The Nabob, the king of Lucknow, invites a musician to his court to listen to music, but at a condition.
It is my assumption that meditators, listening to the inner silence, must have felt the tremendous difficulty of how to share it. It was in those beginning days that music was discovered. The discovery is simple: take away the meaning from the sounds and instead of meaning, give the sounds harmony, a rhythm which penetrates to the very heart. It says nothing, but it says the unsayable too.
The ordinary idea of music is that it consists of sounds, but that is only half the truth — and of lesser importance. As the music becomes deeper and deeper, it consists of silences between two sounds.
An ancient proverb in China is, “When the musician becomes perfect he throws away his instruments” because instruments can only create sound. The silence is created by the musician. But at the perfection, the same sounds that were creating small pieces of silence start becoming a disturbance. A strange idea, but perfectly meaningful, significant. It applies to every art. When the archer becomes perfect he throws away his bow and his arrows; just his eyes are enough to look at a flying bird and the bird will fall down. The bow and arrows were only a preparation.
The same applies to music, to painting, to all the arts which man has discovered. At the ultimate peak, you don’t need the steps, the ladder which has helped you to reach the peak. It becomes irrelevant.
The classical music was devoted to silence and to meditation. A beautiful story is told about a Nabob of Lucknow. Lucknow remained for centuries the most cultured, sophisticated city in this country. Arts were respected, wisdom was highly prized.
The Nabob, the king of Lucknow, was certainly a man of tremendous courage, insight. But these are the people who become misunderstood by the common man. Before I tell you the story about the musician, it will be good to know about the king who invited him to Lucknow, to his court. He was the last king of Lucknow, and when the British armies invaded Lucknow he was listening to music. He was informed that the British armies were coming closer and closer. He said, “Just welcome them. They are our guests.” Perhaps nowhere else in history has there been a king who accepted his enemies as guests. And he told his people, “Make every arrangement for their comfort, and tomorrow I will receive them in the court. If they want to remain here, they can remain. If they want the power, they can have it. There is no need for unnecessary violence. Things can be settled in a more cultured way. But as far as this moment is concerned, I will not disturb the musicians just because a few stupid people are attacking the city.”
This nabob was very much concerned that all the great musicians had played in his court except one. He inquired: “What are the reasons?”
His people said, “His conditions are absolutely insane. He says that while he is playing his music, nobody should move. If anybody starts moving or swaying with the music, his head has to be immediately removed from his body. He will come only if this condition is fulfilled.”
The nabob said, “You should have told me before! Invite him and tell him the condition is accepted. And declare to the whole beautiful city of Lucknow that those who want to hear the musician should know the condition; otherwise they should not come.”
But almost ten thousand people came to listen to the musician. And the nabob was not a man to go against his word: one thousand soldiers with naked swords were surrounding the listeners. The order was that they should note down whoever moved, because to remove his head in the middle would be a disturbance.
Only twelve heads moved. They were noted. In the middle of the night, the musician asked, “Has my condition been fulfilled?”
The king said, “Yes, these are the twelve people who moved and swayed and forgot the condition. Now it is up to you: what do you want? Should we behead them?”
To everyone’s surprise, the musician said, “These are the only people worthy to listen to me. Now let the whole crowd go. They were not listening to me, they were simply protecting themselves. Just an accidental movement could cause death, just a change of position could be dangerous. They were too concerned with their lives. Music is not for them; let them go. Now the real music I can play for you in the remaining night, and for these twelve people.” It took a strange turn! The nabob said, “But this is a strange way to find the right people.”
The musician said, “That is the only way to find the right people. These are the people for whom music means something more than life itself.”
And in fact they had simply forgotten all about the conditions. Music touched their hearts and they start swaying, a kind of dance entered into their beings. He played his music for those twelve people the remaining night. And he told the nabob that he did not need any reward. This was enough reward, to find the right people who could listen to music. “I would pray to you: reward these people, because these are the people to whom music is meditation.”
There are two possibilities, looking at this story: either meditators found music, or musicians found meditation. But they are so immensely and deeply connected with each other… my own experience is that because meditation is a far higher, far deeper experience, music must have been found by the meditators — as a language to bring something from their inner dance, inner silence, to the people they loved.
The ancient music in the East needs not only the training for the musician, it needs immense training for the listener. Everybody cannot understand the ancient classical music. You have to be capable of falling in tune with the harmony. In a certain way you have to disappear and let only the music remain.
It has been the experience of all great musicians, dancers, painters, sculptors, that while they are deepest in their creativity, they are no more. Their very creativity gives them the taste of disappearing into the universal. That becomes their first acquaintance with meditation. So both are possibilities: either music has led people to the point of meditation, or meditation has tried to find a means to express the inexpressible. But in any case, music is the highest creation that man is capable of.
Music is your creativity.
Osho, Om Mani Padme Hum, Ch 22, Q 1 (excerpt)