The following offerings have been given by students and friends of Pandit Pran Nath. They are presented as a garland of loving tributes in his memory. We leave them with their intended expressions, preserving the punctuations and capitalizations as presented by the individuals. 



There are so many precious memories of our Guruji, who told me and Joan, standing in his living room shortly before he died, that he wanted to be remembered as Faquir Pran Nath.


Here are a few little snippets of ‘regular’ life with Guruji:


– Bowing and touching his feet “Take tambura”


– Sitting in on each other’s lessons. “Practice do”


            – Picking a rose to take to the beautiful, young woman in the cafe
            – Picking a eucalyptus leaf to crumple and smell
            – Picking up every rubber band on the sidewalk to bring to India.
            – Hellos to everyone we passed
            – Raga lessons continued on the walk
            – Taking off glasses, turning closed eyes toward the sun and feeling it on our eyelids                                      


– Morning lessons when very often, the smoke alarm would go off… Mataji was cooking rotis! Guruji would point to his calendar on the floor and we would jump up and wave the calendar in the air to clear the smoke.


– Eating peeled almonds (often soaked and peeled by Joan) Breakfasts and dinners sitting on his living room floor


– Medical appointments. Guruji liked going to the doctor. Often said on leaving, “They don’t know…we all guinea pigs”


– Telephone calls checking in on us and family


– Three trips to India for Raga classes and visit to Tapkeshwar caves, where the river was his tambura


– In the hospital the day he died, many of us gathered around his bed. The defibrillator gets turned off. Guruji opened his eyes and looked intently at each of us, closed them and died…a final darshan.


– Then there is the dream I had shortly after he died… Guruji is in an elegant carriage drawn by a horse. I am standing below and Guruji tells me to go get all my money and bring it to him. I come back with a big bag full of money and he feeds it to the horse!


He loved us and we adored him. He made us into one family. I miss him and yet he is always present.


~ Humbly submitted by Hayat Rubardt ~



Hayat and Guruji in Ohlone Park, Berkeley, CA



The following photo was taken in Portland in ‘84 or ‘85 at a group Raga Singing Class at Kathrine Jackson and Rik Masterson’s house.  One of the students, who was accompanying, was having a little difficulty getting the instrument in tune. Guruji asked for it, just barely touched it, he very gently, barely touched one of the strings, and you could hear it blossom into luminous tune.  Miraculous!  At that time, I’d not seen that before.  It was as if he was saying/showing, “see, how easy?” This was my first class with him.  A lovely Rikhi Ram tambura.  


The photo was taken by Daniel O’Donnell, and he captured a rare and brilliant smile of a special moment. Guruji came back to Portland once or twice annually for the next 12-13 years.  He planted the seeds of Raga Sangeet with many here in Portland.


~ Michael Stirling ~




Guruji finally formally initiated me in the Kirana Gharana on January 27, 1995 after nineteen years of study with Him.  To be clear, there had been another moment years earlier when He had “thrown the invisible spark” at me across the room in Berkeley, while I was sitting quietly after a lesson on his living room rug. He actually made a short quick open-hand throwing movement with his right hand directly at my third eye. We didn’t speak. I knew something had happened, but I was not yet clear on what. And years later, at that formal ceremony, when He tied the sacred thread around my right wrist, He “snapped” the knot tightly and looked into my eyes as if He had just “caught” me. It was a shock, and I then realized that He had deliberately made me chase Him all those years when, in reality, He had been chasing me.  


You see, when I met Him, I was getting a divorce and had come to New York City to pursue Broadway after studying acting and singing in college. My Spirit was deeply distraught and I had many veils over my Soul. I never thought I would meet such a Saint. I marvel that He even allowed me to be near Him as I was such a psychological mess. And then when I sat before Him for my very first lesson, I was in such Bliss that I forgot all else. That began the deepest connection of my existence. He was able to look beyond my human ego faults. In fact, they weren’t there. In his Presence, I became Presence. There was just Presence.


He lived sparsely, quietly, with a humble dignity. He did not always have lots of disciples around Him, except in California. And so, I would walk with Him in New York City or Delhi. I rarely spoke around Him…ever. Silence was fulfilling, as His Being, in such a truly modest human, was invisibly enormously expansive.   


In New York, His senior disciples, La Monte Young Marian Zazeela, were very busy serving Guruji’s work. Thus, my fortunate job after my lesson was to take Him for a walk and protect Him, often down the busy Canal Street with its hustle and bustle, which He seemed to enjoy. He would set the pace and the direction.  


We also walked to the little Tribeca Park on Walker. He always crossed 6th avenue with great gusto immediately as the light turned green. We would stand in the tiny triangular park for some time facing South. Four streets intersected there: 6th Avenue, Walker and Beach, with West Broadway culminating. Finally, He would tell me, “Wind coming from South,” (or East, North or West) in that voice He had which connected us to Nature, in that little patch of green trees, in the middle of the big city. For years after His passing, when I would go for a lesson with La Monte Marian, I would take the time to stand there facing South in that tiny Tribeca Park, surrounded by the wind and the same trees who had been in His presence. I would be still, find the wind’s direction, and silently ask the trees, “Do you remember Him?”


One day, we paused our walk on 6th Avenue at a window of the Tribeca Pharmacy. He looked at me expectantly. I was looking at Him and had not seen the large picture/poster of Paramahansa Yogananda in the window. Finally, He actually pointed to it. Guruji had already introduced us to Hazrat Inayat Khan and to Shirdi ke Sai Baba, so I was puzzled. After some time, I queried, “What?” And as Guruji kept pointing, I said, “Do you want me to study with him?” His response was a nod, finger pointing to the sky, and the one-word: “Highest.” Thus, I have spent over 20 years taking the “Self-Realization” lessons, trying to evolve my Soul with that meditation technique, and going on silent retreats with them. Before starting, I wrote to the Mother Center, asking for permission to study the lessons, and explained to them that I could never take initiation in Kriya Yoga as I already had a Guru. They wrote back that it was fine, and they also sent me a pamphlet on how to recognize a true Guru. That made me smile!  I kept my amusement to myself, as I knew that Guruji wanted me to work on evolving my Soul in order to sing His music…a task that I am still working on.  


