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Tuesday, June 30, 2009
There are many ways to invoke Goddess Quan Yin into one's life.The traditional mantra of OM MANI PADME HUM is one of the many approaches.One need not be a buddhist to invoke Her into his/her life.It is said to have a Quan Yin picture or statue in one's house brings good luck and protection to the household and family.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
In the mysteries concerning the presence of Omkara in the sushumna naadi, one can perceive the deep esoteric varieties that vitalize the veena held in the hands of Goddess Sharada Devi.The power of the manifest (aahatha) sound,issuing as sweet music from the strings of the veena on which we play, reside in the gross nerve fabrics enveloping the mystic sushumna chord.This means that the power of psychic music which brings out the earthly music, resides in the unseen sushumna veena, while the power of the earthly veena resides in and vitalizes the peripheral nervous fibres around the sushumna.Between these two veenas rises the wall of the cerebral spinal chord of utmost fineness which envelops the sushumna naadi even as a glass chimney divides the light of a wick from its atmospheric surroundings.
The timbre of the veena strings has for their prototype the sound of the vedas interfused in the undefined,unmanifest anaahatha or omkara vibration.The seven swaras are rooted in the Cardinal psychic centres of the sushumna naadi viz Mooladhara,Swadhishtana,Manipura,Anaahatha,Vishuddha,Aagna,Sahasraara .Even though the seven swaras have each of their particular habitats yet in manifestation they interact with one another and reign collectively over the whole sushumna region as the power of the Primal Omkara."(click on photo to enlarge).
Sunday, June 21, 2009
This instrument therefore is of divine origin and fills our emotional lives.If our emotions are noble and sattwic in nature they find expression in music played particularly on veena.
In the Hindu astronomy,Thula Rasi(in western zodiac system-Libra) contains the star Swathi.This constellation is also described as 'Alpha Cygnus' indicating 'Hamsa' (swan) which is the seat of Saraswathi.The constellation's name Swathi forms the major part of the name of the Goddess ,SaraSWATHI.Swathi means white swan.Swathi also indicates Swetha (white colour), and according to our ancient scriptures the Goddess is always adorned in white garments.White also represents the planet Venus ,which is the lord of Thula rasi or Libra.Also,the constellation Swathi presents the picture of a 'Lyre' or the Veena. Many decades ago scientists and philosophers discovered a cosmic hiss emanating from this constellation.This is the 'nada',the musical resonance that pervades the whole Universe.It pervades the human body also (anahatha shabdha) only to be discovered by oneself within himself.This nada is the mother of all ragas,therefore is like gold in all ornaments.The instrument veena finds description in vedic literature as well as epic literature.
The human body created by God is the 'deiva veena'.The veena made out of wood by human beings is the 'maanushi veena'.The divine veena expresses the emotions of the immortals in the higher worlds.The human veena expresses the emotions of the mortals.Man was also known as the 'Gathra Veena'.'Gathra'here means body and not voice.The veena played by him is known as 'Daaru Veena'(veena made out of wood).
Saamaveda in a sloka says:-"Daaruvee gaathra veena sathve veenagana jaathishu
Saamikee gaathraveenatu thasyashruthyai lakshanam."
That means the human body known as Gaathra Veena and the veena made by wood known as Daaru Veena are meant for divine music.
There are innumerable references in our scriptures to show that the human body and the veena are similarly patterned.
The manushya veena (wooden veena) and the deiva veena(human beings) are equal to each other or analogous to each other.The deiva or gaathra veena which is the human body is permeated with naadam (musical resonance-the pranava naadam). Likewise,the maanushi veena or daaru veena contain dhwani and naadam.Like the head of the body veena also has a shirassu(head),the kudam in tamil.Like the man's udharam,veena also has a udharam(throat). Like the human fingers,veena also has thanthris(which are plucked by human fingers)The ranges,'sa pa' and 'sa ma' swaras permeate both the human body as well as the veena.
