The Teaching of Hazrat Inayat Khan      

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Social Gathekas

Religious Gathekas

The Message Papers

The Healing Papers

Vol. 1, The Way of Illumination

Vol. 1, The Inner Life

Vol. 1, The Soul, Whence And Whither?

Vol. 1, The Purpose of Life

Vol. 2, The Mysticism of Sound and Music

Vol. 2, The Mysticism of Sound

Vol. 2, Cosmic Language

Vol. 2, The Power of the Word

Vol. 3, Education

Vol. 3, Life's Creative Forces: Rasa Shastra

Vol. 3, Character and Personality

Vol. 4, Healing And The Mind World

Vol. 4, Mental Purification

Vol. 4, The Mind-World

Vol. 5, A Sufi Message Of Spiritual Liberty

Vol. 5, Aqibat, Life After Death

Vol. 5, The Phenomenon of the Soul

Vol. 5, Love, Human and Divine

Vol. 5, Pearls from the Ocean Unseen

Vol. 5, Metaphysics, The Experience of the Soul Through the Different Planes of Existence

Vol. 6, The Alchemy of Happiness

Vol. 7, In an Eastern Rose Garden

Vol. 8, Health and Order of Body and Mind

Vol. 8, The Privilege of Being Human

Vol. 8a, Sufi Teachings

Vol. 9, The Unity of Religious Ideals

Vol. 10, Sufi Mysticism

Vol. 10, The Path of Initiation and Discipleship

Vol. 10, Sufi Poetry

Vol. 10, Art: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Vol. 10, The Problem of the Day

Vol. 11, Philosophy

Vol. 11, Psychology

Vol. 11, Mysticism in Life

Vol. 12, The Vision of God and Man

Vol. 12, Confessions: Autobiographical Essays of Hazat Inayat Khan

Vol. 12, Four Plays

Vol. 13, Gathas

Vol. 14, The Smiling Forehead

By Date



1. Music

2. Esoteric Music

3. The Music of the Spheres

4. The Mysticism of Sound

5. The Mystery of Sound

6. The Mystery of Color and Sound

7. The Spiritual Significance of Color and Sound

8. The Ancient Music

9. The Divinity of Indian Music

10. The Use Made of Music by the Sufis of the Chishti Order

11. The Use Made of Music by the Dancing Dervishes

12. The Science and Art of Hindu Music

13. The Connection Between Dance and Music

14. Rhythm

15. The Vina

16. The Manifestation of Sound on the Physical Sphere

17. The Effect of Sound on the Physical Body

18. The Voice

19. The Influence of Music upon the Character of Man

20. The Psychological Influence of Music

21. The Healing Power of Music

22. Spiritual Attainment by the Aid of Music





Vol. 2, The Mysticism of Sound and Music

15. The Vina

The Vina is the oldest instrument in the world - not, of course, in its present form, but in its original form. It is the mother instrument of all instruments in the East, and it is chiefly used for concentration and meditation.

The first vina, an invention of Mahadeva, was a bamboo with gourds attached to it. Guts were used, veins of animals, and all things that could be found in the jungle. When the Rishis went into the jungle for their yoga practices, the wish for companionship led them to take first a bamboo and a piece of gut, then to fasten two gourds to the bamboo. This was called the rudra vina, and on this the Rishis played.

The birds and deer in the jungle gathered to listen. One of the Rishis listened to what the deer said to him and, as he was a mystic, he understood the deer's language. He told this in a poem: The deer said: "Make a string of my veins, make a carpet of my skin, but whilst there is breath in this body, play!"

There was no carpenter's work on the first vina, there were no wires. It had only one string, because the Rishis thought that the one sound - and not a variety - could help their concentration. Later there were seven strings. The vina is considered to be the perfect instrument, and seven is the number of perfection. The gourd is there to lessen the sound, not to augment it, to make it more solid than a sound that goes out more, to make it fuller and less sonorous.

Every century has altered the form of the vina. It is very artificial now. Still it has kept something of what it was first. When the vina was taken to the palaces, it was made more elaborate: as you see it. You may say: "Why make such a head which is like nothing?" There is a great philosophy in it. It has the trunk of the elephant, the jaw of the tiger, it has horns and wings, the neck of a fish, while the eyes, the nose and the moustache have something of man. This shows that all faces are God's, and God appears in all forms.


You wish to hear from me the praise of the vina; therefore I shall quote the words of a great Indian poet who wrote a praise of the vina in Sanskrit. Please do not be surprised to hear the interpretation of it: "An instrument of gut strings that we produce -- by looking at it, by touching it, by hearing it, you can be made free, even if you kill a Brahmin", which is considered the greatest sin!

This instrument was invented by the Lord of Yogis, Shiva, whose name is also Mahadeva. He gave to the world his lifelong experiences in the practice of yoga. He is worshipped in India as a godhead, and his literature is considered holy scripture. He was a very great master of breathing, and an ascetic. He lived in the mountains, where he sat and breathed the fresh air of the wide horizons of the East, and practiced mantras: words or phrases which change the whole being of man.

