The whole night the wind went on blowing in the trees. The sound was so beautiful that I played Pannalal Ghosh, one of the flutists that Pagal Baba had introduced to me. Just now too, I was playing his music, but he has a way of his own. His introduction is very long, so before Gudia called me it was still only the introduction. I mean he had not started playing his flute yet. The sitar and tabla were preparing the ground for him to play his flute. Last night I listened to his music again after perhaps two years.
Pagal Baba has to be talked about only in an indirect way; that was the quality of the man. He was always in brackets, very invisible. He introduced me to many musicians, and I always asked him why. He said, "One day you will be a musician."
I said, "Pagal Baba, sometimes it seems people are right: you are mad. I am not going to be a musician.
He laughed and said, "I know that. Still I say you will be a musician."
Now, what to make of it? I have not become a musician, but in a way he was right. I have not played on musical instruments, but I have played on thousands of hearts. I have created a far deeper music than any instrument can - non-instrumental, non-technical.
I liked those three flutists - at least their music - but not all of them liked me. Hari Prasad always loved me. He never bothered that I was a child and he was old, and a world-famous musician. He not only loved me, he respected me. Once I asked him, "Hari Baba, why do you respect me?"
He replied, "If Baba respects you, then there is no question. I trust Pagal Baba, and if he touches your feet, and you are just a child, I know he knows something that I am incapable of knowing right now. But that does not matter. He knows; that is enough for me." He was a devotee.
The musician I listened to last night, and was again trying to hear just now before I came in, Pannalal Ghosh, neither liked nor disliked me. He was not a man of strong likes or dislikes - a very flat man, no hills, no valleys, just a far stretching plain. But he played the flute in his own way as nobody else has ever done before, or can ever do again. With his flute he roared like a lion.
I once asked him, "In your life you are more like a sheep, a Bengali BABU." He was from Bengal, and in India, Bengalis are the most unaggressive people, so anybody who is a coward is called a Bengali Babu. I told him, "You are an authentic Bengali Babu. What happens when you play the flute? You become a lion."
He said, "Something certainly happens. I am no more myself, otherwise I would be the same Bengali Babu, just the same cowardly man that I am. But something happens, I am possessed."
That's exactly the words he used. "I am taken over by it, I don't know what. Perhaps you know.
Otherwise why does Pagal Baba have so much respect for you? I have never seen him touch anybody's feet except yours. All the great musicians come to him just for his blessing, and to touch his feet."
Pagal Baba introduced me to many people, not only flutists. Perhaps in some circle of my story they will come in. But what Pannalal Ghosh said was very significant. He said, "I become possessed.
Once I start playing, I am no more; something else is. It is not Pannalal Ghosh." I am quoting his words. He then said, "That's why it takes such a long introduction before I play. I am condemned everywhere because of my long introduction... because flutists are not known to have such long introductions."
He was the Bernard Shaw of the flute world. With George Bernard Shaw... his book may have been only ninety pages long but the introduction would be three hundred pages. Pannalal Ghosh said, "People cannot understand, but I can tell you, that I have to wait to become possessed, hence the long introduction. I cannot start playing until it comes."
These are truly the words of an authentic artist, but only the authentic artist, not the journalistic type, the third-rate artist. It is better not to call this type an artist at all. He writes about music, but knows nothing of the experience; he writes about poetry without ever composing a single poem; he writes about politics and has never been in the thick of the struggle. It is tooth and nail in the political world.
Just sitting in his office, the journalistic type can manage to write everything. In fact it is the same person who one week writes about music, and another week about poetry, and another week about politics, using different names.
I have been a journalist once, out of sheer necessity, otherwise I would not have suffered it. I had no money and my father wanted me to go to a science college. I was not interested in science, neither then nor now. And he was so poor that I could understand that he would be risking too much. Nobody in my family had been well-educated. One of my uncles, my father's brother, was sent to university by my father, but had to be called back because there was not enough money to keep him there.
My father was ready to send me to university. Naturally it was a sacrifice for him, and he wanted to do it in a businesslike way. It had to be an investment.
I said to him, "Listen, is it my education or your investment? You are thinking of making me an engineer or a doctor; naturally I will earn more. But what I am planning to do is never earn anything, but to go on learning and never begin earning." I then told him, "I am going to remain a hobo."
He said, "What! A hobo?"
