Ep. 15: Indic Traditions: Yogic Values of Peace and Nonviolence with Dr. Jeff Long

 

Together with Dr. Jeff Long, Elizabethtown College scholar on Indic religions and philosophies, we launch the first of a two-part series exploring Yogic values and Classical Indian Dance. Our discussion centers on Dr. Long's United Nations speeches regarding peace, nonviolence, ahimsa, and Hindu and Yogic values. Exploring Ahimsa, we examine the interconnectedness of care for one another and the centrality of sound and story in Hindu traditions.

Dr. Jeff Long

Our guest today is Dr. Jeff Long, professor of religion and Asian studies at Elizabethtown College. Specializing in the religions and philosophies of India, he has authored four books and has published numerous articles, as well as two edited volumes. His book titles include A Vision for Hinduism: Beyond Hindu Nationalism, Jainism: An Introduction, and The Historical Dictionary of Hinduism. In 2018, he received the Hindu American Foundation’s Dharma Seva Award for his ongoing efforts to promote more accurate and culturally sensitive portrayals of Indic traditions in the American educational system and popular media. And in 2019, Dr. Long was invited on three occasions to speak at the United Nations.

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Discussion Questions

1) How does the concept of Ahimsa move deeper than nonviolence? 

2) Long speaks of "passionate detachment." How do we support practices of detachment that support and sustain ourselves, while still remaining passionately connected to the work at hand? How do we cultivate that balance in our students?

3) What lessons do Yogic values hold for how we might engage a deeper sense of relationship and care for the natural world?

4) How is sound a core part of Hindu belief and practice? How are beliefs/lessons uniquely rooted within story in Hindu philosophy and religious practice?

Transcript

 

Long (00:00):

It's not just non harming, but it's a positive desire for the welfare of all beings. The idea that I could just be indifferent to you is sort of foreign to Indian thinking. Uh, if I don't want to harm you, I must want to help you. Uh, one of the Dharma traditions Jainism emphasizes Ahimsa to a very, very great extent and Jains universally I find insist that ahimsa is love. It is positively desiring the wellbeing of all

Shorner-Johnson (00:25):

You are listening to the music and peacebuilding podcast, a professional development network at music peace-building dot com exploring intersections of peacebuilding, sacredness, community, creativity and imagination through research and story. This podcast is produced in the digital humanities hub at Elizabethtown college. Today we start the first of a two part series on yoga values in Indian classical dance traditions in the pursuit of peace and restoring gender power balances. Our guest today is Dr. Jeff Long professor of religion and Asian studies at Elizabeth town college specializing in the religions and philosophies of India. He has authored four books and has published numerous articles as well as two edited volumes. His book titles include a vision for Hinduism: Beyond Hindu nationalism, Jainism an introduction and the historical dictionary of Hinduism. In 2018, he received the Hindu American foundation's Dharma Seva award for his ongoing efforts to promote more accurate and culturally sensitive portrayals of Indic traditions in the American educational system and popular media. And in 2019 Dr. Long was invited on three occasions to speak at the United Nations.

Speaker 3 (01:59):

[inaudible].

Shorner-Johnson (01:59):

Tell me about the moment when you were asked to speak at the United nations. What was that like to be asked to do that and how did that happen?

Long (02:06):

Well, that was very exciting. So, um, I'm a member of an organization called the Vedanta society and uh, this is the oldest, a Hindu organization in the United States. Uh, it was started by Swami Vivekananda back in 1894. And, uh, the purpose of the organization is to promote self discovery, spiritual exploration, meditation. And I've been speaking at a various Vedanta societies around the country for a while now. And so I was invited to speak at the Vedanta society of New York, uh, back in June of this year. And, uh, I gave a talk there on Vedanta and Jainism another spiritual tradition, which I've studied quite a lot. And one of the people in attendance, uh, also works for the United nations and he is part of a committee called the international day of yoga committee at the United nations.

Long (02:57):

And the international day of yoga is an interesting thing. One way that the United nations likes to bring attention to various issues is to dedicate a day to it. So you have the day, international day of the child, international day of world peace, international day of the woman, and so on, international day of the refugee. So there's an international day of yoga and the idea is to promote the values behind the practice of yoga because these are very well connected with ideas like world peace, sustainability, interconnectivity of people. And the, these sorts of values have shaped the yoga tradition for many centuries. And the India itself has an international day of yoga and there's some amount of coordination between the Indian mission, uh, at the UN and the UN committee on the international day of yoga. They had an event on August 2nd, uh, at the UN, which was to commemorate, um, a document that was ratified by the UN and it was a declaration made back in 1999 for cultivating a culture of world peace.

