The word sadhna comes from the word sadhya, which means to achieve; or to aim or focus.  Any intense practice that is done with 100% focus is called sadhna.

Sadhna is a long path.  To do sadhna requires great patience.  Sadhna can be done of any subject, be it music, yoga, archery or any other practical art.   The goal of sadhna is to become one with the subject; to reach a point where there is no distinction between the subject and the practitioner.  For this, you have to focus all your energy on the subject that is to be mastered or achieved.

To become one with the subject, one must go to the beej or seed of the subject, from where it emerges.  The beej of the subject is the purest state of the subject, it’s root.  For example, in music, the root of any instrument is pure sound or in the language of Vedanta – Aum.  From there, everything that is music emerges.  This beej of music – pure sound, like the beej of any other subject can be called by many names – Truth, Ultimate Reality, Existence, etc.  Thus, if one goes to the root of a subject through sadhna, one experiences ultimate knowledge or Truth.  So we can also say that the highest goal of sadhna is to experience Truth.  The subject is the medium and gaining mastery over it a practical outcome.  The sadhna or intense practice of a subject takes the sadhak or practitioner from the material level to higher spiritual levels, where he can ultimately go to the subject’s root and experience Truth.

Truth is not something that can be taught.  It is something that is be experienced or self-realized.  Unfortunately, in today’s society, the education practice is such that we are given ready-made information that we are to accept rather than discovering them through our own understanding.  It is a system that creates more believers than seekers.

Truth needs no belief, Truth is being.  It is eternal – shashwata.  Even if Truth itself comes to you and tells you to believe, you must not believe.  Because that belief will make that Truth a lie.  Truth itself is not a lie, but your belief of it without experience is wrong.  Truth never creates beliefs.  Truth is Truth.  When you have any experience, your belief turns into knowledge and that is Truth.

What are the obstacles that come in the way of experiencing Truth?
The biggest obstacle is your mind.  Everything – your beliefs, ideas, concepts, thoughts and information are all the clouds that cover the Truth from you.  Until you disconnect from these things, you cannot experience Truth, it can only be experienced in a mindless condition.  It is through sadhna that one can reach a mindless condition.

As mentioned before, one can do sadhna of many different topics.  But the ultimate goal is one and the same: the experience of Truth, which occurs in a mindless condition.  The three most direct paths to reach a mindless condition: yoga, music and tantra.  It is important to understand that there is not one single path or sadhna that everyone can do.  Each person is unique and so their path is unique, but there are similar experiences that sadhaks share as they move towards a common goal.


The secret for growth

It is always my wish and prayer that my students and all those that I know grow with each passing year.  As we begin 2010, I would like to share a small story about speaks of the secret for growth, whether it be in your spiritual life, professional life or personal life.

Tansen had been appointed as a musician in Akbar’s court.  In his times, to become a court musician was a major accomplishment.  You were given immense facilities – a palace to live in, an elephant to move around in, etc.  It was a musician’s dream.

Upon receiving this news, he made the long journey to visit his Guru Swami Haridas deep in the forest.  After sharing the news, he bowed at feet of his teacher and sought his blessings.

“I am very happy that you have accomplished so much.  Always stay like this,” his Guru said, “if you want to continue to grow.”

Tansen rose and asked him to explain.

“Observe the posture of one seeking to climb a mountain.  He is always leaning forward, keeping his head bowed.  Observe the posture of one going down a mountain.  He stands tall with his chest out.  If you want to reach great heights, you much keep your head bowed and keep your ego in check.  When you stand tall, you will no longer be able to go higher.”

Tansen got the message.


The world needs two things

The world needs two things: true music and correct knowledge.


All Music

All music lies in the space between two beats.


Understanding the Universe

To understand the universe, you can study the shastras or you can understand taal.


State of Today’s Indian Classical Music Concerts

A musician needs two types of people in the audience – those who really understand the depth of the music and those who may not understand  its full depth, but offer financial support for the musician.

Commercial music concerts of Indian classical music have changed over the last two to three decades.  On the good side, it is becoming more financially possible to be a classical musician, on the bad side, audiences with a deep understanding of music are decreasing.

There was a time, when the first five rows of commercial concerts were filled with people who understood music, the people in suits and rich kurtas were behind these rows.  Only then did the artist get into the mood to play real music because there were people who understood it.

I remember one concert that happened in Ahmedabad 20-30 years ago.  It was a concert of a well-known musician who was travelling abroad.  A short time into the concert, the audience had stopped the concert.  Five people were on stage.  They asked the musician not to play paltas.  If he was to play, he had to play real music or there was no need for the concert.   This was the strength of the audience.  There was no room for gimmicks.  The audience understood Indian classical music and did not accept anything less than true playing.

Today, things have changed.  Today, in many commercial concerts, the financial supporters, who often do not have a very deep understanding, are the ones who occupy the front rows, while those who understand music, the students and connoisseurs end up sitting in some corner.  The demand for high-quality has decreased and the artist consequentially does not play that music as it is not required.

You can clearly see the changes in commercial concerts.  Commercial concerts of a single artist used to begin at 8pm and end atleast 3-4 hours later.  Now they finish in a span of 45 – 90 minutes.  The alaap alone used to last 1 – 2 hours.  Now, we hear perhaps a 5 minute alaap and 2-3 raags in that time period.   It’s not necessarily that the artist is not able to give these long concerts.   In the younger generation there might not be many (as the concert demand has changed), but we still do have artists who can perform these real concerts.  The audience though is not ready or trained to listen to and enjoy these concerts.

The training of an audience will not happen overnight.  It requires regular exposure to high-quality musicians.  Those who have an understanding should not be afraid to demand high-quality music, while those who are developing an understanding should not simply accept whatever the market is giving them to be the best.

The development of an audience takes time and committment, but if it is not done, there will be a very small chance of hearing a real Indian classical music concert in the future.


Runa Mukti – A Beautiful Concept

In Indian culture, the concept of indebtedness or obligation plays a strong role.  As humans, we are being obliged by God, children have an obligation towards their parents, students are indebted to their teachers.

In Guru-shishya parampara*, it is a student’s right to learn and the teacher’s right to teach, but the student is always being obliged by the teacher.  In the true form of guru-shishya parampara, there is complete surrender on the part of the student, this allows for the teacher to do their best work.  A good analogy is that of a diamond.  A student is like a raw diamond, completely in the hands of its maker (the teacher).  If the diamond yields completely, then the cutter can do his best job in bringing out the true beauty of the gem through his careful cutting and polishing.  In the guru-shishya parampara, everything is left in the hands of the able guru.  He is the creator.  This creates an enormous obligation on the student – how is the student to repay the teacher?  Each student does what they can.  Some give money, others do seva, etc, but in Indian culture, this is not enough to relieve oneself of the obligation towards one’s teacher.

That is where the concept of runa mukti comes in.  Runa Mukti literally means liberation/ release from obligation (or runa).  There are two ways of Runa Mukti.  The first, if your guru feels you are capable, is to teach 1000 students what your guru has taught you.  The second is to go one step further than your guru in that vidya.

*When I speak of guru-shishya parampara and runa mukti, I am referring to serious students who have spent many years of very close contact and training with their guru.