Nandin tells her story: how she first came to Rajneeshpuram, played for Osho in Pune and became a street musician.
No choice but to leave
Relationship crisis. My boyfriend and I wanted to do something together to try and heal our relationship. I thought of something like a Chinese cooking class, but we ended up taking a couple’s course based on Co-counseling, where each of us had equal time to talk while the other listened without judgment.
The course was run by a couple in my hometown Calgary, Canada. After a few months they went off to Rajneeshpuram, Oregon to be with Osho. My boyfriend followed them there but I resisted going. I even hoped he would find it an awful place, but when he called and told me he was doing Rebirthing and Dynamic Meditation – things I had only read about – I knew I had to follow him. I was still resisting it though, but when it felt as if the floor below my feet was electrified I couldn’t just stand there and do nothing! I had no choice but to leave.
Within a few hours I managed to arrange for someone to give all my students their weekly flute lessons, went to the bank, withdrew some money, jumped into my car and headed off to Oregon. On the way I drove through a snowstorm, had car trouble on a Friday night – and found a fellow in a garage who amazingly fixed the car so that I could carry on! – slept a couple of hours in a Motel 8, and arrived the next day in Rajneeshpuram.
Osho had already left and the Ranch was closing down – but I was impressed by the people. They were so clear and direct – yet humorous and loving. I happened to be there when big semi trucks came in and drove off with 63 Rolls Royces on their flatbed trailers. The truck drivers were unsure of how to deal with the loving folks who offered them coffee and cookies; they felt slightly awkward, let’s say they just didn’t know how to deal with being treated so well! It was beautiful to see.
I then attended a satsang – a silent meditation with musical interludes. I was told that it was a ‘silent communion with the master’ even if Osho was not physically present. I had no idea what ‘silent communion with the master’ meant, but I heard Devakant play his flute and was enraptured. I knew that very moment that I couldn’t continue my old life. I had to be with Osho and his people.
Vimal Nandin playing for Osho
The following summer I moved from my hometown Calgary to Montreal – since there was a sannyas center there. I did my 21 days of Dynamic Meditation, took sannyas and received the name Vimal Nandin – Pure Delight. During the celebration the electricity went out and the recorded music suddenly stopped. So I just started to sing, some joined in and we had our own instant acoustic music. I loved this spontaneity!
Osho was on his ‘world tour’, traveling from country to country trying to find a base, but as soon as we heard that he was back in India I booked my flight to Pune. I arrived as things were getting started in what we later called ‘Pune 2’. I asked where I could find the musicians and someone pointed me to the roof of a building. There Milarepa was rehearsing with some other musicians; I asked if they needed a flute player and I immediately joined in. The next morning, I went to the early morning discourse to play for Osho. We sat very close to him in the outdoor mosquito-netted hall called Chuang Tzu. Osho looked at me when I was playing the flute! I didn’t know then that he himself had played the flute as a young man and that he was friends with the famous Indian flutist, Hari Prasad Chaurasia. When Osho left the hall, I was overcome with tears of joy.
I realized how lucky I was to sit so close to Osho, when I saw how others had to line up for hours just to get a ticket to get in and then line up again to get into the hall. When more people arrived and the hall became too small to accommodate everybody, most people could attend only every second day.
Playing the flute on the street
One day, in discourse, I heard Osho say,
The people of the heart – the painters, the poets, the musicians, the dancers, the actors – are all irrational. They create great beauty, they are great lovers, but they are absolutely unfit in a society which is arranged by the head. Your artists are thought by your society to be almost outcast, a little bit crazy, an insane type of people. Nobody wants their children to become musicians or painters or dancers. They all want them to be doctors, engineers, scientists, because those professions pay. Painting, poetry, dance, are dangerous, risky: you may end up just a beggar on the street, playing on your flute.
The Hidden Splendor, Ch 25, Q 2 – 25 March 1987
What struck me the most were his last words, “on the street, playing on your flute.” Despite my respectable career as a classical musician and teacher, I had always secretly wanted to be a street musician. How did Osho know that? His words gave me the courage to change my plans: instead of returning to Canada I was going to get off the plane in Rome and try my luck as a street musician there. This took some courage as I was down to my last sixty dollars when I arrived in Rome. However, I could stay with sannyasins and started playing in the subway. (I had already done a bit of that in Montreal, but now I had to make it work, it was for real!)
At first I made just enough money to pay for my daily needs, but I saw other street musicians playing in front of bars and restaurants earning more. I would have been way too shy and proud to ask folks for money until another street musician suggested we work together. I would play and he would ask for money, and then we would switch. All of a sudden, my ideas about pride and shyness dropped, and it was no longer a problem. This is how I started my life as a street musician.
After that first year, I had saved enough money to go back to Pune for a month, and play once again for Osho. I was able to go back every year or two. I loved this arrangement, except for the time when my boyfriend got together with another woman just a few days before I arrived.
Playing with sannyasin musicians
In those early days in Chuang Tzu, all the music equipment had to be taken down after morning discourse and setup again before evening discourse. One morning Devakant showed me the technical setup with all the mikes, stands, cables, mixer and so forth. (It was a first for me, since up to then I had been an acoustic orchestra musician.) His explanation was very quick – and I didn’t understand a thing, but when he said, “Okay, now you know the setup,” I realized that he expected me to put all that stuff together again in the evening! But that night Osho didn’t come out for discourse and I was spared technical mayhem…
I remember Enlightenment Day in March when the new Buddha Hall was being built. The marble floor was already set down but the roof was still missing. It was really hot already, and the music was actually not that good – but nothing seemed to upset Osho. He just sat there silently on the podium under the shade of the little pagoda roof!
