Recently I have been listening to the Indian singer Kaushiki Chakrabarty performing her beautiful and haunting devotional bhajans while accompanied by tabla, sarangi, harmonium and sarod. The songs were a recording from a live concert in the Netherlands, but across the span of time and space nothing of the power of her soulful singing is lost, her voice still melting one’s heart. Watching Kuashiki singing conveys a clear sense that she is gathering and capturing some beauty that comes from another, higher plane, the artist a vessel through which this beauty can find an outlet and manifest itself in this world.
I am reminded of that other celebrated Indian composer/musician Sri Chinmoy, who often spoke of an infinite, unmanifested inner world where all the music and art and undiscovered things have their source, a world of ideas and infinite possibilities yet to see the light of day.
Sri Chinmoy spoke of inner stillness and meditation as a way through which the finite connects with the infinite and how the artist can receive inspiration from this rich inner world of endless possibilities. He comments: “Silence is the nest and music is the bird. The bird leaves the nest early in the morning and returns to the nest in the evening. Similarly, in the spiritual world, divine music comes from the inmost soul of silence.”
Artists sometimes access that lovely realm when we go beyond technique and mind and become one with our chosen art itself, as though we ourselves are an instrument and some beauty that is not our own is flowing through us. Athletes call it ‘being in the zone’ – a rapture of pure consciousness when the mind is free of all thought, constraint, self-consciousness and everything we do flows from some deeper part of our being. While performing, the ego ‘I’ that separates musician from music has gone and we have become the music itself.
It was in this spirit that the artist Paul Klee compared the artist-performer to a tree and wrote,
“From the root, the sap rises up into the artist, flows through him, flows to his eye. Overwhelmed and activated by the force of the current, he conveys his vision into his work. And yet, standing at his appointed place as the trunk of the tree, he does nothing other than gather and pass on what rises from the depths. He neither serves nor commands – he transmits. His position is humble. And the beauty at the crown is not his own; it has merely passed through him.”
My own interest in this principle was greatly heightened when in the mid 1980’s I attended a free concert offered by Sri Chinmoy in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York city. Seated in this great vault of a cathedral, I could clearly feel that people around me were meditating – there was a stillness and a peacefulness that came from some inner dimension. On stage Sri Chinmoy stood before us, hands folded over his heart as though in prayer or invoking some higher force. Then he sat and began playing on a succession of different instruments, including an unusual triple-barreled wooden flute presented to him by the New Zealand flute maker Leo Cappell.
As my mind quietened and my heart opened a little, I began to feel something responding inside me, as though I was glimpsing through a small, clear window another, peaceful inner world. His melodies were simple and unconcerned with technical virtuosity, yet somehow they evoked the fragrance of a meditative inner reality, the musical downpour nourishing the wide-open spaces of the human soul itself. What a wonderful concert that was. I was remembering Franz Kafka’s remark about art, that it ‘must be the axe for the frozen sea within us’ – the concert had been like that, a thawing and an opening of the senses to something mystical.
“Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy” said Ludwig van Beethoven. “Music is the wine which inspires one to new generative processes, and I am Bacchus who presses out this glorious wine for mankind and makes them spiritually drunken.”
Sri Chinmoy saw music as a great unifier, a great force for world peace, a universal language uniting us together as one world family. He comments: “Music transcends the barriers of nations, nationalities and religions. It is through music that the universal feeling of oneness can be achieved in the twinkling of an eye. When we listen to soulful music, or when we ourselves play soulful music, immediately our inner existence climbs up high, higher, highest. It climbs up and enters into something beyond. This Beyond is constantly trying to help us, guide us, mould us and shape us into our true transcendental image, our true divinity. …A river is flowing through us, a river of consciousness, and this consciousness is all the time illumined.”
“Chosen are those artists,” wrote Klee, “who penetrate to the region of that secret place where primeval power nurtures all evolution. There, where the powerhouse of all time and space – call it brain or heart of creation – activates every function, who is the artist who would not dwell there?”
