Ishavasya Upanishad

I have just received and listened to Rajesh David’s latest CD entitled ‘Isha’. I must say that it is, as ever, an absolute gem. Rajesh brings out the wisdom, sentiments and inspirations of the Ishavasya Upanishad in his incomparable style. Beautiful chanting of the Sanskrit text. May Rajesh continue to produce more priceless renditions of the ancient texts as well new chants and songs with a modern flavour, but always anchored in a Spiritual vision of existence and what we are.

Swami Nishchalananda

An Interview with Rajesh David.
Musician and Indian classical singer

Hear and download his music from:

Press play above to listen to an extract of the ‘Invocation’

Why Isha? What is the essence of this Upanishad and why did you want to do it?

I started reading and reflecting on the Upanishads from a very young age. My first entry into the world of Upanishads was through reading books by Swami Vivekananda and other monks of the Ramakrishna Mission. Since then I have been fascinated and inspired by these most amazing and profound texts. I believe them to represent the highest level of human thought! They are elegant and insightful, presenting their philosophy very logically. 

For me, the Upanishads are my teacher, friend, philosopher and guide!  They shine a light, illumining the inner realms of our being. Studying them is a life long journey; as we travel that journey, they reveal their truths.
The Upanishads encapsulate Advaita in Vedanta philosophy. They all express that idea of Advaita, non duality, in different ways. As Swami Vivekananda says “Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy – by one, or more, or all of these – and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are but secondary details.” 

The Divine essence in every one of us. Verses 15 of Isha Upanishad beautifully expresses this very important truth, ‘The sweetest emotions and even the lofty ideal of human life are but a golden disc covering the truth.

The first Hymn of the Upanishad “Purnamadah Purnamidam….”  Is a most elegant and lyrical mantra expressing the highest truth. It is like a Zen Koan. 

Rajesh David

The first Hymn of the Upanishad “Purnamadah Purnamidam….”  Is one of the most elegant and lyrical mantra expressing the highest truth. It is like a Zen Koan. This mantra pulled me to the Upanishad and then, I wanted to sing the Upanishad.
Isha Upanishad is among the 10 principal Upanishads and is also very short – 18 verses. I feel it is the Song of Advaita. In the past I have worked with the Mandukya Upanishad which has just 12 verses. I thought of that as the Song of AUM! 

How does the creative process happen with you? Do you start with the words and get a feel for the music for each verse, or section, or do you have an overall musical idea to start with?

Music is an expression of my love for these most beautiful texts. By setting them to music and singing them, these verses become a part of my being. I relate to them, and I’m able to reflect and meditate on them. My creative process is to allow the words to speak to me. I read the verses and try to get a sense of the metre. Sometimes an inspiration comes from deep within me and sets me off on a melody. Those are the best moments! At other times I try to think of a mode which would suit the words. It is hard to describe this one, but sometimes the words just sing out on their own. 
I think the bottom line is “ inspiration from the depth of our being” which in a way is the essence of the Upanishads   – the Divine essence in every one of us!

Hope this isn’t a pretentious question(!) but when I hear you sing, and play, it seems that it’s not so much that you make music, more like you are expressing music from a part of yourself. How does this happen? Are some naturally made to be musicians?

I’m not sure how to answer that one without sounding a bit pretentious myself !

Silence is the language
of the Soul, and Music
is its manifest form

When I sing, I try to become one with the song, allowing the song to flow naturally. As we say in Yoga, “get out of the way and let the song find its own flow”. Yes, it is like the river finding its own natural path, flowing toward the sea! The most beautiful experience is when you are singing or making music and you have the feeling  that the whole process is natural and effortlessly, as if you are the witness to the song and music. 

Silence is the language of the Soul (Atman) and music is it’s manifest form.  All musicians are blessed with the potential of delving deep into the Self through their music. 

Coming out from that…. is it possible to briefly describe your musical upbringing?

I was born into a family of musicians and singers. Both my parents were singers. I would have heard them sing in my mothers womb, but I do remember listening to their music from my childhood. Music was the most natural sound in my early years. One of my sweetest memories of my childhood is going to bed at night and listening to my father softly playing the harmonium and singing! 
I must have inherited the art of singing from my parents as it came naturally to me. I did learn music from my parents, just by listening to them. Later on I took formal training in Indian classical music. 

excerpts from the new album ‘Isha’, press ‘play’ above to listen

You can buy (download) this album by going to Rajesh’s page on Bandcamp

Interview conducted by Narada of Mandala Yoga Ashram:

Letter from Africa

Guest post by Narada

A story of Yoga, love, laughter and determination

Surprisingly, I managed to squeeze through a window of opportunity to get to my charitable project in Africa,, raising funds for my young deaf friend, Ketty, to get a schooling. And now also building a Yoga Hall on a friend’s bit of the Compound. That’s tribal land forming a maze of tracks and dwellings around the local town, Katete, here in Eastern Province, Zambia.

