By Mansi Agarwal
Classical singer, Shruti, feels that music is a link to the purest force and believes in the innate power of chanting.
A Day in My Life
One word to describe a day in my life is, flexible. Just as seasons change each year, similarly, different kinds of manifestations have different times of the day, when they manifest out of our spirit. My music also flows out accordingly. Sometimes I feel like doing a morning raga so I do it in the morning. Sometimes I feel like doing a late night raga so I do it at night. I do not have any fixed time to wake up or go to sleep. Sometimes I work through the night; I sleep very little, normally four to six hours. So I wouldn't say that I have any fixed day or night, they are wholly flexible.
I pay a lot of attention to having adequate water. I start my day by having more than a liter of water first thing in the morning. By drinking lots of water I bathe my internal system and cleanse all the toxins from it. Just like we have an external bath, our body also requires an internal bath.
I like fruits and have a lot of them. I prefer not to indulge in a spicy or salty diet. I like vegetables in my food, be it Indian or Chinese cuisine.
When we speak about yoga it is not just about asanas. Anything done consciously towards evolution is yoga. According to me, yoga includes food, exercise, thought, awareness, and observation. So I try to maintain myself, on multiple levels, with the help of conscious yoga. I do a lot of asanas and breathing exercises as well. But my primary health secret is chanting. Your cells and your whole body get rejuvenated when you chant.
I have been singing ever since I was a child. I started learning Hindustani classical music since I was eight. Besides, I heard chants ever since I was two or three. I heard my grandfather and my father doing the chants daily at havans. So chanting is something which went into me subconsciously.
My two daughters, Vidhi and Vedika, are my treasures. They are both in college, and are like a mirror to me. Even without words, they have shown me who I am, because they know me best. There is an unspoken understanding between the three of us and they are a great support to me. In fact, I remember, when my younger daughter was only 14, she managed everything for my sound workshops. She would say, 'Mummy, you are not bothered; one day you might have to go and live in a hut.' There is a voluntary desire in both of them to help me.
I remember when I was a child, my father wanted to name me something else but my grandfather named me Shruti, which means Vedas. Later, we realized that shruti also means all the different discernible notes in an octave of music; there are 22 shrutis in one octave of music. As music is my soul, this has been the most enticing coincidence of my life.
My Turning Point
In 1992, I had a surgery, following which I had a shooting pain the next day. I found myself chanting Om, half silently, half audibly. In about one-and-a-half seconds the pain disappeared! It just dissolved. This was my first experience with the power of chanting over pain. Then I started experimenting and have firmly come to believe that this experience was given to me by the Divine to tell me something. This was my entry point into the conscious awareness of the power of chanting.
Work and Leisure
Leisure time is something which I have to consciously make for myself. But as I enjoy my work so much, I do not feel like taking any time out from it. In a way, everything is leisure and in a way there is no leisure.
Once in a while, I like to engage with what is happening in the world, I also like reading about ancient Indian literature, the Vedas and the Indian civilization. I also love to write and recently, in December 2005, my book, Indian Philosophy, was released. Now I am working on a book on beej mantra.
Above anything else, I really love to spend time with my daughters when they come back home during their college vacations. We go for movies together.
The more I have looked at things closely in my life the more I have learned about divinity.
I am very fond of learning and teaching others about music, which is a part of my work. I am formally associated with the Infinity Foundation. This Foundation is deeply involved in the research of Indian culture; it believes that the experience and wisdom of Indian civilization can play a positive role in fostering an inter-civilizational dialog based on harmonious co-existence, rather than a clash of civilizations.
Chants are so peaceful and yet so powerful. The mantras which I chant are not fixed, but I do chant Om regularly. Om expands as one chants it, and you realize that there is more and more space within it. It resounds increasingly and reaches into different levels of our being.
There is the mantra for collective aspirations:
'Om sahnavavatu saha nau bhunaktu Saha viryam karvavahai
Tejasvinavadhitamastu ma vivishavahai'
This mantra helps me to connect to the outside world as well as the world within myself. I also chant the beej mantras regularly, which are very effective in healing the different chakras and energizing them.
I stay healthy due to my chanting; chanting rejuvenates the cells of the body and makes a person very strong internally.
In my workshops I deal with all the forms of nada, which means vibrations. The different forms of nada are audible sounds, thoughts and breath. First, I help the participants recognize how different sound vibrations affect them differently, because there are different energy centers in the body, each of which responds differently to music. To begin with, we see which part of the body the music is healing. It makes us feel very still and silent.
I also take them through ragas and alaps. And I share certain techniques of sounds, especially chanting of Om and several other mantras like beej mantras and the benefits of chanting Vedic mantras in three tones. Basically, I deal in empowerment of the nada technique, how audible and inaudible vibrations affect us.
Music and Spirituality
Music is one of the most tangible gifts given to mankind, which straightaway links you to the purest force. I feel that music is something which can create a space around me even if I am in a crowd. It takes all the various kinds of noises away from me, such as psychological noise, emotional noise and mental noise.
The music which really soothes the soul has the quality to help you to reach samudra, the inner part of the ocean. The outer part is the arnav or the waves. Music helps me reach the samudra or my spirit. To me, music is spirituality. And my life is my spiritual inspiration; the more I have looked at things closely in my life the more I have learned about Divinity.
Being true to oneself, being simple, flexible and understanding the rhythm of life is how I would define success. It does not matter if somebody recognizes your achievements or not. Sometimes you get recognition without achieving what you really wanted to at heart. I believe that it is in achieving what is truest to yourself, and being satisfied from within, that you have achieved what you really wanted to, and that is success.
For me, money is a symbol of creating awareness. If money is used for positive activities like renaissance of culture, beautification of mind or increasing awareness and intelligence among people, then it is a divine force.
I look at money as something which empowers me to independently do my work for the Divine in this life. With time, I have become more aware and wiser about how to use this empowerment.
Attitude Towards Material Possessions
I enjoy material things, but I don't hold on to anything as mine.
Comfort does not come from materialism. I can have comfort in material life with very little or with a lot. I think comfort comes from a flexible mind.
One should also not reject matter, because it is the most important representation of the divine. We need not sacrifice matter, but, we need to sacrifice possessiveness. I enjoy everything because it is nobody's possession anyway.
Thus my principle is - enjoy a flower, don't pluck it. The moment you want to possess, it starts dying.
I perceive God in every living person, in myself and in the clouds when I look at the sky. I perceive God everywhere.
Only the body dies, lifetime after lifetime. The soul is eternal, the spirit lives on.
Life is like an earthen pot. When the pot leaks, there is a crack, it has to be dissolved and recreated. The final destination of every being is not death, it is life.
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