There he wanted to make some experiments on himself of higher exaltation by the help of music. What he could do in the forest was to cut a piece of bamboo. He then took two pumpkins, hollowed them out, dried them and fastened them on to the bamboo. Gut strings he got from animals, and these he tied on to the instrument. In this way he made his first vina, and he practiced upon it in the solitude.

Mahadeva made experiments with the human body and with the mind, considering their condition in the morning, in the midst of the day, in the afternoon, in the night, and when waking at dawn. He found that at every time of the day and night a particular effect was made upon the human body and spirit, and that the rhythm akin to that particular time should be prescribed psychologically and mystically in order.

This remark shows that a musical performance had taken place. to elevate the soul. So a psychological science of music was made by Mahadeva, a science of Raga, which means emotion; emotion controlled and utilized to the best purpose.

When Parvati, Mahadeva's consort, saw this instrument, she said: "I must invent my vina." So she cut a pumpkin in halves, made a body on them, and produced another kind of vina, the saraswati vina. So there are two vinas: one is played by men, the other by women. On this latter instrument not only sharp and flat notes are produced, but also micro-tones, and in this way the music becomes rich. But to master the science of micro-tones is so difficult, that it takes a lifetime. The musicians of India devote twelve hours of the day to the practice of the different rhythms, improvising upon them. In the end they produce a psychological effect which is not music but magic; a music that can thrill a person and that can penetrate the heart of man. It is a dream, a meditation, it is paradise. By hearing it one feels in a different world. Yet their music is hardly audible. Instead of being played before thousands of people, only one or two or three persons of the same quality and nature should be together to enjoy that music thoroughly. If a foreign element is present the musician does not feel inspired.

You will be amused to hear of a musician who was once invited to play the vina. The musician came and was welcomed. He uncovered his instrument; then he looked here and there, and found some discomfort, some discord, so he covered his vina, saluted, and went out. Those present felt disappointed and begged him to play, but his answer was: "No matter what you give me, I do not feel like playing."

This is quite a different thing from making a programma months ahead. The musician in the West is bound six months beforehand to play a certain programma; he is helpless. But in this way it is not music, it is labor, it is done mechanically. Would you believe that a singer in the East never knows what he is going to sing before he starts singing? He feels the atmosphere of the place and the time, and he begins to sing or to play whatever comes to his mind.

I do not mean to say that music of this kind can be universal music. Those musicians have always been rare, and found only in some remote parts of India. They are now dying out because of lack of appreciation. Those potentates, those gurus, those teachers of high inspiration who lived in the past - they appreciated this music. Even in India people are becoming "civilized", and therefore music is dying away. Now there are no more those musicians of former times who could make all those who listened spellbound; they do not exist any longer. Among a million there are perhaps three or four, and they will have vanished in a few years.

Maybe one day the Western world will awaken to India's music, as now the West is awakening to the poetry of the East, and beginning to appreciate such works as those of Rabindranath Tagore. There will come a time when they will ask for music of that kind, and then it will not be found; it will be too late. But there is no doubt that, if that music, which is magic, which is built upon a psychological basis, is introduced in the West, it will root out all such things as jazz.

People seem to spoil their senses; this jazz music is destroying people's delicacy of sense. Thousands every day are dancing to jazz music, and they forget the effect it has upon their spirit, upon their mind, upon their delicate senses.

I know of a prince of Rampur who wanted to study music with a great teacher. The teacher said: "I can only teach you on one condition. You are a prince fond of music; many musicians will want to show you their talent. I do not want you to hear any musician who is not an accomplished artist, because your sense of music must not be destroyed. It must be preserved for delicate music, it must be able to appreciate its finer intricacies."

If that sense is spoiled, instead of going forward one goes backward, and if music, which is the central theme of the whole human culture, is not helping people to go forward, it is a great pity.

Vina music has a likeness to the human voice. If you hear the vina played you will never think that it is an instrument, you cannot imagine that it is an instrument. Vina music is not as magnetic as the music of the human voice, but it is more attractive, more impressive, and all the delicacies of the human voice and the silky structure of it are finished in the sound of the vina.

Music has an effect upon animals. I have made experiments with cows and found that they very much liked to listen to music. There was an old ox in particular which, when it heard an instrument played, would leave its fodder and come to listen.

Birds are very fond of music. I have seen a peacock which, when I played the vina before it, would listen and spread out its wings and begin to dance. Then it would follow me and each day it would come a little nearer. It took such a delight in music that it danced and quite forgot everything else. When I stopped playing, it would come and tap the vina with its beak to get me to come back and play again.

Snakes too are easily attracted by music - by the Indian flute, a piece of bamboo, or by the vina if they hear it. A special Raga is used for charming snakes. But vina players are serious people, and would rather charm human beings than snakes!