This song is an antidote for:

  • Being trapped in mundane realities
  • Self-preoccupation
  • Mental dryness
  • Disloyalty
  • Wishy-washiness
  • Purposelessness
  • Worldiness
  • Forgetfulness of one’s divine nature
  • Irritation
  • Intolerance
  • Scatteredness
  • Fixity
  • Stubbornness

Listen to the song (download mp3):

Watch the session with Satyaki:

From A Tale of Songs, by Swami Kriyananda:

I wrote this song first for our Ananda children. The adults, however, came to like it too, and often enjoy splitting up into groups at concerts, to sing the different parts.
My method for writing all the six parts in harmony was to write the chords out above each note. Then I could be sure that each part, when the singers joined at the end, added to an over-all harmony! And each melody fit the part for which I wrote it.

Birds sing of freedom as they soar lightly on the air.
So may our hearts soar, high above all curbs and care.
Mother, we thank You, Your joy shines in ev’rything!
Open these channels that the world once more may sing.

Trees, standing firm, hold the secret of inner pow’r.
Give us, when tested, strength to endure.
Mother, we thank You, Your joy shines in ev’rything!
Open these channels that the world once more may sing.

Stars send a message of light through eternity:
Lord, when in darkness, Your radiance we see.
Mother, we thank You, Your joy shines in ev’rything!
Open these channels that the world once more may sing.

Flowers so soft and fragile stay fragrant though pressed to the ground.
May we thus learn forbearance, for in kindness love is found.
Mother, we thank You, Your joy shines in ev’rything!
Open these channels that the world once more may sing.

Mountains, remote and still, hint at higher worlds unseen.
So may our lives be: soaring and serene.
Mother, we thank You, Your joy shines in ev’rything!
Open these channels that the world once more may sing.

Rivers seek passage, unhindered by rock or tree.
So may our lives flow, steadfast toward the sea!
Mother, we thank You, Your joy shines in ev’rything!
Open these channels that the world once more may sing.

Together: Mother, we thank You, Your joy shines in ev’rything!
Open these channels that the world once more may sing.
Mother, we thank You, Your joy shines in ev’rything!
Open these channels that the world once more may sing.

The song as an antidote (Satyaki’s comments):

Channels, with its six-part harmony, is one of the most unique songs that Swami Kriyananda composed, and one that is very enjoyable to sing because you really need to do it to with a bunch of people, at least five or six singing each of the six parts.

Channels, as you can hear in recordings, has six distinct parts for six different aspects of nature: birds, trees, stars, flowers, mountains, and rivers. Each part sings by itself, and then all the parts join together in the chorus,Mother, we thank you, your joy shines in everything. / Open these channels that the world once more may sing.”

Outwardly the song is, of course, centered on the idea that many aspects of nature as ways in which the Divine, expresses itself in the world and that through those expressions has something valuable to teach us. The first part of each verse, as you can hear, provides some poetic imagery for what each aspect expresses through their physical natures:

Birds sing of freedom as they soar lightly on the air.

Trees standing firm hold the secret of inner power.

Stars send a message of light through eternity.

Flowers so soft and fragile stay fragrant though pressed to the ground.

Mountains, remote an still, hint at higher worlds unseen.

Rivers seek passage unhindered by rock or tree.

The second part of each verse then explains what we, as human beings, can learn from that divine expression:

So may our hearts soar high above all curbs and cares.

Give us when tested strength to endure.

Lord, when in darkness Your radiance we see.

May we thus learn forbearance for in kindness love is found.

So may our lives be soaring and serene.

So may our lives flow steadfast toward the sea.

And then, of course, in each pass of the chorus we express gratitude, “Mother we thank You, Your joy shines in everything.” And then there’s a kind of prayer: “Open these channels that the world once more may sing.”

The second half of the chorus is most interesting because these aspects of nature, as expressions of the divine, already are open as channels. That is, birds already soar—they don’t need to soar more! Trees already stand; stars already shine; flowers already share their fragrance; mountains stand firm; and rivers flow. What, then, needs to open?

The answer is found in our own spines! The channels referred to here are not the outward channels, but the inward channels of the chakras in the spine. Those centers are what we, as devotees seeking Self-realization, need to open so that the divine can fully express itself through us. Indeed, the second part of each verse really makes this clear: each statement is an affirmation or a prayer demand to the Divine Mother of Creation. We’re seeing the Divine expressed in an aspect of Divine Mother’s natural world, and with that inspiration we ask that She also bless us with inner realization.

