The Supplementary Papers
ART AND MUSIC I
Music, the word that we use in our language, is nothing less than the picture of the Beloved. But the question is, what is our Beloved and where is our Beloved? It is because music is the picture of our Beloved that we love music. Our Beloved is that which is our Source and our Goal. And what we see of our Beloved before our natural eyes is the beauty which is before us. And that part of our Beloved which is not manifested to our eyes is that inner form of beauty of which our Beloved speaks to us. If only we will listen to the voice of all the beauty that attracts us in any form, we shall find that in every aspect it tells us that behind all manifestation is the perfect Spirit, the Spirit of Wisdom.
What do we see as the principal expression of life in the beauty visible before us? It is movement: in line in color, in the changes of the seasons, in the rising and falling of the waves, in the wind, in the storm, in all the beauty of nature there is constant movement. It is this movement which has caused day and night, and the changing seasons; and this movement has given us the comprehension of what we call time; otherwise there would be no time, for it is eternity. And this teaches that all we love and admire, observe and comprehend, is the life hidden behind, and that life is our Being. It is owing to our limitations that we cannot see the whole Being of God, but all that we love in color, line, form, or personality, all that is beloved by us, belongs to the real beauty, Who is the Beloved of all.
Now, if we trace in this beauty that we see in all forms what attracts us, we shall find that it is the movement of beauty, the music. All forms of nature – the flowers so perfectly formed and colored, the planets and stars, the earth – all give the idea of harmony, of music. And then the whole nature is breathing, not only living creatures, but all nature; and it is only our tendency of comparing that which seems most living with that which to us seems not so living which makes us forget that all things and all beings are living one perfect life. And the sign of life this living beauty gives is music. What makes the soul of the poet dance? Music. What makes the painter paint beautiful pictures, the musician sing beautiful songs? It is the inspiration that beauty gives. The Sufi has called this beauty Saqi, the divine Giver, who gives the wine of life to all. What is the wine of the Sufi? All beauty in form, line, color, in imagination, in sentiment, in manners, in all this he sees the one Beauty. All these different forms are part of the spirit of Beauty, which is the life behind, always blessing.
Now we come to what we call in everyday language "music." To me, architecture is music, gardening is music, farming is music, painting is music, poetry is music. In all the occupations of life where beauty has inspired, where the divine wine has been outpoured, there is music. But among the different arts, the art of music has been especially considered divine, because it is the exact miniature of the law, working with the whole universe. For instance if we study ourselves we shall find that in the beats of the pulse and the heart, in the inhaling and exhaling of the breath, all is the work of rhythm. Life depends upon the rhythmic working of the whole mechanism of the body.
Breath manifests as voice, as word, as sound. And the sound is continually audible, the sound without and the sound within oneself, and that is music. This shows that there is music outside, and music within ourselves. Music inspires not only the soul of the great musician, but every infant the instant he comes into the world begins to move his little arms and legs with the rhythm of music. Therefore it is no exaggeration to say that music is the language of beauty, of the One Whom every living soul has loved. And one can understand that if one realizes and recognizes the perfection of all this beauty as God, our Beloved, it is natural that this music that we see in art and in the whole universe should be called the divine art.
You wish to hear from me the praise of the vina. Therefore I shall quote the words of a great Indian poet in Sanskrit, who says in the praise of the vina (be not surprised to hear the interpretation of this), "that instrument of gut strings, by looking at it, by touching it, by hearing it, you can be made free, even if you kill a Brahman." And to kill a Brahman is considered to be the greatest sin.
This instrument was invented by the Lord of Yogis, Shiva, or whose name is Mahadeva, who gave to the world his lifelong experiences in the practice of yoga, and who is worshipped in India as a godhead. His literature is considered as holy scriptures. He was a great master of breathing and an ascetic. He lived in the mountains, where he sat and breathed the free air of the wide horizons of the East and practiced mantras, words and phrases which changed the whole being of man. There he wanted to make some instrument to be used for higher exaltation by the help of music. In the forest what he could do was to cut a piece of bamboo. He took two pumpkins, made them hollow and tied them around the bamboo. Gut strings he got from animals, and these gut strings he tied upon it. In this way he made his first vina. And he practiced on it in solitude. There is a quotation, that when the deer in the forest used to hear him play the vina, they used to say, "Make the gut strings of my own entrails and put them on your vina, but as long as I live, continue to play."
