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Boris Grebenschikov.  Between God and demons

Text: Elena Medina  
Photo: Maxim Masaltsev  

There are several objective reasons why the songs of Boris Grebenschikov and “Aquarium” dropped out of the frame of “Russian rock” genre long ago and are topping “music for the soul” collections of people from different generations. A big part of it happened due to Grebenschikov’s involvement in Eastern spiritual practices, and his acquaintance with living deities.
His remarkable inner independence - a rather rare quality these days - has won him the status of master in the application of philosophical truths to everyday life. In this interview DE I explores the spiritual aspect of this extraordinary musician.

DE I: Do you have any authority figures?

B.G.: Of course I do. If I am in communication with a person whose art I love and respect, then quite naturally I feel a little trepidation. But during the course of the conversation the trepidation usually dissipates and then I understand that this person is the same as everybody else. It is just that he has reached such a high level in his field, which I dare not even dream about. And this is why I will treat him with mad respect, admiration and love. But, knowing that a human being remains a human being, I try my best to learn from him. I was lucky to have met a few people like this during my life: George Harrison, Dave Stuart, Terry Gilliam, Slava Polunin, Lou Reed, Boris Akunin. All of them are just people, but their devotion to their destiny makes them very, very interesting.

DE I: Are you interested in simple, ordinary people?

B.G.: But in fact my basic communication is with the most simple people. For example, there is one remarkable driver who often takes me out when I am in Moscow, and I learn from him, how he reacts to situations on the road. He makes me delighted. I might not discuss with him the essence of Bhavad-Gita in details, or, I might do! But it is not necessary. There are people one can speak to about something, or be silent about something, or do something else. All people are good for something. If God brought you together, it means that you need this person for something. His/her manifestation is a response to a request from your inner world. All the people that you meet are sent by God. Otherwise you would have never met them. Does it make logical sense?

DE I: Yes, a lot of sense. Are you not getting bored living such a logical and correct life?

B.G.: It’s a pity, but I never was “correct”. If gradually this correctness grows, then the world will get brighter and more interesting as well. Correctness includes gradual disappearance of all desires, connections and attachments, and joining in union with God. Then endless beauty opens. And here there is no place for boredom anymore.

DE I: Why then are people always looking for strong emotions and sensations, some people provoking conflicts on purpose? All theatrical arts, for example, are based on conflicts.

B.G.: This I don’t understand at all. I suspect this happens because of ignorance. People think that strong emotions are better than nothing. There is a famous joke. A hare has put his balls on a tree trunk and is hitting them with a hammer, saying: “When I miss, it feels just great!” How else could I describe this field of activity?

DE I: So you don’t go to the theatre?!

B.G.: I’ve had nothing in common with theatre since January 1975. Before, while a student, I was crazy about theatre for 2 years. I kept a volume by Stanislavsky under my pillow. I was even considering leaving the University and going to the theatre institute. But then I understood that I didn’t want to reproduce a sequence of negative emotions. Most actors seem strange and quite sad people to me. I have friends there, friends whom I love very much; but I don’t go to the theatre, because this is not my way.

DE I: However, an opinion exists that Stanislavsky's system was based upon yoga...

B.G.: I find it difficult to speak about theatre, because I feel a complete stranger there. But if somebody can find a path to God through theatre, I would honour and praise such a person.

DE I: And what, in your opinion, is standing behind God? Do you have any ideas, what will it all be about in the end?

B.G.: The thing is that nothing can happen which has a beginning or an end. Everything that is happening - is happening eternally. But we are always projecting our thoughts to and fro, in an attempt to decide where is the beginning and where is the end. If when doing a serious operation the surgeon would think of a football game, he is likely to get unfocused and make a mistake. All this is a distraction from the moment “here and now”. As far as the question about God is concerned, there is nothing behind God. Because God is all that exists; he is life itself, and infinitely more beyond that. One cannot express it in words.