The ocean of knowledge that Guruji had of ancient Raga was so enormous that I cry for Him as my teacher. Fortunately, He gave parts of his huge proficiency to his many disciples. I was a slow learner, spending seven years on just two ragas: morning Bhairav and evening Yaman.  Especially as I had to support myself full-time working, these were my refuge. As time went on, I could learn more, but unless He taught me a raga personally, I could not even relate to it.  However, if I had studied one with Him, I can still glean enormous subtleties from listening to His recordings: Darbari, Yaman, Bhoopali, Bhairavi, Brindabani Sarang.  Each raga requires a different vocal technique that serves it and brings it to life.  Recently, I was literally astonished at the incredible way He uses His breath in Asavari.  I believe He once described it as moving like “smoke”.  Of course, you all know that He prayed with Sound Vibration.   He was a living prayer.  And when He sang, we were praying with Him.  


Some years before my initiation, there was a trip to India when Guruji took me to the gravesite of his Guru, Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan.  In this picture taken by John Sackett, I believe He was presenting me for the Spiritual approval of his Guru, which would culminate years later in my formal ceremony.  I do pray that I fulfill my duty and am able to teach and perform as He wished me to do.  I have found only a few students in NYC who want to spend a lifetime with this slow meditative music.  Thus, I have made some videos teaching, hoping that perhaps there is some value in them for future generations.  I still have many personal samskaras, and as I approach the age that He was when He died, I am wondering if I have done enough and how I can do more.  I miss Him every day.  To sit at His feet and sing with Him was to be in Heaven on earth.  


~ Lee Torchia, NYC ~



Lee and Guruji at the gravesite of Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan





Initiation ceremony in 1995 with Hayat, Guruji & Lee



I met Pandit Pran Nath, known to his students as Guruji, in 1972, thanks to my friend Vasheest Davenport. Vasheest heard Guruji in concert and was so taken by his music that he arranged a House Concert at the Garden of Allah, in Corte Madera, where we all lived and a group lesson for the Sufi Choir. “He was a magician with his voice, it moved me so deeply!,” Vasheest said.


That week I started taking private lessons twice a week and within a few months I became his disciple. He became my best friend, music teacher, guide, business advisor and Godfather to my children.


Around 1977 he gave me the practice of singing in my full voice (very loud) for at least a half hour a day.  Guruji had just traveled to NY to do a recording. It was an April morning and my wife, Tamam was getting our son, Ammon, ready for school. She had to walk through the living room to the deck, where I was practicing in full voice. The sound was so loud that she covered her ears, as if to say, ‘this is hard to take!’. Naturally I stopped practicing…’I’ll just wait till they’re off to school to continue’. But then I noticed that Tamam, who had always been very supportive of my practice, had gone into the bedroom feeling bad about what she had done. I followed her, so we could talk and clear the air and just as I walked into the bedroom the phone rang….its Guruji….”Ram Ram Guruji”, I said…”Full voice do, must do your practice!” he replied….I laughed….”What’s the matter, did the police complain?” he asked….”No just the local people” I said. Then in his most Krishna like voice he requested, “Let me say hello to Tamam,” and naturally he had only sweet words for her!


“Should I schedule your concerts at the new moon or the full moon,” I asked him one day. “No, you don’t understand. Sun and Moon both inside the Notes!” was his reply.


Pandit Pran Nath was an extraordinary astrologer. He carefully selected the day of our wedding in 1976. In 1977 he predicted that he had a very dark period coming and there was only a small chance he would live through it. In May of 1978, I visited Guruji’s house with my good friend, Dr. Dutch Knapp, because Guruji had been complaining of a chronic ear infection. After being there a few minutes both Dutch and I realized Guruji was developing classic signs of a heart attack. We decided to take him to the hospital to observe him but as he was getting ready, he had a massive cardiac arrest and fell into the doctor’s arms. Dutch did CPR on him till the Paramedics came…he was dead for a full 13 minutes! As he was revived he told us that he experienced falling into the lap of one of his inner Gurus, Shirdi Sai Baba, and that Baba was stroking his head and showering him with love…and then we shocked him back into the body.


Guruji used to get up every night around 3:00 AM, light some incense, say prayers and then go back to sleep. A few weeks after his heart attack, I was visiting early one morning. “I fell out of bed last night,” he said. In amazement I asked him why. “I forgot to get up for prayers last night and my Pir kicked me out of bed!” He was a devotee of the twelfth century Chisti Sufi, Pir Hazrat Allaudin Sabri. Before his death, Guruji requested his grave marker to read, ‘Faquir Pran Nath, Ghulam (slave) of Chisti Sabri’!


Around 1981, I was making musical instruments and teaching music. In order to help me with my music and career, Guruji authorized me to start teaching Raga under the school name ‘Chisti Sabri School of Music’. In August of that year he also suggested I open a store. I thought he meant a music store…and I couldn’t see it. In October, at a wedding reception, I was talking to a woman who turned out to be our good luck fairy! “I’m closing my business,” she said. “It’s not doing well?” I asked. “It’s doing great,” she said. “I’m just ready to move on!” Some strong feeling came over me “Well maybe we’ll buy it. What kind of business is it?” It was a tiny retail sweater store on Pier 39. The next day I called Guruji for his advice and he replied “What’s the matter, you don’t remember, I told you already, several months ago!”


But the greatest gift he gave me was the unveiling of the Secret of the Musical Scale and the transmission of the oral Classical Raga Music Tradition from India. Over the twenty-four year period we were together every music lesson he gave me was new, and there was so much more he could have shared, if his physical body would have allowed. We traveled together to India, to Hawaii, to Oregon, New Mexico, to Chicago, to New York… performed concerts for holy people like the Dalai Lama. We sang together, walked together, cooked together, laughed and cried together. He knew me before I was married and was there to bless my wife and I on our 20th wedding anniversary. He watched over my children as they grew from infancy to adulthood.


Guruji was a frequent guest at our Mendocino Sufi Camp. Upon returning from his first Sufi Camp experience he said, “I’ve been to the many Kumbha Melas (a festival in India that happens ever twelve years where all the Holy Men come down from the mountains to bathe in the sacred Ganges) but this much love in one place I’ve never seen.”


Before his death he was suffering from a dozen years of Parkinson’s disease, and heart trouble among other problems. On Tuesday, June 11, 1996 he collapsed from heart failure at his home in Berkeley. True to style, he fell into the arms of a Visiting Nurse, who revived him, and sent him to the hospital. By the time he was transferred from the Emergency Room up to Intensive Care he was sitting up in bed, fully conscious and directing traffic and making sure all the business of the day was being attended to….”Don’t forget to light the incense on my shrine and lock the door to my room!”


