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.