Spirituality is Alive and Well

Many philosophers, writers, musicians and artists of past centuries were mystics. At the very least, they had numinous visions from time to time. Yet many ordinary people are mystics. Some might be considered eccentric or even wacky. One of India’s most revered saints wore rags, sat on a dung heap while smelling like a rose, and appeared to do nothing while helping the poor and performing miracles.

The Past
I’m hiking alone on a Himalayan mountainside; my companions are back at the Snow View Hotel, when suddenly a wild looking man with a head of matted hair and tangled beard appears in my path. Barring my way, he engages in a non-stop, one-way dialog. Barefoot and naked except for a tattered kaupina around his private parts, the man is impervious to the cold.

Tibet has already fallen to Chinese forces. Yet my friends, one who is the son of the hotel owner, have all but convinced me it’s safe to trek with them to Lhasa. We’re to leave Nepal in two days. But I’m frozen in my Abercrombie boots, while this extraordinary mountain man chatters incessantly. Not once does he stop his constant singsong prattle-in my face, nodding, chortling and gesturing. When finally he turns and disappears into the mist, I realize I haven’t understood a word he’s said. Yet here I am alone on the icy slopes of the Annapurna massif, with profound knowledge of something I quickly forget. I know I’m searching for something. I know I’m not going to Lhasa. I also know I’m no longer young and stupid-just young.

The Present
In my life’s journey I’ve always been attracted to quiet places, usually in nature, but not always. The cathedrals of Europe, when they are empty of people, are among those places. Whereas words are often lifeless, the sacredness of the silence and enormous space within those thousand-year-old stones unites me with the silence and space within my Being.

There have been many spiritual masters in my life. I’ve learned countless practices from mystics and gurus: various yogas, meditations and healing techniques. I’ve studied in ashrams, taught meditation, and listened to spiritual teachers like Deepak Chopra and Michael Beckwith who, along with Marianne Williamson, Jean Houston, Bruce Lipton, Barbara Marx Hubbard and others have formed a high-minded association called “The Evolutionary Leaders.” Together they are working toward a spiritual renaissance.

Deepak’s legendary talks, books and retreats have enriched the lives of millions. “You are the luminous mystery in which the entire universe with its forms and phenomena arises and subsides,” says Chopra. In “How to Know God” he says, “God is always there for you.”

But if I am the mystery and God is always there for me, how and where do I find God to help me solve the mystery?

Michael Beckwith suggests, “Take this amazing mystical journey of your soul to engender a new vision of your life.” Beckwith has found the secret to wealth, as have many of the Evolutionary Leaders who are also successful entrepreneurs, and that’s fine. Who says you can’t be evolved and rich? But wealth never was the measure of who I am. I guess that’s why a lifetime of public service suited me.

Bringing in The Light
My encounter with that implausible being in the Himalayas left an imprint on my consciousness that remained with me all my life until I met a dynamic young man named Panache Desai. After years of consciousness-speak, and spiritual intellectual-speak, and scientific proof of the biological effects of spiritual practices, and “mystical journeys of the soul,” finally I understood T. S. Eliot’s, “We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

Like illuminating a dimly lit room, a subtle shift in my awareness began to take root. A young spiritual master who walks the talk and transforms lives through his love and light, Panache guides people to the realization of their own Divinity. And he has given me the experience of a silent presence within that some call the Christ Light.

America’s Destiny-A Spiritual Awakening
Contrary to conventional wisdom of some cable channel ‘opinionators,’ I believe our country is not at the end of its greatness. Our present circumstances do not signal the decline of the American Republic. The most creative society on earth has not yet reached its zenith. America is on the threshold of a spiritual awakening that is its destiny, willed to us by our enlightened Founders. The Evolutionary Leaders are an educating force for an evolving consciousness. One of a fresh generation of spiritual masters like his friend Eckhart Tolle, Panache is among the visionaries devoting his life to this purpose.

The Chattering Mind
When I take a few deep breaths and mentally ask myself ‘who am I?’ There’s no reply, nothing but silence. The “egoic” mind is stymied because it doesn’t know what to say. I am present in the silence of my being. I Am That Divine Silence. I didn’t really ‘get it’ at first. In the spiritual search, there’s nothing outside myself. Reaching the mountaintop, traversing the Sahara, braving the Amazon brings fulfillment for five minutes.

But there’s nothing out there that I don’t already have right here within. There’s only to be conscious of what is, at the present moment. Tomorrow is yet to happen and yesterday is history. This is how a human being can live in this world and be a loving human being: not constantly judging, not being pulled in every direction, not always having to be right. As you read this, is there actually anything wrong with your present moment? As the Bard says in Hamlet: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” We just have to stop paying attention to the mindless chatter.

Many people are becoming aware of their inner stillness, here and around the world. Their personal stories are on bookshelves and the Internet. Take note of this former First Lady’s philosophy. She and Amelia Earhart were pals, and both lived their lives in the present moment.

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

There is an excessive amount of traffic coming from your Region.

Making Music in Hindi Films – Then and Now

Better Technology makes for Better Listening. Right?

There are people who listen to music, and then there are the audiophiles — the ones who get turned on by the sheer quality of the sound, who may or may not have the same interest in music as the former group. Then again, there are some of us, who sit somewhere in the middle.

