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"You find God during the silence in between" - Sri Sathya Sai's insight and a short story for the pursuit of happiness
The Orchestra competition... Who is the winner?
There was to be the Orchestra competition in the Institute Auditorium and I was very excited. The orchestra competition showcases some of the greatest musical talents of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute and it is a unique joy to get lost in the bliss of genuine music- a music that has no differences and is based only on the gifts of God - talents and a music which blends harmoniously the soulful ragas of the East with the harmonic chords of the West. I hurried to the auditorium to be in time for the showdown and the evening began.........
It felt like it got over in no time!
"Wow! What a way to interpret the theme 'Solitude'! I am sure the judges will have a real tough time finding a winner."
"Well that is not going to be a problem. There seems to be winners only. Their problem will come in finding the loser! Rules make it possible only for a single winner and so the rest will have to be deemed 'losers'. That's a tough call for the judges."
"Hey Vivek! Who do you think we will bag the prize?"
"My vote is for the team 2..."
"Hey! Guess what! That's exactly what I felt too. I mean, teams 1,3 and 4 were also good but, team 2 simply seemed a touch better."
"What did I tell you Roshan! Didn't I say that I feel team 2 would win?"
"I too instinctively felt it."
"What do you think made them better?"
Vivek thought for a while and said,
"I dunno...and I am not going to hazard a guess. As they say,'Give your decision, but not your reasons for in most cases your decisions may be right but the reasons may be wrong!"
"Ha ha ha..."
And there was laughter all around.
As we split up after a most beautiful evening, something in me kept tickling me. What was it in team 2 that seemed to have touched everyone? I too liked it the most. What did team 2 do that the other teams failed to? How come their music seemed richer and more meaningful? Was it the ragas (the melody) they used? Or the chords they blended in? I will definitely ask Ravi I thought.
Ravi is a music icon in the Institute. A quiet sort of guy who never speaks much. Lost in music all the while, every word he speaks seems musical too! And he does not participate in any of the music competitions for:-
1) He seems to be way beyond the realms of competition.
2) Everyone of us know that if he comes in, he will be the definite winner and the competition would be only for the second place.
As far as he is concerned, he does not compete for he believes music is just the language of the soul.
I met Ravi after dinner.
"Bhaiya, who do you think will win today's orchestra?"
"Hey little one! How does it matter who I think will win the orchestra?"
"Please tell me", I interrupted, "I really want to know. It means a lot now for me."
"Well if that's the case, then listen. Team 2 will take home the trophy."
I felt thrilled that we had made a judgement that matched Ravi's.
"I knew it! Their music was more in tune and their ragas more appropriate."
"Well, well. I think that in the appropriateness of the notes and tunes, team 3 was the best. As for the interpretation of the theme with the ragas, nothing to beat team 1."
All the air that had filled my chest just fizzled out!
"Then how come team 2 had richer music?"
"Team 2 had nothing extra special in their music. What was beautiful in them was the silence in between the notes. As important as filling the notes with music is to fill the silence in between the notes too with beauty and harmony. And now, if you will excuse me, I have to go for my silent sitting."
As I lay my head on my extra soft pillow, the hard Truth of life hit me. Tonight, one of the greatest secrets of Life had been revealed to me.
Not only is the "note" important but also the "silence between the notes"
When my Master referred to the silence in between the notes...
I happened to hear a wonderful reference Swami (Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba) had made to exactly this 'silence between the notes'. The incident was narrated to me by my chemistry professor, Dr.K.Anil Kumar and it occurred when he was studying in his II year MSc.
The evening bhajans were about to begin at the mandir in Prasanthi Nilayam. All of a sudden, the interview room door opened and beckoned to Anil Kumar to walk in. Pleasantly surprised and thrilled at this unexpected bounty, he walked into the interview room. He had no idea why Swami was calling him in. Once he was inside, Swami sat on the chair in the room and began to browse through the letters that He had collected during the darshan session. Anil Kumar sat at His feet and began to gently massage them, feeling grateful for this unexpected bounty.
This went on for a few minutes. Swami then put down a letter He was reading and asked Anil Kumar,
"Where is Parabrahman (the Absolute Ultimate/God)? Where can you find Him?"
Anil Kumar was completely stumped by this question. He had no clue. As far as he was concerned, the absolute ultimate was right before him. Exactly at this time, the bhajans began. As always, three Oms preceded the bhajans. As the Omkaaram concluded, Swami got up from the chair. He told Anil Kumar,
"That gap between the two Oms - that is where you can find Him; contact Him."
Saying so, Swami got up and exited the interview room into the bhajan hall.
My professor confesses:
"That was the only conversation and I am still trying my best to reach/contact that moment."
Human happiness seems to depend only on 'activity'
I started to think of this enigmatic phenomenon called the human life where every participant is involved in the eternal pursuit of happiness. And while everyone seems to pursue it endlessly, only a rare few achieve it with great ease. As far as am concerned, I simply try to fill my life with activity:
For instance, tomorrow morning, I intend to
1) meet up with a very special friend and then
2) have a nice breakfast before
3) going for a game of badminton.
I love all the three activities I have planned and they make me happy. But in half an hour between breakfast and badminton, what shall I do. I don't know about an idle min being the devil's workshop, but an idle mind is definitely boring and dissatisfying. So, I decide to fill that gap with some TV time.
Now my morning seems made. As I am watching TV, there is a commercial break. I don't like ads. There is nothing else on the other channels when the ads are on. It is irritating how all the channels on TV seem to synchronize their ad slots! So what should I do now? I get up, go to the refrigerator and get myself some light snacks. The ads come on again and this time, I pick up my cell phone and call up another friend and chat for a few minutes. Filling my time with some 'work' or the other seems to make me feel that I have fulfilled the time! Finally, it is time for badminton and I pull up my socks and leave. I am so happy with my morning.
I return after my badminton game the next day. Having refreshed myself with a bath, I sit back on a couch. It is a Sunday and a holiday for me. I see my niece struggling with a maths problem. Uninvited, I am about to go to her aid. After that, my eyes now fall on the remote and my instinct is to switch on the TV. Maybe some nice match is on; and anyway, Sundays have good programs. At the last moment, I don't know why, I restrain. Maybe I should put on some songs...or shall I read that good book?
Oh God! To be happy, I seem to want to keep doing something or the other! Is it so difficult to enjoy doing and being nothing?
Why else does man wait so eagerly for retirement at the age of 58 and once the retirement party is over, finds that life is so drab and dissatisfying? I suddenly realize that I always seem to need activity for my happiness. And when I cannot find activities, I cannot find happiness!
Thus, activity cannot be the secret to true happiness...
I realize that sometimes doing nothing is the perfect way to get happiness. This seems hard given our penchant to work hard and be proactive. But it is the truth nevertheless.
I keep concentrating so much on the notes that I forget about the rich silence which makes true victors. Happiness too lies in inactivity as much as in activity!
What happened to the Orchestra competition results?
And yes, coming back to what I began with, team 2 won the orchestra competition. The standard traditional statement was made by the representative of the judges, "It was a very close contest and was not easy to find a winner. But we did it only because the rules of judging a competition demand that we do so."
However, they too never explained their reasons for the result.
As Ravi alluded, all the happy people in the history of mankind, have the beauty of a rich "silence" between their "notes". But now if you will excuse me, I have to rush. I have things to catch up with....
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© 2011 Aravind Balasubramanya