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being grateful to the source of knowledge.

In the eastern culture, at least in India, students of any art or special skill, like music, give a lot of respect and reverence to their teacher/s. Likewise, on the spiritual path, a disciple is totally dedicated to the Guru, the master. For a disciple, the master is higher than even God, feeling eternally in debt to the grace of the Guru for showing the path to "right understanding" and to God.

More than twenty years ago, when I was learning Tabla with my teacher, my Guru Ustad Allarakha in Mumbai, I had to make quite an arduous and long 8 hour back-and-forth journey every week just to be in the space where he was present, and I would stay in the classroom for 4 hours. We used to wait for his arrival at his music school and as soon as he arrived and took his seat below a picture of Ganesh, one by one, every student would go to him, bow down and touch his feet. Maybe out of the four hours, I would get only fifteen minutes of his direct attention to me… but that was really appreciated, nothing else than what he gave was ever expected. We learned by being there, by observing the teacher, by absorbing his presence and by trusting. Even if during some lesson I wouldn’t get his direct one-to-one attention at all, there was an acceptance, that he knew what he was doing. And looking back, it was so.

In India, touching the feet of the Guru is a normal gesture, a very humble one, but it can be mechanical too. Somehow, I was aware what a giant presence I was being blessed to be with, so whenever my turn came to go and touch his feet, I made sure it was a conscious gesture and not mechanical. I took my own time to touch his feet, stay there bowing-down, until I felt his hands on my head blessing me, and then I would move on. Something was always transmitted through this touch.

In the musical tradition of India, we as students, are always very proud of our teachers and whenever we perform music somewhere, our introduction would always include our teachers’ names. Moreover, whenever one performs a composition or song of either his teacher or some other musician, one announces the composer’s name, with a typical gesture of “touching one’s ears”, symbolically meaning, “that I am attempting to present a great composition of a great musician, and if any mistake happens, please forgive me.” That gesture is out of total reverence to the person whose creation is being performed. We would never perform another’s composition without giving credits openly and proudly.

In this way, this culture teaches to honor the teachings and the teachers. I don’t think it is the need of the teacher to be recognized, but very subtly it brings a certain quality, a certain blessing into the performance of the student, when the source – the teacher – is honored; or when the author is mentioned.

In my case, though 99% of the times, I present my own compositions in public performances, sometimes I would perform some dear composition of another great musician from India; for example, like the song "Jai Radha Madhav" (by Jagjit Singh ji) which I sing sometimes just because I love it. Jagjit Singh ji has been one of my biggest inspirations in my musical journey, and I always proudly announce that he's the composer behind what i will sing. Moreover, I would feel very happy if some in the audience go back home and search for his work and start listening to his songs.

In the same way, we would include in our artist presentations and biographies, all those mentors and teachers who molded our path and took us to what we are today.

I notice in the west, maybe because things from India are more commercialized, this information is often hidden... some kind of protective mechanism of not crediting the original authors and hiding the source and the teacher. I personally think that taking the credit in this way is not fair, and somewhat ungrateful to someone who gave us something beautiful. In the end, it is just one more silly play of the ego.

Instead of hiding the source, we proudly announce the names of those teachers and composers, in this way, besides being fair to them, also seeking their protection and blessing. This humble approach helps the student to be free of any egoistic trips and false claims.

Both in music and spirituality, to recognize those who taught us something is a significant element to progress and to become eligible to receive Grace. In that Grace, Magic happens.

Manish Vyas


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