Friday 20 August 2010

Sufism on Veena

Hazrat Inayat Khan

Noor Inayat Khan

The Sufi saint and Saraswathi Veena player, Hazrat Inayat Khan had authored several books regading abstract and unstruck sound ('anahatha shabda'). He used Veena as his vehicle to attain self-realization. His daughter, Noor Inayat Khan (visit website www.geoffreyarmes.com for more details about Noor) was a fine musician herself and played the Saraswathi veena. She authored the book, Sufi Princess. Noor Inayat Khan was born in the year 1914 in Moscow, Russia to Hazrat Inayat Khan and Ameena Begum. Almost all her youth was spent in Paris. After her father's demise in 1927 and the declaration of the 2nd World War and the invasion of France, Noor had no option but to move to England and she returned to France (Paris) in 1943 as an Allied spy radio operator. Captured by the Gestapo, she was held in solitary confinement and subjected to cruel interrogation methods. Despite the torture, Noor never revealed her identity to her captors. At the age of 29, in the year 1944, she was executed by the Gestapo. England and France posthumously awarded her the "George Cross" and "Croix De Guerre" respectively.
In one of his innumerable Sufi messages Hazrat Inayat Khan has stated that the Sufi knows of the past, present and future, and about all things in life, by being able to know the direction of sound. Every aspect of one's being in which sound manifest has a special effect in every direction. The knower of the mystery of sound knows the mystery of the whole Universe. Whoever has followed the strains of this sound has forgotten all earthly distinctions and differences, and has reached that goal of Truth in which all the Blessed Ones of God unite. Space is within the body as well as around it; in other words the body is in the space and the space is in the body.
This being the case, the sound of the abstract is always going on within, around and about man. Man does not hear it as a rule, because his consciousness is entirely centred in his material existence. Man becomes so absorbed in his experiences in the external world through the medium of the physical body that space, with all its wonders of light and sound, appears to him blank.
This can easily be understood by studying colour. There are many colours that are distinct by themselves, yet when mixed with others of still brighter hue they become altogether eclipsed; even bright colours embroidered with gold, silver, diamonds or pearls serve merely as a background to the dazzling embroidery. So it is with the abstract sound compared with the sounds of the external world. The limited volume of earthly sounds is so concrete that it dims the effect of the sound of the abstract to the sense of hearing, although in comparison to it the sounds of the earth are like that of a whistle or a drum. When the abstract sound is audible all other sounds become indistinct to the mystic.

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Wednesday 18 August 2010

HU



Above is the HU Song of the Eckankars (Eckankar is a religious and spiritual movement that identifies God with Sound and Light).
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Just as many traditions believe that the “OM” is the original creative sound, there are traditions that believe that this energy may be attributed to another sound—the “HU”. In the Shabd Yoga traditions, including Master Path and Eckankar and in the mystical Islamic path of Sufi, the “HU” is considered to be the highest vibratory mantra that can be sounded. Chanting the “HU” is said to lead one to transcendence—to God realization and enlightenment.

HU” is believed to be the universal name of God, which is present in every existing language. The “HU” sound has been described as many things from the buzzing of bees to the rushing of wind to the flute of God. It is said to be present in the words we speak, in the sounds of animals; that it is the wind in the trees, the rushing of waters, the roaring of water falls, the beat of the sea against a beach—that it is everywhere, in every plane.

Like the “AH” and the “OM”, the “HU” may be perceived of as a seed syllable. Depending upon its pronunciation, it may also be perceived of as a vowel sound—the “U”. The “HU” creates extraordinary energy for balance and clearing. Many believe it activates both the heart and the crown chakras. When sounded together in a large group, it is extremely powerful and transformative.

