Music is God’s thinnest disguise, inviting us, even luring us into the spiritual realm. When we follow music to its source we discover ourselves in the silence, the undisguised God.
Our minds have the sense that we are separate from music, the music is coming from somewhere or someone else and we are observing it from a distance, as an objective critic. This approach works when music has some element of mental formulation – otherwise the mind has no foothold, no means of understanding; it is all at sea.
Sri Chinmoy’s keyboard improvisations can never be grasped or understood with the mind, because the mind plays no role in their inspiration, conception and performance. They come from realms far beyond the mind, and would lead us thither.
This music is universal in its aspiration and transcendental in its liberation. It points directly and only to its source – within.
When listening, imagine you are the performer. You are the music. You are its source. You are expressing yourself, your own inner consciousness, experiences and realisations. You are not constrained by the formulation of words, melody, harmony or language; you are simply a fountain of light and bliss, pouring yourself forth; you are the beauty and fragrance of the flower; the exhilaration of exploding fireworks; you are the sweetest smile; the thrill of love; the dance of the stars; the earthquake shaking the world; you are the skies expanding beyond the sky – and withal poised, still.
This music cannot be interpreted or described. It can only be welcomed, felt and become. To embrace this music is to discover it as ours, as flowing from – and leading to – our own universal source. That source, owning, releasing and transcending it all – is silence, our own God-silence.
Listen to Sri Chinmoy playing the pipe organ at the Sydney Opera House:
“Silence is the nest and music is the bird. The bird leaves the nest early in the morning and returns to the nest in the evening. Similarly, in the spiritual world, divine music comes from the inmost Soul of Silence. It is Silence that embodies real music, divine music.”
– Sri Chinmoy
“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”
– Aldous Huxley
Music arises out of, and leads back to silence.
Silence is the canvas on which music is painted, the stage on which music is performed, the backdrop against which music poses, the air which music breathes. Silence sends forth music as its emissary, to reveal its secrets – love, sweetness, joy, harmony, perfection. Silence is the sun’s power, music the moon-beauty.
Silence sustains music. Music implies silence. When we meditate on anything, we are naturally drawn to its source, its inner truth. A footprint reveals the truth of the foot, though we do not see the foot; fragrance reveals the presence of a flower, though we may not see the flower; and so music reveals the inner silence, though we do not hear that silence. This inner silence is precisely our goal, the crown of our meditation practice.
When we give ourselves to spiritual music and surrender our thoughts and feelings into its flow, our mental activity is charmed into stillness. It is as though music takes us by the hand and leads us smilingly into meditation, our hearts’ sanctum of inner silence. Meanwhile like a security guard, music itself protects our meditation, evicting thoughts and distractions.
Spiritual music performs a paradoxical miracle for us that after years of practice we might otherwise never achieve or even believe: the opportunity to experience at once outer sound and inner silence.
“If we pay adequate attention to each action, then inside the very depth of that action we are bound to hear music. Unless we hear music inside each action, the action is lifeless.”
– Sri Chinmoy
Music is not just notes, sounds, melodies and rhythms.
Music, like meditation, is feeling, discovering and becoming. Just as real music is meditation, so real meditation is music. And just as meditation – self-discovery – extends beyond sitting in silence and into our every conscious breathing moment, so too does music. When we meditate, we resonate – flowing, uplifting, soaring, liberating. We discover the deeper truth that we not only embody music – we are ourselves music. Each of us is a song: to sing and reveal our song on the world-stage, the simple purpose of our being.
Through music we discover meditation; through meditation we become music.
Music is at once inspiration, creation and completion. Music is the discovery, appreciation and revelation of the beauty, love, sweetness, subtlety and perfection-delight nestled in life’s every breath; the colour, contour and costume of God.
We do not have to play an instrument to be a musician. We have only to live in tune with our inner music, our soul’s purpose, the cadence, melody and harmony of our deeper existence. Only then can our outer life express harmony, sweetness, satisfaction and fulfilment. This cannot be achieved through any outer means, not by possession, accomplishment or victory: only through the inner discovery of meditation and spiritual awakening.
In discovering and exclusively playing our own inner music, we find ourselves in surprising and delightful resonance with the supreme cosmic symphony. In playing our part perfectly, the full score of the universal music is revealed to us to play, to play with, to thrill to – and become.
“There is no difference Between our soulful songs And our fruitful meditation.”
– Sri Chinmoy
Singing occupies a central role in the practise and ritual of most spiritual paths and traditions, for good reason.
Spirituality lies beyond the realm of the rational, of reason, description and even understanding – as does music, and so is music a natural language of spirituality.
Because it involves every level of our being, singing is the most intimate and personal experience of music, and its most natural, immediate and direct means of expression and communication.
