Music is an integral part of our life, be it for entertainment, as a hobby, a vocation, or simply an expression of our passion. Sometimes, we begin our mornings with music to shake off the blues; other times, we use it to calm the noise inside our minds. In that context, music has a prominent role in meditation. Nowadays, there are a plethora of apps and online resources offering meditation music, mostly targeted at those who want to begin their journey with meditation. Has music always been an integral part of meditation? Can it be linked to spirituality? Let’s explore these questions with the following two ideas:
- Music and meditation
Meditation is often practised with music because it assists the mind in settling into a calm state. The soothing tunes don’t necessarily engage the mind with music, rather softly fill the spaces as a buffer to outside noises, hence aiding in meditation.
The mantras that we use during meditation are also musical at their core as they are composed of sound, and vibrations that come with uttering that sound. It is believed that every mantra activates a particular kind of energy in different parts of the body. When repeated with proper awareness and appropriate understanding, a mantra could be very powerful with its vibrational qualities and influence our physiology and mental wellbeing.
- Music as meditation
Music, much like any other art form, when done with total involvement, can be identified as a spiritual process that leads to a meditative state. From classical to folk to Sufi music, there has been a strong presence of spiritual energy. Some musical pieces provide different energy to the listener, transcending them to a different zone altogether.
The Vedic mantras were often sung in the form of bhajans and kirtans, accompanied by various instruments as tools for calling the divine. Many young musicians are also exploring this meditative aspect through their work. Here are some examples:
- Sahil Jagtiani is a rock musician, a passionate singer and guitarist. After learning the breathing and meditation techniques from The Art of Living, he took to music, bringing spirituality to the youth through his songs. Sahil believes that meditation is his most important instrument in creating music as it nourishes his creativity. The meditative state drives the music with a deeper purpose.
- Abhanga Repost is a folk fusion band that performs Abhangas [written by these composers who worshipped Vittala (or Vithoba) in Maharashtra], giving these age-old compositions a modern twist. Abhangas are high-energy renditions, with devotees dancing, playing the dholak and cymbals, while everyone joins the chorus. The band calls their performance a modern ‘Kirtan’ and says that for them Bhakti, revolution, art, and music are the same: “One has to practice dedicatedly to achieve these things. We can say these are different roads leading to one destination that is divinity or inner peace!”
- Kabir Cafe Live, a folk band that exclusively performs verses of Saint Kabir, is another interesting example that has been a part of Isha Yoga Centre’s Mahashivaratri celebrations taking the audience closer to the divine energy with their music.
Sources: The Art of Living; Isha Foundation; Centre for Soft Power
(Contributed by Ayushee Chaudhary, this article originally appeared in the Music edition of The Plus magazine.)