DE I: Then, what is the missing piece that the world needs to reach complete harmony?

B.G.: Everybody knows that the harmony of the world has no limit. Each of us sees the world in accordance with his or her level of perfection. If the observer has realized perfection of wisdom, then he or she sees a world ideally fit for our habitation.
We are being born here in order to learn something. If pupils of the first form would know everything and have all the skills from the beginning, then they would not need to go to school. We are all born very different. Our environment gives each of us best opportunities to learn our lessons. One should not forget that each person has established his or her own relationship with God – their own dialogue that only this person can understand and everybody else cannot. And one cannot judge other people by one’s own measurements. By the way, the Bible also says: “Don’t judge and you won’t be judged.” Once one stops correcting other people and starts correcting oneself, it becomes clear that there are no problems. The only source of problems is one’s own consciousness. That is why one can come to understand that the world is ideally ergonomic. Even that which is difficult to accept – wars, catastrophes, cataclysms, - is either caused by human activity, or is stimulating this activity. They say that each being is born in a particular place in particular time in order to continue to learn.
As far as the injustice of the world is concerned: there is the Book of Job in the Bible, which considers this subject in a sharp but rather elaborate manner. Maybe, all of us do not trust in God enough.

DE I: Why, then, does everybody keep trying to create a model of paradise on Earth, same as that described in the Bible: an ideal environment for happy life?

B.G.: People don’t quite understand that there are no cars, no restaurants and nothing like this in paradise. If they would happen to visit a place where everything is made like in paradise, those people would be extremely dissatisfied. The thing is that our consciousness has changed dramatically since the time of Adam. We developed so many needless desires. And, if we stop being so obsessed, following the advice given by almost all religions - rather few people actually do it however - then we find ourselves back in paradise, as if we never had left. The angel with a sword of fire never condemned Adam and Eve to physical exile. They separated from God and paradise themselves with their own newly obtained ratio minds.

DE I: But, then, is it possible to change something? If one is changing oneself, does it cause the world around to change as well?

B.G.: You can help people around you by those methods which you have mastered. Everybody can help somebody with something: to feed, or to console, or at least to listen to. However while one is looking at the world through imperfect eyes one cannot see a perfect picture. There is an ancient saying: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.

DE I: Which desires is it necessary to renounce?

B.G.: All of them. But I don’t mean forced denial. There are plenty of temptations around, and desires will easily come slinking back. I always thought that with the passing of time desires disappear on their own.

DE I: How is it possible to get rid of all desires? Then one’s interest in one’s life might go as well!

B.G.: Experience shows that interest in one’s life stays around. Moreover, the fewer desires one has the wider one’s eyes and ears open. Therefore we can become more aware of this wonderful world: to observe more, to hear more, to feel more strongly. Wise people have told all this many thousands of years ago.

DE I: Then why have people been living all this time without understanding this?

B.G.: They were taught so. They grew watching examples that were around. They simply don’t know about a different approach to life. Another thing is that every human being has his or her own karma. Not every person is capable of realizing all the potential all at once. Why life is given -that’s why, exactly in order for a human being to notice all this, all that we are speaking about here, and to make our own conclusions, and to start getting better.
Most people live their lives having rather different ideas and different goals. Maybe that’s why they are likely to take rebirth over and over again, until at last they figure out the right way. On the other hand, at anytime even the most hard people may feel a sudden impulse to do something unreasonably good. The more good they do the more positive energy is accumulated on their “accounts”. So, as the saying goes, “illogical acts of charity and meaningless acts of beauty will save the world!”

DE I: But not all the people can understand their destiny?

