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Role of music in the process of spiritual growth

Question: Swamiji, what is the role of music in the process of spiritual growth?

Answer: There are a number of ways in which music can serve as sadhana, spiritual practice. The power of music goes far beyond conventional ideas about singing bhajans and other forms of devotional music.

On the spiritual journey to discover God’s presence within ourselves, we must be prepared to employ all of our faculties to reach this lofty goal. We must employ our intellects in scriptural study. We must employ our minds in meditation. And we must also employ our emotions. To ignore our emotions is to deny ourselves a powerful means for spiritual growth. Music appeals to our emotions. While words speak primarily to our intellects, music speaks directly to our hearts. The right kind of music can elevate our hearts and evoke strong emotions that draw us closer and closer to God.

Further, the practice or performance of music can be very meditative. To sing or play an instrument demands a great deal of attention. Carefully focusing one’s mind while singing or playing music helps to create mental discipline. This kind mental discipline is extremely helpful in the formal practice of meditation. A mind disciplined by music is much less likely to wander at the time of meditation.

Finally, music creates an opportunity for laya, absorption. Music can lead one’s mind to a state of mystical union with the divine. Such a condition is similar to that of savikalpa samadhi achieved in meditation. This is a state in which all impurities are purged from the mind and one is plunged into an experience of merging with the divinity already present within. This experience is perhaps the greatest blessing of music as sadhana.