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Home / Articles / Columnists / Life 101 /  “Pop Music, Transcendence, & Meditation”
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Friday, January 3,2014

“Pop Music, Transcendence, & Meditation”

By Cary Bayer  

In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, a variety of folk artists and rock bands created songs that invited their listeners to go within to the Transcendent area of their being. These artists included the Beatles, the Moody Blues, Donovan, the Beach Boys, Carly Simon, and the Incredible String Band, among others.


As you hear these songs, they may help awaken that deeply silent place within you.

Because the Beatles, Donovan, and Beach Boy Mike Love spent months with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at the guru’s ashram in India, it’s understandable that they might have recorded songs about their experience with transcendence. Carly Simon is less known as a spiritual aspirant, but there’s great wisdom in her song, “Haven’t Got Time for the Pain,” which she co-wrote with Jacob Brackman. Consider these lyrics:

“You showed me how, how to leave myself behind How to turn down the noise in my mind” Turning down the noise in the mind is one of the more noticeable features of the meditation experience. In the fourth state of consciousness, known by a variety of names such as pure awareness, Transcendental Consciousness, or the Sanskrit Samadhi, the mind is in complete silence and stillness. But Carly takes us deeper, to the cessation of suffering itself that can result from continued alternation between the non-changing fourth state of consciousness and the three changing states of waking, sleeping, and dreaming:

“Suffering was the only thing that made me feel I was alive Thought that’s just how much it cost to survive in this world.” What helped her see the light? Her answer is two words: love and light.

”Til you showed me how, how to fill my heart with love How to open up and drink in all that white light Pouring down from the heavens.”

Beach Boys Brain Wilson, Mike Love, and Al Jardine--the latter two drawing from their work as teachers of Transcendental Meditation—penned a beautiful hymn-like song to the Transcendent called “All This is That.” It opens, much like meditators open the day themselves—with meditation:



and I take a glide Into the pool of peace inside” Pools, water, and ocean are often used to express the deeper levels of consciousness that meditation allows one to journey to. Fellow meditator Donovan wrote a song called “There is an Ocean,” in which he sang, “There is an ocean of vast proportion And she flows within ourselves. To take dips daily we dive in gaily He knows who goes within himself.”


Even Sigmund Freud, while hardly a meditator, used a similar metaphor, when he wrote: “The mind is an iceberg. It floats with only one-seventh of its bulk above water.”

After a day’s worth of activity, the meditator takes to his mantra again about eight to 10 hours later:

“Dusk time the shadows fall Into the timeless time of all.”

The song speaks of two times of day--daybreak and dusk—as times to meditate and enter the Transcendent area beyond time; hence “timeless time of all.”

The song then embarks upon insights from three higher states of consciousness that are depicted in the Vedas, the wisdom literature of India:

“I am that, thou art that, all this is that.”


This line is sung seven times here, a total of 18 times in the song to make sure that we get it. Technically, this isn’t so much a Beach Boys lyric as it is a direct lift from India’s Upanishads. “I am That” refers to the initial stage of Enlightenment called Self Realization. “Thou art That” speaks to a higher stage of awakening, known as Glorified Cosmic Consciousness, in which, as the Beach Boys sing,

“Golden auras glow around you Omnipresent love surrounds you” “All this is That” bespeaks the supreme oneness of Unity Consciousness depicted in the lyric:


“Wisdom warming as the sun You and I are truly one.”

The Beach Boys express their gratitude to Maharishi’s master, Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, known affectionately as Guru Dev. The TM proponent taught his students to express their gratitude with the simple Sanskrit expression: “Jai Guru Dev.” The Beach Boys conclude this lovely song by singing “Jai Guru Dev” 12 times.

The ever-eclectic Incredible Strong Band addressed the state of oneness that the Beach Boys sang of in their delightful ditty, “You get Brighter,” penned by ISB’s Mike Heron:

“And I know you belong to everybody but you can’t deny that I’m you I know you belong to everybody but you can’t deny that I’m you.”

Even Krishna, whose teaching of Yoga and meditation in India’s classic “Bhagavad Gita,” depicts such Oneness, takes part in the song:


“Krishna colors on the wall, you taught me how to love you”

The line is sung no fewer than 14 times. Sometimes, folk and rock musicians like to make sure we get the point. Considering the high truths they’re depicting, it’s not at all surprising when you think about it.



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