More fragrant than jasmine

More fragrant than jasmine
By Amjad Ali khan

Every human being’s first teacher is his mother. In fact, the first ‘music’ that a child hears is the mother’s voice. Have we ever thought about the great ladies who raised great artistes? The lives of these brave and timeless women are often a tale of struggle and evolution.

When I look back, I cannot remember a day when my mother was not there for me, watching me practise, play, eat. In whatever financial condition we were back then, life looked beautiful because of her unconditional love. I grew up and moved on, but she remained in the background with her blessings. My mother suffered a lot because of the big joint family of Abba Saheb in Gwalior. She had no say in most family matters and was not treated with love and respect by other members who lived with us.

Recently, I was saddened to hear that Ustad Alla Rakha Khan’s wife, Bawi Begum, who was affectionately called Ammaji, passed away in Mumbai. She was, perhaps, the last of the artistes’ wives who kept the house open for family and friends without, in today’s language, an appointment. With the erratic timings of the profession, such warmth and welcoming can be expected only from a person with unsurpassed love, affection and understanding.

I have had some of the most memorable evenings at Alla Rakha Khan saheb’s residence in Mumbai. It was always great interaction and great food. I pray to the Almighty that her soul rests in peace and the legacy of love and affection that she has left behind stays forever in their home. She blessed the music world with her jewels, Zakir Hussain, Fazal Qureshi and Taufiq Qureshi.

I recall similar stories of the wives of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Ustad Enayet Khan. These ladies gave birth to the finest artistes who represented Indian classical music.

I hope all artistes and their wives give quality time to their children. Artistes need to travel constantly, but it is very important to strike the right balance between professional and family lives.

My wife, Subhalakshmi Khan, deserves the highest praise for handling my life the way she is doing it. She has been the best daughter to her parents, the best wife to me, the best daughter-in-law to my parents and the best mother to my sons, Ayaan and Amaan.

She is in charge of the museum Sarod Ghar and the Haafiz Ali Khan Awards. She has been dealing with art and artistes for years, and has completely dedicated herself to my family. She makes immense effort in maintaining the Ustad Haafiz Ali Memorial Trust.

Subhalakshmi began coordinating and managing my concerts soon after our marriage. Now this includes the management of Amaan’s and Ayaan’s concerts as well. She did not know how to cook at the time of our marriage, but today we all look forward to her cooking, as she has an exclusive touch in everything she cooks. She could not meet my father but has heard all the old stories of our family from my mother.

Only a mother can multi-task at all levels and still have the time to devote to and the love to share with the family. I don’t know how mothers do this, but they do! I have watched my mother and wife perform these roles with utmost devotion. I have forever felt blessed and remain grateful to be in the midst of such divine love. I remember a quotation by Sathya Sai Baba:

Sathya Sai Baba: More fragrant than the sweet-smelling flowers like the Jasmine and the Champak, Softer than the cheese and the butter, More beautiful than eye of the peacock, More pleasant than the moonlight, Is the love of the mother.

The Week Reference

The Revelation of Sathya Sai Gayathri

Sathya Sai Gayathri

Sathya Sai Gayathri


The Revelation of Sathya Sai Gayathri
By G.V. Subba Rao, reprinted from Sanathana Sarathi, March 1979

The occasion was Christmas Eve of 24 December 1977. The place was the Sathya Sai Mandir in Brindavan, Whitefield, near Bangalore. The assembled audience consisted of a group of students and faculty members of Sri Sathya Sai College as well as a number of visiting devotees. It was in the glorious presence of Sri Sathya Sai Baba himself that a great vedic scholar Pandit Sri Ghandikota Subrahmanya Shastry was inspired to announce Sri Sathya Sai Gayathri, the mystic formula devoted to Sri Sathya Sai.

This reads as follows:

Om Saayeeshvaraaya Vidhmahe
Sathya Dhevaaya Dheemahi
Thannassarvah Prachodayaath

The meaning of this is:

“I know through Gurus and Shastras (and by direct experience) that Sai is God Himself: He is Bhagavan and Iswara. I meditate on this form in my heart with all my mental faculties. He is the embodiment of truth, divinity, universal consciousness and one who pervades all the worlds. I pray to such a Saiparameswar to direct our intellects to engage in auspicious and righteous activities. I meditate on this great form.”

This Sathya Sai Gayathri, like other Gayathris, is on par with Veda Mantra or mystic formula. It has 24 letters; it consists of three lines, each with eight letters. Such a composition has unique properties. According to Maharishi Vararuchi, the numerology of all letters adds up to 108. That is why recitation is to be done 108 times; to realize the full effect of Siddhi – which is signified by the 108th number, i.e. Meru or the tassel of a rosary or Japamala. Ashtottara Sata Nama – the 108 name-chanting leads to the realization of God, which is the goal.

