Songs of the Soul: Canadian Tour 2015

Interviewer: What part does music play in the spiritual life of an individual?

Sri Chinmoy: The role of music in the spiritual life is extremely important and significant. God is the Supreme Musician, and His entire creation is His divine Music. At every moment we can be his conscious instruments. And spiritual music itself is an instrument to show us our universal Reality.

Interview: Then you agree with the traditional idea of man being a hollow bamboo flute that God plays?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, that is what we are all striving for- to be the instruments of the Supreme.

Sri Chinmoy, What I need from God, Agni Press, 1982

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I am sitting with Projjwal on a wide green sofa in a little room tucked away backstage of the DB Clarke theatre in downtown Montreal. He is the producer of an extraordinary musical tour. Just outside the crew for Songs of the Soul are busy readying for the nights concert. Even though this is but the first of 4 concerts, in 4 different cities, everything seems to be progressing incredibly well.

Each crew member, as well as each musician, has been working and performing in concerts, just like this one for several years.   Most of the sound equipment travels with the tour. Tonight the stage has all the necessary lights, good news for Harkara the lighting specialist.   There is the usual systematic clatter and banging sounds that goes with setting up for a well-organized concert. Everyone seems relaxed and happy, including Projjwal.

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I ask Projjwal what exactly is ‘Songs of the Soul’?

“It is a concert series that has traveled the world for the last 7 years.” In fact this year there have already been 19 concerts in 8 other countries. Though not present for all those concerts he has been the overall producer of the project since its inception.

With the passing of Sri Chinmoy, his spiritual teacher in 2007, there was an enormous void that immediately opened up within his life. It was an emptiness that of course all of Sri Chinmoy’s students and friends universally experienced. An incalculably great loss, that seemed in the beginning, one that would be impossible to fill.

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For how do you replace someone who was truly irreplaceable? Sri Chinmoy, who was active and prolific in so many areas was perhaps best known and well respected for his Peace concerts. A series of musical performances that he had singularly performed and done for many years all around the world. Projjwal says that for him, “it was always the biggest thing that Guru did.”

“So the idea came up that we could follow up on Guru’s concerts. So we started with the idea that we would have disciples perform and play Guru’s music. In that way we could present Guru’s consciousness, Guru’s love, his writings, his Jharna Kala art in a very professional setting.”

When asked where the name ‘Songs of the Soul’ originated he points clearly to Homagni, who is also a regular member of the tour. “He is the first to have the idea, for the celebrations in New York in 2008. It was a very appropriate name.”

Projjwal’s tells me that his history of first producing a concert dates back to a a much earlier conversation he had at an airport in China in 2005. Sri Chinmoy asked him to organize a large concert tour for him in Germany. One in which the goal was to have at least 30,000 people attend.  Projjwal tells me that concert ended up with even more than that number.

“He put a lot of faith in me and a lot of confidence in me. “ Out of this experience he says he developed the qualities he needed to be able to continue on as he has done now for the past 7 years organizing and producing the tour.

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Projjwal says the inspiration to get involved did not come immediately. He says that it was only after seeing the first New York Songs of the Soul concert in April of 2008 that he realized it could also be done as well in Europe.

When he presented the idea at a joy day there, he says, “people totally embraced it. Immediately I had 3 or 4 music groups who said I definitely want to do it.”

In the fall of 2008 the Songs of the Soul concert tour began in Europe with 8 concerts in 8 days. Without having any real experience producing concerts he got a tremendous help from Ketan, who had much more production experience. “He taught me, what you can do on a stage.”

Now he says, “we have a format that works quite well. You learn by doing. In the beginning there were disastrous things happening.” (None of which were mentioned) Projjwal says that the most important aspect of what the concerts are striving to achieve, “is to present Guru. To present his music and to attempt as best they can offer up his consciousness.   That is the most important thing to me.”

“When people go home after 2 hours they feel they have had an experience with Guru. That is my goal.” Projjwal says that generally most people who come to the concerts have no real idea what to expect. Afterwards he says, that through their reactions and their generous comments it is clear to him that the concerts are succeeding.