I said, "In respectable words - a sannyasin."
He was still shocked. "A sannyasin! Then why do you want to go to university?"
I said, "I hate those professors, but naturally, first I have to know their profession so that my whole life I can condemn them perfectly."
He said, "This is strange, going to university just to condemn it. I have to borrow money for you, mortgage my house for you, risk my business for you - and you are just going to condemn those professors? Why can't you condemn them without going to university?"
I left home, just writing a note to my father saying, "I can understand your feelings, and I can understand your economy. We belong to different worlds, and there is no bridge, at least right now. I don't see that you can understand me, or that I can understand you, and there is no need either. Thank you for the gesture of wanting to support me, but it was an investment, and I don't want to become your business partner. I am leaving without seeing you. Perhaps I will meet you only when I have arranged my own finances." That's why I went to work as a journalist.
It was the worst thing that one can be forced to do, and yes, I was forced to do it because no other job was available. And journalism in India is the third degree of the third-rate. It is not just third-rate, it is the worst in the world. I did it but could not do it very well. I cannot do anything very well, so that is not at all a complaint against myself, just an acceptance that I cannot do anything, what to say of doing it very well.
And the job ended very soon because I was fast asleep, with my legs on the table, just the way I am right now, when the owner, the chief editor entered. He saw me, shook me and I opened my eyes and looked at him and said, "This is not gentlemanly. I was fast asleep and you disturbed my dream. I would give a fortune for that dream to continue again. I am ready to pay, now tell me how to continue it."
He said, "What do I care about your dream? I am not concerned with it. But this is my time and you are being paid for it. I have every right to wake you up."
I said, "Okay, then I have every right to walk out." And I walked out. Not that he was wrong, but it was not my place. I had entered into a wrong place. Journalists are the worst people, and I know them: I lived with them for three years. It was hell.
What was I saying? I just try to keep a check on you.
"You were talking about how you had to take up journalism because your father had no money to support you."
"When you are truly an authentic artist you become possessed."
"Not the journalistic type."
Continue taking really exact notes. You have become a good writer.
My father was always amazed whenever Pagal Baba would come and touch my feet. He himself would touch Pagal Baba's feet. It was really hilarious. And just to make the circle whole I would touch my father's feet. Pagal Baba would start laughing so loudly that everybody became silent as if something really great was happening-and my father would look embarrassed.
Pagal tried again and again to convince me that my future was to be a musician. I said "No," and when I say no, I mean no.
From my very childhood my no has been very clear, and I rarely use yes. That word yes is so precious, almost holy, that it should be used only in the presence of the divine, whether it is love or beauty, or right now... orange blossom on the gulmarg, so thick it is as if the whole tree is aflame.
When anything reminds you of the sacred, then you can use the word yes - it is full of prayer. No simply means that I cut myself off from the proposed activity; and I have been a no-sayer. It was very difficult to get a yes out of me.
Seeing Pagal Baba, a man who was known to be enlightened, I recognized that he was unique even in those days. I did not know anything of what enlightenment is. I was in just the same position as I am now, again utterly unknowing. But his presence was luminous. You could recognize him among thousands.
He was the first man who took me to a Kumbha Mela. It takes place every twelve years in Prayag, and is the biggest gathering in the whole world. For Hindus Kumbha Mela is one of their life's cherished dreams. A Hindu thinks that if you have not been to a Kumbha Mela at least once, you have missed your life. That's what a Hindu thinks. The minimum count is ten million people, the maximum is thirty million people.
It's the same with the Mohammedans. Unless you are a haji, unless you have been to Haj, to Mecca, you have missed. Haj means "journey to Mecca," where Mohammed lived and died. All over the world it is every Mohammedan's most precious dream; he has to go at least once to Mecca. The Hindu has to go to Prayag. These places are their Israels.
The religions may look very different on the surface, but if you just scratch a little bit you will find the same rubbish; Hindu, Jew, Mohammedan, Christian, it does not matter.
But Kumbha Mela has a unique character. Just a gathering of thirty million people is in itself a rare experience. All the Hindu monks come there, and they are not a small minority. They number five hundred thousand, and they are very colorful people. You cannot imagine so many unique sects.
You cannot believe that such people even exist, and they all gather there.
