Mantra, Sound and Music

Let us venture into the mysterious and beautiful world of mantra, sound and music…

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Sound Life, Sound Existence

Let us venture into the mysterious and beautiful world of mantra, sound and music. At every moment we are surrounded by sound. It fills our ears and vibrates against and within our bodies. It comes from other human beings; it comes from animals and insects, from rivers and machines. From the six directions it manifests in wind and water, fire and earth. Our ears are filled at every moment with the music of existence and the mantra of being – but do we listen? Do we truly listen?

A koan is a Zen riddle or question that has, or seems to have, no answer. There is a famous koan: “If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?” In other words, if not heard, can sound be said to exist?” The question can be extended to all phenomena: If unperceived, can anything be said to exist?” It can even be extended to our awareness of life: “If I fail to perceive the music that surrounds me, do I really exist?”

bird-on-lily-pad

When the earth’s music moves us deeply, it is because we have heard in it something more than a noise. A mother hears her baby cry in the night… is it just a sound? No, to that mother it her very own life crying out voice of her child. Love, passion, joy and sorrow, consciousness and delight are all present in life and in life a constant symphony. We know this, but do we really hear it this way, when we walk down a city street or listen to a friend? Do you hear your life in the music of this world?

Music, sound and mantra can be employed in our spiritual practice to develop and expand our awareness. It has been so used for thousands of years. When our awareness is deepened we can become intimate with the inmost consciousness of our being. In that being we discover we really do exist and that there is not the thinnest membrane between ourselves and the universe! Now close your eyes and listen to the sound of these Tibetan bells. Listen with your whole awareness to the perfectly clear presence within the sound. Listen to it as it fills the room. Listen to the presence of sound as it slowly fades away. When you are listening, think of nothing else but listening, let the sound fill you as it does the room. As it fills you, it fills infinity, the earth and sky, the heavens and the cosmos beyond, but who is listening?

AUM Life, AUM Existence

We are not always fortunate enough to have Tibetan bells or a beautiful instrument to listen to… Do you believe that? You should never believe that, because you are the most beautiful instrument in the entire universe and its most celestial tone is always vibrating within you. This tone-sound is the mantra AUM. You are the manifestation of this mantra; you are nothing but the celestial sound AUM.

bali-hut

Now watch and listen to the video of “AUM” chanting. Now, chant with the video or on your own. Listen to the sacred sound of your own being. When the first vibration of AUM begins to form within us, we experience our being as it originally was coming into being. As the sound of AUM rises to its full pitch, we will feel our existence as fully established in the world. When we feel the sound of AUM fade to silence, we will feel ourselves fading, fading into the unmanifest and intangible root of our eternal being – the perfect silence that abides in the core of AUM. This is the high and wide, the deep and universal, seed sound of our existence. In truth all sounds are but an echo of AUM, all beings but the physical manifestation of AUM.

We can end our chanting, but we are always vibrating with the energy of AUM at a subtle level. Never stop listening to the music of your inmost existence. If you hear AUM within yourself, you will become refreshed, you will recover your clarity of mind, peace and harmony will returned to you, and a new confidence will magically energize your life. This is the power of AUM, the beauty of AUM, the divinity of AUM, and it is your power, your beauty and your divinity as well, for you are nothing but the celestial music of AUM manifesting in this world.

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Yoga Sutras – Om

When I meditate I always begin and end my practice by chanting Om…

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When I meditate I always begin and end my practice by chanting Om. It’s like stepping through a portal. I usually chant it several times until I really feel a strong connection/punctuation… I chant it externally. Then I chant it internally. The vibration in my throat stops but the vibration in my heart-universe continues.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, expounded upon by Swami Vivekananda (also see) in his book, Raja-Yoga, particularly addresses the use of the syllable Om in aphorism 27 (The word that manifests Him is Om.) and 28 (The repetition of this (Om) and meditating on its meaning [is the way]).

Tom on Harmonium

What is God’s name?

I find it interesting that try as we might, it is impossible to put a definitive name to ‘God.’ Every thought in the mind has a corresponding word, a symbol. Thought and word are inseparable. If the symbol (word) corresponds to the thing signified then we are assured that there is a valid relationship: the symbol can then conger the thought. However, many symbols, many words can represent the same thought.

Vivekananda posits that there might be hundreds of words for ‘God’ across the globe. But there must be some underlying generalization that can be distilled from all these names. There must be some common ground in all these names. That common name would then best represent them all.

Patanjali suggests the common ground is Om.

