Resonance and the Om

Monks meditation on waterfall

 

Essential to an understanding of Buddhist and Hindu cultures, meditative practices, and religious precepts, is a comprehension of resonance. Resonance addresses how even the slightest vibrations transfer energy and subsequently cause movement to spread like ripples until the energy dissipates and the vibrations settle. Resonance also applies to sound studies because of the relationship between sound and movement. Sound waves are caused by movement and even the Brownian motion, the movement of atoms, create sound waves.

Resonance holds a place of great importance when studying these cultures because of the Om and other basic tenets found within these religions. A deep belief in the interconnectedness of the universe lies at the foundations of these two cultures. Understanding the phenomena of resonance is direly important to attaining a state of inner and outer peace is the ultimate goal. By attuning themselves to resonance through use of the Om, meditation, and learning, these peoples are also learning to control the vibrations they cause and to better receive those of others. Resonance is more than just an acoustic property to these cultures; it’s also symbolic of the ebb and flow of life and the universe, of which humans are merely specks within. By exploring resonance within these cultures I will examine these eastern cultures and the sound, mind, and body connections therein from a western intellectual perspective.

 

 

 

 

The Om is extremely important to meditative and yogic activity in both Hindu and Buddhist culture. This simple sound is intrinsically linked to the very foundations of these two religions, and is representative of the thrumming movement of the universe. This particular video captures a group of Tibetan monks chanting the Om in accompaniment with quiet bells and drums. Though the Om is not always carried out for such an extended period of time, it is often used to denote the beginning and end of different activities like praying, meditating, reciting mantras, or as a preface to a religious text.

 

 

A Hierarchy of Hindu Identity

In the extremely diverse religio-culture of Hinduism, the type of verbal worship one practices with largely defines that person’s identity in that society. In this way, the sounds of Hinduism serve as a case study for the relationship between sound, identity and belonging. Each invocation belongs to a complex hierarchy of identification. At the top of the pyramid is Hinduism, a broad term referring to the Indian culture assigned to the Western idea of religion. Below that are the two categories of vocal expression, bhajan and mantra. Beneath that the sounds are subject to an elaborate labyrinth of intersecting and intertwined spheres of identification. The most discernible quality at this level is which deity the song, prayer or chant refers to. From there a sound can be traced through traditions and sub-traditions, geographic locations and varying contexts. Though a sound of Hindu worship can rarely be tracked to a precise origin, devotees that belong to the elements that define it can identify with that sound.

This particular bhajan, or prayer song, is in praise of Vishnu, the deity that is responsible for maintaining the balance of dharma and adharma, which roughly translates to good and evil, in the world. Any followers of the Classical Theology of Hinduism or any devotees to Vishnu could identify with this song. Often Vishnu appears in the form of Krishna, so Krishna Bhakti followers would also relate to this particular bhajan.  Many Hindus praise Vishnu in conjunction with his brother deities in the form of the Trimurti, so all of the Hindu’s that identify with any of the gods listed would also find a sense of belonging in this song. However yogi’s and those who practice mantra worship, or devotees of other gods such as Kali-Ma, would not identify with this song.

raas_leela

Belonging Through Sound In Hinduism

The sounds that define the religio-culture of Hinduism can be divided into two distinct categories: mantras or chanting and prayers songs known as bhajan. Both are vocal expressions employed to achieve similar goals, however, the practice and setting in which each is voiced is vastly different. The type of verbal worship or prayer that one practices largely defines his place in Hindu society. In this way, the various sounds of Hinduism serve as not only a vehicle of praise and divine relation, but also as a form of identification within Indian culture. In order to analyze the relationship between sound, identity and divine knowledge in Hinduism, it is essential to understand the purpose, parts and practice of each category.

