Bhakti and music

Thoughts are the language of the mind. But music is the language of the heart. Wherever there is bhakti there must also be music. They are inseparable. There is no more exhilarating way of expressing bhakti than through music.

Music implies rhythm and harmony. And in this sense everything in the universe can be considered to be music. The sun and the moon rise and set according to fixed rhythms. This is music. The birds sing beautiful melodies. This is music. In fact, the birds are so anxious to express themselves that as soon as dawn breaks, or even earlier, they all burst into song. There seems to be a build-up of intensity in the early morning before this time and then all the birds joyfully express their feelings of bliss. The crops and the climate change cyclically according to the fixed rhythm of the seasons. This is music. The body functions in accordance with fixed rhythms. This too is music. Everything in life is really a form of music. The life of each individual should also be like beautiful music, with perfect harmony and spontaneous joy. But usually this is not the case; most people live a life that is like a bad composition or a discordant song. Life is disharmonious instead of harmonious. As a result there is unhappiness, discontent and disease. You should try. or at least aspire, to conduct your life as though it is a perfect piece of music. This can be achieved through bhakti yoga and other forms of yoga.

For a bhakta life should be a continuous symphony whether he is high or low, whether he is working or sleeping, whether he is happy or angry. All the ups and downs of life are mere ripples on the river or ocean of bliss. Everything is an expression of inner joy, whether it is anger or laughter. The whole life of an intense bhakta is like beautiful music. And in fact vast numbers of bhaktas have expressed this inner bliss with their internal singing and music. Other people have been thrilled with the devotion and joy that pervades and resonates with every note and every word that they sing. But for the bhakta, music does not only mean music or singing – it means the whole flow of life. Life is one continuous song.

There is an inner music of the heart which is functioning ceaselessly, no matter what the outside events. One should follow the dictates of this inner symphony. This inner music should guide your life. It should decide your actions. But it can only come when you are receptive, when your mind and heart become sufficiently tuned.

Most people don’t perceive this inner music, but it is clear if you care to listen. If you perfectly tune a radio to a broadcasting station and turn up the volume to full blast, then there is no mistake in perceiving the sound. It is the same with the inner music. When you hear it, then there is no doubt. This inner music is the music of knowledge, the music of bliss.

People of modern times have been seduced into always being in the audience. People watch television, cinema, sports and many other festivities without ever taking an active part. This is a great pity, for the most enjoyable part of life is participation. It is the same with music – people tend to listen rather than take part. And in this way the exhilarating experience of involvement is lost. If possible, try to join a collective group of singers. In India this is called kirtan. Try to be there in the middle and become totally involved. You don’t need a good voice, it is the enthusiasm that is important. This kirtan generates an upsurge of group feeling. It is wonderful for removing stress and inducing relaxation. It helps to purify the mind and gives an outlet to emotions. It helps to unfold bhakti. One’s feelings (bhava) are heightened. This leads to heightened bhava on a more permanent basis.

Devotional music is powerful. In the right environment it can generate such intense devotional vibrations that even the least devotional type of person will be moved to feel bhakti, no matter how little. So next time you find time, join any group of people that is concerned with collective singing. Or alternatively start your own group. If you cannot do these things then start singing to yourself, whether aloud or mentally. What is the difference?

We don’t want to say anything more about the subject of music, whether inner or outer, for music is not to be discussed. It is definitely to be experienced.

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