|Interview with Debra from
|Intro: Patrick Bernard (formerly Bernhardt) creates original compositions in the tradition of devotional chant and invites his listeners into truly centered meditative states. In his recordings, ancient healing mantras and universal sacred chants are translated into a contemporary musical form, using high-tech synthesized multi-choral progressions and many ancient acoustic instruments. Patrick has recently changed his last name from Bernhardt to Bernard to symbolize the beginning of a new cycle. On the cusp of releasing his compilation CD, Supreme Moment, Patrick shares his philosophy of divine music.
MUSIC AS YOGA: An Interview with Patrick Bernard by Debra Hiers for Evolve
DH: Patrick, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background in music?
PB: I was born in Algeria, North Africa. It was a French colony before the war. This place of birth is quite interesting [with regards to] my music because at this time North Africa was really a big cultural crossroads. [In my music] I've got Christian traditional music mixed with Islamic traditional incantations mixed with Jewish prayers mixed with some animist spiritual manifestations. And [they are] all of the same place really. So from the very beginning I had this kind of universal inspiration. I came back to France [to attend university and] after my regular university studies, I began doing some philosophical studies and some musical studies in composition and classical training. Then I went to Amsterdam. It was the psychedelic years and music was very important as a culture, with the protest songs.
I realized that music is not only a kind of entertainment but it could be, and it is, a way to transmit certain kinds of messages, to change the behavior of the living entities and society, and also to change the states of our emotions.
DH: How did you come to discover the Vedic tradition?
PB: I met my Sanskrit teacher in 1975, in Switzerland; his name was Prabhupada and he became also my spiritual master. Then I met my vedic instructor in India; his name was Sridhar Maharaj and his ashram is located on the banks of the holy Ganges in West Bengal. And by their grace I had a lot of very important revelations. I understood that music for me was not a way of doing a kind of show business. It became my inner life journey, a path for discovering my soul, I dedicated my music to prayers, meditation, and finally yoga. So that is the itinerary-it's my little map about myself and my music from the beginning.
DH: Patrick you mentioned before that you were one of the first musicians to use the Sanskrit chants in your music. What was your intention?
PB: In Sanskrit we find the word Mantras. Everybody's talking about mantras today. It's very popular. But the actual definition of the word is a combination between two Sanskrit words. The first one is mana, which is the mind, and the other is tatra, which is deliverance, liberation. So together, mana tatra (mantra) means deliverance of the mind. This is what, in fact, I am trying to achieve in my music: deliverance of the mind, the freedom to get free of the mind in order to go into the heart. So the goal of my music is to remove the covering of the heart in order to feel some real spiritual connection. And it is why my music is a yoga. Actually my new book coming in spring 2004 from Mandala Publishing Company is called Music as Yoga “The Art of Inner Peace”. This is not music for yoga. This is music as yoga.
If we go to the Sanskrit roots, the real definition of the word yoga is to yoke, to find a link, a connection with God with the Absolute. It is not to remain young forever which is impossible anyway in this material domain. So, it's finding a connection with the Absolute at the same time we find a connection with our real selves. In order to achieve that goal I chant the sacred names of God. I use sacred chants from the Christian tradition, the Jewish tradition, and of course the Sanskrit tradition, and sometimes I even go to the Native American traditions, and also the Sufi and esoteric. So in all these sacred chants, coming from all these different traditions, we find the different names of God, different names of the Absolute and according to this mantra tradition, the secret is that the name and the named are one. So by listening to God’s names we’re united with Him, this is Mantra Yoga.
DH: The name and the named are one?
PB: Yes. The name and the named are one. Like for example, in this material world if we say the word water we don't actually have the element of water right. But spiritually speaking, the name of God is one with him, or with the absolute. By listening to God’s name we can feel the presence of the Sweet Absolute. So this is why I say my music is yoga. I am chanting the names of God in different traditions and by listening and chanting the transcendental sound vibrations included in the names of God I am able to bypass the mind and go directly in the heart and find the divine presence there. So my music is nothing else but a transmission of spiritual energy. This is why we also call it devotional chanting, because there is an aspect of devotion, of service, in this chanting and listening. This is Bhakti-Yoga.
DH: How do listeners benefit?
