NADOPASANA FOR SALVATION
By Dr. R. Krishnaswami
Nadopasana is bhakthi, worship, and devotion through music. As the article on Thyagaraja’s musical plays points to, Sri Thyagaraja Swami used his compositions to energize our inner spiritual forces or Nadopasana to attain moksha or salvation in this life. There are several references to Nadopasana in Indian musicology, philosophy, and epics. For example, in The Sangita Rathnakara, the opening slokas explain how nada and Kundalini1 are interrelated and how this comprehension is necessary for salvation. Sri Thyagaraja Swami took the first three slokas and composed the following kritis, Nada Thanum Anisam, Sobhillu Saptha Swara, and Nadopasana, using the first, second, and third sloka respectively.
According to Hindu sastras, Naabhi, Hrith, Kanta, Rasana, and Naasa are the sources of sound which originate from the Mooladhara or the inner soul. The recognition of this Mooladharaja naada is itself moksha says Sri Thyagaraja in the Sankarabharanam kriti, Swara Raga Sudharasa. Thyagaraja Swami says “Mooladaraja” naada “Merungutaye mudamagu mokshamura”; the realization of the existence and experience of the sound generated at the base of the spine is itself blissful heaven. Again, in the same kriti, he reiterated this again, “kolahala saptaswaramula gruhamula guruthe mokshamura.”
In this connection, it is interesting to note that Sir John Sparrow, in his book titled, Serpent Power, equates Kundalini with endogenous sound. The identification of the correct srutis as the home of the swaras is also important for experiencing moksha or liberation “Saptha Swarmula Grhuhamula guruthe mokshamura.” The worship of pure sound emanating from within you and identifying yourself with it and being in consonance with it is liberation or moksha. This is Nada Yoga.2
Sri Thyagaraja Swami not only stresses the importance of recognizing and developing the ability to experience Mooladhara nada, but also more specifically asks the votaries to practice sangitopasana as a means and prelude to enjoying Nadopasana. In his composition, Sribapriya Sangeethopasana in Atana, he conjures up visions of the mind traveling in the swaras – “Sapthaswara Chaari” and melodic ragas manifesting themselves in delightful forms – “Ranjimpa Jesedu ragambulu, manjulamagu navatarambulethi.” He stresses other and nearer terrestrial benefits of sangria gana – “Prema Bhakthi, Sujana Vathsalyamu, Srimath Ramaa vara Katakshamu, Nema Nishta Yasodhanamu” as the rewards of acquiring Sangita Sastra gnana.
These discussions on Nadopasana thus point to how Sri Thyagaraja was not only an excellent musicologist conforming to the traditional sastras but who, through simple songs with pristine purity, taught us the nature and purpose of music. Indeed, through sangita he urged us to acquire the wisdom of perceiving Brahman, the intelligence to analyze and experience Him; the diligence to seek Him; and the patience to wait for enlightenment. He described his Rama as an embodiment of Nada. No other composer has in such a simple and appealing ways taught music as art, science, philosophy and ultimately, as a means to salvation.
1 According to Yoga sastras, we humans are a microcosmic image of the universe. This universal energy that each human carries within oneself is the Kundalini. The Kundalini lies dormant until awakened. The object of certain forms of yoga is to awaken this dormant force and to let it lead us to the path of salvation. Liberation, therefore, is unity with the universe from which we originated; the individual spirit becomes part of the universal spirit. It is the highest experience that a yogi to a saint to an ordinary individual is striving to reach. One of the yogic approaches that awaken the Kundalini is the nada or Nadopasana or devotion through music.
2 Kritis such as Mokshamu Galada (Sarmathi) and Swara Raga Sudha rasa (Sankarabharanam), Raga Sudha Rasa (Andolika) and Sitavara (Devagandhari) deal with the subject of nada yoga. It is believed that the root of our spinal column, there is a chakra or stahanam (place/location). Starting from here and going up to the crown of a person’s head, Prana, passes through knots or granthis. There are three knots, Mooladhara Kshetra, Manipoora or Vishnu Granthi and Agnya chakra or Rudra granthi. The path, sound takes through these granthas is called srotha. And, the practice of taking the sound to the prana and achieving liberation is called nada yoga.
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