The ecstasy was more than one could bear. And when I could cope with the explosion I wished it would go and on. Of course it could not continue at that pitch. But from that time onward the soul, which had acted from the background and influenced me indirectly, became a part of my conscious life. It used to play temporary hide-and-seek but never more was there a wall between me and this delegate of the Divine.” (The Wonder That is K.D.Sethna alias Amal Kiran, p. 35)
One can write an entire book based on the spiritual experiences described by Amal Kiran in his various published works but let’s conclude with the description of that experience which can be termed as one of the greatest or may be the greatest experience he ever had:
(xiii) On 29 February 1956, in the evening, the manifestation of the Supramental occurred. That day, Amal Kiran was traveling to Bombay in a train. At night he dreamt of the Mother who was sitting in an open place which looked like the Ashram Playground; there was a crowd and he saw himself on the fringe of the crowd. Everyone was going to the Mother to make their obeisance and Amal Kiran too wanted to do the same but he could not remove the slipper from his polio-stricken left foot. He shook his foot to remove it but in vain; when the jerked it for the last time, he woke up from his sleep. To his utter surprise he saw the Mother in his compartment. He opened and shut his eyes to confirm what he was seeing was not his imagination. When he opened his eyes for the third time, he saw that she had vanished.
On his return to the Ashram, Amal Kiran met the Mother who explained to him what had happened. She added that only five people were aware of the manifestation of the Supramental and among them, she counted Amal Kiran as one of them. Actually she fulfilled a promise she and Sri Aurobindo had made to Amal Kiran way back in 1938 when he had expected the Manifestation to take place in that year. The Supramental did not manifest in that year, but the Mother remembered her promise.
Much has been discussed about Amal Kiran’s spiritual experiences. But the author would like to recall a personal experience of his regarding Amal Kiran. When he had gone to meet Amal Kiran in the Ashram Nursing Home for the first time, he made his obeisance to him and asked for the latter’s blessings (as he was translating the poems of Amal Kiran into Bengali). “Where is your head?” asked Amal Kiran. The author bent forward and Amal Kiran touched his head with his palm. What followed was an unforgettable experience! The author felt a strong electric current flowing in his spine. The effect was so great that it took him some time to open his eyes; when he stood up, Amal Kiran’s attendants exclaimed: “How beautiful! How beautiful!” The author was unable to understand why they were saying so. When he went out of the Nursing Home, he saw his reflection on the side-mirror of a scooter parked in front of the gate; to his utter surprise, he saw that his face had become absolutely red—like the cover of the Bulletin of SAICE. Such was the force of Amal Kiran’s touch! After all, his were the hands that had touched the feet of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo!
Amal Kiran’s journey still continues. He no longer writes; no longer converses much but conveys much through his silence. He was never afraid of death for he himself had written in a letter to his Guru in the early 1940s: “Death by itself does not frighten me very much. I do have the normal man’s recoil from it, but my mind has a certain detachment which makes something in me rise superior to fear…Yet death does appeal to me horribly because it would cut short my spiritual growth in this life and waste the mercy that has brought me close to you and given me a grand opportunity to be your instrument. I want to live and realise what I have never ceased to regard as my true ultimate goal. Personally, I do not and cannot even believe that I shall die and not realise that goal.” This fearlessness still exists, fostering the progress of the soul for he claimed: “I am doing my best to live long both because I am happy and can give happiness and because I want as much time as possible to go nearer to Sri Aurobindo’s luminous Truth and the Mother’s radiant Beauty. All the same I am ready to say ‘Hurrah’ whenever they tell me, ‘Your time is up.’” (The Wonder That is K.D.Sethna alias Amal Kiran, p. 2)
Amal Kiran always craved to realize the Divine as that has been the foremost aim of his life. In his own words:
“Him must we find in the blue,
The gold, the purple, the green,
The silver and even the shadow—
A light that is unseen!”
(The Adventure of the Apocalypse, p. 30)
And when he realized Him, he declared:
“Not only where Thy silver steps
Twinkle a night of nenuphars,
But everywhere I see Thy heaven:
I love the night between the stars…
For ever in my heart I hear
A time-beat of eternal bliss.
White Omnipresence! where is fear?
The mouth of hell can be Thy kiss.
The whole world is my resting-place:
Thy beauty is my motherland:
Sweet enemies are wounds of age—
My body breaks but by Thy hand.”(Ibid., p. 32)
“Each moment now is fraught with an immense
Allure and impulse of omnipotence;
For I have wandered from man’s crowded will
And through the lone enormous mysteries
Of dithyrambic wave and voiceless hill
Found truth’s white passion and impurpled peace.
Now all my sleep is one huge mountain wrought
With height on far height of ineffable thought
Touching the spirit’s rapture of calm sky.
And all my waking grows a fathomless force,
An ocean-hearted ecstasy am I
Where time rolls inward to eternal shores.”
(Poems by Amal Kiran and Nirodbaran with Sri Aurobindo’s Comments, p. 3)
“Through a gold-grey reverie
I largen out of space:
Birthless and deathless, I am playing
With a mask of human face!”
Born on 13 October 1984, Anurag Banerjee is an essayist, biographer, poet and researcher. His first book Nirodbaran: The Surrealist’s Journey was published in December 2006. He wrote the biography of Dilip Kumar Roy at the age of twenty in 2005 and translated 100 poems of Sri Aurobindo into Bengali at the age of twenty-one in 2006. His published works include Nirodbaran: The Surrealist’s Journey (2006), Achinpather Dibyapathik (2008), and Debotar Shrom (2008).