Compositions by Sri Chinmoy can be heard here: https://www.radiosrichinmoy.org/
More in the article in Indian NZ Outlook Dec 2016 Page 10: http://www.indianzoutlook.co.nz/archives.php
Auckland welcomed a unique group of musicians from seven different countries for their first ever concert tour in New Zealand this month, an event called ‘Songs of the Soul’. Some twenty visitors from Europe, the US and England came together to offer their vocal and instrumental arrangements of the music of Sri Chinmoy in a concert series that has toured on four continents over the past ten years. Over 400 people attended the popular evening at the Auckland Girls’ Grammar School’s Dorothy Winstone Centre in Newton.
The November 7th, Auckland concert was part of a larger Australasian first-ever tour, with concerts offered in Christchurch and four Australian cities. Over the past 10 years more than 200 free Songs of the Soul concerts have been offered throughout Europe, Russia, Asia and North America.
Songs of the Soul draws from the vast musical legacy of the late musician-composer Sri Chinmoy, whose 20,000 compositions form one of the largest ever original compilations of songs by an individual composer and were shared during his lifetime in over 700 free concerts globally. In Auckland, five performance groups took turn about on stage at the Dorothy Winstone Centre, followed by a grand finale involving all of the performers. The concert title reflects its purpose, to offer a new kind of music that is primarily meditative and deeply peaceful, music that nourishes and touches the soul.
“‘Songs of the Soul’ is interactive in the sense that the audience also helps to co-create a very memorable experience” said organizer Durba Lee. “The performers selected a wonderful gallery of tranquil songs which they performed in a very meditative spirit – soul songs and spiritual music can be uniting, healing, transformative. Music is a kind of language, it transcends culture, nationality, belief and religion and reaches down to the core of our common humanity”.
Sri Chinmoy always believed that spiritual, peaceful music can significantly contribute to a brighter future for all of humanity, requesting that his music always be shared free of charge.
Please click here to see some photos from the concert.
An article by contributing writer Jogyata Dallas Reprinted with kind permission of Indianz Outlook
Ireland and India, though far apart geographically, have much in common, most notably their bloody struggles to free themselves from British rule. Many of the provisions of the constitution of India were drawn from their Irish counterpart, and Indo-Irish relations were also strengthened by such luminaries as Pandit Nehru, Rabindranath Tagore, Eamon de Valera, W.B Yeats and Sister Nivedita. Irish-born Annie Besant too was a firm supporter of Indian self rule. In 1916 she launched the Home Rule League to model Indian independence on the Irish struggle. Then in 2015 we saw the first visit of an Indian head of state in 59 years when PM Narendra Modi personally visited Ireland.
India’s cultural heritage was again on tour this month in the Emerald Isles when the songs of the late Indian spiritual master Sri Chinmoy were sung in cathedrals, castles, historical sites and concert halls on a five day pilgrimage around the southern counties. Fourteen singers from thirteen different countries, including New Zealand, met up in Dublin on April 24th and travelled over 1200 miles to share the timeless message of world peace and the spiritual essences of India’s legacy with audiences in a dozen communities and towns .
Like India, Ireland too is an ancient world, its 10,000 and more years of human habitation in evidence everywhere, the crumbling castles and ancient stone walls, the music you hear that deals with legends and heroes, the spirit of the place. The ploughed fields reek with pathos and history, the earth is filled with the effluvia of the vanished generations, their flesh and bones, their tears and blood. Countless lives have come and gone, brief as the shadows of clouds passing across landscape. Their swords and ploughs and helmets are stitched into the earth, their stories hidden beneath the dark soil of every field. No wonder then the turreted castles and moats, the granaries secured in siege-proof towers, the vaulted iron gates – over the long millennia, everyone has invaded Ireland.
In this landscape we met up on April 24th. Our songsters form the group called Oneness-Dream and each year we come together to share our love of music with others, to offer songs that, in Sri Chinmoy’s phrase, provide ‘a universal language uniting hearts and souls’. Our troupe has performed in Myanmar, Scotland, Iceland, Finland, Malta, Sicily, the United States and Ireland and form an all-male a cappella choir of Sri Chinmoy’s world-wide students. Music truly is a universal language and in Ireland we could feel the responsive hearts of our audiences opening up to the beauty of the songs and to their simple message of oneness, their reminder of the beauty and dignity of the human soul and the message of a brighter future for humanity. We felt ourselves part of something new, as though the country was opening to a different future, that we had become entrusted to serve this new tomorrow. We were musical ambassadors out in the frontier lands, and every concert we gave, every leaflet given to a stranger, was imbued with our hopes of this oneness-dream and rang with possibilities.
