Music or sangita is the essence of this universe. It is the very breath of God and food for the soul. Sangita vidya is a sacred science, its goal being God-consciousness. Music is not an instrument for titillation of the nerves or satisfaction of the senses. It is yoga sadhana, which enables one to attain atma sakshatkara, direct realization of the soul. Music should be treated as yoga. True music can only be tasted by one who has renounced the world, freed himself from all taints of worldliness, and who practises music as a sadhana for self-realization.
When a devotee sings with intuitional and overflowing love of the Lord and guru, he realizes God. Music, when clearly expressed with rasa and bhava, sentiment and feeling, bestows the wisdom of Brahman wherefrom arise the highest virtues of peace and patience. However, you must be the very greatest among renunciates if you are to realize the Supreme Being through adoration of His first manifestation: sound. Not a parrot-like repetition of words, not a masterly rendering of music perfectly set to scale and rhythm, but singing with the heart, playing on the inner veena on the strings of bhakti and love alone will enable you to enter into the spirit of a nada yogi.
Music is a synthesis of the various yogas or paths to God-realization. It is a hatha yoga sadhana, for it involves a good amount of control and regulation of breath. There is deep and full breathing involved in singing, and this greatly strengthens the lungs and purifies the blood. Moreover, the various musical notes have their own corresponding nadis (subtle channels in the vital sheath of the body), and music vibrates these nadis, purifies them and awakens the psychic and spiritual power dormant in them. Purification of nadis not only ensures peace of mind and happiness, but goes a long way in yoga sadhana and helps the aspirant to reach the goal of life very easily.
Trapped in music, the mysterious mind with its thousands of vasanas and vrittis, lies quiescently on the lap of the sadhaka, and he can make it dance to his tune, control it according to his will and mould it as he pleases. Mind, the magic wand of maya, the terror of all spiritual aspirants, is there in the hands of the music yogi under his perfect control, for music makes the mind one-pointed quickly.
The wonder of wonders in the case of music yoga is that it is not only the musician whose mind is thus controlled, but the minds of all those who listen to music become calm, peaceful and blissful. That is why great saints like Mira Bai, Tukaram, Kabir Das, Thyagaraja, Purandhara Das and others wove their teachings into sweet music. With the sweet music, their sublime thoughts would easily penetrate the heart of the listener, which is at other times zealously guarded by the cobra of worldliness. It is music yoga that effortlessly brings about chitta vritti nirodha, control of mental modifications, practised by the raja yogi. When thus the mind is steadied and purified, and merged in nada, primal sound, the eye of intuition is opened and the music yogi gets yoga siddhi or samadhi.
Music is, of course, an integral part of bhakti yoga. Sankirtan, singing of Gods name, and bhakti are inseparable. Music purifies the emotions and fills the mind with sublime, soul-elevating higher emotions. The devotee sits with his ekatara or tanpura to melt his mind in his Lord in silence. Narada rishi roams about the three worlds with his tanpura, singing the Lords name. Music helps the devotee to commune with the Lord. The bhakta enters bhava samadhi by singing devotional music. He comes face to face with the greatest storehouse of knowledge and wisdom, ananda or supreme bliss, and emerges from this samadhi as a jnani radiating peace, bliss and wisdom all around.
The true musician is the highest nishkama karma yogi. He removes the sorrows of the people who listen to him. Music cures incurable diseases, dispels the gloom of ignorance, wrong notions and despair from the heart, and instils joy, cheer, happiness and hope. You cannot easily repay the deep debt of gratitude you owe to the music yogi who renders you this inestimable service.
Music breaks the three granthis or knots of ignorance: brahma granthi, vishnu granthi and rudra granthi. It easily awakens the kundalini that is coiled up in mooladhara chakra. It destroys cravings and restlessness, and removes all sorts of whims, moods, fancies and wild imaginations. It removes the three doshas: mala, impurity; vikshepa, tossing of the mind; and avarana, veil of ignorance. It annihilates the three kinds of fevers: adhyatmika, spiritual; adhibhautika, caused by extrinsic agents; and adhidaivika, caused by supernatural agents. It eradicates the five kleshas or afflictions: avidya, ignorance; asmita, sense of doership; raga-dwesha, attraction-aversion; and abhinivesha, fear of death. It destroys the three kinds of karmas: sanchita, accumulated; prarabdha, bound to fructify, agami or kriyamana, current actions. It destroys rajas, passion, and tamas, inertia, and fills the mind with sattwa, purity. The mind, concentrated on the melodious sound, easily achieves the state of laya, dissolution or involution. Just as the snake is charmed by a melodious sound, so also the snake-mind is charmed by the sound of music. He who practises music forgets the body and the world. Music removes dehadhyasa, identification with the body, and brings super-intuitional knowledge.
