For Satyaa and Pari Laskaridis, the sound and the music of Mantras is the bridge that leads us to love and into our hearts. We joined their concert and satsang at Dharma Mountain meditation center in Hedalen.
Text: Rachana Brand / Translation: Line (Leena) Nyborg / Photos: Sujan Arnbjørn Lærdal, Lavanya Oda Eikås
It is a Saturday night in January. Snow is covering the landscape and it is cold and dark outside. I am among a bunch of people who have gathered in the warm entrance hall of Dharma Mountain, a meditation centre hidden in the remote valley of Hedalen in Southern Valdres, Norway. We are waiting patiently and silently, finally we are allowed to enter the big meditation room. In the midst of the dimmed light a big golden star is hanging from the ceiling. It is shining and glittering above the stage, beautifully decorated with candles and flowers. A peaceful and tender atmosphere is welcoming us. Meditation cushions are aligned in neat rows awaiting us. The last shuffles, the last sneezes. After a little while everyone is sitting in awe-stricken silence.
The last four persons joining this space are Satyaa and Pari Laskaridis, accompanied by Danilo Ananda Steinert and David Mages. From the first second the musicians melt into one with the audience and together we embark on a journey into the wonderful world of mantra music. Satyaa and Pari are known as the pioneers of mantra music, having given concerts and satsangs all over the world in the last 20 years. Now they are visiting Norway for the very first time. Their concert marks the highlight of the Mukti Music & Mantra Weekend in Hedalen. Earlier this day I had the chance to talk with them.
Your roots are in the Mediterranean area (France and Greece respectively), you spent many years in India and now you live in Germany. How is it to here in Norway for the first time?
Pari: We find it really amazing and grounding. Clean place, fresh air, stunning nature. There might be a difference between Norway and the countries we have been to so far in the outward outlook, but it is also important to feel the places we visit from a point of essence, from a point of quietness, from a point of reality, love and truth. Because that is the only thing that is really interesting for me. I love the space, the energy and the friendliness we have been meeting with so far.
The mystic Vasant Swaha had created the place Dharma Mountain where the concert takes place tonight. He had also spent many years with the masters Osho and Papaji in India, as did you. But you did not know each other personally. How did you get in contact now?
Pari: The connection is very strong. It is simply there without needing to know each other in person. The music that Satyaa and me happen to be doing since more than 20 years now seems to be the bridge. We heard our music in the background, first on a beautiful video about Dharma Mountain that we got from a friend 10 years ago, and then later in video clips on youtube. We were very honoured and very happy to hear also that people know and love our music here.
Satyaa: Yes, the place has been following us for some years.People who were connected to Dharma Mountain came to one of our chanting retreats in Corfu. And then we suddenly got invited for a concert and satsang.
Music is often the bridge. And it was also the bridge between you. How did you both meet and was it love at first sight?
Pari: That big nameless One must have brought us to the same place. I had been already many years with Osho. After he left the body I went to Lucknow to Papaji. There I saw Satyaa singing and dancing for Papaji. And I felt so touched by her devotion and love for this singing for her master. That moment touched me deeply.
And then you approached her?
Pari: Yes. But she was busy and also still very filled from the meeting with Papaji. So she did not spend much time in reacting to me. But I did not give up the project.
Satyaa: The funny thing is that I do not remember this incident at all. But suddenly I became aware of him. Usually I was not so shy to meet men but with him I felt completely shy. So I realized I must really like him. But it took one, two years where we were just friends. I had made at one point a decision that I want only love to happen if it really happens by itself but not from me doing something. I was tired of love affairs and love stories. I really felt I want now a true love. If it happens. If it is meant to be.
After he came back from Greece, we had a few meetings, with deep eye contacts, it was completely overwhelming, I really felt love for him. And it was reciprocal. A few weeks later we were together.
Both Satyaa and Pari had a great love for music from a very young age. Satyaa loved to sing and dance and did her highschool degree in music section. In her family she was inspired by singing and dancing after long family dinners. Pari on the other hand had a father who was singing in the Greek church. Pari himself joined a school band playing the wild stuff in the 70s like rock and jazz rock.
Pari: But at one point, I was maybe 17 or 18 years old, I heard this word Govinda in some Indian bhajans, i.e. love songs to God in Sanskrit, and it made my heart stop. It was if I had heard this word before. I started spontaneously to sing a song, taking my guitar, about Govinda.
Many years later both deepened their approach to music as a devotional practice. Their master H.W.L. Poonja (called Papaji) in India had a crucial influence in this process, although very different for each of them.
