What is music? Does it have any power to soothe the aching mind?
Music is a system of harmonious, melodious and rhythmic sounds capable of producing inner peace and an inexpressible thrill of joy. Music is one of the sciences which deal with nada, the first vibration of Brahman represented by the pranava, Om. All the sapta swaras, seven notes Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni which later evolved into the various vocal sounds, first originated out of this fundamental Om, symbolic of Brahman. Music is one of the fine arts or lalita kalas. It has the power not only to soothe the aching mind, but also to cure diseases like neurasthenia, insomnia, hysteria, moroseness, giddiness, etc. To achieve perfection in sangita shastra, the science of music, is to attune oneself with Brahman. As Brahman is light absolute, knowledge absolute, bliss absolute, so is He nada absolute. God is Nada Brahman. One can achieve God through music just as the votaries of music like Thyagaraja, Purandhara Das, Tukaram and others did.
In an ashram where you have gathered together young spiritual aspirants, promising to guide them in their rapid march to the goal of life, that is, self-realization, why do you encourage dance, drama and music?
The question betrays an ignorance of the fundamental principles of music and dance. They are divine. I should request you to remember that Lord Krishna with his inseparable flute and Mother Saraswati with her veena remind you that music is divine. Lord Nataraja reminds you that dance had its origin in Him. The wickedness of man will misuse anything. Since pickpockets are found in abundance at a temple on a festival day, should we deny ourselves the blessings of darshan?
It is a pity that these two divine arts music and dance have been brought down to the level of sensuous entertainment. It is the sacred duty of every lover of God and of the fine arts to raise them to their original standards of purity and divinity. Music is nada yoga. It at once enables you to attain union with Nada Brahman, the sacred pranava. Nritya or dance enables you to enter into bhava samadhi.
Drama is a very powerful instrument for the dissemination of spiritual knowledge. What you cannot teach through hundreds of books and hours of lecture, you can bring home to the audience easily and effectively through a single play. Drama is an art form that touches the heart.
The very fact that the worldly man has taken such an interest in these three and misused them to fulfil his nefarious purposes shows what a tremendous power they have over the heart and soul of man. What a blessing they will be if they are used for spiritual ends!
What is the purpose of singing kirtans constantly?
Singing of kirtans incessantly will produce divine vibrations within and these vibrations are so powerful that they counteract all external forces that distract the human mind. They arrest the wanderings of the mind, bringing peace and happiness to the individual. There is a mysterious power in the divine name so that singing it purifies the heart and mind, and makes the kirtanist God-conscious.
What is the difference between japa and meditation?
Japa is silent repetition of the name of the Lord. Meditation is the constant flow of one idea of the divine power. When you repeat Om Namo Narayanaya, it is japa of the Vishnu mantra. When you think of the conch, disc, mace and lotus flower in the hands of Vishnu, his earrings, the crown on his head, his yellow silken clothes, etc., it is meditation. When you think of the attributes of God such as omniscience, omnipotence, etc., it is also meditation.
Can I do japa while walking?
Yes, you can do it mentally. There is no restriction for japa when it is done with nishkama bhava, that is, for the sake of realizing God alone.
If we do japa of a mantra without understanding its meaning or in a hurry, will it have any negative reaction on the person who does it?
It cannot have any negative reaction, but the spiritual progress will be slow when the mantra is repeated in a hurry without bhava, feeling, or faith. Even when a mantra is repeated unconsciously or hurriedly without bhava, without understanding its meaning, it undoubtedly produces beneficial results, just as fire burns inflammable objects when they are brought near it.