Amal Kiran’s poems on Sri Aurobindo and the Mother

Dear Friends,

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.      

As the last installment of our series of tributes on Amal Kiran we are presenting a small bouquet of poems composed by him on Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. 

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee

Founder,

Overman Foundation. 

                                               *

                                       Sri Aurobindo

                     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.

 

                                        The Master

                      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!

 

                            Tennis with the Mother       

                          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!

                                                                    

                         The Signature: Sri Aurobindo 

                     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 uprightnoonthat 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!

                                                                                                           

                    At the Samadhi of Sri Aurobindo

                  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!

                                                   *

Advertisements

My First Contact with Amal Kiran by R.Y. Deshpande

Dear Friends,

As the third installment of our humble tribute to Amal Kiran alias K.D. Sethna, we are publishing the reminiscences of Shri R.Y. Deshpande, eminent poet and Aurobindonian scholar.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee

Founder,

Overman Foundation.

                                        *

    My First Contact with Amal Kiran by R.Y. Deshpande

My first contact with Amal goes back to 1951. At that time he was living in Bombay, and I a student of Nizam’s College, Hyderabad. I’d sent to him a set of my poems of the time and sought his guidance. He was prompt, and warm, in his reply, and even wrote that I’d a genuine poet in me. One of my poems was entitled Where do the Nebulae Go? Its genesis was what our professor in the physics class had told regarding the stars and the galaxies and the nebulae. According to the scientific ideas, they are constantly drifting away from us, drifting towards some far-off mysterious destination. The Red-Shift is a metaphor for the search of that Unknown. Amal liked a few lines and commented so, saying that they are “felicitous”. But he also said it looks somewhat “nebulous”. But I took this “nebulous” as a compliment, the adjective bearing the quality of the nebula itself, as if having a definite aim in its journey in the night sky. But what came to me as a wonderful surprise was he published one of my poems, of course with a lot of corrections, in the November 1952 issue of Mother India, which was coming at that time from Bombay. He said that it is a good sonnet coming from a student, and deserves all encouragement. But there was more to it than just encouragement! I was pretty happy, and also felt kind of important.

But the concrete “encouragement” came about a month after the publication of the poem. His office had sent by money order a sum of Rs five, as was the custom in those days for Mother India to pay to the authors. I did not know that I’d be rewarded this way also, and had least expectations. Promptly on receiving it I sent the amount to the Mother as my offering to her, an offering which you may call great or small depending upon how you look at it. The money order receipt came to me with her powerful and beautiful signature.

Here is the sonnet that had appeared in the periodical:

I am a student of Thy Infinity
With a heart simple like a blossoming flower;
Out of hushed caves there wakes an ecstasy
In a blank breast to drink Thy endless shower.

A god-will sprung from the rocky void of sleep
In a stream of magic rushes through my being
Of dumb nakedness to the soul’s silent deep
And all a light that is a flickerless seeing!

I am a student of Thy Truth’s triumphing
And I carry my heart to the dream-distant Sun
Where a giant wideness shall its wonder-wings
Spread over my trance in a deathless union.

Life shall new-glow in the lore of spirit-fire
To clasp the Unknown in a white flame-desire.

                                    *

Amal Kiran’s poem ‘This Errant Life’ with Sri Aurobindo’s comments

Dear Friends,

As the second installment of our humble tribute to Amal Kiran alias K.D. Sethna, we are publishing his very famous poem ‘This Errant Life’ along with Sri Aurobindo’s comments. We are thankful to Aryadeep, our friend from Auroville, for sending this compilation which also consists of an excerpt of a letter written by Sri Aurobindo to Dilip Kumar Roy praising Amal Kiran’s poem.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee

Founder,

Overman Foundation.

                                              *

               This Errant Life
                                 
This errant life is dear although it dies;
And human lips are sweet though they but sing
Of stars estranged from us; and youth’s emprise
Is wondrous yet, although an unsure thing.
 
Sky-lucent Bliss untouched by earthiness!
I fear to soar lest tender bonds decrease.
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 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 a human face.

 Sri Aurobindo’s Comments:

“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. If you could always write like that, you would take your place among English poets and no low place either. I consider they can rank—these eight lines—with the very best in English poetry.”

