The sound of the mantras… Let us first give you a brief history.
In 2016, at Gurumayi’s request, the Swamis began reciting mantras once a month—first in the Bhagavan Nityananda Temple and starting this year, 2018, in Shri Nilaya. Gurumayi had encouraged the Swamis to recite these mantras, which they learned in the early 1990s from Brahmins as part of their study of the scriptures. In this way the Swamis would keep this knowledge alive in themselves and in Shree Muktananda Ashram. Each month, the Swamis choose which mantras they would like to recite to honor specific holidays, celebrations, or anniversaries.
On Gurumayi’s birthday in 2018, ten of the Siddha Yoga Swamis—those who have been residing in Shree Muktananda Ashram—had come prepared to make an offering of mantras to Gurumayi. They had chosen the Indrasya Sam mantras—mantras in honor of Indra, lord of the heavens and rain—from the Sama Veda.
The Indrasya Sam mantras state:
Lord Indra is the protector of all.
Lord Indra is the supporter of all.
He is the champion of good who hears our invocations.
I invoke Lord Indra, the mighty one, who is worshiped by many.
May Indra, the munificent one, bless us with happiness and well-being.
The Sama-veda is the third of the four Vedas, after the Rig-veda and Yajur-veda and before the Atharva-veda. It is the Veda of melodies and chants. The Sanskrit word saman, from which this Veda derives its name, means “song” or “tune”; it also means a “metrical hymn” or “song of praise.” The Sama-veda contains within its verses knowledge that is meant to be sung by Brahmins.
Many of the 1,549 verses in the Sama-veda are borrowed from the Rig-veda; the Sama-veda is, in effect, a musical rendering of these mantras. The verses of the Sama-veda were sung—and continue to be sung—on notes that formed the foundation for raga in Indian classical music. Each raga is a specific arrangement of notes which has an associated quality or rasa.
When the Swamis were reciting the Indrasya Sam, we experienced that we were taken back in time—the resonance of their sound underscored how ancient, how primordial these mantras are. Just imagine: thousands of sages and Brahmins have sung these powerful mantras for the benefit of creation, for the five elements—earth, water, fire, air, and ether—to be in balance, and for the upliftment of humanity.
One participant later recalled:
There was a sense of timelessness as the Swamis recited the mantras. One note in particular was held for a long while and my awareness subtly shifted. I could feel the mantras resonating within me.
As the Swamis concluded their offering from the Sama-veda, Krishna Haddad, the conductor of the music ensemble, lifted his hands to cue the instrumentalists. It was a seamless flow of sounds.
The instrumentalists began playing the melody for the first chant in a garland of namasankirtana. The music was a feast for all our senses, for our heart and soul. There were, in addition to the vocals, exquisite notes emerging and whirling in accord from the piano, violin, harmonium, mridang, cymbals, and tambourine.
The first chant was Om Namah Shivaya in the Bhupali raga. This is the mantra of shaktipat initiation, which the Gurus of the Siddha Yoga lineage have been giving to new seekers for many decades. This mantra has changed the lives of people the world over, and the Gurus, out of their compassion and generosity, have imparted it in so many ways. In Shaktipat Intensives and satsangs, Gurumayi leads people in chanting this mantra and meditating on its sacred syllables. Seekers also receive this mantra in introductory programs on the Siddha Yoga path. It has been inscribed above the Guru’s chair in Siddha Yoga Ashrams and on tour venues, and can be found in other parts of the Ashrams as well—written on cards, painted into artwork, and so on—as a reminder of the presence of divinity in oneself and in one’s world.
One staff member in Shree Muktananda Ashram recalled:
Years ago, when I arrived in the Ashram to serve on staff after finishing college, there were cards with Siddha Yoga quotations on the tables in Annapurna Dining Hall. One of them said: Om Namah Shivaya. Seeing this was an eye-opener for me. I realized that the mantra is not just for repeating during meditation and chanting—but at all times! It’s an ongoing awareness that I can hold, and I can synchronize the repetition of the mantra with my breath no matter what I am doing.
Beginning in the 1970s Baba and Gurumayi would give small cards with the mantra printed on them to people coming for darshan for the first time. These cards would often have images of the Guru on them, or teachings about the power of the mantra, or meditation instructions. For many, many new seekers these mantra cards were therefore not only the way they formally received the mantra; they were also a sacred talisman and an introduction to the Siddha Yoga practice of mantra repetition, a portable “home guide” to support their practice wherever they went. To this day, many people keep their mantra card with them wherever they go, having saved it for years, even decades. Some Siddha Yogis who are in the armed forces even carry their mantra card in pockets close to their hearts; in this way, they can receive blessings and protection as they perform their duties for their country.