Long (04:00):

And the international day of yoga committee wanted to commemorate this event by talking about how yoga and its values can contribute to a culture of world peace. And, uh, the person who attended my talk at the Vedanta society was involved in developing this event and I think he must have liked my presentation because, uh, around mid July I got an invitation from him to come and speak at the United nations - On August 2nd, he said, I saw, I'm sorry this is rather short notice, but would you like to speak at the United nations? And I thought, of course I'd like to speak at the United nations. It seemed like a wonderful opportunity. I was very excited to learn about it. To me, the UN is a wonderful forum. It's really the preeminent organization in the world that's really doing concrete things for world peace. And this is something I care about very deeply.

Long (04:42):

And at the same time as a, as a scholar, as an academic, I sometimes wonder if the work I do is actually having much of an impact on anyone. Uh, you know, apart from maybe a handful of people who read my articles or books or the students that I teach, um, is this really making a difference in the world? So the idea of doing something with the United nations was really, um, very appealing to me. So I agreed to do it. Uh, my calendar was fortunately clear on August 2nd so, uh, I'm, uh, my wife and I went up to the UN on August 2nd and I gave my presentation for that event.

Speaker 3 (05:13):

[music]

Shorner-Johnson (05:31):

As I hear you use the word yoga, I know that you teach a course on Dharma traditions and in your writings you talk about yoga values. Can you introduce for our listeners about what this connective tissue is that seems to connect Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and maybe even to a small extent, Confucianism talk about that connective tissue.

Long (05:50):

Sure, sure. So, uh, if you look at the, what are, what we often call the Dharma traditions, the traditions a native to India Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. And you mentioned Confucianism, but I mean, really to some extent it's almost universal. You can see connections with Christianity, with Islam, with Judaism, uh, with various traditions. Uh, but it's especially prominent and very strong in India. The, this concept of yoga, which to most of our listeners, uh, the first thing they probably think of when they hear yoga is exercises usually done in a gym. Uh, sort of very interesting postures and poses, uh, difficult, uh, um, poses that people get into and, uh, maybe breathing techniques and so on. But yoga in that sense, the yoga that we think of in the Western world is really just a kind of an auxiliary branch of one of what are called the four yogas.

Long (06:43):

They're actually, uh, in a holistic sense. Yoga means union or joining. And it's actually cognate with our English word yoke cause Sanskrit's also in Indo-European language. So, uh, yolk, uh, meaning, you know, to connect like, you know, you, you yoke an ox to a cart, right? So in the same way you're trying to yoke the mind to its original source to what according to the Indian traditions is the Divinity within all of us. And according to Hinduism and most Indian traditions, divinity is everywhere. There, there is the idea of a Supreme God just as you find in Christianity. But there's also the idea that this God exists as an indwelling presence in all of us. Uh, I think in Christianity, the closest analog I see to that is the idea of the Holy Spirit. I think the Holy Spirit's probably the most Hindu of, of the concepts that we find in Christianity.

Long (07:29):

So, uh, this idea that there is this Holy spirit, this indwelling divinity in all of us is, uh, is there. And the aim of yoga is to connect with that or reconnect with that. And when we talk about four yogas there are basically four types of path or discipline one can follow to achieve that these four aren't mutually exclusive. Uh, you can mix them and combine them in whatever way works best for you, but they're based on four different personality types. So there are some people who are very emotionally inclined and devotionally inclined. And so, uh, for them, uh, a yoga of devotion makes sense. And uh, this is something, again, it will be very familiar to Christian listeners because uh, the whole idea of a way of life based on love for God and devoting oneself completely to that relationship. That is from the Hindu point of view, that is a type of yoga.

Long (08:20):

There are other people who are more intellectual and they're interested in discerning things through the intellect and sort of asking questions and picking things apart in a systematic, rational way. And that's called the yoga of knowledge. And that's also a path. Um, there are people who think that all of these other folks are wasting their time because there are people out there suffering in the world. We need to do something. So there's a path of action. There's a path of good works where we, um, good works, meaning not trying to earn God's favor. It just means selfless service that, that you see a need and you go and you try to help. So that's the path of action. And then finally, there's the path of meditation, uh, which is often regarded as the most direct path where you just sort of shut out everything else in your mind that's a distraction and focus completely on that indwelling divinity and listen for what it has to say to you.

