The initial meeting
I do not exactly remember how I met him on the micro-blogging site, twitter. It was in my early days on the site, and I was looking for “friendly” faces – real people who would have a conversation with you. At first, I thought he talked (tweeted is the verb used on twitter) too much. And I think I may have even “un-followed” him at one point in time. But, something led me back to him – maybe it was his transparency or maybe I had this intuitive feeling that I had some lessons to learn from this gentle soul.
So, we started communicating. I slowly saw glimpses, bits and pieces of the man who had a self-deprecating sense of humor. He would occasionally quote from the Sama-Veda, and drop tidbits about how he met the great Indian maestro Bhimsen Joshi, and how he had been to Pune, and so on.
It slowly became clear that this was a man who was living a spiritual life of deep conviction. How many westerners do you know who are attempting to memorize the entirety of the Sama-Veda?
So, I decided to dig deeper, and do a first for this blog – I decided to interview him! But before I bring you the interview, I would be remiss if I do not tell you that he is also a great piano player – in fact, he is so good, that he has performed at the mecca of performing arts in the USA – the Carnegie Hall in New York City.
So, gentle readers, I present to you, Dr. Wayne McEvilly.
Wayne McEvilly on the Piano
Q. How did you get involved in music?
I believe I was born with ears that cherished harmony. So I began to listen for the harmony in the cacaphony. I found this first in birds, and in the whistle of the trains. And my Nana put a keyboard under my fingers for my 3rd birthday. It was a toy piano, but the keys released a vibration that was true enough that tunes emerged.
Q. Who is your favorite composer, and why?
Q. What do you think is the connection between music and spirituality?
Ah, this is so profound a question! I believe there is a connection between sound vibrations and spirituality. The sounding of a tone is at once the opening of a sort of wormhole (ghastly word!) into the dimensions of an inner space, endless, divine, alive with creative intelligence.
Q. How did you get interested in the Vedas and Indian philosophy?
In 1949 I opened Paramahansa Yogananda’s ‘Autobiography Of A Yogi‘ and began to read. The voice that spoke from his words was one of such sublime authority, yet without any harshness of a cold conviction. I began to read everything I could get my hands on – many translations of Patanjali Yoga Sutras, Upanishads, grammars of the Sanskrit language, and of course the Bhagavad Gita.
I discovered great gurus along the way: Aurobindo (he was the consciousness I took most closely to heart from 1960-63) – and later, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and Srila Prabhupada. The mention of these two names side by side is somewhat startling, I’d say. It is illustrative of the wide embrace of Vedic thought that so many divergent personalities and persuasions can all fit within its framework!
The Mystic goes ‘Home’
Q. What prompted you to travel to India?
I dreamed of going to India ever since I heard the name India referred to by Swamis and Yogis and philosophers and poets – as a source, a great Mother, of vast spiritual substance. The light would have to have come from the East, and so the Journey To The East began with a few words that came across in simple Sanskrit:
TAT TVAM ASI (Thou Art That!)
And when you have heard these words, you know you have encountered truth face to face, and you begin the journey. You hear the many voices which issue forth from the vast Upanishads to the simplest two syllable mantra which touches the core of your being itself!
And later, Aurobindo makes an appearance in your consciousness, and somehow, inexplicably, you are never ever the same again. Yes, never the same ever again – that is the mark made by the swamis, gurus, and yogis – this power to convert without conversion. There is hardly anything of the visible in the process. You do not actually ‘meet’ Maharishi, and yet what he imparts goes with you to India for a year and serves you well.
All of this to say that what took me to India was the deepest desire for meditation which could be got, no doubt, anywhere, but which came from India nonetheless. I was free to pursue my own course for a year while in India.
Q. Can you share a little bit about your spiritual experiences in India?
Coming into the airport at Pune was a spiritual experience in itself, as was our landing in Bombay – and then go alight from the train in Madras was heavenly. And the breeze high above the Arabian Sea, the Towers Of Silence, the night having fallen into its dark place. I always tended to poeticize, but there was no need of that once I had arrived in India. I felt so very very at home. It was as though I’d been transported from an icy landscape of brittle cackle into the warm embrace of a soft voice!
I hope you enjoyed this glimpse of a man who has been greatly inspired and influenced by India, her spirituality, her scriptures and her very being. I hope you visit his website or join him on twitter or watch him play the piano!. Questions for Dr. McEvilly about his ‘journey’ are also welcome in the comments section below!
Swami Vivekananda was correct when he said – “the greatest gift of India is her spirituality”. I think Dr. McEvilly has definitely benefited from this ‘gift’. So, what can we do to preserve and enhance this gift, so that it is available to future generations? Please share your ideas – Namaste!