The Parable of Two Birds
“In the Upanishad it is said in a parable that there are two birds sitting on the same bough, one of which feeds and the other looks on. This is an image of mutual relationship of the infinite being and the finite self. The delight of the bird which looks on is great, for it is pure and free delight. There are both of these birds in man himself, the objective one with its business of life, the subjective one with its disinterested joy of vision.” This is how Rabindranath Tagore interprets the two-bird metaphor of the Mundaka Upanishad. He seems to tell us that the act of seeing is more imaginative, more creative, more real than the act of knowing. The delight of the bird that looks on is greater than that of the bird that is busy with the facts of life. For a child a tiger in the story as narrated by his grandmother is, being a creative imagination, more intimate and concretely living than the one he comes across as a beast of prey in the book of natural history that is just loaded with facts. A kingfisher would then become more unscrupulous a diver than the ferocious buzzard painted on the canvas, and hence the latter more beautiful, admirable, and grandly fulfilling. “Reality,” says the poet, “reveals itself in the emotional and imaginative background of our mind.” We feel it and therefore we know it. This feeling itself is a feeling of pure delight, making even a tragic drama enjoyable. We see a thing because it belongs to itself and not to a class which we can only know; we see it, we feel it, it becomes vivid. In that sense it is the “emotional and imaginative background of our mind” which would give to the object its true soul of reality. If we have to push the reasoning farther then we would enter, through the doors of aesthesis, the very domain of Maya itself, Maya that is a kind of conceptively creative power of imagination. That would make the imaginative world of an artist more than the living multitude we witness around, in life. A sort of illusoriness is thus lent to the solidity of this entire objective universe, is this true? Does the Upanishadic two-bird metaphor imply that?
The parable of the two birds illustrated in the Mundaka Upanishad is as follows:
Two birds, beautiful of wings, close companions, cling to one common tree: of the two one eats the sweet fruit of the tree, the other eats not but watches his fellow. The soul is the bird that sits immersed on the common tree; but because he is not lord he is bewildered and has sorrow. But when he sees that other who is the Lord and the beloved, he knows that all is His greatness and his sorrow passes away from him. When, a seer, he sees the Golden-hued, the maker, the Lord, the Spirit who is the source of Brahman, then he becomes the knower and shake from his wings sin and virtue; pure of all stain he reaches the supreme identity.
In this translation Sri Aurobindo has also revealed the esoteric contents of the original verses. The Sanskrit compound brahmayoni admits two alternative meanings, both perfectly valid: Brahman is the Womb or Source of the Spirit, or else the Spirit as the Womb or Source from which comes Brahman. In contrast to Shankara, Sri Aurobindo fixes the second alternative to be appropriate, the Spirit as the Source of everything, including the Brahman. This makes Purusha, the Lord, the Spirit more fundamental; from it issues out this entire manifestation. Surely, then, Sri Aurobindo does not have to say Brahman to be the source of inferior Brahman, rending it eventually illusory. It would also dismiss the Tagorean sense of Reality revealed in our imaginative and emotional build-up. Although the Upanishad is finally leading us on the Path of Renunciation, Sannyasa Yoga, taking us to the City of Brahman, Brahma-Puri or Brahma-Dhama or Brahma-Loka, the sense of all this magnificent universe, viśvam˙ idam˙ varişţham, as Brahman immortal and naught else is emphatically asserted without any ambiguity; it is this Brahman which “stretches everywhere”. It is in its wide effulgence that all is effulgent. It is in this effulgence that we should see the meaning of the two birds sharing a familiar fig tree, a tree with its thick luxurious foliage and sweet little fruits.
The two-bird parable is in fact Vedic in its origin, the first shloka actually belonging to Rig Veda itself. (I: 164:20) The complete description as given there is as follows:
Two birds with fair wings, knit with bonds of friendship, in the same sheltering tree have found a refuge. One of the twain eats the sweet Fig-tree’s fruitage; the other eating not regardeth only. Where those fine Birds hymn ceaselessly their portion of life eternal, and the sacred synods, there is the Universe’s mighty Keeper who, wise, hath entered into me the simple. The tree whereon the fine Birds eat the sweetness, where they all rest and procreate their offspring, upon its top they say the fig is luscious: none gaineth who knoweth not the father.
