Go where your music is taking you

Do what makes you come alive – and don’t bother about what the world has to say.
Many a time, we make choices cautiously wanting them to be correct and acceptable in a social context. So, while we may not be entirely happy doing what we have chosen to do, we end up doing it to maintain our status or wanting to “look good” among family, friends and peers. This kind of posturing may make us look socially appropriate but almost always leaves us totally unhappy. Happiness really is about being able to say and do what you really want to and what you love doing!
T.M.Krishna is in the news again. This time for his choice of not wanting to perform in the December Music Season in Chennai anymore. Obviously his fans are upset. But there are those too who think Krishna’s lost it, that he’s become arrogant and that all this “drama” is part of his “radical, sensational” marketing strategy. Some even term his recent choices and actions gimmickry.
T M Krishna – in “One with Music”
Photo Courtesy – Internet
I think everyone’s being judgmental here and in a sense some people are surely being unfair to Krishna. Undoubtedly Krishna is a public figure, an exceptionally talented singer with divinity oozing in his craft – so his fans do expect him to be a certain way. Historically, the Chennai Music Season is the Haj of Carnatic Music – people give an arm and a leg to perform here. So, it does seem so very strange and unusual that a singer who grew in acclaim, thanks to the performances at the Season over the years, should now choose to stay away from it. The best way to look at Krishna’s choice is to see it exactly the way it is – as an unusual one! Let’s not color it with any opinion. Also, excuse me, isn’t there a personal choice that we all have a right to make? Is it necessary that you must always be wedded to doing things a certain way and in ways in which everyone else is doing them? I personally feel Krishna’s choice is driven by his bliss – he is going wherever his music – the music within him – is taking him. And that is indeed the way to live Life. To be able to do what makes you come alive. To do what you love doing.
When we live for social gratification, when we live to “look good”, we are not living – we are merely existing. We suffer, we feel miserable and we eventually lead hollow lives. Is there a point in such living? All you have is this one lifetime. And if you can’t live it the way you want to, doing what you love, what is the point? As Frank Sinatra sang (‘This is all I Ask’, April 1965) so beautifully, “And let the music play as long as there’s a song to sing.” So, whoever you are, be inspired by Sinatra, be inspired by Krishna, go where your music is taking you, don’t bother about what the world is saying. Ultimately, it’s your Life!

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Create your own magic, let your music happen and be happy!

When you can immerse yourself into doing something, no matter where you are, and you love doing it so much that you lose yourself, in it, to it – well, that’s one sure way to be happy!
T.M.Krishna in “One”
Picture Courtesy: One with Music/facebook Page
A couple of days ago, I watched the opening of Carnatic classicist T.M.Krishna’s “One” (P.Jayendra, 2014) at Sathyam Cinemas. It was a magical experience. Jayendra calls his film an “experiment” to take the artiste out of the confines of a studio and/or auditorium and allow him to perform unbridled and free in nature – where the artiste experiences a oneness with creation itself. But the “experiment” actually ends up breaking tradition, blazing a new trail and setting musicians and music free. None could have been a better protagonist for this path-breaking initiative than Krishna. As Krishna himself told Narayan Lakshman of The Hindu, a few days before “One’s” release: “I have, over the years, moved to a different space in what music means to me and what the experience of music is; singing in tranquil, lush surroundings such as the foothills and forests of the Nilgiris allowed me to feel the air and space, actually experience beauty, and let the music happen.” When you watch the film, you too will realize how Krishna let go and let the music flow – unmindful of the film’s crew at work or of the three cameras that were capturing his every move and the seven microphones that were recording live sound – of not just the singing, but of the water flowing, the birds chirping, the clouds rumbling and the leaves rustling. Clearly, there appeared to be no retakes – Krishna sang from his soul and the crew recorded. Which explains how they finished recording the entire film’s content – all the songs – in just two days! That was my key takeaway from the “One” experience – Krishna just lost himself to what he was feeling, immersed himself in the moment and let the music happen.
For lack of a better quote, let me repeat, one more time, what Osho, the Master, has always said and championed: “When the dancer becomes the dance, when the singer becomes the song, when the musician becomes the music, magic happens.” Clearly you can witness and feel the magic happening in “One”. Interestingly, we too can create this kind of magic in our lives if we too follow our bliss – doing what gives us joy and immersing ourselves doing it all the time.
My bliss comes from being able to express myself through my writing, my public speaking engagements and through leading and inspiring change among people in workshops that I lead. I have found that every time take the floor, I just forget where I am and even who I am. I simply become the subject that I am championing.
I remember, some years ago, we were mandated with leading change in a very fractious environment at a leading healthcare company. I was anchoring a crucial offsite workshop, which marked the culmination of several months of our intervention. But parallel to our professional commitments, there was a big seismic event happening in our Life – we were just coming to terms with the fact that as a Firm we were bankrupt and penniless as a family! One of our creditors, from a large, multi-national bank, had figured out where we were conducting the workshop for this client and landed up at the hotel’s banquet area. He accosted me during the coffee break and threatened to both disrupt the proceedings by informing our client of our “dishonorable nature” and to also sue us in court. I told the gentleman and his contingent that while I appreciated their claim I could not fathom them interrupting me while I was at work. I requested that we meet another day at my office. But the creditor insisted on creating a ruckus. There were raised tones and some aggressive body language followed. This led to my client’s Executive Director, to walk up to me and ask if everything was okay. Her intervention led to the creditor and his team backing off. They agreed to meet me the next day at my office. But my equilibrium was clearly disturbed. I requested my client if I could extend the break by a few more minutes just to gather myself. When I resumed, and took the floor again, after 10 additional minutes, the Chairman of my client company also joined his team. Over the next two hours, I made an impassioned plea and case for change, citing opportunities that this team had, and highlighting the problems that needed resolution urgently. I lost myself to the cause that I was championing. When I finished, the Chairman, rose and soon the whole team, gave me a rousing, standing ovation. Each of them, including the rabid elements on the team, without any suggestion from me or the Chairman, promised to personally change and pledged to transform their company. When I got back home that evening, I marveled at how I had shut out such a disconcerting experience with the creditor and yet had been able to contribute so passionately to a client’s cause. I reckoned that this was possible only because I had done what I love doing, because I had immersed myself both to the cause and in the moment. In a couple of quarters after this workshop I bumped into the Chairman of this company again at the lobby of the Taj Coromandel Hotel and he told me this: “Your intervention was magical. It healed my team. Of course we had to let a couple of managers go, but the rest of them have truly changed the way they think and behave. Resultantly, they are performing better. This would not have been possible without what you did for us.” It was a humbling compliment. I cherished it more because is showcased to me that it is possible to banish worry and anxiety, anger and grief, and to let your music happen, if you do what you love doing and learn to be in the moment!

