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MUSIC & SPIRITUALITY – SANDHANA (Sangeet aur Sadhana)

While I have been thinking of this topic for a while now, my recent participation at the 80th Birthday celebrations of my Master – Shri Parthasarathy Rajagopalachari in Tiruppur prompted me to go deeper and post this in its current form. I am sure I will work and refine contents as time progresses and my knowledge and understanding also grows.

 

During the second day of the celebration Master mentioned that the uniqueness of music is that it touches ones mind, body and soul. During one of my blessed opportunities to be with Him while He was listening to some great music, one of the abhyasis remarked it to be “beautiful music” to which Master said, “That is not how you praise music, you say “soulful music”. This struck a chord with me. Though the topic of discussion about music and its relevance to Spirituality has been intriguing me for a while, I believe my recent introduction to Hindustani music, interaction with folks who admire, practice and listen to ‘soulful’ music and recent opportunity to listen to some great performance by Begum Parveen Sultana in Tiruppur, India on 23rd July motivated me to try and make this posting. The topic being music ( Sangeet) and the motivation being Practice of Spirituality (Sadhana), I choose to call this article SANDHANA!

 

Ever since I read the human intelligences mentioned in one of my earlier blogs, I have paid extra attention to MUSICAL intelligence- hence the music I listen to and its effect on my mind.

 

In parallel, as often mentioned in my previous blogs, one activity that has helped us stay in pursuit of the REAL goal has been spirituality thru our system Sahaj Marg. With constant remembrance and practice I have come to realize that the sensitivity to and the very essence of universal love has significantly been enhanced.

 

It is in the past few weeks that I have started to indulge in specific kinds of music in association with spirituality. I have been gradually yet very tastefully and with high impact been introduced to the Hindustani Classical Music. The raaga system is unique for Hindustani Classical Music. A raaga has a specific melodic structure with arrangement of notes. Certain essential features are extremely necessary to establish a raaga. In the Hindustani Classical Music sphere, raagas are many and each has its distinctive qualities. Besides there is a broad time cycle which is followed while rendering a raaga. By the definition which is normally used to define a raaga, the most prominent feature which stands out is that a raaga should ‘color’ or please the minds of the listeners

 

I have realized thru experience that there is a scientific and spiritual reason for certain raagas being listened to during certain times of the day. For a week I experimented with listening to specific raagas as prescribed. I took help from a dear friend and practitioner of Hindustani music to set all the songs in a sequence such that I could play them during that part of the day. I set my iPOD alarm in the docking station to wake me up to the morning raaga (Bhatiyar @4am; Bhairav @ 6am; Ahir Bhairav, Rishab, Komal @ 8; Bahiravi, Jaunpuri @ 10am;Brindavani and Gaud Sarang @ noon during lunch and as the afternoon faded away Multani at 2pm and Poorvi and Shree at 4pm; Yaman and Pooriya at 6pm to the evening raagas Desh and Kedar at 8pm and eventually Bhageshri and Chandra kaus to take me thru to mid-night.

 

The result has such profound impact on me and my activities – work, eating habits, workout, thinking, meditation in particular that I felt like I was constantly in a state of meditation if I may say so. Like I have always felt, experience is the best validation and often times one cannot find right words to explain the greatest of the experiences. When you are overcome by love and embedded in that Universal Love is the divinity itself, one can hardly miss how rest of the faculties are in harmony in any activity undertaken.

 

Just like a great session of meditation, is hard to explain and one ends up using expressions like taking a dive deep inward and realizing the pleasure, swimming in the ocean of bliss, feeling light and clear headed etc.

 

Like for all activities we are involved in, it is best if we are in the right state of mind before indulging into it, the combination of right music and spirituality has certainly helped. The topic was so intriguing to me that I decided to do some research on the net to find out if mine was a unique feeling or was there a true connection. I spoke to some exponents of both – deep into meditation and some deep into Music and some both. While most of them did not necessarily link the two in sync, at different times they had been able to realize the pure joy of one in the other. Great music sessions – either singing personally or listening to great music had moved them into a meditative state. For others, being in deep meditation was like listening to a heart warming concert.

 

I must admit that it takes a while for the classic bollywood and light rock listeners to even fathom the idea let alone listen to Hindustani classical all day and appreciate it, realize it, internalize it, make the connection and retain the state of bliss if I may call it.