Griffith adds the following footnote to his translation:
Sayana says that the two Birds are the vital and the Supreme Spirit, dwelling in one body. The vital spirit enjoys the fruit or rewards of actions while the Supreme Spirit is merely a passive spectator. The fine Birds are perhaps the priests, and the Keeper of the Universe may be Soma. Sayana explains suparņā, well-winged, in this and the preceding stanza as smooth-gliding (rays). Their offspring is, he says, the light, and the Father is the cherishing and protecting Sun. All explanations of these three stanzas can only be conjectural figments and that they have been inserted together in this hymn merely because the word suparņā ā (used apparently in various senses) has prominent place in each stanza. Suparņā (dual) has been explained by different scholars as two species of souls; day and night; Sun and Moon; (plural) as rays of light; stars; metres; spirit of the dead; priests; and the tree on which they rest as the body; the orb or region of the Sun; the sacrificial post; the world; and the mythical World-Tree. A generally satisfactory explanation is scarcely to be hoped for.” Surely it cannot be, when the method of approach towards the esoteric text is either ritualistic or else scholastic. This is particularly so when the “expression, though alien in type to our modern ways of thinking and speaking, becomes, in its own style, just and precise and sins rather by economy of phrase than by excess, by over-pregnancy rather by poverty of sense.
The Age of Intuition to which the Revelation belongs has receded far behind the Age of Reason which has given rise to all this tentativeness, even misunderstanding, and misrepresentation of the rich and profound text, with “opinion” confusing “opinion” and causing an unprecedented havoc in several respects. Sayana’s Ritualistic Method of treating the scripture is as partial as the clumsy Method of Comparative Study followed by Western scholars. Talking of the two birds as stars and metres and priests is an absurdity of the latter kind. In that respect Rabindranath Tagore is certainly closer to the original when he identifies the relationship of the two birds with each other as that of one of the infinite being and the finite self, though putting these two in man himself may not be quite justifiable. The style of the Vedic Rishi-Poet can be “deep and mystic” or can have “melodious lucidity” or be “puissant and energetic” or flow with “even harmonies” and, unless it is fully grasped, the verses cannot be truly cognized. The touch of the spirit is needed. In fact a Mystic’s great poetry is the creative utterance itself, at once expressive and affirmative of the supreme Word, taking him, as well as the earnest aspirant, to the fountainhead of the spiritual. Poetry then becomes a divine surge of energy rushing upward and downward and everywhere in a splendid blaze of a thrilled vision assuming a shape defined by sight and lending itself to the music and the chant of sound and seizing the wondrous soul of delight in the sheer ineffability of some truth-conscient miracle. It becomes Mantra which is “in its essence of Power the Eternal himself and in its supreme movements a part of his very form and everlasting spiritual body, brahmaņo rūpam.” Only one who is familiar with this brahmaņo rūpam, with this divinity of the Word, can have access to the secret of the Vedic verses and can then alone try to bring it revealingly nearer to us. In fact a Vedic Rik boldly declares that one who has no knowledge of the Eternal cannot understand the Veda. Only a Rishi, the seer-poet, can disclose it to us, rather to the Rishi the dazzling marvel of two birds on the same tree, one eating the fruit and the other looking on, with the possibility of the sorrowing realizing supreme identity with the ever-free golden-hued. And there is no other way, nānnyasya panthāh.
Amal Kiran’s Two Birds belongs to the category of a profound and revelatory disclosure. More than an interpretation of the Vedic-Upanishadic parable, it is a new and inspired creation in a joyously vibrant form of what is seen by the eye behind the eye, and a strange mystery is literally caught on the tableau of the inner mind; it is an image winging to the wideness of a luminous vision, and a shape of sound taking the occult body of a rhythmically delightful voice, and a gleaming idea bordering on the real, the real moulded in substance of some fiery ether. The colours are rich, the tunes chantingly musical, phrasing rapturous and forceful, imagery bold and vivid, technique lending itself to the call of the Muse. It is one of the most lyrical moments of mystic poetry, powerfully evocative in shades and thoughts and contents, bringing the full subtlety of the parable to us:
A small bird crimson-hued
Among great realms of green
Fed on their multitudinous fruit—
But in his dark eye flamed more keen
A hunger as from joy to joy
He moved the poignance of his beak,
And ever in his heart he wailed,
“Where hangs the marvelous fruit I seek?”
