On Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 12:15 p.m. Shri Kaikhushru Dhunjibhoy Sethna alias Amal Kiran has left his physical body. He was 106 years of age. Born on 25 November 1904 in a Parsi family, he had his early education at St. Xavier’s School and College. At college he won in his Intermediate Arts examination of Bombay University the Hughlings Prize in English and the Selby Scholarship in Logic. He passed his Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Philosophy and won the Ellis Prize in English. His first book ‘Parnassians’ was published in 1922 and it was a critical analysis of the works of H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, G.K. Chesterson and Thomas Hardy. H.G. Wells had remarked about the young writer to the Parsi author A.S. Wadia: “Your young man will go far.”
K.D. Sethna joined the Sri Aurobindo Ashram at the age of twenty three on 16 December 1927. On his request he was given the name of ‘Amal Kiran’ meaning ‘The Clear Ray’ by Sri Aurobindo on 3 September 1930. From 1949 he was the editor of the monthly journal ‘Mother India’.
Amal Kiran was a multi-faceted genius; he has penned more than fifty scholarly books including volumes on poetry (The Secret Splendour, The Adventure of the Apocalypse, Overhead Poetry, Altar and Flame and Poems by Amal Kiran and Nirodbaran), literary criticism (Parnassians, Sri Aurobindo on Shakespeare, Sri Aurobindo—The Poet, The Poetic Genius of Sri Aurobindo, “Two Loves” and “A Worthier Pen”, The Obscure and the Mysterious: A Research in Mallarme’s Symbolist Poetry, Blake’s Tyger—A Christological Interpretation, Talks in Poetry, The Inspiration of Paradise Lost, “A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal”: An Interpretation From India, Adventures in Criticism, The Thinking Corner, Classical and Romantic: An Approach Through Sri Aurobindo and Sri Aurobindo on Greece), philosophy (Teilhard de Chardin and Sri Aurobindo, The Spirituality of the Future, The Vision and Work of Sri Aurobindo, Aspects of Sri Aurobindo, The Mandukya Upanishad and The Development of Sri Aurobindo’s Spiritual Thought and the Mother’s Contribution to it), history and culture (Evolving India, The Indian Spirit and the World’s Future, The Problems of Aryan Origin, Karpasa in Prehistoric India, The Sun and the Rainbow, Ancient India in a New Light, The Beginning of History for Israel, India and the World Scene, Problems of Early Christianity, Teilhard de Chardin and Our Time, Problems of Ancient India, The Virgin Birth and the Earliest Christian Tradition etc.) His volumes of epistolary exchanges (Life-Poetry-Yoga, Volumes I-III, A Follower of Christ and a Disciple of Sri Aurobindo and The English Language and the Indian Spirit) are a rare treat where the reader comes to know of his profound erudition as well as his wonderful sense of humour.
The late Jugal Kishore Mukherjee had rightly remarked about Amal Kiran: “K.D.S.’s shining complexion, his delicate sensitive face, two eyes radiating a keen and kind glint of intelligence and a sweet smile as innocent as that of a child, cannot but captivate the hearts of the visitors.”
One of the foremost sadhaks of the Aurobindonian community, Amal Kiran had unreserved devotion and profound love for Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. He lived for Them and in Them. His deep aspiration is reflected in one of his writings where he writes:
“From the very beginning of my stay in the Ashram I have sought to quicken to the presence of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother from the core of my heart… An inner urge…has yearned for an Unknown surpassing every object of my senses and my thought and making nothing worth while unless that Unknown were first found… There is one single wish running through all the years—and that is to be open more and more to the transforming grace of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. On each birthday it gets an extra spurt.
“I have pledged my whole life to the great Beyond and the deep Within and longed to live in the wide Without with the ego-swamping light from on high and the ego-refining warmth from the secret psyche… I have the conviction that I am in omnipotent hands which at any moment will lift me out of myself and carry me where Time neighbours Eternity.”
Amal Kiran was blessed with a long and fruitful life which was a prayer offered to the Divine. Age could not take away the natural sweetness and warmth which existed in him. Unlike others who would shriek at the thought of death, Amal Kiran was ready for it for a number of years. In his own words:
“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 Clear Ray is no longer with us physically. But his fond memories would always brighten up our lives.
With warm regards,