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Therapeutic Aspects of Sri Swamiji’s Music

Dr. P.V. Phanishree MD (Ped), Diploma in Hindustani Flute 

Nada Sagara program for Meditation & Healing Concert; April 6, 2015; Sydney, Australia

The traditional Indian concept of Nada Yoga (union with The Supreme through Nada) and Nada Chikitsa (healing through Nada) compared to the conventional Western thought of Music therapy is a more complex and comprehensive approach because it deals not just with the music but several allied traditional aspects and interventions. For e.g. Geetam Vaadyam Nrutyamtrayam Sangeeta muchyate - song (lyric), instrumental (music) and dance (gestures) all three are called Sangeetam in Indian parlances which would mean that other forms of therapies like art therapy, (of which mudras form a part) etc., also included under this definition. Further, the traditional approach of Nada Yoga not only talks of an external intervention by a therapist or one-self but also describes the internal energy phenomenon (the inner sound) that continuously attempts to set right the equilibrium of the milieu interior and also the delicate balance in Mother Nature (Mahanada) and its complex laws of which we all form a part. The versatility of Indian music itself further adds to the complexity in quantifying the interventions and evaluating their effects. Yet, the concept of Nada Yoga is also a more fundamental theory because Nada (Sound), in all its forms is treated as energy and all rules pertaining to energy apply to Nada too. 

Therefore it goes without saying that the animate as well as inanimate, being manifestations of the energy principle, do respond to and can be influenced by sound waves. All these subtle facets are amply illustrated in the unique approach of Sr Swamiji's music healing concept. 

 

Music is a part of everyday life and research shows that music affects mental, physical and emotional states. These qualities make it a valuable tool in helping us to recover health and well-being. According to Sri Swamiji the benefits of the music therapy include but are not limited to — relief from pain and discomfort, reduction of stress, improved understanding of medical treatment, improved coping, strengthened immune system, decreased costs, empowerment to participate and have control during treatment, strengthened family bonds, continued developmental growth, improved patient and family satisfaction, and the most important, the spiritual upliftment. There has to be a specific approach and design of music sessions based on their needs using sessions for individuals and 'improvisation' groups. The therapy process comprises of individual therapy as well as group therapy; supervised sessions as well as home sessions; active therapy as well as passive therapy. The techniques adopted would include-- receptive listening, active singing (nama saankeertana), song writing, lyric discussion, music and imagery, music performance and learning through music. 

 

Dr. Sri Ganapathy Sachchidanada Swamiji uses a combination of the Indian ragas (musical scales) based on their aesthetic appeal, self composed lyrics (with resonating seed letters like Om, Aim, Hreem, Sreem etc.), jyotishashastra (various astrological calculations), manishastra (healing energy of the crystals and gems), bonsai trees relevant to the musical scale, and of late the specific bird related to the raga, along with a self-improvised combination of various natural and instrumental sounds (sampled on the "Modern Veena"- the synthesizer) for the selection of appropriate music frequencies during live music therapy sessions and in the studio recordings. 

 

Born in the lineage of the great Venkatamakhin, the musicologist who popularized the 72 Melakartha system (parent scales) of Carnatic music, Sri Swamiji is a prolific, versatile and multi-lingual composer. His proficiency is explicitly demonstrated in more than five thousand varied compositions by HIM ranging from simple Nama sankeertana bhajans (chanting the holy names) to profound secrets of Vedanta ranging from simple four to eight line couplets to elaborate descriptive and contemplative songs; His more than 200 recorded music albums released by the Ashram; His hundreds of live music concerts in reputed centers across the Globe that have attracted and influenced both the novice and music scholars equally, and the millions of trans-oceanic admirers and listeners of His music across the world- all these categorically exemplify His versatility. 

 

Sri Swamiji has left no stone unturned in attempting to explore the mystery of therapeutic sounds hidden in the inanimate as well as the animate. Swamiji emphatically states that the mountains, the waterfalls, the oceans, the five elements as well as the flora and the fauna, nay everything around us is full of Nada -Nada moolam idam jagat (The entire universe is full of Nada). 

