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Sacred Roots: India's Divine Music

by Naren K. Schreiner October, 2015


Thousands of years ago, beyond the scope of scholarly research, the rishis (seers) of ancient India created a society and culture wherein religion, art and science thrived in harmony, without any competition or need of comparison. Music was known to be a divine art interwoven with the sciences of sound, psychology and mathematics. It was partially intended for pleasure and entertainment, but primarily intended to assist in man’s quest for Self-realization.

Music was known to be an expression of the original sound, Naad Brahma, scripturally referred to as the Word, Cosmic Vibration, or Aum. The rishis discovered the effect of physical sound on the body, emotions and consciousness. They deciphered various melodies and rhythms that could re-create the effects of the seasons and times of day on man. Ragas were created to paint a sonic picture or rouse a certain emotion ( rasa) or state of being (bhava) such as tranquility, love, happiness, courage.


The human voice was recognized to be the original and perfect instrument of sound. When the need for verbal communication arrived and language was created, words merged with vocal sound; lyrical song was born and became a powerful form of expression. The word for musician became bhagavatar, one who sings the praises of the Supreme. In time, instruments were developed in order to accompany or mimic the myriad expressions of vocal music.

These distant and lofty origins need not intimidate the modern listener. As the late Dr. Ananda Coomaraswamy wrote, “Indian music is essentially impersonal, reflecting an emotion and an experience which are deeper and wider and older than the emotion or wisdom of any single individual. Its sorrow is without tears, its joy without exultation and it is passionate without any loss of serenity.”

saraswati goddess of music and knowldge Over the millennia, various mystics, seers, musicians and scientists have developed and expanded India’s music. Foreign rulers and the changes of civilization have made a tremendous impact. But India’s music has remained, in essence, unchanged. It is still unwritten, spontaneous and individualistic, concentrating on the variations of a raga melody rather than symphonic harmony. Its subtle hues are still made possible by an octave of twenty-two notes (shruti) rather than twelve notes of the Western scale, and by dozens of complex rhythmic cycles (tala). It still balances improvisation with structure—the musicians must invent new expressions within a rigid framework.

Thyagaraja As you listen to Indian music, realize that you are linked to an ancient coalition of science, art and spirituality. Seek to perceive the essence of the raga as it awakens within you some profound response. Feel the underlying rhythm that unites the pulse and breath of your body with the sway of Nature. Realize that a harmonizing flood of sound is pouring over your being—the calming tanpura drone, the raga of voice and instrument, the energizing tala of drums.

Listen not only with your ear but also with your heart, mind and soul. This music is a bridge from modern life to ancient India, connecting the present time with the timeless. Allow your soul to reach for the yogic state wherein the listener, the music and the musician become one. Experience music as you never have before.

Listen to Naren's Music

In this video interview, Naren describes the project and the vision behind this groundbreaking album release. New Earth Records and Sangita Yoga Music present Naren's newest album, Sangita Yoga: Sacred Chants of India, a compilation of sacred texts from India set to Naren's original raga-based compositions, accompanied by guest musicians on tabla, santoor, sarangi, violin and cello.

Listen to Songs on Google Play

The final segment of a spontaneous outdoor session of sacred chanting with Naren. Naren sings a 200 year-old Bengali chant to Divine Mother, one that was a favorite of Paramahansa Yogananda. Naren plays the tanpura, the instrument that represents Aum, the Naada Brahma, the Holy Sound. Naren chose to sing this chant in Raga Bhimpalasi, fitting the mood of late afternoon approaching sunset.

Naren's outdoor chanting session continues. Sangita Yoga always includes an invocation (Vandana) to Ma Saraswati, the Goddess of Music, Arts and Sciences. From Her emanates the purest expressions and manifestations of knowledge and art. Naren sings Sanskrit verses to invoke Her blessings before he sings other sacred chants...

Filmed during a kirtan at the 2012 Ashtanga Yoga Confluence, Naren describes The Yoga of Music and Sangita Yoga. Directed by S. Allman and Tom Friedman.

Naren K. Schreiner

by Naren K. Schreiner

October, 2015

About Naren K. Schreiner

Naren K. Schreiner is a teacher and musician of India’s sacred traditions. For 14 years he lived in the ashram of Paramahansa Yogananda as a brahmachari (monastic sadhu), practicing raja yoga and living the pure, disciplined life of a monk. During a pilgrimage to India in 2011, he lived for 6 months as a guest scholar at Kolkata’s prestigious Sangeet Research Academy where he studied classical music.

In 2012 Naren founded Sangita Yoga in Southern California, with the mission of teaching and presenting India’s sacred music in light of traditional yoga. He has given presentations at USC, Loyola Maramount University, Claremont Lincoln University, and numerous yoga centers. He has recorded three albums, including the recent release with New Earth Records entitled, Sangita Yoga. Naren continues to deepen and expand his spiritual understanding and practices under the guidance of Swami Bhajanananda Saraswati at the Kali Mandir in Laguna Beach, Calif.
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