Tabla Player
Sukhvinder Singh Namdhari

About this album

The relationship between the soul and God has a central place in religious thought. Though any naive attempt at reconciling the differences between the world's major religious traditions is prone to over-simplification, the problem of 'man' and his relationship with God is a subject to which followers of all religious systems must constantly return. In Hinduism and the other religions born on Indian soil, the concept of 'atma'- the human soul, the self - has for thousands of years been a vital element in philosophical speculation as to the nature of the divine; and the recognition of an affinity between the human soul and Brahman, the supreme reality, is the very basis of man's religious quest.

Early discussions as to the nature of this affinity are sublimely expressed in the spiritual classics of the Hindu tradition, the Upanishads, whose teachings underlie the kaleidoscope of Hindu theological and philosophical systems developed in later centuries. The Svetasvatara Upanishad presents a noble vision of the essential unity of atma and Brahman:

'There is a Spirit who is hidden in all things, as cream is hidden in milk, and who is the source of all self-knowledge and self-sacrifice.

The Upanishads teach that the Supreme Spirit resides in creation 'as fire is found in firewood, water is hidden in springs, and oil in the oil-fruit', and that it is the animation in the heart of man. If God is present in the individual soul, the atma, then it follows that the individual carries within himself the capacity to 'know' God, in the sense that the nature of the atma is of the same essential quality as the nature of Brahman. Thus the element of the divine in man becomes the starting-point for man's search for a full awareness of God - a search that can be developed as a spiritual quest or sadhana as defined by the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad:
'One should worship with the thought, 'This is the self', for all become one in that. That by which one can follow the footprints of the All, that is the self, through which this All is known, just as one might track down and find something by a footprint'.

Though here represented in the language of Hinduism, such conceptions of the soul are hardly to be monopolized by any one religious tradition or culture. The ecstatic utterance of the Sufi mystic Hallaj in the words 'I am the Truth', though blasphemous in the eyes of Muslim orthodoxy, reminds us of the fact that an awareness of the soul's unity with God is the fruit of genuine spiritual experience.

It is only a small step from these ideas to perceive a religious dimension in the artistic creations of mankind. Indian culture, which has never fallen foul of the temptation to regards music as a reflection of the divine spirit; and the musician's role is often spoken of in terms of a religious quest or sadhana. The contribution made to North Indian music by the Indian Islamic tradition has done nothing to dilute this tendency; indeed, the used of music, while again strictly unorthodox according to the tenets of Islam, is itself part of the Sufi 'Path'.

In this as in so many other aspects of the world of Hindustani music we see evidence of that supremely productive synthesis of Hindu and Muslim tradition, which has remained so tragically unattainable in other spheres of social interaction in the sub-continent. Whatever the course of external events, music continues to provide an essential reflection of man's spirituality; it is a vocal expression of the spirit of man, and plays an instrumental part in affirming the universal quality of the atma.


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