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Do music help? Why sometimes it feels equal to meditation in terms of achieving bliss (may be for short span of period) Or music is just an another time wasting thing? Text with links and pictorials in your answer are the most welcome. All are welcome. Thanks

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    Meditation isn't meant to only achieve bliss, it's real purpose is insight. And meditative bliss so aroused far surpasses musical bliss. In fact, after steam entry one notices a total drop in interest in music and entertainment. – Buddho Jul 14 '15 at 9:38
  • See also this thread: buddhism.stackexchange.com/questions/8228/… – Jeff Wright Jul 14 '15 at 12:41
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Music is not good as a meditation object as it arouses craving. If you analyse the 40 meditation objects of Samatha, you can identify 3 kinds of objects: neutral objects, virtuous or holy objects and unattractive or repulsive objects. All carefully chosen to subdue certain defilements or achieve Jhanas.

What did the Buddha say about music?

For monks:

There are, bhikkhus, these five drawbacks of reciting the Dhamma with a sustained melodic intonation.

Which five?

  1. Oneself gets attached to that intonation
  2. Others get attached to that intonation
  3. Householders get angry: 'Those ascetics who are followers of the Sakyans' son sing in the same way that we do!'

  4. There is a break in concentration for those striving [to produce] musicality

  5. And the upcoming generations imitate what they see.

For Lay people:

7th of the 8 precepts

Nacca-gita-vadita-visukkadassana mala-gandha-vilepana-dharana-mandana-vibhusanathana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami - I undertake the precept to refrain from dancing, singing, music, going to see entertainments, wearing garlands, using perfumes, and beautifying the body with cosmetics.

The 8 precepts are usually practiced on Poya days and when you stay in a meditation center

  • Reading your link to the Precepts was helpful. I have often wondered why spiritual and religious groups seem to be against some things, but I see that in many cases they were taken to extremes, and so the entire lot of it was closed. I think that it can be possible to dance, sing and listen to music in an uplifting way, but I find my interest fading. I was never big on "entertainments" though. – user2341 Dec 11 '15 at 1:16
  • Music is not prohibited for laymen – Sankha Kulathantille Dec 11 '15 at 4:54
  • I think music and entertainment etc. are just 'forbidden' because they promote sensual desire, and of course the time one is listening to music can be better spend for meditation. Most of the downsides mentiondd by Sankha aren't even important nowadays. It is the same with the points regarding what falls under 'sexual misconduct'. If a woman lives by her parents and you would want to have sex/relationship with her, then this would probably fall under misconduct. Sexual misconduct was heavily tied to the society back then, but of course it largely comprises the reduction of dukkha. – Val Dec 2 '18 at 19:13
  • There is no comparison between music and sexual misconduct. Sexual misconduct leads to birth in lower realms. That's why it's one of the five precepts. Music is simply a distraction to monks and those who meditate. That's why it's only mentioned in the eight precepts – Sankha Kulathantille Dec 3 '18 at 2:01
  • I never said anything else, but if you read closely again, sexual misconduct is not just about unconsenting sex. Buddha made it clear that one shouldn't engage in a woman if she is protected by her parents etc. How do you interpret that? Is it up-to-date? – Val Dec 3 '18 at 5:54
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while most of people see that music is a fruit for the soul but actually it is another source of craving and attachment to ordain things , it should be emphasized that Buddhism as a way of truth it needs to break every attachment to the any earthly thing. For that reason meditation should be only practiced with things that allows you to turn inward and not still be attached to an outsider connection, I don’t know what the Buddha himself said about this subject but I think that what he would say ----------

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What did the Buddha say about music?

I am not sure what the exact Sutta is but perhaps which is one which is not yet translated into English. In this Panchasika or Pansilu is in love and composes a love song towards another Deva he has fallen in love with. Thinking who is the most intelligent person who can give an opinion on this is the Buddha he visits the Buddha vet his composition.

The scriptures record two instances of Panchasika or Pansilu, the musician of Tavatimsa heaven, visiting the Buddha: on one such occasion, standing outside the dwelling of the Buddha, and within a short distance to be audible to the enlightened one, Panchasika while playing his instrument named as Beluvapanda, sang his own composition which described the attractiveness of his sweetheart. A line from a verse in the lyrics he recited goes as follows...

