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Yogananda writings about music and its divine presents in life.


The Sama Veda contains the world’s earliest writings on musical science.  In India, music, painting, and the drama are considered divine arts.  Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, the Eternal Trinity, were the first musicians.  Shiva in His aspect of Nataraja, the Cosmic Dancer, is scripturally represented as having worked out the infinite modes of rhythm processes of universal creation, preservation, and destruction, while Brahma and Vishnu accentuated the time beat: Brahma clanging the cymbals and Vishnu sounding the mridanga or holy drum.


Saraswati, goddess of wisdom, is symbolized as performing on the vina, mother of all stringed instruments.  Krishna, and incarnation of Vishnu, is shown in Hindu art with a flute; on it he plays the enrapturing song that recalls to their true home the human souls wandering in maya-delusion.


The foundation stones of Hindu music are ragas or fixed melodic scales.  The six basic ragas branch out into 126 derivative raginis (wives) and putras (sons).  Each raga has a minimum of five notes: a leading note (vadi or king), a secondary note (samavadi or prime minister), helping notes (anuvadi, attendants), and a dissonant note (vivadi, the enemy).


Each of the six basic ragas has a natural correspondence with a certain hour of the day, season of the year and a presiding deity who bestows a particular potency.  Thus, (1) the Hindole Raga is heard only at dawn in the spring, to evoke the mood of universal love; (2) Deepaka Raga is played during the evening in summer, to arouse compassion; (3) Megha Raga is a melody for midday in the rainy season, to summon courage; (4) Bhairava Raga is played in the mornings of August, September, October, to achieve tranquility; (5) Sri Raga is reserved for autumn twilights, to attain pure love; (6) Malkounsa Raga is heard at midnights in winter, for valor.


The ancient rishis discovered these laws of sound alliance between nature and man.  Because nature is an objectification of Au , the Primal Sound or Vibratory Word, man can obtain control over all natural manifestations though the use of certain mantras or chants.  Folklore of all peoples contains references to incantations with power over Nature.  The American Indians developed effective sound rituals for rain and wind.  Tan Sen, the great Hindu musician, was able to quench fire by the owner of his song.


Charles Kellogg, the California naturalist, gave a demonstration of the effect of tonal vibration on fire in 1926 before a group of New York firemen.  “Passing a bow, like an enlarged violin bow, swiftly across an aluminum tuning fork, he produced a screech like intense radio static.  Instantly the yellow gas flame, two feet high, leaping inside a hollow glass tube, subsided to a height of six inches and because a sputtering blue flare.  Another attempt with the bow, and another screech of vibration, extinguished it.”


Historical documents tell of he remarkable powers possessed by Miyan Tan Sen, sixteenth-century court musician for Akbar the Great.  Commanded by the Emperor to sing a night raga while the sun was overhead, Tan Sen intoned a mantra that instantly caused the whole palace precincts to become enveloped in darkness.


Indian music divides the octave into twenty-two srutis or demi-semitones.  These microtonal intervals permit fine shades of musical expression unattainable by the Western chromatic scale of twelve semitones.  Each of the seven basic notes of the octave is associated in Hindu mythology with a color, and the natural cry of a bird or beast—Do with green, and the peacock; Re with red, and the skylark; Mi with gold, and the goat; Fa with yellowish white, and the heron; Sol with black, and the nightingale; La with the yellow, and the horse; Si with a combination of all colors, and the elephant.


Indian music outlines seventy-two thatas or scales.  A musician has creative scope for endless improvisation around the fixed traditional melody or raga; he concentrates on the sentiment or definitive mood of the structural theme and embroiders it to the limits of his own originality.  The Hindu musician does not read set notes; at each playing he clothes anew the bare skeleton of the raga, often confining himself to a single melodic sequence, stressing by repetition all its subtle microtonal and rhythmic variations.


Bach, among Western composers, understood the charm and power of repetitious sound slightly differentiated in a hundred complex ways.


Sanskrit literature describes 120 talas or time measures.  The traditional founder of Hindu music, Bharata, is said to have isolated thirty-two kinds of tala in the song of a lark.  The origin of tala or rhythm is rooted in human movements—the double time of walking, and the triple time of respiration in sleep, when inhalation is twice the length of exhalation.


India has long recognized the human voice as the most perfect instrument of sound.  Hindu music therefore largely confines itself to the voice range of three octaves.  For the same reason, melody (relation of successive notes) is stressed, rather than harmony (relation of simultaneous notes).


Hindu music is a subjective, spiritual, and individualistic art, aiming not a symphonic brilliance but at personal harmony with the Over-Soul.  All the celebrated songs of India have been composed by devotees of the Divine.  The Sanskrit word for “musician” is bhagavathar, “he who sings the praises of God.”


The sankirtans or musical gatherings are an effective form of yoga or spiritual discipline, necessitating intense concentration, absorption in the seed thought and sound.  Because man himself is an expression of the Creative Word, sound exercises on him a potent and immediate effect.  Great religious music of East and West bestows joy on man because it causes a temporary vibratory awakening of the one of his occult spinal centers.  In those blissful moments a dim memory comes to him of his divine origin.

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