Wind-instruments, instruments with gut strings and with steel
wire and the two instruments of percussion, drums and cymbals,
have each a distinct, different, and particular effect on the
physical body. There was a time when thinkers knew this and
used sound for healing and for spiritual purposes. It was on
that principle that the music of India was based. The different
Ragas and the modes which these Ragas contain
were supposed to produce a certain healing and elevating effect.
Sound first touches the physical plane; when we consider
what effect single notes or sounds can have upon the physical
body, this will lead us to think deeply on the subject. There
are snake charmers, mostly to be found in India, who by playing
their instrument, a wind-instrument called pungi, attract
cobras and others snakes from their vicinity. Often and often
this experiment has been made, and one has always found that
all kinds of snakes, or cobras, are attracted on hearing the
pungi. First they come out of the holes in which they
live and there is a certain effect on their nervous system which
draws them closer and closer to the sound of the pungi.
They forget their instinct which is seen in every creature to
protect itself from the attack of man or of other creatures.
At that time they absolutely forget, they do not see anyone
or anything. Then they are aroused to ecstasy; a cobra begins
to raise its head and to move it right and left, and as long
as this instrument is played the cobra continues to move in
ecstasy. This shows us that, apart from the psychical effect
and apart from the spiritual effect that sound has on mankind,
there is a physical effect also.
From a metaphysical point of view breath is the life current,
prana. This life current exists also in things, such
as the gut of the string or the skin of the drums. There is
also a part of life in these things, and it is to that extent
that their life current becomes audible, and that it touches
the life current of the living creatures and gives it an added
life. It is for this reason that the most primitive tribes who
have only a drum to play, or an instrument to blow, get into
such a condition by that continual playing of the drum that
they enjoy the state of ecstasy.
How does the great success of jazz come about? It comes from
the same principle. It does not give the brain much to think
about in the technicality of music, it does not trouble the
soul to think of spiritual things, it does not trouble the heart
to feel deeply. Without troubling the heart or the soul it touches
the physical body. It gives a renewed strength by the continuity
of a particular rhythm and a particular sound that give people
– I mean the generality – a greater strength and vigor and interest
than music that strains the mind making it think. Those who
do not wish to be spiritually elevated, who do not believe in
spiritual things and do not wish to trouble, the jazz-band leaves
alone, yet touching everyone who hears it.
When one compares the voice with the instrument, there is
no real comparison, because the voice is life itself. The movement,
the glance, the touch, even the breath that comes from the nostrils
do not reach so far, not as far as the voice reaches.
There are three degrees of breath-current. One degree is
the simple breath that is inhaled and exhaled by the nostrils.
This current reaches outside and has a certain effect. A greater
degree of breath-current is blowing. When a person blows from
his lips, then that breath current is more intensely directed;
therefore healers who have understood this principle made use
of it. The third degree, in which the breath is most intense,
is sound; because in that degree the breath, coming in the form
of sound, is vitalized.
In the Near East, among Orthodox Christians and among Armenians,
there is a custom not to use an organ in the church; they use
a chord or sound made by ten or twelve persons sitting there
with closed lips. Anyone who has heard it, will say that they
are right. The sound of the organ is most artificial in comparison
with the sound that the voices of ten or twelve persons produce
with closed lips. This has such a wonderfully magic effect,
it reaches so far and so deeply into the heart of man, and it
produces such a religious atmosphere among them, that one feels
that there is no necessity for an organ: this is a natural organ
which God has made.
Brahmins, when they study the Vedas, even now do not
study only what is written there or the meaning of it: they
study the pronunciation of each syllable, of each word, of each
sound, and they study for years and years. It is not that the
Brahmin hears the sound once with the ears and thinks: 'I have
learned it'. No, he thinks that a thousand repetitions of the
word will one day produce that magnetism, that electricity,
that life current which is necessary, and which only comes by
Now this life current that comes through the breath and manifest
through the voice and touches another person – what action does
it take? It touches the five senses: the sense of sight, the
sense of hearing, the sense of smell, the sense of taste, and
the sense of touch. It is not true that a person hears sound
only through his ears; he hears sound through every little pore
of his body. It permeates through his whole being, and according
to its particular influence it either slows the rhythm or it
quickens the rhythm of the blood circulation; it either wakens
the nervous system or it soothes it; it arouses a person to
heighten passions or it calms him by bringing him peace. In
accordance with the sound and its influence a certain effect
Therefore the knowledge of sound can place in the hand of
a person a magical instrument with which to wind, tune, control
and utilize the life of another person to the best advantage.
The ancient singers used to experience the effect of their spiritual
practices upon themselves first. They used to sing one note
for about half an hour and observe the effect of the same note
upon all the different centers of their own body. They noted
what life current is produced, how it opened the intuitive faculties,
how it created enthusiasm, how it gave added energy, how it
soothed and how it healed. So for them it was not a theory,
it was an experience.
When this is not understood and when people only know that
sound has something to do with the body, they think that they
must make some use of it, and instead of making the right use
of it they make the wrong use! The Maharaja of Baroda, hearing
of this science, thought that he should introduce music into
hospitals. Singers were sent there who had never learned what
effect sound or song has. When the singers began their technical
traditional songs while the patients were suffering pains and
tortures, the patients said: 'Oh, take them away, take them
away! Throw them into the river!' But it was the maharaja's
order that the singers were to sing. After a week the patients
were far more ill, and the Maharaja had to send another order:
'No more music is wanted'.
In my travels I have seen now the same thing. There are some
people here and there who think that music has a great effect
upon patients, on health, but instead of using the right music,
they use the wrong music, and its effect is to make people more
Sound becomes visible in the form of radiance. This shows
that the same energy which goes into the form of sound, before
it becomes visible is absorbed by the physical body. In that
way the physical body recuperates and becomes charged with new
magnetism. By a keen study of psychology you will find that
singers have a greater magnetism than they average person: because
of their own practicing their voice makes an effect upon themselves
and they produce electricity in themselves. In that way they
are charged with a new magnetism every time they practice. This
is the secret of the singer's magnetism.
