Meditation and music cannot be separated. When we cry from the inmost recesses of our heart for Peace, Light and Bliss, that is the best type of meditation. We cannot meditate twenty-four hours a day, but we can meditate, say, for two hours a day. Then we can play music or we can listen to music for a couple of hours a day. Next to meditation is music. But it has to be soulful music, the music that stirs and elevates our aspiring consciousness. When we play soulful music, psychic music, then immediately we are transported to the highest realm of consciousness. When we play music soulfully, we go high, higher, highest.
Each time soulful music is played, we get inspiration and delight. In the twinkling of an eye, music can elevate our consciousness. But if we also pray and meditate, then we are undoubtedly more illumined and fulfilled than a music lover who is not consciously following a spiritual life. Each spiritual musician is consciously spreading God's Light on earth. God is the cosmic Player, the eternal Player, and we are His instruments. But there comes a time in the process of our evolution when we feel that we have become totally one with Him. At that time, we are no longer instruments; we ourselves are musicians, divine musicians. It is the Supreme who makes the proper instrument. Then, it is He who makes the player play properly, and it is He who makes the musician. 1
A seeker-singer feels that if he has no music, his heart is soulless. If he has no music, his life is useless. If he has no music, his goal is worthless. Why, why, why? Because music is the oneness-aspiration of humanity. Oneness without a soulful melody is blind, deaf and useless. Again, a melody without fruitful oneness is just a body without a soul. Without oneness-aspiration, humanity can never achieve perfection. Without perfection, satisfaction will always remain a far cry. If there is no satisfaction, then life can have no value whatsoever. It is for satisfaction that we aspire. It is for satisfaction that we try to perfect ourselves. Satisfaction is the only reality-existence that both God and man need. Soulful music not only has the answer, but is the answer to this need. 2
The seven notes in the scale correspond to the seven higher worlds. Each note comes down from a specific inner world. Each world has a music of its own and a note of its own. The higher worlds have a music that awakens us, inspires us, illumines us, perfects us and fulfils us. The music of the higher worlds constantly comes to us as the harbinger of the highest Height, whereas the music of the lower worlds naturally comes to us as a messenger of destruction.
It is not only the higher and lower worlds that have a music of their own; each individual has his own music, each movement has its own music, each action has its own music. Each time we breathe in and breathe out, there is music. When we do not pay attention to the inner depth of the action, we do not hear the music. If we do pay adequate attention to each action, then inside the very depth of that action we are bound to hear music. Unless we hear music inside each action, the action is lifeless. 3
This music from the soul wants to express and fulfil itself through the heart. But here a problem arises. When the soul starts to play its music in the heart, the doubting mind does not allow the heart to listen. Then gradually the vital becomes more powerful than the pure heart.
The music of the lower vital destroys our subtle nerves and wants to devour the heart's divine qualities. The vital has been predominant in the world for quite a few years. But lower vital music will not always predominate on earth. The world also has a soul. Eventually, the music of the soul will replace the music of the vital. Today the vital is nourished and the soul is starving. But when there are more aspiring people than unaspiring people on earth, naturally the inner, soul-elevating music will replace the music of the impure, unlit and obscure vital.
When we play vital music, we starve our soul and feed our body. The creator is like the mother and humanity is the child. When the creator plays vital music, the mother is drinking something, but the child is starving for something else, for milk. But when the creator plays spiritual music, both the mother and the child are drinking nectar at the same time. Even looking at the mother's face, the child will be able to drink nectar. The very fact that the mother is drinking nectar is enough for the child.
Soulful music offers delight rather than vital excitement. Vital excitement is one thing and the soul's delight is something else. The soul's delight is most powerful, most intense but, at the same time, it does not create any kind of undivine, sensational pleasure in the body. It just transports; it carries the entire being into the Highest like a balloon and then, when the balloon breaks, you are swimming in the sea of bliss.
Soulful music is the music that immediately elevates our consciousness to the Absolute, to the Highest. But ordinary music, vital music, may bring our consciousness down. For a fleeting second or a few hours, we get a kind of pleasure; but then this pleasure takes us into a lower vital consciousness. Soulful music takes us into the world of aspiration. From aspiration we enter into the world of realisation, where our inner existence is flooded with light and delight.
Soulful music is the music that wants to eventually transform our consciousness. It carries us into the Universal Consciousness and makes us feel that we are in tune with the highest, with the deepest, with the farthest. It also makes us feel that God Himself is the Supreme Musician.