Then suddenly above his head
A searching gaze of grief he turned:
Lo, there upon 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 ravenor below
Felt his time-tortured passion cease,
And flying upward knew himself
One with that bird of golden peace.
Here is the two-bird metaphor depicted not only imaginatively; it is a work done creatively with warmth of emotion and has in it rhythmic fluidity of suggestive sound. It is not a mere pretext, an occasion for the poet to let himself go in the rush of idea or thought or sound or crimson-hued poignance or golden-plumed magnificence. It is a symbol that comes alive with flaming impetuosity of the spirit, possessing its double poise in tortured time and aureate peace. While it holds such a double poise, it also at once gathers itself and glows in the heart-fused oneness of the two. We do not have then just the imaged birds; instead we see a blazing symbol that is indeed their truemost identity beyond the ways of transient joys and small hungering needs of the one for the other. It is the life-breath after the multitudinous fruit that seeks and finds fulfilment in plumaged grandeur of superlife’s unstained gold, in its finesome marvel and magnify-cence. Seen hurriedly, the birds may at first seem merely to belong to the life-breath of the spirit in its play f lower and higher mutuality; but perhaps they are more than that, the hunger and the ravening more spiritual than vital. If well-winged they are, and merge into each other in golden peace, they must then be the soul and the Oversoul in the cosmic scheme of evolution. The bird as a metaphor is always either the soul, or some aspect of it, and the poetry of the Two Birds pretty well, pretty truthfully sustains it.
About this poetry Sri Aurobindo makes the following comment:
It is very felicitous in expression, and taking. The fourth stanza is from the Intuitive, the rest from the Higher Mind—for there a high uplifted thought is the characteristic but more probably from some realm of the inner Mind where thought and vision are involved in each other—that kind of fusion gives the easy felicity that is found here. All the same there is the touch of the Higher Mind perhaps in the second line of the second and the last stanza.
More inner-mental than the overhead is therefore the general character of this poem. Speaking about the several levels of the creative mental coming into operation in poetry, Sri Aurobindo writes to Amal Kiran the following:
The intuitive mind, strictly speaking, stretches from the Intuition proper down to the intuitivised inner mind—it is therefore at once an overhead power and a mental intelligence power. All depends on the amount, intensity, quality of the intuition and how far it is mixed with mind or pure. The inner mind is not necessarily intuitive, though it can easily become so. The mystic mind is turned towards the occult and spiritual, but the inner mind can act without direct reference to the occult and spiritual, it can act in the same field and in the same material as the ordinary mind, only with a larger and deeper power, range and light and in greater unison with the Universal Mind; it can open also more easily to what is within and what is above. Intuitive intelligence, mystic mind, inner mind intelligence are all part of the inner mind operation.
The lyrical tone of the Two Birds makes it less occult or spiritual, and therefore the role of the mystic mind is correspondingly less here than that of the inner mind; at the same time, because the inner mind has lent itself to Intuition, we may say that there is also a general overhead atmosphere throughout. This Intuition brings richness of the triple truth-dynamism of sight and sound and sense into poetry and makes poetry living and luminous with it, as we see in the fourth stanza which has been pointed out by Sri Aurobindo to be intuitive. It tells vividly whatever it has to tell by “a sort of close intimacy with the Truth, an inward expression of it.” The golden bird’s aureoled immensity and magnificence seem to belong to the sheer Transcendent into which disappear all sorrowing passions and all wailing of the melancholy heart. There is then the “easy felicity” coming with a kind of naturalness, not of the psychic type but mystic-spiritual, when a harmonious union mix and mingle inalienably sense and sound. The two birds are not a fancy’s product; they do not exist far away somewhere, all of and impersonally in an imagination’s sky, but are as if an intimate part of our own secret being, in resonant association with us and with each other; they are we brought into the range of external sight. In this resonant association thought expands luminously in wideness of vision and vision acquires in a moment of intense thought firmness and ingathered coherence. The act of seeing then suddenly becomes the act of knowing, as much as it is the other way round too. The vigour of the Two Birds is sufficiently indicative of such a fusion, making it soully stirring and felicitous. A blazing symbol, when faithfully and at the same time creatively rendered, brings always unto us rapturous verities of its own dynamic and radiant life.