Pagal Baba took me to the first Kumbha Mela of my life. I was to attend once more, but this experience with Pagal Baba, at the Kumbha Mela was immensely educating, because he took me to all the great, and the so-called great saints, and in front of them, and with thousands of people around, he would ask me, "Is this man a real saint?"
I would say, "No."
But Pagal Baba was also as stubborn as I am, he did not lose heart. He went on and on, taking me to every kind of saint possible, until I said to one man, "Yes."
Pagal Baba laughed and said, "I knew that you would recognize the true one. And this man," he pointed to the man about whom I had said yes, "he is a realized one, not known to anybody."
The man was just sitting under a peepal tree, without any followers. Perhaps he was the loneliest man in that great crowd of thirty million people. Baba first touched my feet, then his feet.
The man said, "But where did you find this child? I never thought a child would be able to recognize me. I have hidden myself so perfectly. You can recognize me, that's okay, but how could he do it?"
Baba said, "That's the puzzle. That's why I touch his feet. You touch his feet right now."
And who could have disobeyed that ninety-year-old man? He was so majestic. The man immediately touched my feet.
That's how Pagal Baba used to introduce me to all kinds of people. In this circle I am mostly talking of the musicians, because they were his love affair. He wanted me to become a musician, but I could not fulfill his desire because for me music, at the most, can only be an entertainment. I told him exactly in those same words, saying, "Pagal Baba, music is a much lower kind of meditation. I am not interested in it."
He said, "I know, it is. I wanted to hear it from you. But music is a good step to go higher; no need to cling to it, or to remain on it. A step is a step to something else."
That's how I have used music in all my meditations, as a step to something - which is really "the music" - soundless. Nanak says, Ek omkar sat nam: there is only one name of God, or of truth, and that is the soundless sound of OM. Perhaps meditation came out of music, or perhaps music is the mother of meditation. But music itself is not meditation. It can only indicate, or be a hint....
The ancient pond, the frog jumps in, the soundless sound....
It has been translated in many ways. This is one of them - "the soundless sound"; a "plop" is even better. But the Hindi word is even more significant. When a frog jumps into a pond it makes a sound - you can call it "plop," but in Hindi the word is exactly how it sounds: chhapak. Be a frog, jump into a pond, and you will know chhapak.
It will be difficult to write in English. It is better that I tell you, otherwise you will inevitably write something wrong. Chhapak has to be written C-H-H-A-P-A-K. In English there is no letter for "chh"
so we have to write it in that way.
The English alphabet has only twenty-six letters. You will be surprised that Hindi or Sanskrit has double that number: fifty-two letters. So many times it is difficult to translate, or even romanize words. "Chh" does not exist at all in English, but without "chh" there will be no frog, and there will be no chhapak, and thousands of other things will be missed.
Ek omkar sat nam, the real name of The Truth, is the soundless sound.
To write it, in Sanskrit, we have created a non-alphabetical symbol; it is OM. It is not part of the Sanskrit alphabet - A-B-C-X-Y-Z. OM is just a sound, and a very significant sound. It consists of A-U-M, and these are the three basic musical notes. The whole of music depends on these three sounds. If they all become one, there is silence. If they diverge there is sound. If they converge, there is silence. OM is a silence.
You must have seen the bell in every Hindu temple, but you may not have seen a really artistic one.
For that you will have to look in the Tibetan section of some museum. The Tibetan bell is the most beautiful. It is a strange bell, like a cup made of many metals, and it has a wooden handle. You take the handle in your hand, and go round and round the inside of the cup. This is done a certain number of times, for example seventeen; then you hit the inside of the bell at a certain point which is marked. That is the beginning and the end.
From there you begin going around again, and then you strike at the end. And it is strange, the bell repeats the whole Tibetan mantra! When one hears it for the first time one cannot believe that the bell is repeating the Tibetan mantra exactly. But the bell was made for that purpose.
I was shown a bell of that kind by a Tibetan lama. It was just wonderful to hear the whole mantra being repeated by the bell. You know the mantra, I have told it to you. The mantra is not significant, it is meaningless, but musical, very musical; that's how the bell can create it. If it was meaningful it would be very difficult for a bell to do the job. A bell is just a dumb bell.
Om mani padme hum - the bell repeats it so clearly that you suspect perhaps the Holy Ghost is hidden somewhere. But there is nobody, no Holy Ghost, nothing, just the bell. You have to go round and round with the stick, then at a certain point strike, and the bell resounds with the mantra.