Mahadeva made his instrument by the help of the human body and mind, considering its condition in the morning, in the midst of the day, in the afternoon, in the night, and at dawn when wakening. He found that at every time of the day and night a particular effect was made upon the human body and spirit and that a rhythm akin to that particular time must be prescribed psychologically and mystically in order to elevate the soul. And therefore a psychological science of music was made by Mahadeva, a science which was called "raga," which means "emotion," emotion controlled and utilized to the best purpose. When Parvati saw this instrument (Parvati was Mahadeva's consort), she said, "I must invent my vina." So she took half the part of the pumpkins and produced another kind of vina, the Saraswati vina. So there are two vinas: one is played by men, the other by women. On this instrument not only sharp and flat notes are produced, but also semitones. And in this way the music becomes rich, but to develop to the science of semitones is so difficult that it takes a lifetime. The musicians of India devote twelve hours of the day or more to the practice of the different rhythms, improvising on them. And in the end they produce a psychological effect which is not music, but magic, a magic that can thrill a person and that can penetrate the heart of man. It is a dream, a meditation, it is paradise. By hearing it one feels in a different world. Yet their music is hardly audible. Instead of playing before thousands of people, only one or two or three persons of the same quality and nature must be together to enjoy that music thoroughly. If a foreign element is present, the musician does not feel inspired.
You will be amused to know that once a musician was invited to play vina. The musician came and was welcomed. He opened his vina. Then he looked here and there, and found some discord. He covered his vina, saluted, and went. Those present felt disappointed and begged him to play. But his answer was, "No matter what you give me, I do not feel like playing." This is quite a different thing from making a program for months ahead. The musician in the West is bound six months before to play a certain program, he is helpless. But in this way it is not music, it is labor, it is mechanically done. Would you believe that a singer in the East never knows what he is going to sing before he starts singing? He feels the atmosphere of the place and the time, and whatever comes to his mind, he begins to sing or to play. It is quite a different thing.
I do not mean to say that music of this kind can be universal music. It belongs to some rare person in a remote place. In India musicians are dying now for the reason of lack of appreciation. Those potentates, those gurus, those teachers of high inspiration who lived in the past, they appreciated this music. Even in India people are becoming industrial and civilized and music is dying away. There are no more now those musicians of before who would make all those who listened spellbound; they do not exist any longer. Among millions there are perhaps three or four, and they will have vanished in a few years. It maybe that one day the western world will waken to India's music as now the West is wakening to the poetry of the East, as it is beginning to appreciate such works as have been written by Rabindranath Tagore. There will come a time when they will ask for music of that kind. And then it will not be found, it will be too late. But there is no doubt when that music which is magic, which is built on a psychological basis, when that music will be introduced in the West, it will root out all such things as jazz bands. People seem to spoil their senses; this music is destroying people's delicacy of sense. Thousands every day are dancing to jazz music, and they forget the effect it has upon their spirit, upon their mind, upon their delicate senses. I know of a prince of Rampur who wanted to study music from a great teacher. And the teacher said, "I can only teach you on one condition."
He knew the character of the prince, who was fond of music, and he understood that many musicians would want to show their talent before him. He said, "I do not want you to hear any musician who is not an accomplished artist, because your sense of music must not be destroyed: it must be preserved for delicate music, it must be able to appreciate the fine intricacies of it." When the education of the public destroys the delicacy of its musical appreciation, it cannot help that it does not like to hear that which really is music, that they prefer jazz. But instead of going forward, they are going backward. And if music, which is the central theme of the whole human culture, is not helping people to go forward, it is a great pity.
Vina music has a likeness to the human voice. If you hear the vina played, you will never think that it is an instrument, you cannot imagine that it is an instrument. Vina music is not as magnetic as the music of the human voice, but it is more attractive, more impressive. And all the delicacies of the human voice and the silky structure of it are finished in the sound of the vina.
The science of Indian music is founded on a most natural basis. Sound is graduated into tones, semitones, and microtones. Time is divided into six finer divisions, besides the usual six. Each note has its color, a planet, and an element, according to the mysticism of sound. Our music is based upon the principle of ragas, scales. Mystically they are subject to time and season, and each raga has an effect upon the spheres. Poetically ragas have their images; they are also idealized as "ragas" (men), "raginis" (women), "putras" (sons), "bharjas" (daughters). Mathematically they have increased from one to innumerable ragas. Artistically they are taken from the natural music of diverse people. And scientifically they have five divisions: ragas of seven notes, six notes, five notes, even notes, and odd notes.