Practise, try, fill yourself. Just as the intoxication of opium lasts for several hours, the practice of kirtan continues to bring spiritual waves from the indweller of the heart. Such is the glory of music yoga.
Music is an aid to treatment of diseases. In ancient Egypt, music was used in temples in healing diseases of the nervous kind. Sages affirm that many diseases can be cured by the melodious sound of a flute, violin, veena or sarangi. They maintain that there is an extraordinary power of music over diseases. The harmonious rhythm caused by sweet music has an attractive property. It draws out disease. The disease comes out to encounter the music wave. The two blend together and vanish in space.
Music soothes the brains and nerves. It lulls the whole system. It stimulates, energizes, galvanizes and vitalizes the whole system. It affects the emotions and arouses the impulses to action and thereby influences all the vital functions. It consists of a series of harmonious vibrations, electrical in their nature and make-up.
Music relaxes nervous tension and makes parts of the body affected by tension to resume their normal functions. Music is highly beneficial in the treatment of nervous disorders, sleeplessness, etc. Music has a tremendous power to bring comfort and solace when one is in a state of despondency or pain. Sangita or kirtan is the best medicine when all other systems of medicine have failed to cure a disease. Kirtan will work wonders. Try this unique medicine and realize its marvellous benefits.
Sweet melody exercises a powerful influence on the mind and physical nature of every living being. If someone is suffering from a disease, sing kirtan near his bed. He will soon be cured.
How music transmutes human nature into divine nature, how it overhauls the old detrimental samskaras, how it changes the mental substance, how it transforms or metamorphoses the diabolical nature into pure sattwic nature and how it brings the devotee face to face with God is a mystery. Science and reason can hardly explain the modus operandi of sankirtan.
Music derives its mighty power from the supreme music of Brahman, the sacred pranava, the mantra Om. Listen to the vibration of the tanpura or the veena: do you hear the majestic pranava nada? All musical notes spring from the pranava. Music is intended to reverberate this pranava nada in your heart. For Om or the pranava is your real name, your real swarupa, essential nature. You love to hear music because it is but the most melodious intonation of your own essential name. When the mind thus gets attracted and unified with ones essential nature, the great power of the primal Self stored there wells up and heals the body and mind.
Music is the easiest, best and glorifying sadhana to attain moksha in this age of Kali Yuga. In fact, music enjoys the unique privilege of defying one of the fundamental spiritual doctrines: That which is pleasant is not good, and that which is good is not necessarily pleasant. It is in music that you find the sole exception to this rule. It is both pleasant and good, preya and shreya, in the terminology of the Kathopanishad.
Where is music not wanted? In war, in peace, in joy, in sorrow, in palaces and in ashrams, it is welcomed everywhere. It has different expressions to suit different occasions. Music caters to people of all temperaments, wins the hearts of all and transforms all beings. The gods are pleased and easily propitiated by music. Even animals are charmed and tamed by sweet, melodious music. The enchanting power of music draws every living being. Music melts the hardest heart. Music softens the brutal nature of man. Music heals a million maladies. It gives peace and tranquillizes the agitated mind. It gives you the strength to face the difficulties in the battle of life.
Music has a very high educative value. It is the most valuable means of upbringing the young. It adds to the character, ennobles the mind, awakens and feeds the aesthetic sense and gives grace to all human expressions. A composer can easily express his thoughts through the medium of a song. It is one of the joys of humanity and is the most harmless of pleasures. No art stirs emotions so deeply as music. Music is international and knows no barriers of religion, race, creed or caste. It makes one forget oneself, carrying one into a sort of trance, and helps enjoy divine bliss.
Even the great saint Narada is believed to have been told by Lord Narayana:
Naaham vasaami vaikunthe, yoginaam hridaye na vaa;
Madbhaktaa yatra gaayante, tatra tishthaami Naarada.
I dwell not in Vaikuntha (heaven), nor in the hearts of sages
and saints, but where my devotees sing there I am, O Narada.
Music is not a thing to be neglected or brushed aside. It must be the aspiration of every person to either sing or play some instrument. So, start now in right earnest and practise music with bhakti bhava. A strong habit of singing can be formed in six months. Even when someone is in a dying state, the habit of singing the name of the Lord will come to the rescue at the last moment.