Tag Archives: Beatles

Return to the “Summer of Love” – World Domination Summit Style

Happiness SprinklingIt’s taken me a few weeks to digest a question I’ve been living with. “What just happened?” It was a two-and-a-half day whirlwind of positive energy and happiness sprinkling of love, peace and community.  An outstanding example of how 2,800 people can come together in authentically supportive community. It was hectic and overwhelming at times, and joyful and inspiring at others. “It” was the yearly World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon, instigated by author and world traveler Chris Guillebeau.

As I’m approaching the launch of my book, Confessions of a Middle-Aged Hippie, I’ve been sharing with people that we are all hippies at heart. People often turn up their nose and say emphatically, “I’m not a hippie.” I smile. I’m talking less about hippie in a lifestyle sense, and more about hippie at a core value sense. Then it struck me. The people who come to WDS are the hippies of this generation.

The WDS credo of “community, adventure and service” is this generation carrying forward the values the hippies birthed back in the 60s. Hippies were considered counterculture, revolutionaries who stood for peace, love and changing the world for the better. Radical for the time. WDSers stand for living remarkable lives in a conventional world and being of service, as they lovingly plot their world changing. Hippies were known to live alternative lifestyles and many WDSers definitely live alternative lifestyles.

Hippies stood for the very values that are currently part of the popular conversation. Do you live from a place of gratitude, include music and art in your life, and see how being in community and of service, are fulfilling why we all are here? You are a hippie. Do you meditate, do yoga and continue to do inner transformational work? You are a hippie. Are you a seeker, exploring spirituality and contributing to being a co-creator for a conscious planet? You are a hippie. Or maybe you value organic living and sustainability and are compassionate, showing reverence for all living creatures. You are a hippie. At the core of who we are as human beings…we are all hippies.

MarchFourthAs I reflected a bit more, I began to see that WDS is a mini return to the “summer of love”. The 1967 convergence on the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco of up to 100,000 people, is credited for having initiating a major cultural and political shift in the world. It was a revolutionary time, with the energy and excitement of the era translated to the world in many ways, most memorably, through the music of the times. At WDS, music and collective group energy was alive, as we took over the zoo for our love-in opening party. We took over a zoo! 2,800 of us sitting in the open amphitheater Woodstock style, spread out on the grass, dancing, talking and connecting, as we were being entertained by MarchFourth, a colorful marching band whose outfits are a throwback to the Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band attire.

Back in the 60s, we lived sharing music and art when coming together in community.  Today, WDSers have the power to spread both the individual and group message and energy to millions of people worldwide in a matter of seconds via technology. And they do. One of my unexpected favorite speakers this year was Jia Jiang, whose “rejection therapy” talk demonstrated how powerful stepping outside your comfort zone for fear of being rejected can be, as it often produces the most amazing life affirming results.

For me, the interesting parallel between the 60s to now is actually written in the heavens.  Back in the mid-60s, Uranus (planet of revolution, rebellion and sudden change) was conjunct Pluto (planet of transformation, rebirth and breaking with tradition), igniting an inescapable time-release charge of radical transformation in culture and individuals.  Before this time, the human potential for enlightenment of “all people” had been reserved for an occasional saint or guru. Back then, this taste of expanded consciousness germinated a cultural seed, giving birth to a new kind of individual. Suddenly it became an expansive possibility for everyone, and hippies were the first to get that. Right-on.

In my understanding of astrology, what happened during the conjunction of Uranus and Pluto in the 60s, would manifest globally as soon as these two planets reached their first square. If you haven’t heard, we are in a period where we are experiencing seven exact squares of Uranus and Pluto, starting in 2012 and ending in 2015! Supercharged times of revolutionary and sudden changes at the core level of both individuals and institutions. Where have you felt this in your own life?

People often wonder where have all the hippies gone? They became lawyers who sued for protecting air and water quality and for damages from chemical pollution. They began changing the world by starting companies that produced products that were Earth-friendly, ecologically-sound, technologically advanced and socially conscious. I see Portland as a progressive hub of this energy, alive and flourishing. And it is spreading out into the world at gatherings of people like the World Domination Summit.

