I was talking about Pagal Baba and the three flutists he introduced to me. It is still a beautiful memory, the way he introduced me to people - particularly to those who were accustomed to being received, respected and honored. The first thing he would say to them was, "Touch the feet of this boy."
I remember how differently people reacted, and how we both laughed later on. Pannalal Ghosh was introduced to me at his own house in Calcutta. Pagal Baba was his guest, I was Pagal Baba's guest.
Pannalal Ghosh was really very famous, and when Baba said to him, "Touch the feet of this boy first, then I can allow you to touch my feet," he hesitated for a moment, then touched my feet without really touching.
You can touch a thing without really touching it. You do it all the time - shaking hands with people yet having no feeling, no warmth, no receptivity, no joy to share. What are you shaking hands for? It is unnecessary exercise. And what have your hands done wrong? - why shake them?
And, do you know, there is a Christian sect called the "Shakers"; they shake their whole body. They are shaking hands with God. Of course, when you shake hands with God the whole body has to be shaken. And you know the Quakers, they go even a step further: they don't only shake, they quake!
These are the real origins of their names. The Quakers used to roll around, jump up and down, and do all kinds of things that you can see in any madhouse. I am not against what they do, I'm simply describing them. In the same way, Pannalal Ghosh touched my feet.
I said to Baba, "He has not touched them."
Baba said, "I know. Pannalal, do it again."
It was too much for the famous man, in his own house, and with so many people present. In fact, all the eminent people of Calcutta were there. The prime minister's son was there, the chief minister was there, and so on and so forth. "Do it again?" But that shows the quality of the man. He again touched my feet, this time it was even more dead than before.
I laughed. Baba roared. I said, "He needs training."
Baba said, "That is true. He will be born many times to get that training. In this life he has missed the train. I was giving him a last opportunity, but he has missed that too."
And you will be surprised, after only seven days Pannalal Ghosh was no longer in this world. Perhaps Baba was right, the last opportunity had been given and Pannalal Ghosh had missed it. He was not a bad man, remember, note it. I don't say he was a good man, I only say he was not a bad man. He was just ordinary. To be good or to be bad needs some extraordinariness.
He had poured all his talent, intelligence, and his soul into his flute, and he was left barren, desert- like. His flute was beautiful, but it was better not to have known the man. Now, when I hear his flute on a record, I try to dispose of him. I tell him, "Pannalal Ghosh, please don't come in, let me listen to the flute."
But Baba wanted him to be introduced to me, and not me to him. It was not for me, because I had no name. I had not done anything, right or wrong, yet, and I was never going to do anything either.
Even now, I can say the same thing: I have not done anything right or wrong. I am a non-doer, and I have remained persistently so, just a non-doer. But Pannalal Ghosh was a great musician. To tell him to touch my feet in front of so many people was very humbling. It was good exercise for him, but twice was too much; but he was a real Bengali Babu.
This term, "Bengali Babu" was invented by the British because their first capital in India was in Calcutta, not New Delhi, and obviously, their first servants were Bengalis. All Bengalis are fish- eaters. They stink of fish. Chetana will understand, she is a fisherman's daughter. Fortunately she can understand exactly. She has the nose too because when I smell something and nobody else can smell it, I have to depend on her. I then ask her, and she certainly smells it.
Bengalis are all fish-eaters, and of course they all smell of fish. Every Bengali house has a pond.
It happens nowhere else in India; it is special to Bengal. It is a beautiful country. Every house has, according to its capacity, a small or large pond to grow one's own fish.
You will be surprised to know that the English word "bungalow" is the name for a Bengali house.
Bengal is the English transformation of bangla, and the Britishers called the Bengali house "bungalow." Each bungalow - that is Bengali house - has a pond in which you grow your own food. The whole place stinks of nothing but fish. To talk to a Bengali, particularly for a man like me, is so difficult. Even when visiting Bengal I never used to speak to Bengalis because of the smell, but only to non-Bengalis who were living there; it was really fishy.
Pannalal Ghosh died just seven days after I had seen him, and Baba had said to him, "This is your last opportunity." I don't think he understood it - he looked a little stupid. Forgive me for that
expression, but what can I do if someone looks stupid? Whether I say it or not, he still looks stupid.