PB: First of all the mood of the listeners is very, very crucial in this process. They benefit because in the names of God there is an enchanting potency. This energy, this potency, does not come from me, of course. It's a transmission of spiritual energy but it's not a transmission from me. It's a transmission through me. ? The listeners benefit by having some transcendental sound vibration entering into their ears because those transcendental sound vibrations are absolutely charged with spiritual energy. Just by listening to them the listeners can have a real spiritual experience. We’re able to feel genuine spiritual emotions. Spiritual sound vibrations are energies and you can feel it. It's like having two fingers in the electrical plug. You can feel something. So the goal of this music is to get the taste of the spiritual reality.
DH: So much of the sounds we hear in the world today, seem to have an opposite effect. We are subjected daily to the constant sound of traffic, sirens, machines.
PB: Yes. It's a very good point. We are more and more, far away from the sounds of nature. Sounds of nature are really beneficial for the nervous system, for the mind and for the emotional body. When you listen to the pure sound of a little stream, singing birds, the wind in the trees, the waves of the ocean-this kind of natural sound vibration brings a lot of peace and joy to us. But it's a fact that this civilization is trying to kill nature and this exploitation is killing the natural healing sound vibrations. And it's a shame really. This is why on my CDs, you find a lot of natural sounds, like the cry of loons, some birds, the whales. ? I have a little digital minidisk and wherever I go, when I find some place where there is a beautiful sound I record that and I have a lot of recordings like that. And I can tell you frankly that it is very, very difficult right now to find a place where there is silence, where you can only listen to sounds of nature because there is always an engine or a plane.
DH: You have recently released a compilation CD of your music, Supreme Moment. What does that mean for you at this time in your career?
PB: Yes. I think it's important. For me, really, it is about celebrating fifteen years of devotional ecstasy. This is why I am doing it. It might be the beginning of something or the end of something I don't know yet. But this compilation is a landmark for me because when I started to do this kind of music fifteen years ago I was quite alone. And now there are a lot of people doing it? What I'm trying to do with this compilation is to say that we cannot sing any sound in order to achieve this goal of finding a connection with God. There are those who would say that you can chant "bablua bablua" for example, and if you do it with your heart, then you will become one with God in no time. And I cannot accept that kind of nonsense. This is not a quick fix, this is not a cheap process. We must follow the rules and the traditions of chanting the names of God, even though there are no hard and fast rules.
But we cannot chant any sound and say that this is the name of God at the same time. So by releasing this compilation I am trying to counteract this "bablua" philosophy. The mantra proper must be given by the teacher through the process of initiation and the benefit derived from the mantra depends much on the realization of the teacher who imparts the essence of the mantra.
DH: What are some of your favorite chants and mantras that you have included on your compilation CD?
PB: I like very much the [Hare Krishna] Maha Mantra. Do you know this one? It is the oldest mantra in the Vedic scriptures and it's the mantra with the name Hare-Hare is the feminine aspect of God. It's very interesting because in the mantra the Absolute is a divine couple. (See Sidebar) I really like the name Adonai from the Torah, representing the old tradition. There is a connection with opulence and abundance, spiritual abundance which includes all material abundance. In my heart, also, I'm a Christian and I love to chant the names of Jesus according to the Greek tradition. There is the Om Jesum Christum mantra. This is my favorite.
DH: Do you find that there are sounds, for instance like Aum or Om, which are universal?
PB: Like in Amen. It's almost AUM. This is the original universal sound vibration. The word-like we say in the Bible in the beginning was the word-Everything is coming from these sound vibrations. I like also very much Om Mani Padme Hum from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. A lot of people know this mantra and they sing along with me when I sing it in my concerts. It really is a symbol of the goal I want to achieve in my music, which is to open the heart. I think this is the disease of the modern world. The heart is locked, closed. Because we are afraid to show our love and compassion and devotion, it looks like a weakness. But actually it's not a weakness. There is a great energy and strength in compassion, devotion, and love. And I really believe that the future of this civilization is to open the heart. If we don't open the heart by any means, then we won't survive. We really have to open it. So this is what I'm trying to do with my music- to open the heart.
All we have to do is to remove our natural love-energy spring up from the fountain of the heart as the inner function of the divine soul.
Sidebar: The Maha Mantra
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare
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