An ageless example of what WDS stands for was 84-year-old Bob Moore, founder of “Bob’s Red Mill”, as his deep understanding of the value of working in community was reflected in his “Put people before profit. Share with those who helped you build it.” Bob MooreThis consciousness allowed this visionary Aquarian to give the company to his employees, handing it over to them on his 81st birthday. Cool.

For those of us WDSers who actually lived in the 60s and got to be part of this shift in consciousness, it’s incredible to see what was known to a relative few worldwide back then, but which is now alive and part of the big earth shifts.  Consciousness and spirituality are embraced as part of who we are. Yoga is done by millions of men and women everywhere daily, and meditation is encouraged for inner peace, the only place world peace can start from. Creativity is the new keyword in education, business and life. Connection and person-to-person sharing are still alive, even in a technological world that is often credited with creating isolation.

This is the real reason people come to Portland each July, to meet face to face with amazing people they want to connect with. WDS is a strong and powerful community. It is a growing community. It is for people of all ages, all ethnicities, from all walks of life. It is a love-in, a peace-in and a groovy way to spend a few days in absolutely, awesomely inspiring company. Power to the people. Until next year’s return to the summer of love. Peace-Out!

Visit me at: www.beverleygolden.com  or follow me on Twitter: @goldenbeverley

Images of MarchFourth and Bob Moore courtesy of Armosa Studios

Is Yoga Hinduism? Yes and No and Maybe

Recently, a debate played out on the Washington Post’s On Faith blog between Aseem Shukla, a physician who heads the Hindu American Foundation, and Deepak Chopra. The argument, which was also reported on in Newsweek, began with Shukla’s essay, “The Theft of Yoga,” in which he lamented that the phenomenal popularity of yoga has been achieved at a cost, namely its disconnection from the tradition that gave it birth.
 
"Yoga originated in Hinduism,” he wrote. “It’s disingenuous to say otherwise. A little bit of credit wouldn’t be a bad thing, and it would help Hindu Americans feel proud of their heritage." Deepak countered on historical grounds, and on the grounds that modern yoga is one response to the need for a secularized spirituality that transcends religious forms.
 
It seems like an almost comical irony: yoga proponents, including many of Indian descent, disassociate yoga from Hinduism, while many Hindus wish to claim it. In fact, it is a tribute to the tremendous depth and complexity of India’s spiritual heritage that both sides can be considered correct. The same teachings can be understood in spiritual/religious terms and in secular/scientific terms. 
 
The problem is largely one of language. “Hinduism” is, by definition, a religious term. It was coined by British imperialists to describe the dominant spirituality of the “Hindus,” which is what the inhabitants of the Indus River region were called by earlier invaders. What we call Hinduism is actually so multifaceted as to make the sects of Christianity look uniform by comparison. It has also been the victim of centuries of misconceptions—e.g., that it is polytheistic—thanks to mendacious colonists, condescending missionaries and ordinary ignorance. Further complicating the matter, the everyday religion of India is as different from the teachings that caught on in America as everyday Judaism is from Kaballah or Sunday morning Christianity is from the mysticism of Meister Eckhart or John of the Cross. 
 
As a result, many people prefer not to use the term Hinduism, favoring instead Sanatana Dharma (the original term, commonly translated as Eternal Path), or phrases such as “Vedic tradition” or “Indian philosophy.” All of which means that you can argue for or against the premise that yoga stems from Hinduism, depending on how you define that term and interpret its history.
 
None of this is new.  About 200 years ago, Ralph Waldo Emerson, America’s greatest homegrown philosopher, read the first translations of Hindu texts to land in Boston Harbor. While he made explicit his debt to Vedic philosophy, he blended those ideas with other ingredients in his Transcendentalist stew, and the individual flavors are not always easy to identify. That kind of adaptation has been going on ever since.
 