 

Sri Swamiji's Kishkindha Moolika Bonsai garden which hosts nearly 800 species of Bonsai plants (visit www.sgsbonsai.org) and Shukavana Aviary (www.sgsbirds.com) which hosts nearly 400 species of birds are testimonies to His experiments not only in analyzing with the different musical sounds emerging from the flora and fauna but also studying the influence of various sounds on their behavior. For example, the Casurina trees at the entrance of the garden which were brought in a near dead state were rejuvenated with His raga Malayamaaruta. Fruition and growth in some of the trees has been shown to be influenced by particular ragas. Some of the trees are named after their respective ragas. The Shukavana Avery caretakers have also noticed that some of the sick birds improved remarkably quickly with His cajoling and musical voice.

 

The Kishkindha Moolika Bonsai garden reminds us of the Ramayana. Many a secret paths to salvation (e.g. Bhagavatam) reached the humanity from heaven through the generous teachings of the great Shuka Maharshi, son of Veda Vyasa, an incarnation of Vishnu. Swamiji says that these birds represent the Gandharaswara in the evolution of music. They are akin to the Gandharvas, the celestial musical beings. 

 

The Saptaswara temple dedicated to the seven notes in the Nadamantapa, the magnificent Nadamantapa itself with the tanpuras representing the 22 shrutis and the 72 pillars representing the Melakartha scales, the 365 birthday pillar spread all over the ashram, and the temples different deities in the ashram, all connect us to our ancient culture sustained through ages by the divine Nada, be it in the form of Vedic chants or the rituals or the festivities. 

 

It is but natural that one is excited and enraptured by the ambience of the ashram. Sri Swamiji has effectively created a Nada loka on the Earth. These subtle vibrations by themselves have a commendable impact and are immensely energizing, let alone the specific therapeutic sounds created exclusively for the purpose of healing. 

 

The herbal ablution offered as teertham after the austere Sri Chakra Puja also adds to the healing energies by virtue of its medicinal and spiritual value. 

 

The Nada Yoga Research Center inside the Ramashankara kuteera of the ashram is a state of the art center to provide individualized experience of a healing session in a controlled environment with comfortable reclining seats; computer controlled piped music heard through individual headsets with volume control. The center has registered more than 5000 users since its commencement [two years ago ~ text from 2015]. Most of the people who underwent these sessions rate their experience as remarkable and rejuvenating. 

 

A special mention must be made here to the recent contributions of Sri Swamiji to the archives of Carnatic music. 

 

a) Zodiac tunes - A series of 12 albums of solo performance on "Modern Veena" by Sri Swamiji' each comprising 12 healing ragas intended for healing the 12 zones of the body corresponding to the 12 zodiacs from Mesha or Aries - Head zone to Meena or Pisces - feet zone. Encapsulated in a small Nano iPod device, these renditions by Pujya Sri Swamiji have enriched the musical experiences of hundreds of thousands of devotees both during the home therapy sessions as well as the supervised sessions in the Nada Yoga research center. Many of the listeners have shared their positive experiences with the zodiac tunes in the feed-back book at the Nada Yoga Research Center as well as through our websites. 

 

b) Sri Swamiji also played 385 tunes - called daily ragas, one for each day, as a daily dose of healing music. 

 

c) SGS MMS- Musical Message Sayings published by Sri Swamiji over Vimeo.com and Puttugam.com spiritual social networking sites have brought about immense physical and spiritual benefits to the viewers. 

 

Although there are a large number unexplored, unfathomed areas related quantifying musical experiences especially those involving the subtle internal energy changes and their physical and/or bio-chemical correlates, due to the lack of proper instrumentation, expertise, and techniques of evaluation exist, many a times the ‘Individual's wholesome experience by itself is a testimony to the efficacy'. Experiences at our center in some of 

our preliminary multi-centric pilot studies with Sri Swamiji's Music and His Nada Yoga concepts in children as well as adults include: 

 

The Tamilnadu Police Department Personnel: Stress Relief through Swamiji's Music. Activities performed were regular group singing sessions, Kriya Yoga training and listening to healing music. Subjective results observed - improved behaviour with plaintiffs; improved family bonding; reduced job stress and improved sense of well-being.

