Outer Music and Dance

Musical instruments are widely used in spiritual assemblies. All religions give them a special importance. Yogis use them, and so also do Muslims. Music is extensively used by Hindus, Sikhs and Christians. Wherever sadhus gather, they use musical instruments. People sing hymns with instrumental accompaniments and go into ecstasy over their beautiful melodies and harmonies. The mind becomes enraptured with this outer music but it does not become conscious nor is it awakened.

One dances in myriads of ways; the mind, however, remains deaf and blind. For whom is all this dancing done?

M3 Asa 364-14

In the first place some people have made a profession of religious singing and dancing.

Some dance to music to earn their bread, and fall to the ground again and again.

M1 Asa Var 465-8

One ties bells to his feet, and for earning his bread dances before God. He performs fasts and the six kinds of actions; observes religious disciplines to impress the temple visitors. He sings the words with his tongue, but his mind does not sing of the Lord.

M5 Maru 1003-5

There is greed in the minds of such persons and their delusions and doubts are, therefore, not removed. No light appears within them, nor do they know the Reality. In the second place such singers always remain engrossed in practising their tunes and correcting them. If you ask them, you will find that many are worried lest they break their voice or the melody so that they continue to impress their audience. They do not even pronounce the words correctly. It is a mere show for them.

The Yogi strikes the string with his hand, but the vina produces no melody.

M4 Asa 368-1

The audience moreover can also understand the hymns only if they are already familiar with them. Otherwise, they do not understand their spiritual import, and know only the tunes and their melody. The Saints do not accept this form of worship. They point out that outer music does not lead to contemplation. Truth is not realized. Egotism is not lessened even a little bit, and one gets no real or lasting peace.

By listening to this vina one does not obtain a composed state of mind; nor does he realize the truth by this vina peace is not gained, and pride is not banished.

M3 Ram Kali 908-16

The time wasted in correcting the tunes and rhythms and in practising them could, with greater profit, be spent on the practice of the Name, according to the directions of the Master.

Why should I search for anklet bells and play on a stringed instrument? When the time between coming and going is so short? Why not cherish the Name? Why arrange the five or seven notes to produce some melody? Wasted is the time it takes to select and memorise a melody. My mind sings the praises of the Lord. Why should one dance and stretch out one's hands and feet?

M4 Asa 368-11

To raise one's hand in ecstasy, or to cry, or to beat the body in an excess of grief, or to dance all these are merely external expressions. The attention is not taken inside. The outer sound can help one in gathering the scattered attention; but it takes the heart to a centre which has no settled place of its own. The outer Music is a trap that makes us forget ourselves and the Lord. Beethoven, the great composer, said, "Music is the mediator between the spiritual and sensual life." By listening to the outer music we find ourselves entangled in an imaginary world created by the player or the singer, But the inner attachment to the world is not broken and cravings are not destroyed. The Gurbani throws particular light on this point and tells us that even though we are enchanted by outer sounds and are attracted by them, even though the whole world is enchanted by beautiful outer music, one who listens to it remains within the domain of the three gunas and wastes one's life. Without the true and all-pervading inner music one always remains in misery and ever suffers at the hands of the billows of Maya.

The world indulges in strife, and is swayed by music. Abiding in the three attributes it comes and goes. Without the Lord's Name one comes to pain.

M1 Ram Kali 905-6

The Shabd rids one of the waves of Maya.

M3 Maru 1049-6

The Saints have, for this reason, not advised the practice of listening to outer religious music and dancing and being swayed by them. They have instead laid stress on the inner love of the Lord.

Some dance to the tinkling of their ankle bells, others fast, wear rosaries and observe disciplines; some anoint their foreheads with sandal paste, but I, the poor one, contemplate on the Lord.

M5 Ram Kali 913-3

Muslim holy men have also stressed the necessity of giving up external music and relying on the internal ancient Melody.

Remove the cotton of doubt from your ears, So that you may hear the Celestial Music. O brave one! bring down the sky to your feet; Listen to the Voice of Silence from the skies.

Alas! You remain imprisoned in the bodily prison; and do not listen to the sacred Divine Music.

Maulvi Rum

Bhai Gurdas in his hymns says in this connection that so long as one remains immersed in external music, the true voice or melody of the Unending Music will not be heard.

As long as you are engrossed in external music, you will not hear the Unending Music.

Bhai Gurdas, Kavit, Savayye, 312

When one hears the external music, one becomes intoxicated like a deer which is trapped. It cannot then be said that he knows the secret of the inner music.

By listening to the external music, one becomes trapped like a deer. He becomes happy-minded, but knows not the secret of the Inner Sound.

Bhai Gurdas, Kavit, Savayye, 412

By transcending the external music, the devotee becomes merged in the unending Celestial Music.

On transcending the external music, one merges with the Unstruck Music.

Bhai Gurdas: Kavit Savayye, 11

We transcend the three gunas by becoming absorbed in the inner Music. The divine Music breaks our worldly fetters and we become truly pure. We float like a lotus on the waves of Maya, and like a duck living in water fly away with dry wings.

In the Gurbani the external music has been called poisonous music or poisonous sound by which one gets afflicted with the venom of Maya.

The tongue and the eyes are the snares of Kal, by hearing the poisonous music the ears are poisoned. Without the inner music we are led astray day and night.

M1 Gauri 227-10

One is pleased by the sound of external music. The mind however, is indifferent to Music in praise of the Lord.

M5 Suhi 738-16

The Saints have clearly stated that one should give up external music and remember the Lord, so that one may be honoured in His Court.

Give up external music and remember the Lord; so that you may be honoured in His Court. Oh Nanak, the Gurmukh meditates on Brahm (God); and God's Grace rids the mind of pride.

M4 Bilawal Var 849-7

The external music is the trumpet of Maya. The egotistical people become engrossed in it.

What is the power in the man-made music? It is all the false trumpeting of Maya.

M5 Gauri 178-2

According to the teachings of the Saints one should become absorbed in the melodies of the Name. Only the singing by one who really knows Him is fruitful. All else is useless.

The singing by him, who has faith in Him, alone is fruitful; he obtains honour in His Court.

M4 Suhi 734-15

The Gurbani says that it is the rhythm and the dance of the Name or Shabd that banishes Maya and worldly attachment. All other music and rhythms are futile.

Let the mind dance strengthening its devotion, and keep the measure as Shabd wills; this is the true dance by which one loses love of the Maya.

M3 Majh 121-18

The mind sings the song of Maya; it hears external musk for many ages. Without the Name the mind remains deluded.

M1 Asa 414-15

The true music is that of the inner Sound, which is played without hands and feet. It is beyond the seven harmonies of the outer music and through it the Truth is realised. It is played without hands or feet.

One is really blessed when one realizes this Shabd.

M1 Asa 412-10

The Gurbani says that the melodies of the unending Music, which lead to salvation, can only be obtained from Saints by a rare devotee.

Your devotee sings Your praises and dances. He plays the unending music on the rebeck and tambourine, Accompanied by cymbals and ankle-bells. He washes the feet of holy men And places the dust of their feet on his forehead. He surrenders body and mind to the Master.

And obtains the true wealth. He who listens with faith is freed from birth and death. Oh Nanak, an awakened devotee is freed from hell by such a dance.

M5 Asa 381-11

Some Saints also used external music. They used it for gathering seekers and delivering their discourses, because there is a great attraction in it. But these Saints then turned the attention of the devotees to the inner Music by means of the outer music.