The first guru to grace our shores was Swami Vivekananda, the star of the landmark Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1893. In the face of attacks from Christian leaders, Vivekananda patiently explained and fiercely defended Hinduism. But, when he created an organization to carry on his teachings, he named it the Vedanta Society, not the Hinduism Society. It was an accurate term, since Vedanta was the component of the Vedic legacy that he emphasized, but it was also an expedient one, since it did not carry religious baggage that might cause people to think he was out to convert them. To this day, there are monks and nuns in Vivekananda’s lineage who refuse to call themselves Hindus, while others happily accept the label. 
 
A few decades later, Paramahansa Yogananda made similar choices. He named his organization the Self-Realization Fellowship, not the Hindu Fellowship, and the title of his enormously popular memoir was Autobiography of a Yogi, not Autobiography of a Hindu. Then came the perfect storm of the Sixties, when Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (with the help of the Beatles) ushered Transcendental Meditation into the mainstream and convinced scientists to study the practice. His organization was an educational non-profit, not a religious one, and his rendering of Vedanta was called the Science of Creative Intelligence. 
 
Like those three seminal figures, virtually every guru and yoga master who came to the West made similar adaptations.  They expounded various components of what the world calls Hinduism, but in a universal context, and they were circumspect about using the word Hinduism. They offered a spiritual science – a science of consciousness if you will – and not a religion as such. Therefore, Americans were free to utilize the teachings on their own terms, whether religious or secular. Millions took them up on it. In the process American spirituality changed, and so did healthcare, psychology, philosophy, and even, to some extent, physics. 
 
I just devoted about 400 pages to analyzing this history for a book that will be published in November. Its title is American Veda, not some variation on Hinduism in America.  My publisher (Doubleday) and I made that decision because: 1) if Hinduism were in the title potential readers might think it is only about the religion practiced in Hindu temples, and 2) what influenced American culture was a combination of the philosophy of Vedanta and the mental and physical practices of yoga, not the everyday Hinduism that most people associate with exotic rituals and colorful iconography. 
 
From the perspective of Hindus who are proud of their great heritage, such choices are unfortunate. Advocates like Dr. Shukla are doing what they need to do to rehabilitate the image of their ancestral religion, and I for one hope they succeed. At the same time, we probably would not be having this conversation at all if the influential gurus had not made the choices they did. How many Americans would have taken up meditation or yoga if those practices had been offered to them as Hinduism?  Probably the about as many Indians who would have embraced the science of physics if it had been presented as Christian cosmology.
 
I look forward to the day when people like me can use the term Hinduism without fear of being misconstrued.  In the meantime, it is incumbent upon yoga proponents to give credit where it is due, not just because India deserves it after centuries of exploitation, but to keep the spiritual and philosophical foundation of yoga in the foreground. If those deeper elements are lost and yoga comes to be seen as just another fitness exercise, we will fail to take full advantage of its gifts. Most veteran yoga teachers recognize this, which puts them on the same page as the Hindu advocacy groups – except for that pesky issue of nomenclature. I would urge them all to not let arguments over terminology overshadow what really matters: the depth and authenticity of the teachings. Putting substance over form would be in keeping with the most fundamental premise of Hinduism and the Vedic tradition that predates that term by centuries: “Truth is one, the wise call it by many names.”  

Moments with the Maestro: Sitar maestro Ravi Shankar turns 89

The word ’improvisation’ to me means to never stop”-Pandit Ravi Shankar

 In the past almost 9 years that I have known Pandit Ravi Shankar, his lovely wife Sukanya and their brilliant, multi talented daughter Anoushka, I have written a lot about the maestro, his music and beyond.

Today as he turns 89, I sit here wondering, how can I or anyone else capture the soul of a man who was born to be a musician; a man, whose childlike curiosity even today about so much that is beyond music is so endearing. His penchant for perfection still courses through those frail hands at 89, only to display  flashes of his genius in the lightning bolts of melody that resonate through the air in concerts-now on a special baby sitar created especially for him. And this after he had lost his hearing in one ear many years ago.