B.G.: I’m afraid that the word “destiny” might be misleading: it suggests that a boss of some kind “destined” us for something, and we actually don’t have any other choice except to find our place in the special list or not. I don’t think it works like this. We are born with a certain range of qualities. Sometimes it is not to be explained by genetics; it might be a result of previous lives; I don’t know, I can’t say. If there is enough positive energy in us, then everything goes right, and we find our place in life. Or, we just take it easy. If there is not enough, we could try to do something for other people, and thus increase our energy level. Buddhists call this “accumulation of merit”. Meditation is another method that truly works. By eliminating the noise of selfish and worried thoughts one can see more clearly, who one is and what one wants. And it’s essential to understand that everything is in God’s hands. We can do a lot of things ourselves, but we cannot know everything. The world is much too great and multidimensional. And God is life, and He is in charge of everything.

DE I: But what about love? What does this feeling mean for you?

B.G.: Those who speak about love – do all of them mean the same love? For me “love” is to experience special sensations of pleasure from many things, which exist but for me. These sensations could be caused either by a new person or by a Monet’s painting, or by a tree, the sky, or the sun. I cannot distinguish one from another, because love is inside, not outside. If you have a generator producing “love” as a kind of electricity, then you will feel love towards everything. Then love is the source that makes you love the world in all its manifestations. Love defines the border between life and existence. In the kingdom of existence you eat thy neighbour, but with love you become bread thyself.

DE I: For some reasons in some people this ability is underdeveloped...

B.G.: I heard an interesting theory. Indian Brahmans teach that in the wheel of reincarnations we are born into different cultures in order to learn certain lessons. For example in Africa we take rebirth to develop rhythmic skills, and in India – to grow spiritually. But as far as Russia is concerned, here come beings that were demons before. I need to explain: a demon is not a scarecrow-monster like we habitually think. It is a being with much more power than a human being. Usually demons are extremely self-obsessed. A demon can hardly imagine that there is something else of any importance except itself. Just look around – this is obviously the dominant pattern of behavior. Russia is a giant country dwelled by people who most of the time think about themselves, 90% of them. That’s why people are born here to learn to think about others and to love each other. There are so many people here crying for help! For material, spiritual, emotional or some other kind of help. I really liked this funny theory. It doesn’t even matter whether it’s true or not.

DE I: For many years your admirers have been calling you “the Guru”. What are the qualities of a teacher, in your opinion?

B.G.: One of the great Tibetan Buddhist teachers used to visit his master in India. The trip there would take about half a year: there were no trains or cars. He would walk all the way on foot, trying to avoid robbers and many other perils. And several years later he was surprised to see his teacher having a nice peaceful walk in Tibet. The teacher had easily manifested there in a magical way.
“- What’s this? - the student asked. – Why have I been making all those long and difficult trips for no reason? - Yes, there was a reason, - the teacher replied. If you didn’t come to visit me and I’d come instead, then you would not have appreciated the value of this knowledge. But thanks to this perilous journeying, your attitude towards the teaching became serious.”
In the East, all systems of teachings are based on a strong bond between a teacher and a student. The first foundation of this tradition is that the teacher should himself know what he is teaching. If he teaches enlightenment or working with consciousness, then he should have realized those states he is speaking about. Second, it is not possible to teach everybody, that’s why a teacher picks and chooses students and checks them for a very long time, sometimes for years. That’s right, to speak about certain things is actually dangerous: true knowledge lies beyond words. To speak about it means the risk of distorting it, which might then lead to serious consequences. And because in the East a student is fully dependent on his teacher, their relationship is much closer than that of parents and children. If a wrong instruction is given, the student might die. But the teacher also might die if he chooses an inappropriate student.
I am not a teacher. I haven’t realized anything, I haven’t chosen any students, I am not going to do it, and I don’t feel I am authorized. I don’t have anything to teach about. I can just simply transfer to people sounds I hear. With me it works the best through music. Music itself was my main teacher. Now I am passing the banner. And if people start their own research after having listened to” Aquarium” songs – that would be wonderful.

DE I: Which album would you recommend for the first encounter with "Aquarium"?

B.G.: I would not. Let each person come across that which he or she needs the most at the moment.

© DE I / DESILLUSIONIST #-1.  “Boris Grebenschikov. Between God and demons”

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