Long (09:08):

And, uh, so that's the path of meditation. The physical practices that we now, uh, identify with the word yoga in America, uh, were designed to make meditation easier because if you sit to meditate without any prior physical preparation, the body can be very distracting. Uh, if you have aches and pains and muscles that need to stretch and so on, that's going to bother you when you try to meditate. Uh, so, um, a whole system of postures was developed, uh, over the course of hundreds of years, uh, to make it easier to meditate. And in India, that's usually called Hatha yoga. And so what people in the West think of as yoga is more or less Hatha yoga, uh, there's one type of yoga, but when we talk about yoga in the broad sense, yoga and Yogic values, we're talking about this entire spiritual worldview that sees, develops divine potential in everyone. And that aims to help us manifest, to bring out that potential.

Shorner-Johnson (10:08):

Which then relates to the phrase of Namaste. Which is, I recognize the divine within you.

Long (10:13):

exactly, exactly. It's a traditional Hindu greeting. It's used in a lot of yoga studios. People say Namaste. And it is, it is, yes. Bowing to the divinity in the other person. Um, so it is a, it's a kind of blessing. Uh, and it's interesting in India, it's sort of becomemore or less a hello. But as you think about it, I think the word hello itself, if you go back to old English is connected to the word hallowed, which means to bless or to make Holy so have, Oh, was probably something like Namaste, its origins and now it's just become, you know, hi. But, uh, uh, the idea of Namaste is very much that yes of acknowledging the divinity in the other person.

Speaker 3 (10:50):

[music]

Shorner-Johnson (11:00):

So let's turn to Ahimsa - which is very much the center of your second talk to United nations. And you use, you state it's the first of the eight, eight yoga limbs of yoga values. And in your speech, the United nations you speak of Ahimsa as being much more than simply nonviolence. Yes. Can you unpack this term for us to show us the richness of this term and what it has to offer peaceful relations?

Long (11:24):

Absolutely. So Ahimsa is, uh, the first value that you learn when you study yoga. The, the, um, original yoga text, uh, the, that all the various yoga traditions turn back to typically is called the yoga Sutra was written we think by a scholar named Patanjali. We're not exactly sure when anywhere from the fifth century BC to maybe the second century, AD, but potentially lived, you know, around 2000 years ago. And, um, he articulates a system of yoga called Ashtanga, eight limbed yoga. So sort of eight steps. And the first of the steps is a series a, a set of five moral disciplines. And this is interesting because when you think of yoga again, that people typically think of exercise and working out and uh, they don't think of moral practice. But again, looking at yoga as a holistic path, it's essential before you even do something like meditation to be sure that whatever you're doing, you're doing with a morally pure intention.

Long (12:20):

So there are a set of moral values that are taught at the start of yoga and the very first one. And I think therefore, probably the most important. The foundational one is Ahimsa, which is usually translated as nonviolence. But if you look at the Sanskrit root of the word, Himsa really means the desire to do harm. So if you are looking someone with great anger and you want to hit them over the head or something, that's Himsa. So A-himsa means the absence of that desire. Now this requires a little bit of further unpacking because in English when we say, well, because one thing is absent, that doesn't necessarily mean its opposite is present. That is you can not want to harm someone but maybe not feel particularly kindly toward them. But according to Indian traditions, if you actually feel Ahimsa, it's not just non harming, but it's a positive desire for the welfare of all beings.

Long (13:15):

So the idea that I could just be indifferent to you is sort of foreign to Indian thinking. Uh, if I don't want to harm you, I must want to help you, alright I must want to see you thrive and do well. So Ahimsa says a positive ethic. Uh, one of the Dharma traditions Jainism emphasizes Ahimsa to a very, very great extent. And Jains universally, I find insist that ahimsa is love. Basically. It is, it is positively desiring the wellbeing of all. So Ahimsa is the first value that's taught and I think, uh, again, the, the enumeration of these values is not random. Uh, I don't think it's that you first master Ahimsa, then you go onto the next and the next. You're, you're, you're working on all of them all of the time. But I think it's important that the second value listed is truth.

