Importance of chorus in Bhajans
Puttaparthi, Sai Kulwanth Hall (1996 Special Discourses )
Consider, for example, chorus singing like in group singing of bhajans. On such occasions, everyone must maintain sruthi or tonal purity. Even in a small group, if one singer goes off-key it would not be pleasing to the ear. Thus, discipline is required even in singing.
Community bhajan is noblest of all00:01:24
The word and the mind are futile in their attempts to understand the Divine. By singing together there is every possibility for one’s devotion to blossom and to reach out to everyone. Collective singing is the noblest of all. It was Guru nanak who started ‘bhajans’, the collective and community singing. It is this collective singing, ‘bhajans’ that liberate man. Kabir das, Tulsidas, Ramdas- redeemed their lives by singing bhajans. There is such mighty strength latent in singing the glory of the Lord! One may say that God has no form but He has a name.
What is Bhava Sankeerthana00:01:36
Many are deluded who follow the ‘bhava sankeerthana’ or singing in full realisation of the significance of the Divinity. Sandu gondu landu mari andarandu Neeve aanandamonduchunduvani Vindu sreedhara. Induvadana surendra vindaanthapaadaravinda Nithyaananda govinda vega brova raara, Srirama ramani manohara. Aashrithajana subhakara, Srirama ramani manohara!! ‘O Lord! People say that it is you who delight yourself everywhere.’ Is there a specific lane, street or residence for the Lord?! That is all my imagination.’ Finally, it’s decided that all the three paths namely, ‘guna gaana’ praising the attributes, ‘leela gaana’, singing about the miracles and ‘bhava gaana’ singing in full realisation of the significance of the Divinity, are but mere delusion.
What is Leela Gaana00:03:15
‘Leela gaana’, singing His miracles, this path was followed by devotees like Jayadeva and Gauranga which is also their delusion. They were deluded and got carried away by all the miracles, but in the end they recognised the truth. Meera and Sakkubai too followed this path by singing the miracles and glory of the Lord, but they too finally realised that there is nothing more miraculous than the creation itself and contemplated on the Lord. ‘Without You, neither food nor drink have any appeal, even sleep eludes me! Krishna, I do not feel hunger or thirst.” Thus praying she could grasp that God is night, God is day, God is time and thinking this as miracle, is but mere delusion. Finally, she could relate to the Lord as the One who dwells in her heart.
What is Guna Gaana00:02:13
God is beyond all attributes and so it is mere delusion to try to win the grace of the Lord by singing about the attributes. Prone to this delusion, some attain temporary satisfaction by singing about the attributes. Truly speaking there are no qualities in God. It is just an illusion to seek liberation by imposing and praising the attributes to the attribute less Lord. People describe the Lord, who has no qualities, as the one sleeping blissfully, ‘chidvilasa’, on the great serpent Vasuki; is ‘chidvilasa’ not an attribute? By praising the attributes of the divine, a devotee gets only temporary satisfaction but it leads to disappointment in the end.
Four types of Chanting done by devotees00:02:00
Devotees are of four types based on the path taken to contemplate upon the Lord. The first type is singing the glory of the Lord based on His attributes. The second is singing the glory of the Lord based on His miraculous actions. The third one is singing with feeling. The fourth one is chanting the Lord’s name. Some attained liberation through singing the names of the Lord while some through singing the Lord’s glory, mysteries and miracles. Some got deluded by the feeling and attributes of the Divine while others got only dissatisfaction by singing about the qualities of the Divine. God is beyond all attributes and so it is mere delusion to try to win the grace of the Lord by singing about the attributes. Prone to this delusion, some attain temporary satisfaction by singing about the attributes.
None can understand God's mystery: Sing and redeem yourself00:00:37
Nobody can understand the essence of God. It is good to refrain from understanding the un-understandable rather than indulging in misunderstanding. Therefore one must try to recognise the divinity by worshipping the Lord and by singing His glory by way of bhajans.
