Learning to love songs ever more
The guardian angel
Of my daily life
Is my one
Soulful morning song.
Sri Chinmoy 1
In my family, there was no parent, sister, uncle or aunt, cousin, grandfather or grandmother who ever learned to sing or play an instrument. My sister used to hear lots of radio music when she was a teenager, but I didn’t like those songs. I remember it bothered me. My mother later went back to listening to what she liked when she was a teenager, like The Beatles and Ravi Shankar. That I learned to like more and ever more, but after a year or so I was still not getting from music any pure satisfaction. So I gave up listening to music.
When I started to meditate, I started to like singing as well. After the first four days of the meditation class I was attending at the Sri Chinmoy Centre, I learned a very nice song, “Dak eseche … the call has come”. I remember how much joy I got from it. The memory of singing it in the Centre was with me always, on the bus, at home, everywhere.
Some people had a problem with my singing, for good reason, though - I think the applicable term is that I was “tone deaf”. I could not tell a high note from a low note, and if I tried to sing a higher pitched note than the one before, I could well sing a lower note instead, randomly, in a mental effort. And my ear would not tell me anything about it.
Each soulful song
Is our heart’s inner happiness
And our life’s outer fulfilment.
Sri Chinmoy 2
Later on I improved a little bit and could occasionally sing in tune with others. Two boys from different Centres invited me to fill in for a missing third person in singing 30 songs by heart on our next Joy-Day (a weekend of fun, meditation, singing and sharing inspiration).
For that, I had the sheet music (which I could not read the notation for, but the lyrics helped) and a tape recording (I borrowed my sister’s “walkman”) of each one of the 30 songs. The music and recordings came from Kailash's group, a group of Sri Chinmoy's students who were (and are) on a project to learn all of his 22,000+ songs. This gave birth to one of my first experiences learning songs.
If your heart is melting
While you are singing
A soulful song,
Then it is coming
Not from the mind
But from the heart and soul.
Sri Chinmoy 3
I was told the recordings by Kailash were bland, as they were meant for use only in learning the songs – not like an inspiring musical group or singing performance. I agreed on first listening. But after a few days, I was listening to them just for sheer musical delight. The recordings had such a special consciousness… I was getting fulfillment by that kind of music! (remember I gave up music as a teenager because there was no fulfillment for me in it). Later on I got some other 4700 of these recorded songs with no sheet music and I would just listen to them, totally amazed by Kailash’s singing voice
When excellent singers sing,
Their delicate subtlety
Just melts God’s Heart.
Sri Chinmoy 3
Learning those 30 songs in one month was one of the most difficult things I ever did in my life. I probably practiced about 4 hours a day, mostly limited because my voice would fail during the day from singing. (And even when I could probably sing in tune “ear-wise”, my voice might not be able to hold or reach a certain pitch or even make a sound). But I made it, and learned to sing all 30, in the correct order. It felt like teaching a blind person to paint a canvas. And I loved it.
Just by taking divine music seriously,
We can make
A remarkable improvement
In the musical world.
Sri Chinmoy 3
Learning even more songs
The group of three continued learning 10 songs for each month. But after sometime one of the boys did not learn the songs well anymore. For many months we had to postpone our monthly Joy-Day singing sessions. Eventually we came up with the idea of compensating – if we did not do 10 this month, then we do 20 on the next. But this also didn’t work. Then the other boy started to show signs of a serious disease and could not learn songs well too. That left me alone. But not totally!
I had a copy of 1000 songs recorded by Kailash with me. So I decided to do around 30 songs each month by myself, with no performing. This is one of the best projects I ever embarked on.
If you really appreciate something,
You will try to possess it.
Just learn divinity-songs by heart.
Lo, the divinity they embody
Will be yours,
Your very own.
Sri Chinmoy 4
Learning songs was becoming easier, as I was learning Bengali (many of Sri Chinmoy’s songs are in Bengali), I was learning to read sheet music, and I was making many more friends than in any group - the songs themselves became my bosom friends. I remember having what I could describe as momentary heaven-on-earth experiences… going to work inebriated with the nectar of divine songs, loving everything around me and inside me. Some songs were my favorites, and I loved them dearly. It could be so spiritually intoxicating that even my voice, which is really poor and faulty, gave me the sweetest feeling.
This was before I went to New York for the first time, in 2005. After some years, I finished learning the 1000 songs.
When you sing a sweet melody
Flooded with purity,
Then God will be right beside you.
Sri Chinmoy 5
Learning even more songs
Learning 1000 songs was amazing, but I had exhausted my source of recordings and sheet music. Next thing I got all of the recordings from Kailash’s group, my most favorite singing group, who is singing all 22.000+ songs composed by Sri Chinmoy at about a rate of 720+ songs per year. I was learning about half that amount by myself, but kind of in secret. I only cared for learning songs and singing them by myself.
When we sing soulfully,
God sees many beautiful plants
Growing in His Heart-garden.
Sri Chinmoy 6
One day in New York I think someone knew that I was learning those songs and said I should try singing the first 20 with Kailash’s “big” group, where many people join only for those 20 songs. I was a little embarrassed, but different people in different moments said the same thing. This somehow prompted me to enquire them if there was any requisite for joining that group. “No,” they said. “If you know the songs, you just join in!” Those few I asked said the same enthusiastically, so I took it. (PS: I do think, however, that there is an audition… I also think that if I took such and audition, I would have possibly failed)
Later on, some of my friends asked Kailash on my behalf, and I joined the “small” group, which is singing all the songs, in sets of 240 every 4 months. From singing in the group, the order in which I like things most are: 1) learning songs everyday. 2) practicing with the group everyday in New York. 3) I like very much to perform the songs, but compared to the months of learning and the hours of practice, it is the least favorite part. But I do love it too!
For a God-music-lover,
Each soulful song
Is a most delicious banquet.
Sri Chinmoy 2
There are challenges and spiritual fulfillment everywhere in learning the songs. Struggling with health issues for years, my memory went down the drain, and occasionally I would carry the music in my hands but have no strength to lift them up to my face so that I could look at them. On the sunny side, there are always bright moments and eventually I always learned the songs one way or another.
God the Supreme Musician
Tells His spiritual children
That they are
His Heavenly Songs. 6
Yesterday God told me a secret:
If He had not composed
So many earth-illumining songs,
He would have discovered
A most deplorable vacuum,
A real sorrowful emptiness
Inside His Heart. 7
- 1. Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, Part 66, Agni Press, 1983
- 2. a. b. Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 228, Agni Press, 1996
- 3. a. b. c. Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 16, Agni Press, 1999
- 4. Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 169, Agni Press, 1992
- 5. Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 6, Agni Press, 1998
- 6. a. b. Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 16, Agni Press, 1999
- 7. Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 95, Agni Press, 1984