Sunday, 30 June 2013

“All Music is Only the Sound of His Laughter”

A New Series on All Things Musical

Source: Google Images

“Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.”

Shelley’s famous line was often quoted by my father when talking about the simple beauty of some of his favourite old Hindi film songs of yesteryears. He would then often sing a couple of lines from the old Talat Mahmood song that speaks of a similar sentiment - “Hain sab se madhur woh geet jinhe hum dard ke sur mein gaate hain”

This indeed is one of the most beautiful gems to come from the golden age of Hindi cinema. The poet speaks of the pain but speaks of it not with sadness and remorse, but rather as something that has to be won over with a spirit of equanimity inside and an act of smiling outside. 

Just this past week when re-watching – I have lost the count how many times I have watched this film  an all-time favourite film of mine, Guide, I was once again mesmerized by the song that I believe is a highly rare gem to come out of the Hindi cinema. I am speaking of the song – “Piya tose naina lage re” sung in the beautiful voice of Lata Mangeshkar.

Am I biased? Sure I am.  

But any lover of old Hindi film music will agree with me that this song is indeed quite a masterpiece…not just the delightful and lovely lyrics, the breezy and smooth composition, and the melodious and sweet singing but also the graceful dancing and careful filming of the whole song sequence. As I sat on my favourite reclining chair and watched and then re-watched this, I felt this strange sense of joy….the kind one feels when face-to-face with something very beautiful, something very pure and lovely. No, I am not saying that everyone will or should feel something similar when listening to/watching this song and dance sequence. But I can’t deny that I did. 

There is no trace of sadness whatsoever in this song. It is a happy, light-filled number that speaks of the joy and beauty of love - of being in love, of moments of separation, of anticipation of union – and speaks of all that in one of the sweetest and softest compositions by Sachin Dev Burman. (A few details about the song may be read here). 

The song doesn’t speak of any sad thought, though it definitely speaks of the longing for the beloved.

The song doesn’t speak of the pain of separation, though it definitely speaks of the joylessness of celebrating any festival with the beloved being far away.

When listening to this song again just now, I am thinking perhaps Shelley only got it partly right. 

What do you think?

Saturday, 22 June 2013

The Whole Seed Within

There’s a moon in my body, but I can’t see it!
A moon and a sun. 
A drum never touched by hands, beating, and I can’t hear it!

As long as a human being worries about when he will die, 
and what he has that is his, 
all of his works are zero.
When affection for the I-creature and what it owns is dead, 
then the work of the Teacher is over.

The purpose of labor is to learn; 
when you know it, the labor is over. 
The apple blossom exists to create fruit; when that comes, the petals fall.

The musk is inside the deer, but the deer does not look for it:
It wanders around looking for grass.
(Poem by Kabir, version by Robert Bly)


Photo by Dan Murtha

One part of the 'family' self wants to think about, help and support in whatever way possible, and give up  personal preferences and wishes in order to become a better daughter, wife, sister, friend. Another part wants to be free from these roles and responsibilities and their incessant demands. Yet another part continues to struggle with the two 'wants' and seeks for more harmony. And yet another part reminds to stay calm, and do whatever is needed and take whatever comes with no personal preference.

One part of the 'social' self wants to know what is going on in the world and why. Another part of this 'social' self wants to be free from this desire to know what is going on in the world and why. Yet another part continues to oscillate between the outward and inward paths of knowing. And yet another part reminds to be at peace and open the heart to receive true knowledge, knowledge of the eternal. 

One part of the 'worker' self wants to look at the purpose and place of my work in the larger context. Another part reminds this part - "you don't even know what your work is." Yet another part suggests - "find your work." And yet another part calmly signals - "the work will find you."


Artist: Bindu Popli

Feel the stirrings of a seed within, a seed whose first tiny leaves will one day take the form of a longing for true learning, learning that helps one to transcend the narrow limitations of one’s various identities, roles and responsibilities and makes possible the direct knowledge of the inner, truer being that manifests in all yet is none of these identities, roles and parts, that is waiting in perfect calmness and peace to be unveiled, so that it can surface and shine its light on all the stumbling, crude movements of all the other parts that keep chattering. 

