Little children drop gems of wisdom when they speak, but sometimes, it takes a grandparent to pick up these pieces of fine jewellery. The other day my granddaughter was talking to her friend on the phone. I am not sure what the conversation was about but, suddenly, my grandchild said:

“Music exists only for those who want to hear”.

What profound words of wisdom! These words apply not just to music but almost everything around us. We hear what we want to hear, we see what we want to see, and we perceive what we want our senses to perceive. Nothing else exists for us.

There is beauty all around us, but it exists only for those who want to see it. Sunrises are beautiful, sunsets are beautiful, and the snow on the mountaintop is incredibly beautiful, but only for those who want to see this.  Water makes sweet music when it flows down the mountain forming rivers, streams and waterfalls, but this divine music exists only for those who want to listen. There are beautiful ashrams dotted all across the Himalayas, including the Bhadrika Ashram, but this beauty exists only for those who want to see it.

The birds in the forest make sweet music when they communicate with each other. There is constant chirping and tweeting, but many of us don’t even notice these sounds, being too caught up in our own lives and everyday problems. However, one person paid attention to the sound of the birds and created Twitter, changing the world of online communication forever, while amassing a fortune for himself.

Music exists only for those who want to hear it.

One of our close relatives in North America recently made a trip to India. After her return, I made the mistake of asking her a simple question:

‘How was your trip?’

She gave me a fifteen-minute answer, explaining exactly what is wrong with India. She talked about dishonest shopkeepers, the dirt on the streets, the noise, the traffic, air pollution, water pollution, the lack of civic sense, and the everyday corruption.

Contrast this with my visits to India. Every trip has been a spiritual journey. The last time I went there, my taxi driver was an accomplished Zen master. He drove perfectly between two trucks, with a few inches to spare on either side. He was beyond mundane issues like traffic lights, or incoming traffic. He kept us in a state of prayer throughout our journey. My wife and I never felt closer to God, the taxi driver was our saviour.

Some people might complain about such taxi drivers, but there were no complaints from us. It was not just a taxi ride; it was a spiritual journey, at no extra cost. This amazing experience was repeated wherever we travelled in India by road.

Jokes aside, every trip to India has been a deep spiritual journey for me. There is spirituality in the temples, in the churches and in the dargahs that abound in every part of the country. There is spirituality in the streets and alleys of every city, there are sacred spots in every part of the country.

The people are great, not just relatives but even strangers that you meet in everyday life. One bearded gentleman helped me cross the street in Bengaluru. Swami Ji saved me from starvation at an ashram in South India, by finding a spoon for me. Due to some manufacturing defect, I am unable to eat rice and lentils with my bare hands.

Music exists only for those who want to hear it.

There is music in relationships. When two people come together in a relationship, they make sweet music. When they have children together, there is even sweeter music. Sometimes, a couple does not hear the music very well as differences invariably crop up when people live together. However, the music is always there, if you just try a little harder to put your ear to it. Once two people have been together, the music can never disappear completely, and the sound can always come back.

Music exists only for those who want to hear it.

Music exists in so many different forms. For those who want to hear, there is Indian classical music. For those who know just a bit about the raga system, this music is even sweeter. For others, there is light classical music, there are ghazals, there are bhajans, and there are quawallis. For a long time, I didn’t have an ear for qawwali music.

I had heard only the highly commercialized Bollywood versions and I didn’t understand many of the words. Then I discovered Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Coke Studio and YouTube, with captioning in English. Once the words started making sense, I was hooked on the Sufi qawwali, it is my favourite style of music, right now. I see very little difference between good Sufi quawallis and good bhajans, as they are both derived from the same Bhakti tradition and evolved at around the same time in India.

Music is beyond language. My mother-in-law didn’t speak English, but she enjoyed the satsangs in our home in Canada. The words were in Sanskrit, and we used English during our conversation with our Canadian friends. Yet, my mother-in-law enjoyed the gatherings, she was in a trance-like state throughout the Satsang.

However, the best music is really inside us. We can hear it by doing spiritual practices such as yoga, meditation, and the marvellous courses offered by Om Swami Ji. I can hear some of the music by just watching his YouTube videos and, while writing blogs for this amazing website.

Once we experience the music inside us, we can hear the same music all around us, wherever the journey of life takes us.