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He feels that for those who come they are taken on a spiritual journey. “Constantly things are happening. I always feel that Guru is very present.” It is an experience that occurs he feels, not just with the audience but also as well with all those who take part in any capacity with making the free tour happen.

There is no magical formula of how the cities are picked or the countries chosen. The tour now in Canada was a logical selection Projjwal says as it is so close to New York and the gathering of disciples that took place a few days earlier there for October 11th. Which is the anniversary of Sri Chinmoy’s passing.  As a rule he says, “I am never imposing or trying to talk people into it. It has to be embraced by the organizer.”

Overall there is no far-reaching goal for the number of concerts and the number of countries. “It is a beautiful thing we do.” It seems to all come about due to grace he feels. “It just goes along the path.”

Projjwal at the end of our talk describes a feeling that all of those who take part in the tour feel, and want to express. “I am still trying to serve Guru, and really follow what he would like to see us do on stage. That is what I am sincerely and humbly trying to do.”

Click to Play Interview:

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Songs of the Soul Link:

http://www.songsofthesoul.com/en/songs-soul

*(With the Winnipeg Concert there is now an official total of 149 concerts in 36 countries. The total audience has been84,900.  Projjwal was involved with 121)*

Ashirvad and sound crew

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By the numbers

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Lots to happen yet

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Sounds about right

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Paperwork

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Harkara at the very back lights it up

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Putting the light up

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Trying it out

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It is in the papers

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It is all computerized now

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Sangit Surabhi

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The musicians of Sangit Surabhi are an all-female vocal and instrumental ensemble based in Ottawa. For them Montreal is just down the highway from home but they are also following the tour to its conclusion in Winnipeg.

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Sangit Surabhi Link:

http://sangitsurabhi.ca/

It is still a few hours before their first performance but all the girls seem relaxed and excited at being able to perform. I ask them what they like most about performing with Songs of the Soul.

Brahamata :“There is a lot of types and people coming together to create something beautiful.”

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Gautami: “I think it is a great opportunity for people to come and really bask in the sunshine of Guru’s music. There is so much energy in the music and all the other people coming from around the world.”

The girls have been performing publicly since 2007, but usually as an independent act. To be part of a tour like this they say that it simply gives them more joy. They believe they first started performing with the tour in 2010.

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One of their first big tours was in Portugal. They enjoyed experiencing how the music of Sri Chinmoy was interpreted and accepted in so many diverse ways. Brhamata says that she felt that people there were really in their hearts.

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Pushparani recalls a concert in Holland that was very inspiring for her. “When we first started the audience was very serious. By the end of the concert literally everybody was smiling. Really changed and uplifted.”

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I ask the girls how they understand and interpret the role the tour plays in perpetuating the legacy of Sri Chinmoy’s music. Nilasha says, “To have Guru on stage for the whole time was an experience unto itself. Any experience an audience had with Guru was unforgettable.”

She recalls a concert many years ago given by Sri Chinmoy in Montreal when he drew an audience of 19,000. She hopes that tonight’s performance will allow a much smaller audience have a new experience of the music of her spiritual teacher.

Sangit Surabhi Rehearsal:

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Gautami says that what she experiences when performing is that she simply becomes an instrument herself. “I have felt it so many times that something else takes over. You just offer yourself.”

Besides giving a great musical experience to the audience the group feels that for themselves they are developing more oneness. Brahmata says, “I think we have a lot more inner communication.” Though she adds that there is always room for improvement. They also see how creatively the group is evolving.

They have now performed in a few different countries but they feel that performing at home in Canada is a particularly great opportunity.

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Pushparani, “it feels like you are offering something from the soul of the country that you are from. And it is so nice to have people from all over the world come and share their inspiration as well.”

Tonight Nilasha’s family is coming to the Montreal concert. She feels that through music she will be able to share her inspiration and dedication to Sri Chinmoy in a new light.”

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Always there

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Paree’s Group

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Another view of Pavaka

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Pavaka group

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Shamita

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Together

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Shamita’s Strings Rehearsal:

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Dohai

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On stage

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Mandu & Visuddhi

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Mandu and Visuddhi recall one of their earlier performances. One in which they actually played during one of Sri Chinmoy’s large concerts in Hamburg Germany in 2005. Mandu says that Guru asked him as well as some other musicians to play before he himself would perform.

