If you listen to a person singing, no matter how melodious the voice, and how great the artist, you will not know what it is to sing. This is borrowed pleasure; you sit like a corpse and listen, not connected with the music at all. You must actively enter into the music. Dance can only be known by dancing, not by watching. Watching is a mere substitute; it is false, inauthentic.
Slowly, slowly man is leaving everything to others. Some few perform, most watch; some dance, the rest watch; some sing and many gather to listen. If you neither sing nor play nor dance what is the purpose of being alive? Is life to be carried on by a few specialists?
Neither spectator nor performer gain anything from this, for the latter’s attention is totally into making money. The dance comes not from the soul; it is merely superficial skill. The dancer is actually not dancing at all, since the dance doesn’t penetrate enough for him to lose himself in it; his mind remains apart, involved with the money he is making.
It happened this way: The emperor Akbar told Tansen one day that he would like to meet and hear his guru. He said, “Last night when you left, a thought came to my mind that there has never been a singer greater than you, nor will there ever be. You are the ultimate in music. But then it occurred to me that you must have learned from somebody. You must have had a guru, and perhaps he is even better than you. So I would like to meet your guru and hear him.”
Tansen replied, “That is very difficult. I do have a guru who is still alive, but you cannot call him to the court for he does not sing on request. His songs are like the songs of the birds. A cuckoo will never sing at your request. The more you plead the more silent he will become, for it will begin to wonder why the request. You can hear my guru only when he chooses to sing. If you are that eager we shall have to go and hide behind his hut and listen secretly. If we approach him directly he might stop singing.”
Tansen’s guru, a fakir named Haridas, stayed in a hut on the bank of the river Jamuna. At three o’clock every morning, before dawn, he would sit by the river and sing in ecstasy. His singing was like the song of the birds; his songs had nothing to do with anybody.
Akbar and Tansen reached the hut at two o’clock. At three the singing began. Akbar listened as if hypnotized, his eyes raining tears. When they rode back he could not utter a single word to Tansen. In fact he totally forgot that Tansen was there.
As he stepped down from the chariot he told Tansen, “I was under the impression that you had no equal, but today I see the your guru far surpasses you. Is there some reason for it?”