I am getting comments from readers who seem to be dejected in life. And with the nature of the current Time/ Kaal, as indicated by the current planetary influences, several of us are genuinely feeling demotivated.
However the easiest way remaining centred and focussed is to adopt a ‘daily routine’. This regular practice, helps you subtly ‘bind’ your life together, one day at a time. Just as the drop of water falling on a rock, for a hundred years destroys it, so does your daily routine destroy negativity in your life. Our Dharma has prescribed several such practices, starting with the Surya Arghya in the morning to lighting a deepak before the Tulsi plant in the evening. I have written about several such small daily practices (index page).
But my readers apparently want an even simpler practice. Thus this post.
Devi Sarasvati gives her ashirwad/ blessings in two major forms. One is when you are alone, sitting on your Asan and doing your Mantra given to you by your Guru. eg the daily Gayatri mantra sadhana. And the second is when you are singing out aloud either alone or with a group of similar minded people or playing your musical instrument, ie performing Sangeet. This activity is also ingrained in our Dharma in the form of the numerous bhajans, kirtans, aartis etc that we sing daily. eg the Bhajan mandali groups. It is also the responsibility of every parent to teach his/ her child to sing, this helps the child understand ‘Bhava’, ie emotion and makes his/her life richer in the future.
Sangeet is a Sadhana in itself. Music is directly connected to the Naad and ultimately leads to Laya. Naad is the intelligence which creates Om and thus the manifested creation. And as every student of music knows, Laya is the complete absorption of the student into the Swar/ notes, Raag/ melody and Taal/ beat of the Sangeet/ music. As you become one with the emotion that the song expresses, its melody, its beat, you lose your limited sense of the individual self and briefly experience a small part of that Eternal Self. This brief touch of the Eternal then pulls you along even more strongly till eventually you realise Moksh especially if you practice it daily.
If you are not feeling inspired to do any personal spiritual practice, then the only option that remains is to sing out aloud. If you feel that there is nothing more left to do in this world, then the only thing that you must do is to sing.
Ideally everyone should take up Music. And this is how you can very easily make it a part of your life.
Sing a song of your choice aloud, daily, for a lifetime. Just one song per day, ie 5-10 mins of your time. Even if your voice is toneless, dull, boring, cracked, untrained, makes you cringe, etc yet you must sing out, aloud. And record/ listen to your own singing (also share this audio with your loved ones if you wish.) You can choose movie songs, bhajans, stotras sung like songs, classical music, street-type of music. Sing any thing which you feel like singing, but it should have the following components.
- Words, ie the Shabd – Your chosen song should have lyrics which express a mood, ‘Bhav-geet’. It has to convey, a ‘rasa’, an essence, an emotion, ie happiness, sadness, longing, devotion, anger etc. Check out movie songs, these cover a wide range of human emotions, choose one which resonates with your current mood. Random words stuck together is not a song, avoid this stuff. (You can also sing in Aakaar, ie vocalise just the sound of ‘aaaa’ in the chosen beat/melody, but attempt this after 1yr of the daily song practice.)
- Beat, ie the Taala – Every song has a tempo, ie you can clap your hands in time with it. So first try to tap your foot along the beat of the song you choose to sing. Taala is an entire concept by itself, an entire subtle philosophy of the ‘Taa’ and ‘La’ akshar and what they stand for.
- Melody ie the Raag – You are required to sing a song, ie your voice should reach into the notes/ Swar – Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni…, you are supposed to modulate your voice. This rhythm of the sound notes, their melodious ‘movement’ is called Raag in Bharatiya classical music. There are over 800 Raag and further about 400 Ragini in our music. Generally old movie songs from all Bharatiya language are set to the melody of the Raag. Performing rap or reciting in a plain monotone is not ‘singing’, avoid this.
Choose your songs and sing loudly, confidently. Try to pronounce the words clearly, follow the beat and the melody the best you can. And it is perfectly ok if you miss a beat or sound off-tune, you are after all learning how to sing. Try to hear your own voice with your own ears as you sing the songs. Becoming aware of your own voice is a big achievement in spiritual practice. This daily song will also help you practice ‘hearing’. Ultimately your ears have to be trained to ‘hear’ the fundamental sound of Om, the Anahata Naad, the ‘unstruck’ sound and the daily song will help you achieve this with time. Try to feel the sound vibrating in your throat, chest, upper abdomen. With time, you will sense that these sound vibrations are actually emanating from your navel/ Nabhi. When this happens, you will have completed a very significant phase in your Sangeet Sadhana.
Sound evolves from Silence in 4 distinct phases (Para, Pashchanti, Madhyama, Vaikhari). When you start feeling the vibration of the ‘sound’ in your navel, it means that you are now becoming aware of the Silence ie reaching towards the point of Para. Here ‘Silence’ does not mean ’emptiness’, it is not shunya. Silence here is the Poorna, the ‘completeness’, the conscious energy which has the potential to create anything and everything. Poorna is Advaita.