But as far as his playing the flute is concerned, he is a genius. Perhaps that is why, in all other ways, he had become stupid - sucked by the flute, a dangerous instrument. But at least he touched my feet, but without really touching. So Baba said to him, "Touch his feet again and really touch them."
Pannalal Ghosh said, "I have touched them twice. How does one really touch?"
And can you believe what Baba did? He touched my feet to show him how to do it - with tears in his eyes - and Baba was ninety years old!
Baba never allowed me to sit with other people. I had to sit on his pillow, above and behind him. You know that in India a particular round pillow is used, only by very rich people or by very respected people. Baba used to carry very few things, but his pillow was always with him. He had told me, "Do you know, I don't need it, but to sleep on somebody else's pillow is so dirty. I should at least have my own private pillow, even though I have nothing else. So I carry this pillow everywhere I go."
Do you know? When I used to travel - Chetana will understand - because one pillow is not enough for me, I use three pillows, two for my sides and one for my head. That meant a very big suitcase for only the pillows, then another big suitcase only for the blankets, because I can't sleep under anybody else's blankets; they smell. And the way I sleep is so childlike - you will really laugh - I simply disappear under my blanket, head and all. So if it is smelling I cannot breathe, and I cannot keep my head out, because then it disturbs my sleep.
I can sleep only if I cover myself totally and forget the whole world. That is not possible if there is some smell. So I had to carry my own blanket, and one suitcase for my clothes. So I was carrying three big suitcases continuously for twenty-five years.
Baba was fortunate, he used to carry his round pillow under his arm. It was his only possession. He told me, "I carry it especially for you because when you come with me, where would I tell you to sit?
I will be sitting on a higher platform than anybody else, but you have to sit a little higher than me."
I said, "You are mad, Pagal Baba."
He said, "You know, and everybody else knows, that I am mad. Does that have to be mentioned?
But this is my decision, that you have to sit higher than I do."
That pillow was meant for me. I had to sit on it, reluctantly of course, embarrassed, sometimes even angry, because it made me look so awkward. But he was not the man to be bothered by anything.
He would simply pat my head or back and say, "Cheer up, my son. Don't be so angry just because I have made you sit on the pillow. Cheer up."
This man, Pannalal Ghosh, I neither liked nor disliked him. I was almost indifferent to him. He had no salt, so to speak, he was just tasteless. But his flute... he brought the Indian bamboo flute to the world's notice, and raised it to be one of the greatest instruments of music. Because of him, the more beautiful flute, the Japanese, has completely faded out. Nobody bothers about the Arabic flute.
But the Indian flute owes immensely to this very flat Bengali Babu, this fishy-smelling government servant.
You will be really surprised that the word babu has become a name of great respect in India. When you want to respect anybody, you call him babu. But it simply means "one who stinks" - ba means "with" and bu means "stink." The word was created by the Britishers for the Bengalis. Slowly, slowly, it spread all over India. Naturally, they were the first British servants, and they rose to the highest posts. So the word babu, which cannot be in any way respectable, became respectable. It is a strange fate, but words do have strange fates. Now nobody thinks that it should be thought ugly; it is thought very beautiful.
Pannalal Ghosh was really a babu, I mean, stinking of fish, so I had to hold my nose.
He asked, "Baba, why is this boy of yours, whose feet I have to touch again and again, holding his breath?"
Baba said, "He is trying to do some yoga exercise. It has nothing to do with you or your fishy smell."
He was such a beautiful man, this Pagal Baba.
The second musician, whose name I have been avoiding to even mention - although I did mention it once and I have to mention it again just to finish this chapter - was Sachdeva. His flute playing is totally different from Pannalal Ghosh, although they use the same type of flute. You could give them the same flute and you would be amazed at the difference in the music. What comes out of the flute is what matters, not the flute itself. Sachdeva had a magical touch, whereas Pannalal Ghosh was technically perfect, but not a magician. Sachdeva was also technically perfect and had the art of music and magic together. Just listening to his flute is to be transported into another world. But I never liked the man. Not in the same sense as Pannalal Ghosh, which was indifference; this man I hated. It was pure and simple dislike, so total that I could not see any possibility whatsoever that we could even be acquaintances. And Baba knew it, Sachdeva knew it, but still he had to touch my feet.
I told Baba, "I cannot allow him to touch my feet again. The first time I was not aware of the ugliness of his vibe, now I know it."
