Last Sunday morning I sat in the 6am darkness, listening to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Something Understood’. It was my first chance to hear the episode I’d scripted and recorded on the topic of gurus – a subject that had been requested by the producers.
Something Understood has been going since 1995, and is an interesting programme that deals with topics of religion, spirituality, and the larger questions of human life – explored through speech, music, prose, and poetry. I appreciate that such a programme exists, in a time when it seems increasingly less PC to speak of religion and spirituality in mainstream media, except when related to war, terrorism and prejudice.
The request for an episode about gurus was something that stirred up a lot of thought for me. As I mention in the broadcast, the word ‘guru’ can carry so much baggage and misconception. Though I believe in the importance and great value of gurus, I have seen and heard a lot in my life so far, and I know that there are so many reasons to be wary of the concept. I wanted to touch on that in the episode, but also make a case for the rewards of seeking and finding a genuine guru – however difficult that may be.
One of the most fun things about writing these is choosing the music and readings – in this episode, everything from the soundtrack to Disney’s Pinocchio to the Sufi giant – Abida Parveen. My joy with this one though was sharing one of my favourite recordings — A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, my grandfather guru, singing ‘Prayer to the Six Goswamis’. It’s a recording I’ve listened to countless times in my life, and is iconic for many – though I’m sure totally unknown to most listeners of the broadcast. He sings with so much sincerity and humility, a song of praise that describes the behaviour and characteristics of ‘The Six Goswamis’ – six medieval saints of the Krishna bhakti tradition, whose contributions are as visible and powerful today as hundreds of years ago. I believe in the vibrational power of sacred sound, and that language need not always be understood to experience its depth and essence. I hope that the message and final music of the programme will be uplifting for those who listen.
If you would also like to (for the next 28 days on BBC iPlayer) – here’s the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09cvwr3