My Sadguru and me, a journey through music.
As the next generation of Appaji's devotees make their way into the spotlight, the son of renown Hanuman bhakta Gyan Ramlogan, comes to the forefront to lead the charge for the next generation. Sadguru Maharaj ki ! Jai!
For as long as I’ve known myself, I was always fascinated and intrigued by music. It was also something that came to me naturally in some strange way. Till this day I can remember melodies and lyrics for Bhajans that were last sung when I was a toddler and it always had me wondering ‘where did this ability come from?’ Then as I grew older, it dawned on me--Sadguru’s Grace! Or is it a gift from the Divine of some kind? Regardless of the perspective, I am pretty sure Sadguru is involved in some way.
My first physical meeting with His Holiness Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji began in 1995 when I was only three or four months old. I can’t remember the exact moment as you’d expect but I have been fortunate enough to not know what my life without my Sadguru would have felt like. Like others who would have given their own personal experiences, there was no moment of boundless bliss and unfolding of inner effulgence when I first saw Sri Swamiji. Instead I was grown up and nurtured under His watchful eyes and at every turn in my life I could feel His presence. For me, that is enough.
Where does Music fit in in all of this?
During my childhood I would always be caught singing. My favorites were Bollywood songs that Shah Rukh Khan himself would “sing” in his films. I had no interest in singing bhajans as singing was something I’d do while doing mundane tasks. However, it was my mother who discovered my gift for singing and of course her first thought was for me to begin learning and singing Appaji’s bhajans. Little did she and I know, the learning phase had already started. The only thing left was for me to just sing His bhajans. But her constant nagging made my innate rebellious nature come to the fore and I would refuse time and time again. When did the learning phase begin? It began before I was born because as long as I can remember and this was confirmed by my parents, I was attending service at the Dattatreya Yoga Center from as long as it was safe for a newborn baby to leave his home. My father was at the time, and still is, an instrumental member of the Satsangh group and growing up, I was dragged along to Satsanghs at devotees’ homes or at the ashram. Therefore, Appaji’s bhajans have been engrained in me ever since.
My attitude starts to change
It was at the age of fifteen years old when things changed. It was the period immediately after I had completed my CSEC examinations and I was awaiting the results. Sri Swamiji was carded to visit Trinidad in 2010 for around eight days in the July-August of that year so naturally Bhajan practice was in full swing. My father at the time was the leader of the Satsangh group and accompanied by another devotee, Mrs Tiwari, would teach the rest of the group members the bhajans. One day, out of complete boredom, I asked my Dad if I could attend the bhajan practice for that day as I had nothing else to do. He agreed and off we went. As the session went on, I became more and more impatient and fidgety. I did not know why but I was somehow dissatisfied with the way the session was being carried out.
I can distinctly remember at the time that the bhajans being taught were the bhajans from Swamiji’s Devi Navratri 2008 album. To my own surprise I knew the bhajans. Never once did I ever sing the bhajans prior to that day. Maybe I may have heard it playing from the CDs at home at a couple instances but as my musical interest lied in alternative rock music, I barely paid any attention to it. By the next day, Mrs Tiwari and I were carrying on the practice sessions. Melodies, rhythm, pronunciation, emotion, feeling- everything came naturally from me. I was awestricken by this happening. “How is this happening?” I repeatedly questioned myself but no answer came.
One Darshan is enough
Fast forward a few days to a program being held at the then ‘Penal Ashram’ and the bhajan group was singing as Sri Swamiji performed Sri Chakra Puja. Nearing the end of the puja, I was instructed by my father to sing. My bhajan of choice was “Sthapita Bhavita.” Naturally I was nervous but as the bhajan proceeded I felt nothing. In fact till this day I can only remember the beginning chorus and ending chorus and nothing in between. I was a complete bystander. How? Because I feel that Appaji took over my singing. I can even recall the moment I closed my eyes and I strongly believe that was when he “took the wheel”. At the end of the bhajan, I opened my eyes and Sri Swamiji was standing approximately five feet away from me and as I looked at Him, He was staring directly into my eyes. His expression was serious. At first I was scared. I thought maybe the bhajan wasn’t sung correctly or some error was made in the execution of the melody. But no. It felt like He was telling me “ You have finally come back to me. Now, do not ever leave again. You must continue to sing my bhajans!” As was mentioned before, I had no interest in singing bhajans. My devotion and all round spiritual life was nil. But He never left me. To say that I strayed from His path would be correct. But that day I returned and more than ever I found my purpose.
Fulfilling my dream
As time went by, I continued to sing Sri Swamiji’s bhajans but not with as much consistency as I should have been doing. Over time I began to find real joy and bliss in singing Sri Swamiji’s bhajans and one day I remember saying in a prayer to Appaji that I would really like to sit on the stage with Sri Swamiji during one of His bhajan sessions and get the opportunity to be one of His chorus singers. In 2012, the opportunity came. Appaji was conducting his usual bhajan sessions one evening when He spotted my guru bhai Neval Chatelal sitting in the crowd. I was seated next to him. Sri Swamiji then gestured to Neval to join Him on stage. However, Neval in his usual playful manner gestured to Sri Swamiji that I should also come. Sri Swamiji agreed and my dream was fulfilled. Sri Swamiji was coming to the end of the bhajan session when he looked at Neval and told him to sing. Neval then looked to me seeking assistance I as to what he should sing. We agreed that he should sing “Sri Hanuman Jaya Hanuman” as it was a bhajan that Neval had previously sung for Sri Swamiji. Immediately Neval’s mind went blank. He could not remember the lyrics nor the melody or anything so in a state of panic, looked over to me and told me that I would have to sing instead. The pressure was on. Sri Swamiji was waiting, hundreds of eyes staring at me from the crowd, Appaji’s musicians urging us to hurry up and so I started. In usual fashion I closed my eyes and began. Near to the end of the bhajan, Neval eventually took over and the bhajan then ended to a thunderous applause from the crowd. Next came the most satisfying words I came to hear that night. Sri Swamiji said to the congregation that the singing of the bhajan took Him back to the Gandhamadana mountains (the place where scriptures say that Lord Hanuman usually goes to meditate) and that He was deep in meditation throughout the bhajan. In my humble opinion, there is no better feeling than hearing that you were able to invoke such feelings into Sadguru by your mere singing. But again, it wasn’t me. It was all Sri Swamiji’s doing. The entire leela that occurred on the stage that evening was orchestrated and executed by none other than Appaji himself.
Sri Swamiji’s bhajans –extraordinary power
While I can recount many more memories that I was blessed to have, I have chosen to write about these two as I believe it laid the foundation for the person and devotee I am today. Sri Swamiji constantly speaks about the fact that His bhajans are not ordinary bhajans. They have healing and mystical powers that can take practitioners to great heights in their spiritual pursuits. His music has the ability to create good and destroy the sorrows and ills of His devotees. My life thus far has been testament to this fact. People often approach me asking me where I learnt to sing and they are shocked to hear that I was never taught to sing. This is not to sound egoistic but it is to testify that it is all Sri Swamiji’s doing.
I am a mere instrument
I am but an instrument in His hand and each day I pray that I can be useful to Him and to His mission. For this gift I am especially grateful and I have pledged to use my talents and gifts in service of my Sadguru wherever I go. I have promised that I will always try to improve and give my best in my limited knowledge and capabilities in singing Sri Swamiji’s bhajans. It is where I am able to connect heart to heart with my Sadguru and where I can repeatedly surrender and seek refuge at His Holy feet. He is the cause of my very existence and is the cause of all causes. He is Sat-chit-ananda.
“The fastest way to my heart is through my bhajans.”- Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji.