|Music Healing and Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji - Dr. Phani Shree|
Music is a universal language. Encompassing all possible moods and forms of expression, it conveys the feelings to the heart more powerfully than any words of any language. Hindu scriptures have described the precise pronunciation of words and their effects on the temporal and astral planes. References related to the importance of music in worship and healing practices can be traced to the sacred texts of Vedas, Upanishads and Gita. In the Rug Veda and Saama Vedas references to sung and chanted mantras for healing are given. Mantras are considered words of power and as such are considered to have healing properties.
Though we have accomplished a great deal through scientific inquiry, we don't completely understand the mystery of Music Healing. By relinquishing total power and understanding, spiritual guides act as facilitators and instruments through which the divine can interact with the individual. What is not found in the traditional Western Therapy model is the active acknowledgement of the sacred and unseen forces that act as co-healer or therapist. This difference in spiritual capacity to heal can be contrasted with Western Music therapy methods of singing to induce a change in the emotional state that makes you feel better.
As a container, music creates all atmospheres that manipulate a person's mood. It can create both tension and relaxation. As a connector, music links us to the memories, emotions and perceptions. As a carrier, music has the ability to allow individuals to relate to certain themes in the society e.g.: birth, death and freedom and may also include feelings of happiness, frustrations, and sadness. Often people interpret themselves in relation to music. Music is a catalyst for emotional expression and physical responses.
Recent studies on music therapy indicate that music can influence endogenous opioids, a group of more than fifteen neuro hormones found to effect pain perception, neuro endocrine and immune regulation, neurotransmission, and mood (Cook, 1997, p80-81). This has wide spread application for music therapy in cancer treatment (Beck SL, 1991; Burns SJ et al, 2001) and pain management (Good M et al, 2001, Hillicke T et al 2000).
Doron Kemp Antrin says. "Psychologists have found that music does things to you, whether you like it or not. Fast tempos invariably raise your pulse rate, respiration and blood pressure, slow music lowers them". Klitz (1970) suggested that participation in musical activities encourages better posture and proper breathing and strengthens specific muscle groups, removing frustrations and reducing emotional tensions. Slack (1970) studied the effect of music education on the slow learner pupils and found that music education had a positive psychological effect in the normalization of their pent-up emotions and developed their abilities to the full. Music has also been found to be effective in curing stammering.
Hood (1973) found that students having music lessons exhibited better social adjustment than other students. Slack (1970) working in Great Britain on the slow learners in the schools found that that Music education helped them in the normalization of their pent- up emotions and developed their abilities to the full. Graves (1947) found that adolescents who take music lesson showed less emotional conflict and they appeared to be more comfortable in their relations with their parents than otherwise. Smilansky (1953) working with the mentally retarded children found that there were significant improvements in the adjustment rating. (Lakshmi Devnath, 2003).
Nada Chikitsa and Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji
I have been greatly influenced by the extraordinary works of His Holiness Sri Sri Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji in the field of Nada Chikitsa (Healing through Sound).
Born in the year 1942, an accomplished Yogi, He was initiated into the secrets of Raja Yoga and Sri Vidya (worship of Mother Goddess) by His mother and mentor (guru) Sri Jayalakshmi Mata. Sri Swamiji later received training in tenets of Hatha Yoga from His aunt Venkamma. Being born in a family of traditional Vaidyas (doctors), Sri Swamiji mastered the knowledge of the medicinal values of various moolikas (herbs). Right from childhood, He had a tendency to observe the sounds of nature and an inborn talent of singing in various styles and playing a number of musical instruments. He gradually began to study their influence on plants, animals and human beings. It took him nearly three decades of intense observation to understand the mystery of various therapeutic sounds. Simultaneously He began adopting several instruments to produce such natural sounds and there by the same therapeutic effects. Gradually He learnt the effects o f various combinations of notes and ragas (ascending and descending scales) and their effect on living and non-living things. He then adopted the Synthesizer to produce the various instrumental and natural sounds using the sampling technique and has been actively propagating these Healing effects of Music through live concerts all over the globe and also through several recorded albums. Thousands of people have directly benefited from His Healing Music.
Sri Swamiji often says: "The inner light is shining constantly. It reveals itself through the mirror called 'mind'. Defects of the mind blur the light within, but actually, that light is unaffected by the modifications of the mind. One should ignore the limitations of mind and concentrate on the inner light.
Music healing is therefore a holistic approach in which the musician sets out to experience the infinite and shares this with the listeners. It is this technique of probing into one’s submerged level of consciousness that brings a “a cure from within“ in Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji's music. Nada Chikitsa (Healing through Music) is therefore a platform for physical, mental, spiritual interaction between the performer and the listeners. It is this subtle interaction that gives these sessions a therapeutic dimension.
Intricacies of Sri Swamiji's Music Healing
1. The Unique Concept: Sri Swamiji's considerable experimentation involving knowledge of Music, Astronomy, Yoga and bio-psychic structure of the human organism and identification of the Indian classical ragas and their consonance with the elements of nature (pancha bhootas) led Him to develop the unique concept of "Music for Meditation and Healing". His therapeutic music is not just a combination of musical notes and ragas but includes the scientific use of astrology, psychology and Patanjali yoga sutras. Sri Swamiji also uses crystals during therapy.
2. Sound Energy Healing: Music is sound vibrations. It is energy in motion. To use this energy for healing purpose requires that the person involved have a great ability and understanding. It also requires that the person have a sound knowledge of energy. Sri Swamiji possesses all these ingredients required to heal effectively through music. Sri Swamiji has demonstrated this knowledge with his inborn profound musical abilities. Being a realized soul, He possesses a wide range of energies and has precise knowledge of its use. Sri Swamiji has related different ragas to heal different parts of the body.
3. Yogic concept of Healing: According to Yoga, the body has a number of energy centers called Chakras and metaphysical energy channels called Nadis (72,000). Each of these has its own elemental basis such as earth, water, fire etc. Each raga produces sound vibrations appropriate to a specific element and therefore to a specific chakra and a set of related body organs. Keeping this in mind Sri Swamiji has worked out the relationships of particular ragas and how these can be employed to treat illnesses.
The various biological and biochemical processes that are taking place in us are sustained by the life force (prana). Each of these activities is in fact a subtle sound. E.g. one can experience the sound of the breath SO-HAM (That is me) - the sound that not only relates to our existence but also enlightens us about our unlimited macrocosmic nature limited to the microcosmic self by a series of barriers. A yogi attempts to alleviate himself of these shackles by using the sound of breath as a simple tool for improving concentration and experiencing the higher states of existence. It is the balancing of the Prana and the Nadis that takes place in the Music Healing of Sri Swamiji.
Sri Swamiji says -"Ragas have a potential to depressurize our tense minds by soothing the nerves”. This science was originally explored in the ancient treatise called Gandharva Vidya - art of celestial music". Sri Swamiji is reviving this lost technique of healing people with the divine power of music.
4. Spiritual Basis of Healing: Another unique feature of Sri Swamiji's music is its spiritual base. It is aimed at shifting the level of consciousness of the listeners by helping them to experience inner peace and harmony. As Sri Swamiji himself remarked, “By singing and playing with full feeling,I discovered that many people directly/indirectly after listening to Swamiji’s music began to be healed. I have strong feeling that when I intuit the rages and scales a spiritual power helps me. I am guided by that great cosmic power”. Founded on the Raga Ragini Vidya and Raga chikitsa of the ancient times, His music concerts carry a spiritual energy transmission effect.
5. Experimentation and Understanding: After much trials and experimentation. He discovered that several ragas like Sriranjani, Keeravani, Amruta Varshini, Chakravakam, Hamsanandi have curative effects and a specific raga can heal the ailments such as cancer, heart, skin, psychosomatic problems and many others modern days urban oriented tensions. Swamiji says, "Raga Nilambari cures sleeplessness, Sri Raga aids in indigestion. For mental equipoise Sama raga is suggested. Dwajavanti quells nervous debilities, Music influences the cells, tissues, and nerves of the body. Tissue breakdown, cancerous growths, skin ailments, mental problems are healed to a great extent by music.
6. Skills of Composing and Rendering: Sri Swamiji is an accomplished musician able to play several instruments, sing and improvise in a variety of styles. In addition He is creative, spontaneous, flexible and energetic during the healing sessions; He often adds the element of humor for achieving better results.
Sri Swamiji has several compositions to his credit in various languages Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannada, Tamil, Hindi, Marathi English to name a few. He is a great Vaggeyakara (singer-composer) of the present times. His compositions are appreciated and enjoyed equally both by the ordinary men and the great masters of music. On the one hand some of His tunes are very simple and catchy (e.g. Nama sankeertanam) while on the other they are intricate and stimulating an inner inquiry (e.g. Tatva bhajans) and musical research (e.g. Swarakshara kritis). Some of His compositions also belong to the Manipravala style (not corresponding to any single language but belonging to all languages). He has a unique style of rendering as well and His music is many times beyond the barriers of classifications.