Long (14:02):

Uh, Satya, it's called. And uh, I think that the significance of this as I see it, especially in our world today with social media and you know, we're communicating so much is that when you're expressing your idea of truth, whenever it may be that the fact that nonviolence comes first tells us that however we decide to express our truth, it should be done in as nonviolent a way as possible. I mean, there's some truths that may be inherently painful. Sometimes you have to tell people things they don't want to hear, but you don't have to be unnecessarily harsh or brusque or aggressive in the way that you express your truth. And, uh, I, you know, one way to think of Ahimsa and it's ranking, uh, I sort of quoted from the popular expression based on the Hippocratic oath, first do no harm. And so you're thinking, okay, I want to be true to my beliefs and my worldview, but I have to ensure that I'm doing it in a non non-harmful way, certainly not a deliberately harmful way, which would, uh, again, not to be too snarky about it, but that would rule out most of what we see on social media.

Long (15:06):

I think nowadays, uh, just as so much, uh, is expressed in an angry and, and hateful way, uh, or just with an assumption that the people that are reading are stupid or, you know, I, I see a lot of this and I actually don't read as much on Twitter and so on as I used to because it's just very depressing. Uh, is that Ahimsa means really expressing oneself and conducting oneself in a way that is minimally harmful and maximally helpful to other beings. And of course this implies an ecological ethic as well. If I, if I don't want to cause harm, I need to avoid things that are going to even indirectly, uh, contribute to a worsening of the environment. And again, that's difficult to do. You know, transportation, you know, we need, I had to get to the United nations. So I, I drove and I drove a Prius so I didn't use as much gas as I might otherwise have.

Long (15:55):

I didn't fly though. And that was a deliberate choice. I could've flown, it, would've made things maybe quicker, but, uh, no, I, I drove because, um, you, you want to minimize the environmental impact of what you do. And so all of these choices are values based on Ahimsa. And of course, another thing to remember too is that there's that phrase practice makes perfect, that, uh, it's not understood that everyone has to live by this value in a perfect way all of the time. And that we're judging each other and watching each other and Oh, you, you flew. Oh, shame on you. You know, uh, that kind of thing is also a form of violence to others and to ourselves. We just have to do the best that we can with what we have at a given time.

Speaker 3 (16:35):

[music]

Shorner-Johnson (16:45):

Jeff Long later concluded his second talk to the UN with the following. Ahimsa is rooted in the realization of the interconnectedness and ultimate oneness of all life. Quoting from the Maha Upanisad, Long relates when we harm others or even wish to harm others or express our approval for harm being done to others. In reality, we harm ourselves. Also when we work for peace and for the wellbeing of all, we are in reality. As Swami Vivekananda has affirmed, helping ourselves, he concludes with Swamiji's words do not injure another. Love everyone as your own self because the whole universe is one, in injuring another. I am injuring myself, in loving another. I am loving myself.

Speaker 3 (17:43):

[music]

Shorner-Johnson (18:00):

If I go back to what you just said about our care for the environment. I would love to dig into it. I think that's a really pressing issue that as we face maybe the reality of climate collapse, that yogic values seem to be an important source of wisdom. And I was particularly fascinated by Ahimsa as well as your notion of truth that you unpack and the idea of non-stealing. Can you talk about the interplay of these and what it means for our relation with and in the natural world?

Long (18:27):

Sure, sure. So, so Ahimsa's the first Yogic value, a truth or Satya is the second and the third is called Astaya non stealing. And that you can see the interconnection of all of these four, for example, with regard to the environment as you were just mentioning, if we take more from the environment than we really need, we are in effect stealing from future generations. And that stealing is of course a form of violence. So we are also violating the principle of Ahimsa. And if we do so with willful disregard for what we know about how our actions impact the environment, we're going against truth, we're deceiving ourselves. So you can see that all of these, uh, different yogic values are in, are interconnected. There's another yogic value. It has to do with self restraint and, uh, not overly indulging the senses.

