Enjoy the Silence



Last night, at Olafur Arnalds’ concert at the Melbourne Recital Centre, the Icelandic musician introduced the song Nyepi from his latest record Re:member. The song is named after a Hindu tradition he encountered whilst in Bali, Indonesia. (The same tradition is known as Ugadi in India.) Nyepi is a Day of Silence, when usually busy roads and beaches are empty, houses are quiet—and the internet is switched off—lights are kept low, and people are encouraged to spend their time in reflection and fasting in preparation for the new year.

Here is the song, performed in Berlin…

Lag fyrir Ömmu

Interestingly, the concert was full of silences, most notably at the very end, when the song Arnalds played as an encore, Lag fyrir Ömmu, from his Living Room Songs, subsided into a long time when nothing happened. The song, he explained, was written for his grandmother, just after her death. At the end of his performance of the song last night, the however-many-hundreds of people in the concert hall sat totally still, absolutely silent, for three/four/five/more? minutes. It was unusual, strange, rich…

Unlike in this video, filmed when he played the song at London’s Royal Albert Hall, in Melbourne the audience fell into silence…

The great silence / The sermon of stillness

Many liturgies invite experience of silence. For example, here’s the note from the Church of England’s Morning and Evening Prayer:

But in the age of personal computers, and the possibility of orders—or sequences for screen— being put together locally, notes like this, and rubrics that enact them, are easily lost. And even where present in books where books are still used, they are widely ignored. To great loss.

Here are two lovely examples. First, from the (Anglican) Church of Ireland’s Book of Common Prayer of 2004. After communion, “the great silence”:

Then, from the Uniting Church in Australia’s Uniting in Worship 2 of 2005, Service of the Lord’s Day 3, with its “Sermon of Stillness”. After the reading of scripture:

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(Note the suggested length of time—”at least five minutes”—and encouragement of posture “conducive to meditation.” And note above the sermon of stillness itself, a “bluebric” (right-hand side historical or source note to accompany the red choreographical rubrics) commending the kissing of the Bible—a practice approved by Zwingli, a Protestant Reformer often cited for his bare ceremonial sense!)

We need artists to remind of the beauty of these practices which religions prize.

A review of Arnalds’ concert at the Sydney Opera House last week:

To fragrance, increasing, flourishing

The Mahamrityunjaya Mantra

Listen to this beautiful sacred Mantra from the Vedic tradition - it is used in both Hindustani and Buddhist worship. The Mahamrityunjaya Mantra …. This great Mantra is sometimes sung, and can also be repetitively, rapidly chanted. Styles vary across traditions. It can lean toward music and toward meditation. It can be a sacred offering of sound. Here in this recording, it is closer to “singing” although the distinction is hard to locate in sacred chanting. It is the great mantra literally called “Victory over Death” - a healing mantra - also thought of as restorative and liberating as the “cucumber” (or gourd) is liberated from the vine in “uvarukamiva bandhanan.” The syllables are below, and the Sanskrit breakdown / translation as well. If you’ve done a yoga practice, you may have heard or sung this mantra. Or maybe you have heard it all your life, if you worship at Hindu temples. Enjoy its beauty.

tryambakam yajāmahe
sugandhim puṣṭi vardhanam
urvārukam-iva bandhanān

aum = is a sacred/mystical syllable in Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism & Sikhism.

त्र्यम्बकं tryambakam = to three-eyed one (accusative case),

त्रि + अम्बकम् = tri + ambakam = three + eye

यजामहे yajāmahe = in yagya in worship, (locative case)

सुगन्धिम् sugandhim = to fragrance, (accusative case),

पुष्टि puṣṭi = nourishment, sustenance

वर्धनम् vardhanam = increasing, flourishing

पुष्टि-वर्धनम् = puṣṭi+vardhanam = nourishment-increasing ( compound word)

उर्वारुकमिव urvārukam-iva = cucumber as (in the accusative case);

Note: uru: big, large; ārukam (in the accusative case): peach; iva: as

बन्धनान् bandhanān = "from bondage {i.e. from the stem of cucumber} (of the gourd); (the ending is actually long a, then -t, which changes to n/anusvara because of sandhi)

Note: bandhanāt means from bondage Thus, read with urvārukam iva, it means 'as cucumber from bondage ( of vine) (to a vine)'

मृत्योर्मुक्षीय mṛtyormukṣīya = liberate from death

मृत्योः + मुक्षीय = mṛtyoḥ + mukṣīya= from death + free (Vedic usage)

माऽमृतात् अमृतात् = amṛtāt = by amrita, by immortality

Contemplative Summer School, Denmark

... from Helgenaes, Denmark in the Nordic high Summer:

Offering music at the inaugural apple tree planting at the conclusion of the Gomde Højskole, Contemplative Summer School, on the evening of the full moon eclipse and super Mars. The Summer School is based on the philosophy of N.F.S. Grundtvig— Danish theologian, scholar, poet and educator, embracing folk education and creativity . Pictured below: a ceremony in nature to symbolize the wish that the school grow deep roots and rise toward the heavens. - David Hykes

Photo contributed by David Hykes,   . David and co-participants at the Contemplative Summer School at Gomde, Denmark / 2018.

Photo contributed by David Hykes, David and co-participants at the Contemplative Summer School at Gomde, Denmark / 2018.

More images from the Contemplative Summer School at Gomde Buddhist retreat centre:

Above photos from the Gomde Højskole F   acebook page   , 2018

Above photos from the Gomde Højskole Facebook page, 2018

What is Gomde Højskole?

"The contemplative Summer Institute at Gomde DK will be the first of its kind, but we hope and believe this merging of open dialogic life engagement and contemplative practices and thoughts will catch on and become an annual event.

The two 7-day seminars will be held at Gomde Denmark, a Buddhist retreat center in the beautiful Nordic high summer at Helgenaes, Denmark. The seminars are particularly aimed at young adults, creative souls and anyone shaping their life".... read more

Here are a couple of interviews with founders of the Summer School:

Informational video (raise volume to listen):

For more information on contemplative retreats in France, Denmark, and other locations, contact David Hykes