The nature of His compositions is also multifarious. Sometimes it is a simple prayer chanting the divine names of the lord, or an explanation of a high philosophical truth; at times it is a lesson of morality, or message of peace to the world. His Bhajans contain mantras or beejaksharaas(seed letters) and this arouses the inner energies of man gently tapping on the serpent power Kundalini awakening and arousing it. Recently Sri Swamiji rendered a composition on the river Cauvery in a new raga hitherto never described in music literature and aptly named it as raga Cauvery. Whatever be the composition there always seems to be a great secret hidden in between the verses, to be understood and experienced only by people who with utmost sincerity and reverence attempt to dwell deep inside His music. His mellifluous voice, capability to improvise with several instruments and capacity to make a judicious combination of music and yoga add up to bring out the desired therapeutic effect in the listener.
7. Individual Approach and Group Therapy: Swamiji's method of treatment varies from patient to patient. Sometimes depending on a star that rules the day, He will choose the raga for the patients. Sri Swamiji encourages both active (singing the divine name of the lord- divya nama sankeertana -both solo and group sessions) and passive (listening to divine music) therapy. He also reiterates that group singing example during Bhajans has a greater impact in letting out the pent-up emotions and relieving the mental agony than just passive listening. He therefore encourages one and all to chant the divine name of Lord every day with soulful involvement. Such efforts tend to open up one’s mind and heart and provide relief from the stress and bondage.
8. Universal Music: Sri Swamiji's music transcends all the barriers of caste, creed and color. The fact that transoceanic audiences in all the parts of the globe appreciate His music equally is a testimony that His music is Universal. Music is so dear to Him and so integral part to His personality that He has gone to the extent of exclaiming, "Music is my language. Music is my expression. Music is my soul. Music is my religion".
9. NadaMantapa: Sri Swamiji always remembers the great masters of the past like Saint Tyagaraja, Muttu Swamy Deekshitar, Shyama Sastry, Purandara Dasa, Meera, Kabir, Tukaram, and several others and is many times found soulfully singing in ecstasy some of the compositions of these realized souls. The unique Nada Mantapa (an open air auditorium for music with a capacity of 5000, constructed in Avadhoota Datta Peetham, Mysore founded by His Holiness Sri Ganapati Sachchidanda Swamiji) which displays the portraits of these great composers exemplifies His regard for their contribution to music. It also contains the unique Saptaswara temple for the seven notes of Music. However, Sri Swamiji has shown that the past should not be treated as a stagnant pool. He has shown that the greatness of the past lies in its relevance to the present. His music is not limited to anyone culture, time, place or people. Great masters of music of the present day appreciate the unique contribution made by Sri Swamiji to and have shown their eagerness to propagate this ancient system of Raga Ragini Vidya. In fact several great maestros of the present times like L. Subramanyam, Lalgudi, Umayalpuram, Karaikudi R Mani, N Ramani, Vinayakram, Yella Venkateswar Rao, N Rajam and several others have accompanied Sri Swamiji during His Healing concerts.
10. Research: Sri Swamiji believes in a Holistic approach to Medicine and has always been encouraging research activities in all the forms of medicine. His Holiness further reiterates that during treatment the physical, psychic and social aspects of disease need to be addressed to and not the physical ailment alone. The Music Therapy Research Center established by His Holiness Sri Swamiji in Avadhoota Datta Peetham is making continuous efforts to transmit the intuition and research experience of His Holiness Sri Swamiji.
A team of doctors, musicians, musicologists, yoga therapists, physiotherapists and research assistants are constantly working under the able guidance of Sri Swamiji for this project. Several bio-feedback Machines have been installed and are being used to subjectively and objectively identify the individual's response to Music. Several patients who have been given therapy sessions on the specially designed String Beds (Monochord) experienced profound relaxation. Music therapy is also used as a form of Adjuvant therapy. Doctors belonging to various schools of Medicine namely Ayurveda, Allopathy and Naturopathy etc are making a judicious use of Sri Swamiji's music on their patients either alone or in combination with other medicines.
11. Releases: Several albums of Sri Swamiji's music have been released by Datta Peetham. They can be obtained from our ashram branches or through internet.
1. Bums SJ. Harbuz MS. Hucklebridge F. Bunt L. (2001) - A Pilot study into the therapeutic effects of music therapy at a cancer help center.