Notice a variety of ‘God’-names: God, Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah, Brahma, Shiva, Buddha… notice that each name contains the syllable, ‘Ah,’ closely corresponding to the first part of the pronunciation of the syllable Om (or AUM, Ahh-Ooo-Mmm). Speculating that someone from England might not recognize the Pakistani or Japanese word for ‘God,’ for example, never-the-less both might be familiar with Om and would recognize the underlying thought. It’s interesting to note that many ‘God’-names are preceded by adjectives to qualify them, like Personal God, Absolute God, Christian God, etc., limiters. Yet Om requires no qualifiers, having around it all significances.

PYO

Repetition of Om and Meditation on its Meaning

Whether vocalized or silent, repetition of Om creates vibrational energy in our bodies, minds and in the universe. As we have already determined Om to be divine, Vivekananda equates chanting Om to be, “…keeping good company with the mind.” And he suggest that, “One moment of company with the holy builds a ship to cross this ocean of life: such is the power of association.” So we repeat Om and meditate on its meaning. Om is the foundational expression for ‘God’ in this context. It is an utterance without qualification. The more it is repeated, the more it is considered, the greater the association and, “Thus light will come to you; the Self will become manifest.”

Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda (Image via Wikipedia)

Vivekananda really pushes the idea of keeping good company, specifically, good company with the purity of ‘God’ by virtue of repetition and meditation. We all have the old scars and wounds. We each have within us the potential for the greatest good or the greatest evil. Keeping evil company (thought, word, deed, associations, etc.) is like picking an open wound. It will manifest as a festering lesion. Repetition and meditation on the meaning of Om will bring to the surface those perhaps latent good impressions and qualities and build a strong foundation for introspection and the destruction of obstacles, those negative qualities which hinder our spiritual growth.

Chanting Om is as foundational as is breath. Ujjayi breathing is simply chanting Om using only the breath, foregoing vibrating the vocal chords.

When I first began my yoga life I truly thought the breath work was kind of trivial and silly; such a simple, almost inconsequential thing. I really didn’t see any real practicality about it. Most studios I frequented rarely chanted Om at the beginning and ending of a class. It was only that I was a singer that it finally dawned on me that breath control was so vital a part of the practice. My ‘home’ studio, Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga Studio in San Diego, CA (my  employer) has always chanted Om at the beginning and ending of each class, one of several practices that endeared me to the studio.

Make the practice of chanting Om a daily endeavor.

Consider it’s meaning. Om is the unqualified expression of the divine. Let it spring forth from your heart as the first, the only and the last vibration… Be Om.

 

 

Featured image by MAMJODH, license.

 

 

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Pilgrimage of the Heart Meditation Podcast E09

In this episode Sujantra skips his usual spoken introduction and goes directly into a meditation. Then, a visiting Sri Chinmoy devotee…

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Mediation Podcast is a recorded broadcast of Sujantra’s weekly Tuesday night meditation class held in San Diego California. Each week Sujantra introduces a new topic related to meditation and leads the class through various types of meditations including: visual concentration, yogic concentration, breathing techniques, chanting and much more.

Ep 09: In this episode Sujantra skips his usual spoken introduction and goes directly into a meditation. Then, a visiting Sri Chinmoy devotee with a British accent, named Devashishu, leads the class through some meditative mantras.

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Kirtan as Meditation

Kirtan is a singing, chanting practice that is part of the Bhakti* (devotion to your creator) tradition in yoga. While it might appear on the surface…

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Kirtan is a singing, chanting practice that is part of the Bhakti* (devotion to your creator) tradition in yoga. While it might appear on the surface that it is an entertainment, the reality is that Kirtan is a profound meditation practice.

Meditation is often thought of as the elimination of thought from the consciousness. True enough, if not an oversimplification, but a difficult task. Sometimes it’s easier to replace the random, spontaneous thoughts with a single, repetitive thought that has meaning and loft, and to concentrate and focus on that, assisting stillness, resting on a single thought.

 Tablas
 

The Mantra:  Mantra means ‘Mind Tool’

Kirtan uses mantra, simple (not always), repetitive devotional phrases which the practitioner swaps with the random spontaneous thoughts streaming from the mind. The mind takes up the mantra and its meaning, or at least its implication and becomes a center of Self-awareness. We work on that divine inner place that we know is there but that we cannot touch. The mantra is repeated over and over until it becomes something like a background object, there reminding you of your particular quest. A single syllable or phrase, a long, involved invocation; to chant is enough. This is the basics, except for one thing. One should cultivate a supreme purity about this practice. It is nothing less than a celebration of life, creation, existence and a personal expression of heart-centered gratitude for your existence.

