Then I saw those eyes of Alauddin Khan – although he was so old you could read history in the lines of his face. He had seen the first revolution in India. That was in 1857, and he remembered it, so he must have been at least old enough to remember. And he had seen a whole century pass by, and all that he did this whole time was practice the sitar. Eight hours, ten hours, twelve hours each day; that’s the classical Indian way. It’s a discipline, and unless you practice it you soon lose the grip over it, it is so subtle. It is there only if you are in a certain state of preparedness, otherwise it is gone.
A master is reported to have once said, “If I don’t practice for three days, the crowd notices it. If I don’t practice for two days, the experts notice it. If I don’t practice for one day, my disciples notice it. As far as I am concerned, I cannot stop for a single moment. I have to practice and practice, otherwise I immediately notice. Even in the morning, after a good sleep, I notice something is lost.”
Indian classical music is a hard discipline, but if you impose it upon yourself, it gives you immense freedom. Of course, if you want to swim in the ocean, you have to practice. And if you want to fly in the sky, then naturally it is apparent that immense discipline is required, but it cannot be imposed by somebody else. Anything imposed becomes ugly. That’s how the word discipline became ugly, because it has become associated with the father, the mother, the teacher, and all kinds of people who don’t understand a single thing about discipline. They don’t know the taste of it.
The master was saying, “If I don’t practice even for a few hours, nobody notices, but of course I notice the difference.” One has to continuously practice, and the more you practice, the more you become practiced in practice. It becomes easier. Slowly, slowly, a moment comes when discipline is no longer a practice, but enjoyment.
I am talking about classical music, not about my discipline. My discipline is enjoyment from the very beginning, or from the beginning of enjoyment. I will tell you about it later on….
I have heard Ravi Shankar many times. He has the touch, the magic touch, which very few people have in the world. It was by accident that he touched the sitar. Whatsoever he touched would have become his instrument. It is not the instrument, it is always the man. He fell in love with Alauddin’s vibe, and Alauddin was of a far greater height – thousands of Ravi Shankars joined together, stitched together rather, could not reach to his height. Alauddin was certainly a rebel. Not only an innovator, but an original source of music. He brought many things to music.
Today, almost all the great musicians in India are his disciples. It is not without reason. All kinds of musicians would come just to touch Baba’s feet: sitarists, dancers, flutists, actors, and whatnot. That’s how he was known, just as “Baba,” because who would use his name, Alauddin?
When I saw him, he was already beyond ninety; naturally, he was a Baba. That simply became his name. And he was teaching all kinds of instruments to so many kinds of musicians. You could have brought any instrument and you would have seen him play it as if he had done nothing else but play that instrument for his whole life.