Some Letters of Sri Aurobindo to Amal Kiran: A Personal Correspondence of 1938

Dear Friends,

A set letters of Sri Aurobindo addressed to K. D. Sethna alias Amal Kiran written from Pondicherry to Mumbai has been published without any omission for the special value they have of showing a very human side to a divine personality. While several important topics are dealt with in brief, some of the matters mentioned are bound to strike one as trivia, but they become significant because of the writer being what he was—a friend and father who was at the same time a Himalayan Master. The father-touch comes through most in the opening letter of the last letter, for the inquiry found there was made entirely on the writer’s own initiative. The absence of expected communication from the addressee prompted the sweet concern expressed. The letter’s end also has a deeply solicitous accent in a different yet related context.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee

Founder,

Overman Foundation.

                                                                        ___________________

                                                                                                                                                        Pondicherry

                                                                                                                                                              12.3.38

Amal,

We were very glad to receive your letter of the 6th and to know that you are going on as well there as can be expected in another atmosphere and among very different-minded people. We have received the packet and the designs — I suppose Lalita has written to you.

Homi’s information is interesting; if he wishes to write to the Mother direct he can do so though the answer will usually go through you.

As for the house contemplated by Aimai and Sharanagata, there is one (a house of Henri Gaebelé) next to the Bartwa house which you know very well, so I need not describe it. It is to be sold in June or July, but as it will be by auction it is not possible to say how much it will cost—it might turn out something a little above Rs. 10,000 rather than under.

I have been kept too occupied with other things to make much headway with the poem—except that I have spoiled your beautiful neat copy of the Worlds under the oestrus of the restless urge for more and more perfection; but we are here for World-improvement, so I hope that is excusable.

The Mother’s Note: my love and blessings are with you.

                                                                                      *

                                                                                                                                                      Pondicherry

                                                                                                                                                          29.6.38

Amal,

You seem to have been having an excessive number of tosses, — knee, influenza, overdose of medicine! I hope you have come through them all unshaken, alert and smiling. Three however are enough and to spare.

Your three friends can all have permission for the Darshan — but accommodation in the Ashram is, alas, hoping for the physically impossible. They will have like so many others to camp somewhere.

So Nuffield has come to “nuffings”. [1] That was always possible, but the intervention of the secretaries has sealed the possibility and made it a certitude. The only chance would have been if somebody had got hold of him by the button hole and fixing him still farther with a magic eye like the Ancient Mariner talked him into being interested even in spite of himself and his ear turned to the marriage bells, i.e. to unlimited reading matter, University donations and the manufacture of innumerable aeroplanes for the future worldwide massacre.

But what is the matter with you? You want to insure the Mother’s life and for Rs. 10,000! If it were one crore of rupees and the insuring company undertook to pay all the premiums themselves, then the matter might just be negotiable. [2]

That’s all I think for the present. I have been too much under high pressure to write, so you must not expect an overlong letter. We hope to see you before long hale, hearty and full of pep for the future.

The Mother sends her love and blessings along with mine.

                                                                                     *

                                                                                                                                                        Pondicherry

                                                                                                                                                              1.8.38

Amal,

You must on no account return here before your heart has recovered. No doubt, death must not be feared, but neither should death or permanent ill-health be invited. Here, especially now when all the competent doctors have gone away or been sent to a distance from Pondicherry, there would be no proper facilities for the treatment you still need, while you have them all there. You should remember the Mother’s warning to you when she said that you would have your realisation in this life provided you did not do something silly so as to shorten your life. That “something silly” you tried your best to do when you swallowed with a cheerful liberality a poison-medicine without taking the least care to ascertain what was the maximum dose. [3] You have escaped by a sort of miracle, but with a shaken heart. To risk making that shaky condition of the heart a permanent disability of the body rendering it incapable of resisting any severe physical attack or shock in the future, would be another “something silly” of the same quality. So it’s on no account to be done.

You need not be afraid of losing anything great by postponing your return to Pondicherry. A general descent of the kind you speak of is not in view at the moment and even if it comes, it can very easily catch you up into itself whenever you come if you are in the right openness; and if you are not, then even its descending would not be of so urgent an importance, since it would take you some time to become aware of it or receive it. So there is no reason why you should not in this matter cleave to common sense and the sage advice of the doctors. [4]

                                                                                     *

                                                                                                                                                               9.10.38

 Amal,

For a long time the conditions were such that writing letters was impossible, hence my silence. I have been hearing of your health from others, but very vaguely, “Amal is still not well,” “Amal looks much better but the heart is still weak,” “Amal is better.” You might let me know the exact condition. We have heard from Minnie that your mother’s hernia has been pronounced curable.

One matter. Mehroo Tarachand wrote asking for permission for November darshan with Dhun and requesting an answer through you, but as I could not write, there was no answer. Now she has written again; but we have also a letter from Dhun saying that her (Mehroo’s) mother is ill and she won’t be able to come. Anyhow she can be informed that she has the permission and can come, if she is able to manage; she will be put up with Dhun in one of the new houses.

I have also not been able to deal with your four poems up till now. I do not find them satisfactory. The substance of good poetry, but lacking in perfection, that powerful or exquisite perfection you were so often getting recently. The three blank poems have fallen back into a monotone rhythm owing to lack of swing and driving force; the lyric is pretty, but has not the usual combination of felicity and directness except in the last two lines. But I presume all that is due to lack of inspirational exercise and keeping the hand in.

