Volume 7 - Issue 11
November 2009
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The most sublime creativity exhibited by mankind occurs when he reaches up to his Creator in awe and yearning. The role of music is an unparalleled conduit to the divine, invoking the grace of God to fall upon both the artist and the listener alike and evoking transcendent feelings of devotion in every heart.

And these musical outpourings of love to the Unfathomable Source of all things has found a place in all world religions in the forms of kirtans, gathas, hymns, psalms, bhajans, qawallis and so on. In this quiz, we offer you a small overview of the role of music and song in the myriad faiths, but first we begin with a selection of Bhagavan Baba’s teaching on this subject, reminding ourselves of the supreme affection that Swami has for all devotional singing.

“There is special merit in singing the Lord's name with due regard for melody and rhythm. The Lord is a lover of music. Moreover, when singing is done with fervour, it helps to drive out all bad thoughts from the mind. Melodious music can move the Lord and move all the participants. Melodious music will move the Lord Himself. Hence, when you take part in bhajans sing with all your heart and soul. You must sing with such love for the Divine that you forget yourself. When you sing the praise of God with a pure heart, you will purify your environment, your country and the world.”

Divine Discourse at ‘Sundaram’, Madras, on April 11, 1997.

1. Devotional in character, and addressed to Ahura Mazda (Ahura means "life" and Mazda means "wisdom”, who is the Essence and Lord of Life and Wisdom), the Gathas are religious hymns composed by Zarathushtra, the Prophet or the founder of the Zoroastrian religion, who felt the sacredness of his mission and believed himself to be the direct medium of communication of Divine Truth.

The Gathas are full of many aspects, attributes and qualities of this God of Wisdom, Ahura Mazda. While glorifying singing of praises, Zarathushtra beautifully defines veneration of Ahura Mazda thus:

“Wise God, singing praises, I shall always venerate You 
with righteousness, the best mind, 
and sovereignty so that the aspirant stands on the path 
and listens for the manifestations of revelation for the devotees in the House of Song.”
(Gatha: Song 15.4)

What does the term, “House of Song” here mean?

A church choir
A state of being
The birthplace of Zoroaster
Any local place where Ahura Mazda’s praises are sung


2. Christians believe in the old adage “Music is a handmaiden of religion.” A rather common response to God by all people mentioned in all scriptures including the Bible is singing. Thus, the purpose of Christian music is to praise the Lord. 

Singing praises through devotional singing turns the mind of men towards God, and through the emotions, intensifies his yearning to worship and deepen his relationship with the High Creator. Thus, music, like any other human endeavor, finds its origin and purpose in the God. 

Praise the Lord with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. Sing unto him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise. (Psalm 33:2-3)  

The Christian Scriptures reveal that one need only desire to communicate with God with deep feelings and those feelings are most intense when the Christian is  _________. 

Filled with the Spirit
Reading the Bible every single day
Serving the poor every day


3. The Jewish Scriptures extol devotional singing thus: “Praise Jah, You people! Praise God in His holy place. Praise Him in the expanse of His strength. Praise Him for His works of mightiness. Praise Him according to the abundance of His greatness. Praise Him with the blowing of the horn. Praise Him with the stringed instrument and the harp. Praise Him with the tambourine and the circle dance. Praise Him with strings and the pipe. Praise Him with the cymbals of melodious sound. Praise Him with the clashing cymbals. Every breathing thing - let it praise Jah. Praise Jah, You people!” (Psalm 150:1-6) 

As part of the morning service on Sabbaths and other Jewish festivals, Nishmat is recited because it is one of the most beautiful poetic adorations of praise to their Lord, Hashem, the Compassionate and Life-Giving One. The prayer concludes with a call for the soul and the inner organs of the body to bless Hashem. In what way, however, can the human soul and body “bless” the Compassionate and Life-Giving One? 

By invoking His Grace to be showered on all living beings
By following His Principles
By furthering the Divine purpose through our deeds
By praying for Him to come down to earth


4. The Bahá’í teachings prescribe daily prayer and intimate communion with God as the foundation for a life devoted to spiritual advancement and service to humanity. Which is the reason why Abdu’l-Bahá urges devotional singing to all God lovers thus:  

Let us seek the song with the sweetest strains, so that it may be taken up by the angels and carried to the supreme concourse. Let us hearken to the melody, which will stir the world of humanity, so that the people may be transformed with joy. Let us listen to a symphony which will confer life on man; then we can obtain universal results; then we shall receive a new spirit; then we shall become illumined. Let us investigate a song, which is above all songs; one which will develop the spirit and produce harmony and exhilaration, unfolding the inner potentialities of life.”(Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 76-78) 

What is Abdu’l-Bahá’s earnest prayer for all those who have been blessed with a melodious voice to be graced to sing His praises? 

That they teach others how to sing with devotion too
That they never misuse the talent
That they must make everyone inflamed with the fire of love of God
That they eat a proper diet to maintain the sweetness


5. Sikhs believe that God is the only reality and that spiritual release can be obtained by taming the ego through devotional singing, recitation of sacred texts, meditation and service. 

In Sikhism, devotional singing is called Kirtan, whichincludes music and the singing of hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book, from which immense benefits are derived when importance is attributed to such an exalted offering to God: 

Singing the Kirtan of His praises, my mind has become peaceful;
The sins of countless incarnations have been washed away.
I have seen all the treasures within my own mind;
Why should I now go out searching for them? ||178||

By great good fortune, the Kirtan of the Lord's praises are sung.
O Supreme Lord God, as You give, so do I receive. ||196|| 

Swami says often: “When all the participants in a bhajan sing in unison, what sacred vibrations are produced and what Divine energies are released!” According to Swami, which one of the first four Gurus of Sikhism first started community singing? 