Bhajan is part of Bhakti Yoga, a tradition based in the Upanishadic and Dharmic subtraditions of Hinduism that eventually detached and became its own form of worship. Bhakti Yoga is essentially disciplined worship by means of complete devotion and love. Bhakti can be directed to any deity, however Krshna Bhakti is the most popular due to his accessibility and inclusive reputation, especially for women. The bhajans of Krshna Bhakti are a particularly significant due to the nature of Krshna worship festivals. As a playful and loving god, Krshna Bhakti is practiced through elaborate festivals with dances like the ras lila, sports, delicious foods and fun activities. The dances and songs of Krshna Bhakti are meant to be entertaining, erotic and arousing, allowing followers to reach the purest and strongest form of love for Krshna. One main subject of bhajan is the divine union of Krshna and his earthly lover Radha. By listening, singing, and dancing to arousing music, complete devotion to the divine is reached by sharing ultimate and unrestrained love. One famous devotee of Krshna is Mirabai, a 16th century Hindu saint who wrote songs and poems of love to Krshna. Her work exemplifies the devotion necessary to reach the ultimate goal of liberation through Bhakti Yoga.

Hindu mantras and chanting trace back to the origins of the religion. One of the first rituals that remains the epicenter of the Vedic tradition is the fire sacrifice. Noble priests and householders perform this ceremony at different levels, sacrificing food and offerings for protection, prosperity and progeny. During the ritual, different hymns are chanted to call on the various gods and request divine knowledge in return for devotion. Mantras or “sacred sentences” are also chanted in everyday practice to express devotion in order to increase consciousness of liberated truth.

Both forms of worship achieve liberation from the cycle of delusion via devotion to the divine through vocal expression, however the practices, and therefore practitioners, of each are different, making sound a form of identification. Bhajan is easy to access in the general Hindu population and tend to be more pleasurable while mantra is much more serious and takes a higher status and level of attention. By partaking in vocal prayer, whether it be mantra or bhajan, a Hindu is identifying himself as either a part of the majority with worship integrated into daily life or as a part of the minority that lives as a devotee and student of the divine powers at work.

Annotated Bibliography

Zide, Norman. “Mirabai and Her Contributions to the Bhakti Movement.” History of Religions. Vol.5, No.1 (Summer,1965), 54-73.

Norman Zide is a Professor of South Asian Languages and Civilization in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Chicago. In this article, Zide examines the life and influences of the well-known Hindu poet Mirabai. Miribai dedicated all of her poems, which were sung as bhajans, to Lord Krshna and focused on his divine relationship with Radha. Miribai’s complete devotion to Lord Krshna contributed to the popular practice of Krshna Bhakti Yoga by making devotion more available via the vehicle of music.

Singer, Milton. “The Radha-Krishna ‘Bhajans’ of Madras City.” History of Religions. Vol. 2, No. 2 (Winter, 1963), 183-226.

Milton Singer is one of the nation’s pre-eminent scholars of India focusing specifically on the period of modernization on Indian culture. In this journal article, Singer analyzes the popularity of bhajans in 20th century. He uses the Krshna Bhakti worship dance known as ras lila and the prayer songs that accompany it to illustrate the importance of bhajans in Krshna worship. He also breaks the diverse practice into six distinct categories and examines the social integration of each type of prayer song.

Kinsley, David. “Without Krsna There is No Song.” History of Religions. Vol. 12, No. 2 (November, 1972), 149-180.

David Kinsley was a professor in the Department of Religious Studies at McMaster University who mostly studied the role of the divine feminine in Hinduism. Fascinated by the popularity of Krshna Bhakti, its practices, and how it contrasts with other Hindu traditions, Kinsley claims that without Krshna worship, sound would play a much different role in Hindu culture. The playful music and songs of India exist only because of Krshna worship and, in a historical context, are very new to Hinduism.

Gonda, Jan. “The Indian Mantra.” Oriens. Vol. 16 (December, 1963), 244-297.

Jan Gonda was a Dutch Orientalist and Indologist recognized as one of the twentieth century’s leading scholars of Asian language, literature and religion. His work with Hindu texts lead him to analyze the importance of the spoken word, especially mantra, in Hindu rituals. Vocal expression is central to the rituals of older Hindu traditions, such as the fire sacrifice in the Vedic Tradition. The power of “sacred sentences” are achieved through repetition and emphasis. This journal article also breaks down and analyzes some important Vedic hymns, identifying the poets intent and the importance of the hymns in Vedic practices.

