Mrinalini Sarabhai’s autobiography ‘The Voice of the Heart,’ published by Harper Collins India in the year 2004, is now available for free download

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Blog to Timelessness

“Each artist unconsciously seeks his own immortality in every work he or she creates.  But each composition is formed in its own time and often the beauty is seen only many years after the actual creation.’

In the west, the passing of time is counted feverishly, and every minute is urgent with the necessity of asserting life in what seems to be a positive denial of death.  From early days, the sundial which originally came from East, was used to count the hours, as the sun cast its shadow upon the stone.  Most of the sundials had inscriptions giving dire warning that man’s sojourn on earth was of short duration.

“Amend today slack not
Death commeth and warneth not
Time passeth and speaketh not”

More than in any other country, one is aware of the swift passing of time in the USA, especially in the city of New York.  “After a frantic five day week, there is a rush for the country side, to get away  to snatch moments of leisure, to fish, to picnic, to sail a yacht, but all the while with an eye on the clock.”  Western civilization has become so aware of time, and the reality and finality of death, that not a moment can be wasted in sitting still.

Concepts of Spare and Time are very different in India where the entire philosophical background is one of eternal values, and there is no separation of life and the time in the western sense of the term.  This concept makes each life or sojourn on earth, precious and meaningful, for the process of realizing man’s inherent nature to identity with God, is the ideal and the ultimate goal. Therefore, events and doings are important in themselves not necessarily in the time sense.  The moments of existence are but passing clouds on an eternal horizon

The nuclear physicist Wilkinson tells us that ‘Perhaps there do exist universe interpenetrating with ours; perhaps of a high complexity; perhaps containing their own forms and awareness; constructed out of other particles and other intersections than those which we know, but awaiting discovery through some common but seclusive interaction that we have yet to stop.  It is not the physicist’s job to make this kind of speculation, but today, when we are so much less sure of the natural world than we were two decades ago, he can at least license it.”

This inherent different in the stress on time between Eastern and Western thought has naturally had a great impact on the work of the people.  Shri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita says:

“Live in action
let right deeds be thy motive
…but not the fruits which come from them
only that man attains perfection
surcease from care,
whose work was wrought
with mind unfettered, soul wholly subdued,
desires forever dead, results renounced.”

The perfect way of living according to our philosophy is to do the work allotted to us humbly, energetically and honestly, as trustees rather than owners.  Nor our will but God’s, nor our decision but God’s, not our desire but God’s.

Yudhishthira, the mighty here of the Mahabharata once asked Bhishma, “What do you regard to be the greatest of all Dharmas?  By reciting what, will beings be liberated from the eternal cycle of birth and death?”  Bhishma replied, “The chanting of the Lord’s name is the Dharma of Dharmas.”

Tyagaraja, in his epic, ‘Inta Saukhyemani’ says:  ‘It is possible for me to describe the Ananda one derives from chanting Rama’s name?  Who knows its measure and quality?  Only true and great devotees know it.  Only Shri Sankara, who delights in drinking the nectar of music with Rama’s name sweeter than sugarcandy, knows it well.”

It is strange that the three singer composers who formed the great musical trinity of South India were born in Tiruvayur.  They were Shyama Shastri, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Tyagaraja.  Here where five rivers flowed, poets, philosophers, musicians, dancers and saints dwelt.

All three musicians refused to sing in praise of the Kings.  Tyagaraja, though a friend of the Tanjore King, who was cultivated and an enlightened ruler, refused to accept any gift for his music, but took a vow to sing the praises of God and beg for alms.  He was aware of his mission in life, which was to sing the praise of Shri Rama.

The entire philosophy of Indian art has been that music, and dance are offerings to the Lord.  Many treatises refer to the fact that these are the most pleasing of rites.  Bharata – the muni, who complied the Natya Shastra, emphasizes the solace art gives and designates its various rules finally comparing the totality to a mirror within which life itself is reflected.  The many years of study are years of standing and waiting.

….”It is baffling to recall that for a period of thirty years, the son of God did not appear to be anything other than a man”, writes Mauriac.  Thirty years in a closely-knit Jewish family in an obscure town, plus only three brief years to spread fire upon the earth.  What patience before such impatience.  To us in India, there is nothing strange in the years that Christ spent unknown to the world as the Son of God.  For perhaps the time of silence and waiting which seem to be meaningless is the most fruitful.  Every artist knows this.  Art for art’s sake has become a trite maxim today.  But art dedicated to God has been the ideology of India since the beginning of knowledge.  Musicians have constantly sung in the praise of God, without any sense of time or haste.

Milton tells us in his poem on his blindness that “God does not need either man’s work or his own gifts; which best bear his mild yoke, they serve him best.”  In India, there has been always joy in bearing the yoke.  Trained by Valmiki, the two young boys Lava and Kusha, sang the Ramayana, not knowing whose story they were studying, repeating and reciting.

The Vaishnava saints in the sixteenth and seventeenth century introduced a new beauty and sweetness into music and many were the bhajans sung by the great saints, Mirabhai, Surdas and others, all unconsciously enriching the musical and spiritual heritage of India.

The divine story of Radha and Krishna as sung by thousands of musicians and composers all over India embodies the longing of the human spirit of God.  Jayadeva’s lyrical ‘Gita Govinda’, swept the entire country with its superb poetry and after that Chandidas, Lilasuka, Vilvamangala, Umapati, Vidyapati and many others composed songs on the divine lovers in the sheer joy of surrender to the Supreme.

It is not accidental that Krishna is depicted as Venugopal for we human beings are all the empty reeds standing and waiting for Gopala to pour His Divine music into us.  Timeless indeed is the period of waiting.

Igor Stravinsky, the great composer of ballet music, said that a composition is ‘to create order between things and, above all, an order between man and time’.  He believed with the philosppher-writer Emerson, that beauty is its own excuse for being.  He thought that inspiration could only come with exertion and the knowledge of how to sublimate instinct to a regulating force.

Each artist unconsciously seeks his own immortality in every work he or she creates.  But each composition is formed in its own time and often the beauty is seen only many years after the actual creation.

1 comment:

  1. And thank you for posting to cyberspace, read in Enid,Oklahoma