Have you heard of a raga? Dr. Vatsala Sperling interviews Dr. Rajan Sankaran below, teaching us all about this modality for healing.
In an ongoing debate about whether the language came first or music, James Stewart says, “Ma” , even this simple word is musical and relies on musical sensibilities to convey meaning. There is rhythm and pitch involved in simply stating the word in context. The “Ah” of “Ma” can go down, like you are calling your mother, or it can go up as if you are asking her a question. The emotion you feel as you say the word will dictate the volume, pitch and duration of how you say it. This is a musical way of looking at all spoken language1. And guess what, this simple word, “ma” is universal. It is instinctively used even by pre-verbal babies – born into any nationality, language, culture and religion, and even many different animal species – to call out their mother, or an energy that will protect them in the time of distress2,3.
‘Ma’ is the tail-end of Om….the well-known primal sound that yogis and meditators all over the world are familiar with. ‘Ma’ is one of the seven notes of Hindustani as well as Carnatic classical music4,5 namely, sa, re, ga, ma, pa, dha, ni, Sa . Both these schools of classical music trace their origin to a scripture, Samaveda6, one of the four Vedas that have pre-historic roots in the ancient India.
All these scattered dots have a thread running through them. And that thread, in my mind, is something like this: “The primal sounds whether they are musical notes or calls of baby animals in distress, are expressions of energy, sound energy to be precise, and this energy has in itself the capacity to evoke emotions.” As the study with deer and baby animal distress sounds2, 3 shows, it can evoke a protective emotion. It is interesting to note that protective emotion is not the only emotion. Our state of mind can evoke nine different emotions / rasas7 and classical music from India does deal with all these variations of emotions by use of melodies or ragas8. It is known that ragas can elicit specific emotions. The question that comes to mind is, if ragas can elicit specific emotions, can they also mollify specific emotions and create an even, balanced state of mind?
I took this question to Dr. Rajan Sankaran9. His answers not only addressed my question but also brought forward the whole realm of application of musical ragas for healing of various emotional states, sensations, and even diseases. Enjoy our interview below:
Can music be used for healing our emotional state?
YES. To explore the healing potential of classical music, I did proving of ragas from classical Hindustani music10. The proving outcome revealed to me that each raga produces a certain effect that is different from the effect of other ragas.
But can a random raga help, or, is there a possibility of matching a person’s emotional state with the raga and have him listen to specific raga that might lead to a therapeutic experience? To answer this question, I looked into, “Like cures like”11 , a principle based on matching of frequencies. Ill-matched frequencies lead to disharmony. Well-matched frequencies express harmony. My research of over three decades is based on the paradigm that within us, a tune is playing, that I have named as “the other song”12. This tune, an energy pattern that we borrow from the natural world, is the loudest when we are unwell. When we find an energy pattern that is a match for the ‘other song’ playing within us, we experience healing, and in the current context, I am exploring Hindustani classical music ragas as a source of matching energy patterns.
What are ragas? How do we find an energy pattern from the ragas that matches our emotional state?
A raga is an energetic expression of a certain musical note in a certain harmonic pattern. Differences in patterns differentiates one raga from the other. Based on my research, I am proposing that a specific type of person must have an affinity for a specific type of raga. When a raga is selected per the principle, like cures like, this specific raga is able to elicit a healing response. You can find matching ragas in my Raga App.
How is the healing effect of ragas different from the healing effect of mantras? Mantras are in Sanskrit language. They have deep meanings and they serve a specific purpose. Can mantras be prescribed just like ragas?
Ragas and mantras are fundamentally different. Mantras do have a universal healing effect because they cross the limit of individuality. The spiritual effect of the mantras is undifferentiated and non-specific and they address the illness common to the entire humanity – which is identifying oneself as individual body-mind. Mantras help transcend this limit and help us connect with the universal spirit.
Ragas, or melodies of the Indian classical music, are wordless, pure sounds. Unlike mantras, ragas on the other hand, have an individual effect. This means that ragas address the innate pattern of the individual. That is why different melodies or ragas match different states of people. Ragas help heal our individual patterns of expressing disease states and in this task, they are better suited than mantras. One aspect of the ragas is that they allow the mind to become silent and meditative. When a raga is rendered in a melodious style, it cancels out all the chatter and noises and allows the mind to get focused.
Apart from ragas, music has other aspects too. One aspect of music is that it can bring a community together. Group singing of bhajans, choirs etc. are an example. Group singing is done all over the world, in all cultures. It brings people together, helps dissolve the individual identities and help people connect with the group identity. Another great aspect of music is rhythm. It is used in group drumming when a large number of people can come together and get beyond the individual identities. They can become one with the rhythm.
