By Aalif Surti
After 28 years of experimenting with meditation and music, Swami Chaitanya Bharti, one-time close associate of Osho, launches Oorja Music. Its first project is to revitalize kirtan, a branch of Indian devotional music, as a technique for self-transformation
Swami Chaitanya Bharti is a reluctant interviewee. Naively, he asks me whether I can’t write about his Oorja(Energy) kirtan musicwithout mentioning his name. ‘Every individual,’ he begins, ‘is music… perpetual music. When two people enjoy being together, it simply means they are in a harmonious jugalbandi (duet). He who becomes one with the truth within, transmits it by his very presence, and can bring others in the same state through music created by him.
‘Meditation is imageless, impressionless, contentless consciousness—a state in which thoughts and emotions have totally ceased. The normal energy state in which people live and function does not help in meditation. When you try to meditate, the same energy starts projecting its pre-stored impressions on the mental screen.’
But don’t all gurus say that by witnessing these images they go away?
‘Correct. But to reach the center from where you can truly be a witness, you need to transcend the mind first. During the Oorja kirtan we try to awaken the energy which can help us do that.
‘As you rise higher, objects lose their individual definition and merge into each other. Finally, when there is nothing left, consciousness starts becoming conscious of itself. That, in short, is the total process of meditation.’
The first time I met Chaitanya Bharti was in 1993, when the controversy between the Osho Commune and him was making news every week. Newspapers dubbed him ‘the dissident sanyasin‘ but the hushed talk among sanyasins or renouncers, was that he was an enlightened one. When I met him, the first question I asked was: ‘Are you enlightened?’
His answer took me by surprise. ‘If I say ‘yes’, ‘ he replied with an amused smile, ‘how will you check if it’s true or not?’
On September 26, 1970, Acharya Rajneesh, for the first time, formally initiated six disciples into sanyas or renunciation, at a meditation camp held at Manali, India. Among them was a photographer Harish Chander, rechristened as Chaitanya Bharti from Delhi, India.
In 1974, Rajneesh appointed him to hold meditation camps on his behalf. Even in 1990, when he left the body, Osho’s final message for Bharti was to continue conducting meditation camps.
A few months before he received this message, Bharti had passed through a series of experiences, which he describes as the sense of a ‘huge building, with many floors, exploding’. While walking, he began to wonder who was walking and while talking, he wondered who was the ‘talker’. One night, while reading a book which described this as enlightenment, he realized there was no reader!
After a lifetime of seriousness, he found himself growing lighter. No one was a friend or an enemy. And since he felt he had nothing to contribute and nothing more to gain, he stopped visiting the commune. But Osho’s message held him back to continue conducting three-day camps.
Many mature sanyasins began requesting him for longer meditation camps. Bharti conveyed this message to the commune but he was told that Osho had left guidance that no camps held outside the Pune commune should be longer than three days. Bharti sensed something amiss.
When the dissension on this issue grew, the press got wind of it. The first interview in a local magazine upset the commune. Finally the controversy led to Bharti being banned from the commune.
In the next six years, he regularly conducted independent 10-day meditation camps at the invitation of Osho sanyasins in different parts of India. During a camp held at Patna, India, in October 1997, he received an inner calling to create music that could spread this work to a bigger audience.
Although Bharti’s music was launched early this year with five tapes under the brand name Oorja Music, it was the culmination of his experiments with meditation and music for 28 years.
‘I remember,’ he says, ‘when I first took sanyas, I used to have a vision during meditation—of performing with 200 musicians and 50 singers before millions of people who were being transported into a different divine dimension. It was a strange vision because I had no formal training in music. Perhaps Osho knew it too because when I met him, he immediately asked me to lead his kirtan group around the country.’
Since then, in every meditation camp Chaitanya Bharti conducted, music became an integral part. He developed a unique understanding of how the right music, when used with insight, could spontaneously create a relaxed state of consciousness.
‘Dancing with music uses up the normal energy of the body but awakens subtle energies. Unfortunately, almost all the spiritual music in the market is superficial and directionless since it is created by musicians and not meditators, says Bharti.’
To create authentic transformative music, he says, it is not enough to play the right raga, categories within Indian classical music which are created with all possible permutations and combinations of the seven musical notes. The inner truth needs the presence of someone who can be an opening to the unconditioned energies.
Osho too spoke about this as the difference between kirtan as a living technique and a dead ritual. During his talks on the sutras ( threads ) or teachings ‘threaded’ together, of Tilopa and Sarhapa, he said: ‘In the hands of the blind, all living techniques become dead rituals—like extinguished lanterns. In the hands of those who can see, extinguished lanterns are once again set alight.’
The psychic Edgar Cayce prophesied that sound would be the medicine of the future. He was not the first. Sages and seers right from the Aitreya Upanishad to Ramana Maharshi have praised music as a vehicle of self-transformation.
‘If all is one,’ Joachim Ernst-Berendt points out in his book Nada Brahma: Music and the Landscape of Consciousness, ‘then my consciousness can bring on a change. Then the consciousness of one person can change the consciousness of a thousand people. And the consciousness of one hundred thousand people can change the consciousness of one million people.
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Why did you choose kirtan as your first project?
Kirtan is one of the most revered ancient techniques of self-purification and spiritual growth. It uses man’s instinctive love for rhythm to lead him into a state of tranquility. So it is the most effective technique for the contemporary man.What is the difference between traditional kirtan and your Oorja kirtan?
Oorja kirtan is more evolved, energetic, and effective. We have used classical instruments, and put a great deal of conscious thought into each aspect of the music. For example, instead of using only Hindu mantras we have used sacred words and phrases from diverse religions.
Music for meditation implies soft music while kirtan is more energetic. How does Oorja kirtan help in meditation?
Oorja kirtan is designed to generate total participation from the listeners and lead them into a state of heightened energy. Participating in Oorja kirtan is like taking a deep inner bath and coming out refreshed. I say it with conviction because these compositions have been tested in my meditation camps.
Oorja albums also feature instrumentals. What is that?
Together, the Oorja kirtan and Oorja instrumental create a complete meditation technique. Each instrumental has been crafted to shower the listener with sublime feelings of bliss, gratitude, joy, playfulness and celebration. The music is gentle and nourishing, very much like a musical massage for the body, mind and soul.
Is it only for meditators?
It is for anyone who wants to connect with the spiritual energy within. When played at home, it becomes an enjoyable meditation for the entire family. The energy of this music charges the atmosphere of the home with positive vibrations, promoting a sense of love and harmony. When used for easy listening at work, it enhances efficiency. In nursing homes and hospitals, it helps patients recover faster by unlocking the natural healing energies.
This is only the beginning. Oorja is already discussing projects with noted musicians and vocalists. Live concerts of Oorja music are being planned, as when thousands dance together the meditation is a thousand times more powerful.