We chanted Om Namah Shivaya until the final notes of the mantra got absorbed into the pulse of the mridang. With great vigilance, and at the direction of the conductor, the drummer played a light and lively rhythm. The sounds of the cymbals accentuated the beat and soon we were transported into another heart-stirring chant praising Lord Shiva: Jaya Jaya Shiva Shambho, Mahadeva Shambho in the stately Darbari raga.
Gurumayi composed this chant in Gurudev Siddha Peeth in February 1988, for the purnahuti of the chanting saptah in honor of Mahashivaratri that year. A week later Gurumayi visited Delhi for a series of satsangs at a huge venue; thousands of people came to have Gurumayi’s darshan and participate in satsang. During many of these satsangs and darshans, the music ensemble would chant the new namasankirtana—Jaya Jaya Shiva Shambho—and people absolutely loved it. One sevite who was on the tour staff in Delhi still recalls how people would chant this namasankirtana on bus rides to and from the satsang venues each day for the entirety of Gurumayi’s visit. They would sing at the top of their lungs, totally intoxicated by the power of this chant.
We certainly experienced this power on Gurumayi’s birthday as we chanted Jaya Jaya Shiva Shambho. And we continued to rejoice in the Siddha Yoga practice of chanting, and to immerse ourselves in its various rasas. We chanted Om Namo Bhagavate Muktanandaya in the Dhani raga, which evokes happiness; Kali Durge Namo Namah in the robust and colorful Mand raga; Shri Krishna, Nila Krishna, Bala Krishna, Jay Jay in the lilting and sweet Tilang raga; and finally, Om Namo Bhagavate Muktanandaya in the peaceful and profound Bhupali raga.
Over the years, Gurumayi has given many teachings about rasa, including the rasa of chanting the divine name. This year, in her Message talk on Satsang, Gurumayi gave us the term satyarasa, which means “the ambrosia of the Truth.” It is this ambrosia, this nectar and elixir, that we delight in when we practice Gurumayi’s Message and create our own satsang.
Gurumayi teaches that the tapasya—the grace-filled sadhana—of the Siddha Yoga practices gives rise to satyarasa. Chanting is, of course, a perfect example of this. The many rasas we experience when chanting different namasankirtanas—for example, devotion, longing, love, courage, peace—are all manifestations of satyarasa. They all stem from, and lead us back to, the Truth.
One participant shared this about the chants on June 24:
Just as a beautiful garland is composed of different flowers—each flower being of a different shape, color, fragrance, and texture, and all together forming one perfect composition—the garland of namasankirtanas flawlessly transitioned from one chant and raga to the next. Different melodies, compositions, instrumentation, and tones all merged together to form a beautiful tapestry of Siddha Yoga music, which ushered us into the space of our own hearts.
The way Krishna Haddad brought the garland of namasankirtana to a conclusion reflected his steadfastness; he has, over the years, honed his ability to put into practice the principles of Siddha Yoga music. Krishna learned these principles in 2001, when he was in his late teens and participated in the Premotsava Music Retreat for Young Adults. At the time Krishna had begun studying music in college; he later went on to study music at the graduate level, earning his doctorate in music education. Currently, Krishna teaches music to middle and high school students and he regularly visits Shree Muktananda Ashram to offer his skills as a music director and conductor.
After immersing ourselves in the rasa of Siddha Yoga music, we were treated to a musical rendition from Kenny Werner, jazz pianist. The night before, Kenny had composed a song on the keyboard titled “Light Up the Sky,” as his contribution to the celebration of Gurumayi’s birthday. When we learned this, we were all amazed that such a rich and intricate piece could have been composed overnight and played the very next day—and so impeccably and with such trust!
We listened intently to the notes of the piano as the song unfolded. It became an open-eyed meditation for us. Kenny’s mastery of music is well-known among jazz musicians and jazz aficionados. And his undying passion for music has inspired hundreds of music students to learn music and become great musicians in their own right. Although Kenny has made his mark in the music industry, many times he has shared that playing for Gurumayi is his greatest joy; he has said that music is most meaningful for him when he plays in service of Gurumayi. The fulfillment of Kenny’s wish to play for Gurumayi on Gurumayi’s birthday in 2018 was rewarding for all of us. At such moments, how could we not think that participating in Gurumayi’s Birthday Celebration was like receiving prasad after prasad after prasad!
Following Kenny’s performance, we rose to sing Jyota se Jyota Jagao. Five pujaris performed arati to Gurumayi, standing in a crescent before her, waving trays laden with offerings and glowing with the dancing flames of arati lamps. Each element of arati holds specific significance on the Siddha Yoga path. The flame represents the light of the Self; it symbolizes that the light within us and the light within Shri Guru are one and the same. In waving this flame before Shri Guru, we honor her for kindling this divine light within us.