 Pandit Ravi Shankar’s musical journey began long before I was even born and now when I look at it, Pandit ji interestingly became a part of a family where improvisation became a way of life in more ways than one. When you trace the story of Pandit Ravi Shankar, you see a series of happy accidents that seemed to have happened, just to take him where he finally reached.

And the word improvisation took on a new meaning as well! It didn’t just mean never to stop, it meant never stop going with the flow.

 And perhaps, you can say it was destined.

 In my first in-depth interview with Ravi ji, he told me his earliest memories of music were of lying in Benaras on the roof at night, watching the stars and hearing his mother sing thumris to him as she put him to sleep, along with mythological stories and the names of all the stars and about her childhood. His mother was a strong, but short, influence in his life, and died when he was 16.

 This was a far cry from stories I heard from Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, who was born in a family of legendary musicians or Ustad Shujaat Khan, whose father the legendary sitarist Ustad Vilayat Khan Sahib too was from a family of great maestros.

 In fact Ustad Amjad Ali Khan had said to me “As far as Ravi Shankar is concerned, my greatest admiration for him stems from the fact that here is a man who had no gharana to talk about. His father was not a musician, his guru’s father was not a musician. On top of that his guru was a sarod player. Look at the odds he beat to become the extraordinary musician he became. His contribution in putting Indian classical music on the map is so obvious and so well documented that I’m surprised when I hear any one saying to the contrary. He is truly a self made musician and he deserves every accolade that has come his way.”

 Pandit ji’s illustrious brother Uday Shankar again was adept at improvisation; a self taught dancer he dazzled a world audience with his talent. Ravi ji had recalled that, “he could simply visualize movements while looking at photographs and sculptures and he also had seen folk dances at different festival and came up with brilliant, original and unique work. Of course later on he did study art, dance and history of different regions of India.”

 Uday Shankar taught Ravi ji so much by example-how to conduct yourself, how to present your work in the best possible way. The quest for that perfection stems from those early years, and remains the hallmark of any Ravi Shankar concert you attend.  His only regret, Ravi ji said to me was that he grew up far too quickly. Still he loved being surrounded by music and dance.

 And yet again, just like that, Ravi ji was plucked from the glitzy lifestyle to the Spartan surroundings of Maihar and the strict discipline and rigorous routine of his guru, the legendary Baba Allauddin Khan. Baba had joined Uday Shankar’s troupe in 1935. His genius, says Ravi ji, totally changed his own focus from dance to music. “I was more of a dancer then. I used to fiddle with all the instruments including sitar without really being serious, but Baba’s genius bowled me over totally. After a year he went back to India, when I was 16. But 2 years later I followed him to his village of Maihar, leaving my wonderful luxurious life with my brother.”

It wasn’t easy-Ravi ji even tried to run away because the strict discipline got to him, but better sense prevailed and the maestro returned. The most important lesson Ravi ji learnt from his guru was that music is “devotion, meditation and prayer and we must always preserve its sanctity.” And that divinity still emanates from his performances.

The constant hype about Ravi ji’s foray into the west is invariably tied to his relationship with the Beatles. He has also faced his share of snide comments about jamming with them. The truth is that Ravi ji met Yehudi Menuhin in 1952 and struck a friendship with him and Menhuin  asked Ravi ji to come to the west. “I met George Harrison almost 10 years later in 1966. I was already very well known in Europe and USA by then, playing in all the famous auditoriums”.

And though he greatly influenced Harrison, Ravi ji NEVER jammed with the Beatles, a fact not many people realize or choose to remember. In fact if there was one thing that makes the maestro unique is the fact that every musician he has collaborated with, has played Ravi ji’s compositions. And to this day, both as a composer and arranger, Ravi Shankar calls the shots. Ravi Shankar never ventured into any kind of fusion. His presentation was innovative but always within the classical tradition. Zakir put it very concisely when he said- “Ravi Shankar did not venture into fusion because he was needed to establish Indian music and make people of the west understand what it was all about. That was the immense contribution of artists of his time — to lay the foundation, the platform upon which artists like me can bounce other things, and even cross over, because today our identity is set and we can innovate but we will never lose that base.”