And his vibe was not only ugly, it was nauseous, and so was his face. One felt sick. I was avoiding talking about it simply not to remember it. Why? Because I will have to see it again to describe it to you. But I have decided to unburden myself totally, so let it be so. He was really more ugly than his passport photograph.
I used to think that a passport photo was the most ugly thing possible; nobody could be that ugly.
Sachdeva was. And what a beautiful name, "Sachdeva," "God of Truth," and yet he was so ugly. My God! Jesus!
But when he started playing on his bamboo flute, all his ugliness simply disappeared. He took you to some other world. His music is very penetrating, sharp as the edge of a sword. He cuts through and through, and so skillfully that you don't even know that the surgery has happened.
But the man was simply ugly. I don't bother about physical ugliness. What do I have to do with his physique? But psychologically he was ugly too. When he touched my feet for the first time, very reluctantly, it felt as if a reptile had crawled over them, the kind of feeling as if a snake has crawled
over your feet. And I could not even jump and kill the snake then and there - he was not a snake; he was a man.
I looked at Baba, and said, "What am I supposed to do about the snake?"
Baba said, "I knew that you would recognize it. Please be patient. First listen to his flute, then we will think about his being a snake." He went on, "I was afraid you would become aware of it. I knew he would not be able to deceive you, but we will talk about that later on. First, listen to his flute."
So I listened, and he was certainly a magician, reaching into you so deeply, just like a cuckoo calling from a distant hill. This phrase can be understood only in an Indian context.
In India, the cuckoo is not what you make of it. To be cuckoo in the West is to be in the madhouse.
In the East, the name cuckoo is given only to the highest singers and poets. Sachdeva was called "the cuckoo of the flute world." And any cuckoo would find himself jealous, because the man's flute was far more beautiful - don't forget, I mean his music.
Pannalal Ghosh moves in a perfectly flat way, very sure of his ground, each step taken with care, prepared by long, long practice. You cannot find a single flaw. You cannot find a single flaw in Sachdeva either, but he does not move on flat ground. He is a bird of the hills, flying high and low; a bird still wild, not yet tamed, but so perfect. Pannalal Ghosh seems to be very far away; something of the head, a technician really. But Sachdeva is a genius, a real artist. Innovators are very rare, and he is one of them. Particularly in a small field like the flute, he has innovated so much that for generations nobody is going to defeat him, to break his record.
You can also see that although I never liked the man I am very fair and just, as far as his flute is concerned. And what does the man have to do with his flute? Neither he liked me nor did I like him.
I disliked him so much that when he next came to see Baba, and inevitably Baba told him to touch my feet, I sat in the lotus posture, covering my feet with my robe.
Baba said, "Where did you practice the lotus posture? Today you are behaving like a great yogi." He then asked, "Where did you learn yoga?"
I said, "I had to learn it for all these creeping creatures, snakes and reptiles et cetera. For example, this man... I love his flute, but his flute is a totally different thing from his whole being. I don't want to be touched by him, and I knew you would say what you just said. Please tell me to touch his feet; that would be far easier."
Now I can explain to you something without which what I said will not be understood. When you touch the feet of somebody, you are pouring yourself, energy-wise, at his feet. It is an offering of whatsoever you are. Unless you are really worthy it would be better if you could be prevented from doing it. I could have touched his feet without any trouble. I could have poured whatsoever I had onto his feet. You can throw a flower on a rock, but don't throw a rock on the flower.
Baba said, "I understand, but he too has to be changed."
He did not tell him again to touch my feet. The few times we met again Sachdeva neither looked at me, nor I at him. I was afraid of Baba; Sachdeva was afraid of me. Whenever he came I would
simply start pushing Baba to remind him not to tell Sachdeva to touch my feet. Baba would say, "I know, I know."
I said, "'I know, I know,' won't help. Unless he leaves I will go on reminding you. Either he plays his flute or tell him to go, because it is not only ugly the way he touches, but his face, his very presence, is something like a spiritual cancer."
So it became an agreement that if Sachdeva wanted to talk to Baba, I was freed, told to go somewhere, just to do something, just as an excuse so that I did not have to be present. Or else he was told to play his flute. Then he could bring stars to the earth; then he could transform stones into sermons. He was a magician, but only when he was playing. I like his flute, but I don't like the man.
