I have to take this opportunity to reiterate (I think I’ve discussed it before) how eternally grateful I am to the recently departed sitar master Ravi Shankar.
When I first began to meditate, I could not figure out a way to still my mind. I could not yoke my chariot. I found that by putting on headphones and listening to music I was able to block out the sound around me. But I did not want just any music. I did not want words which would invoke wordscapes in my mind. I knew of Ravi Shankar because I had heard George Harrison talk about him.
And yes, he will forever be associated with the Beatles, and he greatly influenced Western music. He played the Monterrey Pop Festival in 1967, one of the monumental events in rock history! But I also think it does Ravi Shankar a tremendous disservice not to recall that he pretty much embodied Indian Classical music.
I always felt there was something mystical about the sound of the sitar. Not only was Shankar’s music not a distraction, it did take me to an unfamiliar state of consciousness. I don’t know that there was anything mystical about it. Perhaps just exotic to my Western ears. But I know that in some way his music helped me to bridge a gulf between a reckless mind and a calm(er) mind. And this experience allowed me to open myself up to the source of his music. The inspiration to his music. India and Sanatana Dharma.
Once I began to read what the Yoga masters of India had to say, I never looked back. I never doubted. And none of it would have been possible had I not been able to get over some of the first crucial, significant hurdles in meditation. I encourage anyone who is just starting out who is discouraged, to not stop, to carry on and get yourself over that hurdle to clarity.
Ravi Shankar not only bridged West to the East for me (as well as a couple of generations before me, but the clarity meditation brought allowed me to peer into a universe that did not need the explanation that I always seemed to yearn for. Yoga showed me a world which, somehow, explained itself.
And the first step came with the first note from a raga played by the fingertips of Ravi Shankar on his sitar.