2010, May Baiba Kranate
English tranlation Dace Baumgarte
Photos -Felicija Verzemniece @tvnet.lv
In a wonderfully warm evening of May, as we say for our guests – such weather we usually have in July, we are sitting on the hotel restaurant’s terrace and conversing. About paragliding and flying, about being silent and singing. We remain silent for a while and as Deva suggests we join hands before we start having meal. Our guest is Deva Premal and we are three Latvians who are in some way or other involved in her concert in Riga on 28th of May. Also present are her tour manager with his wife. Later on we are joined by bansuri flute player Manose. As to Mitten we are going to meet him tomorrow, on the concert day.
Yes, it has happened at last! Within the biggest European tour (although before this one they had an intensive American tour of concerts and satsangs) some of the most famous performers of mantras and sacred music in modern way – Deva Premal, Mitten, and Manose – perform in Riga. The very first time.
We are having meal in a friendly company; each of us is in its own way, so to say, “practitioner”, but our conversation is about the simple “there is so much magnificence” all around. There is a feeling that we have the world in our pockets: we are people of different nationalities and from different countries – Deva is a German, but her manager and Mitten are British. But it turns out that we have a lot in common and we even know the same people. For example, when Guntars, whose idea was to invite Deva Premal to Latvia, relates his impressions about an extreme flight in Pokhara, which is near to Annapurna mount in Nepal, Manose exclaims: “Oh, I was there three months ago, that’s a nice place!” Deva also had been there 20 years ago, and she says she thinks the place has changed and is very different now. “No, it’s not very different now!” – Manose protests elatedly.
He delights us also with a story about specific way of entertainment in Pokhara when during the paragliding people feed eagles. As soon as an eagle comes next to a paraglider … “How big is the eagle?” Manose spreads his arms showing: “Very big. Huge.” Another example of knowing the same people evolved when I told Deva that I had been to the Osho’s disciple seminar. The man happened to be a Sufi. And Deva asks for his name. “Videha,” I say. “Oh, I know him very well!” Deva is pleasantly surprised and adds “He is from Roma, Italian.” And I know to tell that nowadays he lives in Turkey.
Later that evening and the day after I spent some time thinking why I did not want to ask Deva specific questions. First of all, there was detailed information and facts on her home page, which were exhaustive in themselves. Just think – who is a person whose lullabies in childhood were mantras and whose father had taught to say “Ram!” before the meal. Think about a girl who had been seriously practicing meditation since she was 11. Moreover, one could listen to her many music albums to learn about her a lot …
However, there was something else – when I asked Deva a question in my mind, it seemed that I already knew Deva’s answer. Or it can be put so – being together with Deva made everything so explicit and obvious for me. Or – in Deva’s presence I did not have questions anymore.
Certainly I asked, for example, if she practised something special, although in my mind I supposed that it was hardly so. “I do yoga – karma yoga. I do hatha yoga as much as I can, but on the road not so often because of timing and space. And I practice remembering.” She does not add – remembering that I am a divine creature –, but we know it anyway. “Yes,” I agreed, “I also think that the best and the biggest practice is karma yoga. Our everyday life.”
Having asked about the personalities who inspire Deva, for example, Eckhart Tolle, I anticipated the answer. “Mitten is a great inspiration to me. He is like love, unconditional love, and non-judgemental love. I am very open to many teachers and teachings and to their many forms, but they are just glimpses. I do not read many spiritual books and follow certain paths. For me singing is the practice, travelling, staying at the moment, being OK with what there is, and practicing surrendering to the moment. We are so blessed that we do meet amazing people, and people who become good friends. I am very honoured that I can be in contact with them. And I also see that they are ordinary, in a nice way. I see that there is no distance, and no gap. About Eckhart Tolle, yes, but he is just like you or me. For me it’s not about separation and enlightenment any more, that is, if someone is enlightened, he is so different and of out of reach. There is no feeling of blocking in me any more. That’s such a nice feeling. For myself, I no longer have to behave in a certain way when I’m with enlightened people, meaning, you do not need to be perfect, to be enlightened. It’s kind of more like just the way it is now. It is very simple, of course.”