A seed is the link between the Heaven and the Earth. All the potentiality of Life is hidden in a seed. In Life lies Aspiration. Aspiration to look up towards the Heaven. Aspiration to bring the Heaven on Earth, to transform Earth into a Heaven. If the seed is broken up to see what exists hidden in it, all potentiality of Life is destroyed. Only the 'whole' seed carries potential Life, and thus a potential Aspiration....aspiration to become 'whole' again. The 'whole' is already in us, trying to reveal itself in and through all our outer actions and movements, partial, fragmented, obscure and crude as they may be. We need to stop and observe, and observe and observe some more. We need to become conscious of our parts and their movements. 


Photo by Andrew Gibson

Our outward happenings have their seed within,
And even this random Fate that imitates Chance,
This mass of unintelligible results,
Are the dumb graph of truths that work unseen:
The laws of the Unknown create the known.
The events that shape the appearance of our lives
Are a cipher of subliminal quiverings
Which rarely we surprise or vaguely feel,
Are an outcome of suppressed realities
That hardly rise into material day:
They are born from the spirit's sun of hidden powers
Digging a tunnel through emergency.
But who shall pierce into the cryptic gulf
And learn what deep necessity of the soul
Determined casual deed and consequence?
Absorbed in a routine of daily acts,
Our eyes are fixed on an external scene;
We hear the crash of the wheels of Circumstance
And wonder at the hidden cause of things.
Yet a foreseeing Knowledge might be ours,
If we could take our spirit's stand within,
If we could hear the muffled daemon voice. 
(Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, Book 1, Canto IV)


Sunday, 16 June 2013

Of Tears, Bubbles, Drops, and the Mighty Sea: Reflections on Surrender

A revised form of this post was re-published as an article in Next Future
Click here to read the revised article.

"True Surrender enlarges you; it increases your capacity; it gives you a greater measure in quality and in quantity which you could not have had by yourself. This new greater measure of quality and quantity is different from anything you could attain before: you enter into another world, into a wideness which you could not have entered if you did not surrender. It is as when a drop of water falls into the sea; if it still kept there its separate identity, it would remain a little drop of water and nothing more, a little drop crushed by all the immensity around, because it has not surrendered. But, surrendering, it unites with the sea and participates in the nature and power and vastness of whole sea.” (The Mother)

What imagery! What a perfect way to describe what happens when the surrender is complete from top to bottom. A drop becomes a sea. The essence of the drop’s existence is in becoming the sea. 

Gustav Klimt – Freya’s Tears

I remember that evening from several years ago. Sitting near the sea and thinking if all the water from everywhere somehow ends up into the sea, do the drops of tears falling from our eyes also somehow find their way into the mighty ocean? Now after re-reading these words of the Mother I feel I may have an answer to this rather strange question. Perhaps they do, because otherwise they don’t find their inherent value or purpose of existence. And if they don’t they also get crushed by the immensity around, but this immensity is not outside of us, it is within us. If the tears carry with them the oppressive and suffocating pain of the unmet desires, unsatisfied preferences, and discontented egos, the immensity of all these desires, preferences and egos will itself crush the tears and not allow them to help purify the mind and vital. But the tears that bring with them a hint of a glimmer, however disguised, of the flame that is struggling to keep itself burning amidst the thick clouds of the vital-emotional-mental variety, those tears carry with them the potential to wash us clean and by their eventual journey into the sea show us the path to surrender, to become one with the sea.

May be this analogy is not making too much logical sense, but as I am writing this it feels right to me.

Another image comes before the eyes. Of a star and the sky. A star is just another huge piece of matter – something to which nobody would have paid any attention if it just lied there all by itself. But only when surrendered to the immensity of the dark sky it becomes a star. Something that we look up to, something so beautiful. Something heavenly. A star is a star only when it is enveloped by the vastness of the sky.

A human becomes human only when immersed in the Sea of Divine.