I have not been able to make any headway with Savitri owing to lack of time and also to an appalled perception of the disgraceful imperfection of all the sections after the first two. But I have tackled them again as I think I wrote to you and have pulled up the third section to a higher consistency of level; the “worlds” have fallen into a state of manuscript chaos, corrections upon corrections, additions upon additions, rearrangements on rearrangements, out of which perhaps some cosmic beauty will emerge.

The Mother sends her blessings and I mine.

                                                                                     *

                                                                                                                                                         Pondicherry

                                                                                                                                                            13.12.38

Amal,

I write to get news about your progress—recovery—I hear that you are better; I hope you can confirm it.

I have not yet been able to answer Homi’s letter. You can tell him from me that the Mother and I were both extremely well-impressed by Bosanquet’s photograph which shows a remarkable personality and great spiritual possibilities. I may be able to write about (Bosanquet’s) letter in a few days. If he comes here, we shall be glad to give him help in his spiritual aspiration.

There is nothing much to say on other matters. The Asram increases always, but its finances are as they were, which is a mathematical equation of doubtful validity and is not so much an equation as an equivoke.

I have done an enormous amount of work with Savitri. The third section has been recast—not rewritten—so as to give it a more consistent epic swing and elevation of level. The fourth section, the Worlds, is undergoing transformation. The “Life” part is in a way finished, though I shall have to go over the ground perhaps some five or six times more to ensure perfection of detail. I am now starting a recasting of the “Mind” part of which I had only made a sort of basic rough draft. I hope that this time the work will stand as more final and definitive.

In sending news of yourself, you will no doubt send news of your mother, also. I saw a notice of a remedy (in the Matin) for hernia which they say has succeeded in America and is introduced in France, very much resembling the defunct doctor’s discovery (the one who treated Lalita’s father), but perhaps more assuredly scientific; it is reported to get rid for good of belts and operations and to have made millions of cures. It will be a great thing for many if it turns out to be reliable.

                                                                              Notes

[1] The Mother, on being shown Lord Nuffield’s photograph, had found him an open unconventionally generous mind. So Amal Kiran’s brother, who was in England at the time and enthusiastic to work for the Ashram, was sent with Sri Aurobindo’s approval a write-up by Amal Kiran about the cultural and educational aspect of the Ashram and about the need for financial support. Unfortunately, to everybody’s amazement, Nuffield got kidnapped and, when released, became difficult to approach directly.

[2] Since the Integral Yoga was expected to prolong the Mother’s life indefinitely, a life-insurance realizable after a long term seems to have been suggested on the basis of some proposal made by an insurance company.

[3] The normal tonic dose was one-twelfth of a grain, but the man who gave “physician’s phial”, which had no directions, mistakenly advised a dose of four grains, which meant forty-eight times the normal dose. It was later ascertained that beyond one-sixth of a grain the potent drug would be dangerous to life. Twenty-four times this quantity would surely be lethal.

[4] The Supramental Manifestation which took place on 29 February 1956 was expected in the year 1938. Before Amal Kiran left for Mumbai the Mother had told him that “a general descent” might occur in the course of the year and she wanted him to be in Pondicherry around that time and would inform him of its imminence or its occurrence. As no word about it came up to nearly the end of July he was curious to know what he should do.

                                                                              _______________

 

5 thoughts on “Some Letters of Sri Aurobindo to Amal Kiran: A Personal Correspondence of 1938

  1. Certainly these letters reveal another aspect of Sri Aurobindo’s personality, capable of remembering the price of real estates or struggling with the progress of the sections in Savitri. The affectionate father-like tone towards the end of the letters is quite a novel touch.

  2. Dear Anurag,
    Thanks a lot for these gems. Curiously enough, Sethna lost all his poetic inspiration after Sri Aurobindo’s passing in 1950 ( as he told me on many an occasion during our long talks at 21 rue franscois matin street house) For nearly half a century after that he wrote prose in various veins, starting with his letters to P.Lal since 1951 struggling frantically to convince the Calcuttan that Sri Aurobindo had meant the rhetoric of his poetry and that they had never been “Roget’s Thesaurus”! The curious researcher may give a look at my long discussion on Sethna’s prose serialised in Mother India in the later part of the 90s by the courtesy of R.Y.Deshpande.

  3. Many thanks – Anurag for sharing these warm and intimate Guru – Shyshya correspondence – And what a disciple was ‘Amal -da’.
    Amal – da was absolute literary genius in the true sense of the word –
    His love and surrender for Lord Sri Aurobindo the Divine Mother did not come in the way of his luminous and giant intellect – He could write with incredible ease on any thing with supreme authority without referring so many books –
    We should be thankful to him that he could elucidate deeper critical comments and light from Lord Sri Aurobindo on and about Savitri – he always had time to meet all of us with love and gestures of kindnesses –
    Surendra s chouhan – SAICE’69

  4. Thank you Anurag and your co-workers for the outstanding and much appreciated work you all do, with this publication, and the many others that preceded this, I have been privileged to receive.

    George J. Hunziker

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