Sri Aurobindo gave him the name Amal-Kiran — The Clear Ray on September 3, 1930 when he was 29 years old. He was a poet of life-transforming spirituality in search of the truth of his being and becoming integrally one with his deepest aspirations of infinite beauty and eternal bliss that could only come from the Supreme. He knew this while in his twenty’s. In his early encounter with the Mother, he told Her, “I have seen everything in life. Now I want only God.” Upon learning of his age, the Mother advised, “At twenty-three you have seen every thing of life! Do not be in a hurry to make any decision. Stay here for some time and look around. If the life here suits you, join the ashram.” He arrived in the Ashram on December 16, 1927.
Amal Kiran’s decades of stay at Ashram seems to indicate that the life there did suit him! In the earlier period, even when Amal Kiran was not physically in Ashram; his mind, heart, and soul remained in Ashram as he worked from Bombay till his family affairs got resolved. From Bombay he edited Mother India magazine that Sri Aurobindo had proclaimed to be ‘My magazine’.
Amal Kiran belonged to a select group of sadhaks; Sri Aurobindo encouraged writing poetry as a part of their spiritual growth. This group, besides Amal Kiran, consisted of likes of Dilip Kumar Roy, Arjava (J. A. Chadwick), Harindranath Chattopadhyaya, Nishikanto Roychaudhuri, Nolini Kant Gupta, Nirodbaran, Jyotirmoyee, and Pujalal.
His poems are indicative of his aspirations, quest, and pursuits in doing his sadhana of Integral Yoga. Humbly, he has talked about himself in his private letters: 1“I may honestly testify that if I have any more-than-ordinary proficiency in any sphere it is Sri Aurobindo’s creation out of whatever little potential I may have had to start with.” His life of 106 years is indeed a vivid marvel of Divine’s work on human. Amal Kiran was twenty-eight when he wrote his, Pilgrim of Truth2 on July 31 1933,
Each moment now is fraught with an immense
Allure and impulse of omnipotence; …
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,
And ocean-hearted ecstasy am I
Where time rolls inward to eternal shores.
He had lofty expectations of the Aurobindonian poet that is evident from his initial write up of May 11, 1930, which he had revised in August 14, 19653:
The Aurobindonian poet recognizes within himself the Lord of the Flame in to whose creative beatitude he incessantly steeps his imagination by surrendering his conscious being to the spontaneities of mystical love and by contacting through the intuition of the aesthetic unity of the world a common spiritual foundation, to himself and his environment, of a multiple yet unified glory presiding over the inferior phenomenon of the Spirit’s hide-and-seek with Itself….
The Aurobindonian poet will be not merely an instrument of forces, which will work through him by passing inspirations. It will be a commentary on the consistent sainthood of his personality, on the divine way he will carry himself, the godlike way he will repose, the inexpressible way he will be silent. In case of our Aurobindonian poet, his sadhana of self-surrender finds a poetic expression bringing him ever closer to the divine.
Amal Kiran could dream dreams supernal, he could write rivetingly the pursuit of his unquenched quest, and he eloquently expressed what he had internalized in his poetry. One of his favorite poems is a milestone achievement, This Errant Life4:
This errant life is dear although it dies; …
If Thou desirest my weak self to outgrow
Its mortal longings, lean down from above,
Temper the unborn light no thought can trace,
Suffuse my mood with a familiar glow.
For ‘tis with a mouth of clay I supplicate:
Speak to me heart to heart words intimate,
And all Thy formless glory turn to love
And mould Thy love into human face.
Sri Aurobindo had commented: “A very beautiful poem, one of the very best you have written. The last six lines, one may say even the last eight, are absolutely perfect.”
Amal Kiran’s on going dialogues recorded in the series, Life-Poetry-Yoga with his friend PR do reveal a lot about Amal Kiran’s genius in expounding his enlightening views and intuitive insight. In addition, his interaction with PR also offers a glimpse of him as a Bhakta–aspirant of the divine Love. Amal Kiran had confided in PR about his inner prayer, which he poignantly described as an echo in his depths: 5
Voices of Infinity, sound in my heart, –
Call of the One!