We had a previously scheduled Raga concert on the Sunday June 16th. On Wednesday June 12, when I visited him in the hospital, his last wish to me was to make sure the Sunday concert went on as scheduled and that I should also get all the students to sing. Looking back, I find it most natural that he was planning his own memorial. On Thursday, June 13 at around 2:00 PM, while sitting on the bed in his hospital room, he collapsed and was once again revived by the doctors present; only this time though he was breathing on his own, he was completely unconscious to the world. We called many his close disciples and friends to come as this appeared to be his closing moments. His disciple from India, the beautiful vocalist, Sri Karunamayee, must have heard the inner call to come because she arrived from India, a twenty-five hour journey, two hours before his passing! By around 6:00 p.m. his cardiologist, Clark Daniels, arrived and after assessing the situation, agreed with us to deactivate his pacemaker, so there would be nothing artificial keeping him alive. At this point there were 13 or 14 of us with Guruji and we surrounded his bed in a crescent. The cardiologist placed a very strong magnet on the pacemaker and it took only a few minutes to deactivate. After being unconscious for over four hours, Guruji’s breath became very peaceful. Then he opened his eyes and looked into us from eternity, one by one, from left to right, in a very deliberate, penetrating and loving way, ending with his eldest daughter. With this last act of generosity, he left his body – Thursday, June 13th, 1996 at 6:26 p.m.


By Thursday night, midnight, we moved his body to his home in Berkeley. We put a mattress on the floor of his music room, bathed him and put him in fresh clothes. There he lay, covered with flowers as family, disciples, and friends, young and old, came through to share their tears and laughter, joy and sorrow. Saturday afternoon he was cremated.


As he requested, the concert went on as planned. On Sunday June 16th, we had a Memorial and Music Festival from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. at the Redwood Mosque in Fairfax. So many of his disciple and students, master musicians in their own right, performed to honor him. And in the end, all his students were on stage singing together, pouring forth all the music he had poured into them.


~ Shabda Kahn ~




I Never Met the Man Who Could Put the Notes in Their Pocket – Pandit Pran Nath 


Tribute Speech 11.12.1994 for Pandit Pran Nath’s 75th birthday – Shabda Kahn


It is our wish to pay great honor, love, appreciation, thanks and tribute to our dear friend, Pandit Pran Nath, who his students and friends refer to as Guruji, to a man who has dedicated his life to Music. The Sufi mystic Hazrat Inayat Khan, the first Indian Classical artist to perform on Western soil in 1910, asks the question, “Why does music appeal to man?”… his answer…the Soul is music! Guruji is just such a soul explorer, a musician who uncovers the soul through his heart. I’d like to tell you a little of his remarkable life.


Born into a family where the saints, fakirs and yogis came to do prayers in the morning and musicians came to play in the evenings, he started his musical career at the age of 6. By the age of 13, after his father’s passing, his mother and grandfather requested he go to England for study. He said, I’m too fond of this music to leave India …. his mother responded, either you do as I say or your no longer my son and no longer live here!


So, at age 13 Guruji became a vagabond, with Music as his sole support and inspiration. Within a few years he met the legendary singer Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan.


But who would take a young, homeless boy as their student? After several years of waiting, at the intercession of Khansahib’s cook, Pandit Pran Nath took initiation with Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan Chishti Sabri.


By the age of 19 Pandit Pran Nath had his first concert on All India Radio, the mark of a professional musician. With great zeal he attended his guru during the day and practiced into the night.


Later, partition brought them to India. While at a concert festival in Haridwar he met Swami Narayangiri. This great mystic became his close friend and teacher and invited him to live in some ancient historical caves near Dehradun, named Tapkeshwar. These caves were known as the place where Dronacharya brought his son for a blessing to the natural Shiva lingam that was inside the cave.


So, he took up the life of an ascetic, practicing his music in nature, living very simply. Once a month he would travel to Delhi for his All India Radio Concert, which provided enough funds for him to live on for the month. On his way back north, he would visit his Ustad Wahid Khansahib in Kirana and then back to the caves for music practice.


As his Guru was dying, he gave his last wish…”You have big work to do… enough of this ascetic life, you must go into the world, get married and teach this treasure of music.” He married, had four children and became the head of Vocal Music instruction at Delhi University.


In 1968, to our great good fortune, while in New York La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela heard a tape of Guruji’s music and were so moved that they arranged for him to come to America. In January 1970, Guruji arrived in the west for the first time. He began his teaching at the New School for Social Research in New York. La Monte invited his best friend Terry Riley, to hear Guruji and ever since Guruji began teaching two of the most influential Western musicians of our time.


Guruji came out to California in 1971 and was a guest Professor at Mills College. I had the good fortune of being his chauffeur to Mills during that time.


In 1978 he predicted a very difficult period for himself, telling me he could easily die, but there was a small chance he would live through it. Guruji suffered a massive cardiac arrest, literally falling dead into the doctor’s arms, to be fully resuscitated 13 minutes later! As he said, “I guess I had more work to do!!!”


There are special times in history when the treasure of one land has to be carried to another land, from one culture to another. Guruji, with great love, care and truth has dedicated himself to planting the fragrant rose of North Indian Classical Vocal Music into the hearts and soil of the West. With the help of La Monte Young and Terry Riley and his many students and disciples he has sung concerts all of over Europe and the US. He continues to teach and inspire his students daily, though many people his age would have retired.


Indian Classical Music….Raga is a vast ocean of love. As Guruji has often said, “I never met the man who could put the notes in his pocket.” 


Western audiences’ first introduction to Indian Classical Music was the dazzling performance abilities of the Indian artists. Pandit Pran Nath’s special contribution points to the more hidden aspect of the music, the characteristics and subtle shadings of notes that distinguish one Raga from another – to preserve the alchemical nature of this extraordinary science of Music. In this way he has been a musicians’ musician, guiding and instructing musicians into the heart of Music. Before coming to the West, he taught Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, Ustds. Nazakat and Salamat Ali Khan, Pt. Jagdish Mohan, Sri Karunamayee, Smt. Sheila Dhar and many others in India and the West. 


Many thanks to the great artists who will play for us tonight. First to Pandit Pran Nath, to Zakir Hussain and Antonia Minnecola, to the Kronos Quartet, to Terry Riley and George Brooks; to Jim Neuman and all the staff Other Minds who have made this evening possible and to all of you who have brought your hearts and love to make this evening a special gift to Pandit Pran Nath.



Poem to Guruji                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           


In this season of  night bird songs


this beautiful early evening


I watched the deep red rose petals drop


from the open flower


as you let go.


I love you like a daughter to a loving father


knew you longer than my own mother.


How can I be sad that you left this worn out body?


I weep for myself


and for all of us, your blood and music children


now at this moment we are a composition


sweet feeling notes


one song.


I feel suddenly unsure


missing your steadiness,


kind of dull


without your luminous wit,


newly raw


lacking your soothing protection.


