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Three invisible ropes – Part 1

“Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.”

  • Thomas Kempis (German catholic priest of the fifteenth century, in his popular book of devotion, Imitation of Christ)

My neighbour, a connoisseur of good music, rose early each day, and played on his Bose speakers the soothing Call of the Valley.  Pandit Shivkumar Sharma’s santoor and Hariprasad Chaurasia’s flute transported his soul to a spiritual realm. Later in the afternoon his speakers blasted romantic Bollywood songs where lovers swore undying allegiance to each other. After 8.00 pm he played AC/DC’s Highway to hell. He confessed that heavy metal and hard rock gives vent to his animal within. He’d gulp a few pegs of whisky and swoon in honour of Bon Scott, the lead singer who within months of recording this song, died after a night of heavy booze.

One evening, as I silently meditated on the terrace of our ashram, he waved to me spiritedly. I acknowledged even as I continued chanting softly on my prayer beads. He shouted from his balcony that he had seen me chant in the mornings as well, and wondered what it is all about. We soon became friends; he shared his passion for music, and also enquired about my spiritual practises.

One day I shared with him the science of improving our awareness by recognizing the three invisible ropes that control our lives. He was curious, and I suggested an experiment.

I asked him to play his favourite cock rock or Bollywood numbers early morning. And at night when his ‘animal’ demands to experience the shrill screams of Robert Plant or Suzi Quatro, he could instead play soft Hindustani classical. He was game, although amused at my proposal.

After two days of musical swap he confessed it was a miserable experience; he just couldn’t get the same rhythm and feel. I probed what was wrong. “It’s just not the same” he said, unable to explain further.

I offered an explanation: could it be that the morning hours are surcharged with an energy that helps us connect to a deeper, spiritual self of our existence.  If we go for a walk during predawn hours, we’d likely feel a general sense of wellbeing and fresh and serene at the sight of the sunrise. Afternoons however are imbued with the vigour of action and passion; the stock markets are hyperactive; the roads, offices, markets see a flurry of activity. And nights carry a force of darkness that helps our bodies rest in ignorance. These three energies exist in nature: Goodness, (also known as Sattva in Sanskrit), Passion (Rajas) and Ignorance (Tamas).

My friend thought that was a subtle but reasonable explanation. When the potency of Goodness is prominent, one feels peaceful and satisfied. When Passion rules roost, it’s hurry, creation and action. And if ignorance is the overwhelming force, there is destruction and madness. I explained how even music could be in three modes. The sound and melody could soothe, agitate or provoke bizarre things depending on whether the primary mode is sattva, rajas or tamas.

A smiled slipped off his face, and he quipped, “No wonder your temples open early morning, and that’s when the bars shut. I guess that’s because the morning time is conducive for prayerful connection to God and night is the best time to drown our sorrows in liquor or go off to sleep”. He then recalled how a large number of rock stars had self-destructive habits; the blend of their music and night time addictions accentuated Tamas.

The Bhagavad Gita calls these energies as ‘Guna’ which literally translates as ‘rope’.

To be continued….

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