A soulful sound gives immediate joy and immediate self-expansion. This self-expansion is not egocentric; it is something divine, something supreme, something universal. A soulful sound is like music that is produced for all. With it the ‘I' goes away. In soulful sound there is no ‘I'. It is all ‘we'. Other sounds are produced by the individual for the individual, but a soulful sound is produced by the Universal in us, by the Eternal in us, by the Absolute in us. The soulful sound is of Eternity and for Infinity and Immortality. This is how we distinguish the soulful sound from other sounds. Other sounds have their originality in individuality, but soulful sounds have their originality in universality.
The human musician plays in order to become great. The divine musician becomes good first and then plays divinely, while soulfully and unconditionally offering the results to his Beloved Supreme.
You have to know that if you play music from the vital plane, you are only fooling yourself. The music that is inspired from around or below the navel is the vital music. Music that comes from the heart is psychic music, and the music that comes from the inmost recesses of the heart, from very deep within, comes from the soul. If we can feel that it is not our voice, not our fingers, but some reality deep inside our heart which is expressing itself, then we will know that it is the soul's music.
When we play soulful music, we elevate our consciousness most rapidly. Soulful music is a form of aspiration, a form of meditation. All those who are seekers of the infinite Truth will naturally play soulful music; and when they play soulful music, they have to know that they are consciously running towards their destined goal. 4
Question: Can listening to music raise one's consciousness?
If you listen to and identify yourself with spiritual music, music from the heart and soul, naturally it will raise your consciousness. But if you listen to ordinary vital music, then it will lower your consciousness.
Soulful music already has its own height. While you are listening, you identify with it, so like a magnet it pulls you up. Already the height is there.
If somebody has already gone to the top floor of a building, it means that there is a staircase. You have to identify yourself with the staircase and also with the person who has already climbed up it. Then only will he be able to show you how he climbed up and where the staircase is. Appreciation means identification. If you become one with the staircase and also with the person who has created the staircase for you in his music, then you also can reach the top floor. 5
Question: In today's world, it seems increasingly difficult for artists and musicians to survive. Is there any advice you have for the multitude of struggling artists? And what is it that determines the difference between whether they are truly successful or not?
I am a Truth-seeker and God-lover. In my case, if a musician or an artist can waken the consciousness of the audience to a higher height, then I feel that he is successful; he has made a tremendous contribution to the world at large. But again there are some musicians—and in no way am I criticising them; that is what they like and also what the audience likes—who create a kind of excitement in the vital region. Then it does not go any farther. It only touches the exciting vital and stimulates the vital, and it all ends in eventual frustration. Whereas if some musicians play soulful music and some singers sing soulfully, they are bound to awaken the consciousness of the audience. After all, each individual who comes to listen to songs or to hear music comes to get something abiding—the lasting joy that inspires them to see and feel something in themselves that is absolutely new and unprecedented - unprecedented joy, unprecedented love.
The present-day musicians are the musicians who play vital music. They create lightning excitement for the music-lovers. But excitement is not the answer to humanity's evolution. It is the soulful awakening that is of paramount importance. Soulful music awakens the heart; the soul is already awakened. The soul is always awakened, but the soul tries to manifest God's Beauty, Light and Power in and through its members—the body, vital, mind and heart.
So it depends on the individual musician. If he wants to awaken the consciousness of his listeners and give them something divine and immortal, then he has to enter into their aspiring lives on the strength of his own aspiration — which is his offering through his musical talents.
Each type of music has access to a particular realm. Vital music cannot be used as a vehicle for spiritual growth — it is like knocking on the wrong door. When musicians play vital music, I don't think they are meditating on the soul. They are aiming at excitement and noise, and a kind of, I do not want to say ‘confusion', but a kind of destruction. If you play soulful music, then you have to enter into the soulfulness of the music and also enter into the soulfulness of the audience. If my goal is situated in the north, then I will only get whatever is in the north; I will not get what is in the south.
Sincere God-lovers will not be satisfied when they hear music that is all excitement and vital exuberance. They will be satisfied only when there is something very soulful, very pure, very haunting, so that at every moment they feel they are entering into a higher realm of consciousness. This higher realm of consciousness is their goal, whereas other musicians who are playing vital music are not thinking of the goal as the highest or the greatest need in their life, nor does the audience think of that highest goal.
Sri Chinmoy, The oneness of the Eastern heart and the Western mind, part 3, Agni Press, 2004↩