Bhaktivedanta Swami. On the Way to Krsna. London: Bhaktivedanta, 1973. 5-79.

A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was a Vaishnava teacher and the founder of Interntionational Society for Krishna Consciousness, known as the “Hare Krishna Movement.” He translated over sixty volumes of classic Vedic scriptures and dedicated the last twenty years of his life to publishing his works of religious teachings. This short book of teachings lays out ways to act in order to live a life of devotion to Krsna. One of the most important ways to know Krsna is through chanting. Bhaktivedanta Swami translates the Hare Krsna mantra and explains how to utilize it to see, feel, and relate to Krsna everywhere and always.

Beloning Through Sound in Hinduism

The sounds that define the religio-culture of Hinduism can be divided into two distinct categories: mantras or chanting and prayers songs known as bhajan. Both are vocal expressions employed to achieve similar goals, however, the practice and setting in which each is voiced is vastly different. The type of verbal worship or prayer that one practices largely defines his place in Hindu society. In this way, the various sounds of Hinduism serve as not only a vehicle of praise and divine relation, but also as a form of identification within Indian culture. In order to analyze the relationship between sound, identity and divine knowledge in Hinduism, it is essential to understand the purpose, parts and practice of each category.

Bhajan is part of Bhakti Yoga, a tradition based in the Upanishadic and Dharmic subtraditions of Hinduism that eventually detached and became its own form of worship. Bhakti Yoga is essentially disciplined worship by means of complete devotion and love. Bhakti can be directed to any deity, however Krshna Bhakti is the most popular due to his accessibility and inclusive reputation, especially for women. The bhajans of Krshna Bhakti are a particularly significant due to the nature of Krshna worship festivals. As a playful and loving god, Krshna Bhakti is practiced through elaborate festivals with dances like the ras lila, sports, delicious foods and fun activities. The dances and songs of Krshna Bhakti are meant to be entertaining, erotic and arousing, allowing followers to reach the purest and strongest form of love for Krshna. One main subject of bhajan is the divine union of Krshna and his earthly lover Radha. By listening, singing, and dancing to arousing music, complete devotion to the divine is reached by sharing ultimate and unrestrained love. One famous devotee of Krshna is Mirabai, a 16th century Hindu saint who wrote songs and poems of love to Krshna. Her work exemplifies the devotion necessary to reach the ultimate goal of liberation through Bhakti Yoga.

Hindu mantras and chanting trace back to the origins of the religion. One of the first rituals that remains the epicenter of the Vedic tradition is the fire sacrifice. Noble priests and householders perform this ceremony at different levels, sacrificing food and offerings for protection, prosperity and progeny. During the ritual, different hymns are chanted to call on the various gods and request divine knowledge in return for devotion. Mantras or “sacred sentences” are also chanted in everyday practice to express devotion in order to increase consciousness of liberated truth.

Both forms of worship achieve liberation from the cycle of delusion via devotion to the divine through vocal expression, however the practices, and therefore practitioners, of each are different, making sound a form of identification. Bhajan is easy to access in the general Hindu population and tend to be more pleasurable while mantra is much more serious and takes a higher status and level of attention. By partaking in vocal prayer, whether it be mantra or bhajan, a Hindu is identifying himself as either a part of the majority with worship integrated into daily life or as a part of the minority that lives as a devotee and student of the divine powers at work.

Annotated Bibliography

Zide, Norman. “Mirabai and Her Contributions to the Bhakti Movement.” History of Religions. Vol.5, No.1 (Summer,1965), 54-73.

Norman Zide is a Professor of South Asian Languages and Civilization in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Chicago. In this article, Zide examines the life and influences of the well-known Hindu poet Mirabai. Miribai dedicated all of her poems, which were sung as bhajans, to Lord Krshna and focused on his divine relationship with Radha. Miribai’s complete devotion to Lord Krshna contributed to the popular practice of Krshna Bhakti Yoga by making devotion more available via the vehicle of music.

