In Hindu tradition, Theology (faith in God and Devotion) and Philosophy (contemplation and analytical reasoning) are inter – twinned in every aspect of daily life. This interconnection can be seen very vividly in the songs composed and their rendering. This raised the following question from one of our readers:
Is devotion (bhakthi) necessary for artists (singers as well as instrumentalists) to bring out the best rendition of various lyrics composed by those who have expressed their innermost contemplation on God and chose particular melodies (ragas) for them. More recently one eminent musician has questioned if bhakthi is a required element for Carnatic music – one form classical music tradition in India – and has written articles to promulgate his views. He suggests that one can just render the finest nuances of musical notations in Carnatic music without the need of bhakthi. On a different level, Beethovan’s 9th symphony Ode to Joy is in praise of Christ. Western philosophy does not have the concept of bhakthi, but, I am thinking that Beethovan’s thought process when he composed it in praise of Christ (after he regained his hearing following a temporary period of total loss of haring+) is close to what we call bhakthi or faith and devotion to the Lord! Some of the best 9th symphony concerts were conducted by conductors like Leonard Bernstein, who have come from strong Jewish faith. Another one is Seiji Ozawa (long time conductor of Boston Symphony) a Japanese who comes from Buddhist background. This seems to lend some support to the view on bhakthi as an unnecessary element for Carnatic music?
Performing music at the highest level is an example of “Self – realization” or union with the “self” – YOGA at its best. In those moments, the musician and the music are inseparable. In fact those are the moments when the musician, the music and the audience are all in unison – different souls, yet present in singular transient state in union with the music, its rules and the melody.
Such perfect state of union with music is just an example of many other activities where the body (or many bodies) and the soul (or many souls) are all intimately and inseparably connected and in union with the activity. This can be in the form of observing a painting, a sports event, an intellectual event like a lecture on a scientific topic, listening to a philosophic discourse, a family gathering, etc.
In any and events the highest level of perfection is achieved when the body (and its activities), mind (and its faith or emotional connection) and the intellect (and its understanding of the nuances and subtlety of the action) are all in tune with each other. These three pathways of union with the action on hand are described as Karma Yoga, Bhakthi Yoga and Gnana Yoga. All these pathways co-exist. For details: https://sipractce.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/enlightened-living-a-seamless-blend-of-three-pathways-for-self-control/ An illustration from this blog post is noted below:
Bhakthi can be understood as faith (and hence Devotion to the belief underlying the faith). For the musician performing the music Karma Yoga (union with action) is involved in terms of the physical instruments and their flawless functioning. The musician must also have knowledge of the rules and their subtle nature as part of his/her intellectual fiber (Gnana Yoga). But his / her action and knowledge are governed by the invisible laws of nature at work. At any moment he /she deviates from the faith (emotional bondage or Bhakthi) that these laws at work are indeed working and begins to question them, his focus in action and knowledge is lost and the performance reaches a level below the highest or sublime nature.
When someone sings a devotional song the musician can tune his faith in his/her connection with the Lord (who represents the Laws of Nature) or simply observe and enjoy the Laws of Nature at work (knowing full well that he/she has the faith in the “laws and their existence on their own accord” – a quality ascribed to the God).
In the Hindu Tradition Bhakthi and Gnana are intertwined (i.e.) religion and philosophy are treated as inseparable elements.
In the Western tradition the Bhakthi (faith) is treated as part of theology and Reasoning (Gnana) is preserved for the realm of Philosophy. But this is a difference without distinction!
This can be clarified using some basic principles in our scientific field: We always start with some basic rules (assumptions) and we build our understanding with these assumptions as foundations. When data and reasoning suggests a need we change our assumptions and continue. But at no point there is a scientific study without certain assumptions (and the faith in these assumptions). As one can see faith (Bhakthi) and reasoning (Gnana) remain intertwined and inseparable.
Whether one sings a devotional song with faith and belief in the Lord or faith in the laws and rules governing the melody that may be a matter of choice for the musician. But faith (Bhakthi) as a means to create the emotional connection with the music remains in both cases.
Could we infer that Beethovan, Leonard Bernstein and Seizi Ozawa – each coming from three different religious traditions – could all perform the Ode to Joy equally well as long as they have an emotional connection with that music and its laws and rules and a faith (Bhakthi) that such a music creates a feeling of joy not easily realized through other music?