Something a friend recently said got me thinking about songs that aid me in maintaining a bhakti state of mind. Often these are songs which lead us to a state of emotional awareness. I suppose for me it is something on “All Things Must Pass” by George Harrison. But there is another song which to me is a straight up celebration of Sanatana-Dharma. It is “Higher Ground” by Stevie Wonder, a song which I was introduced to by the cover version by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
It seems that every time a group of musicians get together for a cause or whenever there is an awards show which needs a musical act to fill in, Stevie Wonder is there, and invariably you’ll hear him closing the show with “Higher Ground.” Fine by me. I love the song, and that the message of our inevitable reunion with God is played out on every such TV special makes my heart smile. It seems to me that dharma wants to make itself heard by the many.
Stevie Wonder is a Christian man, and long ago went through his (as a pop star of the ’60s and ’70s) compulsory dalliance with Eastern mysticism. But surely he took a little bit of its lessons with him. The song’s verses send out pleas to people of all walks of life (soldiers, teachers, world leaders, and preachers, and even the World itself!) to keep doing what they were put here to do. Presumably because it is their personal dharma to do so. Even though, in doing so, they ignore that “the people keep on dying.” But the song reminds us that “it won’t be too long.” before all of this is over. A very hopeful message.
Then there is the chorus, one of the most uplifting refrains in rock history, methinks:
“I’m so darn glad He let me try it again,
‘Cause my last time on earth I lived a whole world of sin.
I’m so glad that I know more than I knew then.
Gonna keep on tryin’ till I reach the highest ground.”
Yeah, the song is called “Higher Ground” but Stevie never said that. He always sang “Highest” – Brahmaloka. Because he understood when he wrote it that this transmigration we undergo until we become jivanmuktis is much like a ladder. With each pass through this material world, we have the chance to take a few steps, or we have the chance to ascend to the very top. It is up to us, but we are blessed, by the Grace of the Lord with that never-expiring chance.
To me this song is a celebration of that which is actually a cause for celebration above and beyond any worldly occasion or festival. This song is a celebration of the All-loving, All-benevolent, All-observing Observer.