Demonstration of Raga, Bhava, Tala: Why should we clap with hands: Swami on different facets of singing00:03:42
Embodiments of Love!! People sing bhajans while keeping the beat with claps. The clapping must be in tune with the bhajan. The pitch must be appropriate to the tune. That is the pitch, melody, tune and the beat. Bharath is the union of sruthi- pitch, laya- melody, taala- beat and raaga-tune. Bharath is made up of three syllables: “Bha”, “Ra”, and “Tha”. “Bha” means with feeling, “ra” means with tune, “tha” with taala, the beat. Bharath means singing the glory of God with bhava,-feeling, raaga- tune and taala- beat. People sing the songs rendered and composed by Saint Tyagaraja. Singers keep the beat by patting their thigh. The organs for action are five and there are five organs of assimilating wisdom. Depicting these ten organs one must keep the beat with both the hands. Some keep the beat with the five senses of cognition going one way and the five senses of action going the other way. As a result one’s thoughts too go wayward. People have been singing the glory of God in communal singing. Who started the communal bhajans? It was Gurunanak of Punjab who started the collective singing of bhajans. All must sing together in one voice the name of the Lord. This was the sacred thought of the pious sages of the past. But man today has brushed them aside and is acting as per his whims and fancy. It is not good. One must do those that please the Lord. “Rama ithi ramaha”, Rama is the one who pleases all. The one who loves is Rama. Hence God is one. Though there are many different names- like Rama, Krishna, Govinda, and Isa- God is one. Likewise the names may differ but the underlying principle of Atma is one in all. By whatever name one might call out, it is nothing but God’s love. Having such thoughts of oneness one must try to experience the divine.
Bhajan training is must for all the Samithis00:01:00
Therefore, training in community singing must be developed on a large scale by women. Men too must participate in bhajans and involve themselves in the bhajan training. Training is required in bhajan singing for in some organisations the bhajans are sung in such awful manner that listeners put cotton in their ears. The bhajans are so out of tune. Bhajans must be sung such that it moves and melts the hearts of the listeners. It should not disturb the mind. So extensive training must be given to boys and girls in bhajan singing.
Community bhajan is the best service00:00:44
Amongst all services, the service of community singing will forever find a place in the hearts of the listeners. Persons might not meet each other on a path, but in community singing, their speech, their hearts and their sound unify and merge in the singing. Through community singing one can fill one’s heart with joy and reach divinity.
Significance of night long bhajan during Shivaratri00:02:00
One thought, one vision and one action, we need to consider all the three as one. Then we would not fall into any danger. To teach such profound lesson, Shivaratri is observed. Shivaratri emphasises on Unity. This is the truth. Shivaratri symbolises such truth. “People may say a myriad thing, but what we see is only one”. On this night, there would be some moments. We go on doing bhajans. While doing that, one thought emerges. We would derive the bliss out of these bhajans. This bliss takes a shape. It adorns the form of non-dualism. This very non-dual form merges into the Atma. Why did they ask you to do Bhajans all night? Bhajans were done to stop the wavering mind and disturbed imaginations and to know the innate divine nature. Some sit in bhajans and discuss worldly matters. You should not get close to such people. That is Dussangham or bad association.
Swami on bhajan singing and training00:01:32
Members must start and develop ‘bhajan centres’ and train others to sing bhajans properly. One’s heart melts listening to melodious bhajans rendered soulfully; on the other hand bhajans sung without the tune or the rhythm makes the listener impatient and sad. If one aspires to give the thrill and joy of singing prayers, one must do so by singing them melodiously with a sacred voice. Community singing must be developed and training in bhajan singing must be organised. Elders are like the weathering trees, not possible to bend or mend. When youngsters and children are encouraged and trained to sing bhajans, they would be the future torch bearers for the spiritual progress in Bharath. In this regard the balvikas and bhajan centres must be developed.
No other Sadhana is greater than Bhajan00:01:55
So, put efforts in chanting the name of the Lord. People may say that when you go to Sai Baba, there is nothing but bhajan. Realise that there is nothing greater than bhajan. What bliss is there in bhajans! What a demonstration of oneness it is when a myriad throats join in uttering the name of God! The vibrations emanating from them make the heart vibrant. If you sing alone in your shrine, the vibrations return to you as reaction. But in community singing, what you have is not a reaction but a wave of vibrations. They enter into the atmosphere and purify the polluted air. The atmosphere today is polluted by bad thoughts and feelings. When you sing the glory of God, the bad germs in the air are destroyed and the air gets purified by a treatment with anti-biotics as it were. Bhajans are Therefore, supremely valuable. It has been said that in the Kali Age them is no greater spiritual practice than chanting the name of the Lord. Let one remember the name of Rama at the time of passing, whether he is a millionaire or a pauper, whether he is a scholar or an illiterate. Sing the name of the Lord and redeem your lives!