Later, Buddha Hall had a gigantic tent roof complete with mosquito net, since the hall was used for meditations and discourses. I remember one evening when Rupesh and ‘the boys’, as we called them, hung out at the back of the musician’s area where the percussion instruments were. We were all dressed in our white robes ready for the evening discourse, including them. Especially in January it could get quite cold so they would all wear their black leather motorcycle jackets over their white robes. They looked like fallen angels!
I also remember a particular evening playing with Rupesh. He was going to accompany me in the meditation that Osho led before the evening discourse. This usually consisted of tablas and flute or sitar. Rupesh didn’t come to the sound check, so it was only when he arrived to play for the thousands of meditators that we realized the tabla cabinet was locked! All that Rupesh found to play on was a triangle, so that’s what he used. It sounded great! I had no idea that a triangle was so versatile an instrument.
At one time we had Yashu as the music coordinator – a Spanish flutist and a wild woman. She kept receiving instructions from the Inner Circle about the way we were supposed to play: not so loud one day, less chaotic another day, no songs with the word Osho in them, or more songs with the word Osho in them. The instructions varied and over time opposed themselves. Anyway, at a meeting she told us the latest rules, followed by the comment, “Now I told you, do whatever you want.”
Another memory is of meeting Deva Premal for the first time. It was outside the rehearsal room; she must have been about 18 years old. On the notice board there was a sign-up sheet where you could write your name and what you could play so that whoever organized the music that evening could call on you if they needed your services. She put down ‘violin’ and then asked me if I thought she should put herself down as a singer as well. Having never heard her sing, I didn’t have an answer, but now we all know!
There were also a couple of ‘tamboura tyrants’ as they came to be known. Tamboura is an instrument that is not that difficult to play, so many folks were interested in getting involved with the live music by playing it. There used to be quite a stiff competition to see who would get the nightly tamboura-playing spot!
Over the years I played with Miten and Deva Premal, Milarepa, Prem Joshua, Karunesh, Anugama, Sambodhi Prem, Devakant, Parijat, Prasad (now known as Harry Manx), Australian Bharti, Japanese Bharti, Bindu, Pratibha, Rupesh, Palash, Nadama, Premartha, Manish Vyas, Veet Sandeh, Chinmaya Dunster, Satyam, and many others. It was a meeting place of musicians from all over the world, so the influences came from everywhere. It was a real fusion of many types of music: Spanish, Italian, Brazilian, Indian (of course), Russian, classical, jazz, blues, rap, hip hop, you name it!
I continued to play street music which enabled me to earn money for part of the year and then go off to India for the winter! Coming from the cold winters in Canada, this was a dream come true. I had also learned Italian quite well, since Italians notoriously only speak Italian. This then allowed me to act as a translator in Pune for visitors from Italy. In this way, I was able to participate in many courses and trainings that I couldn’t afford on my street musician budget. I learned Prana Healing, Rebalancing, Divine Healing (which is more than just Shiatsu), Cranio-Sacral Balancing, Intuitive Massage, Reiki, Shiatsu and many other healing techniques, all for free.
With meditative music across Germany
As I already mentioned, at one time I discovered that my boyfriend was having an affair with another woman. I was in such mental pain that I rode around on my moped hoping to get hit by a truck – as if that would solve anything! I then realized that I seriously needed help and I sincerely asked for it. I also wished that I would find a job doing my favorite thing – playing meditative music – although that seemed quite unlikely.
However, after about six months, I found myself traveling around Germany doing just that! I had found Samarpan, a living master and a disciple of Osho.
He was a good master: he didn’t let me get away with the mental tricks I had unconsciously used when Osho spoke to us. I hadn’t realized that I had dismissed much of what Osho had said as if it were said to someone else, and had nothing to do with me. I couldn’t get away with this with Samarpan! He said it all very straight up so that I couldn’t dismiss it. In his practical way, he explained much of what Osho had said very clearly and simply – it was a real blessing. Of course, traveling with a living master had a lot of challenges which, at the time, seemed overwhelming but, in retrospect, were just the right thing to wake me up!
I played for him before and after his discourses, which he calls ‘Satsang with Samarpan’. My job musically was to bring the people from their busy minds to the stillness of satsang and help them take that peace with them when they left the satsang at the end.
Music and silence
After years of being constantly on the road with Samarpan, it was time for a change. To make ends meet, I started giving music lessons again as I had done before I met Osho, but with one big difference: after all the groups and courses that I had participated in while in Pune, I was now better prepared to meet my students with something more than just music technique! Now I offer a singing event called ‘Singing Silence’ where we sing mantras and other spiritual (and not so spiritual) songs from various cultures. Between songs we sit in silence to feel the effect the music has on us. I find this invariably blissful!
Then ‘Stress Release through Playing Music’, a workshop in which I adopt many of the methods that I learned during my time with Osho and Samarpan. Presently I am also playing in an orchestra again and, of course, still making my own recordings. Recently I have been rehearsing online (!) with a wonderful pianist, Andreas Knott, preparing for our new album. To sum it up, I never could have imagined that playing meditative music would be so nourishing and fulfilling; I certainly never could have planned meeting or even imagined the existence of enlightened masters and the blessings they would bring!
Article by Nandin – nandinmusic.com
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Reiki Meditations – Michael Diamond writes about Nandin and her newly-released album