The third man, Hari Prasad, is both. His being is as beautiful as his music. He is not as famous as Pannalal Ghosh, perhaps he never will be, because he does not care. He will not play his flute to order... he will not go after the politicians. His flute has its own flavor. The flavor of his flute can only be called balance, absolute balance, as if you were walking in a very strongly flowing stream.
The example I am giving you is from Lao Tzu. You are walking across a very strong, flowing, wild stream, and naturally you have to be very alert otherwise you will go with the stream. Lao Tzu also says that you have to walk very fast because the stream is very cold, below zero, perhaps even colder. Fast, and yet balanced, that describes what Hari Prasad Chaurasia does with his flute.
Suddenly he starts and suddenly he ends; you were not expecting that he would start so suddenly.
Pannalal Ghosh takes half an hour over the preface, the foreword. In India that is the way of classical music. The tabla player will arrange his tabla. He will knock with his small hammer here and there, tuning it, finding the right key. The sitarist will tighten or loosen his strings, and try again and again to see whether all the strings have come into a synchronicity or not.
This goes on for almost half an hour, but Indians are patient people. This is called the preparation.
Why can't they do it before the people arrive? Or behind a screen, as they do in every drama? But strangely, the Indian classical musician has to prepare himself and his instruments in front of his audience. Why?
There must be some reason. My feeling is that classical music, particularly in the East, is so deep, that if you are not even ready to be patient for half an hour, you are not worthy to be present at all.
I am reminded of a very famous story: Gurdjieff used to call his disciples at very odd hours. His meetings were not like my meetings, where the time is fixed. You have to be there before I arrive and if I am five minutes late, remember it is never my fault.
My chauffeur tries to bring me a little late just so that the many people who are still coming in can get seated, because once I arrive I don't like people moving here and there, coming in and going out. I want everything to stop completely. Only in that full stop can I begin my work, or whatsoever I am going to say. A slight disturbance is enough to change what I am going to say. I will say something anyway, but it won't be the same, and I may never say the same thing again, ever.
You know my way; Gurdjieff's way was just the opposite. His disciples' phones would start ringing.
He would call a meeting somewhere, perhaps thirty miles away, and tell them to rush to be on time.
Now, to travel thirty miles, and arrive on time, in fact before time, without any preparation for it, you at least need a vehicle. You have to cancel other appointments. You do all these things and rush to the appointed place, only to find a notice there saying the meeting was canceled for today!
Next day again the phones would start ringing. If on the first day one hundred people turned up out of two hundred who had been called, then on the second day, only fifty would turn up. Again they would find a notice on the door: Meeting postponed - not even a "sorry." There was nobody there to say sorry, just a board. And this would go on, and on the fourth day, or the seventh he would turn up; by he, I mean Gurdjieff.
Out of the original two hundred people, by now only four had turned up. He would look at them and say, "Now I can say what I wanted to say, and all the fellows that I never wanted to be here have dropped out by themselves. It is really great; only those remain who are worthy of listening to me."
Gurdjieff's way was different. That too is a way, but only one way; there are many. I always respect and love whatsoever brings results. I believe in Gautam Buddha's definition that "Truth is that which works." Now, this is a strange definition because sometimes a lie can work, and I know that many times truth does not work at all; the lie works.
But I agree with Buddha. Of course he would not agree with me, but I am more generous than Gautam Buddha himself. If something works, brings the right results, what does it matter whether it was a lie in the beginning, or a truth? What matters is the end, the ultimate outcome. I may not use Gurdjieff's method because I never use anybody else's methods, although people believe that I do.
Yes, I pretend. I use only that which works; whose it is does not matter at all. Truth is neither mine nor yours.
This third man, I love him. From the very moment we saw each other, we recognized each other.
He was the only one out of the three flutists who touched my feet before Baba told him to. When it happened Baba said, "This is something! Hari Prasad, how could you touch the feet of a child?"
Hari Prasad said, "Is there some law prohibiting it? Is it a crime to touch the feet of a child? I liked, I loved, hence I touched his feet. And it is none of your business, Baba."
Baba was really happy. He was always happy with such people. If Pannalal Ghosh was a sheep, Hari Prasad was a lion. He was a beautiful man, a rare, beautiful man. The third fellow - I mean Sachdeva; I don't even like to say his name - has not done me any harm, but still, the very name and I start seeing his ugly face. And you know my respect for beauty. I can forgive anything but not ugliness. And when the ugliness is not only of the body but of the soul too, then it is too much. He was ugly through and through.
