Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.
– Omar Khayyam
I am reminded of a story that actually happened.
In Lucknow, there was a crazy king, Wajid Ali Shah. He was crazy in many ways: the whole day he slept, and the whole night he enjoyed food, dance, music. He was a night man.
He had gathered all the greatest musicians into his court, all the great dancers. His court was really rich, but he was always feeling a little sad that one musician who was perhaps the greatest in the country, had not come to his court. Again and again messengers were sent, but the musician said that it would create unnecessary trouble.
Finally, Wajid Ali Shah said, ”Whatever trouble it creates, I will take care of it, but you have to come.”
The musician came. He said, ”The trouble is the condition I make. When I play on my sitar, nobody in the audience must move his head with my music. That is a great disturbance and I don’t want it. So you will have to promise me that anybody who moves his head and sways with my music, should have his head cut off immediately.”
Wazid Ali Shah was a crazy man. He said, ”There is no difficulty.”
In Lucknow it was announced that you have to come knowing perfectly well that the king has accepted this condition. So only those should come who are capable of sitting silently, frozen. If your head is found moving or you sway – Wazid Ali Shah has put one thousand soldiers with naked swords around the audience – immediately your head will be gone.
Thousands of people wanted to come, because the man was so well-known all over the country, and his music was something like a miracle. But only a few came, because the condition was such that even though you were not swaying because of his music, just a y sitting on your head and you… And that was enough. That Wajid Ali Shah is such an idiot, the head is gone. It is too dangerous.
But still, a few hundred people came.
Lucknow was, in those days, a capital of artists, musicians, poets, painters. Even Wajid Ali Shah was surprised. He was thinking that perhaps nobody would turn up.
The musician started playing. Everybody was holding himself tight, so that not even accidentally would be allow the head to move. They were sitting like statues. And then a moment came, a few people started swaying.
Wajid Ali Shah was immediately going to order those people’s heads to be cut. The musician said, ”Wait, until after the music is finished; but keep note who the people are.”
After the music was finished, Wajid Ali Shah had gathered almost one hundred people. And he asked the musician, ”Now, what do you say?”
He said, ”Now these are the people who can understand me. I will play for them now. The others have no guts. These people – even though they tried hard to remain unmoving – when the real moment came, when the music reached its height, they forgot themselves, they forgot the condition, they forgot their life, they forgot everything. And the way they swayed was in tune with my music. These are the people.”
Just to sort them out I have made the condition. So now let the others go, and for these hundred people I will play my best. There is still half the night. And there is no condition.
”I can feel a kind of at-one moment with these people. I can feel a certain synchronicity with these people. They know what the heights of music are, where ego disappears, mind stops, there is no thinking.” Music in the East has been used as a meditation. ”And these people are capable of reaching to meditation through music.” And he played for them.
In the morning, Wajid Ali could not believe what was happening. It was as if people had completely forgotten who they were – just trees in the wind, swaying, dancing. Their faces had a luminosity. The place was full of a new kind of liveliness that Wajid Ali had never experienced. There was dance, there was joy, and there was something which can only be called spiritual.
Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.
– Elbert Hubbard
Excerpted From Death To Deathlessness CH: 40