You too can do this. Despite what you are going through and what you are faced with, choose to spend an hour every day doing what you love doing – be it cooking, walking, gardening, reading, singing, dancing, writing, driving or even working (if you enjoy your job). Immerse yourself in that activity. You will soon discover that it is possible to lose yourself to what you love doing. That’s how you create your own magic, let your music happen, and learn to be happy! 

Of Krishna the Lord, Krishna the seeker – and bliss!

Whatever you do, do it as an offering to the Universe – from your soul to the cosmos. And you will be at peace with yourself!
T.M.Krishna
Picture Source: Internet
T.M.Krishna continues to amaze me. In a recent interview to Sumana Ramanan of the Open magazine, titled The Argumentative Musician, Krishna has laid bare what he believes in and why he often ends up doing what he does. For instance, at a concert last December, during the famed Chennai music season, Krishna stopped singing an hour ahead of schedule and drove away, much to the chagrin of the organizers and his own rasikasand fans! Opinions flooded the music scene – ranging from how arrogant Krishna had become to his hitting a creative block to the premise that he did so only because it was a free kutcheri(concert). But Krishna told Ramanan: “I had actually reached a point of fulfilment. In that state of repleteness, I felt there was nothing left for me to sing. I may have been able to sing for another hour, but would that have been music…it had nothing to do with the fact that the concert was free…Music is not about delivering a fixed number of hours’ worth of singing, but (it is) about transcending the earthiness of being.” Krishna elaborated further on what drives him: “…I am not doing this (whatever I am doing) for reasons that have anything to do with T.M.Krishna, the performer. I do not even like the title ‘performer’. I am in this because I passionately and insanely believe that music has given me a window into Life that is taking me somewhere…I am not afraid of disappearing from the popular stage.”
For those of you who do not know Krishna well, he, at 38, is regarded as one of Carnatic music’s most outstanding young proponents. His talent is regarded as prodigious and many expected him to walk the predictable path to “glory” in the highly templated Carnatic music industry that thrives on overflowing kutcheris, raving, nodding rasikasand awards and titles being accumulated annually. Perhaps it was Krishna’s personal quest (his seeking the ‘earthiness of his being’), influenced by his schooling with the KrishnamurtBi Foundation of India (founded by renowned philosopher J.Krishnamurti), for finding a deeper meaning to Life, that led him to stop running the “Carnatic rat race”. He stopped playing to the rules long back and has done “crazy” stuff like refusing to sing at paid-for concerts. To many, he’s the enfant terrible of Carnatic music.
I don’t know much about Carnatic music for me to be able to comment on Krishna’s genius. But I firmly believe he’s not being argumentative ever. If anything, he’s spiritually evolved.
Consider what we can learn from him. For one, we are all so conditioned to chasing success – recognition, fame, wealth – in whatever we do, that even if we don’t enjoy what we are doing anymore, we continue to do them because we want to protect our trappings of success, the “fringe benefits” of earning-a-living! In choosing to sing for himself, for his inner joy, not fearing a loss of popularity or demand, Krishna is highlighting the importance of following your bliss. Second, although he hasn’t said so in his interview to Ramanan, Krishna reminds me of what Lord Krishna tells Arjuna in the concluding verses of Chapter 9 of the Bhagavad Gita. Here’s my guru Eknath Easwaran’s translation of the relevant verse:
A leaf, a flower, a fruit, or even

Water, offered to me in devotion,

I will accept as the loving gift

Of a dedicated heart. Whatever you do,
Make it an offering to me –
The food you eat or worship you perform,
The help you give, even your suffering.
Thus will you be free from karma’s bondage,
From the results of action, good and bad.

