To be a Master of Indian Music

To be a Master of Indian Music

I am amazed at how many students I get who want to be a master of Indian music or Tablā. The desire is commendable, but the effort these students make to achieve this aim does not reflect this goal. The world has changed. There was a time not long ago when music students would practice 7, 8, 10 hours a day. They did nothing other than practice! There were no weekends, no days off. They kept single-pointed focus on becoming a master. There were no birthday parties and movies, no social commitments. For a period of time, they left behind the world in order to achieve greatness. And once that level is attained, a beautiful world opens up that cannot be described in words.

Today, I believe that there are great distractions and more ways that a person can have their attention diverted, but the human capacity for focus and determination still exist. And without fully utilizing them, greatness cannot be attained. I am not speaking of greatness in terms of becoming a star; being a “star” and having true mastery are two different things and don’t necessarily go hand in hand. To be a master requires the same qualities it did centuries ago, decades ago, and a few years ago: focus, devotion and ability to leave everything. While the world may change, these qualities don’t change over time.

Here is a wonderful poem by Brahmānand that summarizes what a classical musician must do if they truly want to realize God through their music. Note that this can be applied to any field or work, if one desires to reach that level of mastery in it. This poem has been sung beautifully by Bhimsenji, who is a great model of a true sādhak.

Jo bhaje hari Ko sadā
Wohi param pad pāyegā
choḍ duniyā ke maze sab
baiṭh kar ekānt mein
Dhyān dhar gurū ke charaṇ ka
To prabhu mil jāyegā

Literal translation:

The one who remembers/praises God always
Will attain the Ultimate goal.
Leave the pleasures of the world,
Sit alone (in meditation),
Meditate upon the feet of your gurū,
And you will realize God.

The actual meaning of the poem is:

The one who always and fully engages in one’s work (this can be any work)
Attains the highest aim.
Leave behind worldly pleasures,
Sit alone with full concentration,
Aspire to follow the path your gurū(’s feet) have walked (upon),
And you will realize God