Indian Classical Music and Activating the Chakras
Sadhguru looks at the nature of sound, mantras and Indian classical music, and how classical music is a means to activate the chakras in the body.
“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.
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.
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, 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.
Editor’s Note: Sadhguru looks at how Indian classical music developed, and how it is derived from the very music of life in this article, Indian Classical Music – The Music of Life.