In Memory of RasBhai

In Memory of RasBhai

Today, I received unfortunate news about the death of my friend and colleague Sri Ras Bihari Desai, whom I called Rasbhai.

When I heard the news, my mind immediately went back to a morning long ago when I received a phone call at 5am.

It was Rasbhai on the other end.

“Divyangbhai, please listen to this. I know I’ve woken you up, but you must listen to this. We’ll talk after,” he said. Before I could really say anything, I heard the sound of drumming on the line. The patterns were set in mishra jati.

After about 50 seconds, he came back on the phone.

“Who is that?” I asked.

“It is a bird. It is on the water bowl for birds. It is actually dancing on it. I’ve been watching him for the last 40 minutes. I was thinking that I must call something and realized that I had to share with you. That is why I called you so early in the morning.”

He actually recorded the bird dancing that day. I told him when we met next that I wanted to hear the whole thing. We met several times soon after that, but never at his home. Time, as it always does, passed by and today when I heard of his passing, I recall our agreement to listen to the bird dancing together and how that never came to be.

Rasbhai and I shared many memories together. He was one of my favourite Gujarati singers. He was a good-hearted and knowledgeable person with a deep interest in philosophy. For the last 30 years, he has been using my students as his tabla player whenever possible. He was always a supporter of my work and I of his.

I pray to God that his soul will have greatest place in heaven.

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What is Sadhna?

What is Sadhna?

The word sadhna comes from the word sadhya, which means to achieve; or to aim or focus. Any intense practice that is done with 100% focus is called sadhna.

Sadhna is a long path. To do sadhna requires great patience. Sadhna can be done of any subject, be it music, yoga, archery or any other practical art. The goal of sadhna is to become one with the subject; to reach a point where there is no distinction between the subject and the practitioner. For this, you have to focus all your energy on the subject that is to be mastered or achieved.

To become one with the subject, one must go to the beej or seed of the subject, from where it emerges.

The beej of the subject is the purest state of the subject, it’s root. For example, in music, the root of any instrument is pure sound or in the language of Vedanta – Aum. From there, everything that is music emerges. This beej of music – pure sound, like the beej of any other subject can be called by many names – Truth, Ultimate Reality, Existence, etc. Thus, if one goes to the root of a subject through sadhna, one experiences ultimate knowledge or Truth. So we can also say that the highest goal of sadhna is to experience Truth. The subject is the medium and gaining mastery over it a practical outcome. The sadhna or intense practice of a subject takes the sadhak or practitioner from the material level to higher spiritual levels, where he can ultimately go to the subject’s root and experience Truth.

Truth is not something that can be taught. It is something that is be experienced or self-realized. Unfortunately, in today’s society, the education practice is such that we are given ready-made information that we have to accept rather than discovering them through our own understanding. It is a system that creates more believers than seekers.

Truth needs no belief, Truth is being. It is eternal – shashwata. Even if Truth itself comes to you and tells you to believe, you must not believe. Because that belief will make that Truth a lie. Truth itself is not a lie, but your belief of it without experience is wrong. Truth never creates beliefs. Truth is Truth. When you have any experience, your belief turns into knowledge and that is Truth.

What are the obstacles that come in the way of experiencing Truth?
The biggest obstacle is your mind. Everything – your beliefs, ideas, concepts, thoughts and information are all the clouds that cover the Truth from you. Until you disconnect from these things, you cannot experience Truth, it can only be experienced in a mindless condition. It is through sadhna that one can reach a mindless condition.

As mentioned before, one can do sadhna of many different topics. But the ultimate goal is one and the same: the experience of Truth, which occurs in a mindless condition. The three most direct paths to reach a mindless condition are yoga, music and tantra. It is important to understand that there is not one single path or sadhna that everyone can do. Each person is unique and so their path is unique, but there are similar experiences that sadhaks share as they move towards a common goal.

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Runa Mukti

Runa Mukti – A Beautiful Concept

In Indian culture, the concept of indebtedness or obligation plays a strong role. As humans, we are being obliged by God, children have an obligation towards their parents, students are indebted to their teachers.

In Guru-shishya parampara*, it is a student’s right to learn and the teacher’s right to teach, but the student is always being obliged by the teacher. In the true form of guru-shishya parampara, there is complete surrender on the part of the student, this allows for the teacher to do their best work. A good analogy is that of a diamond. A student is like a raw diamond, completely in the hands of its maker (the teacher). If the diamond yields completely, then the cutter can do his best job in bringing out the true beauty of the gem through his careful cutting and polishing. In the guru-shishya parampara, everything is left in the hands of the able guru. He is the creator. This creates an enormous obligation on the student – how is the student to repay the teacher? Each student does what they can. Some give money, others do seva, etc, but in Indian culture, this is not enough to relieve oneself of the obligation towards one’s teacher.

That is where the concept of runa mukti comes in. Runa Mukti literally means liberation/ release from obligation (or runa). There are two ways of Runa Mukti. The first, if your guru feels you are capable, is to teach 1000 students what your guru has taught you. The second is to go one step further than your guru in that vidya.

*When I speak of guru-shishya parampara and runa mukti, I am referring to serious students who have spent many years of very close contact and training with their guru

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Candlelight Practice

Candlelight Practice (Jyoti riyaaz)

In olden times, many ustads and pandits used to do candlelight practice, also known as jyoti riyaaz.


Two major concepts should be kept in mind when doing candlelight practice:


1) you must play one composition until the candle burns out
2) you must stare into the flame jyoti while practicing


Candlelight practice should not be done in a very fast speed. It is better to take a taal versus a particular composition (ie. teentaal or jhaptaal theka versus a kayda).


It is also very important to have the taanpura drone and perfectly tuned tabla during candlelight practice.


Fire has four basic elements: heat, sound, light and darkness. This is why fire is worshiped in traditions around the world.


Staring into the fire is called tratak. When playing a theka and doing this, after some time (after weeks in fact), one feels that the taal and the flame elements begin to merge and drive one into unknown areas. Its a kind of experience that cannot be described in words.


Sometimes one feels that the sound of the theka disappears and reappears. Sometimes one feels that the flame appears and disappears. Sometimes one feels that both disappears and reappears. That is the time when you meet total emptiness – the gap where all secrets reside.


I strongly recommend that anyone who has the mood to go for any experience of music, but do this practice. You will not be disappointed.

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