Jamaican Pocomania

Swami Sanyam Saraswati

As a very young child in Jamaica I remember hearing a hypnotic sound late in the night as I lay in bed. I would become very excited, and ask my elder sister to take me to the place where the music was coming from. Of course, since I was only six at the time, my sister knew if she asked permission from my mother we would not be allowed to go. So, seeing my excitement, she decided that we would just go and investigate, as I had suggested.

Climbing out the window, and sliding down the pipe, we finally made it to the ground. Running as fast as we could, we traced the origin of the sound a if pulled by some magnetic energy. There we were confronted by a large group of people singing and dancing, all garbed in white and wearing turbans. Some appeared to faint and were caught in the arms of fellow singers. Actually they had gone into a trance-like state, uttering an unknown language.

These people were singing spiritual songs of devotion to the highest and greatest soul, jumping in the air, beating drums and tambourines rhythmically. It was all so exciting for me that I too began to dance and sing with them, forgetting that we were supposed to be incognito. Then I was spotted because I was a child, while my sister, having more discretion, stayed hidden in the bushes. I was sent home, but that did not deter me from returning.

Every Friday night, on hearing the enticing call of the music, of the drums and chanting, I would pull at my sister's sleeve and tell her to come. Down the drainpipe we would go and run blindly into the darkness 'till we came across the group.

When they discovered me time and time again, they realised that there was no way of stopping such a determined child. I even brought my white pillowcase to tie around my head as they did. I was so serious and absorbed, that no matter how many times I was thrown out I always returned, so finally they were compelled to let me stay.

After many of these weekly escapades my sister became jealous, and told my mother what we were up to. You can imagine my mother's surprise. So the next Friday night when we quietly slid down the pipe, our escapade was abruptly halted. When we hit the bottom, lo and behold, mother was waiting. You should have seen our faces as we were marched back inside.

That ended my first encounter with soul searching music. The second vivid experience occurred when I met my guru, Swami Satyananda, after a seminar in France. We were all singing kirtan and even though I did not understand the meaning of the words I became overwhelmed with such deep emotion that tears fell down my cheeks. The memory of my childhood experience flooded my mind, and once again I could feel that peace and unity I had experienced as a child in the pocomania. After that meeting, whenever I sang kirtan in a group, I would become so immersed that I could feel the guru sitting before me.

Music is the melody of the soul, and it is the one form of expression which is understood by every culture. When we sing with our hearts and minds totally absorbed in the highest and truest reality, the spiritual consciousness within us unfolds. Therefore, I have found in this age when man is so engrossed in his material life, the easiest way to come closer to the real nature of existence is through kirtan.