Sri Aurobindo in a letter to Dilip Kumar Roy:

“Amal’s lines are not easily translatable, least of all into Bengali. There is in them a union or rather fusion of high severity of speech with exaltation and both with a pervading intense sweetness which it is almost impossible to transfer bodily without loss into another language. There is no word in excess, none that could have been added or changed without spoiling the expression, every word just the right revelatory one—no colour, no ornamentation, but a sort of suppressed burning glow, no similes, but images which have been fused inseparably into the substance of the thought and feeling—the thought itself perfectly developed, not idea added to idea at the will of the fancy, but perfectly interrelated and linked together like the limbs of an organic body. It is high poetic style in its full perfection and nothing at all that is transferable.  You have taken his last line and put in a lotus-face and made divine love bloom in it,—a pretty image, but how far from the flowing impassioned severity of the phrase: ‘And mould Thy love into a human face’!”

 To Amal Kiran again:

“The quotations [AE] makes [from your poems]—

“The song-impetuous mind…             
The Eternal Beauty is a wanderer
Hungry for lips of clay—”
 
certainly deserve the praise he gives them and they are moreover of the kind AE and Yeats also, I think, would naturally like. But the poem [This Errant Life] I selected for special praise had no striking expressions like these standing out from the rest, just as in a Greek statue there would be no single feature standing out in a special beauty (eyes, lips, head or hands), but the whole has a harmoniously modeled grace of equal perfection everywhere as, let us say, in the perfect charm of a statue by Praxiteles. This apart from the idea and feeling, which goes psychically and emotionally much deeper than the ideas in the lines quoted by AE, which are poetically striking but have not the same subtle spiritual appeal; they touch the mind and vital strongly, but the other goes home into the soul.”
 
“If you could always write direct from the Illumined Mind, finding there not only the substance, as you often do, but the rhythm and language, that indeed would be a poetry exquisite, original and unique. The intellect produces the idea, even the poetic idea, too much for the sake of the idea alone; coming from the Illumined Mind the idea in a form of light and music is itself but the shining body of the Light Divine.”

                                                    *

 

An Interview with Amal Kiran by Anie Nunnally

Dear Friends,

It has been decided that throughout the month of July 2011 we would publish a series of articles on Amal Kiran alias K.D. Sethna as a humble tribute to him. We are starting the series from today with an interview of Amal Kiran taken by Anie Nunnally in 1999.

You are also invited to share your reminiscences and articles on Amal Kiran with us.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee

Founder,

Overman Foundation.

                                               *

          An Interview with Amal Kiran by Anie Nunnally

Amal now calls home the Ashram Nursing Home on Goubert Boulevard where he has resided since May 1999 after his hip was broken. He does not want to return to his house as he is well taken care of at the nursing facility and is freed from all the responsibilities of “housekeeping” as he says. The monsoon rains were teeming on many days that I visited him, but there was always sunshine when I entered his room because of his warm, welcoming and sunny disposition. This was true, also, of his lovely assistant, Minna. He is given daily physical therapy sessions, receives many visitors and when I arrived he was often sitting in the sun room overlooking the Bay of Bengal, pondering the tireless waves and surf that pound the concrete walls along the boulevard. He seemed quite peaceful and contented there.

Following are some of the questions I put to Amal and his answers:

ANIE: Would you describe your first darshan with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. What experiences did you have with them?

AMAL: The first darshan with the Mother I had the impression of a radiance all around Her. When I first saw Sri Aurobindo I had the sense of something leonine, as well as a mountainous calm. He leaned forward and blest me with both hands about my head. The Mother kept smiling all the time as if to set me at ease in the presence of Sri Aurobindo. My turn to go to them was to follow an American couple that I overheard discussing whom to bow to first. They solved the problem by bowing between them. This way they touched the feet of neither but had the rare experience of being blest by both of them at the same time. I looked at Sri Aurobindo and saw Him gently moving His head forward and backward with an expression on His face as if he saw my inmost being. I felt afterwards a little disappointed with myself for having examined His look and general appearance. I liked the shape of His nose and the way he seemed to look deep within me. But afterwards, I did feel disappointed with myself for having concentrated on His outer appearance. When I met the Mother later on I asked Her “Mother has Sri Aurobindo said anything about me”? She said “Yes, He told me that this young man has a good face”. So it seemed to be “tit for tat”. I was a little disappointed but I told myself that to have a good face in Sri Aurobindo’s eyes cannot but mean a great deal—at least it meant that I could face the difficulties of the yogic life. Sri Aurobindo had a soft, very soft voice, I am told, but I never heard Him speak.

