A Musician’s Path to Spiritual Awakening

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Australian film maker and concert producer Geoff Cantor came to India decades ago seeking answers to existential issues. His quest eventually concluded when he met his late Spiritual Master, Swami Muktanand, at his Ashram near Mumbai in India. In this article, his emphasis is on self-awakening and music.

Millions of people in Western society have embraced India’s ancient culture and music in the forms of yoga and kirtan. As a result, there has been a worldwide spiritual awakening and respect for the ancient wisdom of India’s great sages and yogis, who have been the keepers of yoga and dhyana (meditation) since time immemorial.


India Calling

My association with India started in 1971 when I felt a powerful calling to travel to the country after a few years of producing rock concerts and music festivals in San Francisco and Sydney.

Sometime after I arrived in the country, I went to Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Puducherry (formerly Pondicherry), Tamil Nadu, where a famous teacher and the Ashram’s Head lived. She was known as “The Mother” to her devotees.


The Mother and Experience of Awakening

Fortunately, I arrived at the Ashram on one of the rare days of the year when The Mother appeared in public to give darshan, which means the view of a deity or Holy person.

As I stood in the street outside the Ashram, surrounded by people, an elderly lady stepped on the balcony and silently looked at each person.

When her gaze fell upon me, I felt dark red beams of energy emanating from her eyes and strike me, causing my inner world to explode in a white light.

This encounter put me into enlightened consciousness, where I felt in unison with all life. I witnessed the buzzing and flowing energy all around me as I sat in a nearby park for the rest of the day and into the night, wondering what I was experiencing. Overwhelmed, I knew I needed to find a fully realised teacher for guidance and to understand all I was experiencing.


On the Path of Self-Realisation

Subsequently, I travelled across India and, several weeks later, reached Ganeshpuri on the outskirts of Mumbai and met a great yogi, Swami Muktananda, commonly known as Baba.

In the Ashram, Baba answered questions about the nature of the spiritual journey. Here, I found answers to my queries about life and the purpose of human existence. It all made sense to me and gave me many insights into the spiritual reality of human existence. Thus began my 10-year journey of service to Baba.

I travelled with Baba to Australia and the United States, where he interacted with several people. Chanting was one of the main elements of Baba’s teachings. People happily joined in, although it was difficult to understand the Sanskrit and Hindi words. Yet, chanting created a sense of inner peace that arose from the power of the mantras and led to deep states of meditation.

During our travels, I also started making videos and films of his talks and shared them with devotees worldwide.


Time Spent at the Ganeshpuri Ashram

Finally, in November 1976, we returned to Ganeshpuri. We had brought back a colour video production system, India’s first such system. I set it up in a small room in the corner of a temple called the yagna mandap, where I filmed many ancient traditional fire ceremonies conducted by respected Brahmin priests and talks by great teachers who visited the Ashram. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Swami Venktesananda were among the spiritual luminaries who visited the Ashram for talks.

Likewise, great musicians held concerts at the Ashram, including sarangi Master Ram Narayan and singers Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Purushotam Jalota and Hari Om Sharan. It was a living theatre, allowing me to film these artists while combining my film work, spiritual meditation and chanting practices.


The Next Chapter in Life

Eventually, I returned to Australia in 1982. Sadly, soon after, Baba took mahasamadhi (left his body), and I was left to find a completely new path in life.

Next, I started work with SBS Television in Melbourne, Australia, until I returned to the United States to work at the world’s first Direct Broadcast Service satellite TV channel at United Satellite Communications Incorporated.


My Work for the United Nations

In 1986, I joined Hal Uplinger, the producer of the world-famous “Live Aid” 16-hour Ethiopian Famine Relief concert broadcast. Hal invited me to join him in working at the United Nations, creating “Sport Aid”, a global fundraising fun-run event and international television broadcast that raised USD 37 million for UNICEF’s work with dehydrated children worldwide.

I continued working at the United Nations in New York, where I became executive producer of the weekly television broadcasts of “First Earth Run” (a global torch relay) that appeared on ABC TV’s “Good Morning America” breakfast television show.

My next significant stint was in 1989 when I produced the Radio Television Malaysia Broadcast of the ‘One World Carnival’ under the direction of then-Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad.

After completing my assignments, I returned to Australia and set up a television production studio to create educational films. For seven years, I continued producing training films on various subjects. Then, I was invited to India to film the 1998 Kumbha Mela in Haridwar.


The Kumbh Mela Documentaries

India and its culture were familiar to me. I had already developed a comprehensive general awareness of the sanatan dharma traditions and rituals because of my years of association with Baba Muktananda.

Consequently, it helped me to create a film that Indian audiences would appreciate as a true reflection of their culture and, at the same time, the international audience would easily understand.

In this work, I was helped by many great teachers. Among them was Acharya Mahamandaleshwar Swami Shivendra Puri, the Head of Varanasi-based (and one of India’s oldest) Avahan Akhada and Mahamandaleshwar Swami Nityananda, Head of the Shanti Mandir Ashram.

On my part, I was determined to create a respectful and truthful documentary about the massive gathering of spiritual seekers. So far, more than 80 million international television viewers have viewed my film “Kumbha Mela.”

During the film’s final editing, I met Craig Pruess, who created the music for the mood and style of the film. Since then, Craig and I have developed a close creative friendship, leading us to embark on the “Sacred Chants of Rama” concert series.

In 2000, while I spent several years travelling and filming in India, I was again invited to film the 2001 Maha Kumbha Mela in Allahabad. Once more, I witnessed the unconditional love and respect shared by strangers during the documentary’s filming.


New Partnership 

In 2006, I set up my studio in Queensland and started producing and filming hundreds of music concerts of all sizes and at varied locations.

One more time, in 2023, I joined Craig Pruess to edit a promotional film for his new album, “Sacred Chants of Jesus.” This led to a discussion about the possibility of staging a series of concerts based on Craig’s previous album production, “Sacred Chants of Rama”. With Great Love and Respect, along with Craig Pruess, I am now bringing to India “Sacred Chants of Rama.”

In conclusion, I can only say that with traditional Indian culture becoming increasingly mainstream in the West, a new popular form of inclusive music has emerged. Hence, we now witness the widespread acceptance of ancient Indian wisdom globally.

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