Stamp there thy radiance, never to part,
O living Sun.
It is self-evident that Amal Kiran as a poet pilgrim of Integral Truth was an Aurobindonian poet and as such he became a shining example of the Mother’s message to me and to the others: “Let your life be a constant search for the Truth and it will be worth living.”
Over the years, I came to know Amal Kiran as very affectionate Amal to me, enriching me beyond my expectations. Our encounters became “Amal Rasa” to me.
Amal Kiran fascinated me in my younger days because of his keen intellect and incisive analytical prowess. Being a polymath his discourses on Integral Yoga, encompassed literature, philosophy, science, history and spirituality in a very natural and harmonized way. He stimulated my interest in those subjects and illumined my limited mind. He was my hero when it came to pursue spiritual journalism to advocate, elaborate, elucidate and to counter criticisms of Sri Aurobindo’s pursuits by people endowed with partial knowledge, preoccupied with preconceived notions, and limited ability to see things holistically. Yes, all these and some more why I was drawn to Amal, in the first place. However, what kept me coming to him time and again, and what enabled me to strike a stimulating and ever-growing friendship with him, was his engaging affection and his eagerness to welcome me whole-heartedly with a genuine soul-beaming smile.
I lived in USA from 1969 to 2009. It was in our personal encounters during my visits to Ashram over the years that our friendship evolved and he showered his boundless affections on me. Many years back, Amal asked me to promise him that whenever I come to Pondicherry, I visit him everyday before noon. I told him, “This is a dream come true for me what is there to promise?” As our friendship was building, I found to my amazement and initially to somewhat disappointment that he preferred that I talk to him instead me listening to his lucid and immensely enjoyable discourse. His explanation was brief and to the point: “You have no idea how refreshing it is for me to listen to you!” I was concerned that my thirst of knowledge and intellectual pursuit would not be quenched. But, who was I to argue my case against the grand-old-man-of-reasoning!
For me, it was divinely humbling and humanly transformative enchanting encounters! Following provide glimpses of gradually evolving Amal Rasa in the form of his inscriptions on his books that he gave to me:
• On July 7, 1983, “The Problem of Aryan Origins”
“Cordially to Arun from K. D. Sethna.”
• On January 1, 1986, “Karpasa in Prehistoric India”
“Cordially to Arun from K. D. Sethna.”
• On May 16, 1994, “The Secret Splendour”
“To fascinating myriad minded Arun with deep affection—K. D. Sethna.”
• On November 25, 1995-his Birthday, “Aspects of Sri Aurobindo”
“Very warmly to Arun’s truth-seeking mind and beauty-loving heart from Amal Kiran.”
• On July 27, 1998, “Talks on Poetry”
“Affectionately to Arun from Amal Kiran (K. D. Sethana)”
• On July 27, 1998, “Sri Aurobindo and Greece”
“Affectionately from Amal Kiran to Arun.”
• On July 27, 1998, “Science, Materialism, Mysticism”
“Affectionately to Arun from Amal Kiran”
Interestingly, after giving me his last three books, he said, “Hope you are getting the drift!” I did recognize that I was a blessed recipient of exceptional gift of God coming through Amal Kiran. Being a sadhak of Integral Yoga, for me pursuit of Truth has been comingled with learning of the majesty and mystery of love. I recalled C. V. Devan Nair, who had so wisely said6, “It is not knowledge, which fulfills all. It is Love which is the fulfilment of knowledge, and of all else besides.” I also remembered Goethe’s revelation, “We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.” Thanks to the insights of such luminaries, I did not miss out on the rare gift of Amal’s tender affections in my blind pursuit of knowledge! Time and again, I have received Divine’s blessings in life’s goal setting, guiding me on the path, and bestowing the transformative encounters with the likes of Professor Indrasen, Dyumanbhai, Nolini-da, Nirod-da, and Amal Kiran with full of affections and enlightenment as His representatives — Angels, as was indicated in The Mother’s message of 1952:
“Never forget that you are not alone. The Divine is with you helping and guiding you. He is the companion who never fails, the friend whose love comforts and strengthens. Have faith and He will do everything for you.”