Singer, Milton. “The Radha-Krishna ‘Bhajans’ of Madras City.” History of Religions. Vol. 2, No. 2 (Winter, 1963), 183-226.

Milton Singer is one of the nation’s pre-eminent scholars of India focusing specifically on the period of modernization on Indian culture. In this journal article, Singer analyzes the popularity of bhajans in 20th century. He uses the Krshna Bhakti worship dance known as ras lila and the prayer songs that accompany it to illustrate the importance of bhajans in Krshna worship. He also breaks the diverse practice into six distinct categories and examines the social integration of each type of prayer song.

Kinsley, David. “Without Krsna There is No Song.” History of Religions. Vol. 12, No. 2 (November, 1972), 149-180.

David Kinsley was a professor in the Department of Religious Studies at McMaster University who mostly studied the role of the divine feminine in Hinduism. Fascinated by the popularity of Krshna Bhakti, its practices, and how it contrasts with other Hindu traditions, Kinsley claims that without Krshna worship, sound would play a much different role in Hindu culture. The playful music and songs of India exist only because of Krshna worship and, in a historical context, are very new to Hinduism.

Gonda, Jan. “The Indian Mantra.” Oriens. Vol. 16 (December, 1963), 244-297.

Jan Gonda was a Dutch Orientalist and Indologist recognized as one of the twentieth century’s leading scholars of Asian language, literature and religion. His work with Hindu texts lead him to analyze the importance of the spoken word, especially mantra, in Hindu rituals. Vocal expression is central to the rituals of older Hindu traditions, such as the fire sacrifice in the Vedic Tradition. The power of “sacred sentences” are achieved through repetition and emphasis. This journal article also breaks down and analyzes some important Vedic hymns, identifying the poets intent and the importance of the hymns in Vedic practices.

Bhaktivedanta Swami. On the Way to Krsna. London: Bhaktivedanta, 1973. 5-79.

A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was a Vaishnava teacher and the founder of Interntionational Society for Krishna Consciousness, known as the “Hare Krishna Movement.” He translated over sixty volumes of classic Vedic scriptures and dedicated the last twenty years of his life to publishing his works of religious teachings. This short book of teachings lays out ways to act in order to live a life of devotion to Krsna. One of the most important ways to know Krsna is through chanting. Bhaktivedanta Swami translates the Hare Krsna mantra and explains how to utilize it to see, feel, and relate to Krsna everywhere and always.

Resonance of Mind, Resonance of Body

 

 

Questions concerning the mind, body, soul triad have for many eons puzzled humans. Consistently throughout history humans have searched for answers and balance within the three, but many to no avail. What is the appeal of these meditative states and capabilities? Well for many, it’s the inner peace and calm that is associated with the practice of such yogi activities.

Now although my research is majorly populated by the relationship aforementioned, it is another, more specific symbiosis of life that I will be examining. The main focus of this research will concern sound, mind, and body, and the interaction between the three through different practices such as meditation and yoga. As well, I will specifically explore the effects of sound, dissect them in terms of various authors, such as Schafer, Atali, Feld, and Veal. To complement my research I will also gather and create a select number of sound replications that might be associated with Buddhist and Hindi meditation.

Using the below mentioned five sources as my foundation, with possible changes to come, I will trace the cultural and spiritual history of these techniques and their sounds. Once the significance has been established and a fair understanding of the narrative of meditation throughout human history is realized, the research will then move towards more recent studies and scientific breakthroughs concerning the sound, mind, and body interaction.

The historical and cultural explorations will focus upon the Tibetan Buddhist tradition as well as the ancient Indian Hindu religion. Both of these “religions” are known to be interpreted more as ways of life, not exactly dictated religious precepts. These ways of life include a great deal of sensory (body) and mind reorientation through meditative practices. The spiritual importance of these beliefs and behaviors stems from the emphasis these ways of life put upon connection and peaceful stasis. In meditation, mind and body, including the sense of hearing, seek equilibrium. This practice has heavily influenced a great many members of this world, and the three religious texts used, Siddhartha, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, and the Baghavad-gita, will provide thorough and exciting insight into the various cultural backgrounds.

