Have you ever thought about why do you do the things you do? Well, we’re always doing something, but WHY are we doing it? Do we do things because someone else wants us to do it?... or do we do it because it makes us feel full of joy?
Once a long time ago, when Akbar was the emperor of India. Emperor Akbar loved art.
“Painting, sculpture and poetry... I love them all... but I especially LOVE SINGING!”
Tansen was the Emperor’s best singer and musician.
“Great Tansen, please honor us with your voice...”
Tansen sang: “pa ma gaaaa ma ga re sa....”
Every evening Tansen would sing for the royal court. He was a great man and a master musician. Everyone loved to listen and hear him sing. The Emperor really loved Tansen. He gave him lots of gifts and and always told him how much he loved to listen to his voice.
Emporer Akbar pronounced: "What sweet sounds, what beauty! If sound had a smell, your songs would smell like flowers! Tansen, you must be the worlds best singer!! When you sing about rain, it starts to rain.” “When you sing, even the heavens listen!!”
One evening, after a beautiful performance by Tansen, The Emperor called him to his palace and he said:"Oh dear! I enjoy your music so very much. When I listen to you, I think that you are the best musician on Earth. But I realized something today. That you must have a teacher. You are so great, so whoever taught you must be even greater!”
Tansen smiled and said “Yes your majesty, my teacher (Swami Haridas) is totally unique, his skill is unmatched.”
Akbar replied “And that is why I called you. Tansen, Please arrange for your teacher to come and sing for this court?"
Tansen smiled and said, "Sire, my teacher is full of wonders. But I know him enough to tell you that he will not come to this court."
This surprised the emperor "He will not come?? We will pay him plenty of money."
"With due respect, Sire, no amount of money will bring my teacher to your court" replied Tansen. This greatly intrigued the Emperor,
"There must be a way that I could listen to your teacher sing. If he will not come here, perhaps we can go to him."
Tansen again smiled,"Sire, my teacher is carefree... he might not like us going to him."
"But surely my good man, there must be a way..."
Tansen thought a while and said, "Well, there may be one way. My teacher usually sings in the early mornings, before sunrise. He goes by the Ganga River. If your majesty insists, then we can secretly go at that time and hide nearby and we may get to hear him sing."
“I do insist, and we shall do this plan.”
Emperor Akbar was a spiritual man and he usually woke up and meditated in the early hours of the morning anyway.
Emperor proclaimed "We shall both go the place where your teacher bathes and sings."
The Emperor and Tansen reached the river bank at midnight and they hid in in some nearby bushes. Shortly afterwards, as was the daily routine of Tansen's teacher, Swami Haridas came to the river, bathed himself (water sound effects) and sat down next to the river. Then he started to sing....
Emperor Akbar whispered “Oh my! his voice is so rich. It’s like butter covered in honey... If he could purchase land with his rich voice, he would certainly be a greater king than I.” Nature is his back up instruments! The birds keep his beat. Oh wow” “I feel like I’m on another planet, everywhere is his song!!! I am enchanted”
The emperor wasn’t speaking or moving anymore. He just sat perfectly still the whole time the teacher sang. The emperor was transported in his mind to a place of wondrous beauty.
After a time, the teacher finished singing...
And then the master got up and left..........
Tansen attempted to get his Emperor’s attention - “Your highness!" .... sire, we can go now.”
The Emperor’s trance broke “Oh, what? Oh yes.... Ahem, let us go.”
The Emperor walked to the carriage, half in a dream. His mind still drifted in the air as they traveled back to the palace. He floated in this spiritual state for the whole day. That evening the Emperor summoned Tansen to his palace and said,
“Tansen, your teacher is a great wonder. I am very, very curious about one thing. I love your singing but if you wouldn't mind, I would request you answer one question."
"Sire, please ask any question."
"I do not wish to offend you in any way, I used to think that you were the best musician on this Earth, but your teacher far, far surpasses you. Your song is like a rose in a vase, but your teacher's song is like ...... like.... many wild and fragrant roses dancing in the wind, fresh and bursting with natural beauty."
Tansen agreed that his master's songs were of a highly unique quality. The Emperor continued,
“How is it possible that your teacher's talent is an ocean deeper than yours?"
Tansen smiled and laughed and said, "Hahaha.... With due respect your majesty.... I perform for you, the emperor of this kingdom, but my teacher performs for the King of All Kings, the One who creates kings, the one whose kingdom is the whole Universe."
Tansen sang for people... and his songs were beautiful. The master sang simply for the joy of it... and his songs were beyond description. Is there anything in your life that you do 'not for yourself'? Is there anything in your life that you do but 'just for the joy of it'?
The height of your success in any particular task depends upon the altitude of your purpose. Size of your ambition defines many things in your life...
PS: Swami Haridas was a spiritual poet and classical musician. Credited with a large body of devotional compositions, especially in the Dhrupad style, he is also the founder of the Haridasi school of mysticism, still found today in North India.