That there is tremendous zest and enthusiasm, āveśa, in Amal Kiran’s poetry is well illustrated again by the poem we are now considering. He is full of zeal always,—even surtout, beacoup de zèle. A bright and flaming inner vitality at the disposal of the overhead is the thrusting dynamism ever present in his poetic compositions. This meticulous technician has also a knack of waiting for the authentic and giving us something that is soul-charged. A great creative surge caught in an artistic mould of inspired perfection very often comes to us with its happy load of luminous truth and beauty and joy.
If we have to adopt the Sufi terminology in describing Amal Kiran’s poetry, then we might say that there is more of urug in it than nazul. When an object of nature offers itself as a symbol to the poet then we have the suggestive aspect of nazul in his creation, exhibiting a sort of feminine temperament, the jemal-element; on the other hand, when something from the very depths of the poet rushes out and seizes the object of nature then we witness an audacious symbol of the urug-kind with a masculine temperament in it, the jelal-element. The wholesome balance of the two in kemal is the Sufi’s ideal of harmonious and artistic perfection. Amal Kiran’s poetry is more vigorous than tender, stout than delicate, more colourful and even vivacious in a certain sense than subdued and frail and lackluster, definitely more provocative than decoratively suggestive; at the same time the shades are never gaudy and the tunes loud or harsh and the sense trivial and merely intellectual—there is always the grace of classical sturdiness and unflawed and mature intuition of proportion and measure. It is another sort of kemal, very desirable in its intrepidness and in its joy of profound creativity. If for Shelley a skylark coming from nature provides an occasion to pour out unpremeditated melodies, his inmost and intense-most feelings and thoughts, in the manner of the nazul-aspect, in the case of Amal Kiran, the two birds emerging from the emerald deeps of the spirit suddenly take a visible shape and wing past our sight, or else perch on a tree in their fiery grandeur and make clear to us that they really belong to the fliers of the urug-world; while a small tiny nature-bird becomes airy and insubstantial in poignancy of the romanticist’s imagination, a symbol-bird acquires vibrant substantiality in the mystic’s vision. What the skylark merely yearns for, it is that which as a “boon of the Spirit’s sight” the symbol-bird brings from its native regions beyond time and space, inaccessible to us. We might as well say that the traditional romanticism is jemal-like, in quite good contrast to the dynamic lyricism of a spiritual symbolist possessing a strong jelal-character. In the robustness of this sense we could, adapting Tagore, say that the stronger is the symbolism the less symbolic it is—because it then becomes real with the tangibility of a flaming rock at the same time possessing the concentration of a dense bright flame. In comparison, then, TS Eliot’s criterion of “objective correlative” would also turn out to be somewhat pale and abstract, or else insipidly intellectual-algebraic. Spiritual Word, and spiritual Symbol, carries the Power and Personality it is. The embodiment of glowing light and tranquil force in the beauty of form is the soul of its creative delight.
Of this symbolic poetry let us take some examples from the Aurobindonian anthology to notice its inner-mental, overhead intellectual, occult, spiritual or else mystic facets in some brief manner possible in this context. If the present poem of Amal Kiran is essentially inner-mental symbolic with a certain degree of revelatory intensity of the overhead, Harindranath Chattopadhyaya in the following piece, for instance, is enchanting and felicitously intellectual with an ease of the inner-mental logic handling spiritual substance. At that time, in the early 1930s, both wrote with the inspiration coming directly from Sri Aurobindo, yet they had different poetic temperaments.
Twilights have gathered in
And the stars come out like words:
The after-musics of birds;
These after musics are rife
With a deeper fuller note
Than the little musics of life
Born out of harp or throat.
Yea, they are drowsy and deep
And scatter no more abroad:
For after music comes sleep
And sleep is the music of God.
