An essay by Sri Krishna Prem (Ronald Nixon): When a man says he believes in something or other (I do not mean rational belief based on consideration of evidence) itwould be more correct to say that he hopes that it may be true and, action and reaction being equal and opposite, he at the same time fears that it is not. Every belief then has its corresponding doubt lurking some where in the shadow. It is for this reason that men of strong religious beliefs become SO fanatical. Silently gnawing at their hearts, insi diously whispering in their ears, is an army of doubts, shadowy beings inhabiting a twilight world but corresponding exactly with the beliefs which, like so many children’s kites, go soaring up into the bright sunshine. It is to silence those whispers, to lay those ghosts in the basement, that the believer strives with all his might to convert others to his creed. Criticism he cannot stand because of the echoes that it raises down below where all should be silence; and so, just in proportion as he increases the force of his own beliefs, he magnifies the tension within and, filled with an inner hatred of himself, he vents his explosive anger upon others. Thus from a mere fanatic he becomes a persecutor.
What, then, should be our attitude towards the ancient scriptures, or, indeed, towards books in general? Books may be divided into two classes: those that are based upon inner experience and those that are mere words strung together with more or less skill. The latter class may be ignored altogether. It may be asked: how, if we are ourselves ignorant, we may know that a book is based upon genuine experience? The answer is that the Truth exists already in our hearts, however ignorant our outer personalities may be; it is a sheer fact that words that spring from deep realization raise echoes within us if we listen to them with free minds. The words, as we say, mean something to us. Perhaps there may be other books, equally the fruit of some one’s experience, which raise no echoes within. In that case it is some lack of sympathy or of experience, some knot of prejudice in our minds, that prevents our hearts from acting as resonators, and so we pnt the book aside. When that happens it is doubtless a pity bnt it cannot be helped; we are not ready for that particular message and its study can do us no good.
If, however, a book does ‘mean something to us’, if we have reason, inner reason, to think that it is a record of actual experience, wc should set aside all questions of its date and authorship, its orthodoxy or heterodoxy, its agreement or disagreement with other books. Instead, we should give our hearts to its study, trying to penetrate behind the words to the thoughts and realization for the expression of which those words were selected. [Excerpted from the book Initiation into Yoga by Sri Krishna Prem, ISBN 0091256313]
An evergreen debate on tradition versus modernity in Carnatic classical music has been revived with the music season on in full swing in Madras.
Last Sunday, T.M. Krishna, while arguing for preserving the integrity of the Carnatic tradition, wrote in The Hinduthat instruments like the saxophone and keyboard were just not cut out for the south Indian classical form.
This has drawn a response from the pianist Anil Srinivasan in the Sunday magazine of The Hindu:
“Tradition has become indelibly linked with the past. This is where the problems begin. We get autoregressive when discussing the preservation or conservation of a tradition. Trapping it in a time capsule and not allowing it to breathe or acquire newer characteristics is antithetical to the very notion of an intergenerational transfer….
“Historically, traditions were largely oral and were passed on from one generation to another….
“Music cannot be classified. To the human mind, the illusion of control or self perception leads it towards instant and automatic categorisation. We want to label everything we encounter because it makes us feel at least temporarily in control of the environment. And hence terming Carnatic music a tradition becomes a hook on which we hang our approximations of what we think South Indian classical music ought to be.”
“Tradition exists to show you who you are. Innovation should be encouraged to show you who you could be…. Innovation is an approach to an existing body of work that has not been thought of before. In that respect, each of us is innovating constantly…. Only two things matter: be true to who you are, and be sincere in what you want to articulate. If this happens, the music will transcend categorisation and analysis.”