Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Learning Music - Part II (Feeling to learn)

Now, no one can be taught to feel. That’s impossible. However, there is a roundabout way of getting there and that is by practicing love. And I don’t mean the crack-cocaine version of love that has spawned the book, film, poetry and quotable quotes industries but the real thing – altruistic love or loving kindness or metta. The Buddha is very specific on this point: “Practice loving kindness oh monks. One becomes clever by doing so”. Of course, he doesn’t use the word “clever”. Instead, he uses the word “Buddhi” stemming from the word “avabuddhi or avabodha” or internalizing or (you got it) - knowing.

Metta leads to feeling leads to knowing.

So, it doesn’t take much to figure out that by engaging everything and everyone with equal, unreflecting love, one acquires deep, insightful sensitization to the subtleties of their existence and from those stem the initial asha or desire to be one, or become one with one’s object of focus at any given point.For the purpose of this piece, those would be musical instruments and how they can be loved and how they can reward that love with the music they make with one and on behalf of one.

Yet, desire is not sufficient although it must form the basis of any instrument you wish to play. You need the discipline, the exercise, the peer engagement. Those are provided by the guru and the choice of the guru is crucial to progress. The Guru can be a) a physical human being, b) a book or c) experience. A person works best, a book is next and experience a poor last (one needs to bump one’s head on the lintel a few dozen times before one realizes that one is an inch taller than the lintel).

Gurus do not happen by chance. They become a student’s guru, because a student feels sufficiency in desire. Many students make the mistake of going for instruction to a great guru (and paying through their parent’s noses for it) believing that excellence is a necessary outcome of surface association. Not so. Teachers might “learn” you an instrument but gurus don’t. Gurus won’t. Gurus can’t. Regardless of what you pay such a one, if a guru sees no sufficiency in desire, she will merely teach you well. Remember therefore that even if you consider such a one your guru, the guru won’t consider you his disciple as Musila found out to his detriment. 

Now, a lot of people, mistaking greed for need, lust for desire, thanha for asha, believe that learning is a process of acquiring something one lacks. Actually, it is the collateral outcome of a tripartite association, an engagement, a fornication if you may - between a student, a teacher and an instrument. In Asian traditions, students humble themselves and bow before both the teacher and the instrument for without such devotion and humility neither will look their way nor feel for them nor feel with them. Contrasting with the arrogance of the present day “student” and “teacher” where it is all “me” and “you”, all big or small, all hit or miss, the best of students finds the greatest of teachers every time and seek merely to pay homage at their feet. All else that follows is incidental.

And that which is incidental is a factor of a student’s own sufficiency and rises from the three-way associative engagement mentioned above. If you are sufficient, then you would already know what I am about to tell you. You will go to a teacher for six different types of sansarga (copulation/engagement). Drushti or sight tsansarga (this is first and one goes to a teacher merely to be thrilled by the sight of him, the voice of him, the way of him, the perfume of him). Next, Shabdha or sound sansarga (you have graduated to actually hearing what she has to say). Next, Ghanda or iva or olfactory sansarga (you instinctively know what he is going to say before he says it since you are now capable of literally and figuratively smelling him). Next, Kabali or taste sansarga (you go to her to be fed, clothed, sheltered and to bind your rasa to hers). Next, sparsha or touch sansarga (you need to physically copulate at which point the teacher gives of her own blood to the disciple) and finally, chiththa or mental sansarga (the two are physically removed from each other, but the disciple only needs to think of the guru and will instantly obtain the solution to any problem that vexes her).  

Truly, then, you know what you have studied with the guru. Truly you will believe, as Barenboim tells the young Lang Lang, that you can create a crescendo on a single note although in theory that is impossible. Truly you will believe, as Horowitz told the 14 year old Berenboim to believe - in the power of the will of a knowing musician. Truly you will know, not the clinical mastery of speed play nor the beauty of subtle ornamentation nor the technical wizardry of tricking out - and tripping up - the metronome but of the force in you, the sensor, the knower, the seer, to unlock the potency – and the poesy - of a single note. 

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