 

Jail inmates and Imprisoned Convicts: Swamiji's music has brought a sense of well-being; improved behavior with co-habitants and improved social consciousness. 

 

Orphan Children at Guntur, Andhra Pradesh: Activities included bhajan singing with wooden cymbals (a folk art in that part of the country); bhajan competitions, song composition (themes include moral living, love for the nation, devotion etc). Results observed were - improved inter-personal relationship; better social adjustment (improved eye-contact, well-dressed, soft-spoken and non-abusive); improved self-esteem and scholastic performance. They no longer felt dejected and left-over. 

 

Children of Life Convicts, Dundigal, Hyderabad: Activities included regular group singing sessions; training into Swamiji's bhajans; training into classical and light music. Results observed were - better social adjustment; improved self esteem; better scholastic performance. 

 

Inmates of Ammavodi (Rehabilitation Centre for Destitute Women, S.G.S. Ashram, Dundigal, Hyderabad): Activities included morning and evening prayers; regular meditation with

Swamiji's music; music library containing CDs of different ragas; books for understanding self; regular yoga exercises for body and mind health. Results observed were - ability to cope with health issues better; ability to express themselves and their needs better; improved self-esteem and sense of well-being; improved productivity and creativity skills. 

 

Swamiji's music is being used in training school children into various aspects of healthful and moral living. 

 

Chutuku Sahitya: Crispy four to eight liner messages in the form of a poem or song composed by Swamiji to provide insight into various aspects of life has been very useful in adolescent training.

 

Swamiji's music has been helpful in relieving pain and anxiety in the terminally sick and individuals suffering with life threatening medical problems. 

 

Swamiji's music has proven to be of immense help in managing bereavement. 

 

Rehabilitation of street children and the underprivileged at Ananda Foundation Peru. 

 

Swamiji's music is being used to improve the learning process in communication impaired children with various types of speech language and hearing impairments.

 

Swamiji's music has helped in trains to reduce the grievances on coach attendants. 

 

Regular bhajan training sessions with bhajans composed by Sri Swamiji have been helping in the upbringing of slum children in Delhi - BALWADI program. 

 

Swamiji's music is being used to provide integrated moral and model education to children in focused, dedicated boot camps – Vidyarthi Jnana Bodha Sabha for children. 

 

Swamiji's music has been a motivation and bonding element for youth to organize themselves into voluntary social groups under the banner Sri Datta Humane Services (SDHS) to participate in various social and charitable productive activities for the benefit of mankind. 

 

Many mobile phone users in India have programmed their phones with Swamiji's music as the caller tunes to ensure a non-irritant peaceful disposition even when the phone rings during a very busy working schedule. 

 

The popular SGS MMS (Musical Message Sayings of Sri Swamiji) delivered to the thousands of subscribers across the globe through social networking sites by Puttugam over the past two years have not only gained Immense popularity but also have helped in improving the physical and spiritual quality of life of one and all.

 

A comprehensive compendium on Sri Swamiji’s approach to Music and Music Therapy

explaining the various facets of Swamiji's concept and process of Nada Chikitsa is the Raga Ragini Nada Yoga. This is a reader friendly treatise with content extending from basic musicology to advanced therapeutics. It serves as a good companion for musicians, musicologists, litterateurs, scientists, researchers, medical doctors and all those who are interested in exploring the depths of therapeutic music in general and Sri Swamiji's Nada chikitsa in particular. The relationship of the raga (musical scale)- rasi (zodiac)- ratna (gem)-nakshatra (stellar constellation)- tatva (element)- mulikavruksha (herbal tree)- chakra (metaphysical energy center of the body)- the body parts and the healing potential of the different ragas identified hitherto are explained in detail in the treatise. These serve as a starting point for researchers exploring the various dimensions of music therapy. The first copy of the version of this book was released on the 22nd Sept 2012 at the Royal Albert Hall, London, two years after the Telugu version written by Pujya Sri Swamiji was released in Nadamantapa. The compendium is being translated to Marathi, German, Hindi, and Kannada languages and will be available soon in these languages too.

 

The list of benefits of Music therapy in general and Sri Swamiji’s music in particular is unending and exhaustive. This is only a humble attempt to enlist some of them and is neither complete nor elaborate. 

