For over fifteen years I have served as Program Director for the Art of Living foundation. The past couple of years I have also taken my music to a professional level, which means that I now make a living from my bhajan concerts. Must admit that it felt a bit strange to call myself a professional musician at first, since I am so much in awe of my friends who are "real" composers and performers of such high caliber.
Of course, all the satsangs I do for Art of Living projects and centers all over the world are done as seva, which means I do not charge a penny for them. This has helped my colleagues fundraise for several projects and rural schools, and I am proud that my singing has been able to provide not just spiritual solace but also material comfort to underprivileged communities in every part of the world. My professional, paid programs are coordinated by my manager and dear friend Ajay Kadam, whereas my seva activities are set up by the various Art of Living apex bodies and teacher coordinators.
This past year has also seen a wonderful new development: The so-called "Big fat Indian weddings" of North India typically begin with a Ganesh Pooja and a Mata ki Chauki on the first day. Increasingly, people have been inviting me (along with my hugely talented band) for a Bhajan Sandhya on such occasions, and the experience has been simply wonderful. Indian weddings, while being wonderful opportunities for large numbers of people to come together in joyous celebration, have also been criticised for being vulgar and wasteful. Also, there are a lot of logistics involved, resulting in a fair bit of stress for all concerned. To this end, a soulful evening of bhajans adds a much-needed spiritual dimension to the festivities, soothes frazzled nerves, brings a sense of calm, and opens everyone up to the fact that holy matrimony must be facilitated by divine grace and with the blessings of the ancient sages. It also helps that our AOL bhajans are so vibrant and joyful, and people find themselves swept off their feet!'
On the other hand, there are many who have been pressing me to also sing at Chauthas; since it is a time when the family of the deceased must unite in strength and harmony, and spend some time in peaceful contemplation and prayer, that the departed soul may smoothly journey on to its next adventure. Having attended some very boring Chauthas in the past, where the bhajan singers were so morose, and a pall of gloom engulfed everyone present, I am inclined to agree.
The other benefit for me has been that when I do a few such professional, paid programs, it leaves me with at least twenty days a month to do seva -- teaching, travelling, coordinating rural development activities -- without which life seems incomplete. What better blessings than to make a living doing what I love most, and spending a fair bit of quality time pursuing issues that I am passionate about! Such is the grace of the Master!
In short, if people need to invite me for a professional program, they need only email my manager Ajay Kadam or mail me on this blog; whereas if an Art of Living chapter needs to invite me for a satsang or a fundraiser, then the respective Apex body or Teacher Coordinator can mail me on my work email id.
I hope this clears up any confusion over this issue, as expressed by some of you in your queries to me.