(Part 2 of an ongoing series, Swami Kriyananda on Art & the Artist)
A few weeks after he returned from India, Swamiji left again, taking a dozen singers with him for a week of recording in Los Angeles. He had been offered a studio, an engineer, and a talented tabla player who had only a few days free to record. Haridas Blake was one of the singers.
“I had been at Ananda for a couple of years,” Haridas said. “I had seen Swamiji in classes and satsangs, and occasional small gatherings, but this was my first time up close and personal with him. I was just out of my teens; he was twenty-five years older than me, but I could barely keep up! There was no way we could afford a motel, so we stayed with a devotee. Swamiji had a private room. The rest of us stretched out on the floor wherever we could find space. Long lines for the bathroom, but somehow we made it work.
“Every day Swamiji woke us up bright and early so we could meditate together. Then off to the studio, sometimes not returning ‘til the wee hours of the morning. At times, some of us crashed out on the floor of the studio, but Swamiji never stopped.
“We were there to record an album of chants—Swamiji leading, us following. None of us were professionals; most had never been in a recording studio before. Swamiji didn’t try for perfection musically, but he insisted that we get the vibration right. Take one. Take two. Take three. He kept on until he felt we were singing with our whole hearts—not for each other, not for him, but for God Alone.
“When we weren’t in the studio, or cooking meals, or trying to keep our crowded living space in order, Swamiji sent us out with piles of his books to sell to bookstores: Yoga Postures, Cooperative Communities, Yours! The Universe, Your Sun Sign as a Spiritual Guide. I was attached to the path of moderation. Swamiji showed me how much energy it takes to find God.
“The album was called O God Beautiful, after one of Master’s chants. Swamiji also made another album, Songs of the Soul, which was mostly him singing devotional songs. Some he had written, some were traditional songs he had learned in India. He had just returned, and a lot of India came back with him. The crowded conditions, not getting enough sleep, driving around Los Angeles looking for bookstores—it was all worth it for the hours we spent in the studio listening to Swamiji sing. Especially the Indian songs. He held nothing back. His whole heart was in every note. He went to worlds I didn’t know were there, and took us with him.” (Swami Kriyananda: Lightbearer, 1973, pp. 57-58)