Totality in Music

Editor's Pick Excerpts Osho on Music

Osho talks about the musician Haridas.

Enlightenment has many doors. It is not open only to the so-called saints. An artist deep in his art, painting so totally that he disappears and only the painting remains – whether he knows it or not, for that moment he has become a buddha. A singer with his totality disappears in his song.

Enlightenment is not the monopoly of the saints: that is one of the basic points I want to make clear to the world. There are a thousand and one doors. Only one single quality should be there – that you are rejoicing in doing it, for no attainment. When a singer sings, if he is singing for some reward he cannot be total.

Osho playing an instrument

I am reminded of one of India’s greatest singers, Tansen. Even today, in Gwalior, there is his samadhi and singers from all over the country go there on his birthday to pay their respects to that great genius. He was in the court of a great emperor, Akbar, and Akbar could not conceive that music could go higher or deeper than Tansen’s. But it became a continuous question in his mind: Is it possible to transcend Tansen? Can somebody do something more than he is doing?

Finally he asked Tansen himself: “This question has been torturing me. I know that there is no one who can go so deep and create such beautiful music. Thousands of musicians have come to the court; they know the technique, but their totality is not in it.”

Tansen said, “Please forgive me. You don’t know my master – I am not even dust under his feet. You don’t know what totality in music is.”

Akbar said, “Then invite your master to the court. We will give him all the respect that is possible.”

Tansen said, “That is the difficulty; that’s why I have never mentioned him.” He lived just near to where the Taj Mahal now stands. “He is a very silent, poor man, but he never sings on demand. That is the difficulty. You cannot call him and ask him to sing or play his sitar. When it comes spontaneously to him, then it is a totally different world – you will not be able even to compare me with him.”

Akbar said, “You are creating trouble. If he cannot be asked, then how am I going to listen to him?”

Tansen said, “I know perfectly that at three o’clock, early in the morning almost every day, he plays his sitar. What can be arranged is that we should hide behind the trees where he lives in a hut by the side of the Ganges and just listen as thieves. There is no other way. If he becomes aware that somebody is there, he may stop. So be very quiet.” And perhaps never in the history of man has any emperor like Akbar gone to listen to a beggar. His name was Haridas.

In the middle of the night they were hiding behind the trees like thieves. At three o’clock exactly, Haridas started playing on his sitar, and Akbar wept for the first time. Returning home, his tears continued.

Tansen said to him, “Now we are coming close to the palace. Wash away your tears! Why are you weeping?”

Akbar said, “I am weeping because now my whole idea that you are the greatest singer, the greatest musician in the world, is shattered. Your master is miles beyond. But what is the reason that you cannot manage to be the same as your master?”

He said, “The reason is clear: I sing and play for reward; he sings and plays out of spontaneity, for no reward, with no desire even that somebody should listen to it. Just out of his fullness, out of his abundance he pours out music. I cannot do it. I am a court poet, a court singer, a court musician: I do my best, but deep down there is a desire for reward. And you have been rewarding me, you have filled my house with gold. You have raised my position to being the world’s greatest musician, but I know the greatest musician is a beggar who was my master.

“I had to sit by his side for thirty years, because there was no other way. He would not teach you anything – if you could learn that was your business. He would play only when it came to him. You could watch, you could see the tremendous splendor that suddenly happened. Haridas disappeared, only the music remained.”

In those moments, when Haridas disappeared, he was a buddha whether he knew it or not. The activity may be in any direction, any dimension.

I want everybody to know that if you can do something without any desire of reward or attainment, you are in meditation. You will blossom into enlightenment. This is rest. This is relaxation.

Osho, Turning In, Ch 4 (excerpt)

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