I have ventured to find some relevant aspects of Raagas here. Hope they help and motivate you to experience this wonderful zone of “Sandhana”.

 

OVERVIEW OF RAAGAS:

The raag is the most important concept that any student of Indian music should understand. The Hindi/Urdu word “raag” is derived from the Sanskrit “raaga” which means “color, or passion”. It is linked to the Sanskrit word “ranj” which means “to color”. Therefore raag may be thought of as an acoustic method of coloring the mind of the listener with an emotion. This is fine as a general concept but what is it musically? It is not a tune, melody, scale, mode, or any concept for which an English word exists. It is instead a combination of different characteristics. It is these characteristics which define the raag. Here are the characteristics.

There must be the notes of the raag. They are called the swar. This concept is similar to the Western solfege.

There must also be a modal structure. This is called thaat in North Indian music and mela in carnatic music. There is also the jati. Jati is the number of notes used in the raag.

There must also be the ascending and descending structure. This is called arohana /avarohana.

Another characteristic is that the various notes do not have the same level of significance. Some are important and others less so. The important notes are called vaadi and samvaadi.

There are often characteristic movements to the raag. This is called either pakad or swaroop.In addition to the main characteristics of raag, there are some other less important ones. For instance raags have traditionally been attributed to particular time of the day They have also been anthropomorphize into families of male and female raags etc.). There is a tendency to downgrade the importance of these aspects due to their irrational and unscientific nature.

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Arthur Ashe, the legendary Wimbledon player was dying of AIDS which
he got due to infected blood he received during a heart surgery in 1983. From world over, he received letters from his fans, one of which conveyed: “Why does GOD have to select you for such a bad disease”?

To this Arthur Ashe replied: The world over — 5 crore children start playing tennis, 50 lakh learn to play tennis, 5 lakh learn professional tennis, 50,000 come to the circuit, 5000 reach the grand slam, 50 reach Wimbledon, 4 to semi final, 2 to the finals, When I was holding a cup I never asked GOD “Why me?”. And today in pain I should not be asking GOD “Why me?”

Happiness keeps u Sweet, Trials keep u Strong, Sorrow keeps u Human, Failure Keeps u Humble, Success keeps u Glowing, But only God Keeps u Going…..Keep Going…..

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This past weekend has been a very interesting one for me. The pondering question was “What really matters?”.

Doing what we do, chasing what we chase and trying to analyze what we analyze, I was left catching myself put a framework for the thought process.

Everything starts with a thought. If there were no thoughts, there would not be all those elements that tend to get put into motion. It could be activity, conflicts, action, response, reaction, analysis etc.,

It is possible for a human mind to create awareness. More sensitivity we develop, we tend to create more awareness. So a simple thought in our mind can create awareness or awake awareness. Sometimes possibly awareness about multiple things at the same time. Often times, human mind catches on to any one of the thoughts that awakes some significant awareness about something that is tucked away in the mind or occurring around us. Either way, it is the thought that tends to empower the following notions.

Now, human mind has become aware of a a thing or multiple things and decided to orient the thoughts towards it. This enables us to have choices. The deeper we think of a subject, topic or a thing, we are capable of uncovering multiple choices. I believe, in this process, choiceless-ness is also a choice. Just as inaction is also a valid response like action.

In each situation, we are left with multiple choices that create a conflict in the human mind. Which of the choices to act upon? It is important to train the mind in a methodical way to ensure that the process is simple, consistent and encompasses all parameters (applying lateral thinking if need be). Here comes the factor of Choiceless-ness .

Philosophical and Spiritual approaches have a very simple allocation of action at this stage. If choiceless-ness is a choice or leaves with just an alternative choice, accept it as a duty and act with all sincerity. This will lead you to harmony and what we famously call “Peace of Mind”. It is our inability to execute on a thought or lack of awareness of all factors or the guilt of having made the wrong choices (without being able to come to terms with the outcome) that causes grief and dejection.

The challenge comes when there are multiple choices. At this stage, I believe, it would be simple to first figure out what choices are controllable and which ones are not controllable. If any of the choices are not within your control, we must choose to ignore them, work thru them or surrender to them.

However, if any of the choices are controllable, ensure that they are very relevant to your context and act on it. Once we accept the choices we make, we have to learn to abide by it with courage, discharge it like it was our duty with all sincerity and it will lead us towards harmony.