It is the Divine-love through His Angels, I came to recognize and experience the splendour and mystery of love to be transformative and transitive from a many splendored things to the alchemic Divine Grace. Sri Aurobindo had promised and prophesized such things:
7 “Love must not cease to live upon the earth;
For Love is the bright link twixt earth and heaven,
Love is the far Transcendent’s angel here;
Love is man’s lien on the Absolute.”
8 “The soul can recognise its answering soul
Across dividing Time and, on life’s roads …
There is a Power within that knows beyond
Our knowings; we are greater than our thoughts,
And sometimes earth unveils that vision here.”
9 “A miracle of the Absolute was born;
Infinity put on a finite soul,
All ocean lived within a wandering drop,
A time-made body housed the Illimitable.
To live this Mystery out our souls came here.”
10 “To live, to love are signs of infinite things,
Love is a glory from eternity’s spheres.”
I enjoyed immensely interactions with Amal Kiran, but than who would not? These precious encounters often reminded me of my childhood‘s favorite poem of Tagore11:
“Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure. This frail vessel thou emptiest again and again, and fillest it ever with fresh life….
Thy infinite gifts come to me only on these very small hands of mine. Ages pass and still thou pourest, and still there is room to fill.”
Yes, Amal Kiran enabled me to experience something so sacred and up lifting transcending my boundaries to come to Him. It was like being born again and again coming closer to the truth of my being.
It is worth noting that Amal Kiran’s birthday is a rare spiritual occurrence as Amal Kiran’s birthday 25thNovember is sandwiched between Siddhi Day – 24th November (1926) and Immortality Day – 26thNovember (1926).
Siddhi Day is the descent of the Overmind Krishna Consciousness, to pave the way for the next higher level – Supermind. As per the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo, the transformation of physical consciousness and physical substance will happen with Supermind in future and that was revealed on Immortality Day -November 26 (Mother India, February 21, 1976.and Path to Perfection, Compiled from the Writings of the Mother by Keshavmurti (Dipti Publications, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1967), p. 79.). Considering that on a birthday one is most receptive, Amal Kiran’s soul must be basking in the most amazing influences of the two monumentally sacred spiritual events during this period. He was indeed blessed! Further more, most amazingly, the Mother had also blessed him by appearing in the subtle body to announce to him the descent of the Supramental consciousness on 29th February 1956. Could one conjure that Amal Kiran symbolized a rare human spiritual possibility of Supramental transformation of consciousness as well as physical body … an opportunity simply differed to a later date but not denied to humanity?
If the journey of our life is for the experiencing of the Transcendent – the Supreme Reality and internalizing it through our inner calling and sadhana then Sri Aurobindo identifies a sure way to fulfill our highest aspirations12: “I aspire to infinite force, infinite knowledge, infinite bliss. Can I attain it? Yes, but the nature of infinity is that it has no end. Say not therefore that I attain it. I become it. Only so can man attain God by becoming God.” The golden key of heavenly existence here on earth is thus presented to us: To find God, one has to become God.
However, this notion of oneness of an individual self with the Universal Being is not new. It is the very essence of India’s ancient enlightenment. As I understand it, it means that the Existence-Sat is integrative and consequently It is a unified, seamless whole with infinite perspectives. This theme is proclaimed by the ancient seers of the Vedantic time to be the ultimate reality transcending all the apparent worldly contraries as it is inherently impregnated with the trinity of Sat-Chit-Ananda and also the trinity of Truth, Bliss, and Beauty (Satyam, Shivam, and Sundaram). Sri Aurobindo unraveled the paradox of life – our Existence and revealed to us in Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol13:
A secret splendour rose revealed to sight
Where once the vast embodied Void had stood.