Ravi ji told me that he felt in those times that he was walking on a thin edged sword. “On one hand I was receiving so much love and appreciation abroad, and I would have become a multimillionaire many times over and won many more Grammies, if I had jammed with all these musicians from the west. I composed the raga and talas for Menuhin and Jean Pierre Ramphal and they played my compositions. I never wanted to play Bach or Beethoven with them because I felt I was not trained in western classical music and hence it would be inappropriate for me to try a hand at it. The Indian musicians and critics, on the other hand, were very unkind misrepresenting what I was doing. They claimed I was Americanizing and commercializing our music, that I had become part of the pop and rock culture. My music, tantra, kamasutra, sex and drugs all were being lumped together. It was a strange atmosphere for almost 10 years Even the late Ustad Vilayat Khan, a wonderful musician, God bless his soul, would take digs at me. In the first 20 minutes of his recital he would say something to the effect of this is not the “Beatley Sitar” that I’m playing this is the real sitar!
In fact I hated that loud and drug infested aspect of music. I had walked away from watching Jimi Hendrix because he was being obscene and set fire to his guitar. It was such disrespect to the instrument. Discordant music makes me physically ill. I have been a composer myself and I love to experiment all the time, but whatever I composed or experimented with was based on Indian music, be it classical or contemporary. But you will notice that I have never jammed with any jazz or rock artist. I am personally not interested in fusion music. It is very fashionable and popular today, but it will be forgotten soon. It is more of a gimmicky thing to sell records. I don’t want to criticize, but personally it’s not my thing.
It was exhausting work, but I would go back to
India and play the same raga for 5 hours, concert after concert, to prove to my critics that I was still as immersed in tradition and all I was trying to do was create an appreciation and understanding of our music. Today a lot of those musicians who criticized me have reaped the benefits along with their children, by finding fame and appreciation here.’ How true.

Perhaps one of the milestones in Ravi ji’s illustrious career is his brilliance as a composer of  concertos and what a fantastic arranger he is.  He recalls that “after the 70’s and 80’s I have written 3 major orchestral pieces. My first Concerto, commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Andre Previn (1970) was a thrilling experience! It had 4 movements ( Khamaj, Bhairavi, Adana and Manj Khamaj) I used modulation or swarabhed; changing the Tonic (sa) on the same basic Khamaj scale. Initially I thought that it would be difficult to handle sitar with the whole Symphony Orchestra. That is why I insisted on having amplification for the sitar. It did require practice, but the end result was satisfying, as it was a unique thing to have done at that time. Of course, Indian classical music is all about improvisation. I had written the piece for sitar with enough space to improvise, especially the piece where I play coming in to lead the orchestra.

 The second concerto, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and conducted by Zubin Mehta was more complex. I conceived about 36 Ragas for its 4 movements, displaying some longer (Lalit, Yaman, and Desh) and the others in shorter form. Zubin asked me to put some hot  chilli in the composition, so I did that by using scales and Ragas which were difficult for Western musicians such as Lalit, Marwa etc and Talas having 51/2 and 131/2 beats (matras).

 ARPAN was performed at The Royal Albert Hall – in memory of George Harrison, was very moving. Anoushka conducted it.”

 In January, I flew to New Jersey to see the world premiere of Ravi ji’s 3rd concerto written for Sitar and Orchestra especially for his daughter Anoushka and performed with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. The presentation was sold out at Carnegie Hall as well as Chicago and Pennsylvania, the three major venues for the premiere.

There are only three concertos for sitar and orchestra and all have been written by Ravi Shankar. The latest piece captures the essence and soul of India’s folk music –a gift for daughter Anoushka, about a princess who falls in love with a humble servant boy, the anguish of adolescent love and parting and then the joy of reunion. It has been as fascinating for the audience as it has been for the musicians themselves. The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra performs without a conductor, and performing with a sitarist was a novel experience for them. They knew of the legendary maestro, but nothing about the instrument, had only heard about Anoushka, read her bio but had no clue what they were in for.  Anoushka too wasn’t sure how they would all stay in rhythm, minus a conductor, and how it would all blend together.

