the bansuri story
A mild and quiet evening in the big meditation hall of an Indian Ashram. Thousands are gathered to listen to the great Bansuri maestro Hariprasad Chaurasia. Into the pindrop silence his tunes descend from heaven and put on us a spell from the beyond. I feel my heart chakra expanding rapidly. The magic of his playing moves me to the core. This hollow bamboo seems to hold all the secrets of the universe, seems to point the way to the divine. Hariprasad plays for almost three hours, and the world becomes a different place, infused with spirit.
At the time of this concert I was struggling with a serious heavy metal poisoning. My body was very sick. I was constantly dizzy, irritated, and prone to fatigue attacks and headaches. I was certain that I was going to die. In the attempt to support my healing I had started working with entheogens. During the journeys I listened to Hariprasad’s Bansuri, and the fascination with the sound grew to incredible proportions. I would listen to nothing else, convinced that the divine tunes of this bamboo flute would heal me.
In one of the journeys I heard the voice that would always come to me say: If you love the Bansuri so much, why don’t you take it up yourself? I was stunned to hear this, and replied that at age 42 I am too old to start a new instrument. What followed in the vision was a big cosmic grin, and the voice said: Who cares …? Play simple tunes and see what happens …
This is what I have been doing for 4 years now. I am still amazed at what happens. I have given up most of what I did before in my life. The poisoning is healed. I am moving deeper and deeper into the practice of the Bansuri. The deeper I go the more I realize how rich and complex the instrument is, and the great flute masters seem like far removed gods to me.
But even the simple tunes baffle me in their capacity to express the longing for the divine. Friends around me have started to enjoy my playing more and more, and I feel deep gratitude for their support and appreciation. The secret of the hollow bamboo has taken over my life …
The Bansuri Legend
Once upon a time, long before airplanes, cars and motored Rikshaws, a shepard was tending to his herd grazing in the green pastures of the Himalayan foothills. Evening fell, and a slow warm wind blew from the slopes of the hills, moving through the trees and branches surrounding the shepards hut.
As he was preparing for the night a wondrous melody sang from between the trees and he was entranced by the sweetness of its sound. Not knowing where the melody came from he set out to discover the source of the sound, thinking that the goddesses and gods were singing to him.
As he wandered around, his sheep slowly went to sleep gently embraced by the ever more enchanting melodies coming from all around. He came closer and closer and discovered the tunes coming from a bamboo. There were little holes in the reed, pecked by birds or carved by worms, through which the wind would play its mysterious song. The shepard listened for hours, deeply moved by what to him was the singing of the goddesses and gods. Eventually, he fell asleep under the bamboo.
As the night went on he started dreaming and saw a spirit being descending from the heavens, carrying a bamboo stick with one hole on the upper end and 6 holes on the lower. Approaching the shepard, the being presented him with the hollow bamboo explaining to him how he should go about finding the heavenly tunes he had heard earlier by blowing his breath into the hole at the upper end of the hollow bamboo, and using his fingers to close or open the lower six holes for creating a variety of notes. He was told in the dream that the purer each note was that he played the more healing the effect of the tune would be on his body and spirit.
To this day, the shepard is revered in many different ways, and the sound of the hollow bamboo has continued to put a spell on meditators, lovers and dreamers. Sometimes, when the great masterplayers’ tunes from the bamboo are in full alignment with the cosmic sounds, the player and the listener forget who they are and become one with their mutual source of being, the divine. When that happens, the goddesses and gods who have once brought that hollow bamboo to the shepard, are singing again, and the player, too, becomes a listener, conveying what is received from the beyond …
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