ANIE: Can you describe the atmosphere of the ashram when Mother and Sri Aurobindo were in their physical bodies and the difference since that time.

AMAL: The general atmosphere of the ashram did not change radically. When both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother had left their bodies, I could still feel their presence. Perhaps because their subtle physical was said to have extended a number of miles beyond their bodies. I remember being told that their subtle physical bodies extended up to the Lake Estate, several miles away. So it may be said that they hold us close to them even at a great distance.

ANIE: In what way did your sadhana change after They left Their bodies? How has the sadhana changed for you at this stage in life and what new forms has it taken?

AMAL: 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 my chest asking Her to break me 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.

ANIE: What changes do you see taking place in the ashram in the future and will it be different, in any way, from what it is now?

AMAL: So long as there exists a nucleus of sadhaks in the ashram really doing the yoga, the ashram will remain as it always has.

ANIE: What do you see as being the strongest attributes and contributions of Americans to the work of Mother and Sri Aurobindo.

AMAL: Mother felt that external help for the growth of the ashram would come imminently from America, but She said there would be a sort of tantalizing connection. I remember Her saying that Ganesh, the Lord of wealth, would always help Her but often in a wayward way. There were times when the ashram was almost desperately in need of money. The Mother had to sell Her own saris to obtain the needed relief. There were some American followers who bought the saris and then offered them back to the Mother. A great deal of money began to pour in to the Mother from America after Her departure.

I always felt a special admiration for those who had never seen Mother or Sri Aurobindo in their physical bodies and yet could dedicate themselves to the ashram life…especially those people from America and other countries. I know of some who had come here as fulfilling a part of their pilgrimage in India but having stayed on here for some time dropped their idea of seeking elsewhere and stayed on in the ashram. The first Americans to settle here were a couple named Mr. and Mrs. McPheeters. The husband went out to travel to various places and when he returned was not quite the same person. During his absence his wife was made by the Mother a part of the small group that used to meet the Mother in the prosperity store room before the soup ceremony took place. Janet McPheeters would have stayed on if it had not been for her husband who wished to return toAmerica.

ANIE: One difficulty occurring in the sadhana is straying from the path, doing what one knows not to do, becoming discouraged, etc. Did this happen in your sadhana? How to guard against this happening and what to do if and when it comes?

AMAL: Straying from the path and doing what one knows not to do are real obstacles in yoga. Becoming discouraged now and again is a very common phase but one can get over this condition by appealing again and again to the Divine for help. In any kind of difficulty the most powerful help lies in praying to the Divine to carry one safely through the dark periods. The Divine is always ready to pick you up whenever you fall. A certain passage in the Mother’s Prayers and Meditations has been the chief support of my yoga. It begins “O Divine and adorable Mother, what is there that cannot be overcome with Thy Help?” There is also the passage “Thou hast promised to lead us all to our supreme destiny”. Not always to go on struggling but to appeal to the Mother to take up our struggle is one of the major secrets of success. Perhaps it is best summed up in the formula “Remember and Offer”. To practice this most fruitfully one must stand back inwardly from the invading impressions.

ANIE: Now that you are in your 90’s, what has yoga done for you at this stage in your life?

AMAL: My paramount aspiration, as stated earlier, was to have the opening in the heart—what Sri Aurobindo called the Psychic Being. This gave me an intense feeling of joy that was self-existent. I was always afraid it would not last, but last it did, though not always at the same pitch. Ever since this first breakthrough there has always been a sense of a radiant response to the presence of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.

ANIE: Could you explain what it was like to be Sri Aurobindo’s correspondent for Savitri?

