I spent Saturday evening with a friend at the Alchemy Center in Camden. I’d been meaning to go for months and this particular event was ‘a night of sacred sounds and meditation’. What’s more it was free. Smashing. Now I’m used to a bit of chanting as I practise Nichiren Buddhism (I’ll talk more about this in due course) but I’ve never been to something like this before. Interestingly this was not a passive type of event but a ‘kirtan’ (call and response chanting) our ‘kirtankar’ was to be someone called Sarab Deva Kaur who was launching an album called ‘Uplifting Mantras for You’ sarabdeva.bandcamp.com/album/uplifting-mantras-for-you
Most of the mantras originated directly or indirectly from Sanskrit (spoken as Tibetan, Hindi and Gurmukhi) although some were Arabic (Sufism) and one was Japanese. I really enjoyed the evening and was able to join in with most of them. The one I remember specially is ‘Om Sri Rama Jaya Rama, Jaya Jaya Rama” which Ghandi apparently used to chant and was chanting when he liberated India. There was a really great energy and I’m sure everyone present (and not present) benefited greatly from these seeds of higher consciousness. After each mantra was sung by Sarab (beautifully I must add) we sat in silence. No clapping. This was strange at first but then I enjoyed the space it left; freedom from the normal addiction of praise and reward we are so used to in daily life. Just sitting in the healing power of the mantra was enough. Mantra literally means ‘to liberate the mind’ after all.
Another amazing thing that happened was I saw on the desk of the receptionist a book called ‘Proof of Heaven’. The title of the book was ringing some vague bells and speaking to the owner it turns out that the book tells the true story of a neurosurgeon who fell into a deep coma after a serious illness and was effectively pronounced dead by all the doctors and specialists. Somehow though he made a recovery but upon awakening things had changed, this once rational scientist was now completely certain of the infinite reach of the soul, and certain of a life beyond death. The book had popped up on my radar when I was doing some research into a project previously.
Okay so what, there are lot’s of these near death stories right? Well, what makes this story so interesting is that as a neurosurgeon, the author is able to explain in depth why his brain was incapable of fabricating the journey he experienced…
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was an eminent Swiss American Psychiatrist who spent her life studying near death experiences like this. She wrote the book ‘On Death and Dying’ in which she theorised for the first time the five stages of grief as a pattern of adjustment for the dying and the survivor that we have become familiar with (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance).
Kubler-Ross believed that after one’s death, we continue to live on because consciousness doesn’t die. She reached that conclusion after studying 20,000 cases of dying experiences from all over the world, her work is still being published. What was her conclusion?
“Once people understand that they have to be responsible for what they have done when they are alive, people will change their lifestyles.”
So what has this got to do with chanting? Well the First Law of Thermodynamics states that all energy is conserved. It is neither created or destroyed. Interesting isn’t it?
So something that has always puzzled me is where do songs and music go when they have been sung? Do the sound waves just fade away? Where do the sonically charged atoms bounce off too? Probably they get surrounded by heavier atoms of oxygen or hydrogen? I’m sure the scientists can tell me. I like to think though that somewhere in the universe they still exist, like the mantras I chanted on Saturday night. Yes the effect of these sacred sounds is internal, creating psychological transformation, but the mind and the environment are one. This world is simply a product of our conscious minds after all. I like the idea that these little parts of my liberated mind are still out there somewhere floating melodically in the infinite consciousness. Little proofs of heaven.
After the chanting we went to one of my favourite Ice Cream parlours, Marine Ices, which has been around since the 40’s for waffles and gelato for some further proof of heaven.