Here we have a poet to whom we may extend Sri Aurobindo’s assessment of his early promising youth. He is some “Vedic Marut with golden weapons, golden ornaments, car of gold, throwing in front of him continual lightnings of thought.” There are great after-musics of birds, and deeper and deeper as they grow they suddenly become the music of God, the twilights turn on rather turn into stars and stars into flaming suns of heaven in his consciousness of sleep, sleep that is Prajna. Surely, as usual, in this poem the symbols are very vivid, and conceptually apt and significant, very pleasing and colourful in their soft shades; but they do not seem to be quite personal or deeply living in one’s own breath, not intimate enough with some innermost reality of soul or spirit, but appear to be somewhat aloof and distant: the poet is as if explaining to us some thematic aspect of stars and birds and music rather than rendering his experience of oneness with what is symbolized; the symbols are external and not quite internal. They do not have the authenticity of revealing greatness that comes with the life ardently lived in it. In that respect Nishikanto moves with another vision through his symbols of the vital world and identifies himself more closely with them.
If Harindranath was a Vedic Marut, we could perhaps say that Nishikanto was the Vedic Varuna with a powerful breath of life blowing through his occultly mysterious lungs of unusual size. He hardly wrote any poetry in English—he always wrote in Bengali—but we may pick up his Green Darkness illustrative of the supernatural imagery through which he passes with utmost confidence and which he gives to us with a boldness characteristic of the nature of the bright vital gods:
The vast green darkness rolls and heaves
To the black-besmeared horizon’s bound,
And with a mournful clamour cleaves
The silence of the worlds around.
It roars and rocks and breaks in vain
In a restless night of starless pain.
O ocean of bewildered force,
Surrendered pray to the firmament light
And learn to gain thy peaceful source
In motionless depths of might.
The rolling green darkness that is life’s fearsome force has played havoc here and made the starless night monstrous and tormenting and agony-full. But this bewildered surge must surrender to light and learn to be one with the tranquil strength from which it indeed came. The images are exact and coherent, not only in contents but also in their vital colours, and achieve what they have set to achieve; they successfully push, and drive on by their knitted quality even the frightening dread—that it may gain its peace “in motionless depths of night” where the occult joins the overhead.
Not so thick-hued, nor blithesomely enchanting, is the poetry of Arjava (JA Chadwick) about who Sri Aurobindo had said that he wrote “poems of inner vision and feeling” and that his mind was “sufficiently subtle and plastic to enter into all kinds of poetic vision and expression”. Sri Aurobindo had written to him in very glowing terms regarding his Mother of Time: “This is one of the finest things you have written—depth and ease and power combined in a perfect expression.” Here is the poem of a crystalline quality, gem-like and serene. It has art, it has technique, it has expression, it has inspiration that comes from some exceptional source of the marvellous Word.
Out of the infinite ocean
By his shore with a thunderous motion
That Splendour flows.
Here is the one shell of its bringing,
Cast on the beach;
Hold it and hark to the singing,—
Flotsam and jetsam of Onehood
Unbaffled and free,
Spurring Time to remember his sonhood,
His mother—the Sea.
It really requires exceptional spiritual daring to call Time a shell on the beach of the sea; but it is a shell also of an exceptional quality, that in its singing is the song of Eternity, that even in a trivial speck of dust there is the shining divinity; in its apparent insignificance resides a whole wideness of ocean out of which it itself arose. It cannot then remain like unclaimed goods of a wrecked ship, like nonentities uncared for and lost as if in the jaws of the unrelenting Non-existence; for, it is an inseparable part of Something great and calm and ever-free. Nonetheless, Time needs to be reminded of this glorious heirship of his. A Latin verse tells us that, Time changes and with Time we change. This mystic seer-poet has however another perception, of the dynamism of Eternity in the sequel and operation of Time. This he brings out in a more assuring manner in this little piece that is both masterly and revelatory. One could have been emotional about Time, and with all the pathos and bathos of the diurnal and the humdrum; one could have been philosophical and detached in a simple and straightforward narrative, or metaphorically violent, or symbolically wild and shocking and unexpected, or imaginatively weird or phantasmagoric. But Arjava has none of these, not that such elements do not exist in it in some subdued degree. But his is a luminous restraint and he is dhīra, the steadfast, and in his calm collected poise, by becoming almost impersonal, let the abundances of the spiritual Muse flow through him in their pristine splendours. The splendours of such a restraint are somewhat absent in Amal Kiran’s Two Birds.
