Recently Karuna has acquired a new instrument, a shruti box. A Shruti box is a small bellows instruments that is somewhat like a simplified harmonium. The instrument itself has a relatively short history but the name invokes a few poignant ideas in Yogic philosophy. Shruti literally translates to ‘hearing’ or ‘listening’ in sanskrit, but is a term that is associated to sacred texts in Hinduism. In this respect a sruti (shruti) is of divine origins and “is traditionally believed to be a direct revelation of the “cosmic sound of truth” heard by ancient Rishis“. The Vedas are understood to be shrutis. In the context of music, “A shruti is considered the smallest interval of pitch that the human ear can detect.”
In the weeks since the arrival of the Shruti box it has not been uncommon to happen upon one of the teachers chanting before class, or to be lulled into savasana with a series of haunting oms accompanied by the sound of the box ‘breathing’. It has added to the soundscape at Karuna and helps to fulfill the original intention of the architecture of the room; to be a space that celebrates sound. The instrument has inspired more contemplation among students and teachers of the practice of chanting and use of mantra and has allowed us another access point into the powerful effects that sound and vibration have in the enrichment of our spiritual and physical practices.
I have personally been inspired by the shruti box to contemplate OM more deeply as a sonar bridge from prakrti to purusha or from body to soul. When it arrived at the studio we where in the middle of a advanced training weekend. In the excitement over this new tool we were all invited to get up and lead a chant of our choosing. Many of us have only lead others in the chanting of OM and have had little experience (or confidence) leading traditional chants. After everyone took a turn we were truly energized and giddy. The experience for me stimulated what felt like every cell in my body, as if the matter of me had been set to a different frequency. I also found connection to the fact that the shruti box is a style of instrument that ‘breathes’ sound which, for me, resonates with my own practice of connecting my breath to energy in asana and pranayama.
One of the students in the training, Dawn Heilman, captured some of the chanting we did with the shruti box. This is a recording of Eileen Muri and Chris Hamil chanting Om and the Invocation to Patanjali.