As to the question which is the wrong and which is the right
use of sound, it all depends upon the particular case. In one
case a certain sound may be rightly used, in another case the
same sound may be wrongly used, but whether it was right or
wrong will be seen by the harmonious and inharmonious effects
it produces. When a pitch is a natural pitch of the voice, and
a person sings a note in that pitch – in any pitch which is
quite natural to him – that will be a source of that person's
own healing as well as that of others. But the person who has
found the key note of his own voice, has found the key to his
whole life. That person, through the key note of his own voice,
can then wind his own being and can help others. There are,
however, many occasions when this much knowledge is not enough,
because this knowledge only concerns oneself: one knows what
is one's own note and the natural pitch of one's own voice.
The great drawback today in the world of song is that people
are going far away from what is called the natural voice, and
this is brought about by commercialism. They have made a hall
for one hundred persons, then for five hundred, and then for
five thousand persons. A man must shout in order to make five
thousand people hear him, in order to have a success – a success
that can be had at the ticket office! But that magic charm of
the voice is in the natural voice.
Every person is gifted. God has given him a certain pitch,
a natural note, and if that pitch develops and he develops that
natural note, it is a magic, he can perform a miracle. But today
he must think about the hall where he has to sing, and of how
loud he must shout!
There was a man from India visiting Paris. For the first
time in his life he went to the opera to hear the music and
he was trying hard to enjoy it. The first thing he heard was
a soprano who was doing her best, and then came the tenor, or
the baritone, and he had to sing with her. So this man became
very annoyed and said: 'now look, he has come to spoil it!'
When we come to the essence and the inner principle of sound,
the closer to nature we keep it, the more powerful, the more
magical it becomes. Every man and woman has a certain pitch
of voice. Then the voice producer says: 'No, this is alto, soprano,
tenor, baritone, or bass'. He limits that which cannot be limited.
How can there be so many voices? There are as many voices
as there are souls; they cannot be classified. As soon as he
is classified, that person is obliged to sing in that pitch.
If his pitch is different, he does not know it; if his voice
is higher, he does not sing in that pitch. Because the voice
producer says: 'This is a soprano', that person cannot be anything
else. Besides that, a person has to depend upon what the composer
has written. The composer never heard the voice of that particular
person, the composer wrote only for a distinct pitch, either
this one or that one. When a person has to sing in the pitch
that is prescribed, then he loses the natural pitch he had.
Apart from singing, even in speaking, among one hundred persons
you will find one who speaks in his natural voice, and ninety-nine
who imitate. They imitate someone else; they do not know it.
The same thing that you find in grown-up people you will find
in little children. The tendency in a little child is to change
and to imitate. Every five or ten days, every month a child
changes his way of speaking; his voice, his words, many things
he changes. And where does he learn it? From the children in
school. He sees a child walking in some way, or making gestures,
or frowning, or he hears it speaking in a certain way. He does
not realize it, but he has heard it and he does the same thing;
so he goes on changing.
In the same way every person, also without knowing it, changes
his voice; and so the natural voice is lost. To retain one's
natural voice is a great power in itself, but one cannot always
retain it. In order to have a great, a good, a powerful effect
with one's voice and sound, one does not have to be a singer.
What one has to do is to practice the breath in different ways.
One must first know how to breathe; one must then know how to
blow; one must then learn how to make a sound, how to say a
word. If one practices in these three ways, one will attain
that power which is latent in every soul. One need not be a
singer, but for every person it is necessary that he should
give some part of the day, even the shortest time he can give,
five, ten, or fifteen minutes to his voice, to the development
of his voice.
Question: How does one find one's key note once it is lost.
Answer: But where is it lost? It is only lost from one's view.
It is not altogether lost. It is just the same when people say
that a person has lost his soul. But the person himself is the
soul! How can the soul be lost? The key note is there, one must
discover it, one must find it. Just as the soul is there but
hardly one person among so many finds it.
Question: How can one find one's key note?
Answer: By trying to find it.
Question: How can one be sure that the note one believes to
be the key note of one's being is really the key note?
Answer: Belief is the first truth, and faith is the last truth.
You must begin from the first, and end with the last.
Question: Has not every nerve its own sound.
Answer: Yes, it has its own vibration. You may call it sound.
Question: Does the sound we hear on the radio produce the same
effect as the natural sound.
Answer: Yes. It is the natural sound just the same. Coming through
a medium, coming through an instrument, that much is lost from
it, but it is a natural sound just the same.
Question: How can one best check the tendency to imitate.
Answer: The tendency to imitate has some use also. If we did
not imitate, we should not know the language; if we did not
imitate, we should not be what we are. Therefore imitating is
not a bad thing as long as we do not imitate too much. One must
know what to imitate and what not to imitate. If one went blindly
imitating anything one saw, then one would imitate both right
Question: If a singer strains his voice it is heard easily and
it spoils everything.
Answer: That is quite true. But to strain the voice is one thing,
and to develop the voice - if it can be called a development
to make an unnatural voice out of a natural voice - is a different
thing. It is not a question of straining the voice, it is making
the voice quite different from what was given by nature. Then
the magic is lost. Nature has given a certain kind of voice;
that voice represents the spirit, the soul, the heart, the intellect,
everything that is in man. Evolution in man is to be seen in
his voice, and when that voice is changed, then it is different.
One need not strain one's voice in order to become unnatural;
it is very easy to become unnatural!
Question: Is not the voice developed by zikr?
Answer: Well, that is the best way one can do it.