Music and religion1

I wish to dedicate my talk to the great soul, Emily Dickinson. She was a true seeker who revealed her inner experiences through her soulful poems. I have deep appreciation and admiration not only for her poems, but also for the psychic life that she lived here on earth. It was from this august College that she graduated many, many years ago. Now I wish to invoke her blessingful soul and dedicate my prayerful talk to her.

Music and religion. What is music? Music is the purity of the seeker-musician's life. Music is the beauty of the seeker-musician's heart. Music is the divinity of the seeker-musician's soul. Music is the Home of the seeker-musician's Beloved Supreme.

Music is not and cannot be vital excitement. Music is psychic enlightenment. Music is the supreme fulfilment of the aspiring human soul.

Before he plays, the seeker-musician soulfully meditates so that he can fathom the ocean-depths. Before he plays, the seeker-musician intensely prays so that he can scale the mountain-peaks.

While playing, the seeker-musician in silence converses and communes with the Musician Supreme, his Inner Pilot. He learns from Him the music of the soundless sound. The music of the soundless sound is Eternity's sheltering tree with Infinity's inspiring flowers and Immortality's nourishing fruits. What the music of the soundless sound has, is the involution of God the man, and what it is, is the slow, steady and unerring evolution of man the God.

As a seeker-musician, I pray to the Supreme Musician to grant me the music of the soundless sound. Before He sanctions my prayer, He tells me that I must give up my confusion-music, my volcano-music, my thunder-music, my tornado-music. Only then will I be able to learn from Him the music of the soundless sound, which will reverberate at every moment in the inmost recesses of my heart to illumine my entire being and fulfil Him, my Beloved Supreme, in His supreme Way.

Music and religion. What is religion? Religion is the code of life. From the code of life we come to learn that we are of the Compassion-God and for the Manifestation-God, that we are of God's Transcendence-Vision and for God's Omnipresence-Reality. We learn that we are of God the One, with God the One, in God the Many and for God the Many.

In religion there is soulful prayer and fruitful meditation. Soulful prayer purifies our human mind. Fruitful meditation illumines our human heart. Once we have achieved purification and illumination, we are far along the road to our self-discovery, which is God-realisation.

There are two kinds of religions: false religions and true religions. A false religion wants to change the face of the world by any means, even by foul means—by hook or by crook. A true religion wants only to love soulfully the heart of the world. A false religion will try to exercise its Himalayan supremacy over other religions. A true religion will only sympathise with other religions. It wants to experience its oneness-ecstasy with all religions, founded upon its own soulful cry. It wants to become inseparably one with all religions by virtue of its tolerance, patience, kindness and forgiveness. Again, a true religion knows perfectly well that it is the Supreme Pilot Himself who is loving and piloting each religion and, at the same time, forgiving the weaknesses and shortcomings that each religion unfortunately embodies.

So a true religion is one that, down the sweep of centuries, will love mankind with all its imperfections. And on the strength of its oneness-love it will try to bring about a new world. Not by force, not by lording it over others, but by becoming inseparably one with all the religions, it will try to bring about a new world. A true religion will blossom petal by petal at the Feet of the Creator, the Pilot Eternal.

A true religion has the capacity to show its followers the invisible truth. A true religion has the capacity to make its followers feel the incredible love divine. A true religion has the capacity to grant its followers the seemingly impossible reality: perfection—perfection within and perfection without.

You may be a Christian, but your life does not represent only Christianity. The moment I think of you, the moment I see you, I must realise that you are nothing but universality. Your heart, your mind, your vital, your body —- everything that you have and everything that you are —- are universality. You are an expression, a revelation of universality.

I am of the Hindu faith, but I know, in the very depths of my heart, that I am a song —- a God-loving song, a God-fulfilling song. And if I become one with you, then I shall feel that I have become devotedly and unconditionally God's universal Gong.

Music and religion are like the obverse and reverse of the same reality-coin. Music in its purest sense is religion and religion in its purest sense is music. Only music and religion can transform and perfect humanity. This music-religion, this code of life, this universal language of the soul, can only be offered; it cannot be purchased or sold. Music and religion are for the seekers, for the music-lovers, for the truth-servers. Money-power or earthly name and fame cannot lord it over these two immortal realities, these two earthly and Heavenly treasures.

The Moghul Emperor Akbar employed the great musician Tansen in his court. One day when Akbar was deeply appreciating Tansen, Tansen said, "I am not a great musician."

Akbar said, "You are not only a great musician; you are the best musician."

But Tansen said, "No, my Guru, my teacher, Haridas, is by far the best."

The Emperor commanded, "Then bring him to my palace!"

Tansen replied, "No, he will not come. He does not care for name and fame. He plays only for God. God's Compassion is his sole reward."

Akbar said, "Then I will have to go to him. Take me to him."

Tansen agreed, but he told Akbar, "You cannot go as the Emperor. You have to go in the guise of my servant, my slave."

So Akbar went to Tansen's teacher as a servant, and Tansen begged his teacher to play for Akbar. Unfortunately, Haridas was not in the mood to play. Then a brilliant idea struck Tansen's mind. He started playing, deliberately making many mistakes. Haridas could not believe his eyes and ears. How could his best student make such deplorable mistakes? Out of great surprise and shock, he started playing in order to correct his student. In this way the Emperor came to realise that Tansen's teacher was, indeed, far superior to Tansen,

When they came back to the palace, Akbar asked Tansen, "How is it that you cannot play as soulfully as your teacher does?"

Tansen replied, "O Emperor, I play for name and fame. I play for you. He plays for God. Here is the difference. If I played for God —- for God in you, for God in everyone —- only then would my music be supernatural, Heavenly, supremely soulful and perfect. But I play for money-power, for name and fame and so forth. How do you expect me to play the way my teacher does?"

The source of true music and the source of true religion will always remain the same, and that source is a cry, a birthless and deathless cry —- an eternal hunger. It is a hunger not for one's own satisfaction, but for God's Satisfaction in God's own Way. When music and religion come from this source, only then will the message and beauty of music and the message and beauty of religion be divinely illumining and fulfilling. He who is a seeker-musician has not only the potentiality and possibility, but also the inevitability of becoming a choice instrument of God the Supreme Musician and, at the same time, of God the Creator. To serve God in God's own Way, each seeker-server sees the light of day. To please God in God's own Way, each seeker-musician sees the light of day.

Here we are all seeker-servers; here we are all seeker-musicians. At God's choice Hour our aspiration-heart and our dedication-life will be fulfilled. Again, this fulfilment is also God's Fulfilment. Him to fulfil in His own Way, we serve mankind through our divine code of life, which we call religion, and through our music, which is our soul's universal language.


  1. EHWM 94. Mount Holyoke College; South Hadley, MA, USA, 7 April 1981