The Discovery of Music: The Source
See the humble farmer lost to time, standing upon a vast silhouette of mountains and clouds. In his harvesting, he has heard the wind dance through the hollow bamboo—creating melodies upon the valley wind. In his curiosity, he has fashioned himself a bamboo which may do the same. Now, he carries in his hands the first bamboo flute. From who does he learn how to fashion melodies? From where does he begin his journey into music?
Let’s watch him in his way. Watch him as he listens for the birds call--walks by the river-side--observes the language of the winds--absorbs the melody of the earth.
Music, born out of an inner desire of expression, is reflecting the subtle qualities of nature and the world around us. And it is through that inner desire that inspiration flows. When the treasure of melody was found, humankind’s thirst was to observe. To stand atop the peaks of mountains. To stop, to listen. “What really is in the world, Great One, that is eternally beautiful, that fills the winds with delight, that makes life whole?”
This is the question--the journey of inner discovery that began with music’s jewel. And hearing the call of birds, and seeing the colors of the seasons, humanity’s attention was inspired to turn to nature once more. Persia turns to the Nightingale, India turns to the Peacock, China turns to the Phoenix, Native America turns to brother Wolf. All to return the attention of humankind back to that which is beautiful. And with these notes--this musical weaving from the world around them--human beings create music. They create it, making their hearts reflect once more. And when the farmer plays his flute, he wonders, yet says with all confidence, doubtless “I can create, yet I know that the source is larger than I. If we can create, then much vast must be the purpose of our lives.”
Like this, the winds of Music have been eternally connected to the Sea of Meditation, wherein human beings follow the light of their True Self, that is Joy, that is humbleness, that is a lake of stillness. How could such a force rest a wandering mind, and make human beings see beyond their human eyes? It is this: Music is forever a teacher of our ears, our hearts, and our existence. Its voice is like a Father & Mother, and we are their children.
Verily, all the expressions in nature are representing the subtle primordial qualities of the universe. Verily, music as its vessel, is a key to unlock these eternal qualities within us.
The Quality of the Instruments
It is like this. The farmer was inspired by the wind, thus a flute was born. In Persia, the soft play of falling rain brought the santur. In China, the guqin was built to paint like high rivers as they meet the Earth from mountains.
When the desire to express is true, whole instruments of the ancient world are crafted to reflect nature, and with it, the eternal qualities they hold. The purity of water, the subtle might of the wind, the cleansing of fire. Each of these immortal qualities may forever live in music through these instruments. And even the making of instruments writes a message for humanity: that, like an instrument made to create, in the heart of humanity lies all the five elements that make this world beautiful. All qualities, all potential, and all Truth are found within. Then, we can be the instruments that express the same qualities of love and of joy, bringing color to everything around us.
For, that is what an instrument does, and the sounds that soothe us, that are crafted from them remind us. We hear sweetness in the flute, and upon hearing it, our True Self, our existence, is inspired to become a sweet personality. In the santur, our True Self is inspired to become like that ocean of strings - still, peaceful, content. All of these instruments, their structure, and their Divine sounds are to instil that desire to become an instrument within our own lives. It is like this: music inspires, music gives. Yet, this is only the beginning of its work within human beings.
Music and its Relation to Our Subtle System
Music works on us. In it, the quality to penetrate into our hearts and beings even if we are unaware of how it travels so. It is a constantly-giving force that works to inspire our hearts and souls, to feel, to hear, to see, to give.
Historically we can observe how human beings have used music to act on our subtle systems. In action, it gives ancient armies rise to the beating of the drum. Invoking the courage and power of human beings to overcome. In feeling, it gives notes to the writing poet, coloring their emotions. Providing a friend to confide in; a shelter. We may even feel and experience these often subtle parts of music in our modern daily lives. When we want to listen to that music to help us push through the day, when we find that music to get absorbed into, these are all expressions of the right and left side which music can act on.
There is however, the hidden center that can be reached. Just like how in meditation, there is a hidden center channel of our beings which lies, ready to be tapped into. In this space, the music takes on a quality which can bring our attention towards the center and further connect us with our true selves. When the musician, who in complete connection with music, allows pure creativity to flow without thought or attachment, therein lies music on the center. And all the beauty of this music can then be fully experienced by the listener in meditation.
We once again remember what it means to listen through meditation. Allowing the pure attention to fall upon the beautiful atmosphere created by a musician. We can witness how the music was enters and dances on the subtle system. How this music, as a reflection of the greater subtle music, unlocks an ocean of tranquility within our being. This is the potential that music of the center brings. It unlocks the qualities and joy of our true being.
Indian Classical Raags and Their Quality
In truth, Indian classical music is a practice of embodying the music of the center; music of spontaneity. In it, we tap into that Ocean which is the source of all inspiration. The student learns to compose colors and atmospheres in the wind. They learn the notes one by one, embodying and becoming close to them as a good friend. From notes, the discovery of certain combinations takes place. Melodies and guidelines are thus born.
Out of these different melodies comes personality and uniqueness among music. These unique colors of melody are called as Raga. They exemplify a particular personality and presence of music. And the presence that raags embody--their movements are poetic descriptions of the rising sun, the seasons of rain, and the dust of dusk. To great lengths do they travel to describe the inner qualities of the fire, water and earth. And greater yet, they may go beyond all boundaries of the mind to start describing a realm of the principles of this whole creation.
In this way, each raag is a representation of the inner qualities of our subtle system. In meditation, as we listen to this music, the notes resonate with our nervous system to subtly correct our centers. You will notice how each raag resonates differently. For each carries with it its own personality. Each focuses on specific aspects of our subtle being. The presence of Raag Yaman heals the creative action and knowledge of our Swadisthan chakra. With the elegance of Raag Jaijaiwanti, our Vishuddhi chakra is made sweet. The majesty of Raag Bhairav awakens the detached nature of our Spirit. All of these qualities awaken and evolve within us as we meditate upon this music. It is a discovery to be had and a journey to take. And that journey can only be taken within, with music, heart to heart. Meditate upon Raga with a thoughtless state, and witness how they move within.
The student learns the notes and rules of a Raag until they are known from deep within. After which, a freedom comes just as we gain freedom from becoming one with the words and rules of a language. The language of music can then be spoken with the uniqueness and personality of the artist. This is how one raag can be played an infinite number of times, yet retain a freshness and newness.
You may listen to raag Durga, played by different people, on different instruments, yet each time it is played, its direction and presentation will alter. It is not by changing the notes, or the rules that these performances remain unique. It is from the expression of particular notes, wherein the rules become like the direction of a river. The source is the same, yet the direction, pace, and journey may be different. Suddenly, what was once a mere description of notes becomes musical poetry, which gives this music its infinite quality. And the student and master alike, in the embrace of spontaneity, witness this unfolding, bringing joy to these journeys that are taken again and again.
From the set notes and rules, we awaken the ultimate. Infinite in the finite. Just as our finite self may unfold through meditation to become the infinite qualities of our true being. This is the art and eternal way of Raag. It is out of meditation and inner reflection that these Raags are discovered and absorbed. Because of that sacred root, the listener may also deepen into such a state. And with this state comes complete Oneness with the present, Oneness with music, Oneness with the Ocean of our Spirit. That is Pure Joy, that is Pure Truth, that is Pure Existence.