Friday, September 28, 2012

Sings only for the Lord

The emperor Akbar told Tansen one day that he would like to meet and hear his guru. He said, "Last night when you left, a thought came to my mind that there has never been a singer greater than you, nor will there ever be. You are the ultimate in music. But then it occurred to me that you must have learned from somebody. You must have had a guru, and perhaps he is even better than you. So I would like to meet your guru and hear him."

Tansen replied, "That is very difficult. I do have a guru who is still alive, but you cannot call him to the court for he does not sing on request. His songs are like the songs of the birds. A cuckoo will never sing at your request. The more you plead the more silent he will become, for it will begin to wonder why the request. You can hear my guru only when he chooses to sing. If you are that eager we shall have to go and hide behind his hut and listen secretly. If we approach him directly he might stop singing."

Tansen's guru, a fakir named Haridas, stayed in a hut on the bank of the river Jamuna. At three o'clock every morning, before dawn, he would sit by the river and sing in ecstasy. His singing was like the song of the birds; his songs had nothing to do with anybody. Akbar and Tansen reached the hut at two o'clock. At three the singing began. Akbar listened as if hypnotized, his eyes raining tears. When they rode back he could not utter a single word to Tansen. In fact he totally forgot that Tansen was there.

As he stepped down from the chariot he told Tansen, "I was under the impression that you had no equal, but today I see the your guru far surpasses you. Is there some reason for it?" Tansen replied, "Is there really any need to ask? I sing for you, but my guru sings only for God. When I sing my eye is on the gift you will give me, for singing is my business. My guru doesn't sing to get anything. In fact, it is the other way around; he sings only when he receives, when he is so filled with the emotion of God from the grace he received from above, when his throat is full, when waves of ecstasy arise in his heart.

When he is flooded with His grace he sings, he flows, he bursts into song. Singing is like His shadow to him. But for me, I sing first, then receive. My eyes are always on the fruits of my effort, therefore I am lowly. You are absolutely right: how can I stand next to my guru? No matter how skillful I become, however practiced my hands or competent my voice, my soul will never be able to enter into my song. I am a specialist, not so my guru. His song is like the song of the birds. I am nothing before him." The singers you hear today are professionals. The listeners sit passively while they do their jobs, so far have we come from the song of God.

Whoever is making love on the screen is a professional doing his job. He acts and viewers watch, nothing more, just glued to their chairs. The realities of life can only be known actively; you must enter into these realities. Just to see a person swimming, how can you enjoy the pleasure? If seeing gives so much pleasure, how infinitely joyful must be the act of being and doing. Sing, dance, but forget the world for it is the thought of the world that prevents you from singing and dancing. Dance, sing – and you stand in the footsteps of God.

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