Collective singing has so much power to connect with God00:01:39
All must sing in unison. Earlier people used to sing alone without anyone following in chorus. But the Sikh Guru, Guru nanak, started the collective singing of bhajans. While rendering the song all the voices must unite as one. Such singing will draw the Lord. The piece of cloth is made up of threads. The presence of many threads makes it strong. The individual threads, when separated, can easily be cut with fingers. Therefore collective singing too is potent. Singing collectively, uniting all the voices and feelings, has the potential to draw the Lord. Swami brings His discourse to an end with blessings and hope that in future people will follow and sing along wholeheartedly the bhajans irrespective who is singing and experience the bliss therein.
One should not breed any differences in bhajans or in prayer00:02:36
The bhajans were sung in a worldly perspective. Swami has observed it. The boys did not join the singing when the girls were leading the bhajan. And when the boys were singing the girls did not join in chorus. When both of them are singing the Lord’s name, then shouldn’t they sing together in unison the glory and give happiness to listeners? Isn’t it an act of narrow mindedness, selfishness and worldly? It should not be so. It is just music even if a renowned musician sings. One day Emperor Akbar was going on his chariot. He heard a beggar sing who was sitting under a tree. The song of the beggar moved the emperor very much. He halted his chariot and stood listening to the song of the beggar. He started shedding tears of ecstasy as his heart was filled with happiness. One must spend life singing the glory of the Lord, for it pleases Him. A song is a song sung either by a beggar or by a gifted musician. The sweetness of the song and the happiness derived from it are same. There is no difference of gender. The gender differences pertain to the body and not to the singing. All sing the Lord’s name. Therefore, one must immerse oneself in the songs and when one does not immerse oneself so, the bhajans would just be a ritual. So in future Swami wants the students sing bhajans infusing them with spirituality for then alone can they reap happiness from singing. One should not breed any differences in music or in prayer. However in the worldly sense one must perform one’s duties.
Sing bhajans whole-heartedly00:01:00
The bhajans sung today are mere ritualistic. They are sung by the tune, rhythm and the beat. These are all the attributes of vyavahaarika, the world. But the content of the bhajans which is the eternal truth is spiritual. One must not sing with the mouth but with the heart which is the ocean. When one sings whole heartedly it appeases the ears. That heart is the ocean. That is why it is said that God resides in the heart. How must the heart be? “hruth” +”daya”= “hrudaya (heart)”. “Daya” is called as compassion.
Why Nagarsankeethan is prescribed00:01:53
Why is ‘nagarsankeerthan’ prescribed? Is it done for lack of doing anything useful at that time? Is it to spoil one’s sleep in the early morning? It is highly sacred physically, in a worldly sense and even spiritually. It is a highly sacred time, the ‘Brahma muhurta’. It is cool in the early mornings with cool breezes. At that time mind will be at peace after a nights’ rest. One will be filled with bliss, happiness and peace if one listens to God’s name instead of listening to useless and unwanted things from the moment one gets up. Both, the singer and the listener are filled with peace. One would feel contended and happy with oneself when one listens to the Lord’s name early in the morning. The moment one gets up, one should sing the glory of the Lord. It’s because, ‘Start early, drive slowly and reach safely!’ One’s day, the moment one gets up, must start with singing of the Lord’s name. It is to achieve this purpose that the ‘nagarsankeerthan’, ‘bhajans’, ‘study circles’ and ‘Satsang’ have been incorporated into the system of the Sathya Sai organisations. All these activities sanctify the surroundings and bring peace to the participants.
Why do you feel shy to sing God's glory00:00:58
What is wrong in chanting the Lord’s name? When one can sing very cheap, low cinema songs, then why not sing the glory of the Lord? One is wasting one’s life singing meaningless cinema songs. Why should one feel humiliated to utter ‘rama, ‘krishna’ or ‘govinda’? One feels it’s a matter of shame to do so! One sings meaningless cinema songs enthusiastically along the streets! It is a shame to entire human life! Human beings can sing any songs, but for those that live like humans, it is a waste of life to live like that.
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