Satyaa:I had already danced and sung a lot to express love and devotion when I was in Poona. Later in Lucknow I wanted to sing a song for Papaji, too, but I just couldn’t. I felt so naked because if you were not truly singing from the heart he would show it to you. He would not look at you or would talk while you were singing. That was a great chance for me to learn. I always say he is my best music teacher.
Pari: Although I had been active in music long before, I had the feeling in Lucknow that I could not do any music in the same way. So I had to give up performing or doing anything to entertain anybody including myself. I did not want to play music because as soon as I take the guitar in my hand I am selling myself. If it was not for Papaji I would not play the guitar today. He tricked and tickled it out of me. He made me play the guitar at a wedding and I felt quite awkward. After that I realized that it is great, it is beautiful, it is a nice gift that I can express the love also with music.
After a while the two were performing together, also with some other friends, for Papaji. But as they state these were not performances, they were just opening and sharing one’s heart, one’s devotion for him. In any case they got Papajis blessings. He had married them also with a huge celebration. For some reason he wanted them to be together.
Satyaa: Pari had invited me to Greece and we lived there together for 5 years without really doing music. But after Papaji died, I needed to somehow share this strong force and was suddenly feeling a compulsion to sing and play music. This led from one CD to the other. I never thought we were doing so many CDs.
Pari: She had been very active actually recording with a friend of her from Denmark. I was very much supporting that this would be a nice album. Actually after few years suddenly it popped up: hey why don’t we do music together?
Satyaa: Exactly. [Laughing] Instead of me flying to Denmark or to other places.
Pari: We kind of could not see the wood for the trees. But here we are now, 18 years or so later.
How is the creative process?
Pari: Although our ideas and process of producing got a bit more sophisticated over the years the core essence is still the same. The songs come as visitors to us. Sometimes the song is ready with lyrics and chords and everything. Sometimes only the melody is there and it is only months or even years later that suddenly the right lyrics appear and we can put it together. Sometimes nothing comes and it is a phase of silence.
Satyaa: That is also fine. You need to trust to let it all happen. To trust also when nothing is there.
There is a certain magic to this whole issue with singing or using music as the bridge to the divine or to reality or to love. It is one thing sharing it in concerts with others. But how is it when you are at home?
Pari: It is not like we come home from performance and then we put the love for the love or for truthlike a coat on the rack and then we are normal again. Though, we are a normal family. We raise a child and have a household. But the love for the love and truth is basically the underlying current in everything we do. We do not have to remember it or practise anything. It is simply there. And music is definitely a way for us to express this love affair. And it is more easily accessible via music because music immediately touches the heart.
Mantras are usually sung in Sanskrit the Ancient language. To have the effect you described do they have to be in Sanskrit?
Satyaa: I have to say in Poona I was not singing mantras. I was singing English songs. I used also to sing for Papaji in French. But when I heard this women singing bhajans in Lucknow and fell totally in love with them. These texts have very powerful meanings and a certain depth. So it is something special to sing in Sanskrit.
Moreover it is said that mantras even have a healing side effect. Pari wrote a book in German about it and made a CD with Healing Mantras. He describes the healing effect like this:
Pari: The main healing effect about mantras and the music we do is the intention. The intention is not to entertain, is not to take our mind on a journey somewhere. The intention is to refocus and redirect the attention back to the heart. So if one has this intention in the heart the whole music is transporting this intention to the listener. That is what we do. Additionally the strength of mantras in Sanskrit is that they actually come from and live through the sound itself. There are certain sounds that have a very strong power of healing that is definitely working. The vibration helps to reorganize the flow and energy in the body. So the sound is healing on many different levels, also psychological and emotional. The strongest one is OM for me. It is primordial and directly linking us to the source of life. Consciousness. Manifestion. Universe.
Do you have a personal mantra or a mantra that you are connected to in a special way?
Satyaa: Basically I love all mantras. The Kundalini mantras have a special depth I like. “Govinda adipurusham” is very special to me since I heard Pari sing it in Lucknow for Papaji.
Pari: I do have sometimes a mantra that is coming and visiting me, for example the mantra “Ram”. It is just one word. Ram. An indication for the heart. For love. For losing oneself in that. And allowing to be lost in that. And sometimes it is more Shiva energy, as in “Om Namah Shivaya: Let Thy will be done.” Let all be the way it is, beautiful and imperfect and do not interfere. Even if it is wrong or does not feel good what I see. Even then to see that there is an underlying force, a divine force and connect with that. Sometimes no mantra. The silence. Silent mantra. Silent humming in the heart.
That brings me to another question. When talking about music we have to talk also about silence. What is silence for you? Is it possible to talk about silence?
Pari: …. [sitting in silence for a minute] … Silence is underlying everything we do, speak, utter in words or music. Silence is the foundation of our music. It is the existential source. And it is really quite challenging to make music and to be connected to that silence. To speak and to be connected to it. We tend to forget that. Even words, a guitar chord, everything comes out of nothingness, out of silence.