This train of thought led me to put a flow chart that will enable me nurture, condition and moderate my thoughts, actions and deeds to have the right awareness necessary to make the choices I make. Once I make the choices, to come to terms with it and accept the action necessary to be taken as a duty with all sincerity and execute it. The outcome is something not in my control to a large extent.

“Karmanye Vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana,
Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani

Meaning: Do your duty and be detached from its outcome,
do not be driven by the end product, enjoy the process/the journey of getting there.
– 2:47 SRIMAD BHAGVAD GITA “.

I wanted a framework to ensure that this process will also condition a balanced living and 360 degree development of self. That led me to think of yet another framework – influenced by the book 7 habits of Highly Effective People – mostly the concept of “First Things First”.

Irrespective of what thoughts I get and what I need to act upon, I could broadly categorize it under one of the following buckets.

PHYSICAL : If I believe God to be in me, my body is the temple housing HIM. I will take good care of it by keeping healthy, eating healthy, working out, staying fit etc. (about 8 hours a week)

SOCIAL/EMOTIONAL : I will continue to build the human network of healthy relationships in the personal and professional scheme of things believing that each human relationship is a Gift. (About 6 hours)

MENTAL:I will invest in the relationships that matter to me, read material that will generate wisdom and not just knowledge, keep my IQ and EQ in a healthy range to maintain good balance of the mind. (About 6 hours a week)

SPIRITUAL: I will continue to invest in my chosen path of spirituality to make it the primary purpose of my life and ensure sincere adherence to my practice.(About 8 hours)

Again, taking cue from the framework of First Things First, I would call any activity against these four buckets as the proverbial “BIG ROCKS”. Even if I choose to allocate 6-8 hours against each of the above buckets every week, I notice that I have consumed only 24-32 hours of the week towards hours of activity to myself each week. Most of these get attended to either early in the day or later in the day or weekends. Thus leaving the work hours open to accomplish one’s career goals or aspirations (note not ambitions).

This framework I believe will be a work in progress. Nevertheless, a simple effective framework that can be applied to the various roles we play in our daily lives to abide by. I could easily allocate an activity a week, against each of my roles, to the buckets above and find myself in perfect harmony with myself at the end of a week if they are all achieved. It is possible for us to put extra emphasis on one or two of the above buckets sometimes to achieve a complete balance. However, without this guiding light, we will only be working our lives with a bunch of “to-do-lists” that are mostly reactive, unimportant and causing false urgencies.

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Do not go to the garden of flowers!

O friend! go not there;

In your Body is the garden of flowers……

Kabir.

By devoting one’s life to service, one also receives.  These exchanges are done subtly; this secret alchemy operates in the hearts, where reason has no relevance.  Loving is above all surpassing oneself by giving one’s best.  How can one better express it other than by offering oneself to the divine service!  There, it is better not to restrain oneself, but surrender and go with the flow, without seeking to understand what will be the outcome. This flow is not necessarily quiet; it obliges one to circumvent obstacles, sometimes numerous but not insurmountable.

Babuji

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Monday April 23, 2007

dr_bg.gifMind

The heart is the field for the action of the mind. Mind is always as it is. It is the heart which, as the field of action of the mind, is to be set right.

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When my partner and I started Touchpoints, we wanted to put a framework that will stand the test of time. We pondered about it being technology oriented, domain driven, etc. Eventually, we decided on exchanging notes on our own core values and guiding principles. If we had common core values and guiding principles, the possibility of conflict as well as confusion would be minimized. We decided that while conducting business, transactions or communication we are more than likely to arrive at the cross roads of decision. We would then lean on our core values and guiding principles to show us the right path.

Today, almost three years into the business, we can highlight number of situations, during which, we have potentially been swayed towards what could have been lucrative and resulted in immediate fortune for a minor compromise in our principles. Our ability to say NO and move on to the right opportunity, I believe, has kept us in good stead and we have been able to keep a clean and fearless conscience about ourselves and our endeavors.