What leads to "HU"? 'HU' or Saut-E-Sarmad (Abstract Sound or "Sarmad"-meaning 'intoxication' for Sufis) or Anahatha Shabda (unlimited and unstruck sound) according to vedas.The great Sufi saint, Hazrat Inayat Khan in his "The Mysticism of Sound" states that the soul of the listener becomes the all-pervading consciousness, and his spirit becomes the battery which keeps the whole universe in motion.
Select excerpts from Hazrat Inayat Khan's sayings:
Some train themselves to hear the Saut-E-Sarmad in solitude on the seashore, on the river bank, and in the hills and dales; others attain it while sitting in the caves of mountains, or when wandering constantly through forests and deserts, keeping themselves in the wilderness apart from the haunts of men. Yogis and ascetics blow Sing (a horn) or a Shankha ( a conch shell) which awakens in them this inner tone. Dervishes play Nai or Algosa (a double flute) for the same purpose. The bells and gongs in the churches and temples are meant to suggest to the thinker the same sacred sound, and thus lead him towards the inner life.
This sound develops through ten different aspects because of its manifestation through ten different tubes of the body; its sound like thunder, the roaring of the sea, the jingling of bells, running water, the buzzing of bees, the tweeting of sparrows, the Veena, the whistle, or the sound of Shankha until it finally becomes "HU", the most sacred of all sounds!
This sound "Hu", is the beginning and end of all sounds, be they from man, bird, beast, or thing. A careful study ill prove this fact, which can be realised by listening to the sound of the steam engine or of a mill, while the echo of bells and gongs gives a typical illustration of the sound "Hu".

In English the word 'human' explains two facts which is characteristic of humanity: 'Hu' means God and 'man' means mind, which word comes from the Sanskrit 'Mana'( mind being that of the ordinary man). "Human" therefore may be said to mean God-conscious, God-realised or God-man.In Hindi the word "Hum" means I or we, both of the words signifying ego. The sound "Hu" becomes limited in the word "Hum" for the letter "m" closes the lips. The word "Hamsa" is the sacred word of the yogis which illumines the ego (the Hindi "Hum") with the light of reality. The word "Huma" in the Persian language stands for a fabulous bird. There is a belief that if a Huma bird sits for a moment on the head of anybody it is sign that he will become a king. It is said in the old traditions that the Zoroaster was born of a Huma tree. This explains the words in the bible, "Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.' In the word "Huma", Hu represents spirit, and the word 'Mah' in Arabic means water.
'Hur' in Arabic means beauties of the Heaven, which means Heavenly Beauty. 'Zuhur' in Arabic means manifestation, especially that of God in nature. 'Ahura Mazda'is the name of God known to Zoroastrians. The first word 'Ahura' suggests 'Hu', upon which the whole name is built. The word 'Huwal' suggests the idea of Omnipresence, and 'Huvva' is the origin of Eve, which is symbolic of manifestation; as Adam is symbolic of life (like 'Prakrithi' and 'Purusha' of Sanskrit). All these examples signify the origin of God in the word 'Hu'.
'Jehova' was originally 'Yahuva', 'Ya' suggesting the word 'Oh' and 'Hu' standing for God, while the 'A' represents manifestation. 'Hu' is the origin of sound, but when the sound first takes shape on the external plane, it becomes 'A', therefore 'alif' or 'alpha' is considered to be the first expression of 'Hu', the original word. The Sanskrit alphabet as well as that of most other languages begins with the letter 'A', as does the name of God in several tongues. The letter 'A' is pronounced without the help of the teeth or tongue, and in Sanskrit 'A' always means without.
The words 'Om', 'Omen', 'Amen', 'Ameen', which are spoken in all houses of prayer, are of the same origin; 'A' is the commencement of the word expresses the beginning, and 'M' in the midst signifies end; 'N' the final word is the re-echo of 'M', for 'M' naturally ends in a nasal sound, the producing of which signifies life.
In the word 'Ahud' which means God, the only Being, two meanings are involved in assonance.'A' in Sanskrit means without, and 'Hudd' in Arabic means limitation. Hazrat Inayat Khan quotes Sharif, "I by the light of soul realize that the beauty of the Heavens and the grandeur of the earth are the echo of Thy magic flute (abstract sound)"!

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Monday 16 August 2010

Aadi Pooram - Ariyakudi

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Above is a photo of the street on which the Carnatic Music Emperor, Sri. Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar lived. The first photo is of the legend himself.

I had performed in the Vairavar Temple (Kala Bhairavan) in Vairavanpatti on Aadi Pooram (August 12th). As it is a small, remote village my mother and I had to stay in Kaaraikudi which is around 15 kms from Vairavanpatti.That day being Andal Jayanthi, in the morning my mother and I went to Ariyakudi (5Kms from Kaaraikudi where we stayed) to Lord Venkateswara temple (famously known as "Thenn Tirupathi"). I asked the temple priest to give me guidelines to go to Sri Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar's house. I was eager to see where the Monarch lived. Saying "Vaango" the temple pujari walked with me all the way outside the temple and pointing towards the opposite street he told me, "Ado avaaloda veedu inda theruvule daan irukku!"
Awestruck,I stared at the street. From there I clicked with my mobile.