One of the pujaris, a sixteen-year-old who has been following the Siddha Yoga path since he was a young child, later shared his experience of offering arati. He also spoke about how he was carrying forward what he had learned from this experience. He said:
At one point while I was offering seva as a pujari, Gurumayi looked at me. When she did, I felt so much joy that I let out a small chuckle! I want to be able to share this love and joy with other people. What better way to share it than at work! My summer job is at a department store, and I make sure to give every customer I talk to a nice big smile. I want to send people love no matter how they interact with me, and in that way, to practice being an ambassador of the Siddha Yoga path.
The benefits of participating in satsang—and of participating in this satsang, on Gurumayi’s Birthday 2018—are immeasurable. They extend far beyond however much time we may have spent in Shri Nilaya or reading this Account. Being in satsang expands our knowledge and refines our vision. It makes us look at how we approach our duties and the gift of life we have received from God. It reinforces our desire to pursue sadhana with new vigor. It inspires us to give back to the source of grace in our lives, by reprioritizing where we put our attention and our resources. It galvanizes us to respect the earth, ourselves, and one another by being proactive in sharing what we know and what we have—in small, humble, and great ways, depending upon our capacities and abilities.
It’s our great good fortune that every June, we receive from Gurumayi the Sadguna Vaibhava, her virtues for Birthday Bliss—including a special virtue on June 24 to cultivate and implement in that specific year. When we cultivate these virtues and embody them in our actions, our thoughts, and our behavior, we bring about positive change, not only in ourselves but in everyone around us and in everything we touch. We are fulfilling Gurumayi’s guidance to make this world a better paradise. Gurumayi first gave this guidance in 1993 to the staff in the SYDA Foundation, as their focus for that year; and she has continued to give this guidance in the years since, to sevites and to Siddha Yogis and new seekers throughout the world.
When we reflect on our own transformation because of the Guru’s grace, and the transformation of countless thousands of people who have been shaped by grace; when we feel gratitude welling up within us, like a sudden surge of the ocean—then our natural response is to give back.
Many people have shared that it was and is the experience of Siddha Yoga satsangs and Shaktipat Intensives that drew them originally to the Siddha Yoga path and that continues to impel them to contribute to the work of the SYDA Foundation. They want to give their efforts and skills in service of profound good; they want to be a part of this life-changing work. In doing so, they are contributing to the creation and fortification of the Siddha Yoga legacy.
Although we are saying that Gurumayi’s Birthday Celebration Satsang is coming to a conclusion, truly speaking, the effects of satsang never conclude. The memory of satsang stays with us. The impact of satsang is far-reaching—its benefits are absorbed into the very fiber of our being and into the very fabric of our lives.
In this satsang, just when we thought we’d reached the end of the schedule we had created, Gurumayi asked the music ensemble if they knew how to sing the qavvali He Musafir. With great zeal, the music ensemble said, “Yes, Gurumayi! We do!”—and Krishna began to conduct the ensemble in singing it.
The music for "He Musafir" was composed by Gurumayi for her Message talk of 2001, which she gave in Gurudev Siddha Peeth. Her Message for that year was “Approach the Present with your Heart’s Consent. Make it a Blessed Event.”
The words of this beautiful qavvali are in the Hindi and Urdu languages, and they are as follows:
O traveler! Recognize, recognize, recognize your Master!
Don't recognize him only in the narrow confines of your heart. Recognize him in every garden, acting through every hand, in every companion.
Recognize him in that which has no color, in bright colors, and in that which is wondrous.
Recognize him in your destination, in the resistance or struggles, and in everyone you meet along the way.
In every street, in every companion, in all whom you meet, recognize him.
Recognize him in every resolution, in every intention, and in every melody.
Recognize him in every moment, in every honor, and in every gesture.
If you are a true lover, then recognize your Beloved in every color.
In India, different parts of the day and night are referred to as particular kāla—the term kāla meaning “time.” Within these kāla are more specific segments of time called muhūrta, and some of these kāla and muhūrta are considered especially auspicious. We started the Birthday Celebration with the Morning Arati during the aruṇodaya-kāla or brahma-muhūrta. We had just had satsang in the madhyāna-kāla or abhijit-muhūrta, which is noontime. And before that satsang concluded, the Master of Ceremonies revealed a surprise: that the celebration would be continuing beyond the schedule that we, the participants, had created! In the evening, during sāyaṅ-kāla, we would be singing the Evening Arati in Bhagavan Nityananda’s Temple, with Gurumayi. How perfect! The Birthday Celebration on June 24 would span the three most auspicious times of day, and during these times we would be engaging in the Siddha Yoga practices.
Click here to read part VIII