Taming a Tamboura

[Listen to Asha read this story]

(Told by Bhagavati)

It was the middle of a concert when Swamiji picked up the tamboura to accompany himself while he sang. A tamboura is an Indian instrument that easily goes out of tune. It was dreadfully off-pitch and no matter how much Swamiji tried, he couldn’t tune it. Finally he gave up and began to play it as it was.

I was near him on the stage and every time his fingers went across the strings I cringed at the dissonance. With his sensitive ear, I don’t know how he kept singing, but he did. Gradually, the dissonance waned. By the time Swamiji was half way through the song, the tamboura was perfectly in tune and it stayed that way for the rest of the concert.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras describe the practice of ahimsa. “Non-violence” is how it is usually translated. Swamiji calls it “harmlessness” and has dedicated himself to that practice. The fruit for one who practices ahimsa perfectly, Patanjali says, is that in his presence, no disharmony can arise. Wild animals are tamed, ferocious criminals subdued.

Some people may disagree, but I have been playing musical instruments since I was a child and I know they have personalities that respond to human consciousness. I think, in the presence of Swamiji’s ahimsa, the tamboura simply couldn’t hold on to its disharmonious “attitude.” Swamiji’s harmonious vibrations tamed it.

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