Guru Nanak
Guru Angad Dev
Guru Amar Das
Guru Ram Das


6. Jainism is nature in the purest and truest form. Jainism is as old as nature, which has neither beginning nor any end. The mission of Jainism is the mission of nature, which is to work for the welfare of one and all, to rise from the pitfall of ignorance and inaction to the spiritual climax of infinite bliss and perfect knowledge; i.e. absolute freedom.

Jains believe that from worship of God, an auspicious karmic sentiment arises in the soul.  At the time of worshiping God, the worshipper becomes humble, and sings praises of God, from which a sentiment of gratefulness becomes evident.  From this gratefulness, knowledge-obscuring and other karmas are destroyed, and the soul gradually advances on the path to liberation. 

Jains sing devotional songs called stavans, when uplifting sentiments permeate through out the gathering. Jains know that only worthy people can sing God's virtues and become one with God to promote welfare and happiness to all. Thus, Jain stavans are essence of Jainism. One of the most popular Jain stavan is called the Immortal Song.  

What is the essence of this song? 

It is for promoting non-violence
It is specifically for the old and ailing
It is to promote humility
It is for Universal Friendship


7. Devotional songs or bhajans are deeply related to the roots of Hindu religion. It is a way of surrendering oneself completely in the love of God though the medium of singing. 

The Hindu Scriptures describe the state of mind a devotee reaches when he is in bliss while being pervaded in an atmosphere where God’s glories are sung: “He who loves Me is made pure; his heart melts in joy.  He rises to transcendental consciousness by the rousing of his higher emotional nature. Tears of joy flow from his eyes, his hair stands on end, his heart melts in love.  The bliss in that state is so intense that, forgetful of himself and his surroundings, he sometimes weeps profusely, or laughs, or sings, or dances; such a devotee is a purifying influence upon the whole universe.” Srimad Bhagavatam 11.8 

Bhagavan Baba has extolled singing bhajans as a means to laud, extol, worship God by chanting His praises with music and singing. Bhagavan says: “Together with melody and rhythm, you have to impart feeling to your singing to make the bhajan a sacred offering to the Divine. A ragam (tune) without bhaavam (feeling) is a rogam (an infliction).” 

According to Swami, what must we make sure of doing along when we sing? 

Close our eyes
Look only at our chosen deities photo
Focus more on the words than anything else
Join both hands and clap


8. Fan-bei literally means heavenly music with harmony and is sung in praise of the Buddha's moral integrity. Such music is characterized by five basic traits, namely uprightness, elegance, clarity, heart warming feeling and easily understandable. Upon hearing these melodious sounds, those present naturally become mindful of the Buddha, mindful of the Dharma, and mindful of the Sangha.   

Buddhist fanbei also includes an esteemed and beautiful collection of gentle melodies that give praise to all the Buddhas and great monks. Six kinds of merits that can be obtained: knowledge of the depth and extent of the Buddha’s virtue, an intuitive realization of the truths of the Dharma, a reduction in negative or harmful habits of speech, a clearer and healthier respiratory system, a mind more free from fear and anxiety, and longevity and improved health. 

While most devotional singing elevates the emotions of participants, what effect does the Buddhist fanbei have on listeners? 

Conserves emotional energy and calms the mind
Makes the memory sharper
People go into meditation effortlessly
People feel more compassionate


9. The Koran says that creation practically exists to praise Allah: “The seven heavens and the earth and all that is therein praise God, and there is not a thing that does not hymn His praise.'' (Koran 17:44)  

The Koran also instructs man to remember God: “He is the Living One; there is no god but He: call upon Him, giving Him sincere devotion.  Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds!” (Koran 40.65)  

Zikr’s are popular devotional songs that tell about the values of pious and honest life, and the religion of Islam. Muslims believe that it is possible to reach God through Zikr (the remembrance) of Almighty. The qawwali, which is a very old form of Islamic devotional song, may be viewed as an extension of the vocal form of the zikr.   

The qawwali is aimed at bringing the listener closer to God, and listening itself constitutes devotional behavior. Qawwali is derived from the Arabic word Qaol which means 'axiom' or 'dictum'. A Qawwal is one who sings qawwali, or the dictums of the prophets and praises of God.  

What is the ultimate aim of a qawwal while participating in such devotional singing?  

To encourage devotional singing
To make everyone realize the unity of mankind
To attain trance and mystical experience
To spread popularity of Islamic singing


10. Bhagavan Baba promises those who attend devotional meetings, "Wherever My devotees sing, there I install Myself.”  

Swami also says: “Let your whole life be a bhajan. Believe that God is everywhere at all times, and derive strength, comfort and joy by singing His Glory in His presence." 

During a Divine 1969 Discourse, Swami gives us a Divine tip on how to earn His Grace while singing bhajans: “The tongue is a post; Bhajan of the Name of God is the rope; with that rope, you can bring God Almighty near you and tie Him up, so that His Grace becomes yours. God is so kind that He will yield to your prayers and get bound. You have only to call on Him to be by your side, with you, leading you and guiding you.” 

Swami also mentioned:” There is a song used in Bhajans - Badaa chiththa chora - whereGod is said to be a "big thief who steals ……………..” 


Dear Reader, did you like this quiz? Is it too difficult? Is it interactive enough? Would you like more such quizzes? Please help us in serving you better by writing to h2h@radiosai.org mentioning your name and country. Thank you for your time.

- Heart2Heart Team


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