In the words of another*


Now that the singer is gone


where shall we go for the song?




~ Tamam Kahn  6/14/96 ~


* Robert Hunter, Eulogy for J. Garcia






  Photo:  taken at Kailash Colony, February 1983, by Chet Wood



First about Guruji is that he completely changed the trajectory of my life, without any awareness on his part of having done so, as far as I know. I first heard him sing in the Spring of 1974, at an afternoon concert. I was totally uninterested in the music of India at the time, however, I had heard recordings of Terry Riley’s ‘Rainbow’. I simply thought that was how music should sound. Truthfully, the opportunity to see and hear Terry was the only reason I attended the concert.


When Guruji started to sing, I started to nod off; then I thought “Wait a minute. If it’s true that music is the universal language, I should be able to listen to this and understand it.” So, I pulled myself back together, sat up, eyes still closed, actually started to listen— and very shortly experienced an incredibly bright and loving burst of light in my head. My immediate thought was, “I have to get closer to this.” The rest of the concert was as if Guruji was singing exactly to me, and as though I could understand every word. After several days, the thought occurred to me that I could take lessons with Guruji; the shift in focus from becoming a professional potter to music. After three years studying privately, I enrolled at Mills, completing my degrees in ‘84— a foundational change leading to a viable career.




I always thought I’d remember everything from every lesson with Guruji, but as time would have it, those that stand out are the unusual or actually stunning memories.




Once, walking with him at Mills, I related an incident from a Sufi Ruhaniat meeting the night before that I had not attended (but heard about) in which two sheikhs were recognized. One was prepared with his robe; the other was not, and he complained about it. The first sheikh took off his robe and tossed it to the other. There was some comment made about a “shirt sheikh.” When I related that to Guruji, he completely cracked up—the only time I ever saw him totally lose it laughing.




A chilling picture is Guruji’s disoriented glance just after his first heart attack. Terry Riley and I had been notified of Guruji’s collapse during a lesson at Mills. We left immediately for the Greenwich St. loft where Guruji was staying; we arrived just as the gurney swung by Terry and I, loading Guruji onto the ambulance, and then following it to San Francisco General Hospital and remaining there until we were certain Guruji would live and I went home.




Shortly after Guruji was released from the hospital, one incident seemed so characteristic of Guruji’s great dignity, self-control— and his humility. La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela called me. Guruji had experienced a dizzy spell. Could I get him to the hospital? I borrowed a car and we got to the ER. After he was checked in, one of those tough orderlies said “Come over here and get up on this gurney.” With great dignity, Guruji responded, “I can walk.” The orderly grimaced and ordered impatiently, “Then s’posing you just walk over here and get up on this gurney.” I held my breath; Guruji with great reserve complied.




At his first concert given at Mills after his heart attack, an amazingly coincidental event, like so many that occurred around Guruji, may have saved his life. The concert was in the elegant activity hall at the student union. It was an unusually blustery, windy day. The room had a fireplace (unlit) at the far end; a large and very heavy tri-fold wooden screen was set up in front of it where Guruji sat to perform. At the end of the intermission, two stalwart young men placed themselves at either side of the partition, more or less facing the audience. I thought it was sort of presumptuous at the time. After the beginning of the raga, however, a sudden and extremely violent gust of wind came down through the chimney and tipped the partition over directly towards Guruji. The two men, in retrospect both resembling Hanuman, simply leaped up in unison and stopped its fall! Everyone was shocked and astounded, but the fact is that the day was saved. Of course, Guruji maintained his composure and simply ended the concert.




Probably a decade later I drove Guruji to Alta Bates Hospital for an inpatient procedure. I was walking beside his gurney on the way to the OR when he turned his head, looked at me and said, “The music stopped.” I listened and realized the music in my own head had stopped as well.




At a morning lesson (Sri Karunamayee was also present), I was wearing one of my favorite old-style Navajo bracelets. At the close of the lesson, Guruji pointed to it and said, “I want that.” I took it off and gave it to him, then left for the City, to return the next day. At 3:00 a.m. that night/morning, I suddenly woke up to see a cat burglar exiting my studio apartment. I started screaming like crazy; too late. On the floor, overturned, was the inlaid Spanish box in which that bracelet normally resided. The next day, shortly after we began my lesson, Guruji motioned me to stop. He went into his bedroom and came back with the bracelet, gave it to me, saying, “I dreamed last night and they told me to give it back to you.” I was grateful enough that it wasn’t in the hands of thieves— how amazing that it still lives with me!




A simple favorite memory didn’t even involve music. After my lesson, Guruji had me drive him to the Berkeley Marina where he could exercise in the strong fresh winds blowing through the Golden Gate. We were walking on the path and were suddenly amazed by a multitude of kites above us, mostly organized into groups of five. He looked at me, like, “What?” I don’t remember a word passing between us, but there must have been a posted sign indicating an international team kite-flying contest was to take place there. Each team practiced in tandem, executing incredibly complex patterns with their small triangular kites. The spectacle was so beautiful and so superbly executed! We simply watched and walked until he tired and then returned home.




Beyond the compositions, the amazing incidents and the lifetime vocation, truly the greatest gift Guruji gave me is the gift of emotional positivity—when I practice. Slack off practice, and I’m inclined to whine. The path has not been easy. Nonetheless, he, and the passage to positivity, are always there—as long as I follow his dictum: “Practice do.” I am so grateful. As he would say, “Allah Malika!”


~ Carrie Kaffea Starr ~





Guruji Reminiscences


I asked Guruji if he had ever played any sports when he was young. He was such a profound personality, and usually anecdotes about him focus on the depth of his music, or spirituality, etc.   We were walking at that park that runs along Hearst Ave one afternoon after a lesson.  I had been very interested in sports as a boy and it suddenly made me wonder about his childhood, and whether or not he had had any normal childhood impulses that most boys have.  As best as I recall, he said this:


“One time a group of boys asked me to play soccer with them. I was a young boy. I played with them, then one of them kicked the ball into a hole. They asked me to climb down and get it. They said they would pull me out again.  I climbed down and threw the ball to them. Then they ran away and left me in the hole.  I was crying, and a Sikh man came by and heard me crying. He undid his turban and pulled me out. First and last time I did sports.”  


He laughed a little bit.


~John Sackett~



Good fortune came my way in 1979 when I first met Pandit Pran Nath. As with so many other fortunate beings he drew me onto the path of the Raga that has become a receding horizon of deep joy and wonder. I cannot thank him enough and continue to ask his blessings every day.


