Most religions offer themselves as a singular musical experience allowing us to grasp almost immediately the spiritual path they propose. So with Christianity which seems summed up in the melismas of Gregorian chant, already giving a taste of this peace which surpasses all. Or the transcendence of the God of Islam which manifests itself so powerfully in the adhan, the call to prayer resounding five times a day. And what about the long recitation of the Vedas evoking a beyond time filled with the glory of the Eternal that Hinduism reveres?
Among the four great liturgical corpora of the Vedas, the Sama-Veda had a remarkable fortune. As its etymology indicates, it is the “Veda of melodies” whose cantillation requires particular ornamentation of the verses in Sanskrit. This process where we stop on a syllable to vocalize it at length is emblematic of Indian music. Whether in the Carnatic tradition in the South or the Hindustani tradition in the North, admirably illustrated by the dhrupad and khyal styles – born from interbreeding with Muslim Persia – Indian classical music finds its source in the ancient singing of the Brahmins. This deeply religious anchoring also reminds us that in India, music is a sadhana, a path to the Absolute. For the performer, it is not only a question of mastering a technique in all its complexity but also of progressing in spiritual asceticism leading to a greater union with the divine, hence the duty to be initiated by an elder musician. who is also a guru, master in things of the Spirit.
For the audience, sadhana consists of being in inner attunement with the performer – a pure gift of divine grace which makes everyone a sahridaya where, in a heart to heart (hridaya), all can commune with the same aesthetic ecstasy. This is the ultimate experience of art as suggested by Vijnana Bhairava, a wonderful little tantric treatise teaching the paths to Awakening: “By attentively following the prolonged sounds of musical instruments, stringed or otherwise, if the mind is not interested in anything else, at the end of each sound, we will identify ourselves with the marvelous shape of the supreme firmament. » Over time, I discovered religious India through its music and, in turn, music taught me the silence of the Ultimate. How could I forget so many starry hours in the company of sitar players or humble devotees singing in pure devotion to their Lord? Indelible is the memory of a concert on the Ganges in February 2019. My friends and I were gliding down the sacred river as two musicians seated at the bow of the boat performed the Bhairava raga befitting the first light of day. In the mists of winter, Benares appeared and disappeared like an unreal vision while, on the other bank, the sun rose gloriously, escorted by the flight of migratory birds. In the cosmic splendor, we had become a single inner jubilation, carried away by a wonder making us already taste the eternity which Boethius wrote that it is “the total and simultaneous possession of a life which has no end” .