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PART II: CONFESSIONS

CHAPTER 3
I START ON MY INDIAN TOUR
'The world shall live in me, not I in it.'
- Akhlaq-i Jalali.

GLORY be to God that this universal belief saved me from falling into the crooked
paths of bigotry and prejudice, on which so many children of God pass the night of
life like a flock of ignorant sheep. They walk in herds unto the very gates of death,
unaware of their Why and Whither, while even the voice of immortality cannot
recall them, and they are lost unto the ages!
When Maulabakhsh, my grandfather, died I was in deep despair. I grieved for a
very long time over the loss of my musical guide and inspiration, realizing the
uncertainty of this life, and that my own existence was only worth enduring if I
could be of some use to the world. I appreciated the great service Maulabakhsh had
rendered to India by giving its music a feasible system of notation, and wondered
how I could carry on his work.
At one period music in India was regarded not only as a medium for perfecting
humanity, but also as a spiritual manifestation. My grandfather, with his intense
feeling for both his art and his people, believed that music could only be raised from
its present degeneration by using it as a teacher of morals and a prophet of the
Lord's glory.
Once, in my utter despair at my futility in comparison with him, I broke down
completely, crying, 'Allah! If our people had lost only their wealth and power it
would not have been so grievous to bear, since these temporal things are always
changing hands in the mazes of Maya. But the inheritance of our race, the music of
the Divine, is also leaving us through our own negligence, and that is a loss my heart
cannot sustain!'
I invoked the name of Sharda, the goddess of music, and prayed her to protect her
sacred art.
And thus it cam about that I left my home with the view of creating a universal
system of music. I started out on this mission when I was eighteen years old, and
was welcomed at the courts of Rajas and Maharajas who greatly encouraged and
rewarded me for my efforts. From all the leading cities of India I received addresses
and medals in recognition and appreciation of my music, and thus increased the
number of my friends, pupils, and sympathizers throughout India.
'He who though dressed in fine apparel exercises tranquility, is quiet,
subdued, restrained, chaste, and has ceased to find fault with others, he
indeed is a Brahman, an ascetic, a friar.' - Dhammapada.
The Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Mahbub 'Ali Khan, a great mystic ruler of India and
a devotee of music and poetry showed me special favor. Several times my playing
moved the Nizam to tears; and when I had done he asked curiously, what mystery

lay in my music?
Then, answering him, I explained, 'Your Highness, as sound is the highest source of
manifestation, it is mysterious within itself, and whosoever has the knowledge of
sound, he indeed knows the secret of the universe. My music is my thought, and my
thought is my emotion; the deeper I dive into the ocean of feeling, the more beautiful
are the pearls I bring forth in the form of melodies. Thus my music creates feeling
within me even before others feel it. My music is my religion; therefore worldly
success can never be a proper price for it, and my sole object in music is to achieve
perfection.'
This explanation, together with my playing, charmed the Nizam so much that he
presented me with a purse full of golden coins, and placing his own precious
emerald ring upon my finger named me 'Tansen', after the great Indian singer of the
past. This incident brought me gifts and titles from all parts of India. But honors for
myself did not really satisfy me. How could I be content with my own exalted
position when my fellow musicians were looked upon with contempt by conservative
India?
Naturally I realized that it was due partly to the musicians themselves, who are as a
rule illiterate and who look to the princes and potentates for support, feeding their
false pride with flattery and subservience, and thus losing the independence and
inspiration of their art. Then again, the masses are untrained in the subject, while
the educated classes are far too busy adopting Western ideas and sacrificing
literature, philosophy, and music to polo, cricket, and tennis. I met many of the
latter, who made it a boast that they knew nothing about the music of their own
country, furnishing their homes with blaring gramophones and hiding their sitars
away in disgrace.
'O Thou whose kingdom passes not away, pity him whose kingdom is passing
away!'
- dying words of Caliph Vathek.

To my amazement and horror, all the medals and decorations which I had gathered
as emblems of my professional success, and which are a source of pride to me,
gained as they were by so much endeavor, enthusiasm, and the labor of many years
spent in constant wandering from place to place, were in a single instant snatched
away from me forever. In a moment of abstraction they were left in a car, which
could not be traced despite all my efforts. But in place of the disappointment, which
at first oppressed me, a revelation from God touched the hidden chords of my mind
and opened my eyes to the truth.
I said to myself, 'It matters not how much time you have spent to gain that which
never belonged to you but which you called your own; today you understand it is
yours no longer. And it is the same with all you possess in life, your property,
friends, relations; even your own body and mind. All that you call 'my', not being
your true property, will leave you, and only that which you name 'I', which is
absolutely disconnected with all that is called 'my', will remain. Why not go forth
and strive for that which is worth gaining in life? Why not thus attain to true glory,
instead of wasting your valuable opportunities in vain greed for wealth, fame,

reputation, and those worldly honors which are here today and forgotten
tomorrow?'
I knelt down and thanked God for the loss of my medals, crying, 'Let all be lost from
my imperfect vision but Thy true Self, Ya Allah!'
I then set forth in pursuit of philosophy, visiting every mystic I could on my
journeys to different Indian cities. I traveled through jungles, across mountains, and
along riverbanks in search of mystics and hermits, playing and singing before them
until they also sought my society.
It was in Nepal, during the pilgrimage of Pashpathinath, that I met a Muni among
several sages. He was a Mahatma of the Himalayas and lived in a mountain cave,
and untouched by the earthly contact, ambitions, and environments, he seemed to
be the happiest man in the world. After I had entertained him with my music he,
without seeming to notice, revealed to me the mysticism of sound, and unveiled
before my sight the inner mystery of music. I thereafter met other mystics, with
whom I discoursed on different subjects, and whose blessings I obtained through my
art.