From a vast and endearing flood of memories I have of Guruji and his sangha I will share in two ways: one short memory and one set of his actual words I was able to pen in my collections of lessons Guruji gave me over the years.


1 – One memory: Wendy Garling and I had purchased for $49,000 an early 1900’s toppling-over farm house on Acton Street in Berkeley, California. Through several years of toil we had righted it up, raised it up, and had created a two floor home with a new basement apartment. Guruji was in transition from his Berkeley apartment to his new home and he stayed for a time in our new apartment.


In our new “hand-made” kitchen we had built a small booth table which had a garden/greenhouse window as one side looking out onto the gardens below. One morning I had made chai for Guruji who had just given me a lesson. We sat only a few feet across from one another. (Slirrr…ppp!)


A soft rain was quietly tapping on the greenhouse glass and I confessed to Guruji that I seemed to be so very slow at learning raga and often felt I could barely sing Sa with any sort of confidence and competence. I was discouraged. I half expected him to give me his deep pool eye gaze and tell me, as he had so many times: “Practice do”, but he didn’t.


He turned to the rainy window, held silence, looked out quietly and finally turned with a loving look and said: “Doctor Sahib, now you are the ground. Let the rain, the raga music, fall on you and into you. Listen and listen. Hear me, hear Terry Riley, Shabda Kahn and others who are there with you. From that and practice your music will arrive and be yours and everybody’s. Not to worry.”


2 – Guruji’s words: As I hold my old and tattered raga notebook I have such delight knowing how within, like Narnia, it will open a door into so many lessons, so many places and times, so much of my life with Guruji in the music. (I was once delighted when Guruji instructed me to go into his bedroom and bring back his old notebook tucked away somewhere. He wanted to recall something of his past in his learnings to share now. Alas! We all take notes!)


I thought I’d simply give you some of his little quotes I’d put at the edge of my lesson crib notes. I am not including all the many compositions he showed me and all of us at one time or another, and such in the following…just snippets of what he said….much I could only grasp a word or two.


When I look at my notes I can still hear him from all those times: me soaking up the rain of his rainbow music, and being blessed to be at his feet.


As follows: the Raga, dates if there, and some of what he said (no compositions):


