Q & A With Global Healers In Print & Online
It’s early afternoon; the sun sparkles on waves crashing on the beach below the bluffs. Deva Premal and Miten are in repose in Malibu sitting in the expanse of a large tastefully appointed living room bathed in a reflected glow.
They’re light-hearted. They’re laughing a lot. Not a counterfeit smile or moment of manufactured bliss in the space between the words. In soundless relief, no remnant of stress lingers from the relentless grind of their perpetual trans-continental touring schedule… because it’s effortless for them. They move in a sannyasic bliss fueled by devotion. The mystery of how the globe-trotting mantra singers maintain their collective bliss on tour is about to reveal itself without words.
Deva and Miten lean into our conversation over a glass of coconut water. I ask the two of them questions and they answer as one.
How did you get so lucky?
“That’s what I keep asking myself,” Deva says. “We were galley slaves in our last lives,” Miten adds.
How do you do what you do? That is…how does the mechanism of your modality, your practice of healing by mantra work?
“Deva’s a translucent channel for the mantras to move through,” Miten says, “She was born to her father chanting the Gayatri [mantra]. People don’t understand the difference between a language that is energetic and a language that is created by the mind.”
“The meaning is secondary. The word table is not the table,” Deva cuts to the heart of the matter. “With Sanskrit, the word ananda is the sound vibration of bliss. In sound the energy of bliss. We have to say bliss; we have to make it smaller by putting it into an English word. Just the sound; ananda, If we were sensitive enough we’d just feel the entire scope of that energy that’s contained in this sound.”
Miten sits motionless in a comfortable silence as she continues.
“The ancient seers, they help us give the meaning that they perceived when they used these sounds,” Deva tenders. “They kind of made these dialectic formulas where they put these Sanskrit words to go to very specific areas of your life; for a physical healing or to go into healing relationships. We have almost medicinal formulas of a collection of sounds that are also a collection of words. And there are the names of Gods and Deities that all go together. When we sing Ganesha, the sound of Ganesha is the sound of removing of obstacles or the sound of unity, but it also helps us to see the form that was created to reflect that energy of removing of obstacles, of unity or of harmony. It’s working on a cellular level. It’s much deeper than the mind. It’s not a language that you need to understand the meaning of before you use it. It’s a deep universal sound code that connects us all.”
“The mantras are mainly Sanskrit,” Miten interjects, “Sometimes Sufi, sometimes Hopi, sometimes Uruba, sometimes Tibetan, sometimes Nepali. It depends...what speaks to us. People bring them. Lately Deva has taken to chanting them in the traditional way…how ironic is that?
Her latest project is with Tibetan monks who have a small monastery in Byron Bay [New South Wales, Australia]. They have recorded together – the monks chanting, and Deva…amazing male/female energy connection.”
“How do you use the mantras personally in your life?” Deva jumps in with a question to Miten.
“It’s not theoretical,” Miten responds. “Two nights ago I woke up and wasn’t feeling good. Just chanting the Ganesh mantra…it just lifted any feeling of fear or depression in that moment. I internally chanted the mantra 54 times then the “Om Shanti” mantra 54 times and I was back. I was home. That’s how I use it in my life. Even though it’s not a classical way of chanting when we play, we must have chanted them all 108 times. They’ve absolutely changed my life. The mantras are an expression of my life with Osho and how it’s unfolded into so much grace.”
“The most courageous thing people can do is to stand still,” Miten says.
Deva and Miten embody the result of the practice they preach. They languish in extended effortless introspective silences. They consider and internally reflect…then, they lapse into a lighthearted laughter that bounces back and forth between them. Laughter feeds itself on laughter until we all abandon ourselves to the moment and laugh some more, and then more again.
Deva and Miten affect a biochemical soul-balancing act grounded in a life of devotional service that carries them through the rigors of the road.
“We’re really good at just letting it go,” Miten confesses. “Really letting it go,” Deva complies. When the rigors of the road present… say, at a ticket counter at an international airport around 4 A.M. on two hours sleep, it barely registers as a bump in the road.
“There’s sometimes when we blow but it doesn’t resonate for long. It almost seems like it’s part of the thing,” Miten says.
Where do the songs and mantras you’re working with come from? Where do you find them?
“The mantras,” Miten offers, “they come…the songs appear…sometimes you grab them. Sometimes they slip from your grasp…the best ones disappear before you catch them. As for the mantras, Deva knows lots and lots. The question is, how do you put them to music without diminishing their power?”
Are you sacred singers? Is that what you call yourselves?
“Sacred sounds a bit pretentious doesn’t it? Miten asks, “And yet, hmmm… isn’t all music sacred?”
What is your highest aspiration?
“To be free,” Miten says.
“Enlightenment,” Deva says, “To experience oneness inside of me and with everything around me all the time and hopefully inspire others to realize the same…a bright awareness of Devine in every form.”
“To serve,” Miten offers, “On a technical level, the more beautiful the music is, the more we aspire to more and more beautiful expression through music…which is, in a way is part of our responsibility. Music is the medium you know?”
What’s your saving grace?
“Osho,” Miten says without reservation. “Osho,” Deva says. “I still feel like…because he was this person…I just want to expand it for those who still see the person when they hear the word. It’s the feeling of Osho, which is celebration, being in the moment, being in the flow, surrendering to what is, and being as aware as you can of all of that.”
What’s your biggest challenge?
“Music,” Deva says.
“Music is God,” Miten adds, “Music is a very obvious doorway into God. So music is a fierce teacher. It shows you your limitations and it shows you everything about yourself. When you play music with somebody you’re naked with them. You can’t hide. Music is a guru of sorts. It’s a guru, and a guru can lead you into the light. That’s music’s gift.” “That’s very well said, Deva concurs, “And exactly what I meant.”
What’s your favorite thing about your life?
“Being together actually, for me,” Miten confesses, “Because being together, its 24 /7. That includes everything from going to Whole Foods to playing a sacred concert. It’s no different. Just being together.”
“I just love everything about this life,” Deva reflects. “It’s twenty years now,” Miten says. “Nineteen,” Deva corrects him, then starts to laugh until Miten joins in. Laughter feeds laughter again and we all laugh for a long time.
“Nineteen,” Miten gathers himself, “I always had the idea that after a few years, things settle down between you as a couple. I was wrong; it just keeps getting deeper and friendlier and the more friendliness the better.” He says and a very long silence hovers then dissipates when I ask them to sing something.
“Take me from illusion to truth, from darkness to light, from death to immortality,” Deva translates Om asatomo satgamaya, a mantra she recorded on her first CD, The Essence; a collection of mantras that includes the Gayatri, her signature and the mantra that her father sang to her in the womb.
The air in the room stills as Miten picks up a road worn six-string Taylor guitar and invokes a transcendental vibration like a snake charmer luring a sleeping cobra from a basket.
Deva closes her eyes and disappears into the world between words, then intonates a refined and elegant mediumship in sustained vibrato as Miten delicately weaves his voice into the prayer. It is a precision ballet. A synergistic resonance that illuminates the source of the gift of their melodious passage.
Om asatomo satgamaya
Tamasoma jyotir gamaya
Sam Slovick is a writer and filmmaker living in Los Angeles. He is a regular contributor to LA Yoga Ayurveda and Health magazine and the LA Weekly. samslovick.com
The Cure Stream is regular feature of LA Yoga Magazine produced by The Cure List thecurelist.com
Deva Premal and Miten will be sharing sacred song with Krishna Das in LA on Saturday, March 27 at the Wilshire Ebell Theater: devapremal.com