The Significance Of Indian Classical Music, And Activating The Chakras
Summary: Modern science tells us that the entire existence is a reverberation of energy - or in other words - an amalgamation of sounds. The human ear can hear only a small band of the spectrum. But in certain states - Rithambhara Pragna - you can hear the sounds beyond this limited spectrum. The whole existence can be experienced as sound. When sounds are arranged in a certain pattern, they impact our system in a certain way - this is the science of mantras. Indian classical music is a modification of the mantras - where both aesthetics and technical arrangements are important. Indian classical music can activate the chakras and evolve a human being into higher levels of consciousness.
article originally published on isha.sadhguru.org
Indian Classical Music and Activating the Chakras
Sadhguru: Today, it is common scientific knowledge that the whole existence is a reverberation of energy. The source of all that is physical in existence is a reverberation or a vibration. And where there is a vibration, there is bound to be a sound. Or in other words, the entire existence is a complex amalgamation of sounds. This was recognized by the yogic sciences many millennia ago. We call this Nada Brahma, which means that the creation and creator is just sound.
“If everything is sound, why don’t I hear it?” The full spectrum of sound that the reverberations of creation throw out is usually not available to the human ear. What you are able to hear is just a small band of frequencies – the sonic range of sounds. Anything above this range is called ultrasonic. What is below is subsonic. Both subsonic and ultrasonic sounds are normally outside the hearing range of the human ear.
The entire existence is a complex amalgamation of sounds. This was recognized by the yogic sciences many millennia ago. We call this Nada Brahma.
However, it is possible to move into certain states that we refer to as Rithambhara Pragna, where you can hear sounds beyond the usually audible spectrum. In such a state, if you look at any form, the sound attached to it becomes clear to you. The whole existence can be experienced as just sound.
Many years ago, I used to travel alone for a month or two every year in the Himalayas, and I happened to go to Kedarnath. Kedar is a very powerful and wonderful place. Above Kedar, there is a place called Kanti Sarovar, where people don’t generally go because it is a tricky climb. I trekked up to Kanti Sarovar and sat on one of the rocks there.
It is very difficult to put this into words, but after some time, everything turned into sound in my experience. My body, the mountain, the lake in front of me, everything had become sound. It had taken on sound form, and was just going on in me in a completely different way. My mouth was closed – I am very clear about that – but my own voice was going on loudly, as if it was on a microphone singing a song – and it was in Sanskrit.
Nada Brahma Vishwaswaroopa
Nada Hi Sakala Jeevaroopa
Nada Hi Karma Nada Hi Dharma
Nada Hi Bandhana Nada Hi Mukti
Nada Hi Shankara Nada Hi Shakti
Nadam Nadam Sarvam Nadam
Nadam Nadam Nadam Nadam
Translation: Sound is Brahman, the manifestation of the universe, sound manifests itself in the form of all life, sound is bondage, sound is the means for liberation, sound is that which binds, sound is that which liberates, sound is the bestower of all, sound is the power behind everything, sound is everything.
If you just give yourself to that song, there is a kind of power to it. It has a power to dissolve a person, if you really throw yourself into it.
If you arrange sounds in a certain pattern, it has a certain kind of impact. In this culture, we explored different patterns and came up with mantras. A mantra is a technically correct arrangement of sound, but it need not necessarily be aesthetically pleasing. With a mantra, the technical correctness is more important than the aesthetic enjoyment that one may have. Mantras neither belong to any religion or sect, nor are they a form of worship. They are just key sounds that can open up every realm in the universe. In the yogic sciences, there is a way to hold and incubate a mantra within yourself. Many yogis spend their whole life just incubating one particular mantra within themselves. So the mantra is not something that you say, it is something that you are striving to become. If you become the key, it will open up a different dimension of life and experience within you.
Indian classical music is a modification of mantras, where aesthetics become as important as the technical arrangement of sounds. Music is a more refined harmonious arrangement of sound. The very body is reverberating with wonderful music if you listen. Shiva carried a damaru (a drum) because it is symbolic of the rhythm of life. Whatever sound emanates from anything, there is a certain rhythm to it. If there is a rhythm to every sound that you hear, obviously there is a rhythm in the reverberation that causes the sound.
Indian classical music comes from a very deep understanding of the human system because all our experience of life is essentially happening within us. Light and darkness, sound and silence, joy and misery happen within us. Every human experience happens within, never outside of ourselves. We are the basis of our experience. Because of this, we identified certain dimensions of the body that are responsive to sounds. If you know how to use sounds, a proper arrangement of sounds can do incredible things.
Music is just a pleasant arrangement of sounds. We may add words to the music. These words have meanings, but the meanings are not existential. We make up the meanings. They are psychological and cultural. They are not existentially true. But sound is an existential reality. It is a reverberation that exists. Every kind of arrangement of these reverberations has different kinds of impacts on the human system and on our surroundings. There are some experiments that have been conducted to show how cows produce more milk if you play a certain kind of music. This is just one silly usage of it but it is actually true. Sound patterns, if used properly, can have a tremendous effect because physical existence is essentially a complex amalgamation of reverberations or sounds.
