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Aspects of Sri Aurobindo

— Amal Kiran (K. D. Sethna)

Price: Rs 130

Soft Cover
Pages: 275
Dimensions (in cms): 14x22
Publisher: Clear Ray Trust, Pondicherry
ISBN: 978-81-87916-01-7

About Aspects of Sri Aurobindo

The essays and reflections collected in this book, many of which are letters the author has written to his numerous correspondents world-wide, choose aspects of Sri Aurobindo's thought and his life that merit a special attention in his mind. The subjects, which range from insights on the supermind, the physical transformation, and the mind of light to a defence of Sri Aurobindo's philosophy against various dismissive criticisms, are all addressed in a keen analytic style matured by the author's own inner experiences as a sadhak of Sri Aurobindo's integral Yoga.


One and How Many? Behind the How Many is there the Infinite in as much as it is in the other too? Such are the questions of perennial philosophy which can as well be scuttled by equally good abstract posers. What is needed is a certain spiritual empiricism to settle the issue. But even there we have to meet another set of questions. Thus, after going through the endless rounds of birth and on freeing itself from the bounds of material Nature, does the destiny of man's soul lie in seeking a Paradise elsewhere? Is that the sum total understanding of this complex universe teeming with worlds visible and invisible? Can there be a satisfying equation in the midst of conflicting circumstances and conflicting possibilities? No Aurobindonian will admit it as the termination of an evolutionary soul's long and painful travail, the soul that has taken on itself joyously the alchemic task of transforming the brute inanimate stuff of ignorance into some noble and refined delightful dynamics of the all-comprehending and all-reaching power of gnosis.

Many such topics are taken up by Amal Kiran in his latest book Aspects of Sri Aurobindo, giving them a fairly detailed treatment. The author discusses in a semi-spiritual and semi-journalistic way several important topics. These range from spiritual, esoteric, revelatory, philosophical to poetic, artistic, creative and critical, historical and biographical issues. There is a certain luminous quality in Amal's writings which will always remain refreshingly true and acceptable. Talking about the journey towards God-realisation by the via mystica, he tells a lay nun: "Not philanthropy alone, but all other forms of living are insufficient. They fall short of the basic demand on man from the great Beyond, the great Around, the great Within that variously haunt every consciousness which is not immersed totally in the passing moment…

Yes, such is the allure of the altruistic mission that we are tempted to consider ourselves as obeying God's dictate to the full. Actually, the altruist is doing no more than serving, however creditably, an attenuated and subtilised version of ego…But we must guard ourselves against growing oblivious of the real aim of life." If such a holy advice can come from him, we must recognise that he can be equally sharp, even devastating, in his criticism; for instance, while commenting on the editing of the Mother's Agenda by Satprem: "The basic negative point is that he has not attended to the Mother's wish that Andre should read and judge things. To avoid this wish from being carried out he managed to take out the typed copy of the Agenda which used to be kept in the Mother's room and towards which she had pointed when giving Andre her instructions, when the basis is an absolute falsehood, what you call the positive side is bound to be a specious splendour."

Amal Kiran is ever forthright in his criticism. His hard-hitting rebuttal of Alvares, pointing out how Krishna Chaitanya is ill-versed in Sri Aurobindo, setting right the blatant Rajneeshian misrepresentations of what the Master was and worked at, putting in proper perspective the blurred notions of a so-called purist historian in the context of the adesh received by Sri Aurobindo to go to Pondicherry when one knows that the adesh is always imperative in its character, the strange misgivings of a learned critic that Sri Aurobindo can have "problems in English" vis-à-vis the composition of his epic Savitri — all these are pretty convincingly dealt with by this crusading spiritual journalism.

Aspects of Sri Aurobindo is a rich and rewarding causerie of diverse articles and letters and comments written at different times by the author. Here are studies which are insightful, topics written with "an eye to the wide world of enquiring minds and questing hearts", showing Amal Kiran to us again as a deep Manishi, an inspired Thinker. A foreign traveller visiting this country once wrote: "India is an individual experience and a universal encounter. There are a countless ways of seeing it, many approaches to it… And always I shall remember the trees of India — the jacaranda in flame, the frangipani, the flowering mango." Yes, Sri Aurobindo in such many splendours is what the Aspects bring to us.

— R. Y. Deshpande

(The reviewer is a professor at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Pondicherry)

December 1995