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Wednesday 4 August 2010

Maitreem Bhajata!



"Maithreem Bhajatha Akhila Hrith Jaithreem"

Meaning: Praise (or adopt), friendship which conquers the heart of the World!

"Athmavad Eva Paraan Api Pashyatha"

Meaning:See others as you would see yourself!

"Yudhdham Thyajatha, Spardhaam Thyajatha"

Meaning: Eschew wars and competitions!

"Thyajatha Pareshu Akrama-Akramanam"

Meaning:Eschew attack on others, this is not correct!

"Janani Prithvi Kaama Dughaasthey"

Meaning: The Earth is the Mother who grants all your desires!

"Janako Deva Sakala Dayaaluh"

Meaning:The Lord is the Father who is compassionate to all!

"Daamyatha, Dattha, Dayadhvam, Janathaa"

Meaning:Practice restraint, charity and mercy, Oh People!

"Shreyo Bhooyaath Sakala Janaanaam"

Meaning: Let there be all round prosperity for all people!

The above is composed by His Holiness, Sri Kamamkoti Peethaadhipathi Poojyashri Chandrashekharendra Saraswathi.

Concept and presentation:Shyamala Sajnani

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Monday 2 August 2010

Miracles of Veena

Maithraayanniya Upanishad states-"A drop of blood as it circulates within a human body takes along with it one breath of the human being. This drop of blood along with one breath takes nearly 7 minutes to circulate within the human body. Similarly, when the veena string is plucked once, the nada wave emanating from it takes nearly 7 minutes to travel back and forth between the bridge of the veena to the base fret of the veena."

The different properties of the woods used have an effect on the tonal characteristics of the veena. The grain pattern of the jackfruit wood used is important for veenas. The choice of wood plays a vital part in the aesthetics of the instrument.
Veena playing is not only about chemistry between 'nadam' of the veena and 'life-force energy' of the player. The interaction between human-body cells and the wood grains in the veena are equally thought provoking. Coming to think of the interaction between cells and grains/ 'nadam' and kundalini', we are able to understand how types of veena affect the player. The veena, appearing deceptively innocent has a potent nature and life of its own which can directly affect the player (provided he/she adapts the posture and breathing patterns required for veena-playing).
Continuous practice on a good veena (wood of fine quality due to seasoning at spiritual places, temples, on the banks of holy rivers or under a banyan tree, thereby devoid of doshas) yields results corresponding to the nature of the veena such as- sudden spurt of energy, sense of positivity, improvement in complexion, lush hair growth (in the case of middle-aged and the old, reduction in hair fall), shedding fat, agelessness, youthful looks etc. Playing on such veenas bring about good fortune, spiritual elevation and general prosperity. While such is the case with good veenas, one should watch out for any untoward events, ill health, bad luck, general disharmony, deterioration in physical complexion/ lack-lustre looks, fatigue, depression etc while playing on certain veenas. While all events and circumstances in life cannot be attributed to the veena one is handling, continual turn of bad events or atmosphere could certainly be attributed to the veena one is handling at the time of occurrence of bad happenings. This could be due to doshas in the wood, alignment of the frets (bad 'melam' of the veena dandi) etc. I have seen a veena that was made only on full moon nights. The veena maker would keep the wood aside on all other days except full moon nights to periodically transform the wood into a veena. Such veenas contain great spiritual powers and also lend a heavenly glow to the player.
Even the size of the veena plays a major part in affecting the player. It is essential for the player to feel comfortable while running his left hand across the dandi and plucking the strings with his right hand. Any strain on his/her biceps, elbows, hands and the chest region means the veena he/she is handling is not the corresponding size of the player. Normally a Saraswathi veena measures roughly upto 24 and a half 1/2 inches from the base note to the top note and 4 and a half feet from the simha mukha to the end of the kudam. Any addition or subtraction even by an inch or two to the length of the veena could be due to the size of the kudam (right side of the veena), resulting in an overall distinction in size yielding corresponding effects on the player. An ideal veena merges with the player to become his/her extension.

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