Long (19:15):

Uh, so it's okay to enjoy the good things in life, um, from the perspective of this tradition, but to become overindulgent in the senses to the detriment of our duties and our responsibilities. Again, that then that becomes a form of violence. And it's also very important to recognize that the problem with violence, if someone says, well, why is violence a problem if we just sort of assume that violence is bad? It's a problem. Violence basically means causing suffering to others. But another point, uh, that is very central to the yogic traditions is that we are all interconnected. So you cannot really separate the suffering of others from your own. If you're causing suffering to others, you might not feel the effect immediately, but it will eventually come to you that, that you also experience that suffering. And that's called karma in the yoga traditions, that the idea that there's this principle of action and reaction that is an effective, the unity of existence.

Long (20:09):

Um, a comparison I sometimes make or an image I use with my students, uh, is that, uh, imagine you're in a boat out on the Lake and you've got a big rock in the boat with you and you decide to drop the rock in the Lake. So you drop the rock in the late Lake and it makes waves go off that fill the whole Lake, but you're also in the Lake, you're in the boat, and so your boat's gonna rock along with anything else, right? Those waves are going to affect your boat and you, along with everything else that it touches. So whatever we do to our environment, to other people, we're in effect doing to ourselves because we're all part of one interconnected system. And the result might be delayed, it might not happen immediately and then that might make us skeptical about it.

Long (20:48):

But according to these traditions, it is inevitable. It's something that will eventually come back. And we can see this on a physical level with the environmental crisis. Of course, if, if a climate change reduces biodiversity, if it, if it makes, uh, certain parts of the earth unlivable, I mean, that's going to affect all of us. I mean, even if you're a part of the earth in a part of the earth, it's relatively unaffected. You're still going to be having, uh, you know, people who will need help, who are going to be maybe be migrating into your area because there's no longer livable. Um, the government and the country people are going to have to be in using resources to deal with all of this, uh, fires breaking out all these things that we're seeing, uh, are effects of our own actions coming back to us.

Speaker 5 (21:31):

[music]

Shorner-Johnson (21:41):

so if we start to turn toward the dancer that we're about ready to introduce, I think it's important for us, maybe back up and talk, talk about how these values are not necessarily commandments, but they are very deeply embedded within story. So can you introduce like how, what are the stories and how are these embedded within story?

Long (22:01):

Okay. That's a very good question because as you said, uh, the understanding of these yogic values, it's not these are commandments. These are, um, results of experience of people who have gone through many, many, uh, lifetimes of, of ah struggle. And through their experiences, through their trial and error, they've realized that this is the way of life that's most conducive to happiness and most conducive to, to, uh, the welfare of all. And, uh, the Hindu tradition especially is full of stories that illustrate these values. Um, the average Hindu, for example, will not necessarily study the yoga Sutra, but just about everyone will be familiar with stories from the Ramayana stories from the Mahabharata, uh, stories from the Puranas and various other epics. And, and, uh, narratives that have been handed down through time, through the Hindu tradition. And the, a parallel in the West might be stories from the Bible.

Long (22:53):

You know, like every child will know some stories and will, will have their favorite character and so on. And it's through these stories that the values of the tradition get transmitted and spread. So it's not that people are memorizing, you know, the yoga Sutra, but they know, uh, what Rama did when his, uh, there's, there's a great story in the Ramayana when, uh, Rama who's the hero, uh, his father had made a promise long ago to someone and, uh, that he would give this person basically anything that they desired that he could, he could good grant. This person asks for his son Rama to be exiled to the forest. And poor Rama hasn't done anything wrong, but he calmly and happily goes into exile because he says a promise has to be kept. And his father was the King. He says, if the King doesn't keep his word, then how can we expect the common people to keep their word?

Long (23:44):

All of society will break down. So he realizes that even though it's not pleasant, he has a responsibility to uphold the truth of what his, not just of his own word, but it's his father's word to keep his father's word. He takes on this great self sacrifice and goes to the forest and he's seen as a model human being in these traditions. As someone who like, that's what we should all do. And of course we don't, we get angry. We get frustrated, you know, Oh, this isn't fair. You know, how often have we said this isn't fair? But, uh, the tradition invites us to think that each thing that happens to us in life, rather than thinking, is it fair? Is it not fair? It's, uh, what's the right thing to do and what can I learn from it? And so by cultivating the, the, what we call the dharmic values, uh, like Ahimsa like truthfulness and so on, uh, we grow and evolve and become closer to that divine self within us.

