There was no Walk scheduled for today and the padayatris continued their stay in Pune. The only event was a musical rendition of Kathopanishad by Sunaad at the Ramakrishna Mission at 8.30am in the morning. Sunaad is an eclectic group of singers from Bangalore city composed of the school going and retired, of professional and amateur performers, hobbyists, homemakers and working professionals.
According to them, Indian classical music tends to stay confined to the purist domains of the formally trained, resulting in a wide divide between performers and the lay listener. Sunaad tries to bridge this divide, weaving in elements of theatre and story telling to try and demystify the complexity of classical music, making it more accessible to everyone.
Kathopanishad—a scripture that unveils the mystery of death and the meaning of life, tells a story of the beginning of time in the form of dialogue between young Nachiketa and Yama, the God of death. The universe was in the process of being created and not everything was in order or fully functioning. The Creator had one final task to complete and, he summoned an angel for this purpose.
“I have one last job to do in the making of the Universe, I've saved the best for last,” the Creator told the angel. “I have here the real meaning of human life, the treasure of life, the purpose and goal of all that I have created.
“Because this treasure is valuable beyond description,” the Creator continued, “I want you to hide it. Hide it so well that human beings will know its value to be immeasurable.”
“I will do so, Lord,” said the angel. “I will hide the treasure of life on the highest mountain top.”
“The treasure will be too easy to find there,” said the Creator.
“Then,” said the angel, “I will hide it in the great desert wilderness. Surely, the treasure will not be easily found there.”
“No, too easy.”
“In the vast reaches of the universe?” asked the angel. “That would make a difficult search.”
“No,” the Creator said pondering. Then his face showed a flash of inspiration. “I know. I have the place. Hide the treasure of life within the human being. He will look there last and know how precious it is. Yes, hide the treasure there.”
This treasure and the search for it are the subject of the Upanishads. Given the nature of human beings, it was indeed well hidden. As the Lord said in the story, the last place human beings will look for the ultimate Reality is within them. They will look to all the diverse objects of the world for meanings, and each time with every effort, come away with nothing. In this way, a perpetual cycle of births and deaths is created. They spend their life running after things that are only temporal and when death comes they are empty handed, with just an invitation to do it over again.
The Upanishads say the ignorant person keeps accepting that invitation, but the wise one sees the futility in the endless pattern of death and rebirth, and looks within for that which is eternal. Sunaad presented the Kathopanishad in a beautiful manner; they understood and shared its essence in their performance.
This is what Sri M said of the performance in his short address to a gathering of about 200.
“Pranams to Swamiji and the great ones whose pictures are here.”
“I do not want to speak and spoil the mood but only since you asked me to say a few words.”
“First of all, I am very happy and satisfied with what I saw today. It is better than the rehearsal. Not that the rehearsal was bad, but it is improving day by day. That is how it should be. And, after the discussions we had before you started off, I think it has been properly edited because Kathopinashad is pretty long, and you have done a good job. You have taken the essence, I must say. It always makes a difference when there is music; it was beautifully done.”
“Today, the Palki is starting from Alandi; and going towards Pandharpur. You know the Warkaris? They take the name of the Lord Rama, Krishna, Hari all the way from Jnaneshwar’sPalki to Pandharpur – to Rukhmani and Pandarnath and go all the way dancing. I tell them when they come to see me that ‘you are part of the walk. You are not physically with us, but you are with us. We are with you.’ In the same way, I think you are also part of the walk – because you are conveying the message of the Upanishads through music and dance.”
“My prarthana (prayer): ‘Hamari yeh prarthana hai ki Sunaad ke sangeet Upanishad ki dhara se milkar, saare sansar me sunaai de’.”
“One little thing I would like to point out, two things actually: One point, it has been long before I read the Kathopanishad. I knew the words, Uttisthata Jagrata Prapya varan nibodhata,thanks to Swamiji. Many people do not know that it comes from the Kathopanishad. ‘Awake, Arise and stop not till the goal is reached’. And, the second one is, kshurasyadhara, walking on the razor’s edge. It is walking on the razor’s edge. You may cut your heels or you may fall on either side. The dhara is very thin.”
“The other point is – it is said that Sage Vajashravas got angry and said to Nachiketa, ‘Go to Death’. Now, you see that anger and saying ‘Go to Death’ was crucial in this whole Upanishad. So, when a spiritual Master says ‘Go to Hell’, it may not be always bad! Seriously. These are ways and means by which things are possible. Unless he had told him - we say cursed - but I think that anger was a disguise for sending him to the door of Death itself; so that he, first-hand, understands Death. This is very important. And, to understand that first-hand means it is the ‘Art of Dying’. The Art of Dying is so important.”
“And, it is not only about that final death which we are going to face, but it is also about everyday dying to yesterday, so that we have today here – and trying to figure out what is in front of us. This dying – to the attractions of the senses, to the troubles of the world, and waking up resurrected as a new being, is actually the ‘Art of Dying’. In fact, the Kathopinashad may be called ‘The Art of Dying’. It is a great understanding.”
“Then, there is one verse that confuses people always: ‘The Atman chooses whom IT wills, you cannot go towards the Atman’. Now, this has to be very carefully understood. Many people take that as an excuse and say, ‘I will live as I want. The Atman will choose me. Then, I will go there’. That is not what is meant. You see, the Atman, if you think of it as a deity, is always anxious that you come towards IT. Many lessons are given to us. Many opportunities are provided. But we have also been given a brain and the five senses. Usually, we miss the opportunity and keep on getting caught up in the objects of the senses. It is not that the opportunity is not there. It is always there. The Atman always takes you. But like in the Gita where Sri Krishna says ‘Among the millions who walk towards the Path – the Path is like the edge of the razor – among them, one reaches the goal’. He is not trying to discourage. It means that it is an evolutionary process. You cannot expect, ‘Today, I will stand on my head for six hours and reach Moksha in this very life’. This is not possible. Surrender is required. It is for that surrender that it is said that the ‘Atman chooses’. So then, you don’t get into this thing that ‘I am doing this, I am doing that… Therefore, I will reach there’. When that ‘I am’ is out, then ‘IT’ is there. This is the reason it has been said, and not that you should not do anything. This is the reason it has been said that the Atman will choose you when IT wants.”
“Fortunately also – fortunate or unfortunate I cannot say – when the Atman chooses somebody, first you go through a lot of pain and sorrow. Without pain and sorrow, nobody turns aside and looks at this Reality. We think it is terrible. Actually, it is that which shows us the way. And what do we do? Even at the smallest trouble, we try to cover it up with something – watch TV, go to the cinema or go to Thailand! Or do something else. But the fact is, unless we live with the sorrow, like Nachiketa lived with the God of Death, one cannot get free of it. We always try to cover it up. You cannot cover it, because it is Reality. So face it. Be friends with sorrow. ‘Dukh to apna saathi hai’. Then, it loses its sting.”
“So, these are somethings I wanted to tell you. This is not a Satsang. Mainly, I do not want to spoil the mood that is being generated by this beautiful music.”
“So, finally, I thank you all – Tara and the whole Sunaad group, which I think is part of you. I cannot always remember names. But for me, more than naama roopa, the essence is more important—all of you together. So, once again, I say, as the Atman is described in the Kathopanishad–Angusthamatra. So ‘thumbs up’ to Sunaad. Thank you.”
After the event ended, the padayatris returned to their place of stay and retired for the day. This was their last day in Pune before they hit the highway again.