The Oneness-Dream male choir will be visiting New Zealand in early 2017 – concerts are planned in several of our larger cities and also in rural communities, bringing the language of song and the message of world peace out into the heartlands of our nation.
Further material: please visit http://onenessdream.org/ and also : http://onenessdream.org/galleries/tours/ireland-2016/
An article by contributing writer Jogyata Dallas Reprinted with kind permission of Indianz Outlook
Speaking of literature, the writer Franz Kafka once wrote: “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.” In our often violent modern world, his remarks are equally true of that other art form, the world of music with its power to heal, inspire and unite, to break the frozen sea of discord and division that so often blights our world.
“Music gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything” Plato concurred, and the Indian spiritual master Sri Chinmoy also saw music as a powerful way to foster a more peaceful earth, and to share this widening peace with others. “Music gives joy to my dreaming soul … Divine music is the breath of the higher worlds,” he wrote. “Music is the fragrance of the soul. Music is the perfection of the aspiring heart.”
For Sri Chinmoy, Kafka’s frozen sea was the stubborn self-interest of the human mind, its unwillingness to embrace the incoming tides of change and a growing global oneness. And the metaphorical axe was not a weapon of destruction but the unifying human heart itself, its great capacity for love, compassion, oneness with others. Sri Chinmoy had a great belief in the goodness and beauty of the human heart, and because of it an unwavering optimism about a much brighter future for humanity. For him, music was the language of the soul, transcending words – his songs were heart songs, giving voice to the depths of the human spirit.
“Music is the universal language. We do not have to learn any particular language to communicate with others if we can play soulful music. Soulful music carries the beauty and fragrance of silence … the heart is receiving the beauty and light of the higher world of silence. Music transcends the barriers of nations, nationalities and religions. It is through music that the universal feeling of oneness can be achieved in the twinkling of an eye …”
Everyone longs for a peaceful world and a peace-filled life – and music can contribute enormously to these timeless dreams of mankind. As with other realms of art, Sri Chinmoy saw music as a powerful way of uplifting and inspiring humanity, a language uniting us together. In his remarkably creative life he became one of the most prolific composers of spiritual music in history, composing over 20,000 songs and offering a total of 770 free concerts for peace worldwide.
This month Sri Chinmoy’s musical legacy lived on in an evening of his music, a free bhajan concert at the Sri Chinmoy Centre at the centre’s community space behind Karangahape Road. The meditative songs invoked the various aspects of divinity, the cosmic Gods and Goddesses, or the Avatars from the different eras of time. Singers are normally accompanied by harmonium, tabla, flute, Tibetan bells and other traditional instruments. Bhajan concerts are usually interactive, inviting their audiences to also sing, to bring their own meditative peacefulness to the occasion, and to feel that both musicians and audience together can co-create an atmosphere of tranquility and devotion.
In the wide canvas of a life dedicated to world peace, Sri Chinmoy’s music and his emphasis upon the role of the human heart were paramount. He writes:
“My ultimate goal is for the whole world to walk together in peace and oneness. Just as a rose has many petals, all of which add to the beauty and fragrance of the rose, so too the world shall become one world-family.
“ Now we are all exercising the love of power. But a day will come when this world of ours will be inundated with the power that loves. Only the power that loves can change the world. My ultimate goal is for the power of love to replace the love of power within each individual. At that time, world peace can be achieved, revealed, offered and manifested on earth.”
An article by contributing writer Jogyata Dallas Reprinted with kind permission of Indianz Outlook
Aucklanders enjoyed a memorable and inspiring evening on Saturday, May 9th when an internationally acclaimed women’s group performed a free concert of peaceful, meditative music in the Mt Eden Community Hall. Visiting Czech musicians ‘Agnikana and Friends’ were on the New Zealand leg of a whirlwind Australasian tour encompassing five cities in as many days, with only one Auckland concert. Hosted by Auckland’s Sri Chinmoy Centre, the vocal and instrumental all-women’s group specialise in the peaceful, mantric type songs of the late composer-musician Sri Chinmoy, whose 20,000 compositions place him among the most prolific composers of spiritual music in history.