I remember an old conversation back in my rock music days. Our band, which went by the whimsical name of “Rockingers,” not only had a very talented ensemble of musicians, but we were also very particular of the quality of sound that reached the audience. We frequently used the (then) best sound system, which had 10,000 Watts of serious power for outdoor shows. A sound engineer, with a booth erected some 200 feet away, completed the picture. We would agonize over every single piece of sound that came out of the system, and ensured that we had a thorough sound check before any of the enthusiastic crowd members were let in.

One day, in the early eighties, I went to watch a Hindustani classical music concert with a buddy who was himself a decent Sitar player. I believe it was a Pt. Jasraj concert. After the concert, I remarked on the fact that if Panditji had the quality of sound that WE used in our rock band, the output would have been so much better. To which my friend argued, that it wasn’t about the sound; it was about the singer!

I reasoned that while it was true it was about the singer, wouldn’t it be so much better if we used state-of-the-art sound mixers and speakers? That way, everything that came out of Panditji’s divine vocal chords would be faithfully reproduced, instead of being distorted by a lesser quality sound system with ordinary microphones, as was the case that day. Here was a case that technology could help the music industry to actually enhance the experience.

Fast forward some 20 years, and I was thinking about the quality of sound and sound systems once again. A music-lover friend brought up the fact that these days, music didn’t sound “warm.” While there are many technical reasons for this, lets take the simple ones.

In the olden days, the recording used to be done with all musicians getting together and recording at the same time. Today, that’s hardly the case. Each musician comes and records his piece and goes home. The sound engineer then pieces it together using complex software and recording equipment at his command. What that kills, is the bleed that we got when the musicians played over each other, and that takes away the “warmth” from the music.

The Hindi film industry in the 40s and early fifties used scores of artistes — violins, Cellos, Guitars, Rhythm section, Brass section, piano, accordions, saxophones, flutes, Sitars and other percussion instruments. Yet they had only 3-4 microphones between them. So the sound engineers improvised as they went. The positioning of the microphone often determined the “mix” of the music.

The singer too was not separated from the musicians in the early days. The separate “singer’s box’ came only in the early 50s. To help the singer get the rhythmic and tonal notes, a “song violinist” would follow along with the singer and would be the connection between the singer and the orchestra. And yet, the music sounded well balanced and harmonious. Sure the sounds had a lot more hisses and crackles than what we are used to today. But the sound had a certain fuzziness and, to repeat myself, “warmth” that cannot be duplicated today.

An example closer to home, if I may. The occasion was a small musical get-together at a friend’s place. We had two sound systems (mixer and amplifier) each of which could handle 4 microphones and so we had to arrange it so that the instruments’ sounds came through one speaker system and the singer’s voice came through the other speaker system. My initial reasoning was that as in modern day recording, each track was recorded separately, if I had a vocal sound coming from a different system, it shouldn’t matter.

To my surprise, the result was terrible! The singer’s voice, coming from the other sound system and mixer didn’t sound like a part of the ensemble at all. It was the “bleed” thing at work. When the composite sound comes out of one single system, there is a certain distortion that comes from the system because of the interaction of all the sounds — which makes it sound good.

There is another thing at work here. When I am singing in a live show, whether with a band of using the Karaoke system, I am fanatical about the settings and effects being applied to my voice. Depending on what the settings are, I find myself throwing my voice differently to achieve the effect that I am trying to achieve. But when I record a song, and if the effects are applied POST recording, then I don’t know how I should be throwing my voice to get the effect that I want. Hence I always end up not liking what I have done in the recorded version of the song, while I am reasonably happy with the live rendition. Thus, this notion of having all the musicians available together, and having SOME say in the sound that comes out, does help.

The musicians today do not get together to produce “Music” any more. They go to the studio, play their part, and often don’t even get to understand how they fit into the song in its entirety. The musician should then be excused if he does not play with the passion that he is expected to have for his craft. Hence, though the technology has allowed the music to be created this way, it has robbed the “soul” from the music.

And this is the lament of technology over craft in all fields. Each machine that was created took the skill of the single skilled artisan and made it available to many, lesser gifted, individuals. Computer Aided Design Systems made it possible for a person with no drawing skills to be able to draw straight lines and perfect circles. But even now, the work of a true artisan can never ever be replicated. Its the slight imperfection of the human being that a machine cannot reproduce and that imperfection is what we call “warmth.”

And so we have rhythm machines belting out automated and perfectly repeatable and precise beats, but they can never replace a true rhythm player. And its these songs that are created in such cold, clinical ways, that leave us feeling, well, cold!

The bottom line — technology is great in what it allows us to do. When technology is doing the job of amplifying and recording clearly, its great. But in itself, technology is not about the soul. When technology becomes about using machines to replace a human, such as a drum machine, or synthesizer, its starts losing its charm for me. A perfect sound, a perfect beat, is in essence, soulless. Its the “almost” perfect sound that comes out of the great singers like a Lata Mangeshkar or an Asha Bhosle, or from the hands of the Ustad Zakir Hussains of this world, that holds the magic.

Your thoughts on this?

Do drop me a line at kingsachin@gmail.com