I will also address certain characteristics of sound, namely resonance, dissonance, types of sound, and other various attributes sound may possess. In this way I hope to give my readers a full historical and cultural view of meditation, and then address modern applications and neurological studies. This continuity will provide readers with a lot of interesting information to digest and to come away with. With the inclusion of different sound replications, I am sure that this topic will be easily adapted into a vibrant poster format.

My last hope for this project is that it reveals aspects of sound, mind, and body interaction that I have previously been unaware of. My greatest want is to explore this topic and find something new out. Something that will utterly change the way I think. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, it can just be a small new phenomena that I am made aware of. With this plethora of exceptional literature and research before me, it seems inevitable that new discoveries are bound to occur.

Annotated Bibliography

Coleman, Graham; Jinpa, Thupten; Dorje, Gyurme. Meditations on Living, Dying, and               Loss. New York: Penguin. 2005. Print

 

Hesse, Herman. Siddhartha. New York: Penguin, 1999. Print.

 

Kozasa, Elisa H.; Sato, Joao R.; Lacerda, Shirley S. Meditation Training Increases                    Brain Efficiency in an Attention Task”.  NeuroImage. 2 January 2012. Vol. 59,          Issue 1, Pages 745-749.

 

Prabhupada, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. Bhagavad-gita. California: Krishna Books. 1972. Print.

 

Zeldan, F., Grant, J.A. “Mindfulness Meditation-Related Pain Relief: Evidence for         Unique Brain Mechanisms in the Regulation of Pain”.  Neuroscience Letters. 29 June 2012. Vol. 520, Issue 2, Pages 165-173.

 

 

Siddhartha – The plot of this novel follows the theoretical first Buddha, Siddhartha Gotama’s, life in his development from a young and impetuous man into a being of patience, compassion, and simplicity. Herman Hesse has written extensively, specifically concerning Eastern religions and philosophies. This source adds to the sense of historical narrative that I am attempting to couple with the modern research techniques of the two scientific articles. It is intended for all, especially those searching for religious, spiritual, and ethical guidance.

 

“Mindfulness Meditation-Related Pain Relief” – This article focuses upon recent discoveries of the potential for mindfulness and mediation to be employed in pain relief practices. The five authors seem credible as well as intelligent and thorough. The article communicates abstract and difficult topics quite effectively. Most likely intended for further scholarly work and possible applications in modern day medicine. This article will be used as a source in combination with the other peer reviewed article, to establish and examine the contemporary applications and occurrences of the ancient practice of meditation.

 

Bhagavad-gita – This famous text concerns the battlefield dialogue between the Lord Sri Krsna and Arjuna. The Gita is considered a sacred “song” in Vedanta cultures. Its exploration of the religious and spiritual themes heavily associated with yoga, and its examination of yoga itself are of great interest due to their relationship of sound, mind, and body. This text adds a deeply spiritual perspective to the research that will complement the empirical studies conducted on the observable mental effects.

 

 

Meditations on Living, Dying, and Loss – This text also focuses on spiritual and ethical teachings and advice but provides a different point of view. While the Bhagavad-gita descends from an Indian Hindi culture, The Tibetan Book of the Dead is one of the great works to come out of the Buddhist milieu of Tibet. It contains much of the Buddhist lore that surrounds the origin of meditation and its spiritual precepts. It also examines the role of the senses, including hearing, in understanding of self. The editors and translators all possess preeminent degrees in their respective fields, and the Dalai Lama is the source of Tibetan Buddhist culture. I am extremely interested to see what this source will add in terms of human experience with meditation and associated beliefs.

 

“Meditation Training Increases Brain Efficiency in an Attention Task” – This study examines the attentive ability of meditators in comparison with non-meditators. In Their findings they have found that attention attribution efficiency and impulse control are increased in meditators. The relationship between meditation and sensory attunement is a direction I would like to head with this research, and I feel this article will emphasize and support this focus. This source will provide assertions and statements with factual back-up. The exploration of this phenomenon will add much credence and understanding to meditation as a practice and tradition.