Long (24:36):

And in fact, also, we don't always know everything that's going to happen. And I'm gonna quote one of my favorite Western authors. JRR Tolkien, um, Gandalf says at one point in the Lord of the falings, even the wise do not know all ends, right? Um, Frodo is saying that it's a pity that that Gollum wasn't killed, uh, by Bilbo, uh, earlier in the Hobbit. And, uh, Gandalf says, well, maybe even he may yet have a role to play. And I don't want to spoil the Lord of the rings for all your listeners, but it's really a good thing that Gollum is alive. Uh, so he plays a very important role later on in the story. So in the same way, uh, Rama being exiled seems like this very unfair thing, but it leads to a whole sequence of events which results in him fulfilling his destiny, which is to confront this monstrous figure called Ravena who really represents all of the evil in the world.

Long (25:24):

Uh, he's egotistical, vain, selfish, but also very powerful. And he, he, uh, he gained a special power many, many eons past where he's immune to attack from any type of magical being. He was so arrogant that he did not bother to get immunity from human beings. He's how humans are puny. No human will ever attack me. So Rama is a human being, is in a unique position to be able to actually defeat this evil creature. And he would not have ended up being in a position where he has to fight and face Ravena. If he wasn't exiled to the forest first, he would have been living happily in his palace and would not have fulfilled his destiny. So that tells us that even when very difficult things happen to us in life, uh, we, we can resist. Uh, we have to resist injustice. We have to resist things that we know are wrong. Uh, but the things we can't control to some extent we have to accept because they may yet lead to greater things.

Speaker 5 (26:21):

[music]

Shorner-Johnson (26:25):

Jeff Long writes, the problems of the world are exercise equipment through our attempts to solve them. We transform and improve ourselves. And indeed it is not that there is any single problem in the world that is irresolvable, but with each problem we solve come new ones. Life itself. To quote Swami Atmarupananda is problem solving. Transcendence is to be found not in abandoning the world, but in facing its problems. Honestly, in a spirit of what we could paradoxically call passionate detachment, passionate in being fully engaged with addressing the problems at hand, but detached in as much as we rest assured in the confidence that no problem, however formidable can destroy the spiritual essence of our being, which the sages tell us is infinite

Speaker 5 (27:23):

[music].

Shorner-Johnson (27:34):

So one of the things that captivates me so much about Hinduism as I teach world musics is that.. Sound is not something that you add on later within the practice of devotion, but it's something that is central to the experience of God and central to the experience in devotion. So can you talk about what you've told my students about ohm and maybe this centrality of sound within this tradition?

Long (27:59):

Absolutely no sound is absolutely central to the Hindu tradition. In fact, the sacred scripture, the Vedas is also called the Sruthi, which means that which is heard. And this is parallel to the idea of divine revelation. If something's revealed to you, shown to you, it's, it's shown to your eyes, right? You see it. So Sruthi is revelation through sound. And so the belief in the, in the Hindu tradition is that the Vedas were, were not so much composed as they were discovered by the ancient sages who went deep into a state of meditation and they heard the primordial sound, which is typically expressed with the syllable ohm.

Long (28:38):

And a lot of your listeners might have heard this ohm before, maybe in a yoga context. The idea of ohm is that ohm is the original sound, the original vibration or wavelength, and that from this vibration came forth all the other vibrations, the other wavelengths that make up the rest of our experience is all, all a phenomenal reality is understood in Hinduism to be a system of vibrations. So if somethings, if you have energy vibrating at a very low level, it becomes solid matter. And if it's vibrating at a higher level, it becomes liquid, higher level, it becomes gas even higher level, it becomes radiant energy and like fire and I'm like electricity. And then at the highest level it becomes consciousness and awareness. So everything is a vibration. So the way God created, created and continues to create the universe according to Hinduism is through sound, through vibration.

Long (29:25):

Because everything is a vibration. So this means you can use sound, you can use music as a kind of spiritual technology to shape your consciousness and literally tune you in with the cosmos, tune you in to God, tune you in to the cosmic harmony. And so ah, traditional chanting, um, that is also Bhajan, devotional singing. Uh, all of these things are designed to elevate our consciousness to the divine. And so the sound is, is integral to this practice of yoga. And that's why chanting and mantras and these things are very important. They are actually tuning your consciousness to the harmony of the universe. And, uh, with Indian classical dance, you know, we're going to have, uh, have the, uh, a very talented dancer. My good friend Sreyashi is coming to the college on Thursday. And, uh, the Indian dance also is a, uh, not purely for entertainment or aesthetic enjoyment.