Hari Prasad is my choice as far as these flutists are concerned. His flute has the beauty of both the others and yet is neither like that of Pannalal Ghosh - too loud and bombastic - nor so sharp that it cuts and hurts you. It is soft like a breeze, a cool breeze on a summer's night. It is like the moon; the light is there but not hot, cool. You can feel the coolness of it.
Hari Prasad must be considered the greatest flutist ever born, but he is not very famous. He cannot be, he is very humble. To be famous you have to be aggressive. To be famous you have to fight in the ambitious world. He has not fought, and he is the last man to fight to be recognized.
But Hari Prasad was recognized by men like Pagal Baba. Pagal Baba also recognized a few others whom I will describe later on, because they too came into my life through him.
It is a strange thing: Hari Prasad was not at all known to me till Pagal Baba introduced him to me, and then he became so interested that he used to come to Pagal Baba just to visit me. One day Pagal Baba jokingly said to him, "Now you don't come for me. You know it, I know it, and the person for whom you come knows it."
I laughed; Hari Prasad laughed, and said, "Baba you are right."
I said, "I knew Baba was going to mention it sooner or later." And this was the beauty of the man. He brought many people to me, but prevented me from even thanking him. He said only one thing to me: "I have only done my duty. I ask just one favor. When I die, will you give the fire at my funeral?"
In India, it is thought to be of great importance. If a man is without a son, he suffers his whole life, because who will give the fire at his funeral? It is called "giving the fire."
When he asked me, I said, "Baba, I have my own father, and he will be angry, and I don't know about your family, perhaps you have a son...."
He said, "Don't be bothered about anything, either about your father or about my family. This is my decision."
I had never seen him in that kind of mood. I knew then that his end was very close. He was not able to waste time even discussing it.
I said, "Okay, no argument. I will give you the fire. It does not matter whether my father objects or your family objects. I don't know your family."
By chance Pagal Baba died in my own village - but perhaps he arranged it; I think he arranged it.
And when I started his funeral by giving fire to it, my father said, "What are you doing? This can be done only by the eldest son."
I said, "Dadda, let me do it. I have promised him. And as far as you are concerned, I will not be able to do it. My younger brother will do it. In fact, he is your eldest son, not me. I am of no use to the family, and will never be. In fact, I will always prove to be a nuisance to the family. My younger brother, second to me, will give you the fire, and he will take care of the family."
I am very grateful to my brother, Vijay. He could not go to the university just because of me, because I was not earning, and somebody had to provide for the family. My other brothers went to university too, and their expenses had also to be paid, so Vijay stayed at home. He really sacrificed. It is worth a fortune to have such a beautiful brother. He sacrificed everything. I was not willing to marry, although my family was insistent.
Vijay told me, "Bhaiya" - Bhaiya means brother - "if they are torturing you too much, I am ready to get married. Just promise me one thing: you will have to choose the girl." It was an arranged marriage as all marriages are in India.
I said, "I can do that." But his sacrifice touched me, and it helped me tremendously, because once he was married I was completely forgotten, because I have other brothers and sisters. Once he was married, then there were the others to be married. I was not ready to do any business.
Vijay said, "Don't be worried, I am ready to do any kind of work," and from a very young age he became involved in very mundane things. I feel for him immensely. My gratitude to him is great.
I told my father, "Pagal Baba asked me and I have promised him, so I have to give the fire. As far as your death is concerned, don't be worried, my younger brother will be there. I will also be present, but not as your son."
I don't know why I said this, and what he might have thought, but it proved true. I was present when he died. In fact I had called him to live here, just so that I did not have to go up to the town where he lived. I never wanted to go there again after my grandmother's death. That was another promise.
I have to fulfill so many promises, but up to now I have successfully fulfilled a major part of them.
There are only a few promises which remain to be fulfilled.
I had told my father, and I was present at his funeral, but could not give the fire. And certainly I was not present as his son. When he died he was my disciple, a sannyasin, and I was his Master.
What is the time?
"Eight thirty-five, Osho."
Five minutes for me. When the time is over, it is over. I also have to laugh once in a while. A single moment at the climax is enough.