The bell in every temple in India or Tibet or China or Burma, is meaningful in the sense that it reminds you that if you can become as silent as the bell slowly becomes, after you have hit it - first it is all sound, then slowly the sound dies-then the soundlessness enters in. People hear only the sound; then they have not heard the bell. You should hear the other part too. When the sound is dying, disappearing, the soundless sound is appearing, coming in. When the sound has completely disappeared, there is utter soundlessness, and that is what meditation is.
I was not going to become a musician. Pagal Baba knew it, but he was in love with music, and he wanted me to at least be acquainted with the best of the musicians; perhaps I may become attracted.
He introduced me to so many musicians - it was even difficult to remember all their names. But a few names are very famous, and known all over the world, for example these three.
Pannalal Ghosh is thought to be the greatest flutist who has ever lived, and certainly it is not wrong, but he is not my choice. He roars like a lion, but the man is just a mouse, and that's what I don't like.
A mouse roaring like a lion - that's what hypocrisy is. But still I must say he manages it well. It is a difficult affair but he manages it almost perfectly. I say "almost" because he could not deceive my eyes. I told him, and he said, "I know it." He is not my choice.
The second man is from south India. I never liked him from the very beginning. Of course I love his flute. Perhaps nobody has the depth he has, but man to man, eye to eye, we could not stand each other. This man, I told you his name and I won't repeat it again - I neither like the man nor his name... - once is more than enough. But his flute is just the best that has come out of centuries.
Still he is not my choice, because of the man. If I don't like the man, howsoever beautifully he plays, I cannot choose him to be the first.
My choice is Hari Prasad. He is very humble, neither like a mouse nor like a lion. He is exactly what is meant by the word, majjhim, the middle, the "golden mean." He has brought the balance which is lost in both Pannalal Ghosh and the south Indian man, whose name I am not going to say again.
But Hari Prasad has brought a balance, an immense balance, just like a tightrope-walker.
This man Pagal Baba will be referred to many times, for the simple reason he introduced so many people to me. Whenever I mention them, Pagal Baba will have to be mentioned too. Through him a world opened up. He was far more valuable to me than any university, because he introduced me to all that is best in every possible field.
He used to come to my village just like a whirl-wind and he would take hold of me. My parents could not say no to him, not even my Nani could say no to him. In fact, the moment I mentioned Pagal Baba they all said, "Then it's okay," because they knew that if they denied me, Pagal Baba would come and create a nuisance in the house. He could break things, he could beat people, and he was so respected that nobody would prevent him from doing any damage. So it was best for everybody to say "Yes... if Pagal Baba wants to take you with him, you can go. And we know," they said, "that with Pagal Baba you will be safe."
My other relatives in the town used to tell my father, "You are not doing the right thing in sending your boy along with that insane man."
My father replied, "My boy is such that I am more worried about that old insane man than about him.
You need not bother."
I traveled many places with Pagal Baba. He took me not only to great artists and musicians, but also to the great places. It was with him that I saw first the Taj Mahal, and the caves of Ellora and Ajanta. He was the man with whom I first saw the Himalayas. I owe him too much, and I have never even thanked him. I could not because he used to touch my feet. If I would ever say anything to him in thanks, he would immediately put his hand to his lips and say, "Just be quiet. Never mention your thankfulness. I am thankful to you, not you to me."
One night when we were alone I asked him, "Why are you thankful to me? I have not done anything for you, and you have done many things for me, yet you don't even allow me to say thank you."
He said, "One day you will understand, but right now go to sleep and don't mention it again at all, never, never. When the time comes you will know." By the time I came to know it was too late, he was no more. I came to know, but too late.
If he had been alive perhaps it would have been too difficult for him to realize that I had come to know that once, in a past life, he had poisoned me. Although I had survived, he was now just trying to compensate; he was trying to efface it. He was doing everything in his power to be good to me - and he was always good to me, more than I ever deserved - but now I know why: he was trying to bring balance.
In the East they call it karma, the "theory of action": whatever you do, remember, you will have to bring a balance again to things disturbed by your action. Now I know why he was so good to a child.
He was trying, and he succeeded, to bring about balance. Once your actions are totally balanced you can then disappear. Only then can you stop the wheel. In fact, the wheel stops by itself. You don't even have to stop it.