Nada Yoga is Karma Yoga
You could say that the whole discipline and practice of Yoga is to tune this instrument, which is the body. Body does not only mean the physical body, made up of the Anamaya Kosha, which is the food sheath, made up of the elements. It is the physical, astral, and causal body. The problem is that people, when they think of body, they only think of the physical body, with all of the different systems. But body in the Yogic terminology is physical, astral, and causal body. You have the emotional, sensory, mental, intellectual, and energetic systems, these are all in the astral body. Then you have the ego system. In the causal body, there is the blissful system.
However people are expressing themselves, it all has to do with how his instrument is tuned, we say consciousness. Whatever your state of consciousness, it is expressed through this body. Consciousness meaning your nature, which is an effect of all of your predominating samskaras, which is what you have created through thoughts and actions. It is based on your knowledge, understanding, and action.
Everybody is playing music, everybody is singing, but what are you expressing? You are expressing your own state of consciousness. If you are a depressed person, your singing is expressing that. If you are a rajasic person, an excited person, it is expressing that. If you are corrupted person, it is expressing that. Even when you are singing, or the music you are listening to, it corresponds to your nature. According to your nature, that is the kind of music you will gravitate to. If you say that you listen to all kinds of music, it is because your mind is so scattered, there is no direction or understanding or real purpose and goal in life. This basic understanding is not there.
In your Sadhana, whatever you are doing, it is really tuning up this instrument. When it is tuned, it is a beautiful thing, it expresses such beauty. In the initial, beginning stage, you are learning how to sing or play an instrument, and you have to develop the foundation which takes a long time, learning the notes, learning to listen, to be attentive. If attentiveness is not there, you are not learning anything, you are not progressing. That leads into concentration. This whole process of Yoga that we talk about, that leads to transformation, is beautifully demonstrated and expressed in the learning of music. You may sit there and say that you have good concentration, but how do you know? First you don’t even have attentiveness. So in this science of music, immediately right away you know, or the teacher knows if there is attentiveness. If the attentiveness is not there, while he is teaching you, you are not even listening to anything. Attentiveness is not there. When you reach that point of attentiveness, then you start concentration. That is why you when you have for example the mind of a child, the mind is not so corrupted. It is not an effort to be attentive. It just records there. So depending on what you are exposed to, what kind of music, that is how you are conditioned.
In the beginning stage, you want to learn music. You can be motivated by so many things to learn music. You want to be a great star, a famous person, a rich person. All of these things can be the motivating force behind your desire, so there is a desire, what kind of desire that is motivating you? So you see expressed all kinds of people with different kinds of desires, and you can be attracted to one of then. A rock star, a rap star, why? Because they are very famous, wealthy, they drive nice cars. These are things that can motivate you to learn music. Depending on how difficult the music is, that can also determine whether or not you like it or don’t like it. This rap music, anybody can curse, it is very common, so you don’t have to exercise too much effort. So depending on what is motivating you, you will develop that ability.
Then you can use your music to just manipulate people. You go up on the stage, it’s just Rajas or Tamas, not much Sattva there. You can get stuck in that mode. A person like Elvis Presley, did he improve in consciousness? Even though concentration was there, but what was it used for? Just to destroy himself, because of the music he was involved in, just sex and drugs. Pleasure pleasure pleasure. Music can be a very pleasurable thing, disseminating pleasure on so many levels. Most of these entertainers, what kind of music do they play? Just to arouse sexual desires in people. The way they dance, express, it’s just sex. Then when that becomes so commonplace, it doesn’t satisfy the pleasure, you need more, so you start to take drugs and all kinds of activities that corrupt the world, not just the individual.
Alternatively, as you get involved in Divine music, guided by your Guru, what happens? Eventually your music becomes such an amazing expression of selflessness. It benefits the world in such a Divine, Sattvic way. It is not corrupting the minds of people. And you reach that point where you are not even thinking about that. Even selfless desire is not there. It is just pure expression of the soul. That is why to the Yogi, it doesn’t matter who listens or who doesn’t listen. In his silence, his solitude, he delights in it. Even that becomes an expression of selflessness, action that is taking place that is not even motivated by desire.
These things that you read in the scriptures, it can be expressed there, it can be demonstrated by the Yogi in his solitude in his music. At the same time, the vibration that is created in the world counteracts all of these negative forces.