The human being attains poornatwa or mukthi with the help of seven dhatus, namely, skin,bone,brain,flesh,blood,semen and shonitha of the female.Similarly veena becomes perfectly tuned for divine experience with its seven strings.The distance between the bridge and the beginning of the frets is 48 inches.Similarly the distance between the centre of the eyebrows to the nucleus and mooladhara of a man is 48 inches.Like the human vertebrae, the frets in the ascending order become narrow and narrower and the swarasthanas from the first fret to the bridge of the veena get reduced in geometric progression.As the space between the frets get narrowed down from the first fret towards the bridge,the naadam gets progressively enhanced.The music gushes forth in merusthaanam(bridge) and consequently the 'prana' floating and touching the mooladhara lingers at a particular distance and only from this music originates. (This phenomenon of music originating from 'prana' has been described in "Silappadikaaram").
According to Vakopanishad the human body measures 96 inches.The centre is prescribed as the place two inches above the mooladhara.The veena resembles the human body both in the 'sthoola' form and in the subtle 'naada' form.The prana in the human body flows in the upper six and the lower six,that is in 12 regions and explains breath.Similarly 'naadam' in veena flows in the upper six and lower six sthaanaas and produces raga moorchanas.The human body is divided into three moolasthaanaas;swargam,marthyam and paathaalam.Similarly in veena there are three sthaayis(ranges ) mandharam, madhyam, dhaaram.
The yogis who practised Vasi yoga played the Yazh or Veena when heat was generated due to yoga sadhana. "Jathis" were rendered in seven swaras in Aarohana and Avarohana and "kumbhakam"(retention of breath) was made possible beyond the proportions of nature.
Conversely speaking the right kind of raga on veena can create sattwic and noble bhava and rasa in human beings. Human beings need to be elevated from the mundane,materialistic and ignoble thoughts and feelings of this material life to nobler and sattwic feelings and conciousness.
Friday, June 12, 2009
'Rasa' is the experience that arises in the emotional core of a listener as he registers the 'bhava' conveyed by the artiste.Therefore from the'bhava' of the artiste music flows and ends up in the same 'rasa' of the listener.This is the ideal of music.If the 'bhava' of the artiste is ennobling,his or her music can certainly elevate the listener's conciousness to great heights.For this reason alone,great composers like Sri.Thyagaraja,Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar,Sri Syama Sasthri and many other composers/devotees whose hearts were filled with love of God chose music to reach the feet of their chosen deity.
The 'bhava' or thought in praise of God is the lyric or sahithya and the music on which the sahithya is based is the 'rasa'.The core of devotion has found expression through lyric in thought andthrough music in experience.Raga and rasa being identical,the Indian science of music developed a language of its own to express any emotion or rasa in music.
Many times we have felt elevated by listening to few artistes.The bhava with which they render is evident through the feelings that arise in us while we listen to them.Whenever I wish to travel to Srirangam,Smt.M.S.Subbulakshmi and Smt.D.K.Pattammal not only take me there,they bodily(here the body is "sookshma shareera") lift me and take me all the way to Srirangam to place me right in front of Lord Ranganatha,and that too in His sanctum-santorum!!!Smt.M.S.'s "Ranga pura vihara" in Brindavana Saranga and Smt.D.K.P.'s "Ranganayakam" in Nayaki literally transport me to the Lord of the Universe.Which means they have rendered the compositions with such a magnitude of 'bhakthi bhava' for such a 'rasa' to result in the core of my being.To mention a few more,I literally have a vision of Kalidasa's darshan of the Goddess while listening to Smt.D.K.P.'s Syamala Dandakam,Sri.Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer's rendition of "O Rangasayi" once again transports me to Srirangam,Smt.D.K.P.'s rendering of "Panchashat Peetha Rupini" and her pause at the 'rishabha' in the anupallavi,"Padmanabha Sahodari" gives me dazzling visions of the Goddess in all Her beauty.
All forms of popular music tend to provoke the senses,some make us sad,a few give us the illusion of happiness, a few are simply nerve-shattering(heavy metal and rock), certain musical approaches to God are essentially "rajasic" in nature,and there maybe a few that are even "tamasic."Carnatic music is one of the best forms of music that has the ability to bypass senses to attain the soul directly,because it is "sattwa guna pradhana."
