Nirvana

circa 1962

 

This Bengali poem presents an intriguing mystery, principally because the poem itself is missing. We may assume that Sri Chinmoy penned the original in one of his notebooks from this period. We may also claim, with some degree of confidence, that it rightly belongs among his major works. We know that he wrote of sublime, spiritual experiences from direct, firsthand experience. Therefore, the very topic – nirvana – promises a rare insight into this state. And yet, for some reason, after the poet came to the West, he did not transform his words into a song, as was his wont with other Bengali poems written during his Ashram years. In fact, we would not know of the existence of this poem were it not for the fact that a translation of it was published in the Mother India cultural magazine in September 1962. The translation was undertaken by Romen, the very person who taught the young poet English metre. He produced four quatrains comprised of heroic couplets. How closely these sixteen lines correspond to the poet’s Bengali words we cannot say. We can only present this very beautiful translation and hope that one day the original from which it sprang will emerge.

– Vidagdha

 

 

 


                     Nirvana

 

The tone and resonance, the gleam and night

Die like echoing chords on a hill’s stark height.

All vanish in that vacancy, you and I;

None is there eager to hear the world’s loud cry.

A bourneless silence, still, unmoving, lone,

Lost beyond thought’s ascent, a mute unknown !

The lines of the unseizable and the quest

Are sensed not in that vast and termless rest.

A calm unspeakable rapture with its heat

Builds no entrancèd solitude’s retreat,

In the deeps of the heaven-artist’s unfathomed force

Before creation with winged motion rose :

When all is regained or all in God is lost

In the beginning’s dawn or the holocaust.

Towards that dazzling eternity of Sun

Wings, called, the bird of flame-dominion.

CHINMOY

 

(Translated by Romen from the original Bengali)

 
 

 

 

Notes:

1. Romen Palit was born in 1920. As a young boy, he became the first child to be accepted into the spiritual community of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. He studied English literature under Nolini Kanta Gupta, and Sri Aurobindo greatly encouraged him in his poetic endeavours. About one of his early poems, Sri Aurobindo commented: “As usual the last lines are very fine. The whole has the substance of poetry, and once put into metrical form, succeeds by a very telling suggestion of atmosphere.” A few days later this was his comment on another of Romen’s poems: “A larger vocabulary, a freer choice of words will bring the necessary change, but even as it is, it is remarkable. The lines marked are superb — others are fine, but these would do credit to any poet.”

2. Romen played a most significant role in the young Chinmoy’s life. Chitta Ghose relates:

One day Chinmoy was coming out from the main Ashram building. A young man by the name of Romen caught him on the street and said to him, “You must write poems in English.” Chinmoy said that he would not and could not because he did not know English metre. Romen said, “I am going to teach you.” Then he compelled Chinmoy to bring him to our house for two or three hours. He taught Chinmoy English metre and Chinmoy was able to write his first poem in English, ‘The Golden Flute’. Chinmoy sent this poem to ‘Mother India’ for publication and the manager was very, very pleased. He sent Chinmoy twenty-five rupees for the poem and Chinmoy offered it to the Mother. After Chinmoy submitted his third poem to this same manager, the manager happened to be paying a visit to the Ashram. When he came to know who Chinmoy was, that it was he who had written ‘The Absolute’, he dropped his cane and embraced him. “Did you write it? Did you write it?” he asked. “Yes, I did,” Chinmoy replied. This manager could not believe that ‘The Absolute’ could be written as only Chinmoy’s third poem in English.

– Excerpt from Chitta's Notebook, My Brother Chitta, Agni Press, 1998.

3. “Bourneless” means “limitless”. The word is used by Sri Aurobindo in Savitri, Book I, Canto IV:
         “Two seem his goals, yet ever are they one
          And gaze at each other over bourneless Time;”

4. “Holocaust” is a word of Greek origin, originally meaning “sacrifice by fire”. In Book II, Canto I of Savitri, Sri Aurobindo uses this word in its positive connotation:
         “Our life is a holocaust of the Supreme.”