Kirtan turns what would ordinarily be a solitary, personal offering into a musical celebration among friends. People gather and chant together. Musical instruments are played. A Kirtan leader sings the chant and the participating audience sings it back in response, over and over… It creates a sort of rapture. It entrains vibrational energies. It becomes bigger than the sum of its parts. You realize that your participation was essential to that event. It couldn’t have happened the way it did without your (and everyone else’s) being there… Being present. It really can be extraordinarily profound.

 Pilgrimage of the Heart Kirtan Band
 

A solitary, personal offering:

To chant is the object. Our personal, heart offering is the object. The mantra guides, focuses your inner path, either by meaning or by melody/rhythm. It keeps us attuned, sharp, aware. It is a drishti, a center, which holds us to our path. It’s a technique that enables us to explore by choice. The moment you start to chant, your practice begins. One begets the other. It requires no one but you.

And yet, we gather for Kirtan with like-minded (and the curious) folks with the intention to participate in each other’s experience. Our personal experience both radiates and absorbs energy. It becomes a oneness of individual AND a oneness of multitude. As your practice grows it becomes a part of your makeup. You look forward to the mantra, the Kirtan. You realize that your voice has meaning and that it’s worth sharing. You become part of a community. Kirtan is a place of being. It becomes a group home.

 Kirtan Collage

A Universal offering:

Kirtan comes from the east, from India. But it was never intended to be exclusively Hindu or Buddhist. All faith-based systems have both singing and invocation in their traditions. Singing, music and devotion to creation are universal expressions. They span all traditions.

Pilgrimage of the Heart hosts Kirtan every Thursday evening at 8:30pm in the East Room. No experience necessary. Free and open to all.

 

* For further reading about Bhakti see Sir Edwin Arnold’s Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 8. This is the most beautiful translation of the Gita I know of. It is said that Ghandi carried this translation with him for the majority of his life. Read this book!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Review: Tina Malia: Bridge to Vallabha

Bridge to Vallabha, a collection of eleven sacred songs and mantras, is the fifth recording from singer-songwriter, instrumentalist, sound engineer…

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by Kathy Parsons

Bridge to Vallabha, a collection of eleven sacred songs and mantras, is the fifth recording from singer-songwriter, instrumentalist, sound engineer, and producer Tina Malia.

From the Heart

Considered a visionary in the world, dream pop and sacred chant musical communities, Malia’s voice is warm, clear and lyrical. The songs are sung in a variety of languages from around the world including Sanskrit, Hebrew, Gurmukhi, and English, but Malia communicates from the heart no matter which language she is singing. 

PYO

Classically-trained as a child, Malia discovered many female folk singers in her mid-teens when she started writing her own music. After the release of her first album, Shores of Avalon, Malia met pioneering world chant artist Jai Uttal, who recruited her to sing in his Pagan Love Orchestra. He also introduced her to the rich spiritual tradition of Sanskrit mantras.

Love of Mantra

Malia’s love of mantra is reflected on her 2005 album, Jaya Bhagavan, as well as on this new release. Her voice is the lead instrument on all of the tracks, accompanied by nylon string guitar, Rhodes piano, charangon, vibraphone, lap steel guitar, and/or cello. Singers Donna DeLory, Heather Wertheimer of Shantala, Karnamrita Das, Jai-Jagdeesh, Peia and Sasha Rose lend their talents to the mix as do Grammy-nominated pianist Peter Kater and cellist Hans Christian.

Peaceful and Smooth

All of the songs are smooth, peaceful, and soothing and Malia’s gentle voice is hypnotic. Bridge to Vallabha  is a beautiful album whether you use mantras in your daily life or simply enjoy relaxing, heartfelt music. Bridge to Vallabha is available from Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby. Check it out!

Tina’s Website     Amazon     iTunes     CD Baby

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OM – A Mantra for Every Moment

A mantra is a sound or vibration that you can use to journey into the realm of meditation or find calm inside any moment. A mantra represents…

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A mantra is a sound or vibration that you can use to journey into the realm of meditation or find calm inside any moment. A mantra represents an aspect of the Highest, and each mantra has a special significance and inner power.

Vibrational Harmony

OM (AUM)  is said to be the soundless sound of the universe. Chanting OM helps us get into a vibrational harmony with the universe so it’s the ideal way to start and finish one’s yoga practice or meditation session. Om is also the perfect antidote to finding calm inside any stressful situation at home or work.

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Repeat A Mantra Every Day

“If you want quick results in your inner spiritual life, you should repeat a mantra every day without fail, for a least half an hour: fifteen minutes in the morning and fifteen minutes in the evening,” says spiritual yogi Sri Chinmoy.  “There can be no mantra more powerful than the mother of all mantras, AUM.”

If you want to get the best results, repeat OM every day. To learn more about the power of mantras, watch our De-Stress with Mantra video.

Chant: “Ommmmmmmmmm”.

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