To the thirty-three year old Amal Kiran Sri Aurobindo wrote:
You have three manners: (1) a sort of decorative romantic manner that survives from your early days—this at a lower pitch turns too much dressing of an ornamental kind, at a higher to post-Victorian Edwardian or Georgian rhetoric with a frequent saving touch of Yeats; (2) a level at which all is fused into a fine intuitive authenticity and beauty, there is seldom anything to change; (3) a higher level of grander movement and language in which you pull down or reach the influences of the Higher Mind, Illumined Mind, Overmind Intuition. The last you have not yet fully mastered so as to write with an absolute certainty and fault-lessness except by lines and stanzas or else as a whole in rare moments of total inspiration, but you are moving towards mastery in it.
The Two Birds belongs to this period and has these merits and manners.
According to Shelley there is “an education particularly fitted for a Poet without which genius and sensibility can hardly fill the circle of their capacities.” Amal Kiran has graduated well himself by attending the classes conducted by Sri Aurobindo in his Department of Poetry. Not only did he come out with flying colours, but earned the Master’s confidence to discuss matters of poetry and criticism in their several shades and intensities. Today there is none who can compete with him in the art of appreciating and discriminating the levels of overhead aesthesis towards which genuine poetry is steadily moving.
It is said that Persian poets were poetry itself and we may apply the same to this Parsi poet; Zarathrushtra formed his religion by praising beauty in Nature and the daring and exceptional Amal Kiran as his descendent has taken liberty, under the wide and luminous wings of Sri Aurobindo, to go one step farther in praising the beauty of the spiritual Muse, and in the process do away with all religion. His poetry, and his talks on poetry, and his bringing out Sri Aurobindo the poet in our full view are some of his outstanding contributions in the field. With that super-Shelleyan education he had, Amal Kiran can never be called a stickler in any regard. Yet if we have to attach a standard party-label to his poetry, then it can never be ‘classical’, nor ‘romantic’, ‘surrealist’, ‘symbolist’, ‘imagist’, nor ‘modernist’; his poetry is essentially lyric-overhead. His symbols bear the stamp of those regions; the music of his words comes from the rhythm-house of the spirit; his perception of spiritual ideas is veridicous; he sees at time colours of the occult in their vividness. As his heart is true to his enchanting beloved, so too his art flawless and impeccable and supple enough to accommodate the varying demands of her moods. But can we say that lives in those realms of gold as their natural citizen? His consciousness stationed there and breathing their sunbright truenesses? Are the two birds of this poem his close companions feasting with him at the breakfast table or only occasional visitors to the garden of the inner being or soul? Are they his intimate friends or only happy good-humoured acquaintances? Is Two Birds a poetic firework, ātishī, or else a lived experience in the fiery splendour of its twofold splendid-most reality?
Tagore had carried his aestheticism to such an extent of personalisation that, for him even the spiritual values started becoming man-created:
We can make truth ours by actively modulating its interrelations. This is the work of art; for reality is not based in the substance of things but in the principle of relationship. Truth is the infinite pursued by metaphysics; fact is the infinite pursued by science, while reality is the definition of the infinite which relates truth to the person. Reality is human; it is what we are conscious of, by which we are affected, that which we express.
That would make the two birds of Amal Kiran a product of his humanness which is certainly in contradiction with the spiritual experience, of their being independent of the observer or perceiver. They are pre-existent, and are an aspect of the Infinite, and with them we can come in contact in several ways. This breathing-living truth of their existence, of their presence independent of us, too could be expressed in varying manners reflecting our intimacy of association with them. In that process even the thrill and ardour of expression could lead us to the Upanishadic or Vedic statement. But that would hardly be an unfailing assurance of our having realized what is stated or expressed. The subject matter could easily be scriptural and yet the realizations embodied by the scripture may not be the poet’s—as, for instance, if we may say so in Emerson’s Brahma:
They reckon ill who leave me out;
When me they fly, I am the wings;
I am the doubter and the doubt,
And I the hymn the Brahmin sings.
