Social Gatheka Number 23
Many in the world take music as a source of amusement
or a pastime, and to many music is an art and a musician
an entertainer. Yet no one has lived in this world who has
thought and felt and has not considered music as the most
sacred of all arts. For the fact is that what the art of painting cannot
clearly suggest, poetry explains in words, but that which
even a poet find difficult to express in poetry is expressed
music. But by this I do not only say that music is superior
to painting and poetry, but in fact music excels religion,
for music raises the soul of man even higher than the so
called external form of religion. But by this it must not
be understood that music can take the place of religion.
For, every soul is not necessarily tuned to that pitch that
it can really benefit by music, nor is every music necessarily
so high that it will exalt a person who hears it more than
the effect that religion will have upon him. However, those
who follow the path of the inner cult, for them music is
most essential for their spiritual development. The reason
is that the soul who is seeking for truth is in search of
the formless God. Art, no doubt, is most elevating, but
at the same time contains form, poetry has words, names,
suggestive of forms, it is music only which has beauty,
which has power, charm, and at the same time can raise the
soul beyond form. It is therefore that in the ancient times
the greatest of the prophets have been great musicians.
For instance, in the lives of the Hindu prophets one finds Narada, the great prophet of the Hindus, a great musician
at the same time, and Shiva, a Godlike prophet of the Hindus,
who was the inventor of the sacred Vina. Krishna is always
pictured with a flute. There is a well-known legend of the
life of Moses, a legend which tells how Moses heard a divine
command on Mount Sinai, in the words 'Musa ke', Moses, hear'
or 'Moses, ponder', and on this the revelation that came
to him was of tone and rhythm, and he called it by the same
name 'Musake'. And the words such as 'Music' or 'Musiki'
have come from that word.
David, whose song and whose voice
have been known for ages, his message was given to the world
in the form of music. Orpheus, of the Greek legends, the
knower of the mystery of tune and rhythm had by the knowledge
of time and rhythm power over the hidden forces of nature.
The Goddess of learning, of knowledge among Hindus; whose
name is Saraswathi, is always pictured with the Vina, and
what does it suggest. That all learning has its essence
in music. And besides the natural charm that music has, music has
a magic power, a power which can be experienced even now.
It seems that the human race has lost a great deal of the
ancient science of magic, but if there remains any magic,
it is music.
Music, besides power, is intoxication. When it intoxicates
those who hear, how much more it must intoxicate those who
play or sing themselves! And how much more it must intoxicate
those who have touched perfection in it and those who have
contemplated upon it for years and years! It gives them
a greater joy and exaltation even than a king feels when
sitting on his throne.
According to the thinkers of the East there are four
different intoxications: the intoxication of beauty and
youth and of strength; then the intoxication of wealth and
the third is of power, command, the power of ruling; and
there is the fourth intoxication which is the intoxication
of learning, of knowledge. But all these four intoxications
fade away just like stars before the sun in the presence
of the intoxication of music. The reason is that it touches
the deepest part of man's being. Music reaches further than
any other impression one gets from the external world can
reach. And then the beauty about music is that music is
the source of creation and the means of absorbing it. In
other words, by music the world was created and it is again
music with which it is withdrawn in the source which has
In support to this argument you will read in the Bible
that first was the word and the word was God. That 'word'
means sound, and from sound you can grasp the idea of music.
Then there is an Eastern legend that has come from centuries
ago, the legend that when God made man out of clay and asked
the soul to enter, the soul refused to enter in this prison
house and then God commanded the angels to sing. And as
the angels sang the soul entered, being intoxicated by the
But now in this scientific and material world also we
see an example of this kind. Before a machine, a mechanism
will run, it must first make a noise. It first becomes audible
and then shows its life. We can see this in a ship, in an
aeroplane, in an automobile. This idea belongs to the mysticism
of sound. Before an infant is capable of admiring a color
or form, it enjoys sound. If there is any art that can please
the aged most, it is music. If there is any art which can
charge youth to life and to enthusiasm, to emotion and to
passion, it is music. If there is any art in which a person
can fully express his feeling, his emotion, it is music
which best fitted for it. At the same time it is something
that gives man that force and that power of activity which
make the soldiers march with the beats of the drum and the
sound of the trumpet.
In the traditions of the past, it was said that on the
Last Day there will be the sound of the trumpets before
the end of the world. This shows that music is connected
with the beginning of creation, with its continuity and
with its end. The mystics of all ages have loved music most.
In almost all the circles of the inner cult, whatever part
of the world they are, music seems to be the center of their
cult or their ceremony or ritual. And with those who attain
to that perfect peace which is called Nirvana, or in the
language of the Hindus it is called Samadhi, it is more
easily done by music.
Therefore the Sufis, especially those
of the Chishtiyya school of the ancient times, have taken music
as a source of their meditation, and by so meditating they
derive much more benefit than those who meditate without
the help of music. The effect that they experience is the
unfoldment of the soul, the opening of the intuitive faculties,
and their heart, so to speak, opens to all the beauty which
is within and without, uplifting them, and at the same time
bringing them that perfection for which every soul yearns.