I don’t want to get into the merits or demerits of Karmic theory or the existence or non-existence of God here. The point is very simple. You and I, and Krishna, have been created without our asking for this lifetime. We have been endowed with our own special talent. In Krishna’s case, it is proficiency in Carnatic music (and in writing, as I have come to discover; his book ‘A Southern Music – The Karnatik Story’by Harper Collins was released by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen last month). This Life, therefore is a gift. The talent each of us possesses too is a gift. So, the best way to live the Life given to us is to offer whatever we do to the Universe – freely, without seeking anything in return. When there are no expectations from whatever you do, there can be no agony. And when there is no agony or suffering, you will thrive in your native state of inner peace, joy and bliss! That’s what Krishna of the Bhagavad Gitaprofessed and that’s what T.M.Krishna believes in – and is championing!

Make your doing, your being

Whatever you do, immerse yourself in it – and your will be one with it. That’s how you make doing, being!
This past Sunday, I read an article by the enfant terrible of Carnatic music, T.M.Krishna, in the Sunday Magazine of The Hindu. No, Krishna was not waxing eloquent on music. Instead he wrote, provoking thought in the bargain, about how “great sportsmen and artists share a transformational quality”. His piece, ‘Beyond the Boundary’ examined if Sachin Tendulkar’s technique is really an art form. Krishna wrote: “I have watched the phenomenal Sachin Tendulkar almost right through his career, especially in his Test innings… there have been phases in his great innings when he seemed to dissolve into cricket itself…. In this state, not just cricket or sport but Life itself seemed to be one uninterrupted flow…. The man and his bat became one; the ball was not an object that needed to be negotiated, caressed or decimated; the bowler, not an enemy; and his wicket, no point of reference…. What actually happened was that everything merged. Sachin became one with that existence and, as a beholder, I saw Life’s beauty in its most natural self, without any burden of names, identities, action or result…To me, at that instant, even the fact that it was Sachin batting was immaterial. This was an artist lost in his moment of Life, living it to its fullest.
Krishna’s keen observation and perspective there has been simply, beautifully, explained by Osho, the Master, thus: “Forget the dancer, the center of the ego. Become the dance. Dance so deeply that you completely forget that you are dancing and begin to feel that you arethe dance. Dance so totally…because the dancer-dance division can exist only when you are not total in it. The dancer must go until only the dance remains.”  
In the Sufi tradition, dervishes of the Mevlevi order, perform the ‘sama’, or dancing meditation, where they abandon their ‘nafs’or egos or personal desires, by spinning in repetitive circles, symbolic of the planets in the solar system orbiting the sun. The dancer is merely a metaphor that Osho and the Sufis use. You could be a cook, a gardener, a writer, an orator, a clerk, a traffic policeman, a painter, a singer, a truck driver or a nurse. Who you are is immaterial. How you are (being) who you are is important. Of course, choosing to do what you absolutely love doing, is critical for losing yourself – for making your doing, your being! While it may be possible to even immerse yourself while loving what you are doing, your inner joy is always several notches higher when you have chosen to do onlywhat you love!
But your Life may not always pan out that way. As it turned out to be with my father. He is an amazing Carnatic vocalist himself – having been trained for over two decades by an accomplished Guru. But way back in the ‘60s, the pressures of having to raise a family forced him to seek a career in the private sector textile industry, and later with the government. “Financial security and stability” were chosen over “what gave him joy”. I don’t understand the nuances of Carnatic music as much as I should. But over the early years of my growing up, and even now, when he is well past 75, I have found that my dad always lost himself to his singing whenever he was or is having a stressful time. In those times that I have watched him sing to himself at home, I found him immersed in the music. In fact, I believe, he always became the song. On the few occasions when he has performed concerts too, I have found the singer (in him) disappearing and only the song remaining. I cite his example here because you may not often get to make a Life – and living – out of what you love. Yet it is imminently possible that if you still do what you love, even if it is done infrequently, it can help you just be! And that just being is happiness!
As I grew older and my understanding of Life evolved, I have come to realize that when you don’t force yourself to do anything, Life flows through you. The cosmic energy then expresses itself through you. Your doing then becomes your being. That state, when you are in unison with the Universe, is what is also known as bliss! And as you can see, from the expressions of Krishna, Tendulkar, Osho and my dad, that state is imminently attainable!