 

Jaya Guru Datta

Glimpses of the musical works of Dr. Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamii

with reference to Nada Yoga: Ragaragini Nadayogamu — 

From NADA Music of the Divine; September 22, 2012; Royal Albert Hall

Dr. Sri Sri Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swarniji, Pontiff Avadhoota Datta Peetham is a globally renowned spiritual giant. Through His versatile music performances all over the globe, Sri Swamiji has been able to successfully demonstrate the therapeutic efficacy of Music. Scientific studies on music therapy indicate music can influence neural hormones found to effect pain perception, neural transmission, endocrine and immune regulation and mood states. This has brought about wide application to music therapy in a number of clinical settings - as an audio analgesic in chronic pain syndromes, as a focus of attention in labor wards, to structure exercise in physiotherapy sessions, to initiate and enhance therapist patient relation in counselling sessions, to reinforce learning in mentally handicapped, as an effective auditory stimulus in Intensive care units, to stress and improve, body mind health, to reinforce healthful changes in physiology, emotion and lifestyle. 

 

Dr. Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji was initiated into the secrets of music and yoga by his mother and mentor Jayalakshmi Mata. Right from his childhood, Sri Swamiji has been a keen observer, lover and protector of nature. He would spend hours listening to the sounds of nature and observe the effects of these sounds on plants, animals and humans. It took three decades of intense observation to understand the mystery of various therapeutic sounds. Born in the lineage of the great Venkatamakji (one who popularized the presently existing Melakarta classification of parent scales in Carnatic Music) and other great musicians, Sri Swamiji spontaneously began composing His own music, singing in various styles, adopting and proficiently playing several instruments with ease. Gradually he mastered the various combinations of notes and ragas arid their effects on the and non-living. He then adopted the Synthesizer and modified it with sampling technique to produce his own compositions and melodies in all perfection. A globe trotter, Sri Swamiji has performed in the most reputed auditoriums of the world and has attracted both the novice and scholars. He is personally a great connoisseur or Music and has instigated awards and titles to the honour the great musicians of the present times and promote music in the society. He believes in principles of simple living and service to humanity and has been immensely supporting various social projects like poor feeding, schools for the differentially able, hospitals, orphan homes, home for the destitute women etc.

 

His music is popular in several hospitals, schools and educational institutions in India and abroad, the radio stations in several countries, in orphan homes, homes for destitute and elderly and also hospice care centres. Many people with psycho-somatic ailments, chronic incurable ailments, terminally sick patients, jail inmates, Police personnel are using his music for stress reduction and are finding immense relief. The sprawling Nadamantapam, a unique auditorium and the Saptaswara, temple, dedicated to musical notes built by Sri Swamiji in Avadhoota Datta Peetham in Mysore, is testimony to his commitment to Music. Sri Swamiji is a great Vaggeyakara of the present time and has composed more than 5000 varied songs in several languages and has produced more than 200 albums. His music has a spiritual basis and is aimed at shifting the level of consciousness of the listener gently massaging the 72000 astral energy channels and the Shatchakras. His compositions range from simple Namasankeertana (chanting the glory of the Lord) to Tatva bhajans (describing philosphical secrets) to Padabandhas (specialized lyrical master pieces), Swarakshsra Krtis (complex compositions containing the seven notes as the lyrics as well as the tune) etc. His therapeutic music involves the judicious combination of Music, Yoga, Astrology, Astronomy, Gemmology, Herbal Medicine, Psychology and Human Anatomy. Sri Swamiji encourages individual as well as group therapy, both passive as well as active therapy and emphatically states that one need not be a musician to enjoy the therapeutic effect of music. For best effect during a passive session (i.e. listening) one should sit comfortably or lie down with closed eyes, simply allow the music to flow, not to intellectualize about the process, concentrate on the gaps in between the notes. Listening regularly is beneficial. Swamiji suggests that although listening to recorded music CDs at home, in community or in hospital environment is encouraged; it should be intermittently supplemented with live therapy sessions to avoid monotony, boredom and neglect. During active session however one is encouraged to sing, play, walk or dance with music or even compose music or song. 

