Chakras and Sound
Discourses on Music -3
Late 18th century A.D Kangra school Painting of Yogin with six chakras
In addition to our visible, gross body we also have the subtle body in the form of an energy field around it. The physical body contains the most dense and therefore visible energy. This energy continues forming layers of energy fields around the body which are not usually visible to the naked eye. This magnetic field energy that surrounds the body is called “aura”. The aura is created by the energy of the chakras- the psychic, whirling energy processing centres of the body. According to yogic theory, there are approximately 72,000 nadis, astral nerve tubes, the most important of which is the sushumna, the astral body counterpart to the spinal cord. On either side of it are two nadis known as ida and pingala, which correspond to the left and right sympathetic cords in the physical body[i]. There are six points in the body where these three nadis intersect and these points also correspond in location to the major nerve ganglia (cervical plexus, solar plexus, sacral plexus and so forth) located along the spine in the physical body. In healthy people, the chakras are vibrant and spin with vigour, while in those who are not well the chakra petals are dull and spin sluggishly, says the American Hindu priest Thomas Ashley-Farrand[ii]. Interestingly, these chakras respond to the sound of Sanskrit, a fact which was noticed by ancient Indian mystics with “second sight”, the ability to see clearly in the subtle realm. These outcomes were carefully written down and can be found in the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. It took time before the sages arrived at the mechanism behind the impact of Sanskrit on the chakras. And they concluded that the total number of petals or spokes composing those six chakras is fifty. Similarly, the Sanskrit alphabet consists of fifty letters, with each one corresponding to a particular petal of a chakra. When a mantra built from the language is chanted, our chakras vibrate in tune with the Sanskrit sounds because Sanskrit is … “an energy-based language first and a meaning-based language second”. Not all the words of the Sanskrit mantras have meanings. It is the energy coming from the subtle body that provides the key to the effectiveness of the mantra chanting. Each chakra has a corresponding Bija mantra or sound vibration. Irrespective of who chants the mantra, at the sound of the Bija mantra, the chakras spin with greater energy and vigour, giving corresponding strength to the body. It is also said that the chakras correspond to the musical scale with each chakra representing one swara of the octave.
Human society uses music in various ways. Some of it is used in education for those who become musicians or those who endeavour to develop a fine aesthetic appreciation of life, in particular the arts, around them. It is utilized in religious ceremonies and rituals, as a means of entertainment and in imparting health to the body. Each of these applications of music is explained briefly.
[i] Vishnu Devananda, Swami (1995: third edition), Meditation and Mantras New York City: Om Lotus Publishing Company
[ii] Ashley-Farrand, Thomas (2003) Shakti Mantras: Tapping the great goddess energy within, New York: Ballantine Books.
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