The link between values and a purely economic function like management was highlighted by Kaushik Basu, the Economist in the Cornell University in article July,2001 issue of India today. In the article TRUTH ABOUT LYING this is what Kaushik Basu mentioned:

Lying and honesty are intriguing subjects that have engaged philosophers for centuries. Social scientists took very little interest in them. This has suddenly begun to change. It is a much more mundane concern with lying and honesty that has been engaging economists and political scientists in recent times, but it’s a concern of some pervasive importance. Social analysts, notably Francis Fukuyama and Robert Putnam, have argued that societies with a high level of trust — i.e. where people tend to be honest, adhere to promises and respect contracts — tend to prosper. So, faster growth is not just a consequence of appropriate economic policy, savings rate, human capital and fiscal deficits but, somewhat surprisingly, the level of honesty in the citizenry.

This is one area in which the Indian citizenry can do with a little bit of brushing up. The damage usually gets done early, when children are taught that “honesty is the best policy”. As they grow up, they realize whoever taught them that lesson was not quite honest. There are many situations in life where a quick lie, a broken promise or a reneged contract can bring in gains.

Many people make a mistake in trying to cash in on these gains too often, not realizing that each time one does it, one tends to damage a little bit of one’s reputation. If a person breaks too many promises, people will be wary of getting into agreements with him. In other words, excessive dishonesty and corruption, as in our society, is a sign of several things but, importantly, of myopia.

To a person interested in nothing but his own welfare, the Machiavellian lesson would be simple: try not to tell lies so that you can get away with the rare one when you have to. So even if people were very selfish, if they calculated their own interest rationally (that is, without short-sightedness), they would be more honest than they typically are.

Gandhiji once said, “You cannot be honest in one department of life and dishonest in another…..you have to function as a whole”.

We can therefore see that today even the hardheaded experts on management practices are willing to look at the values, which are behind management successes.

I am very excited about the concept of CREST (Center for Research, Education, Sadhana & Training) Center for Research, Education, Sadhana and Training is a program offered by Sahaj Marg Spiritual Foundation to impart personal and spiritual discipline along with knowledge to create living examples of the Sahaj Marg way of living. These courses are designed to cater to all dimensions of existence: the physical, the mental and intellectual, the moral, and the spiritual. Courses will be conducted under the ancient gurukula concept, with trainees living under ashram conditions, providing for a comfortable life in a Spartan setting, without luxury, but spiritually enriched.

The advantage of going back to our roots and trying to understand how management strategy and practices can be evolved by using the traditional Indian wisdom and ethos, therefore, can lead to immensely practical results. Yes, we will have an alternate problem in such a society – no Sarbanes Oxley, no Governance issues and true performance based outcomes driven by strong values and guiding principles. Meaning – IT companies will have not much to forecast growth on. I would rather live in such a society – wouldn’t you?

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The topic of Vedanta and its connection to Management(Leadership) was first introduced to me by my dear uncle and one of my mentors Sudhakar Kini – some day I shall write a whole article about him!!!

Around June of 1994 I decided to lead a life of balance as much as possible. I looked at various ways to organize my thoughts, activities and schedules. I found the answer at a seminar on “First things First” by Dr. Stephen Covey. The trick for me in all this was to define roles I played and set what we call ‘big rocks’ against each of the roles. The other key aspect I started practicing is to pay attention to the key factors –

Physical – Stay healthy, consider your body to be the temple for the God in your heart and maintain it will strong discipline.

Spiritual – Pursue a goal that helps balance all the material pursuits

Social & Emotional – Surround yourself and expand your circle of friends and family to have positive perspectives and emotional balance

Mental – Focus on Wisdom and not just Knowledge, be lateral, creative and innovative in execution of thought, work and activity.

While most of these were very easy to adhere to there was always a question about the spiritual component. After all I did not get the right ‘feeling’ by just visiting places of worship and listening to discourses or lectures. There was something missing. It is during Diwali day of 1995, while in NJ, my dear friend for 13 years then- Narayan (Nari) Rajagopalachari introduced me to what has become a primary purpose of my life now – Raja Yoga Meditation thru Sahaj Marg. To this day I believe it is the best gift of friendship I have ever received.

The mental aspect however, wanted to go deep and become wiser. During one of our long walks in Pune during my visit to India, Sudhakar and I used Spirituality, Vedanta and Management as a topic of discussion. He then presented me with a book called Vedanta Treatise by Shri Parthasarathy. Many surfing, reading and introspections later, this is my attempt to document some aspects. I for one is a strong believer in the concept of Leadership instead of just management. Hence I shall go ahead and call this piece thus.

