Global Ambedkarites

Introduction to Theravi (Buddhist) Music by Sudhir Raj Singh

Introduction to Theravi (Buddhist) Music by Sudhir Raj Singh

Introduction to Theravi (Buddhist) Music by Sudhir Raj Singh

Introduction to Theravi (Buddhist) Music by Sudhir Raj Singh

Introduction to Theravi (Buddhist) Music by Sudhir Raj Singh

Summary of our vision and background to

 Buddhist Music

To revive and promote the ‘almost’ lost music theory and compositions of the ancient Buddhist masters, known only to a handful of Buddhist Music Masters (Sangīta Theras) in remote parts of India and Pakistan, Afganistan and India. We have met two such elders, one of whom has now sadly passed away.These elders are referred to as  ‘Mausiqi-ke-Theray’ or ‘Sangīta Theray’.


This music theory, originally known as ‘Theron ka Sangīta Vigyan’ (Literal meaning: Scientific music knowledge of the elders) now called ‘Theravi Music’, has been hidden from the masses for approximately two millennia, i.e. since the fall of the Buddhist Mauriyan empire which was accompanied with genocide of Buddhist monks and the complete annihilation of Buddhist monasteries. With this came the decline of Buddhism and Buddhist thought throughout the very land (Jambudeep) in which the Great Buddha lived. Naturally, with this came the destruction of Buddhist music too.

Our  twofold aim (both being two side of the same coin):

(1) To internationally spread/promote Buddha’s wisdom of compassion, justice, tolerance, peace and security through music as taught by the “Mausiqi ke Tharey”. 

(2) To revive/ rekindle/promote the philosophy, psychology, beauty, mathematics and science behind “Theravi Music, The music if Buddhism”., Starting from where it was first created and then destroyed, thereby filling the theoretical and musical void created in North-Indian Classical Music.


By connecting Buddhists and other music lovers globally through listening to and understanding Theravi Music.


What is ARĀGA and Difference between Rāgas & Arāgas?

ARĀGA alternative spellings ARĀG, ARAAG or ARAAGA 

An ‘Arāga’ is a musical scale in Indian Classical Music as is a rāga but with different criteria. It is frequently used in Theravi Music, the precursor of Shastriya Music in the Indian sub-continent. An Arāga defies the traditionally accepted rule in Shastriya Sangeet Which states that:

“All rāgas have/must have at least five commonly accepted musical notes (surs). A musical scale that does not contain at least five notes cannot be called a rāga”

This implies that: 

ANY composition which does not contain at least five musical notes is not composed with a Shastriya Sangeet rāga. The composition must be considered as belonging to another musical system other than Shastriya Sangeet.

THERAVI MUSIC (Theravi Sangīta, Pronounciation: Thervi Sangeet)

Theravi Music Theory (TMT) is a music composing and teaching system based on Buddhist philosophy and music theory. The word “Theravi” comes from the Pali word “Thera”  (meaning elder/wise). 

In Theravi Music, an arāga contain less than five notes and belongs to a sub-set of Theravi Rāgas, which can have any number of notes. A prefix `a` before a word in Pāli (language of the Buddhist Canon) negates that particular word. Therefore the prefix `a` before rãga indicates a negation of rāga. The literal meaning of arāga is non-rāga. 

Composition in BUDDHA ARÃGA alternative spellings BUDDHA RAAG, BUDDHA RÃGA, BUDDHA RÃG or as single words BUDDHARÃGA, BUDDHARAAG and BUDHARÃG

This is a three-note Theravi Music composition composed using TMT, first recorded by Shekhar Bodhakar, a researcher of ancient Buddhist Music specialising in rhythm. It is composed in a very rare and mathematically intricate Theravi Theka called Buddhataal or Buddhatāla. 

In this composition, tabla is played in a continuous loop. The purpose is to make it as easy as possible for the listener to analyse the complexities of rhythm in Buddha & Nibbāna Tālas and generally in Theravi Sangīta, using TMT without compromising the essential mood, beauty & harmony of the composition

(NOTE: Padma Bhushan Ilaiyaraaja is an eminent Tamil films music director who has demonstrated in prestigious international venues how harmonious music can be produced from just three notes. I.e. from an arāga. Indpaedia rates ilaiyaraaja among the five greatest music directors of Indian cinema).

Non musical, Buddhist Definition of Rāga:

Rāga means “colour or hue” in Sanskrit but appears in Buddhist texts as a form of blemish, personal impurity or fundamental character affliction. As a philosophical concept, the term refers to greed, sensuality, desire or attachment to a sensory object. It includes any form of sensual passion as well as attachments to, over excitement and pleasure derived from objects of the senses. Some scholars render it as “craving”.

Psychological importance of arāgas: According to Theravi Scholars  Rāga (or lobha) is a Buddhist concept of character affliction or poison referring to any form of greed, sensuality, lust, desire, craving or “attachment to a sensory object”. The purpose of a Shastriya Sangeet rāga is to evoke or enhance a particular desirable emotion/feeling; i.e. an INTENTIONALLY created sensual raga. This is achieved by using five or more notes. 

On the contrary, the purpose of a Buddhist Theravi Music ARĀGA is: To reduce the arising of new emotions and to prevent the escalation of any emotion that has already arisen.

When this is the aim of a Theravi composer, then the musicians use less than five notes. That is why such a musical scale is called an a-rāga i.e. a non- rāga. 

Benefits of Arāgas

The use of arāgas leads to a reduction in the intensity of emotions. The reduction of (or non reaction to) emotions lead to increase in calmness. The absence of all emotions (or non-reaction to all emotions) leads to total calmness. Beside humans, animals have also been known to be affected by arāgas. One such case is of a hyperactive parrot in Pakistan entering what seems to be a trance, or a very relaxed state, when exposed to an arāga called Buddha Arāga (on You-Tube).




(S. Bodhakar- Composer of Buddhatāla, LONDON, UK)

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