Mandu says that when he performs in front of large audiences he feels like a tiny drop. “When the sound comes you feel like you have conquered the heart of the people. But you can only do it when you expand your own heart and let something come through. If this happens it is perfect.”

Mandu and Vissudhi Rehearsal:

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Visuddhi says that she tries to imagine each time that she plays that Guru is at the back of the hall sitting and smiling.

They have come from Austria to be part of the tour. They have taken part since the very beginning, and admit to not being professional musicians.. The total number of their performances they think is about 120.

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“Over the years we have grown into it. We just have faith and we play. What we have learned is that it is not really about the technique. But it is about the consciousness.”

Mandu says that after the audience leaves a concert they will most likely quickly forget any and all of the melodies they have heard. “But they will keep the feeling and the experience that they had.”

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Visuddhi says, “the whole concert is about Guru.” Through all the music, art, and poetry she feels that it is 2 very satisfying and intense hours dedicated to Sri Chinmoy.

For themselves they feel that whenever they are part of the tour is the best part their year. “You can reach Guru very easily. Being an instrument you can feel the energy.”

For the future they have no special goals other than to improve and do keep playing on the tour as long as they can and the best they can.

Mandu and Visuddhi Interview:

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Announcers

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2015 tour schedule

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Way back stage

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On the other side

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The big group

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Ashirvad

“It is over 100. I don’t know how many.” Ashirvad is the person most responsible for creating the best possible sound experience. For the audience as well as the musicians who need to hear themselves as well.

When asked to help with the first concert in April in 2008 there was no hesitation. “It was something new. No one was sure how this would go. It was uncharted territory. We had to follow our inner instincts.”

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“The first time we had a concert it was a very powerful experience. It was like an awakening for most people. “The concerts are a way to manifest Guru’s light through music in a powerful way. It has been going for so many years because I think people get that feeling that experience.”

Ashirvad feels that whether you come as an audience member or as a musician or even a technician there is an important inner experience to be gained.

Sound check

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His job, as is that for many of the crew is extremely technical. I am curious how it can be soulful. “It is a tricky thing. We never know exactly how to keep that consciousness. It is challenging but at the same time there is a flow.

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He only got involved with sound back in 2005 when Sri Chinmoy was visiting China. “I had to learn even the simplest thing like which knob to turn.

Now the concertss he works with are very complex. Changing and adjusting the audio for 8 different performers is very unusual and difficult for even professional crews. “It is proof that Guru is behind the whole thing. We all know how Guru pushes us to go beyond what we think we can do. These concerts are also a constant challenge for us to go beyond also.”

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“I always feel that there is magic in each concert. There is always a moment when you can feel that magic and feel Guru’s light. Your consciousness rises. It doesn’t matter what job you are doing.”

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Before we conclude our conversation Ashirvad makes a point in praising Projjwal for all that he has done and continues to do to make the tour happen. “The amount of joy and enthusiasm he has for this keeps everyone going. Projjwal takes it so seriously and mobilizes everyone. Everyone who is part of this has to be grateful to him. He is really pushing us and inspiring us to make each concert at least reach the same level or transcend the previous concerts.”

Ashirvad Interview:

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Tribute to Projjwal:

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Komal

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Lights need to be hung

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Homagni

“I have no idea how many we have done. “ In many ways Homagni is the originator of the idea for Songs of the Soul. Now he plays the role of stage manager. He says that in late 2007 that there were lots of different disciple music groups playing Sri Chinmoy’s music but there was no way at the time to showcase all the talent.

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“I was coming up with a few different names.” He says that the name, Songs of the Soul attracted the approval of most of those he showed it to. “It carried Guru’s consciousness, and it was also very succinct and unique. So we decided to go with it.”

“I think when we first did it, it was in honor of Guru. Because at the time, Guru had just left the body. I don’t think that anybody was imagining that we would continue to do the concerts as regularly or in the form of a tour.”

That it has continued to so successfully he says is a nice surprise and also due to Projjwal’s absolute dedication to the tour.

Some of the many great features of the concept is that he says is that it features so many different groups performing in different styles. “Hopefully the audience is going to appreciate at least one of the groups. And that it will touch them in some special way.”