“When shall I be fortunate to experience the warmth of your smooth and sensual bosom…”

After singing his favourite, Panchasika went before the Buddha who apparently was neither distressed/ disturbed nor enchanted by Panchasika’s obscene lyric; strangely, the Buddha commented about the high quality of his singing [it is not known, if he sang it in high pitched operatic or otherwise]. He specifically admired the synchronization between melody, vocal singing and the instrumental music! The Buddha said,

the notes of your playing are in harmony with the notes of the song; the notes of the song are in harmony with the notes of your veena; instrumental tones do not exceed your vocal tones, and vocal tones do not surpass your veena tones; Panchasika, when did you compose this song?”

Surely the styles, melodies and lyrics of deities who are of extremely cheerful happy-go-lucky beings cannot be calming, soothing or spiritual but much more erotic even than our modern and emerging compositions of sounds, ideas, rhythms and themes; yet the Buddha, perhaps one of the earliest music critics of the world had a great regard for the worldly aspects of life. The above story gives an indication of the Buddha’s insights on Harmony, as well as his perception and patience. [Panchasika’s musical recital is described in detail in by Gurulugomi in his literary work, Amavatura.]

Source: The veena in Buddhist stories and Is disharmony allowed in Buddhism?

Summary of the key points are:

  • the notes of your playing are in harmony with the notes of the song
  • the notes of the song are in harmony with the notes of the veena
  • instrumental tones do not exceed your vocal tones vocal tones do not
  • surpass your veena tones

Perhaps reference can be found as part of the answer to the following question: What are the occasions did Panchasika or Pansilu meet the Buddha


Why sometimes it feels equal to meditation ...

I don't personally advocate music as a meditation pratice but as an alternative meditation pratice Richard Shankman teachers mindfulness of sound. But perhaps you can use a Gong instead of music as music may lead to attachment.

Alternative Meditation Practices

The breath is commonly taught as a universal meditation subject, suitable for everyone. But for some people the breath is not a good object to work with. I knew a man who had a choking incident as a child, and paying attention to his breathing brought up feelings of anxiety. Another person with asthma found that she became tense whenever she focused on the breath. If you are one for whom the breath does not work well, there is nothing wrong; this will not hinder your ability to meditate. It’s just a matter of finding the right practice in these early stages to substitute for breath meditation.

Here are some techniques you can try if you think mindfulness of breathing is not a good practice for you. These common alternatives are not the only methods that can substitute for mindful breathing, but the full range of possibilities is beyond our scope here.

Mindfulness of Sound

In the instructions for mindfulness of breathing we let all other experiences stay in the background of our awareness, not forcing or pushing them away but bringing a gentle sense of allowing them to be in the background while giving some preference or predominance to awareness of our breathing. In the same way, with this practice we allow other experiences to stay in the background and we give preference or predominance to the experience of sound. You may feel a natural draw or pull to awareness of hearing, and this practice can be very calming and settling. Those for whom mindfulness of sound works well commonly report it as an easily accessible and even compelling meditation object. You may be drawn to awareness of the sounds themselves or you may be more naturally aware of the act or the process of listening or hearing.

Mindfulness of sound entails working with either inner or outer sound. Even though it may be very quiet where you are meditating, you may feel drawn to rest your awareness in listening to however many or few sounds may be present at any time. Other people hear an inner sound, a clear perception of ringing or some other sound, experienced not through the ears but in the mind. You can see if you have such an experience and if you are drawn to rest in awareness of inner or outer sound.

If you are working with mental noting, you can mentally repeat hearing or sound if that helps keep you stay connected and centered with the auditory experience. If you practice mindfulness of sound, just substitute hearing every time I use the terms breath or breathing.

Source: Beginning Meditation Instructions: Excerpted from “The Art and Skill of Buddhist Meditation”

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Buddha said follow at least 5 precepts. I have heard Visaka who attained Sothapanna at age of 7, dancing, singing on the street one day when one of the temples festival. she dresses well enjoyed her family life, had 30+ kids as a sottapanna. My understanding is siging, dancing, listening music is enjoyable as much as if you are not too attached.(Dependent Origination)

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With Music its difficult to see the things as they are . Music may seems to help but it actually make the condition worse.

  1. Because once you are attached to the music you wont be able to practice without it.
  2. You will start enjoying the music that will deviate you from the path.
  3. The happiness from music is temporary as it depends upon the music.
  4. It may generate craving for Sensual pleasure(EAR).

So, start working on your breath :)

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I studied on and off with a Tibetan lineage years ago. Like many are saying, attachment to anything generates karma. There are 3 kinds of karma: Good, Bad and Neutral.