Singing soulfully helps our meditation go deeper, faster – but what does it mean to “sing soulfully?”
Our soul is our source, the most subtle, pure, powerful essence of our being. Our soul is within us, around us, pervading our all. Our soul is at once the silent witness and sanctioning force of our consciousness, intentions and actions; our highest ideal and integral fulfilment. To sing “soulfully” is to sing “fully with our soul” and to sing “full of soul”: with all of the soul’s qualities – love, tenderness, intensity, brilliance, power – and with all of the soul’s utilities, with our entire being, body, vital, mind and heart. To sing soulfully is to sing unreservedly, prayerfully, with one-pointed focus, utterly and self-givingly. To sing self-givingly is to offer one’s entire self – all of one’s capacities, skills, prayers, ideals and aspirations – to the song and to the singing of the song, with all of one’s wholehearted enthusiasm, eagerness, sincerity, energy, joy, dedication and commitment. Nothing is held back. There is no separation between singer and song.
Singer and song amplify and beautify each other.
The signature of soulful singing is an immediate sweetest, fragrant, ineffable, indescribable and inescapable psychic thrill.
“Usha bala elo Dhire aji dhire Hridaya gabhire.”
– Bengali song by Sri Chinmoy
“Slowly, very slowly, The virgin dawn appears In the very depths of my aspiration-heart.”
– English translation by Sri Chinmoy
Each of these characters is a different part of our own being. The older child is our mind, actually lost but pretending desperately to project the impression of control.
The small child is our heart: lost in the bewildering storm of the outer world, our heart becomes a mounting aspiration-cry of intense yearning.
The adult is our all-knowing, all-loving soul, ever-ready to offer comfort, protection and illumination. The soul has all the answers and remedies, but does not interfere when it sees our mind has assumed control and taken charge despite its pitiful ignorance. Yet to our heart’s sincere, compelling cry, readily and unreservedly our soul pours forth its protection, concern, love and light.
In terms of spiritual awareness, if we are sincere, we are the small child: we don’t know who we are, where we have come from or where we are heading – we don’t have a clue, and there is absolutely a storm raging; the storm of life. To initiate the dawn of illumination within, we need simply to cry like this child, from the depths of our being with utter sincerity and helplessness, the cry of wholehearted aspiration.
View the score…
Listen to the song:
Now for the song and creative visualisation: while singing, imagine you are the young child lost in the storm. Cry from the depths of your being: with each verse, immerse yourself in the responding unfolding magic of the inner dawn. The storm subsides, the night dissipates and the soul’s light floods our consciousness. All grows into the glorious, radiant day of perfect love, light, oneness, happiness and illumination.
“Usha Bala Elo” is a song by Sri Chinmoy, a meditation on aspiration and illumination.
The dawn is one of nature’s most glorious mysteries and life’s most magical, auspicious moments. The transformation of night into day, darkness into light, despair into hope and promise, one state of being into its polar opposite, is at once exquisitely beautiful, thrillingly wondrous and utterly exhilarating.
Imagine the very first dawn at the beginning of time: all there has ever been is complete pitch darkness and now all of creation is gradually revealed in the fullness of its pristine absolute beauty, radiance and perfection.
Sri Chinmoy’s song sings not of the outer, but of the inner dawn – the dawn of spiritual awakening; and of the power that invokes and initiates this awakening – the inner cry of aspiration. In an evocative word-and-sound picture, this song depicts the process of spiritual illumination and transformation.
For our creative visualisation exercise let us set a stage, with three characters. The scene is a street at night in a wild storm with pelting rain, thunder and lightning.
First to appear is a four-year-old child, alone and lost in the storm. Imagine you are this child: you are hopelessly lost in the raging storm – what will you do? You will cry, sincerely and utterly with absolute helplessness.
Next comes an older child, also lost and secretly afraid but determined not to betray any fear or confusion.
The third character is your adult self, in the same street with overcoat and umbrella on your way home. You see the older child marching confidently along: you don’t interfere.
Now you come across the smaller child, crying piteously. What do you do? You comfort and protect the child, and bring him to his home.
Every spiritual quality can be felt, nurtured, enlarged and intensified by singing: sweetness, tenderness, sympathy, love, aspiration, longing, joy, ecstasy, courage, determination, devotion, valour, vigour, enthusiasm, self-offering – all respond to the right song as a sunflower to the sun.
The key to bringing forth all of these qualities is love: the more we love a song and the more ardently we sing with selfless love, the more the song reveals and enwraps us in the very qualities for which we yearn.
When we long to express feelings that mere words cannot convey – whether in the secular or sacred realms – we turn naturally to song. Hence the most common theme of all songs is the one experience, the one emotion, the one realisation that most directly connects us with our heart and the mystery of the spiritual realm – love.