Long (30:21):

Though it of course, has that capability, but it's a spiritual practice, uh, especially for the dancer because they're attuning themselves, not only mentally, but physically to the music and attuning through their body. They're enacting this process of creation. Uh, and uh, I'm going to evoke, Tolkein one more time, uh, who, who sees, uh, uh, the, uh, uh, the image and likeness of God and human beings, uh, as the fact that we also have an urge to create, because we, you know, we are created by the creator. So we also want to create, and so through creativity, through embodiment of the divine, in a sacred form like dance or through making sacred music, uh, this, these are all ways of, again, attuning ourselves back to that, the original chord. You could say the original Ohm and another one of my favorite bands, uh, the moody blues. I don't know how many of your listeners remember the moody blues. Uh, they, they're still out there performing. They had an album back in 1968 called in search of the lost chord. And the chord you discover in the final song is Ohm. It's that original sound. And like a lot of the artists in the 60s they were very inspired by yoga traditions and Hinduism and so on. So you have that idea of it worked. We're all trying to tune ourselves back to that original sound.

Speaker 3 (31:47):

[Music]

Long (31:57):

My favorite Western music artist is George Harrison, and again, he's a big hero of mine and he was drawn to Hinduism back during the time of the Beatles. And I have this, uh, recording of him, uh, in a radio studio, probably very much like this one. And he was tuning his guitar and he was going to play something live over the radio and he was getting his guitar in tune and he just makes this stray comment that reminds me of what we were just saying about ohm. And so he says, uh, sometimes we're not even in tune with ourselves much less with our instruments or, which was just kind of interesting and he was expressing that same kind of view So.

Shorner-Johnson (32:28):

And I feel like I see that kind of binding the self back into the center also in the symbols of marriage that are also within this dance tradition from what I've read about as well.

Long (32:41):

Yes, that's right. That's right. And uh, um, marriage in the marriage ceremony and I've actually, I've performed for Hindu weddings so I have some up close experience with this. And of course I, I had a wedding of that kind myself. And um, you have uh, uh, there's a sacred fire which represents again that original primordial essence of creation and the couple walks around the fire. So it's interesting if you think of traditional Christian weddings, there's kind of a, I'm not sure how I would describe it, but this is almost sort of a vertical or a kind of structure to it. You walk up an aisle, you come to the front, you stand together and pronounce your vows before the community. In the Hindu tradition it's much more of a circular structure. You walk, everything is centered around the fire. You walk around the fire and of course the attention of the community. Everyone there is on the couple. And usually on the bride and you know how beautiful does she look, what kind of Sari is she wearing and so forth. But in terms of the ritual, the central focus is the sacred fire. So everything is revolving around that. So the ritual arena is more of a circular space than a sort of vertical type of space,

Shorner-Johnson (33:49):

Long writes. If we can begin as a species to conceptualize religious, cultural, and philosophical difference, not as a threat to our own way of thinking and living, but as a source of wisdom that can supplement and deepen our own approach to truth, whatever it may be, then perhaps we can begin to view our neighbors not as rivals or as people whose beliefs are false or dangerous, but as potential teachers who can share with us some part of the universal wisdom with which we are as yet unfamiliar and with whom we can also share our own understanding of truth, not in an effort to proselytize or to convert, but to advance knowledge for the benefit of all. In our next episode, we will encounter the music and classical Indian dance of Sreyashi Dey as we enter conversation to talk about her work in restoring the lives of unheard women

Speaker 3 (34:57):

[Music]

Shorner-Johnson (35:03):

a blessing. As we live in six feet of isolation, may we feel the interconnectedness of our living, the transcendence, not of abandoning the world, but in living into the challenge of now, seeking the wellbeing of others, through the infiniteness of presence and compassion.

Speaker 3 (35:37):

[inaudible] [inaudible].

Shorner-Johnson (36:00):

This is the music and peacebuilding podcast hosted by Kevin Shorner-Johnson at Elizabethtown college. We host a master of music education with an emphasis in peacebuilding. Thinking deeply, We reclaim space for connection and care. Join us at music peace-building dot com.

 

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Dr. Kevin Shorner-Johnson

Music & Peacebuilding

Elizabethtown College

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Elizabethtown, PA 17022

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