Musings on faith, music, activism and the artistic experience...
I am a 'Yeshu Bhakta' a devotee of Jesus Christ. People say, "So are you a Christian?" To this I say, sure but I don't call myself a Christian. Labels are figments of association and I feel all too often result in a kind of questionable conformity. Unfortunately the label 'christian' often has less to do with living out Jesus's teaching and more to do with looking good in the eyes of one's church or society. Of course this is not limited to the 'Christian religion' life nor religious life of differing practices and traditions either. People often feel that they need to validate themselves in one camp or another and make divisions that separate themselves for others whether they be religious, social, political or whatever.
Perhaps being a 'Christian', has lost much of the radicalism that Jesus modeled and taught in sharply turning away from the legalism and politics of ancient Jewish religious practice. Instead he draws us into a direct spiritual relationship which emphasizes repentance, purity of heart, compassion, a willingness to suffer and above all loving others, even those who persecute us. Sadly 'Christians' are often heavily associated with people with hypocritical and judgmental 'holier than thou' attitudes (exactly what Jesus raged against!). For the reason that many people associate what it is to be a 'Christian' with those who lack reason, have exclusive associations and other negative and destructive attitudes. Because these things have nothing to do with my faith and reason to follow Jesus I have no allegiance to the label. Another difficulty is 'Christian' history, from the Crusades to the War on Terror, Christian leaders and their sheep have justified violence and terror which I deem to be apostasy to the gospel of Jesus.
That being said, I do attend churches, as well as temples of a variety of faiths and I do enjoy worship and growth through the teaching I receive from pastors and priests of myriad of flavors. In the end I always seem to come back to the reality of sitting alone before God seeking the truth of my own naked soul. Rather than basing my 'view' of the truth around any church or religion I wish to focus my life around the transforming power of the Spirit of Jesus and the truth that is revealed in the of study of his commands, the humble lives of the mystics and the quiet stillness of silent or musical meditation. I feel that real church, like a (Buddhist sangha or Hindu satsang) is simply a community of people who seek the truth together in love and take the time invest their lives, music, food, praise and resources in an open and generous way. This is why Jesus guided us to live in community and exhorted us to share all we have. Christ showed by example how to truly live. To die to ourselves and live in service of all, showing special attention to the poor and disenfranchised. This is what it meant to be a follower of 'the Way' (as the early Christians were called) and to conform ones life to the simple commandment of loving others as ourselves.
What Jesus taught gives us freedom from all rules or structure of any church or human guru.We need not an intermediary, because we have been given the Spirit who carries on Christ's teachings in us through an intimate relationship which is readily available to all. In this communion of the Spirit we have everything, all that the Father gave to Jesus is also our own. This is clearly taught by Jesus to us in the Gospel of John, and confirmed by St. Paul to the Romans in chapter 5, that 'the Spirit has been poured into our hearts'.
I struggle with my faith daily, I am striving to experience the truth, as I recognize my own folly, limitations and tendency to self serve beyond my own limited view and shadowy experience. What I do know is that I am eternally grateful for the sublime teachings and the profound and life-altering love of my sat guru, Jesus Christ!
For the past 25 years I have been blessed to learn from a few of the greatest masters of Hindustani music. These legendary teaching artists have not only distilled for me the essence of the rigorous and complex musical forms but have taken me through the years discipline practice of developing a raga spontaneously. This style of training so greatly valued in India involves a complete immersion into the personal expression of creativity inherent in the music. This goes on whether we experience it in classes or accompanying them in concert. I have been fortunate enough to go beyond the cultural limitations of the western approach of learning music and to enter into the Indian pedagogic paradigm known as guru shisya parampara, (teacher/disciple relationship). In this tradition learning is never confined to school or a timed lesson but includes going home, eating together, traveling and performing together. The role of the shisha (disciple) is to serve the guru with a heart of devotion, love and humility in the passionate pursuit of learning, always ready to receive a spontaneous opportunity to learn.
As a performer/composer, ensemble director & community activist, I have for the past 20 years been working in professional artistic, educational and community settings, as well as sacred spaces of a multiplicity of faith traditions to present work that reflects a wide range of cultural expression. I have done this with a primarily focus on the journey through the oceanic raga system of India and the dynamic rhythms which emanate from within the heart of this music. With a relentless drive for a clear and authentic understanding of these traditional forms and the creative expression which flows out of the experience I strive to lose myself (without being lost) in the music, whereby I feel completely at home and simultaneously fully charged and full of possibility, without preconception of the next step. This incredible feeling of freedom is accompanied by the experience of being led through uncharted territory, unfolding through the music, uniquely fresh in the present moment.
Seek and ye shall find, knock and the door shall be opened to you.
Coptic Orthodox (Egypt & Ethiopia) Cross
with Coptic writing Jesus Christ Son of God
AHIMSA PROJECT 2015
Ahimsa is an international collaboration of virtuoso musicians with the Arohi Ensemble celebrating the power of non-violence through a multimedia journey of music, dramatic spoken word, history and images.
Click here for more information on AHIMSA PROJECT.
Satyagraha (nonviolence) is the active force of the highest order,
it is 'soul force' or the power of God within us. Imperfect man cannot grasp
the whole of its essence and even if he could he would not be able to bear
it's full blaze. But... even a tiny fraction of it, when it becomes active
within us, can work wonders! ~ Gandhiji 1938
A dialogue with Arohi on Creativity, Improvisation & the Spirit'
Paul Livingstone & Pedro Eustache discuss the personal meaning of Arohi.
Paul & Pedro Eustache after Arohi Ensemble REDCAT concert photo by Tony Peres
Whoever you think Jesus is or was?!?
Madman, prophet, philosopher, religious reformer,
moral teacher, suicidal maniac or the Son of God...
It is difficult to deny that in a world in desperate need for transformation and freedom from
the addictions of greed,
arrogance, hatred and war...
that the message of the one called Christ is the most radical and compelling vision of love the world has ever seen.
"There is a little tree planted on a little
hill, and on that tree hangs the most influential character that ever
came into this world. Never feel that that tree is a meaningless drama
that took place on the stages of history, oh no it is a telescope through
which we look out into the long vista of eternity, to see the love of
God breaking forth into time.
It is an eternal reminder to this power drunk generation that
love is the only way. It is an eternal reminder to a generation depending
on nuclear and atomic energy, to those who depend on physical violence
that love is the only creative, redemptive and transforming power!"
~ Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are,
or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it.