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Musicians Spread the Maharishi's Message of Peace

December 11, 1987|GREGG WAGER

"This is not entertainment," insists tabla-player Kiran Deshpande. "We are on a mission spreading the Gandharva Veda . . . to correct the imbalances of nature . . . to bring about world peace."

Kiran is one of 100 classical Indian musicians who will have performed in 300 cities around the world by the end of December, as part of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's Festival of Music for World Peace.

On Saturday, Kiran and three other participants will perform the "traditional Gandharva music of the ancient Vedic civilization" at the Japan America Theatre. They hope the music will induce a higher consciousness in their listeners, spreading peace throughout the Los Angeles area.

Their mission started 13 years ago at the Maharishi International University (MIU) in Fairfield, Iowa, when MIU researchers observed a sharp drop in crime, accidents and sickness in four nearby cities. They concluded that the drop was caused by a sort of sympathetic vibration emitted from the maharishi's disciples at MIU meditating together.

Dubbed "the Maharishi Effect," this phenomenon convinced the maharishi to declare a new world order and the beginning of "the Age of Enlightenment" (not to be confused with the historical period of philosophy that included Locke, Berkeley and Hume). Attempting to re-create the Maharishi Effect on a global level, the maharishi claims to be turning to ancient Vedic traditions of music and health as a way to raise world consciousness. "Gandharva is the eternal music of nature," says Jonathan Rosen, tour coordinator for the musicians. He has taught at MIU for 15 years.

"It is the traditional music of the ancient Vedic civilization, the oldest civilization on earth," he said. (Actually, the Sumerians were older by about 1,200 years.) "Mahesh eventually wants to set up 1,000 schools of the Gandharva tradition of music around the world in an effort to attain world peace."

Similar to the musical traditions in the medieval Christian church, the Gandharvans divide the day into different parts and assign specific ragas to be played only during given hours. On Saturday, they will perform two ragas corresponding to the time the concert will take place.

Rosen further explains that Gandharvan musicians are recruited by the maharishi in India, via a word-of-mouth search: "The tradition is preserved within families, and people in the various towns know which families are the Gandharva families."

"I started at the age of 7," explains Amar Nath, who plays a bass bamboo flute, traditionally known as the venu . "I learned the ragas from my father and grandfather through an oral tradition."

"You start with singing," adds Shri Krishan Sharma, who plays Indian-style guitar and tanpura, "because the voice is the purest form of music. Only when you have mastered the voice can you begin to learn an instrument."

Fortunately, there was little resistance in getting the musicians to explain and demonstrate their instruments.

The vichitra veena, a nine-string instrument plucked with the right hand while the left adjusts the length of the strings with a marble egg, emits a soft, delicate sound. "It is a rare instrument and extremely difficult," says Pandit Gopal Krishna. "I am one of only 10 people who can really play this instrument." And Amar says this about his instrument: "The flute I play has no keys--only holes. You cannot just play this instrument; you have to feel the music more than play it."

Rosen further explains the process of listening to the Gandharva music to achieve a state of pure consciousness: "It's a three-fold process. First, there is the knower, or rishi. Then, there is the known, or chandas. And finally, the process of knower knowing the known, or devata . When the basic material of the universe becomes aware of itself, a very harmonious, peaceful state of bliss occurs. The level of pure consciousness is then re-established."

Other lengthy explanations by Rosen include equating consciousness with the pure energy in the unification theories of modern physics.

Yet, one of the most curious theories--"the square root of 1% of a population practicing the Maharishi Technology of the Unified Field together has been found, through many years of scientific research, to be the formula required to create coherence in the collective consciousness of a given population,"--is found in a piece of the maharishi's literature about the "Maharishi Effect."

Accordingly, if 286 people--or about one-third of the capacity of the Japan America Theatre--hear the performance on Saturday, the maharishi will have a quorum for Los Angeles County's more than 8 million people.

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