'The Three Gunas of Mind and Music ' – By : Dr. T V Sairam

In Sanskrit, mind is known as manas, which is often compared to the form of a mighty ocean, because of its infinite spread and depth and also the constant agitation and turmoil which it witnesses especially in struggling for survival and mundane achievements.

As the mind is susceptible for the frequent storms of passion and breezes of cravings and desires, it undergoes various modifications or moods (vrittis).

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Known as the modal consciousness, such mood changes can impart certain partial knowledge about something or some events. However, Vedanta, the ancient school of Indian philosophy emphasizes the need of cultivating mental tranquility despite such changes.

It is the ancient technique of meditation which aims at bringing in such tranquility essential for the very survival of the human organism and its society. It refers to a process of silencing certain thoughts which are known to cause misery and sorrow – not only to the individual who develops them but also to the whole family or society, which harbours him.

Vedanta says that when mind (antahkarana, the internal constituent of one’s being) is tinged with different objects of thoughts and feelings, it takes automatically their form and characteristics.

The thought and feeling processes involve what is referred to as primordial energy (prakriti) , which manifests as the three gunas (qualities): sattva (light or awakening), rajas (passion or action)and tamas (lethargy or procrastination).

All these psychic forms are nothing but the manifestation of the mind or antahkarana.

We have seen that the desires and passions form the root-cause of mental disturbance, as they tend to disturb the balance ( the state of equilibrium) of mind. As a result, they create sorrows and sufferings in life – both for the individuals as well as for their family or society.

Focusing or meditating on nada (intonation) frees an individual from the constraints of Time, Space and Causality. It is interesting to note that as we sing or play music, the distinction between the past, present and future melt down. The singer or player is led to a state of consciousness which is infinite and eternal (“aham brahma”). The history of fine arts and music around the world indicate that man, in order to overcome his conflicts, had invented – and has been inventing till date- many forms of music. All of them are based on his desire, passion, will and the urge in varying degrees. Music, in a way, is the ending of thought, which leads one to a different dimension which is beyond Time, Space and Causality.

There has been a growing realization of the vrittis, ( the thoughts, memories, imagination and ideas along with confusion in thinking) which diffuse and diverge the mind, interfering with the one-appointed, uni-focal approach celebrated by the yogis.

Recent experiments conducted by this author in recent decade along with musicians, musicologists, psychologists and other medical professionals all indicate that in order to change the negative approach/pattern in one’s mind, the positive approach/pattern involved in music can be a panacea.

Basically all forms of music exhibit positive and healthy pattern which is pleasant and nice. ‘Ranja yati ragah’ (‘What remains pleasant is a raga’) is an ancient definition for raga. In other words, what is not pleasant cannot be a raga or music.

The research done so far by Nada Centre for Music Therapy, Chennai (www.nada.in) indicates that all types of music – including Indian ragas – which have to be necessarily pleasant can be categorized into three groups on the basis of their qualities : sattva, rajas and tamas.

We find numerous examples to illustrate this classification. The musical varieties which impart relaxation and peace- as may be seen in softly-played, slow-moving ragas such as Sama, Kanada, Ahirbhairav (Chakravaham), Nilambari, Mayamalavagowla etc can fit into the sattva category like a fiddle! Remember that these musical pieces have to be moderately slow (but steady) and soft like Mother Theressa or Mahatma Gandhi!

As regards rajas goes, most of the western genres of music which use large orchestral support and the modern versions which use heavy beats and drums and the ragas which assert (even when played in a subtle manner) such as Durbar, Kadanakuthoohalam, Anandabhairavi, Khamas can come under this category.

Tamas, we all know, is a quality of recession, retrograde, or in plain terms, lethargy. There is no dearth for such songs and music these days! Sometimes one wonders whether popularity of such songs and music reflects the very mind of the listeners- which is obviously lethargic or easy-going!

Having categorized all available music from India and other parts of the world to these three categories, the job of an Indian music therapist becomes much simpler.

Now a treatment schedule has to be planned for each patient to inject the quality which is most suited for him or her at a given stage of treatment. To slow down the angry and impatient, sattva-music is the obvious choice. Like-wise to cool down the temper of the elderly and over-tensed patients, the same music should do good. For those persons who are lethargic or slow, there is a need for prescribing rajasic music. While imparting music therapy, it is prudent to avoid tamasic-music altogether, though at times to start with tamasic people can be attracted with this genre of music initially, but subsequently rajasic or saatvic music can follow- without even their knowledge!

Music is now known to control or influence the mind as it causes the mind to be concentrated upon it. Nada yoga has recognized that music prepares the ground of meditation as well as of the attainment of samadhi or the super-conscious state in which the individual soul finds its everlasting peace and attains the God-consciousness.
God consciousness in modern context implies overcoming over-selfishness, creating fellow-feelings and helping the downtrodden and the fellow beings with unconditional love. It is these qualities that can bind humans as a strong society and not those divisive forces we come across day in and day out in politics and terrorism these days.

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3 Responses to “'The Three Gunas of Mind and Music ' – By : Dr. T V Sairam”

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