When one becomes quiet in the heart there is really something like a vibrational sound one can almost hear with the ears. Some underlying presence of vibration is there. How can life otherwise manifest itself? It has to have a plus-minus, life-death, day-night and all other dualities. This vibration is not as visual as the world, as the objects, trees and landscapes, bodies, animals, stars, but underlying everything is this incredible love affair!
Planet Earth and the Future
Some people are worrying and go very much into anxiety about the latest developments on our planet. What do you think about it?
Pari: We are watching the news. We read the papers. We don’t close our eyes to the outside world. It is very important to see and accept and observe what is happening on that level. It does not help to say: Only the Source is real, only Love is real, only Consciousness is real. You know, that is very cheap spirituality. At the same time it is a shame that the majority of the people still lives according to the prescribed recipes which is: more of this, more of that, more of truth, we are more true than you, our god or our way of life is more real than yours.
We are definitely crossing a borderline as humanity visiting this beautiful planet and it is now even for the blindest of the blind to see that it cannot go on like that. What we ultimately try to do, is to raise the consciousness ofhow to live in love and peace and harmony with ourselves and nature. Without Mother Nature all our great spiritual concepts cannot be lived. So we are One. The inside nature and the outside nature is one and the same.
For me a feeling of an undercurrent of love and consciousness and beauty means I really pray and wish the best for my fellow friends and travellers here. We try to touch people’s hearts here and there. We do not need any more clever politicians who tell us in which direction to go. We are so problem- and solution-oriented that we forget one simple thing: as humankind we did not come here to solve problems. Somebody gave us life in a human body. So who is that somebody? Honour that Source! Being here is about to be happy. We are already there where we want to be. The rest is not really in our hands. It is in the hands of Grace and Almighty.
See that everything is beautiful in the heart. We need awakened people, a police man, a judge, a cook, a musician, a lazy guy, we need all of those people to really feel themselves and to be together. Each and every one has the power to manifest happiness. And each and every one of us has to understand that it is our responsibility, too. My and your and our nature is basically love and happiness. So many people came in order to remind us about that. Some sing mantras. Some do not sing mantras. If we by some Grace are allowed to share that insight with our music then I am feeling more than blessed.
Everyone who leaves the concert on this Saturday night feels likewisely blessed and full of gratitude to have been part ofthis magical experience. We listened to the whole range of mantra music from relaxing meditative soothing sounds of the song “Moon on the water – om shanti om” to singing and dancing wildly and joyfully along the “Sri Ram” mantra. The harmonium and the guitars with Danilo Anandas bass created the ground on which Satyaas soft yet crystal clear voice can expand to its fullest, accompanied by Paris deep timbre and the virtuous acoustic spirals of Davids flutes. The music carried us away and made us completely forget time and space. Thus Satyaa and Pari created with their music full of love and devotion the bridge to a sacred space of bliss and happiness.
About Satyaa & Pari
Satyaa was born in France. Being interested in music, dance and art she studied at the Geneva School of Art and Design. She was intrigued by Osho and travelled to his ashram in India. Only one year later Osho died and “sent her to Papaji”, as she puts it.
Born in Greece, Pari moved to Germany at the age of 10. Already in his teens music was a way for him to express his longing for love and truth. While studying psychology and medicine, this longing made him travel to India. On his search for a living Master, he came across Osho and stayed at his ashram in Poona. After Osho’s death he went to see Papaji in Lucknow where he met Satyaa.
Satyaa and Pari got married in 1995 in Lucknow by Papaji. After Papaji died in 1997, Satyaa started to record her songs, at that time living in Greece. The first CD together with Pari was produced in 1999: “Garden of Peace”. Almost every year they recorded a new one. The newest CD release is Satyaa’s third solo album with Kundalini yoga mantras called “Isness”.
They became the pioneers of mantra music in the West. They are now based near Munich in South Germany. Website: www.satyaa-pari.com
About Dharma Mountain
Dharma Mountain Meditation & Freedom Resort is located in Hedalen (Valdres) with various activities and retreats around yoga, meditation and awareness. It is a place for people to reconnect with their inner peace, to find their true potential as a human being on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. Check the website for upcoming events: www.dharmamountain.com
Originally from Germany, Rachana was drawn to Scandinavia already at a very young age. Having travelled extensively throughout Europe, she finally settled in Gjøvik in 2016. She did her yoga teacher training in Germany’s biggest yoga ashram Yoga Vidya Bad Meinberg where Satyaa and Pari were regularly giving concerts. In Norway she quickly got in touch with Dharma Mountain.