Here is another thought inspired by this imagery of drop becoming the sea. The other day I was listening to some ghazals written by Gulzar and one of the verses goes like this –

aadmi bulbula hai paani ka
aur paani ki behti satah par
tutta bhi hai dubta bhi hai  
phir ubharta hai phir se behta hai
na samandar nigal saka isko
naa tawaarikh tod paayi hai
waqt ki mauj par sada behtaa....
aadmi bulbula hai paani ka

Here is my quick attempt at translation –

man is nothing but a bubble of water
and it floats on the surface of water
it also breaks, also sinks
yet it rises again, floats up again
neither the sea has been able to swallow it
nor the History has broken it
floating eternally on the waves of Time
man is nothing but a bubble of water

This is one imagery of what it may mean to be a human, struggling to keep the individuality alive. And what the Mother gives us in the quote cited earlier is a way to become the Universal Individual. An individual that is no longer struggling with the tides of the sea and waves of the Time, but one that has become united with Sea and has become an individual of the Future, has freed himself from the chains of the History – of his own, of his times and circumstances, of his ego. 

Both images are true in their own way. But on a deeper subtler level, there is perhaps a difference between a bubble and a drop. One is more flaky than the other, is more “on the surface”, more empty and shallow, hollow in fact. The other, the drop carries within itself the potential of becoming the Sea. The bubble is floating on the top for ever and ever, never really existing fully. The drop on the other hand carries the sea within on some level. We first become a drop from the bubble (“individualization” in the truest sense), only then we can become the Sea. But becoming the drop is possible only when we carry within an Aspiration for the Sea, when we reject the flakiness of a bubble, and progressively prepare ourselves for a complete Surrender to the vastness of the Sea.  

Perfect Surrender: The indispensable condition for identification.
(Botanical name: Rosa ‘Paul Neyron’)

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

That Deep Pink Flower on the Roadside

Some images, some memories always remain fresh. And the insights gained and lessons learned from them become even more relevant now more than ever. Like this one from October 3, 2007.

On that particular day, late afternoon while walking home I saw this amazing little beautiful deep pink flower – perhaps some wildflower or some weed, whose name I didn’t/don’t know— gracefully revealing its head from within a thick heap of cement, pieces of brick, and other street garbage thrown together on a street corner. It is hard to imagine that anything so delicate can grow out of such dark and hard material, yet the flower was standing erect on its little tender stem. The resilience with which this flower was blooming in such physical surroundings made me think of the power of opening and receptivity. Within this hard shell created by the cement, clay and pieces of brick there perhaps was some little spot which opened itself to the Light and Force of Mother Nature and voila, life was born! Within that closed, tightly bound construction garbage, there was something in a little spot which was able to receive the Light and Force, and a flower was born.

How can we open ourselves more and more to the Light and Grace and Force and Calmness? How do we develop within us a greater receptivity to receive this Light, Grace, Force and Calmness? The Masters have emphasized several ways, foremost among them are: sincere one-pointed aspiration that is patient and calm, genuine humility, unyielding faith and complete trust in the Divine, elimination of ego-insistence in all forms, and self-offering and surrender to the Divine. 

For me, particularly now, remembering the point about unyielding and uncompromising faith in the Divine, and having a complete trust in the Divine Plan is especially helpful. I feel that with a steadfast faith in the Divine one’s aspiration also gets strengthened and with the force of a renewed aspiration one’s faith also gets strengthened.

While the task of eliminating ego-sense and its numerous little and big demands is HUGE, I also find that becoming more conscious of when we are resisting to something because of our egos can in itself be helpful in increasing our sense of openness. We constrict ourselves to the Force from above because we fill ourselves tightly with ego and its demands. We carry too much burden and weight of our egos and thereby have very little open space within where the Light and Force from Above can shine. So a reminder about gradually eliminating ego-insistence is very helpful.

The reminder about true and sincere humility is also immensely helpful. We have to go to the Divine in all our nakedness, without hiding any of our imperfections and mistakes, without deluding ourselves in any way, and without any sense of pride at any little progress we might have made on the path. We must never forget that whatever little victories we might have won so far may be totally insignificant compared to the numerous victories yet remaining to be won.

Be humble, be sincere, be honest – this is the key. Like that little pink flower that was happily and humbly growing in the middle of a construction dump, opening itself to the Light above and receiving the Force to help grow and spread its self-existent beauty and joy...even when no one was looking. 

This post is written first and foremost as a Reminder to self.