 The end result was mesmerizing, in how it all came together on stage as I sat totally enchanted through the three movements. Ravi ji said the ragas he chooses for any composition come to him as if in a divine blessing or inspiration and this time was no different, he said. He also says that in his mind this beautiful concerto was born as a ballet. Perhaps it’s his persona as a dancer that is often reflected in his compositions and even in the way his body literally dances on stage as he plays the sitar. He says it is his dream now that perhaps a ballet may emerge out of this. Now that Amjad Ali Khan has written and performed the concerto for Sarod Ravi ji added, “I am very happy to see other Indian Musicians following suit and writing for Indian Instruments and western Orchestra.”

 Ravi ji’s compositions with Yehudi Menhuin in the West meets East cd, were released in 1967, but those pieces still remain one of his most loved. When daughter Anoushka performed one of the pieces based on raga Mishra Pilu, at the Verbier Festival, it brought the house down and remains one of the most loved segments on my website.

I was in Savannah to attend a concert by Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma and Ustad Zakir Hussain on 31st March as part of the Savannah Music festival. One of the surprise items was a duet between Zakir and Violinist Daniel Hope and guess what they played..the same piece from  West meets East. And so the fact remains that Ravi Shankar’s impact on Indian and world Music still continues to span generations, and inspire musicians across the world.

Over the years, I have seen Pandit Ravi Shankar battle life threatening illnesses, and do farewell tours each time to return once again to everyone’s joy-he is constantly teased about it, but Sukanya says she continues to encourage him to compose because music is his life. The man, his music, the world stage and audiences of different ages and eras, are inextricably bound by love of music and love of the man himself, year after year.  I have seen the intense love, the tears in the eyes of the people, each time he walks on stage. The entire ambience changes with his presence. It’s as if everything morphs into a more divine, more resonant, more soulful version of itself. The entire auditorium just flows with love. How often do I wish we could replicate that in a world full of jealousy, envy, one-upmanship, non inclusion where people rejoice in the failures of others, and we often find ourselves overwhelmed by  a world today of economic imbalance  that has seen, violently tragic consequences and loneliness; where depression seem to be rampant.

 Over the years, I have seen Pandit Ravi Shankar battle life threatening illnesses, and do farewell tours each time to return once again to everyone’s joy-he is constantly teased about it, but Sukanya says she continues to encourage him to compose because music is his life. The man, his music, the world stage and audiences of different ages and eras, are inextricably bound by love of music and love of the man himself, year after year. I have seen the intense love, the tears in the eyes of the people, each time he walks on stage. The entire ambience changes with his presence. It’s as if everything morphs into a more divine, more resonant, more soulful version of itself. The entire auditorium just flows with love. How often do I wish we could replicate that in a world full of jealousy, envy, one-upmanship, non inclusion where people rejoice in the failures of others, and we often find ourselves overwhelmed by a world today of economic imbalance that has seen, violently tragic consequences and loneliness; where depression seem to be rampant. I have heard snide as well as ignorant comments passed, and I wondered-why are we so anxious to focus on the negative? Why do we presume we know everything about someone’s life by just reading media reports and why do we always have a holier than thou attitude about others?

 I remember seeing him in concert last October and thinking somehow of what Sukanya had said to me a few years ago. I had written then,  As I sat watching Ravi ji play and Anoushka and Tanmoy Bose accompany him, I wondered if people who get dazzled by Ravi ji’s success or are envious of it, and those who complain about Sukanya being too tough, have ever realized the blood, sweat and tears that are such an integral part of an artist’s life who reaches any where, leave alone, when he becomes a front runner in the art he represents?

 How many people really know of Ravi ji’s ill health and how many odds he has had to beat. How many people know that he can’t hear from one ear for the longest possible time, that the day of the concert, a Sunday, his hearing aid broke and if it wasn’t for a kind physician who came in to fix things, things would have been tough. But knowing Ravi Shankar, the man has music in every cell of his body and he would have played and played well no matter what the circumstances.”