Night the dim mask had grown a wonderful face.
Here, astounding as it may seem, the “secret splendour” is none other than Yama-the God of Death who is also “Hiranyagarbha”– the golden-seed, the Lord of Life. The duality of death and life is but a unified universal and eternal reality. The duality of an individual self and the Supreme Being is but an unfolding reality of a mortal transitional being through the soul’s pursuit, progressively transforming as depicted in Rig Veda in the story of Kutsa Angirasa in the oneness of divinity, via cycles of death and life. This transformational relationship of man and God is depicted in the two-bird metaphor in Mundaka Upanishad, which derives its origin from the two-bird parable in Rig Veda. The sweet surprise (or may be it is not a surprise but an inevitable blessed milestone in a spiritual journey) is that Amal in his pursuit of Integral Yoga internalized this realization and expressed it in his poem, Two Birds:14
… “Where hangs the marvelous fruit I seek?”
Then suddenly above his head
A searching gaze of grief he turned:
Lo, there upon the topmost bough
A pride of golden plumage burned!
Lost in a dream no hunger broke,
This calm bird—aureoled, immense—
Sat motionless: all fruit he found
Within his own magnificence.
The watchful ravener below
Felt his time-tortured passion cease,
And flying upward knew himself
One with that bird of golden peace.
Sri Aurobindo’s comment on the poem is, “It is a felicitous in expression…The fourth stanza is from the Intuitive Mind….” Amal Kiran seems to have captured the blissful theme of unity in a duality of Nara (man) and Narayana (God Vishnu) relation exalted in Vaishanava Panth of Hindu religion. Man, an evolutionary being may find his life’s fulfilment and his spirit’s immortality in oneness with the Supreme. Amal Kiran’s 106 years of life journey is anything but an earnest pursuit of the envisioned future portrayed by Sri Aurobindo15:
The Absolute, the Perfect, the Immune,
One who is in us as our secret self …
We are sons of God and must be even as he:
His human portion, we must grow divine.
Our life is paradox with God for Key.
It may be of interest to note that Amal Kiran painted Two Birds. It became the beautiful cover-jacket to his magnum opus collected poems, The Secret Splendour, 1993 edition. Although I never did inquire with Amal Kiran, I have often wondered if the book title The Secret Splendour has its genesis in the oneness of Yama with the “wonderful face” in Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri referenced above.
1. Jugal Kishore Mukherjee, The wonder That is K. D. Sethna alias Amal Kiran, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1994, p. 23.
2. Amal Kiran, The Secret Splendour, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1993, p. 433.
3. Amal Kiran, The Aurobindonian Poet, Mother India, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, February 2001, pp. 99-101.
4. “Overhead Poetry”-Poems with Sri Aurobindo’s Comments, (Editors Nirodbaran and R.Y, Deshpande, Amal-Kiran: Poet and Critic, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1994), p. 70.
5. Ibid, 324
6. C. V. Devan Nair, Forerunner of the Divine Word, (Editors Nirodbaran and R.Y, Deshpande, Amal-Kiran: Poet and Critic, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1994), p. 173.
7. CWSA, Vol. 33-34 (Savitri — A Legend and a Symbol), p. 633.
8. Ibid, p. 397
9. Ibid, p. 101
10. Ibid, p. 397
11. Rabindranath Tagore, Collected Poems and Plays (Gitanjali), MacMillan, 1985, p. 3.
12. SABCL, Vol. 17, (The Hour of God: Certitudes), p. 2.
13. CWSA, Vol. 34, p. 679.
14. K. D. Sethna (Amal Kiran), The secret Splendour, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1993, p. 131.
15. CWSA, Vol. 33, (Savitri: A Legend and Symbol), p. 67.