It is very true, but it does not make a Rishi’s realized utterance, a charged Mantra. Similarly, Wordsworth’s first version of The Prelude had following passage:
I felt the sentiment of Being spread
O’er all that moves, and all that seemed still,
If such my transports were; for all things now
I saw one life and felt that it was joy.
The experience of oneness of life is Upanishadic; but the fact that the passage did not appear in subsequent editions of The Prelude only indicates that it was not his all-time living realization. Sri Aurobindo speaks of Wordsworth’s experience in another context that “he had not only the vision of this and the joy and peace and universality which its [Nature’s] presence brings, but the very sense of it, mental, aesthetic, vital, physical; not only this sense and vision of it in its own being but in the nearest flower and the simplest man and the immobile rock; and, finally, that he even occasionally attained to that unity.” But, still, that does not constitute spiritual or yogic knowledge. It is certainly possible to become en rapport with the spirit of things represented by the symbols and yet those things may remain unknown in their contents of reality.
In that respect Amal Kiran's Two Birds is a double telescope to watch those winged marvels, the inner-mental for the crimson-hued and the intuitive for the golden-magnificent. It is not just an ordinary mind’s eye that sees them, but some visioning faculty of inner and profounder consciousness that perceives them and brings them into view, some wonderful Upanishadic eye behind the eye zooming around them and seizing them into our focus. This certainly is then a positive advance over Wordsworth and Emerson, giving a very recognizable shape and character to the ethereally real. Sri Aurobindo himself had taken up the example of the two birds to illustrate the luminous definiteness of symbols in mystic-spiritual poetry:
The concreteness of intellectually imaged description is one thing and spiritual concreteness is another. Two birds, companions, seated on one tree, but one eats the fruit, the other eats not but watches his fellow—that has an illumining spiritual quality and concreteness to one who has had the experience, but mentally and intellectually it might mean anything or nothing.
Surely, the Two Birds has a certain degree of spiritual solidity, spiritual luminosity also, but the question is whether it is fully Vedic-Upanishadic.
Perhaps it is not sufficiently Vedic-Upanishadic; for, that kind of poetry has always an unmistakable character of Overmind inspiration. Its features are
a language that conveys infinitely more than the mere surface sense of the words seems to indicate, a rhythm that means even more than the language and is born out of the Infinite and disappears into it, and the power to convey not merely the mental, vital or physical contents or indications or values of the things uttered, but its significance and figure in some fundamental and original consciousness which is behind all these and greater.
This is what Sri Aurobindo had written to the twenty-seven year old Amal Kiran. The fundamental and original consciousness behind a Vedic verse is always one of the Infinite and a Vedic mind is deeply submerged in its radiant yet calm flood, and a Vedic heart ever waits in a kind of goldenness of hush for the supreme Word to take shape of sun-luminous and, at the same time, wide-winging delight. We cannot say that these elements in their surest sense are present in Amal Kiran’s Two Birds. Poetry of the original Sanskrit is very sublime, and profound, and very gripping, and at once it holds us firmly in its powerful life-breath; its “voice carries the sound of infinity.” The moment we utter the first phrase “dvā suparņā, two birds beautiful of wings”, we are transported to their many-splendoured world; they immediately become our companions too. What we would analyse as poetry and art and philosophy drops out suddenly, and what we would see in the glow and grandeur of its expression is miracle of the speaking silence and dynamism of the unfathomable peace. We meet in it the Rishi. Amal Kiran may not exactly be a Rishi in the classical sense; but he is certainly the crimson-hued ravenor of his poem, it flying upward to become one with the magnificence of the golden-plumaged. Where his Master is there he gets the reward of all his straining and striving; there is for him the sweet fruit of the eternal Fig-tree. The one who belongs to Narakoti approaches confidently the one who is of the Ishwarkoti, the soul of Man in its quest of delight the soul of the Divine. We have the Vedic picture of Kutsa and Indra riding the same chariot towards heaven of the gods. The Two Birds unmistakably demonstrates that the path chosen by Amal Kiran is aesthetic-spiritual rather than that of an austere Tapasvin of the bygone days, and that it has taken him to the courtyard of the Beautiful who is also the Truthful and the Joyous. That is a great success indeed in the direction of future poetry as envisioned by Sri Aurobindo.