We sing a love song to express the inexpressible, the sense of oneness and the thrill of inner awakening to a truth beyond ourselves, a truth that transcends reason and understanding, a truth we can never own, only adore.
Yet we also sing a love song to awaken, enjoy and become the feeling and reality of love: a song can at once express, invoke and reveal love, whether love for a person, a flower, a football team, our nation or God.
As colour is light made visible, so song is love made audible.
As we love to sing, so we sing to love. In song, love is a fish in water, a bird in the sky. As bread and flour cannot be separated; as a flower and its fragrance are one; so a love song is not only a song of love, but love as song.
In love, we sing. In song, love we become.
“My own gratitude-heart Is all that matters.”
– Sri Chinmoy
All spiritual qualities reside inside our heart – indeed our heart is comprised of all the spiritual qualities.
To invoke or call forth any of the spiritual qualities is to open our heart. When our heart is open it is much easier to enter into meditation.
Singing is a most powerful and effective way to arouse the spiritual qualities from within. When we sing of love, it is as though we are approaching the door of love and calling forth to her: “Love, are you there?” When we feel our hearts overflowing with love, singing further expands, deepens and intensifies our love.
So it is with gratitude.
The poem by Sri Chinmoy: “My own gratitude-heart / Is all that matters” is on the face of it an improbable statement. How can “my own gratitude-heart” be all that matters? Surely many things matter very much – food, shelter and education, for example…
Yet this simple statement expresses a profound spiritual truth: when my heart is full of gratitude, no negative feeling, thought or emotion can hold sway over me. Gratitude opens my heart like a flower to the sun, to all the good and divine forces within. Gratitude strengthens, sweetens, purifies, clarifies, enlightens, enlarges and enriches my consciousness like no other quality: it is nothing short of a divine miracle. My own gratitude-heart is indeed all that matters, for it embodies all else that I will ever need.
View the score.
Listen to the song:
Sing this simple song with all your heart for as long as you feel like, either as a preliminary to meditation or as your meditation itself – or any time, anywhere. While singing, feel your heart blooming and blossoming with gratitude and your whole being becoming only the fragrance of gratitude.
“God the music My outer life likes. God the song My inner life loves.”
– Sri Chinmoy
Spiritual music is God’s secret agent sent into the world to find and return us to Him.
We are of the same Source as spiritual music. Just as we are expressions and manifestations of love, light, peace, beauty and joy, so is music. We are two diverging trunks of the same tree, rising from the same root and same soil. Our souls have taken physical form; music’s soul the form of sound – if we look beyond our respective outer forms, we uncover an inner affinity, a revelation of oneness.
Springing from the same source, the same parents, spiritual songs are our brothers and sisters, our intimate family, children of the same love, light and joy. They are also our closest friends, playmates, lovers, confidants, tutors, mentors and guides.
There is nothing we cannot learn from spiritual songs, provided we engage with them sincerely, eagerly and wholeheartedly. The more we can hear, play or sing spiritual songs with love and devotion, the more the songs reveal of themselves and simultaneously, of ourselves. Songs are our inner mirrors and echo chambers; the deeper we dive into a song, the deeper we dive into ourselves. The more of ourselves we give to a song, the more of ourselves we discover. We gain, learn and become most from a song when we claim it utterly as our own and offer it our all.
To flood us and our world with love, light and delight, God comes to us as music and as song.
Sometimes more immediately and effectively than meditation, spiritual music reminds us of the real, inspires us, purifies, beautifies, sweetens, energises, enraptures, illumines, liberates, perfects, reveals and fulfils us integrally.
A song can directly connect us to the experience and realisations of others, and reveal mirrored feelings and realities within us which otherwise might have remained hidden, or beyond our lived experience. When I hear a song about a particular flower I have never seen, as though by sympathetic resonance I nevertheless experience a profound appreciation of that flower. A patriotic song can evoke genuine love within me for a country I have never visited.
Similarly, a song composed by a spiritual seeker or spiritual Master can awaken within me the most rarefied spiritual emotion and realisation: the longing of aspiration, fervour of devotion and bliss of surrender. Singing or even just hearing such songs can be the catalyst for otherwise unattainable spiritual progress: like water to a plant, through songs we can grow both in sympathetic experience, and spiritual awareness.
As knowing a language opens to us the experience, wisdom and worldview embodied in its folklore, idiom and literature, so the songs of a particular culture, movement or religion open a wide doorway into its inner heart.
Songs themselves can be spiritual teachers and mentors. The expression “soul-stirring” refers to the magical means by which through the eloquence of words, beauty of melody, allure of rhythm and resonance of the voice, a song can arouse our emotions, nurture our sympathies and indeed stir the deepest aspirations of and for our soul.