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For himself and all those on stage and behind the scenes, “I think it is a real blessing to be able to offer some form of Guru’s manifestation to people around the world.”

“I think every concert is completely different. I don’t think we ever get complacent on tour. I think that any way that the concerts can continue to inspire disciples and keep Guru alive in the minds and hearts of people is a great thing.”

“It is a real blessing to be part of them.”

Click to Play Homagni Interview:

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Prema and Tirtha

Nearly 6,000 miles separates the homes of the 2 girls. One lives in San Francisco and the other Munich. But their love of Songs of the Soul have drawn them together in a place, not half way but at least one that fits neatly in between.

Prema is something of a new comer to the tour. She went on the tour of Japan last March thinking it would be a great way to see the country and also participate in the tour. “It was so incredibly beautiful. Just the beauty of feeling Guru’s consciousness from beginning to end.”

After that tour in March of 2014 she vowed to come as often as her schedule would allow. Whenever she comes she says, “I feel Guru all of the time.”

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Tirtha says that she has been participating in at least 3 tours a year since 2008. “Our first tour back then was so new to us. I think we were all looking very hard for something that we could do, to express our gratitude to Guru….. and to find Guru’s consciousness as well.

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She says that taking part in the first few tours was something of a very steep learning curve. “We were so exhausted for 2 or 3 days and yet everyone felt so fulfilled.” Now she says, “we are just trying to make our little offering, and trying to really be in Guru’s consciousness. That is our main priority.”

Tirtha who sang in Paree’s group and performed in front of Sri Chinmoy many times feels that she is recreating this experience in many ways even now. “I sing right for Guru and sometimes I don’t even realize that there is a big audience. We come home really happy and fulfilled every single time. That is why I keep coming back.”

Click to Play Prema and Tirtha Interview:

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Last minute instructions

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Mohan

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Pavaka

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Pavaka band

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Pavaka Rehearsal:

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Just the beginning

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Wardrobe malfunction

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Straightening things out

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Sahadeva

“I was very privileged to be invited to perform.” Though at this point, like in fact all of those involved he simply doesn’t remember how many Songs of the Soul concerts he has taken part in.

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He conducted choirs in his earliest experiences with Sri Chimmoy’s music but since 2008 has experimented.   Now on this tour he is playing a keyboard and working with other musicians as well as singers.

“I think we are growing through it. “ Sahadeva sees and hears that there is no end at how he can experiment and perfect the performance of Sri Chinmoy’s music. He feels that as the concerts progress that the audiences are identifying and getting more from each show. “What we are noticing in the public is that they are craving the joy or healing that they get from this kind of music.

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“Sri Chinmoy has written a lot of soulful melodies.” One of the main songs he performs now is an arrangement of ‘Perfect Happiness.’ “He has written a lot of happiness songs. I needed something that just makes people smile and be upbeat. This song just stood out.”

Perfect happiness is
Enthusiasm minus
Expectation.

Sri Chinmoy, The God of the mind, Agni Press, 1989

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Sahadeva Rehearsal:

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“I love music. I get such joy playing music. To have these powerful poems put to music is such a thrill. Then to have the opportunity to give that song or the energy back, you feel that Sri Chinmoy’s message is shining through.”

“When you perform it you are uplifted on stage and you feel as well that the audience is elevated. The whole thing is happiness. You can see everyone smiling. You have to smile to perform it.”

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“It is really a privilege to be able to perform Sri Chinmoy’s music and share it. His energy and light comes through from what we do. What an honor, what a privilege. Every so often you get these heightened moments of gratitude. We are continuing his legacy of inspiring people.”

Sahadeva Interview:

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A good view

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Beauty everywhere

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Canada Song

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Applause and song:

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Full Cast

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Full crew

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Audience Montreal

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Comments read by Devaki:

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A personal note:

In particular, the concert in Ottawa at Tabaret Hall represents something deeply heart felt and personal for me. From the moment I arrived at the venue, along with the all the Songs of the Soul tour members, it felt somehow wonderfully familiar to me. But at first I did not know why.

What I soon learned is that I had first been to this same hall on March 22 1974 when Sri Chinmoy was giving a cross Canada lecture tour. Starting in my home town of Halifax, he moved westward across Canada giving 17 different lectures in 13 days.