  • Asawari 2/88, 5/89, “End of life Raga”; “Smoke from Ghats..” “Komal Re – is correct, Asawari is Todi family”.
  • Bageshri 3/8/87, “Raga is face; no two same; can have same notes, different shape”
  • Bahar 3/88, “ I Not did in concert for 30 years…special, not Malkauns shape”
  • Punjabi Berwa, “My composition, my foolishness (laughs)” “ I have no peace of without him, my beloved, all this time my tears have flowed like rain”
  • Ahir Bhairav, 12/23/88; “Cowboy Song, not long Alap…many andolans, meend from M to Komal R”; Jago Rey composition: “From Krishna land, Brindavan, “Wake Up”
  • Bhairav, 10/83, “Do ati ati Komal Dha; care Ga not flat; sing to hear overtone Komal Dha, Ni; Ni going up little higher than down; M with little andolan to G is Dawn; Pa/Ma, Pa/Ma, Pa-ah is Sun; do two types andolan – swinging and bounce” “My teacher Abdul Khan taught me two Pakar – catch phrase: Pa/Ga up to Komal Dha and Sa Ni Sa Komal Re down to Komal Dha. This is Key!”
  • Naut Bhairav [Nat Bhairav?], “Nat is Bilawal Family…Komal Dha is higher than Bhairav”
  • Bhairavi, 1/25/87 in Delhi, “Sa is sung slightly off tamboura…low (alug), only raga this is done; this raga is the soul. Sing like coming from a distance” “Same Komal Dha, Komal Ni, Sa as in Malkauns”
  • Delhi Bhariavi, 6/4/89 Uto Gopal Composition “Woman can’t go outside…Krishna is throwing (colors) petals on her Chadra; He does what he wants, He is fearless”.
  • Bhimpalasi, “develop scale then can stay with Pa long time”
  • Bhupali (Bhup Kalyan), “Know Maheshwara is Lord Shiva and Bhairav also name for Lord Shiva”
  • Bibhas, 1/11/89, “ Raga son of Bhairav…from Himalayas” “Komal Re is found between morning & night Komal Re (higher).” “My composition made in Tapkeshawar…Not standing too much on Komal Ra, Komal Da” “ Bhairav with Pa…son of Bhairav”.
  • Bilawal, Berkeley Class 10/89,  “One of most difficult Raga” “Has many Gitairi”
  • Darbari Kanada,”Make Komal Ga ati, ati” “Say Dha on Re; Ra to Dha is gitkari to Sa, then akar meend to Da” “Re is highest, very near Ga, best not too heavy.” “Not develop Pa to Komal Dha …Jaunpuri will come in…” “First Re’s have Ga leads, ati ati Ga” “touch Ga in Re down to Dha” “Ga very close little higher Re…slow andolan is used” “Ga sign little closed mouth for “Guh” type sound, not too much akar” “ Ga of Jaunpuri is rounding over back to slightly brighter Re; can also hint at Shuddha Ga into Komal Ga” “Komal Dha helped from Ma and andolan to Komal Ni then to Pa” “ Darbari …low scale Raga, solo; andolans, meends,” “Darbari given to Mughal King Akbar…Tansen sang in Akbar’s court from scale from Karnataka; Darbar is court…suitable for court (low scale) ..Darbari Kanada.” “Komal Ga has 9 different forms” 1/16/86 “ Key to Darbari what Tansen gave Ma to Re (K-Ga) (Sa) to K-Dha to Sa” “When my teacher would start with only Ni…you hear all of Darbari coming” Delhi Class 8/25/85. (Some Compositions dated 7/6/86, 4/12/88, many not.) “Chand tan…baby wanting to play with Moon” (Terry-ji recently sent me this tan from Japan as I’m now doing Ragabyes for my grandchildren. Darbari is on deck!)
  • Desi, “Kafi notes…meend N to K-Ni; Ma to Komal-Ga Re….some use of Komal Dha in between” “Adarang composition great…son of Sadarang – inventor of Khayal singing”  “Desi …folk; Mengr related to Shastras”
  • Durga 1987 Class; “M higher than Malkauns” “ Evening Raga after Yaman” Rupa Jo composition: “Looks and youth and knowledge are given by good fortune only. Daras Piy – the poet – says that he speaks rightly when he reminds us to know this truth and to fear God. “RMR same as in Sarang” “Use many murki and gamaks”. 6/25/90: Sakhee Mooree composition: My friend see the rain clouds are coming Dark Night, lightening; How I can go to my beloved?”
  • Gunkali  First given to me in Kathmandu; then 1/15/87 Delhi: “Helper of raga, connector, Komal Dha “ah”of Pa. Key is Komal Dha to add reflection to Pa. Terry (3/86): “Komal Re is formed by touching lower lip…holding in salvia”. Taught Hey Karatar. (Guruji’s mother’s name).  10/85 composition Guru Charana given in Berkeley.
  • Hindol Vadi N, samvadi G. “Dangerous for fire”.
  • Jaunpuri “No standing on R or get Darbari”. Komal Ga approach – round over back to “brighter” Re (Darbari less so)….may show hint of shudra Ga into Komal Ga.” Guruji meaning of composition Bhar Mazare Ma..”Put by the poor man’s grave No candle, no rose, no moth’s wing must burn, no nightingale to sing.”
  • Kafi  ? some notes lost – only have sitar lesson notes from Krishna Bhatt. Email from Terry 9/09 referring to a recording of Guruji I sent him. “Marvelous Kafi that Guruji is singing…so much color in the notes…nobody sounds like that. SRgMPDnS is the basic scale and in Mishra Kafi you can use all the notes…this one uses less altered notes, but will notice a lot of shudh ni…..” Guruji on mishra kafi: “My little prayer..Surdas poetry”.
  • Kalingda “ other Vadi/samvadi can be made in this Ragini”. ..use Pa vadi, Sa samvadi.”Standing Notes in this raga”
  • Shudh Kalyan 02/86 Bajore “use meends more”
  • Kedara “Lord Krishna favorite Raga…he flute player”
  • Khamaj (Sitar lessons)
  • Kirwani (Sitar Lessons) Krishna lesson ;”just minor scale and free form”
  • Lalit “ do late night…feeling of sorrow.”
  • Majavanti “ South India, light classical “ “Newer” Patdeep type with tivra Ma.
  • Mian ki Malhar “This is Tansen’s Malhar”; “I was singing at Delhi concert; Karunamayee was there with her father; asked to study raga with me” “raga has biggest andolan’s of all ragas”. “Same scale as Bahar, vadi m, samvadi S; one difference S to Komal N in Malhar bring vadi P in between back to Komal Ni, then Shudra N then down to P; Komal G gamak up to Ma. “Suldas’s Malhara has no G; G comes out of Brinda Bani”
  • Malkauns  12/18/87 “Male raga. 200 yrs old…night..Rishi singing to chase away bad spirits” “only sang this raga on a 3 month tour”
  • Marwa “poor man sitting outside temple wall, longing to go in” Ava Guna composition taught 10/86, 70 beats per min tabla
  • Megh “Rainy time, not morning, but anytime, mostly night’ Male Raga. “see big rainy clouds coming across, getting closer” “I learn from Baba Gyaani in Delhi”
  • Multani 10/86 in India – “ this ragini was Bahowdin Gitcre [likely Shaikh Bahauddin Jakriya/Zakariya?] of Multan…Multani…Sufi Saint was, Bahowdin Gitcre creator of this ragni….you can hear the sound of the desert.”   “late afternoon, tambura N); named from Multan, town of Baba Fareed [probably Fariduddin Ganjshakar?]; not standing komal Re, komal Ga, komal-Dha; komal-Dha is ati, ati; tivra-Ma is high close to P; komal-Ga is from N through komal-Re. N helps going down to komal-Dha; P is very echo”
  • Patdeep “afternoon, before sunset..or late night; tambura with strong N (low); N is same as Multani, komal-G higher than Bhimpalasi. Note: This was the Raga Guruji was singing on tour with Terry, Wendy, Krishna and me – Padua Italy.  Because of his new onset Parkinson’s he was singing about a ½ step off the tamburas. People were walking out of the hall…it was devastating. Later in our small room, Guruji said’ I did bad, I know” We were all crying.
  • Purvi (sitar lessons)
  • Puriya Dhanashri komal-Dha no standing.”most important P, tivra-Ma, G, tivra-Ma, komal-R, G….P is vadi of Shri, G is vadi of Puriya..standing on G is this,
  • Puriya “This composition is secret – like one snake man showing another his secret…musicians get together and share this”
  • Ramkali “always higher komal-R, higher komal-Dha than Bhairav”
  • Sarang “R is mirage; key is around N,S, R; Re uses hinting at Ga, never hitting Ga; strong meend from Re to Sa. From Sarangadiva a 15th century musician” [likely Sarngadeva of 13th century?]
  • Brindabani Sarang “this raga from my guru Wahid Khan taught me correct voice in raga”
  • Shri (Shree) 11/7/84 “lone man singing at temple at sunset; komal-Re is like first dip into water; highest komal-Re; not standing on Ga, can stand on P (vadi); key S meend to komal-Dha dipping to P in between…coming down to komal-Dha is key
  • Shuddha Sarang “must know how with two Ma’s..high octave Ma’s are shuddha
  • Suni or Sohni “High scale of Marwa; high Sa is vadi”
  • Tilang  1/28/87 in Delhi : “Not to use G much, can hint G coming down; N is not komal not shuddha…the big question; if Tilang in day, sing a little lower, if night sing a little higher; “ Tilang meaning sadness ….I don’t know which scale has the pleasure…this all sadness making the man inside; all happiness making outside; sadness is the squeezing the senses to go in…inner part of the body here (Guruji points to his heart); and happiness make…like spilling something” Not to sing before 11am – daytime S dominating, S-vadi, P-samvadi; nighttime Ga dominating, Ma is vadi, S is samvadi;” There are two type music: Deshi – territorial music…a “call”…talk music, belongs to old books spiritual; and Margi – Tilang is not Margi but inside man can make Deshi margi. Composition Tawahee Manjula (“When you will help…my tongue will sing if you can help me). Composition Moree Sudha Aan: poem of Tulsidas – daytime…N not komal, not shuddha”
  • Todi “This is Cry of the Lady.” M is lighter than Multani and not say “ma” going back to G. “listen: N S (komal-R to) komal-D…andolan komal-R back to S. komal-R to komal-G…set komal-G with komal-R. tivra-Ma (P) komal-D…”key” not resting on P and long curves…N is higher than Bhairavi, T-Ma lower than Multani…..; 10/86 “this composition by Tansen…Vidyaadhara Guniyana”. Without S(N) to komal-G, komal-R will come in”. komal-Dha & komal-Ga very low No pressure on komal-Ga…From tivra-M to komal-Ga cut off -komal-Ga clean…to give cry effect of woman.”; “tivra-Ma must have nasal and nasal place in akar. komal-Ga = “Guh”.
  • Gujarat Todi [Gujari Todi?]“No P, Higher komal-Dha….Story of Maharaji out in Galowa area and sighted a beautiful woman…and he married her….she was Gujara and musicians sang Todi at wedding in this way: gave name.  Marwa komal-Re and Gujura [Gujari?] Todi komal-Re same….more breath behind it.”
  • Billao Kahn Todi [Bilaskhani Todi?]- 4/90..“By grandson of Tansen…scale of Bhairavi with Todi Shape; No standing S, Stand G (Darbari with Bhairavi) SShudh M, no Ma in arohi, RGM is “sweet part”….PMGRGRNS”
  • Vasant 2/28/87 -“Sa is Teep (High Vadi), Pa Samvadi…Sa like gusts of wind in Spring seem to end on high note. Basant = NK-RS; Purya dhanaShri = Nk-R, N. Round over type”. “Must have inner emotion…Jazbaat…when finish a man, he can kill himself”
  • Yaman Kalyan 10/86 – “Fifth watch….N is low as in tivra-Ma, not natural not sharp; Ga never full presence…like a little control…P not standing; Vadi – Gandhar, Samvadi – Nishad.”


