It was Sunday January 5th, my wife and I had driven to San Jose at the invitation of my sister-in-law and arrived a few minutes late for a spiritual Service. Escorted by a very astute usher, we quietly took our seats amongst a group of about 150 people. The reverend of sorts, the founder of this locale known as Center for Spiritual Enlightenment (CSE) was about 70 years of age. She was given the title Yogacharya, which means “one who exemplifies union with God”. She was otherwise known as Ellen Grace O’ Brian. As we nestled into our chairs, we watched her bless an ordained nun in the lineage of Paramahansa Yogananda.
The Service at CSE, a type of Self-realization church was originally founded by Roy Eugene Davis, a direct disciple of the Master and was celebrating the 127th birthday of Yogananda. Paramahansa Yogananda is the well-known east Indian spiritual preceptor who shared the gospel of Self-realization (enlightenment, liberation), arriving nearly 100 years ago, first stepping onto U.S. shores on September 19th, 1920.
Though it was Ellen Grace’s congregation, on this day her wisdom-guided leadership was being at least partially turned over to, I was soon to realize, a Tibetan musician who sat serenely in the back corner of the stage with eyes closed in meditative contemplation. His energy and face were familiar to me, yet I could not remember where our paths might have crossed.
As the nun’s blessing concluded, the Tibetan musician stood up and walked to the front-side of the stage as his face beamed with joy. He began to pluck notes on a beautiful, small guitar or mandolin. Each note was a tiny song by itself; an interlude of stillness followed. There was no rush, no hurry to get into a verse, find a chord, start the song or show off virtuosity. Nor were his thrums an attempt to stealthily tune the instrument.
Love was leading.
Simple note; growing hush. This played out for two minutes. Then, like a lightning bolt, the guitar strummed into fluid motion and the melody arose. That beaming smile, as inner light, lit his face like a full moon and his voice conveyed exquisite tenderness as he sang. His presence, fully attuned with the Infinite, transmitted a sacred chant, one he may well have written for this occasion, and it pointed to our True Nature as inherently Divine:
“Ananda… Ananda… Ananda…Yogananda…” The chant, unleashed from the deep silence of his heart, vibrated through the auditorium, creating a harmonic resonance. It was as if all hearts in the room were now dancing on the same precipice, the space where our innermost being resides, the wisdom of emptiness and the fullness of love merged, becoming indistinguishable.
“Bliss… Bliss… Bliss… Union with Bliss…” Those sanskrit words carried a primordial language, silence, the only fluent language understood by all.
This was Kirtan, a mixture of mantra and satsang, where one-pointed focus through devotion and love transports us into the direct experience of Source Consciousness. It is the music of oneness. Some have called Kirtan- the Ultimate Vibration or the Sound of our True Being.
Several more stellar chants were shared, and the ethereal musician’s heart overflowed into the music. One chant was accompanied by a ukelele, another by a Himalayan bamboo flute. Each time, I felt the room drop into the bliss of union with God, that Great Expanse removes all mind-made questions, problems and desires.
After the Service, my wife was informed by her sister that the heart-inspiring musician had played with the celestial songstress, Deva Premal. Instantly I recalled his name, Manose. My wife and I had seen him 15 years earlier at a Kirtan. I felt drawn to share with him. So my wife, sister-in-law, who we met up with after the Service, and I walked over to a small table where Manose was selling a few CD’s. A small line had formed and when I reached the front his warm smile greeted me. I said:
“I love how your music comes from silence, has silence as the emphasis.” He nodded in agreement, adding.
“Yes, it does come from silence and there’s silence between every word, each note.” Then our eyes danced in the silence between those words for a few moments, before I continued.
“I saw you play 15 years ago with Deva and Miten in Santa Cruz.” He smiled, replying:
“Oh, that was when I was still a baby then.” The small group listening to the conversation all laughed. As our communion continued, Manose said, “Isn’t it great to have a space like this in the middle of the tech noise and heavy mind energy.” We all readily agreed.
Towards the end of our talk, Manose invited the three of us to a private Kirtan at a what was referred to as “a 60’s style house concert” taking place near the coast.
Manose told us that he agreed to lead the Kirtan on one condition: That all– “come in silence and go in silence.”