Of all the tributes that have been paid to Ustad Bismillah Khan, the greatest, I think, has come from Pt Jasraj who said that he (the ustad) was the Mahatma Gandhi of Indian classical music. How very true! The great maestro lived his life in the true sprit of Gandhi’s theme. “My life is my message.”
The Ustad’s pursuit of music was of the purest quality. The scriptures use the word satvik for it. A thing is satvik only when it is done without any motive, when it is done for its own sake. To attain that state, one has rise to a level from where one looks at wealth and fame as avoidable distractions. Ustad Bismillah Khan’s simplicity was a fair testimony to that fact that he had attained that level.
Simplicity is a hallmark of greatness, genius. Leonardo da Vinci described simplicity as the highest form of sophistication. As a means, it helps you in focusing at your goal. It avoids waste of time and effort. But it is also a worthy goal in itself, for it brings us closer to divinity.
Unfortunately, our relentless pursuit of comforts has made our lives complex and cluttered. It is the root cause of all our stress and absence of inner peace. There is a story of a sage who gets attached to a cat. To feed the cat, he is forced to keeps a cow and to look after it he has to take a wife and so on until he finds that he is caught in the vortex of worldly pursuits forgetting his main goal.
Similarly, we are today chasing one material thing after another without realising that each with each new acquisition we lose some of our freedom. How many of us today understand what truly gives us happiness and how we should pursue it? This is the message of the great maestro. It is time we heeded to the clarion call of Henry David Thoreau, “Our lives are frittered away by detail; simplify, simplify."