‘Sounds of the Sacred’ offered a selection of these songs, endeavouring to offer an experience of inner peace through music. “Our concerts are interactive – we try to encourage a meditative atmosphere and a peaceful stillness in our audiences, and as performers we try to sing and play in the same meditative spirit, so that together we can co-create something very special. Music performed and received in this way is a universal language that unifies and harmonises and brings us all closer together” commented local organizer Jogyata Dallas.
The late spiritual master Sri Chinmoy saw music as a powerful way of uplifting and inspiring humanity, and in over 700 concerts offered globally during his lifetime tried to share his hopes for world peace and his optimism for a brighter future. Today his compositions and performances are gaining a widening popularity in over 250 recordings and CDs.
Speaking of the power of music, Sri Chinmoy once remarked:
“ Music transcends the barriers of nations, nationalities and religions. It is through music that the universal feeling of oneness can be achieved in the twinkling of an eye.”
He further wrote: “Music is the universal language. We do not have to learn any particular language to communicate with others if we can play soulful music. Soulful music carries the beauty and fragrance of silence … the heart is receiving the beauty and light of the higher world of silence.”
With ten years of touring in the US, Europe and Asia, the Agnikana and Friends ensemble combines both vocal and instrumental arrangements with a variety of instruments including harmonium, Western flute, santur, guitar and tabla. Their music can be viewed at : www.agnikanasgroup.cz/en/
In August of this year, I bought a CD entitled ‘I Prayerfully Bow’. The album is subtitled ‘Flute with Tibetan Singing Bowls, Tambura & Aum Chant’. The flute music is played by Premik Russell Tubbs, the Tibetan singing bowls played by Utsahi St-Amand and the AUM chant by Sri Chinmoy.
I was intrigued by the titles and explanation, so I purchased the album without an inkling of what it sounds like. It turns out to be one of my favourite recordings to use for meditation and I have been using it almost every day.
The AUM chant alone creates such an immense sense of sacredness deep within and all around. It immediately calms my body and mind – all mental chatter disappears in response to that sublime and ancient sound, and a deep stillness and expansiveness comes to me.
I understand the quotation on the back of the album from Sri Chinmoy: “When we chant Aum, what actually happens is that we bring down Peace and Light from above and create a universal harmony within and without us. When we repeat Aum, both our inner and our outer beings become inspired and surcharged with divine Light and aspiration”
On top of that, the serene flute music and the Tibetan sounds take your consciousness into a colourful inner landscape of beauty.
Interspersed with each segment of flute music are the English transliterations of ancient Sanskirt prayers that begin with ‘I prayerfully bow to….’, with all 61 devotional mantric verses invoking the different Hindu Gods and Goddess.
The multitude of Hindu deities are the personifications of the infinite aspects of the Divine, the 1001 faces of God.
This is shown quite clearly in the translations by Sri Chinmoy. An example:
Aum Uccharaya namaha
I prayerfully bow to the highest Absolute Lord Supreme.
Aum Viraya namaha
I prayerfully bow to the Hero Supreme.
Aum Mukundaya namaha
I prayerfully bow to the One who gives Liberation-Light.
Aum Achyutaya namaha
I prayerfully bow to the Immutable One.
Aum Surjaya namaha
I prayerfully bow to the Sun God.
Aum Pranaya namaha
I prayerfully bow to the Supreme who owns the Universal Life-Breath.
One surprising element found in the transliteration of these sacred prayers is that some of the prayers are invocations of the impersonal God…
Aum Abhabe namaha
I prayerfully bow to the One who is not to be found in the creation and Who is beyond the creation.
Aum Krishnayam namaha
I prayerfully bow to the Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.
Whilst these ancient prayers invoke a deep sense of reverence and gratitude during meditation, they are also perfect for contemplation throughout the day.
~ By Durba (Durba is an enthusiastic member of the Sri Chinmoy Centre in Auckland, New Zealand)