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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
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  • 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

 

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Puja for The Spiritualism, Not for Vulgar Entertainment

The westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our "scriptures" and are becoming more spiritual while we just locked up those "holy books" only in the drawers of the altar. Thus we only love to shake our “butts to the boom-boom of Bollywood”.. right in front of the Gods' idols !!!

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Hinduism
he westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our "scriptures"

By Salil Gewali

Any auspicious days in Hinduism are expected to be observed with a complete purity of action and thought. The same holds true for other religions too. As per the Hindu scriptures, the believers are required to stay away from any kind of sense gratifications, particularly when the specific days are dedicated to Gods and Goddess such as Navratri, Laxmi Puja, Krishna Janmashtami, Shivaratri, to name a few. The pathway to devotion and spiritualism should not be “desecrated” by the blot of the brazen entertainment. The scriptures logically explain why it is antithetical, and its adverse consequences.

Hindusim
Incidentally, the Bhagavad Gita describes such situation as the rise of “tamasic vibes”.

 But, what a huge irony, rather a blasphemy that many people these days have started to choose the auspicious days of Gods to satisfy their base senses. Without a wee bit of regret, a certain class of people holds almost every auspicious day as the most “unmissable” occasion to booze with the friends, and what not, and stagger back home, lol! Such bizarre practices are fast catching now than ever.  Sadly, hardly any conscious people and spiritual organizations stand up and take the right measures to check such godless deviations.

What is quite unpleasant is that such a kind of unholy practices are often being facilitated by certain “Hindu intuitions” as well. On this past Laxmi Puja, the “propitious time” to perform the ritual had fallen between 6 PM to 7:53 PM. Yours truly decided to use that span of time for meditation. But hell broke loose. Apart from fireworks around, the Bollywood songs in high decibel burst forth from a certain Hindu institution quite frustrated the mission.

Hindusim
Sadhu Sanga Retreat, 2016

 One senior citizen laments – “Nothing could be irreligious than the fact that a favorable time for “puja” is also being used for the wrongful purposes. We rather expect the “Hindu institutions” to teach our children Bhajan, Kirtan, and other spiritual activities, not the loud and feverish parties and disturb others.”

Another college student adds “Having been much disturbed by the noise pollution, I have persuaded my parents to shift our place of residence to elsewhere, not at least near holy places with an unholy mission. I have started to see such institutions with the eyes of suspicion these says.” Is it that our institutions are unable to use their “discretion”, and as a result, they fail to differentiate between right and wrong?  One is deeply apprehensive that Bollywood songs and vulgar dances might as well be included as a part of the “puja ritual” as we have long accepted the fun of fireworks bursting as an integral part of Laxmi Puja which in fact is just an entrenched “misconception”.

Hinduism
Hinduism is expected to be observed with a complete purity of action

Needless to say, our roar for consumerism has almost drowned the whisper of inherent spiritualism. We are only just sending out the wrong messages. I’m afraid, the whole culture itself might be looked down with derision by other faiths. It might just become a subject of ridicule! It is no exaggeration, such negative notions against the “wrong practices” are all what we often read these days in several newspapers and social media. Do we want others to demean our profound spiritual heritage thus?  I believe it calls for a serious soul-searching.

Incidentally, the Bhagavad Gita describes such situation as the rise of “tamasic vibes”.  It warns in the strongest terms that mankind should absolutely be careful not to fall under the influence of any short-lived sense gratifications. Or else, our endeavor to “practice and preserve” the sanctity of a religion/spiritualism will be a futile exercise.

However, on the other hand, the westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our “scriptures” and are becoming more spiritual while we just locked up those “holy books” only in a drawer of the altar. Thus we only love to shake our “butts to the boom-boom of Bollywood”.. right in front of the Gods’ idols !!!

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’.

Twitter:@SGewali.