There is music that simply does not contain any bhava and leaves the listener feeling listless and flat. If emotions of the artiste are sattwic and noble,their music elevates the listeners to great heights.If materialistic pursuit is the drive behind the rendering of the artiste,she or he attracts listeners who are essentially materialistic by nature.In music as pious and sacred as ours,it is essential to emphasise on its "sattwic" undertones through 'bhava' resulting in'rasa' of the listener that will lift him/her to spiritual heights.
Nadayoga through deep and absolute involvement in the music one can sing or play on an instrument, is similar to Bhakthi yoga.Nadayoga that contains the stages of yama,niyama,asana,pranayama,pratyahara,dharana,dhyana and samadhi is similar to Raja yoga .People who are not into any singing or playing an instrument can adapt the following methods in their spiritual journey.
For starters,Nadanusandhana asana should be practised.Nadanusandhana Asana:-A-kara,U-kara,M-kara,AUM.Sitting in vajrasana or sukhasana,inhale slowly and completely.First stage:Adopt chinmudra and while exhaling chant 'AAA' in a low pitch.Feeling the resonance in the abdomen and the lower parts of the body,repeat 9 times.Second stage:Adopting the previous mudra and breathing mode,chant 'UUU' feeling the resonance in the chest and the middle region of the body,repeat 9 times.Third stage:Same posture and breathing as the previous two stages,but adopt Adi Mudra-[Place palms on the thighs in vajrasana with the tip of the thumb at the base of the little finger and closing all the fingers over the thumb in a fist.Concentrate on the vishudha chakra(throat region)].Chant 'MMM' and feel the resonance in the entire head region,repeat 9 times.Final stage:Sitting in any meditative posture,adopt Brahma Mudra[Sit in any comfortable yogic posture.Sitting with the spine erct,move the face to the right by turning only the neck,chin coming in line with the right shoulder to whatever extent possible,with gaze directed to the right.Remain in this position for 3 or 5 breaths and get back to the original position.Next,turn the face to the left so that the chin moves towards the left shoulder and the gaze turns towards the left.Remain this way for 3 to 5 breaths and come back to original position.Relax muscles of the neck, and tilt the head back.Relaxing the neck in this manner,let the head come down as far down as possible under gravity,turn the gaze towards the eyebrows.Maintain posture for 3 to 5 breaths and return to original posture.In the fourth stage,the chin drops to the chest level,breathing reduces.In all stages it is essential to maintain concious breathing.All the four levels constitute one Brahma Mudra.Always turn the gaze in the direction of the face whenever the Mudra is attained and released.
Brahma Mudra has to be learnt under the guidance of a proper yoga teacher,For that matter all the above postures and mudras maybe done under the guidance of an experienced yoga practitioner.
Swami Satyananda who was born in 1923 in Almora took up sanyasa at the age of 19 from Swami Sivananda at the Sivananda Ashram,Rishikesh.He had practised and preached nadayoga extensively.
The following are excerpts from his preachings about nadayoga:-
Sittng in nadanusandhana asana,close your eyes and relax your whole body and mind.Feel at total peace.Inhale deeply and exhale with a humming sound like a bee.Keep the teeth seperated slightly and mouth closed.Feel the bee-like sound vibrate throughout the head region,starting from the throat pit.Do this for 30 seconds.Continue repeating this humming sound for 5 minutes.Apply your mind to the humming sounds.After a while,stop making the humming sounds and try to hear subtle sound manifestations.Try to pick up any sound and go on listening.You will find that one particular sound will become clearer and clearer;feel its intensity and purity.Concentrate totally on this sound and listen very carefully.If your hearing is sufficiently sensitive you may find that you can hear another sound in the background of the present predominant sound.It maybe very faint,but perceivable.Leave the first sound and concentrate on the new sound emerging behind it.Transcend the first sound;try to experience the fullness of the new or second sound.Prolong this way.Again with practice and if you have developed your sensitivity,you maybe able to hear another sound emerging.It will be faintly perceptible behind the louder second sound.Direct your awareness to this new sound.The more subtle the sound you perceive,the deeper you will delve into the depths of the mind.With practice this technique will lead you to meditation.If you cannot detect any subtle sound in your first attempt itself,don't despair;with practice you will surely make progress.