AMAL: A friend of mine with some literary accomplishment gave, on my invitation, his comments on Savitri. Mostly they were critical. I submitted them to Sri Aurobindo and he considered them by answering. He found them not sufficiently penetrating because the writer had no spiritual background, but as they were from an accomplished literary consciousness, Sri Aurobindo thought it worthwhile to enter into a discussion with him. When I sent a copy of Sri Aurobindo’s answer to my friend he was rather apologetic and said that if he had known that Sri Aurobindo would read them, he would have been less “downright” in his tone. It was good that he was “downright” because thereby he gave Sri Aurobindo an opportunity to reply at length. Sri Aurobindo considered his comments as representative of a competent critical mind and he wanted this kind of mind to realize the newness of such poetry as Savitri, which was written from a yogic consciousness. Sri Aurobindo’s answers to various criticisms by me helped to make clear the level from which Sri Aurobindo wrote his spiritual poetry. Sri Aurobindo said my questions to Him were based on some understanding of the kind of poetry he wrote and the plane from which He did so. Whereas, my friend’s comments were lacking in sympathetic understanding. Savitri struck me as opening up an entirely new world not only of experiences but of literary expression. It was a great help to me because I was eager to write from what Sri Aurobindo called the overhead planes. Of course I aspired to participate in that consciousness but more directly my aim was to open myself to the influence and receive the direct utterance of poetry. It was possible to be receptive to it without myself getting stationed on those higher levels. Sri Aurobindo distinguished these levels as higher mind, illumined mind, intuitive mind and overmind intuition. He considered these planes as being communicated by us through our poems. The sheer overmind was difficult to tap and examples of the sheer communication could be found mostly in the Rig Veda, Upanishads and part of The Gita. It was interesting to realize that by silencing one’s mind and keeping the consciousness looking upward, as it were, it was possible to write the highest spiritual poetry now and again without being stationed on those overhead levels. It is also interesting to note that one or two skillful changes in a poetic statement could mean a leap from the mental level to the overhead one. A striking example can be given by the small change made in one line like:

                         “A cry to clasp in all the one God-hush”

A sheer uplifting of the plane can come by transferring two words from the middle of the line to its end so that the line would read:

                         “A cry to clasp the one God-hush in all”

The first version suggests that this cry could be suggested by an effort to catch it while the other version transmits the plane directly.

ANIE: For many years you had been going to the samadhi for long meditations on a daily basis. Would you describe what you experienced in these meditations?

AMAL: There was a response from the samadhi towards me and from myself towards the samadhi. The presence of Mother and Sri Aurobindo became more intense during these visits to the samadhi. Afterwards the persistent feeling was that I carried the samadhi within myself, so I do not feel an acute need to be physically face to face with it any longer.

 

Some days later I returned to the nursing home to visit Amal. It was Christmas Eve morning and he was dressed in a bright red shirt and was also wearing his ever- present bright and happy smile. On this day, the last interview day, I had no specific questions. We spoke of many things among them being that of feeling the Mother’s presence within. I told him that after my near death experience from an automobile accident in 1962, that the Mother had come to me miraculously bringing me back from the portals of death. At that time she entered my consciousness, opened my psychic being and since that time has remained permanently in my heart center. I stated that I felt Sri Aurobindo as a vast Presence looking down on me from very high above as the Purusha consciousness. Amal said “Yes, Sri Aurobindo is too large to live within our hearts; we live within Him”!

Amal told me that the Mother said if someone came to her even once she did two things: She linked their outer being to their psychic being and the other was that she put out an emanation of Herself to go with that person for all of their lifetime. That emanation would go out in accordance with the spiritual needs of the sadhak.

We discussed death further and he said that he spoke to the Mother on a crucial point about going on doing yoga life after life. The Mother said “That is not a part of our program”!* Amal said for him this was a thundering statement. How then did Sri Aurobindo pass away? His passing was called “The Great Sacrifice”. It was not a death in the ordinary sense. Paradoxically, Amal said, with His death the “power of death” died. Death as a regular, fixed principle of evolution no longer exists. Of course people still “die” but death and decay was the last victory of the work of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother for the earth and it is from the subtle physical plane that this work continues until it is completed. Amal said that the Mother and Sri Aurobindo have a “home”, an actual “abode”, on the subtle physical plane. Many ashramites have “visited” this plane and have seen them there.

After this discussion silence fell and we remained in this vast moment of eternity for quite sometime. I quietly left with no further words exchanged.

                                                *


* In the complete fulfillment of Sri Aurobindo’s vision, physical immortality is seen as a culminating result and there was a belief in the early years of the Ashram that Sri Aurobindo, the Mother and all the (then few) disciples would become immortal. The Mother’s later conversations (as in the Agenda), make clear that she was pushing the limits of her physical consciousness towards the immortal supramental body, but was unsure if it was to be done now. In this conversation with Amal Kiran, some time after Sri Aurobindo’s passing, she affirms the view of a physical supramentalization in this life. Corresponding to this, she contextualizes Sri Aurobindo’s passing as “The Great Sacrifice’, which destroyed the “principle of death”, so that physical death was no longer “necessary” and would eventually disappear, once the human physical consciousness awoke to this fact and eradicated the “habit”. The “death” of the Mother herself, then, may also be seen in this light as a concession to the present human condition.