Every Gayatri Mantra has a revealing prophet or Rishi and a presiding deity, Adhishthana Devata, who is the subject of the mantra. This mantra is expressed through the inner workings of Sathya Sai through the mouth of Pandit Sri Ghandikota Subrahmanya Shastry in the presence of Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Needless to say that Sai Baba himself is the presiding deity of this mystic formula or Mantra.

Shri Subrahmanya Sastry expressed the essence of the Sathya Sai Gayatri in a verse of metrical form, Anushtup Chandas:

Yo Dhevassathya Saayee nah
Buddhim Dharmadhigocharam
Prerayeth Thasya Yath Thejah
Thad Varenyamupaasmahe

This verse means:

“Let the effulgent energy of Sathya Sai, which exists always in my heart as pure consciousness enveloped by the body, direct or influence our mind-intellects to take the path of Dharma – virtue, Shanti – peace, Sathya – truth, and Prema – love.”

That same morning Sri Sathya Sai graced the author and his family with very valuable teachings which are summarized in translation from Telugu:

The real purpose of performing Karma is only to get rid of Ahamkara or Mineness; Karma or Work, offered for the love of God comes back as Grace. This is the strategy of escaping the bondage of Samsara. One must persuade the heart to meditate; persuade the heart and you persuade the people. If you do wrong, your heart feels it. The heart is a witness. Move from the gross to the subtle, from the sense, the mind and the intellect, getting closer to the Atman.

The effulgence of Atman transcends the senses, whose nature is fickleness. The senses do not have the capacity or power of decisiveness. Karma and Upasana are the two wings which enable us to fly upward to God. Karma is for disciplining the body, mind, and intellect; Karma is not slavery to senses or fate. Life is a long journey which is helped by Yantra, Tantra and Mantra; these make the journey easier. We must reduce our luggage. Being detached in Samsara is like mascara in the eye, like Ghee on the tongue; one need not leave the worldly activity. The journey should be continued till the end. Don’t get off the train in wayside stations. One should pursue one’s Svadharma, one’s own calling, till the end of the journey. One should reach the real destination with enthusiasm and animation, with a pure heart. Your pole-star or light is the name of God; that supreme light is the light of life, Jivanjyothi.

The performance of duty by the God-given body is essential. Man’s accumulated blemish or sin is washed away by such action. Karmakanda, the field of action, is like the flower from which follows the Upasana Kanda, the field of spiritual practice, which is like the raw fruit. This subsequently ripens into a sweet fruit of Jnana, Knowledge.

The One Supreme is described in different ways by the wise: Ekam Sat Viprah Bahudah Vadanti. The Puranas and the Vedas contain the knowledge about nature, Prakruta Jnanam. They teach the path of subtle action. They teach that immortality is the fruit of sacrifice. The path of enjoyment, Bhoga, leads only to illness and suffering, Roga. It is often said one cannot cross the path of Karma on a dusty road. It is only when you stop the moving vehicle that one is overtaken by the trailing dust. So long as you keep moving or performing Karma in a detached way, you are not overtaken by its bondage. Narada, who is omniscient, did not leave the field of action or Karmakanda.

There are really two aspects of conduct, good conduct and bad conduct; with egoism it becomes bad conduct. Ahamkara, mineness or selfishness, is the crown of all bad qualities. Wearing such a crown, even such notable personalities as Kamsa, Sisupala, Dantavakra, Vishwamitra, and Sathyabhama came to grief.

All the lights of life are lit up on Divali day; so, light up the darkness of the past, which enveloped the Light of the Real Self in the past. The technique is to remove the threads of attachment one by one; at the end, the ‘cloth’ disappears and the mind is clear and pure.

The mind is a bundle of desires. It is necessary to live in seclusion in order to avoid the wrong paths, thereby avoiding the five wrongs or blemishes of sight, mind, action, and intellect. Moksha or liberation is nothing but Mohakshaya, the depletion of infatuation of the mind. One should engage in spiritual practices, Sadhana, to the extent feasible. Strength and support are gained thereby for the performance of one’s own duties and actions. Imitation and invidious comparisons with others are harmful and weakening.

Pursue the 5 F’s in life:
Follow the heart, the conscience, the Atma in the heart;
Follow an adept in spiritualism;
Face the devil or evil without fear or favor;
Fight to the end; and
Finish the game of life with success and liberation.

Daily life is Tapas. Tapas is devotion to the living gods – father and mother. Sadhana is the cultivation of special attention to one’s true self. Sankaracharya expresses it in a paradoxical manner:

I have committed three sins, Oh God!
By my pilgrimage to Benares, I have offended the principle of God’s all pervasiveness. By meditating on You, it seems as though I have confined You who transcends the mind, to the mind. By praising You I have committed the sin of limiting You who transcends speech, to my words.

Also see:
Sathya Sai Baba – Mahaa Mahima Maanusha Murthi