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I had become his disciple only in February of that year.  By incredible good fortune I was able to attend nearly all of the lectures. Be witness to my spiritual teacher performing something miraculous. Which over the many years he was with us he never ceased to stop inspiring, and freely sharing his love for all of humanity.

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The talk he gave here that night 40 years ago was on the subject of ‘Progress.’ Which now, in the exact place he once spoke is now the perfect setting for his students to once again try to fill with people and illumine and inspire them with his own divine musical compositions.

Yet somehow I cannot help but feel and reflect on how he once filled this same place with his love and wisdom.  That his precious words and presence still resonates here with its timeless message. A blessing from the past reaching out to a new generation.  One that their hearts will also cherish and be enriched by for years to come.

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Excerpt from talk on Progress:

In the spiritual life we deal with Eternity: Eternity’s past, present and future. In Eternity’s past, we made considerable progress. God inspired us and commanded us, “Arise, awake!” and immediately we listened to His inner dictate.

In Eternity’s present, we are still making considerable progress. We are running very fast towards the ever-transcending Beyond.

And in Eternity’s future, we shall see and feel that the Goal itself is running toward us.

  1. MMT 9. University of Ottawa, Pavilion Tabaret, Ottawa, Ontario, 22 March 1974

Sri Chinmoy, My Maple Tree, Agni Press, 1974

15 Comments to “Songs of the Soul: Canadian Tour 2015”

  1. Alexey Beysov says:

    Beautiful…Thank you!

  2. Grahak says:

    Thanks Utpal, we look forward to having another Songs of the Soul here in Perth someday. Try and get all those performers and crew down under!

  3. Kuladhara says:

    Very nice. Thanks!

  4. nirmala says:

    My eyes fall more and more on the DREAM GLOW Color, something is coming through it is the Dream Glow, the color that is on Mohan’s T-Shirt, I see this color more and more now in the material world, on cars and bycicles and shoes and jackets that one month ago I didnt see so often, it resonates with me lately a lot. Thank you Utpal for your spontenous pictures – full of enthusiasm
    “Mandu says that when he performs in front of large audiences he feels like a tiny drop. “When the sound comes you feel like you have conquered the heart of the people. But you can only do it when you expand your own heart and let something come through. If this happens it is perfect.”

  5. abhinabha says:

    Thanks Utpal, you have succeeded once more in capturing the essence and soul of our manifestation projects!

  6. Tejvan says:

    Good job, great photos.

  7. Salil says:

    Great post. Really inspiring. Thank you

  8. Utsahi says:

    Utpal, you have lots of talents! The eyes, the ears, the memories and the heart… You mix these together in a perfect blend. In so many ways, I re-lived the concert, but from another angle, the collective consciousness we are bringing to the fore when we perform Guru’s sacred songs.
    Gratitude, Utpal for offering to the world at large four concerts on Canadian soil, places our Guru loved and visited so many times. Yes, His consciousness continues, through all of us, sure, but in some special ways, through His photographer. Through you, we can also appreciate all that is happening “behind the scene”, coordinated by our international hero Projjwal and his crew. (:

  9. Ambarish says:

    Utpal,
    Thank you for sharing – top quality job in capturing this inspiring event. You should consider taking this up!

  10. Aruna says:

    Thank you, Utpal, for this great report. Truly inspiring; you really express perfectly the spirit of Guru´s Songs of the Soul. It makes me want to go on one of these tours!!!
    That´s what a divine journalist can achieve.
    Well done!

  11. […] Songs of the Soul Tour – Canada 2015 report by Utpal Marshall at Perfection Journey […]

  12. Devaki says:

    Thanks Utpal.
    It was a very inspiring tour! Thanks for documenting it so beautifully and thanks again to all the performers and helpers! You were amazingly selfless and soulful.
    Guru’s presence was very powerful and he was surely smiling from above !
    Devaki Montreal

  13. Rupantar says:

    Just the best. Well done.

  14. Baridhi says:

    Great report. The Songs of the Soul concerts are the best! 🙂

  15. Abakash says:

    Soulful & powerful.
    I second all the great comments.
    Well done.

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