Indian classical music is the only form of music that has a formula behind it, which can be used in many permutations and combinations.
If you arrange sounds in a certain pattern, it has a certain kind of impact. In this culture, we explored different patterns and came up with mantras. A mantra is a technically correct arrangement of sound, but it need not necessarily be aesthetically pleasing. With a mantra, the technical correctness is more important than the aesthetic enjoyment that one may have. Indian classical music is a modification of mantras, where aesthetics become as important as the technical arrangement of sounds.
Indian classical music is the only form of music that has a formula behind it, which can be used in many permutations and combinations. All the other forms of music are just playing it by the ear. There is no technical perfection. But with Indian classical music – especially in southern India – there is so much mathematics involved. A musician is always counting, and eventually learns to count without counting because there is a mathematical formula over which the entire musical structure is built.
When I say a mathematical formula, we must understand the entire physical universe can be reduced to mathematical formulas. This is what modern science is endeavoring to do. Mathematics is not something that we made up. Mathematics is the backbone of creation itself. It is one way of interpreting physical creation. This is why a mathematical backbone is expected for any new theory that comes up. Otherwise it is not considered real because there is a fundamental geometry in the universe. Music is an arrangement where initially, if you are learning, it feels like numbers. After some time, it feels like geometrical patterns. After that, it just flows like a river, depending on how much mastery you have over it.
The Music of Life
How do you get this from within? Whoever it was who first began this entire musical process did not have a tape recorder or someone to teach them. Someone allowed it to happen within themselves. Allowing it to happen means if you become silent – and by silent I mean not just shutting your mouth but that there is no static in your mind – you will hear the very music of life. This is because the human system is a certain design and pattern. There is a certain geometry to it and there is a reverberation attached. Similarly, if you look at a tree, there is a certain reverberation attached to it. If you can feel that reverberation, we call this state as rithambara pragna.
If you want to know music, don’t look at music. You must know silence.
Rithambara pragna means you become conscious of the relationship between form and sound. If you perceive the sound from a form, you learn to use this sound in different ways to describe this form, and to touch and experience this form just by uttering a sound. This sound, in its technical manifestation, is called a mantra. In its aesthetic manifestation, it is called music. But the important thing is, if you want to learn from within, you must become silent.
If you want to know music, don’t look at music. You must know silence. If there is no silence, sound is just a jumble of nonsense. If you want to paint, first you need an empty canvas, isn’t it? Similarly, because there is silence, there is the possibility of sound.
Activating the Human Body with Music
In yoga, we see the human body as made up of five koshas, or five sheaths or layers: annamaya kosha or food body, manomaya kosha or mental body, pranamaya kosha or energy body, vigyanamaya kosha or etheric body and anandamaya kosha or bliss body.
Pranamaya kosha, or the energy body, is very significant. It is made up of 72,000 nadis, which are energy channels or pathways through which the energy in the body flows. These nadis meet and redistribute at 114 chakras or junction points in the human system. Of these 114, two are outside the physical body and 112 are within. Out of these 112, four are dormant to a large extent.
This leaves 108 active energy centers in the body. These 108 are divided on the right and the left as 54 each in the form of ida and pingala. Based on this, we formed a Sanskrit alphabet of fifty-four sounds, each in two manifestations of feminine and masculine.
Indian classical music has never been just a form of entertainment. It has been a way of evolving an individual human being into a universal entity.
Indian classical music has, to a mathematical precision, recognized which sounds can activate these 108 chakras, and lead to a natural evolution of the human being to a higher level of consciousness. Indian classical music has never been just a form of entertainment. It has been a way of evolving an individual human being into a universal entity. In this culture, music, dance or whatever else a person does are not entertainment, they are also a spiritual process. Entertainment was not the attitude in life. Everything was a sadhana to reach a higher level of consciousness.
The dimension of activating the human system and allowing the human system to evolve to its ultimate possibility by using these 108 sounds is called Nada Yoga. Indian classical music is an evolution of this fundamental process of Nada Yoga. If one listens to music with the necessary involvement, or if one involves themselves in the process of what we refer to as classical music, it is not just about the pleasantness of the body or emotion that one goes through, it is a method to move out of compulsive cycles of life. It is a method to transcend those cycles to achieve freedom and liberation.
Cultivating the Audience
Cultivating the audience is an important part of nurturing this wonderful form of music. Without cultivating the audience and without allowing expression for budding talent, this art form cannot live. This is one of the most wonderful ways through which one can transcend one’s limitations and arrive at an ultimate possibility. There are many ways to do this but Indian classical music is a wonderful and beautiful way to do it.