Other notes from Guruji: (Scattered out over the time in my tattered book, being with him):


Six main raga: Bhairav, Shri, Malkauns, Megh, Asavari ????Todi??


Hindol call of the Bugle


Gitkiree use back of throat


Murkee P become NMP


Duran ascending RS, GR, etc


Muran descending???


Khayal Singing “Thought singing’


Kat Ka – jerk to note lower


Ba See – slide down


Meend – slide up and down


Sud – back part of note


Andolan – swing but no more than 3 times


Hada – sharp cut


Kaidee – ‘Rule’


Ektal doesn’t mean “one”…”original name Yakku Tal –Persian


No Raga has standing tivra-Ma except in Multani and that moves with komal-Ga.


No raga has tivra-Ma as vadi or samvadi”


“So – “sound” of in breath…..Ham “sound” of out breath…from this the ancients made sound/singing.


“Galawa [Gwalior?] is the area where “all” music came from except Kirana Gharana…this was area of Mian Tansen”




~ Andrew Garling ~




If asked, Guruji would offer advice to students.  There were two occasions when I asked him for some advice:


One time, something was deeply troubling me that I hadn’t been able to work through.  At my lesson before we began singing I told him I was feeling troubled.  Guruji went into the bedroom and came out with a pair of small metal sandals the size of my thumb and gave them to me.  There was dried sandalwood paste on them from some puja or blessing. He said they came from Shirdi Sai Baba’s  ashram in India. Guruji had a deep connection to Shirdi Sai Baba and I suspect these had been on his altar table.  I do know they were such a precious thing for him to give to me. His generosity and heartfelt caring touch my heart and soul deeply to this day.


I had received a letter from my father, whom I hadn’t had any contact with for at least 20 years (my decision), telling me he was having surgery for pancreatic cancer. He didn’t ask me to visit, but he lived alone and I knew, as a nurse, that the surgery was difficult.  At my lesson I explained the situation to Guruji. His advice was very sage: “Family feeling very important but you should only go if it won’t cause any pressure.”  I did fly to Connecticut arriving the night before the surgery and took my father to the hospital in the morning. He died several hours after the surgery. I had a deep healing experience in that short time with my father, thanks to Guruji’s advice and his blessing.


Chocolate chip cookies


One time on my way to my lesson, I decided to stop and buy some chocolate chip cookies at Grace Baking.  I knew that they were not the usual bakery chocolate chip cookie, and I thought Guruji might like them as I had heard stories about the Haagen Daz ice cream bars he kept in his freezer.  I gave Guruji the cookies, had my lesson and drove home to Sacramento.  Later that day, the phone rang.  It was Guruji!  I was surprised to get a call from him.  “Guruji, hello!”  “Those cookies.  Where you get. Bring more. Best cookie I ever ate”.  I continued to bring those cookies to almost every lesson.


~ Sangeeta Tabor ~




Sometimes life gives us subtle hints of what is ahead, but too often we only realize it in hindsight. That was my experience when I was an undergraduate music student and someone handed me a record album of Pandit Pran Nath, one of the rare publications of his music. They said, “Take a listen to this. I think you might find it meaningful.” I did listen, but truth be told, I was not really able to ‘hear’ it. At the time, my ears were by and large deaf to its subtlety. I handed the album back to the owner and afterwards had largely forgotten about it.


Several years later, in 1986, I had moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in California when a dear friend said, “I am studying music with a sweet elderly Indian music master and I think you should come to one of my private lessons and hear him.”  I accepted the invitation and on one of those beautiful brilliant sunny days of early summer, we arrived at the doorstep of Pandit Pran Nath’s home in Berkeley.


Using the metal door knocker, my friend tapped lightly. In a few moments the door slowly swung open as if by magic, as there was no one standing there to greet us in the small foyer. We entered through the foyer and through two glass doors to a small living room, where Pandit Pran Nath, ‘Guruji’, was seated. His thick white hair was combed back and his long greying beard flowed onto the simple tan vest he was wearing along with grey cotton sweat pants and an off-white long-sleeved knit undershirt. He peered at us through his large glasses and after a brief introduction, the lesson began. At that time, lessons with Guruji were a half an hour in length, quite short comparatively, from a musician’s point of view. As I sat listening, the tambura holding a thread of sonorous continuity, I became riveted to the concentrated exchange of Guruji’s voice the student’s repetition. The room was so still and the concentration so focused, I began to perspire. Guruji’s energy was like a laser, carving the sound deep into the recesses of one’s heart. There was no escaping it and all of my attention was fixated. I looked at this “sweet elder master” as my friend had described, and thought, “That is no frail old man, that is a lion who is sitting there!” Before I knew it, the half hour had passed. It could have been an hour or two, for all I knew. Time had been suspended and it seemed that life beyond that room had become a distant extraneous happening. Lesson ended, we gave our respects and stepped outside again. I just stared disbelievingly at my friend and this time reiterated my thought aloud, “That is no sweet old man in there. That is a lion!”




