The vacation had just begun and students of the Brindavan campus were homeward bound. A few remained whose train reservations were unconfirmed. The campus was beginning to wear the deserted "vacation" look. Then came Bhagawan! And the complexion of the campus changed instantly. It began humming with life. Reservations were cancelled by the delighted students. Many others came flocking back when they heard the news.
The very first morning after His arrival, Bhagawan directed us to stage a short play on the day of the Institute's Convocation, 22nd November, giving barely twenty days' time for all the preparations that go with the production of a play. To begin with, the casting alone would take some days, we thought, as we may have to test a number of students for the lead role and other roles.
The play that Bhagawan had directed us to stage was a musical adaptation of ten verses from Adi Sankara's "Bhaja Govindam". The structure of the play was such that the lead role player had about 90 percent of the play's dialogue as his lines and practically all the songs in it. It required an actor with extraordinary memory, diction and musical skill, not to mention the necessary stage presence to play the role of Sri Sankara. We were at a loss to find the right actor for such a difficult role. Bhagawan solved our problem in a trice. With His insight into individual talent, ability and personality, Bhagawan picked the student not only for the lead role, but also those for all other roles within five minutes. He spoke to them about the nature of each role helping them to understand their different roles in depth and enabling them to portray those characters convincingly. He gave them hints on the personal mannerisms, individual eccentricities and subtle aspects of gait, stance and posture which make the characters come alive on the stage.
Music plays a great part in the appeal of this play. The verses from "Bhaja Govindam" are sung in pure Carnatic style. This was where Bhagawan acted as a music teacher par excellence. It was a most wonderful experience to hear and witness the pure melody that flowed from Him as He taught the leading actor how to sing, enunciate, pause, and enrich the flavour of the classical strains with special vocal effects. He who is Nadabrahmam incarnate gave lessons in singing to the students, which revealed His great compassion.
When it came to the listing of costumes and accessories for the entire cast of actors, we were faced with the problem of ordering a long list of odds and ends from local dealers, who were fully booked because of the large scale cultural festival that was to take place in Bangalore for the SAARC conference. We were in a quandary over this and Bhagawan solved this problem tool He had everything we needed. The costumes, rudraksha-malas, antique jewellery, furniture, deer skins, silks, shawls and what not! Even lighting crew and stage backdrop men were all available in no time. As regards the instruments for the orchestra, Bhagawan provided all the instruments, an excellent music director and very competent players on string, wind and percussion instruments.
It was a liberal education for all of us who were involved in the production. Bhagawan enriched the script of the play by adding sublime truths and gems of Vedantic teaching couched in beautiful, simple language. What would have been a crude Morality Play was transformed by Him into a stirring, inspiring and deeply enjoyable mixture of music and spirituality.
Through "Bhaja Govindam" Sri Sankara wanted to drive home into the hearts of men the truth that devotion to God, detachment from the illusory charms of worldly objects and sincere effort to follow the Guru's teachings will save man from perpetual misery.
The first scene shows the Acharya and his disciples meditating in the morning near Benares. The next scene depicts how Sri Sankara pricks the bubble of intellectual pride in a learned pundit. The scholar is engrossed in his subject and hankers after the rewards that scholarship bestows. Sankara makes him realise that without devotion to God, achievements of man in the arts and sciences lead him nowhere.
The next scene portrays the emptiness of human vanity. A wealthy young man, proud and arrogant, imagines that he is the master of the world. Sankara gives a jolt to his vanity by opening his eyes to the instability of worldly grandeur and advises him to turn his thoughts towards God.
The next scene portrays the vanity of the self righteous orthodox man who returns from a pilgrimage full of smug satisfaction and a holier than thou attitude. Sankara makes him realise the futility of such pilgrimages when they don't result in the cultivation of humility, detachment and true piety.
The fifth scene depicts a quiet moment in the life of the disciples of the Master. Some are performing their daily duties and others are engaged in study and meditation. The senior most disciple Thotaka reflects on their experience as sanyasis following the Great Master. The Master comes presently and discourses to them on the bliss of renunciation.
The next scene presents the picture of the terrible fate that awaits man in his old age. Sri Sankara advises such men to start meditating on God before it is too late.
The next scene shows how Sankara teaches a group of proud pundits the futility of learning without developing faith in Oneness with all.
The eighth scene portrays how man is caught up in the endless cycle of birth and death. Sankara exhorts man to surrender to God and seek His grace to snap the ties of human bondage.
The last scene shows the Master teaching his disciples and answering their questions on spiritual problems. Even householders are drawn to the great compassionate Master. He guides them in their attempts to understand the goal of life.