Continue reading “Letter from Africa”

Possibilities for Social Justice

A Post by Guest Author, Narada (Tony Sugden)

As a Yoga practitioner, first and foremost I look for clarity. When I find it, then when I am exposed to social injustice, there is a deep feeling that something is horribly wrong. I see my sisters and brothers, they are made of the same stuff as me, but many have nothing at all, many are hungry, many are getting by, but only just.

Continue reading “Possibilities for Social Justice”

The Essential Nature of ‘I’

What is this ‘I’ with which we so identify and which we spend our entire life-time feeding, pampering, protecting and re-producing? What is this ‘I’ that we fear for after death? Will the ‘I’ be extinguished or will something survive?

For thousands of years, yogis, sages and seers, as well as the yogic texts, have clearly stated that there is just one ‘I’ – behind every action, every thought, every feeling in our lives. This is the Conscious Presence in each moment. This ‘I’ expresses itself at different levels of ego-identification, which we will describe in the following paragraphs. Though they define our moment to moment experience, these ego states are ultimately unreal. We can call these ego-levels of I, the ‘me’.

All of us know the personal ‘I’ of daily life. In yoga, this level is called the ahamkara – literally, ‘I do’ – our sense of ‘I’ comes from our identification with the body/mind and the role or roles we play in life. We have a sense of I-ness and individuality – me-ness – which we fulfil and express by doing and achieving. If we don’t achieve certain things according to our desires or ambitions, our sense of self-image suffers and we feel like a failure. If we fulfil our ambitions and desires, we feel we are a success; temporarily we have a positive self-image and the ego-I or ‘me’ feels good.

This level of ‘me’ also includes thinking. Many people, especially intellectuals, get a sense of worth and a feeling of fulfilment by thinking and conceptualising. Here the ‘doing’ is in the mind. This level is indicated by the dictum of the French philosopher, René Descartes, when he stated ‘I think, therefore I am.’ The individual identifies himself, or herself, as a thinker. Our sense of self-existence comes out of the fact that we think. But despite the proposition of Descartes, this level of identification, which is the unquestioned stance of modern western belief, is not the fundamental ‘I’ at the core of our Being.

On a slightly deeper level comes the sense of ‘I’ which in yoga is called ahambhava – literally ‘I am.’ This level of ‘I am’ is not meant in a fundamental or mystical sense, but rather the sense of ‘I am so and so: John Smith or Brigitte Dupont.’ This feeling of ‘I’ depends more on a self-identification with who we are as a personality, rather than what we do. This ego state can also be called ‘me’.

The next level of self-identification is called asmita which refers to the sense of ‘I’ on a more existential level. It can be summarised by reversing Descartes’ statement ‘I think, therefore I am’ to ‘I Am, therefore I think’ or better, ‘I am, therefore I am enabled to think’. According to yoga and Hindu philosophy in general, Being is considered to be fundamental and thinking, secondary. This indicates that out of our Being comes the possibility to think as well as to feel, intuit and perceive.

We can get a taste of asmita, the Being aspect of the ‘I’, during meditation, although there is still a sense of identification, albeit perhaps tenuous, with the ego-personality.

On a more fundamental level comes the sense of ‘I’ as Consciousness (atma), which can be realised when the mental processes stop, or dissolve, albeit temporarily. At this point there is a re-identification or re-cognition of what we are as Conscious Presence. Ultimately, this is the only ‘I’. All the other levels of ‘I’, no matter how real they may seem in our daily experience, are illusory and conditioned projections of the mind. At the level of Consciousness, we are able to say ‘I Am’ or to use the Biblical statement, ‘I Am That I Am.’ This is not an egotistical statement, but a realisation that transcends our sense of individuality. At this level of identity we know that we are not really separate from other beings and things. This realisation arises in a super-meditative state known in yoga as samadhi (literally, ‘absorption into Reality’); it engenders compassion for all other humans and all creatures.

Yoga or any spiritual path will take us on a journey through the different levels of ‘me’ to arrive at realisation of our fundamental identity as ‘I’. Then we discover (or rediscover) the truth of our existence.

Note: The Sanskrit language is traditionally used to describe yogic terminology. In the above text, these are shown in italics.