I began lessons with Guruji in the fall of 1986. It was a new experience of assimilating music for me. I had just finished four years of intensive undergraduate study in music with all the rigors of western music theory and classical foundations. Learning with Guruji, by comparison, was such an organic method of learning with a wonderful freedom in the movement of the music, but how to capture it? Guruji did not favor recording or much note taking other than jotting down ‘words’, or rather for me foreign ‘sounds’, as he did not translate word for word but would give an overall synthesis of the meaning. The rest was a process of faith. It was quickly apparent that my role was to be a very attentive listener, allowing him to etch the music directly into my consciousness, rather than initially trying to capture the musical structures. He was giving the detailed shapes and movements of the notes through alap, familiarizing me with the raga. Although I did not understand this immediately, he was repeating the movements each time I sat with him, forming the language of the particular raga through the nuances and blending of the notes. Guruji was teaching in the time-honored oral tradition of India.


It would often happen that he only sang one or two lines of the composition. That was the lesson until the next week. Many times, I left the room wondering if I could remember much of what Guruji had sang, not only all of the fine expressions in the alap, but even the basic composition. I would often recall parts of it very clearly and then there were blanks. What began to develop through the process, week after week, was not just increased tonal memory, but an intuition about filling in the blanks. Because Guruji had so carefully and intensively given the alap – like wood burning it into my consciousness – a sense of where the music was going began to lead my efforts. I would fill in the lapses with what I thought would be possible. The next week Guruji would correct what was needed. This was a deep discovery – that the music Guruji gave lived inside of me. It stayed with me and I only had to allow it to surface again. I began to trust that the music was there and it would lead me.




In 1993 our family of three moved into the lower apartment of Guruji’s household – our five-year-old, my husband and myself. We assisted Guruji with his needs on a daily basis. He was always patient and grateful and I never found him to be demanding, although life was becoming difficult for him in his body. As a heart patient and suffering with Parkinson’s disease, he was becoming frailer. Still, he received students regularly and some would remain at the house after their lessons to assist with chores, errands and to take walks with Guruji. Our family became part of the flow of activity around Guruji, which was a great blessing for us during those last three years of his life.


Towards the end of that period, Guruji’s voice became very soft, an effect of the Parkinson’s condition. While he was teaching a lesson, sometimes he was hardly audible. However, what was truly astounding was his ability to communicate the notes despite his physical limitations. What I experienced was that he was able to send those notes directly. They literally bypassed my physical hearing and I was able to sing them back to him without having ‘heard’ them. I was not the only student who experienced this. That was the direct evidence of Guruji’s mastery of sound and breath.




Overlapping our time living with Guruji were the bi-annual visits of Sri Karunamayee, one of Guruji’s first students and his first initiate in India, who we began sponsoring in 1990. Guruji was very happy when she came and asked her to keep coming and going from India. She had such deep regard for Guruji and did exactly that for almost 30 years following, with the intent of supporting and fostering the music Guruji had planted in the west. During her visits I sensed Guruji’s appreciation. It brought India closer to him. Guruji missed India and would sometimes express it openly. Toward the end of his life he was especially missing the hill areas and said with a feeling of deep longing that he wanted to go back to India and go to Manali. There was much Guruji could share with Karuna Didi not only in music but also in so many connections in common that they shared from the time when Guruji was teaching her in her parent’s home in Delhi. They also had much to share in spiritual discourse. Once when Karuna Didi was expecting to come to the USA, her trip was held up because of a bone fracture she had sustained from a fall. Guruji asked me almost daily whether she would still be coming. Finally, when Guruji heard she would not be able to travel, tears filled his eyes.


One day in a lesson when Sri Karunamayee was visiting, Guruji directed me to study with her. I was surprised and a little concerned too. I asked him if it meant that he would not teach me thereafter. Immediately both he and Karuna Didi exclaimed, “No, no!” They indicated that I would take guidance from both of them. It was unusual for a Guru to do this, but he trusted her completely and understood that she would help me in many ways. It was great foresight on his part and after Guruji’s passing I was able to continue to study in depth with her for so many years afterward. Guruji knew that I would need this to sustain the music. When I thought about it, Guruji was always was looking out for his students, each in a unique way.




In 1994, Guruji brought Mata Ji, his wife, to the USA. She had been residing in their family home in India. It was Karuna Didi who pressed Guruji to finally bring her to Berkeley. At the time, his eldest daughter Shashi ji, had also come on a temporary visa. Now the household had grown and all of us had their added blessing. Both were so devoted to Guruji, cooking for him and tending to his needs. It was a solace for Guruji to have them there as his health was becoming frailer and their ongoing presence in the house was very supportive. Mataji and Shashi were so generous with the students, often cooking for them and always happy to share whatever they had.




Once, the renowned singer Salamat Ali Khan visited Guruji along with his two sons. Salamat ji and Guru ji knew each other when they were both growing up in Lahore before India’s partition. Guruji called me upstairs to meet them, and it was very clear that Guruji had deep regard for them. Salamat ji was helping his sons become established in the USA. At one point, Guruji got up and went to his room. When he returned, he placed a generous bundle of cash before Salamat ji. He said, “These are flowers.”




Guruji had great intuition. Once he and Karuna Didi were conversing at the small dining room table by the kitchen. He was telling her that he had just purchased earthquake insurance for his house. Immediately after he stopped speaking there was a small earth tremor, like an exclamation point at the end of his sentence. Karuna Didi and I looked at each other in surprise. He merely smiled.




Guruji had a small shrine in his bedroom where he did his puja every evening. He would light incense and listen to a 1974 recording of devotional singing, an arati from the Jangam Shivalaya temple in Dehra Dhun. Guruji immersed himself in the sounds of clanging temple bells and the exuberant voices of children who were being led in the prayers by a swami. It touched me that Guruji, a master of sound and intonation, accompanied his daily prayer with the sound of children singing, mostly not in pitch, but in perfect heartfelt devotion.




Once Guruji was very interested in going to the church that our family attended. We took him to a service and the words of a hymn that day were, “The Lord is my light and my salvation. Of whom should I be afraid?” Guruji turned to me and said, “This is very true.”




Guruji had a great sense of humor and although he was sparing of words, he could flatten a room full of people with his one-liners. One day I was cleaning up a little in his room. I asked, “Guruji, should I change the bed sheets today?” He smiled and said, “Bhagwan will do it.”




A few Guruji sayings:


“This music is for the peace of your soul.”


“Don’t think you are a foreigner to this music. This is your music.”


(In reference to students delinquent in their payment for lessons) “If the horse makes friends with the grass, what will he eat?”


(In reference to the music he imparted) “I am giving you jewels.”




There are so many thoughts and impressions of my time with Guruji, yet it is his stillness that remains with me. In all the music he imparted, there was always a feeling that it was resting in the depths of the ocean. All the waves and movements of his ocean of sound surely expressed unsurpassed beauty, but the peace that was immanent in his music, that is his everlasting gift to me.


~ Joan Allekotte ~