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Visionary Musician Alice Coltrane’s Deep Links with India and Hinduism

The life and works of jazz saxophonist John Coltrane's wife tells us why she should be called the musician of Hinduism

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Visionary Musician Alice Coltrane
Alice Coltrane was a versatile musician, pianist, harpist and globally-acknowledged composer. Wikimedia
  • April 2017 marked the 10th anniversary of the death of musician Alice Coltrane, wife of jazz saxophonist John Coltrane
  • Coltrane, the devoted follower of Hinduism and Satchidananda, called herself Turiyasangitananda
  • She became a spiritual leader at an ashram in California, with by hundreds of devotees

June 17, 2017: It has been 10 years since the death of the visionary musician Alice Coltrane, the partner of legendary jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. Alice was a versatile musician, pianist, harpist and globally-acknowledged composer.

Remembering the legendary musician, a compilation of her lesser-known work from her final years titled World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda was released. It made it to the top of Billboard Charts in the New Age and World Music category.

Coltrane’s visits to India, which later inspired Alice to take up the Hindu faith, were the influence behind much of the material. She chose to become a spiritual leader at an ashram in California, followed by hundreds of devotees and enthusiasts. Coltrane took on the name Turiyasangitananda, which means “the highest song of god”. It is only fitting that her “cosmic jazz and spiritual compositions have been described as prayers for humanity”.

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A short film narrated by her daughter Turyia Coltrane has also been released along with the album. The short film mainly focuses on what propelled her devotion towards the Hindu religion in her final years. Turyia talks about how in the months following the death of her husband, her mother went into depression, and found peace and solace in India and in the teachings of Chennai’s Swami Satchidananda, who was later the inspiration behind her fourth studio album, Journey in Satchidananda. Satchidananda toured the US in the 1960s and he also opened the famous Woodstock festival.

According to Alice’s eldest child Michelle Coltrane, her mother was a woman who was way ahead of her time, a home-girl from Detroit who founded an ashram in the west. Meditation is now widely popular and has become a part of everyday talk. But in her time, it was considered peculiar and yoga was viewed as just a bunch of people who laid on top of mats on the floor. “But mom was always different,” Michelle added.

In the short film footage from the historic BBC film Bombay and All That Jazz, which recorded the concert conducted by double violinist L Shankar in the city on New Year’s Day 1992, has also been borrowed.

– prepared by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter: @dubumerang

 

Next Story

Westerners Adopt Indian Practices, Deny Giving Due Credits

There is an argument by some Hindu liberals thinking “what the problem in it”? They think our knowledge is globalized by West in the same way we consume inventions of the West. But it’s a very naïve argument.

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Its time Indians in general and Hindus in particular should be vigilant and should have an academic mind set to respond to such misadventures to protect our own heritage and Dharma. Hindu Council Of Australia

By Shashi Holla (WA) and Surinder Jain

Colonial or a white supremacy mind set may be clever enough to adopt Hindu practices but denies giving credit where it is due. Stealing Hindu Intellectual Property, they do not hesitate to rename and repackage so that they can sell it back to India for immense profits. Off course, they will leave no chance to tell Indians to stop their superstitious ways and to adopt the new scientific knowledge which “they” have “invented”.

Following has been already digested or appropriated by West. Some of the Western academics don’t believe that they belong to India.

Yoga Nidra   AS  Lucid Dreaming

Nadi Shodhana AS Alternate Nostrils Breathing

Vipassana  AS Mindfulness.

The latest addition to this list is

Pranamyam AS Cardiac Coherence Breathing

Several researchers have reported that pranayama techniques are beneficial in treating a range of stress-related disorders.[29] But the latest attempt has taken the appropriation too far. An American magazine “Scientific American” in its article titled “Proper Breathing Brings Better health” termed “Pranayama” as cardiac coherence breathing. (15 January 2019). The article gives us an idea about how West is so sophisticated in stealing knowledge from ancient cultures particularly Hinduism.

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Man doing Yoga. Wikimedia Commons

Prāṇāyāma is mentioned in verse 4.29 of the Bhagavad Gītā.[11] According to Bhagavad-Gītā As It Is, prāṇāyāma is translated to “trance induced by stopping all breathing”, also being made from the two separate Sanskrit words, prāṇa and āyām.[12] Pranayama is the fourth “limb” of the eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga mentioned in verse 2.29 in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.[14][15] Patanjali, a Hindu Rishi, discusses his specific approach to pranayama in verses 2.49 through 2.51, and devotes verses 2.52 and 2.53 to explaining the benefits of the practice.[16] Many yoga teachers advise that pranayama should be part of an overall practice that includes the other limbs of Patanjali’s Raja Yoga teachings, especially Yama, Niyama, and Asana.[18]

“Pranayama” a department of Yogic science practiced and documented 5000 years back ( even 15,000 years back) by Rishis is not even acknowledged by the author of the article. If one read the article they vaguely suggest that breathing exercises also existed in China, Hindu and in Greek culture.  This is how appropriation of ancient techniques takes place by West.  As Sankrat Sanu an entrepreneur, researcher and writer put it in his tweet “after erasing the origin they claim it as their own invention, attack original traditions as Superstition”.

As famous Indian American Author Rajiv Malhotra summarizes: “The article standardizes cardiac coherence breathing as Chinese, Hindu, Greek and various traditions as equal origins, and then modern West turns it into science”. Its time Indians in general and Hindus in particular should be vigilant and should have an academic mind set to respond to such misadventures to  protect our own heritage and Dharma.

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The article standardizes cardiac coherence breathing as Chinese, Hindu, Greek and various traditions as equal origins, and then modern West turns it into science”.  Pixabay

There is an argument by some Hindu liberals thinking “what the problem in it”? They think our knowledge is globalized by West in the same way we consume inventions of the West. But it’s a very naïve argument. West has created an eco system and mechanism in which their knowledge system is Well protected and patented by international norms. Unless West does not give a new name and fits into their framework native wisdom is not recognized in academia and media. Whereas Hindus were generous in sharing their health techniques freely from millennium never thought they will struggle in proving things which belong to them. In fact in a westernized framework of Yoga and other techniques Indian scholars, insiders and practitioners are blatantly ignored. So our own knowledge will be repackaged and exported back to us at an extra price and conditions.

Also Read: Climate Change Will Melt Vast Parts of Himalayas: Study

Many of our practices are being called to be Biofeedback systems. According to WikipediaBiofeedback systems have been known in India and some other countries for millennia. Ancient Hindu practices like yoga and Pranayama (breathing techniques) are essentially biofeedback methods. Many yogis and sadhus have been known to exercise control over their physiological processes. In addition to recent research on Yoga, Paul Brunton, the British writer who travelled extensively in India, has written about many cases he has witnessed. (Hindu Council Of Australia)