You will develop the knack of transcending first the external sound and then the progressively more subtle sounds.The sounds heard by the practitioner resemble those of bells,a lute,a bird chirping,veena,mridangam and so on.
This is a powerful yet simple method of revealing the experiences of your innermost being."
A CLASS TRANSCRIPTION IN NADA YOGA:-
"Sitting down to meditation,one must close his/her ears,with either index fingers or thumbs.Practising ujjayi with closed eyes;one should forget everything and keep breathing in and out in ujjayi in the spinal chord region.One should go on practising ujjayi with even greater concentration.
Plugging the ears,one must produce the sound of a humming bee and while producing the sound of a humming bee,one should mentally chant Om Om Om ..........
To understand the process better,1.first of all one should close their ears2.inhale in the form of ujjayi from the bottom to the top;3.then produce the sound of a humming bee-hummmmm....which should be continuous;4.while producing the sound,mentally chant Om Om Om...;5.practice the humming sound in exhalation;6.while inhaling it goes all the way up in the spinal chord in the form of ujjayi.
Inbetween if one is tired,he may rest his hands on his knees,but practice could continue even with ears open.
The important point to note is that the inhaling has to be done through ujjayi (via spinal chord).Secondly,with ears closed while one is producing humming bee-like sound (in exhalation),he has to mentally chant Om Om Om....If there is any other mantra one prefers to Om chanting,they could do the same,but the rule is to do it rhythmically.
After repeating the above process for many times,one has to stop humming and producing the sound.One must listen very carefully searchjing for internal sounds.One may listen to a second sound in the background of the first sound.It could be the sound of a bee;or a motor or the sound of ocean waves.But whatever may be the second sound,one should get tuned to it,letting go of the first sound.Again a new sound will emrge,it could be the first sound emerging or a new one altogether.Letting go of the first 2 sounds, one must concentrate on the third sound totally and absolutely.Like this one must go on for atleast 5 minutes.Each time a new sound emerges,one should concentrate on that.
Now,one should take his hands from his ears back to meditative position.Holding the body very still one should maintain the posture with eyes closed.This method is known as nadayoga;it brings down the nervous excitement and after this one can meditate on any form.Meditation is to be done within the inner walls of the forehead.The image or form which one wants to meditate is drawn on the inner wall of the forehead,as if it were a blackboard.Drawing the image,one has to concentrate on it fully.
The above process is also said to de-stress and rejuvenate a person,apart from being the practice of nadayoga.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
"Music of the Spheres" is a phrase used by Pythagaros (ca.580-500BC),an early Greek mathematician and astronomer who was the first to discover a mathematical relationship in the frequencies of the various tones of the musical scales.
Material I could gather from various sources on Pythagaros and his contribution to music,and particularly ,celestial music:-
"Pythagaros and his followers believed that a Universal philosophy could be founded in numbers.According to him there were three forms of music:Music of instruments,music of human body and soul and Music of the Spheres (music of the cosmos).He was the first to establish the theory of strings as a tool for understanding the Universe.
When Pythagaros listened to a blacksmith's hammers pounding iron and producing a variety of reverbrations,he derived musical notes from the same.He analysed the hammers and realised that those that were harmonious with each other had a simple mathematical relationship-their masses were simple ratios or fractions of each other.That is to say that hammers half,two-thirds or three quarters the weight of a particular hammer would all generate harmonious sounds.He explained that if two strings in the same degree of tension were divided,one of them exactly in half,and when plucked,the pitch of the shorter string is exactly one octave higher than the longer string.He also discovered that if the length of the 2 strings in relation to each other are 2:3,the difference in pitch is called a fifth.He also taught that various musical notes had different effects on human beings and could also be used in healing people suffering from ailments.