Movement – communal dance – serves the same purpose. By moving to individual rhythm, one can connect with the universe. In our experiment, we found that rhythm is the common connecting thread between people and universe. Everything has a rhythm…waves of the ocean, trot of a horse, beat of a heart, revolution of the earth, cycles and seasons, day and night, flapping of a bird’s wings, the angular movement of fish – all of these and everything else in nature is rhythmic. When we play a specific beat, ask people to shut their eyes and move to the rhythm, they shape shift into anything! They become a horse, a cloud, a flower, a wave….rhythm can be common to them and to something in nature. They experience unification with the universe through rhythm and they feel oneness with all creation. The spectrum of music is very large. We can specifically use music ragas for healing. Along with movement, art, and meditation, we are offering music as a tool of healing at our retreat center13.
How did you create a Raga App?
During the pandemic lockdown, for 26 days, I gathered volunteers from around the world over zoom and sang to them a raga each day. I sang solo at a particular speed or tempo, with just one string instrument. The listeners wrote down their response at the physical, emotional, imagery and sensation levels, and if they experienced speed, vibration, thermal sensitivity, perception of colors etc. The common theme emerging from these responses was considered as the essence of the raga. The result of this research is distilled in my Raga App.
Please describe your Raga App.
The Raga App includes 26 of the most well-known ragas. Simple questions spread over a few frames allow you to identify your emotions and choose a raga that matches your emotional state. You listen to the raga singing for the next uninterrupted fifteen minutes or so, you get to rate it and click on the effect the raga has on you. You can also send a detailed feed-back to the email address provided with the App.
Can we see an example?
What feed-back has come in so far?
Some people had brief relief, but many others experienced lasting improvement and deeper healing after listening to ragas that matched their emotional state.
What is coming next?
My further research is aimed to identify the healing effects of more ragas. Ragas, as pure music, do not have coherent words. They do not engage the mind in deciphering any meaning. Mind is free to experience the sound of the ragas as energy signature. When chosen per ‘like cures like’ the energy signature of the raga can mirror the innate energy pattern of an individual and initiate healing.
If we see disease and healing as a dynamic process, then, freedom from disease must come from deploying energy as a healing agent. Energy cannot have a better representation than music. Music cannot have a better representation than a raga, which is pure energy. Energy medicine is the future of medicine, and Raga therapy is a step in that direction.
Ragas, as pure primal sounds that predate meaningful words, have within their capacity the power of evoking emotions and mind states. They can also mollify agitated emotions, mind states and address diseases. The cutting edge research in this field is being done by Dr. Rajan Sankaran and his team in India and the results are for everyone’s wellbeing.
The Raga App is free for download:
Link for Android phones and iOS
Link for Apple phones:
Dr Rajan Sankaran singing a raga:
ABOUT DR. RAJAN SANKARAN:
Dr. Rajan Sankaran, M.D. (Hom), is an internationally renowned thinker, teacher and writer of the Homeopathic system of medicine. Based on his research and clinical findings, Dr. Sankaran has developed a system of understanding disease process and a unique methodology of inquiring about it using a technique called the sensation method. This method explores the vital sensations of the patients and enables the practitioners to choose homeopathic remedies that bring about profound healing and freedom from disease.
Dr. Sankaran is the founder of The Other Song (TOS) which is an international academy for clinical training, treating and research in advanced homeopathy.
INTERVIEW CONDUCTED BY: DR. VATSALA SPERLING:
Dr. Vatsala Sperling, PhD, was the Chief of Clinical Microbiology services at a children’s hospital in Chennai, India, when she conducted research with WHO, Denmark. On moving to the USA, Vatsala studied Homeopathy at Misha Norland’s school. She is an author of ten books including her latest The Ayurvedic Reset Diet (www.InnerTraditions.com). She can be reached via her website (www.Rochesterhomeopathy.com)
Enjoy Brandy’s interview with Dr. Sperling on the For Animals. For Earth. podcast: Ayurvedic Eating with Dr. Vatsala Sperling
- Homeopathic healing with music, The Oxford handbook of medical ethnomusicology, 2011
- The organon of the medical art, a new system of physic by Hahnemann, S. 1833. 1833 Publisher, W.F Wakeman, Dublin.
- Sankaran, R. The substance of Homeopathy. Homeopathic Medical Publishers, India. 2004.