When we talk of Karma Yoga, Karma means action, and action is taking place all of the time. Action becomes Karma Yoga when you start to expand your activity and efficiency to produce more that can benefit others, not just yourself. In that way, benefiting others, it is just a natural thing. You are planting a fruit, a vegetable, it takes a lot of effort and resources. But Nature is producing for you, you are not growing it. You are just doing your action, what you need to do. God is providing, Mother Earth, the sunlight, that is what is creating it, not you are creating it. “I grew this mango tree.” Can you really grow any mango tree? You just do your action, your duty, your job, how to plant it. You are not growing it, God is growing it. When it produces, is there any discrimination that it is only producing for this person and not for that person? When the mango is bearing, does it look at the vile, useless person and throw a mango at them and hit them on their head? They just produce, that is its nature, its nature is to produce.
In the same way, as you go on doing your activity, God is flowing through you. If you recognize and understand that, then all of your activity becomes selfless. It is your nature to act. It is the nature of the instrument if it is tuned to produce nice music, if the Divine is playing through you, flowing through you. If you surrender this instrument for the Lord to play its tune through you, that is the highest state, where there is no desire anymore. But, it is still expressing according to the instrument and so on. If well-tuned, there is no obstacle. Take for example you are playing the flute, you become aware something is wrong, you need to clean something there to correct the sound. That is all you do when the flute is producing and expressing the music according to the nature of the instrument. When you reach that stage where you are expressing, there is no more desire any more as to who you are impressing or not. You delight in your own self and expression, so even music can be an expression in selflessness.
In the beginning I wanted to express and fulfill my own desire, of 108 Ragas. As it went on, it became an endless project. Then there was this fantasy also, that a lot of people would appreciate it so much. People told me, “This will sell like hotcakes!” With those things, expectation was there. By the end of the project, there is only self-fulfillment. So many thousands of copies of the book are all here in the bookstore. There are so many projects like that.
A swami used to come here once a year to raise money for her charity organization in England, homeless kids. She grew up in Sanskrit language and would chant the mantras. I enjoyed it and said she could record it, she was so happy. I employed an engineer and spent thousands of dollars on editing to produce 2 CDs of Vedic Chanting. How many people buy it? Hardly anybody. Every time she comes, I give her a couple hundred copies because when she goes about she can sell them with direct contact with people. It’s all selfless, because I enjoy the experience and being exposed to Vedic chanting.
Music is such an amazing Sadhana. My guru, he never practiced any other kind of Yoga, just Mujik. But it is an evolution, just like how you are evolving, through desires to motivate yourself. If you remain a dull person, to really want to learn music you have to be inspired by someone, regardless of what it is. According to your nature, you will be inspired by that person. The majority of the people in the world are of a very base, lower, animalistic nature. That is why they are attracted to common, ordinary music, but even then it still has melody and rhythm, so the foundation is there. Some people are so basic they don’t even have rhythm. Even having rhythm is a very high state to reach.
So you are motivated, whatever the nature is. Eventually, your nature will start to change, you become more and more inspired by higher and higher music. You look at people, the kind of instrument they are attracted to, all of that will tell you their nature. In Nada Yoga, the body is the instrument. When tuning up the body, the first thing is your voice. You have to have a voice. Everybody has a voice, but is it expressing something refined and beautiful? You have to let it flow. If there is obstruction, not just the physical vocal cords, it is not just that you are developing, or phlegm and all of that. If there is emotional blockages, the voice still wouldn’t come through, even though you have vocal cords, the blockage is still there. Then you need knowledge also, on how to express on a higher and higher, more refined level. Even from the voice you can tell a lot about the nature of a person, the way they sing and express themselves.
All of the stages, steps, and process that the scripture is telling you on how to improve yourself, to raise your consciousness, through this kind of music is what we call Nada Yoga. You see how it is available to everybody, because the body is the instrument that you are tuning.
Music can help you to become more aware of your own physical and health state also. When I am singing, if I am tired or congested, the voice doesn’t flow. That is one of the main causes of sickness in people, congestion. My guru, every day he exercised. His exercise was not lifting weights or Yoga, he just walked until he sweats. In India every day, climbing a hill, so here just walking around was not enough, so every day I would take him to the beach where would walk up and down until he got enough exercise. You are involved in such an amazing system here, Sampoorna Yoga, so apart from the music, you do Hatha Yoga, Karma Yoga, working on all aspects of your personality.