A song is like a flame: from one flame many can be lit, forest fires can rage, cities consumed. Similarly, one song can enter into and inspire many hearts. One song can move a concert audience to tears, one hymn can inspire a congregation, one anthem can uplift a nation; so might one devotional song uplift the consciousness of humanity.
The quest to quieten or bypass the mind is one of mankind’s most difficult and intractable challenges; an epic and historical struggle continuing to unfold each time each one of us sits to meditate.
Personal effort is indispensable, but on its own is mostly insufficient to the momentous task. Wherever a powerful ally can be found, we are well to accept its help. In my experience, the keyboard music of Sri Chinmoy is one of the most powerful and reliable remedies for an unquiet mind.
The mind’s approach to the world is to attempt to understand whatever it perceives through measurement, comparison, deduction and classification. It recognises experiences or phenomena as the same or similar to what it already knows, or else endeavours to fit them into its existing frameworks of understanding and belief. For the mind, to understand and define is to justify itself and confirm its hegemony. Its security and self-esteem derive from its capacity to categorise and label everything. For the mind, to know is to control: the unknown represents loss of control and poses an existential threat. Therefore whatever the mind cannot possess or understand, it is apt to reject or deny: its only other option, is surrender …
… which brings us to Sri Chinmoy’s keyboard performances.
This music comes directly from deep meditation: there is no mental conception involved, no recognisable form or structure and hence nothing for the mind to grasp or possess. This music storms the mind’s stubborn fortress with overwhelming force – impossible to ignore, the only options are rejection, or surrender.
Once the mind surrenders to this music, the mind’s barriers are swept away in its flood, leaving the heart wide open to receive and exult in its ecstatic dynamism, power and light.
Spiritual teaching is the highest, deepest, most direct communication of the truth, light and bliss of our inner existence; a mutual journey between Guru and disciple of discovery, revelation, transformation and becoming.
The role of a spiritual Teacher is to expedite the self-discovery of the seeker by a progressive awakening of a deeper, vaster consciousness within; the role of the seeker is a wholehearted, receptive and eager engagement.
For a spiritual Master, music offers a vast realm of opportunity for spiritual teaching. Where lectures, discourses, questions and answers must navigate the perilous pathways of doubt, fear, prejudice and misunderstanding in the seeker’s mind, music has an access card directly to the listener’s heart and soul, carrying with it inspiration, aspiration and ever-unfolding realisation.
To meditate to spiritual music is a limitless journey within. When music is performed by a spiritual being of the highest order, a realised soul, there is no end to how deep and how high it can carry us. The same piece of music which may take us to one level today, may usher us to a much higher level tomorrow if we are in a more receptive and aspiring consciousness.
The seeker-listener’s role and responsibility is receptivity – all else is the mutual communion of music with our hearts and souls. Receptivity itself is an art, the art of yearning to progressively empty our minds, subdue all thoughts and efface all desires to enter into the clear, pure, silent sounding chamber of our hearts, wherein music sings, dances and fulfils its illumining, elevating and transforming role.
Just as light illumines a dark room, so spiritual music – through resonance – reveals realm after realm of hidden perfection within.
Spiritual music is the kiss to awaken the sleeping beauty of our soul.
“The soundless sound-heart And The thoughtless music-soul Are the two God-Ways To bring Peace into the world.”
– Sri Chinmoy
Peace is the most urgent, desperate need in the world – peace between nations; between religions, cultures and ideologies; peace within society; within classrooms, workplaces and organisations; peace in the family; above all peace within ourselves, between the various needs and demands of our own body, vital, mind, heart and soul. Only in the all-nourishing embrace of peace can we find true freedom, happiness and the blossoming of our capacities. Only in peace can we fully discover and become who we truly are.
Though sadly and deplorably lacking in our outer world, peace is a teeming, all-pervading reality in our inner, spiritual realm.
Ecuador is blessed with an abundance of bananas, while Canada grows none. Supply and demand: Ecuador can readily supply bananas provided Canada has a demand for them and can pay the price, and there is a reliable means of delivery.
The inner realm is more than ready to export an unending supply of peace to our outer world – provided the same conditions are met. Our outer world is certainly hungry for peace; we have only to pay the price and establish the means of delivery.
The price for peace is intense, sincere inner yearning or aspiration. For its supply there are two robust and reliable means of shipping and delivery, two wide open portals, perfect messenger-ambassadors from the inner realm to the outer: music and meditation.
Only music and meditation have the miraculous power to charm the mind, disarm the ego, dissolve division and bypass all obstructions to unlock and release our hidden peace-treasure and spread its fragrance and radiance throughout the world.
Music and meditation are God’s true angels of peace.