  • Good sounds right but: it generates craving down the road.
  • Bad is: well bad.
  • Neutral: is the one we want, for it does not generate karmic seeds which is what perpetuates our suffering in this existence and the next.

Therefore, ANYTHING we think or do generates karma or not... depending upon how we perceive it. Ultimately, we need to see everything as "empty" including our own persona. (The concept of "emptiness" needs to be studied as it goes very deep and there isn't enough space here.) However, it is by cultivating emptiness that we create neutral karma. But at the same time, we are still human and can "enjoy" anything as long as we understand it is inherently empty. (Obviously, this doesn't mean enjoying sinister things.)

That said: music can be enjoyed but one shouldn't be attached to it.

Now... there is also "music" and there is also what monks use, and that is more of a "focused and mindful" approach to sound when used for chanting.

This is a different way of using our listening ability. Remember, "hearing" is not the same as "listening." Active listening is more like using your ear as a telephoto lens for detail. (A skill we seem to be losing thanks to TV, films and internet which are visual mediums.)

If you develop your listening deep enough, what you'll hear is that the monks are playing with tones in a "pure" fashion. To anyone with musical training, they immediately recognize that the monks are involving themselves with what is called "The Overtone Series." It seems technical but it's not really. It's something that was known about by ancient Greece particularly the philosopher Pythagoras.

Using the overtone series, it is the closest we get to using sound as vibration for vibrations sake. With this in mind, it is believed that certain vibrations create specific conditions in the mind and our energy body.

(And if thought about further, even in the west, in Genesis we see, "God SAID..." The pure power of the spoken word (sound) was there to create light. And hence... "In the beginning was the word."

Whether one subscribes to the literal notion of Genesis is not my point. But rather, the power of sound is not relegated to Buddhism but found across the globe.)

All that said: YES... you can listen to music. But be MINDFUL what it is you are taking in. If you want to listen to pop. Go ahead but know that in the big picture, the music isn't really going to alter your consciousness in a profound way. See it as "empty." In the end, you are better off, listening to music or chanting that somehow alters or lifts you. But again. All is EMPTY.

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As a lay person I would venture to say just lighten up on the whole music thing. Enjoy it, and practice both if you want. There is really no conflict. The Buddha talked about not going to extremes, and although desire and other emotions can be aroused though music, they can also be aroused by many other things too. Why go through life or spiritual practice with extreme limitations imposed by some idea that somehow these denials will "transform" or "liberate" me? In my understanding the Buddha never denied being human in a human body, having a human experience. I think Shariputra or whomever was suppossed to have wept when Buddha died. We're not robots, I took my lay vows and I try to keep them, but I took them to get free, not to lock myself down into another set of dogmas and unrealistic denials of pleasure and joy. That said, I fully realize I wish I could have had "been" a JUKEBOX HERO!

  • there are wholesome music and unwholesome music. wholesome music can be a mean to assist in realizing liberation. – Mishu 米殊 Mar 19 '18 at 16:18
  • It's not simple to say this is 'wholesome'. For lay people there might be a continuum for what is wholesome and what is less wholesome. If positive emotions are aroused it is better than if defilments are. But on an ultimate level, music is unwholesome (for realisation) because it's sensual desire, which blocks samadhi – Val Dec 2 '18 at 19:18
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Craving can be found everywhere even in the desire to enter Nirvana ,although there is a clear distiction to be made between desire and craving but that is whole different topic . Buddha teaches us that there is a way to take things lightly even Nirvana itself , that way is called the middle way , music is not an object or a given form , is a faculty that can have creative or reactive ends . Therefore is up to the mental state of the one that experiences it - creator or receiver - for music to be used as a skilful tool of meditation or interaction

If that is mental state of attachment or craving yes music will amplify that , if that is a mental state that encourages growth music will be simply perecieved as a creative object of art and what this art does is to communicate this that cannot be comunicated by words , it helps communicate the abstract which is impossible to communicate with reason , as what the Buddha teaches us goes beyond reason and abstract altogether . meditation and the whole spiritual path is an inner journey , As human beings we do have the need to communicate and share our experience of that journey with each other , reason is not enough to communicate that , that is where arts , myths and archetypes come in. To deny that music has skillful means we deny the whole of arts and the place they take in the traditIon of the different Buddhist schools . To deny the arts from the Dharma all is left is reason and ethics which is a pretty narrow and shallow view of the teachings, takes the warmth and life out of them .

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