And if you critically analyse, as you sing, you are using the power of Silence strategically intertwined with the Sapta-Swar, Sa, Re…. Ni in a melodious, rhythmic format and also generating some emotions along the way. So with each song that you sing, you are subtly cleansing your own self, getting rid of the impurities in your astral body, moving forwards towards the Self. Singing is not a task, it can never be by force, you sing because you enjoy singing. You are singing for your own self, for your own enjoyment. This emotion in your mind generates very deep happiness on the inside. And happiness / Anand is also the Advaita.
Once you get into the habit of singing your daily song, you will notice several positive changes about yourself. First your lung capacity will increase, ie you can breathe more deeply into your lungs. This helps your heart and your physical body will benefit. Singing out aloud helps elevate the mood, you feel fresh, active yet relaxed. Your brain is learning something new daily and also practicing it, ie producing the sound from the throat, this helps it remain active and alert. Your confidence will increase, public speaking will become easier etc.
One song per day means that in one year, you will have 365 audio clips with you. After this one year, again listen to the first song which you had recorded and compare. Analyse your performance, your voice quality, ability to follow a beat, to stick to a rhythm, the power of your voice etc. Then analyse your personality, you have changed dramatically in this one year. This one year mark is going to be an eye-opener for you as you analyse your own performance.
Now, if you feel like it, you can start learning Bharatiya classical music under a proper teacher. Our music is categorised under Uttar Bharat aka Hindustani and Dakshin Bharat aka Carnatic. Uttar gives more importance to the essence and Dakshin is more focussed on the purity of the technique. Both are fundamentally the same concept expressed in two different ways. Both are equal, so choose whichever appeals to your mind.
Or you can choose to learn a musical instrument. Our instruments are generally of three basic types
- stringed – eg Veena, Sitar, tambora, Ektara, Santoor, Sarangi, Gopichand etc.
- wind – bamboo flute, Nadaswaram, Shehnai, Pungi
- percussion (made of either metal or stretched leather). – Damaru, tabla, mrudangam, Dhol, etc.
Bharatiya instruments are designed to evoke Bhav, emotion from the inner depths of the mind. If possible, try to go to concerts where artists are performing the Raag live, or playing our Bharatiya instruments live, you will understand what I mean here. There is a depth to our Raag and to our instruments, the generated sounds are deeply absorbed within, they are healing in nature. (Hearing the same sounds through the electric speakers is also good but it does not give the same depth.)
Musical instruments are called ‘वाद्य’ Vadya in Devbhasha Samskrutam. Vadya means something that is played or sounded and it also means ‘speech’. So the basic Vadya that each one of us always has with us is the throat. This is the greatest of all musical instruments and everyone must use it, ie sing. There are fancy courses on ‘voice training’ these days, but the easiest ‘voice training’ is to train your throat to sing the notes/ Swar – Sa Re Ga…. in their correct frequency. Eg if your base note Sa is at D# then you must be able to consistently vocalise this same D# frequency as Sa. You can use a tanpura/ tambora app for training your mind/ throat or there are mobile apps which you can use to monitor the frequency of your base note. Again do all this after 1yr of singing your daily song.
In my opinion the most difficult instrument is the bamboo flute. This is called Bansuri in Uttar and Venu in the Dakshin. There are no keys, no strings, nothing inside it, nothing outside it. Perhaps this is why Bhagwan Krishna held the Bansuri / Venu to his lips. You can play the bamboo flute only if your mind is relaxed and your breath is perfect. Each hole has the capacity to play notes in 3 different pitches and both the regular and flat notes. It is your control over your mind and breath, that creates the specific note you want to play. It is an extraordinary instrument (even keeping a bamboo flute in the house is brings auspiciousness.)
Sangeet derives from the Ved. The technical name is Gandharva ved and it is one of the 4 upa-ved, ie is is a supplement to the Ved. The Ved themselves are understood and experienced through the lens of Music, thus Sangeet has a very high value in our Dharma and our life. This term ‘Gandharva’ is the understanding which brings near the Eternal Auspiciousness, creates that relationship, perfumes with the eternal aroma etc. Music is sometimes called Gandharva vidya and just like any other vidya it has its Para and Apara versions, ie it can grant you realisation of the Self or it can grant you material and worldly successes. How to use a Vidya is as always your own choice.
Sound is conscious and intelligent. and has its own undeniable power. eg Once, my Guru told me to sing Raag Bhairav in the searing heat of the afternoon. Bhairav is an early morning raag which uses shuddha Madhyam Ma while the afternoon Raags use Teevra Madhyam Ma. As I sang naturally, the first Ma I sang was Teevra! I stopped and then with conscious control sang in the correct Raag Bhairav at a time where it does not flow naturally. Another eg, when I get back home, it is the time for the evening Raag Yaman, so if I play my flute without thinking anything, the fingers automatically play a melody with the Swars in Yaman as is suited to the time/ Kaal.
Sangeet is very intricately connected to the Kaal, ie conscious energies of Time and if you take efforts and excel in the Gandharva vidya, Kaal / Time too will flow favourably for you.
Point being, Sangeet has its own power, it is a Vidya, an Upa Ved and a Sadhana. If you take one step in its direction, the Gandharva ved will pull you 100 steps onwards. Even if you think that singing a movie song daily is silly, do it. It is the first step towards the Para. And it is perhaps the most delightful route that you can think of.
So sing as you flow towards your Self.