Song Dance and Instrumental Music
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 Sada’shiva was the original propounder of the science of music in this world. The same Sada’shiva 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 Sada’shiva so interested in the arts of dance, song and instrumental music? Besides these he also invented Sha’stras; 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 sam’giita, 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 Sada’shiva 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 Sa’dhana’. In the absence of this adjustment, the mind becomes irritated and degenerates, and no concentration in sa’dhana’ 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 sam’giita, 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 (citta’nu). 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 (bha’va). 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 ra’gas or ra’giniis, they give expression to different feelings. Then again, there are other sub-schools of music. Each person tries to please Parama Purus’a in a particular style which is unique to him or her; these styles are known as gharana. In Bengal there is Vis’n’upari 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 ra’gas and ra’giniis. Songs have suggestive meanings (Bha’va) and rhythm and melody also. But their soul is Bha’va. 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 bha’va. Once vadya loses its basic property to maintain parallelism with Bha’va, it becomes useless.
Now, regarding dance: dance expresses inner psychic feelings through Chanda (rhythm) and mudra'(specialised gestures), without the help of language or words. In occidental dance, there is more beauty in rhythm. But oriental dance utilises both rhythm and mudra’. These mudra’s 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 mudra’ which is called sampradan mudra’. Similarly, there are other mudra’s which also indicate different styles of offering, for example, praks’epa and Na’ra’ya’na mudra’s. We can offer things in any style we choose; we can direct a person to stop with a variety of mudra’s also. Here we express ourselves without the use of words.
Now, how do these mudra’s originate? The source of all sound is Para’shakti, which is such a vast entity that it cannot be explained in words. next comes Madhyama Shakti, in which we try to translate the bha’va or mental form into action. The next stage is Vaekharii Shakti. When translating Bha’va into action, we need to take the help of our vocal chords. Then come Dyotama’na 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 Dyotamana’ Shakti — that is, feelings that you actually want to express.
The last stage is Shrutigochara Shakti. Now the characteristic of dance is to use mudra’s to give expression to this last item, that is Shrutigochara Shakti, without the help of words. The mudra’s 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 Purus’a Himself. And this category of song, directly reflecting Parama Purus’a is known as Kiirtana. The other category of song that also reflects Parama Purus’a, but which expresses many tangential ideas before returning to the one central idea of Parama Purus’a, 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 ma’rmik 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, ma’rmik means that which touches the innermost recesses of the heart: so it is called lalita ma’rmik. The inventor of this lalita dance was Parvati: Shiva himself did not invent it. He did invent ta’n’d’ava however. The inner motivation of ta’n’d’ava 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 sa’dhana’. 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 (citta’nu) which in turn is concentrated at a certain point touching the point of the soul, where Parama Purus’a 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