“There are so many ways to use singing and chanting in your daily life, just a little bit – you can sing three OM’s in the morning as you wake up. You can make such little, tiny rituals around, for example, sitting in silence for a minute before a meal – minute does not take anything, just remember to do it, and it will change the quality. It’s just always is about remembrance so that we do not get carried away with the busyness of life. With us it is singing and chanting; it’s like a remedy. And I like it that there is no teaching, no words, it is experience people have for themselves – you have your experience of doing. That’s so very personal and uplifting.”
We were amused by the curiosities of concert organization – a story of what happens when the day of the important open-air concert happens to be the only rainy day in a sunny summer. I asked whether Deva had ever encountered a “difficult” audience. Deva’s answer was a definite “never”. „Usually we play for people who have come to see us,” Deva said. Moreover, she adds that her audience generally knows that their program mainly consists of mantras, and that the rest of the music also is special. The audience is ready for it, and there has never been a “difficult” audience.
When asked about their message Deva answers: „Our mission is a community – finding a way for the people to come together more. I think that’s very supportive on a spiritual path and just living this life. I think we are getting more and more isolated. It’s about how do we create our community. It has become difficult for people to have a spiritual teacher. If you do yoga, you have a guru and then you have a community around. But if you don’t, it can be difficult to find the community. That’s what we appeal to in our web site – to do satsang circles. I just thought – how could that happen that people can do something without any prerequisites – there is nothing they need – they don’t need to have money, they don’t need to be musicians, they don’t need to have big rooms. So we came up with this inspiration to have people come together and we called it ‘satsang circles’. They can just do it in their houses to create regular mediations once or twice a month and use CDs to sing along. Just coming together to sing. Singing is such a healing, connecting feeling, and they can read some poems, Rhumi or whatever inspires them. On our website we made a forum so that they can find each other, where they can say – I am in this certain country or city now. That’s really something we would like people to point towards – to give them the idea. And when they come to the concert they will get the feeling of what it feels like to be together with mantras and music.” (Satsang in sanskrit means conversations with a guru, teacher, but it can be translated also as an assembly of persons who communicate and make a good company; satsang helps to open hearts).
Another dinner or Part 2
In fact this is a retrospect of the concert. And it is easy to explain why I titled this part as “another dinner”. Now I see the stage about which we asked Deva the previous evening. Would she like to have some statue of Ganesh or Buda on stage for a better atmosphere? „Actually, we like nothing on stage, no statue. Let it be Zen,” she replied.
The concert begins with a Gayatri mantra in the so well-known DPM arrangement. Surely, it could be called their hit, thus the grand applause at the end of it needs no explanation. Now the musicians ask not to applaud between the songs, since, they like this all-embracing silence at the end of every song and they would like the audience to take it with them after the concert.
That is when I really understand the meaning of Deva’s words about Mitten as her main source of inspiration. His lightness, humour, simplicity, and joy create a wish to take after him.
The concert gives me an answer to one more question, which I might ask some other time maybe. Rhetorically. All practitioners know about perception -singing mantras works in real power only if they are opened by guru. Are all Deva’s many mantras given to her by her guru? I doubt it. If guru (as in this case) is as a mediator between the manifestation of God in music – mantra –, then there is no mediator necessary for Deva. The light, music and love flows from her.
Therefore I dare call the concert a dinner, since it really feeds us unconditional love.
Not for a single moment the feeling occurs that we have to carefully watch the movements of the artists; they do not strive to entertain or surprise us. They are instruments themselves, which are allowed to play and use. They are on the stage to make us (the audience) do. They are our concert masters, but the doers are we. Not only because we jointly sang mantras and even blues. Anyway, the feeling occurs that I perceive in a new, different way what does it mean to serve humanity. I, who have been on stage quite a lot, know that the saying ‘the stage uncovers and shows the real nature of the artist’ is true for 100%. At that concert we saw absolutely self-sufficient and happy people, who possess so much, ready to give it to others. In a new light I see what is sukha (term in Sanskrit denoting happiness, simplicity, and comfort), and that perhaps was the most important gain from the concert.
The concert’s peak point – mantra Satchidananda – as if secured the sensation what had happened in Congress House that Thursday’s evening: we remembered that we are this satchidananda – eternal existence, awareness (consciousness) and bliss. Certainly, the silence was given us as our companion for our way home, especially after the last song. Though, after a short pause the way was given to tremendous applause devoted to these three outstanding music professionals and the virtuoso of their instruments – been it voice, flute, or guitar.