In Astronomy Pythagaros taught that the Earth was a sphere at the centre of the Universe.He observed that the orbit of the moon was inclined to the equator of the earth.He taught that movements of planets travelling through the Universe created sounds that could be perceived by only those who were trained to hear them(this is the same anaahatha shabda that could be perceived only by yogis of high order at a very advanced stage of yoga).This music of the spheres could be replicated using a single string instrument called the monochord. The monochord was used for demonstration by Pythagaros to explain musical intervals and harmonics to his students."
Marsilio Ficino,(1433-1499),a humanist philosopher and astrologer observed that there was an essential congruity between the music of the spheres and the music of the human microcosm.When a person's soul is in tune with the Heavens it responds just as sensitively to the music of the spheres.
John Milton(1608-1674),the english poet said in his lyric poem"Arcades",Milton's genius of the Wood explains to an assembly of nymphs and shepherds how he listens to the music of the spheres at the end of the day."But else in deep of night,when drowsiness hath locked up mortal sense,then I listen to the celestial harmony."
Kircher ,a 17th century German Jesuit scholar said,"Tune the enneachord of my soul to Thy Divine will;play upon all the strings of my soul to the praise and glory of Thy name that I love Thee!"
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Hazrat Inayat Khan ,who was born in a family of musicians in Baroda on July 5th, 1882, was a sufi teacher from India who started the "Sufi Order in West"(nowcalled "Sufi Order International" in the early part of the 2oth century).Though his family background was Muslim,he was also steeped in the Sufi notion that all religions have their value and place in human evolution.
Very early in life Inayat Khan shaped into a versatile linguist with a remarkable mastery over a several languages such as Sanskrit,Gujarathi,Marathi,Urdu,Hindi,Persian,Arabic and English!Alongside his academic studies,young Inayat did excellently in the five years music course of the Baroda Music Academy and excelled in both instrumental and vocal music.What was more remarkable was that he excelled in both Carnatic as well as Hindusthani music.He composed beautiful religious songs and poured his soul into them as he rendered them.He wanted to attain God through his music.In 1909 he had recorded his music in India,during one of his concert tours.
During my brief stay in Delhi last year(during my husband's assignment in Jindal Steel),I had set out on a massive hunt for his recordings,but could not find them.I was pleased to find a book of his on music,in an old,dilapidated book shop in the middle of a busy market area,and that too in the basement!
What he said:-
"I GAVE UP MY MUSIC BECAUSE I HAD RECEIVED ALL I HAD TO RECEIVE".To serve God one must sacrifice the dearest thing,and I sacrificed the dearest thing to me. I had composed songs,I sang and played the veena; and practising this music I arrived at a stage where I touched the music of the spheres(I shall elaborate on this in my next posting).Then every soul became for me a musical note and all life became music.Inspired by it ,I spoke to the people,and those who were attracted by my music listened to them instead of listening to my songs.Now if I do anything,it is tune souls instead of instruments;to harmonize people instead of notes."
Legendary musicians, musicians who have been practising the art in privacy and away from the media/public glare,renowned and not so well-known teachers are all nada yogis even without intending to be so!The fire of knowledge has been kindled within them at some point of losing themselves (samyoga) in the sheer melody of their own music.The sadhana over a period of time ( it is not the period of time,but the intensity of involvement that matters) results in the practitioner becoming his music ("You become your subject").Hazrat Inayat Khan's statement in the same book-"I played the veena until my heart turned into the same!" bears testimony to the fact stated above.
I cannot help but understand the feelings of shock and remorse any musician could go through when he or she is unable to pursue nadayoga(due to ill-health/ageing/accidents/black magic by a third person),especially at an advanced stage.At this juncture, it is important to realise that the nada once established within,is bound to remain forever within them ,and that they themselves become the embodiments of nada.All the practice in the past would have accumulated the fire of knowledge within the core of their beings to lead them towards the most supreme of all nadayogas,"AUM".