Song, Dance and Instrumental Music

Posted By: Tapas Dev Tag: A Few Problems Solved Last Update: 28/06/2020

Once a certain boy asked me say something on music and dance. I said that the subject was very interesting, that I would write an essay on it in the future – that would be better. Now I will only say something in brief.

Everyone knows that Sadáshiva was the original propounder of the science of music in this world. The same Sadáshiva was the propounder of Ayurveda, the science of medicine. At the same time He invented dances[[, songs, the science of instrumental music and many other things]]. Now the question is, why was Sadáshiva so interested in the arts of dance, song and instrumental music? Besides these he also invented Shástras; that is, he found the link between the exhalation and inhalation of breath on one side, and dance, song and instrumental music on the other. This is called Svara Shastra. The collective name of dance, song and instrumental music is saḿgiita, or music. The word giita is derived from the root gae plus the suffix-kta.

I have already said on many occasions that ours is a subjective approach with objective adjustment. Objective adjustment means to arrange everything in such a way as to be acceptable. For instance, while cooking something, an expert cook always takes care that things are neither salty, pungent nor sour: everything is in proper proportion. For instance, while preparing pulses (legumes), additional spices are added and then thoroughly mixed into the dish. This is called Sambara (mixing) or santulan in Bengali. Santulan means to bring a mixture to the point of being tasty.

When Sadáshiva introduced the science of intuitional practice, He had to keep in mind that there must be adjustment in the objective of those who followed Dharma Sádhaná. In the absence of this adjustment, the mind becomes irritated and degenerates, and no concentration in sádhaná is possible for such a mind. Thus Shiva selected three things which are very much in use in the objective world but which are, at the same time, immensely helpful in spiritual life as well: these three are collectively known as saḿgiita, of which the first part is giita, or song.

Songs are rooted in the physical world, but their impact is on the subtler layers of the human mind. The mental world is the ectoplasmic world, the world composed of ectoplasmic stuff (cittánu). Songs produce a vibrational wave which makes our mental waves straight, and these straightened mental waves in turn ultimately touch the point of the soul. Now to touch the embodied soul, the songs must have rhythm, melody and feeling (bháva). If there is no feeling, the song will lack sweetness. Therefore, songs must have deep ideas. SImultaneously, Lord Shiva invented two more things: vadya (playing of instruments) and nrtya (dance).

What is vadya? Indo-Aryan music is divided into two main schools: Hindustani music and Deccan or Carnatic music. The basic characteristics of those two schools of music are that, based on specific rágas or ráginiis, they give expression to different feelings. Then again, there are other sub-schools of music. Each person tries to please Parama Puruśa in a particular style which is unique to him or her; these styles are known as gharana. In Bengal there is Viśńupari gharana. In kiirtan there are different musical styles or gharanas, such as Manoharshahi, Ranihati, Garanhata, Mandarram, etc.

The speciality of these gharanas is that they channelize a specific mental feeling towards the Supreme Desideratum through the structures of the rágas and ráginiis. Songs have suggestive meanings (Bháva) and rhythm and melody also. But their soul is Bháva. Vadya or playing of musical instruments, is not like that. Then what is the role of vadya? It vibrates the mind and hence directly vibrates the ectoplasm and maintains parallelism with bháva. Once vadya loses its basic property to maintain parallelism with Bháva, it becomes useless.

Now, regarding dance: dance expresses inner psychic feelings through Chanda (rhythm) and mudrá(specialised gestures), without the help of language or words. In occidental dance, there is more beauty in rhythm. But oriental dance utilizes both rhythm and mudrá. These mudrás because of their close association with rhythmic qualities, have become more expressive and beautiful than the rhythmic occidental music. For instance, when we offer something, we perform a particular mudrá which is called sampradan mudrá. Similarly, there are other mudrás which also indicate different styles of offering, for example, prakśepa and Náráyána mudrás. We can offer things in any style we choose; we can direct a person to stop with a variety of mudrás also. Here we express ourselves without the use of words.

Now, how do these mudrás originate? The source of all sound is Paráshakti, which is such a vast entity that it cannot be explained in words. Next comes Madhyama Shakti, in which we try to translate the bháva or mental form into action. The next stage is Vaekharii Shakti. When translating Bháva into action, we need to take the help of our vocal cords. Then come Dyotamána Shakti. At first we try to express something: we may or may not be able to do so. In your own life, sometimes you might have experienced that you are unable to exactly remember a person, for instance Haribaba, whom you have seen numerous times: you feel that you have something in your mind to express, but you cannot give any outward expression to your mental image. This is Dyotamaná Shakti – that is, feelings that you actually want to express.

The last stage is Shrutigochara Shakti. Now the characteristic of dance is to use mudrás to give expression to this last item, that is Shrutigochara Shakti, without the help of words. The mudrás of dance are directly related to the ectoplasm: thus the specialities of oriental dance are easily appreciated by all.

Now, for objective adjustment in the physical world, Shiva propounded song, dance and instrumental music in such a manner so that it would directly vibrate the ectoplasm, so that the ectoplasmic movement would touch the soul point at a particular point in the body. That is why great people of all ages have encouraged all three aspects of music. In the history of saints, it is known that Maharsi Narada played violin, sang songs and danced at the same time. In more recent times, Mahaprabhu Caetanya Deva also encouraged these three things: he said that the lyrics of the song should directly reflect Parama Puruśa Himself. And this category of song, directly reflecting Parama Puruśa is known as Kiirtana. The other category of song that also reflects Parama Puruśa, but which expresses many tangential ideas before returning to the one central idea of Parama Puruśa, is called bhajana. This is the basic difference between bhajana and kiirtana. In this respect, I fully agree with the previous propounders: I also encourage these three things.

Now lalita mármik dance can maintain adjustment with kiirtana without causing fatigue in the human body: that is why lalita is prescribed in kiirtana. Mahaprabhu also prescribed it as part of kiirtana. Now, mármik means that which touches the innermost recesses of the heart: so it is called lalita mármik. The inventor of this lalita dance was Parvati: Shiva himself did not invent it. He did invent táńd́ava however. The inner motivation of táńd́ava is the following: “Destruction is inevitable, but I will continue to fight against destruction through struggle.” So there is a skull in one hand and a dagger in the other. The skull represents destruction, and the dagger represents fight. The underlying feeling is “I will not surrender to destruction or death. I will continue the struggle with this dagger.”

Furthermore, it is found that human beings are sometimes affected by various diseases; and frequently they are faced with various difficulties with respect to their sádhaná. These impediments many or may not be major. For instance, small diseases like liver trouble may cause problems from time to time, and to remove these types of hindrances, I invented the Kaoshikii dance on the 6th of September 1978. This dance serves as an antidote to twenty-two types of diseases. All these are primarily meant to first of all vibrate the ectoplasmic stuff (cittánu) which in turn is concentrated at a certain point touching the point of the soul, where Parama Puruśa resides.

This is, broadly speaking, a reply to the question of the boy. If I am to reply in greater detail, I will write a longer essay on the subject, which I propose to do in the future.

9 November 1978, Calcutta