 

Sri Swamiji has taken upon himself the onus to bring peace of mind to the grief stricken with the help of divine music. We express our heartfelt gratitude to Sri Swamiji for this magnanimous venture and congratulate him for bringing out his concept of Music Healing in the form of a book (Ragaragini Nada Yogamu) to enable the scientific community to probe into such newer, indigenous and relatively side-effect free options for providing stress relief to the community. 

 

'Ragaragini Nada Yogamu (Telugu)’ is a compendium that highlights the musical works of Dr. Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji with special emphasis on the healing aspects of music and the role of various components employed by Sri Swamiji during such healing concerts. The English version of this book is in press. 

 

The book starts with a brief introduction by the publishers to Sri Swamiji and his magnificent musical, spiritual and social works exemplified with beautiful pictures taken over several decades that stand as a testimony to Sri Swamiji's musical journey across the world. The pictures and text also highlight the various aspects of Sri Swamiji's persona. This chapter ends with a note by the publishers thanking Dr. Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji for bringing out His personal experiences about Music and Music Therapy which has influenced the global audience irrespective of caste, creed, colour or language in the form of this book ‘Ragaragini Nada Yogamu (Telugu)'. 

 

In the foreword, Sri Swamiji explains the musical link between the ancient and the modern, the relation between tradition and technology, the need to explore and understand nature and its myriad ways to alleviate suffering. Sri Swamiji also highlights the arrangement of various chapters in his book into 'Musicology' section, 'Therapeutics' section and 'Miscellaneous' section. The book aptly starts with Sri Swamiji's description of the ‘Nadabindu Upanishat’ — verses that describe the importance of 'Omkar’- the primordial sound, and the merit one begets by chanting it. This is followed by an introduction to the concept of 'Nada Chikitsa (healing through sound)' where in Sri Swamiji describes His journey and experiences from childhood with music as a therapeutic tool. How he was taught by Mother Nature into this hitherto little explored dimension of Music. How he was gifted with the divine experience of such music and how he started to use it for the benefit of the world and humanity at large. This chapter emphatically states the relationship of Music to the divine and that music is not just a means of amusement but is essentially a path to salvation. It not only alleviates the physical pain but leads to redemption from cycle of bondage and suffering. 

 

In the section of Musicology, Sri Swamiji describes the various aspects of Music like Nada (sound), Shruti (fundamental note), Sangeeta (music), Svara (musical note), Raga (musical scale), Tala (rhythm), Gamaka (nuances), Musical Instruments and Vaggeyakaras (the great singer-composer who contributed to the growth of Indian Music in general and Carnatic Music in particular). At end of this section is a display of the various musical works of Sri Swamiji titled Animutyalu (selected pearls), and a list of Sri Swamiji's compositions in rare ragas. 

 

In the section on Therapeutics Sri Swamiji describes the relationship of Music, Yoga and Shatchakras (the energy centres in the body) and Nadis (metaphysical energy channels), the Neuro-Endocrine Regulation of the body and mind, the five Pranas (vital energy), the Five Elements (nature), the relationship of Astrology and Astronomy to music, the various gestures that help in therapy (Mudras), the Crystals and their vibration properties, the effect of Colour on human mind and body, the role of Water in Music healing and the effect of the various herbs (Moolikas) on the human body. At the end of this section is a chapter on the Music therapy research findings. 

 

The Miscellaneous section deals with the intricacies of the various Musical structures constructed by Sri Swamiji like the Nadamantapam, the Dharmadhwajam, the Birthday Stone Pillars and the list of the various Musical Scholars who were awarded titles by Sri Swamiji for their exemplary contribution to Music. Another attractive feature in this section is the list of various Healing Concerts given by Sri Swamiji across the globe and the unique concept of Jna Na Bha Yoga conferences propagated by Sri Swamiji to explain the various schools of Philosophy (Jnana-knowledge, Nada-Music, Bhakti-Devotion, Yoga-Union). The book concludes with a summarizing chapter Upasamhara that highlights the scope for further research in this area of healing through Music. This could be a reference book all the Musicians, Music lovers, Music therapists, Yoga experts and students, Doctors, Veda scholars, Researchers, Scientists, Botanists, Gemmologists and Spiritual Seekers.