The art of Indian music is remarkable for its vocal culture, and it requires years of study to attain proficiency in it. Our instrumental music is considered next to the vocal in importance. The vina is the oldest instrument in the world's history, and it is also the only instrument for the correct production of Indian music. Indian dancing follows on the same principles as vocal and instrumental music. The Indian musician is recognized chiefly for the inspirational beauty he expresses by his improvisation. Therefore our composers are much less known, because their compositions are performed by each artist differently; only the foundation and poetry remain the same. The artist is supposed to be a composer himself before he can become an artist. Even if he sings one song it will be different each time. Therefore notation did not become universal in India until of late, when Maula Bakhsh, the great composer, invented a system of notation for beginners and founded a school on modern principles in the state of Maharajah Baekwar of Baroda.
To speak now of the effect of music on animals. It is best to make experiments with those animals that are much associated with man, such as the horse, the dog, the cows and oxen, and pet animals, such as parrots and cockatoos. By association with man, these animals have some human qualities reflected onto them. The horse that is associated with man has much more kindness, much more sympathy and understanding, than the horse in the jungle. The dog that lives with man becomes faithful, obedient. The wild dog is a very fierce animal.
I have made experiments with cows and found that they liked very much to listen to music. There was one old ox in particular which, when it heard an instrument played, would leave its fodder and come to listen. The birds are very fond of music. I have seen that a peacock, when music was played before it, would listen and spread out its wings and begin to dance, and then it would follow the player, and each day it would come a little nearer. It took such a delight in the music that it danced and quite forgot everything else. When I stopped playing it would come and tap the vina with its beak to get me to come back and play again.
The snakes, too, are easily attracted by music, by the Indian flute, a piece of bamboo, or by the vina, if they hear it. But the vina players are serious people, and would rather charm human beings then the snakes. A special raga is used for charming snakes. The yogis and the Sufis in their meditations have always had music. Music is the greatest mystery in the world. The whole manifestation is made of vibrations, and vibrations contain all its secret. The vibrations of music free the soul, and take from a person all the heaviness which keeps him bound.
There is this difference between the Sufis and yogis and all other mystics: Their ideas, their thoughts, and their life are quite the same, but you will see the Sufis sometimes in tears and sometimes in joy. Worldly persons think, "They are mad," and mystics may think, "They are on the surface. They are not on the same level." To the Sufi, self-pity, tears at what happens to the self, are "haram," prohibited. But tears at the thought of the Beloved, at the realization of some truth, are allowable. Extreme joy for what happens to the self is not allowable. But joy in the thought of the Beloved is allowable. The heart is touched, it is moved by the thought of God. It is then that the dervishes dance. Sometimes the dance expresses the action of the Beloved, sometimes it is the face of the Beloved.
The Sufis have used music, not as an amusement, but as purification, as a prayer to God. The Chishti Order of Sufis especially uses music. This Order exists chiefly in India, and has come from Russia. "Chishti" in Russian means "pure," and "Sufi, safa," means "pure." There are different means of purification. According to our view, all seems good or all seems bad. The old Greek motto says, "Evil is to him who thinks evil." Music reaches the soul in a moment, as the telegraph reaches from here to New York. What may seem an amusement, something light, is a prayer to God. There are different ways of praying to God. In times when the world was most interested in music, art, science, and amusement, these were used to bring before people the idea of something higher. Music and plays have been used, and the churches have used some sort of show. If you go among people of other occupations, you will find them cold. They will pay little attention, they will speak to you just one word. But the heart of musicians, who have to do with sound, is warmed by sound.
Dictated by Murshid
I gave up my music because I had received from it all I had to receive. To serve God, one must sacrifice the dearest thing, and I sacrificed my music, the dearest thing to me. I had composed songs, I sang and played the vina; and practicing this music, I arrived at a stage where I touched the music of the spheres. Then every soul became for me a musical note and all life became music. Inspired by it, I spoke to the people, and those who were attracted by my words listened to them instead of listening to my songs. Now if I do anything, it is to tune souls instead of instruments; to harmonize people instead of notes.If there is anything in my philosophy, it is the law of harmony, that one must put oneself in harmony with oneself and with others. I have found in every word a certain musical value, a melody in every thought, harmony in every feeling, and I have tried to interpret the same thing with clear and simple words to those who used to listen to my music. I played the vina until my heart turned into this same instrument; then I offered this instrument to the Divine Musician, the only Musician existing. Since then I have become His flute, and when He chooses He plays His music. People give me credit for this music, which in reality is not due to me, but to the Musician who plays on His own instrument.
God bless you.