Vedanta &Leadership

Vedanta is basically the quintessence of the Vedas. The origin of the word Veda is also traced to “vidya”(incidentally my sister’s name and many other relatives whose association I cherish) which being knowledge. Vedanta can be looked upon as being related to knowledge. It ultimately leads to the spiritual side of knowledge. Swami Parthasarathy in his book VEDANTA TREATISE says: Vedanta literally means the end of knowledge. It is a systematic knowledge which explains the relation between man and God. A knowledge that is founded on its own authority. Vedanta trains you to think for yourself. To analyse, investigate and realize the essence of life. Not to rely on outside forces to do your thinking. Not to submit yourself to blind faith, superstitious beliefs and mechanical rituals.

N. Vittal once said a great deal about this topic. In his talk he tried to capture the essence of this topic while calling on the likes of Shri Parthasarathy to spread the knowledge of Vedanta. Knowledge of course covers a wide spectrum. Vedanta represents knowledge of a spiritual nature. At the same time our current economy where the world has become a global village is also known as a knowledge economy.

Before we explore the connections between Vedanta, assuming for the moment that it represents the spiritual knowledge and realizing the fact that management relates to the temporal and physical world, we can also have a look at the relationship between the matters temporal and spiritual.

The basic lesson of the Vedanta is to look beyond our existence and try to find a meaning in our existence. One lesson of the Vedanta has been summarized as aatmanam mokshartham jagat hitayacha. For an individual, one should try to reach moksha or realization and so far as the rest of the world is concerned, try to do good to the world. A manager therefore can think in terms of his own development on the spiritual side and at the same time ensure that his own organization is beneficial to the society. The ultimate purpose of existence as moksha has the advantage for helping every manager to realize that beyond the day to day hassles, success and failures etc. which all lead to stress, there is a more permanent and a more long lasting purpose or object in life. If a person is oriented in Vedanta and is aware of at least the purpose of life as Vedanta teaches, the minimum he would have a mental equipoise.

So one advantage of a Vedantic orientation may be to share some of the ideals of the Stithapragna as described by Lord Krishna in the Second Chapter of Bhagavad Gita and take the world as it comes. Vihaya kamanyaha sarvaan pumaamscharati nispruhaha nirmamo nirahankara sashantimadhigachathi. A person who is rooted in Vedanta is bound to be mentally detached and at the same time have a peace, which gives him strength.

The Stithapragna according to Lord Krishna can also be a contrarian thinker. In these days of highly competitive environment, probably a capacity to swim against the current may be one method of generating new ideas. Ya nisha sarva bhuthanam tasyam jagriti samyami yasyam jagriti bhutani sanisha prashyate munehe, says Lord Krishna in the Second Chapter. When others are sleeping the Stithapragna is awake and when others are awake, he is sleeping. So the creativity can be another strength that comes from an orientation rooted in Vedanta.

A third aspect is that a Vedantic orientation can help a manager to look beyond the immediate present and take a long-term view. It is true as the Keynes pointed out, in the long run, all of us are dead. But many a time in a competitive environment, that too which is time based competition, losing the long term perspective can be counter productive. Take for example, excitement about dot com companies and the mad rush of both the venture capitalists and the stock market into the dot com and technology stocks. There has been a corrective action taken. So, apart from contrarian thinking, a Vedanta based mentality will also help a person to take a long-term view so that one does not commit act in haste and regret in leisure.

The ultimate lesson of Vedanta is a continuous quest for improvement or in the management terms of today six-sigma! It is almost like the concept of moving towards perfection.

As the Upanishad says, Om purnamada puranamidam purnat purnamudachyate purnasya purnamadaya puranmevavashishyate.

The spirit of quality is nothing but the pride of the artisan in his art, and the quest for perfection. A competent manager who is imbued with the basic lesson of Vedanta, which is again, a striving upward towards moksha will also try to bring in this approach of continuous improvement or KAIZEN in every act.

Ultimately we can all make progress only by following the standard advice of the Taitreya Upanishad. Let us come together, let us enjoy together, let our intellectual strengths come together, let there be brightness of knowledge, let there be no poison of misunderstanding or hatred. That is the way probably we will be able to make the best out of Vedanta for achieving managerial success and satisfying performance as managers. In the management jargon “Collaborative thinking and functioning”.

An informative link: http://www.vedanta.org/

Sahanavavatu sahanaubhunaktu sahaviryam kara va vahai

Tejasvinam aditamastu ma vid visha vahai, om shanti shanti shanti

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