 I had also written something else in that review. I had said- ”It’s also interesting to me that many Indians will ask me-why is he still playing? The non Indians on the other hand, are so grateful that they can still be fortunate enough to see those flashes of melodic brilliance when musicians half his age, are fading out.”

This discrimination is something Ravi ji has had to battle all his life. The immense admiration and adulation in the west and the acrimony and petty jealousies at home, have dogged him and yet to this day I have never seen him complain about or criticize anyone. He remains very simple and very accessible and loves meeting people from every walk of life. The last time we met there were people in the room who had grown up before his eyes and the love and warmth has continued over the years.

 And for those who have grumbled about Sukanya, let me say that I find her to be a very rare human being. I’m sure she has had her own growing up to do over the years as a young, inexperienced girl who first fell in love with the great maestro and was thrust in the limelight. For her to create a strong, sacred space for him to flourish, both as an artist and remain a healthy human being, must have meant making some mistakes, and baptism by fire literally as she must have tried separating the hangers on and fair weather friends from those who were genuine well wishers. It must have also meant facing the wrath of many while being the shield and a strong support system for Ravi ji and her young daughter.

The Sukanya I know today is very loving, intensely loyal, generous, giving and thoughtful and I’m proud to call her my friend. Much as I love everyone in that household Sukanya knows she is the one I have the softest corner for. Ravi ji often jokes when we meet-“I know you women are always up to something, and we are”. It was Sukanya who told me about this irrepressible crush Ravi ji had on the legendary Lata Mangeshkar and never told her, and I got him on to confess about it in a lovely interview he gave about Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Lata ji did hear about it since she interviewed for the same segment! All of Ravi ji’s secrets are mischievously revealed by Sukanya, who has the most infectious tinkling laughter I have heard.

In all the hullabaloo that surrounds Raviji and has surrounded him through the years, people have come and gone out of his life but Sukanya has remained that one constant pillar of strength who literally snatched him from the mouth of death a couple of times and nursed him back to health and vigor. I have also seen her brim with joy as Ravi ji continues to defy all odds and is perhaps going to start another innings as a composer, writer par excellence of music and much much more. And this tribute to Ravi Shankar cannot be complete without the woman who is truly his soul mate in so many ways.

 It is also wonderful to see the close relationship Anoushka has with her sister Norah Jones and how fond Sukanya is of her. Ravi ji too has a warm rapport with Norah and is obviously proud of her achievements and the fact that she has made it on her own steam.

The last time we met we were talking about getting him to start a blog. Perhaps then so many who have waited for years to reach out and connect with this fascinating, very lovable man would be that much closer to the truth of Ravi Shankar-a truth that has often been written in the way someone has wanted to write it-never in the words of Ravi Shankar himself.

Many happy returns of the day Ravi ji and wishing you many wonderful years full of good health and magical, divine music.

Meditate like The Beatles

According to Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the two remaining members of the Beatles, Transcedental Meditation helped stabilize their band. (Read more about it here.) They will be performing at a concert on Saturday to raise funds for the David Lynch Foundation, an organization dedicated to educating children meditation techniques in school.

This newsstory rocks. It combines my favorite musicians with one of my favorite film directors, and they are both dedicated to a spiritual practice that has become inseparable from my everyday existence.

Though my influence is not as far-reaching as The Beatles or David Lynch, I have become an unofficial PR for meditation among my limited circle of friends. Having started meditation about a year go, I now can’t imagine going through the day without meditating at least once or twice for twenty minutes at a time.

I fully support the efforts of The Beatles and the David Lynch Foundation. The idea of thousands upon thousands of school children closing their eyes and listening to the silence within them gives me tremendous hope. Considering that the next generation will grow up in an even faster and more complicated world than the one we are living in now, meditation at an early age seems less a proposal  and more a necessity to simply keep one’s sanity intact.

I can’t imagine a better panacea to the evils of the world than an entire global community focusing on the silence of their own inner peace. The battle is won one young mind at a time, one Beatles concert at a time.

Join the meditation revolution. Start learning meditation today.