A beautiful paradox that true expression that touches the other most deeply is one where ‘the other’ was disregarded in the make.
True creativity as an expression of Life comes from a freshness where no residue was left that was still open for a reaction – something of the old, a faded hurt, an insecurity on its last breath, all cast into the fire. Without seeking to become, it becomes something truly wonderful.
Maybe not a coincidence then, that many great Masters were artists in some way – in painting, poetry, music, writing, etc.
Swami Haridas (1478 – 1512) was a great classical musician and singer (in the Dhrupad tradition) and poet and saint in the Bhakti tradition devoted to Krishna and Radha. Born in Haridaspur, near Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh, his contributions to music, poetry and spirituality were significant. He spent his later years in Krishna’s town of Vrindavan where he attained mahasamadhi.
One of Swami Haridas’ most prominent students was the legendary singer Tansen who sang in the court of emperor Akbar (and was among the 9 gems or ‘Navratanas’ of Akbar’s court). Anecdotes about Tansen’s extraordinary singing feats abound for eg. that he could bring about rain by singing raag Megh Malhar and light oil lamps by singing raag Deepak.
The following is a story about an incident involving Akbar, Tansen and Saint Haridas. In an age of social media sharing where ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ mean everything, this beautiful story reminds of a rare humility, integrity and devotion that accompanies true excellence, talent and beauty.
‘My Master Sings Only for God’, a story told by spiritual Master Mooji:
“A long time ago, there was a great emperor called Akbar. Amongst the many people in service to this emperor, there was a great musician called Tansen. He was so well known for his music and when he played and sang it is said that the people’s hearts would be so full of love and joy and appreciation and the emperor himself would be so pleased. It is said that even the clouds would become full of water and shower rain on the land. It was so exquisite…if you can imagine…
So one day, the emperor called Tansen and said, “Tansen, your music is so beautiful. I would like to find out—who did you learn from? Who taught you this?”
So Tansen said, “My Master lives in the forest a long way away. He’s a very simple man. He doesn’t sing for just anybody.”
The emperor was very surprised, “I want to go listen to him. Can we go see him?’
So Tansen said, ‘Yes my lord, you can come but I cannot guarantee anything…”
So off they went, just the two of them. Akbar was disguised as a regular man. They came to the saint’s abode. He was sitting outside with his instruments. Tansen himself knew that his Master, Haridas (meaning ‘servant of God’) was very very pure-hearted and just won’t sing because you ask him to sing. He’s not this type of musician.
So what happened was that Tansen himself started to sing and he deliberately made a mistake in his singing. So Haridas, the Master said “O Tansen…don’t sing like that…” and he began himself to sing. And he sang…it was so exquisite, so beautiful! Nobody had heard him sing like this.
So on the way home, they’re travelling and Akbar says to Tansen, “You are such a great singer but how comes your Master is so much better than you? How is he sooo much better than you?”
So Tansen said, “You see my lord,… I am a musician in your court. I must sing for the emperor. But my Master……He sings only for God.”
Hearing this, the emperor’s heart became very quiet.
“I sing for you because I work for you…I love you and I work for you. But my Master is not this kind of singer. He sings only for God.”
Mooji: When we live only for Truth, we don’t have to say this to anybody because no human being can reward you. You do your work in the world, but inside your heart you know—He alone exists.
You know that I am He, you are He, all are He alone.”
A rendition of beautiful raaga Miyan ki Todi by the great singer Kishori Amonkar. Miyan ki Todi is attributed to Tansen as its creator. This raaga is performed in the early morning.
You may also like:
For the Love of God: Remembering the Mystic, Ravidas
Bhakti: To Fall in Love Like Meera
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