Sadhana - Transcending Self
October through February is the traditional music season in Kerala, and a time I look forward to listen to all those great musicians performing live at various venues. The sparse Sabhas and temples that space out their annual festival through these months are often the venues of such concerts, typically a mix of Carnatic and Hindustani music. Given the diminishing audience for these forms of music, it is rare that classical musicians of repute make their way to Kochi.
Covid has ensured this year that no physical presence of audience is allowed at these venues. In addition, given that almost all temples and venues are not operational, live performances itself is rare, and in such instances, it is being broadcast over the radio or social media. Here is a reminiscence into the past!
The year (that was 2012) started on a high note, with the RLV College of Music’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations kicking off the season. The week-long festival roped in vocalists like Yesudas, violin maestros T N Krishnan and Kanyakumari, Saxophone maestro Kadri Gopalnath, Hindustani violinist Dr Sangeetha Shankar and percussion masters like Mattannur Sankarankutty on Chenda, Fazal Qureshi on Tabla and Dr Gopalakrishnan on Mrudangam. The week-long festival, with lecture demo session in the morning and concerts in the evening, was aptly titled “Sadhana”.
Spread in between this schedule was also a vocal concert by Dr Balamuralikrishna at a temple close by.
The performances of these musicians, the seniors among them performing at 70 plus to mid-80s, were simply amazing! T N Krishnan at the age of 85 still carries the charm of a middle aged person with his wit and wisdom, and during his performance played the violin with a string that broke mid-way! Dr Balamuralikrishna singing full throated, and transcending the most difficult scales with such ease at the age of 82, for me, was an audio treat beyond words! Yesudas at 73 sang better that the Yesudas at 60, the last time I heard him live.
Not to forget several other noted musicians and percussionists who came, played, enthralled and inspired the students and the audience; several of the concerts I missed since the performances happened during the middle of the work week.
On the rare occasions between their performances, when these musicians found the opportunity to speak, the one thing they all wanted to highlight was the importance of “Sadhana”. Wikipedia describes “Sadhana” as:
Sādhanā literally "a means of accomplishing something", is an ego-transcending spiritual practice. It includes a variety of disciplines in Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Muslim traditions that are followed in order to achieve various spiritual or ritual objectives.
The historian N. Bhattacharyya provides a working definition of the benefits of sādhanā as follows:
... religious sādhanā, which both prevents an excess of worldliness and molds the mind and disposition (bhāva) into a form which develops the knowledge of dispassion and non-attachment. Sādhanā is a means whereby bondage becomes liberation.
In simpler terms as spoken by these musicians, true sadhana happens where one can follow their passion with utmost dedication, devotion and reverence to the guru. This can then lead to the unknown channels of divinity opening up and finding its expressions through the practitioner of music. As to how that happens is a mystery, that cannot be explained by the myriads of analysis and evaluations and data gathering exercised that we do!
One can easily extrapolate this to any other art form, or work that we are engaged in, if seen in the context of a longer term goal and our vision and mission of life.
The desire to achieve instant success were often seen by them as a detriment to many a talented youngsters, since the lure of such instant success often pushes them side-ways, and away from the focused dedication and perseverance that is needed to achieve “Sadhana”. Very often, beyond the initial glamour and high, this leads to an emptiness and vacuum at a very young age, and results in a quick burn-out, very early in the career.
What did I learn from all of these? That for all that I claim to have accomplished, I still need to have the strive and hunger to seek and learn new things, or else, no creativity can happen, and I am as good as a lifeless form that only has value in history. As for all my dabbling and experimentation in music, I also learnt that:
“If these amazing musicians are the vast, wide oceans of music of unimaginable depth, I could be that tiny speck of sand, eagerly waiting on the parched shore, hoping to get a glimpse of the vastness of music, when the waves wash ashore and encompass me, along its journey”.