Furthermore, it’s fairly straightforward to see how the different verses correspond to different qualities of the spinal centers. As a whole, Channels is something of a symphony of the spine!

For starters, let’s take the really obvious case of the third verse with stars. Where is there a star in the spine? Clearly at the spiritual eye, which is seen in the forehead as a white star shining within a blue field surrounded by a golden ring. That star, representing higher consciousness, most certainly “sends a message of Light through Eternity!” (And it’s “stars” because when singing the song as a group—which is necessary because it has six parts—we’re referring to all our individual stars.) The second part of that verse, too, makes this representation clear, because we’re praying, “Lord, when in darkness,” that is, whenever our consciousness is not centered at the spiritual eye, “Your radiance we see,” that is, we still know the star is there and we can always aspire upwards in that direction. The verse essentially magnetizes the upward flow in the whole spine toward the spiritual eye.

The first verse, too, contains words that clearly refers to the lifting of energy from the heart chakra to the throat chakra: “So may our hearts soar high above all curbs and cares.” The verse is encouraging us to keep our consciousness raised above petty self-preoccupation. Lifting the energy from the heart chakra feeds it into the expansiveness of the throat chakra, where we can see all our experiences from a higher perspective. And it’s in that higher perspective that we find a greater sense of freedom, as expressed by the birds: the freedom again from self-preoccupation, which is to say, the freedom to choose to be happy under all circumstances.

The fourth verse, with flowers, also addresses the heart chakra as well as the medulla: “May we thus learn forbearance,” that is, may we stay even-minded and cheerful, and not intrude our personal likes and dislikes on every experience, “for in kindness” and open-heartedness, generosity, and so forth, “love is found.” Love is certainly related to the heart, but also to the medulla because receiving love is often what the ego is seeking. However, the real solution is always in giving love, which requires the heart’s energy to flow upwards to the throat chakra to feed self-expansion, and then through the medulla where a sense of giving and generosity allows the energy to flow upwards further to the star of the spiritual eye.

These three verses, then, the first, third, and fourth, work with the upper chakras. It remains that the other three verses work with the lower three chakras, and again, it’s a straightforward matter to see which verse maps to which center.

Flowing rivers clearly resonate with the water element of the second chakra, where fluidity and adaptability, which are specifically expressed in the verse, are its positive aspects. And the imagery of “so may our lives,” which is to say our energy, “flow steadfast toward the sea.” The sea here is the ocean of cosmic bliss, which is experienced at the spiritual eye and also in AUM. In this sense, the verse also helps to release the medulla, where the ego could introduce the obstacles of “rocks” or “trees,” which is to say, the sense of individual separateness of the wave thinking it’s somehow different than the ocean.

We’re now left with mountains, “remote and still,” and trees, “standing firm.” Both of these images reflect positive aspects of the first and third chakras: steadfastness (1st chakra), determination (1st) and will power (3rd), and self-control (3rd). The trees verse adds the prayer, “Give us, when tested, strength to endure,” inspiring these highest expressions of the two chakras. The mountains verse, similarly, has the prayer, “So may our lives be soaring and serene,” inspiring the inner peace that comes from self-control, and also the upward directly of energy flow from both centers.

Again, all the verses—and especially the chorus—join together in a symphony of the spine. Curiously, though, the ordering of the verses is not a simply walk up the spine, because to do that we might use a sequence like trees, rivers, mountains, flowers, birds, and stars. Instead, Channels starts at by lifting the heart’s love (reflecting, perhaps, Sri Yukteswar’s saying at the end of The Holy Science that no step can be taken on the spiritual path without the natural love of the heart). Next, with trees, it grounds our aspirations with steadfastness and determination. With stars, it magnetizes the spine to its highest aspirations. In a way, these first three verses touch the center of the spine (the heart), the bottom (the first chakra), and the top (the spiritual eye), mapping out the whole path. It then gathers calm strength with the flowers and mountains, then gives itself into the flow with the rivers.

This ordering, then, helps each of the chakras reinforce each other in subtle ways: the hearts love feeds some into the first chakra’s steadfastness, which feeds in to the aspiration at the spiritual eye, which feed back to the heart and the ego at the medulla, which feeds into serenity and strength, which feeds into flow.

I think, even, that if you change the ordering of the verses you end up changing the meaning. For example, if you ended with the stars verse, the song might work as an inspiration for meditation, but would lose the message of existing in the natural world on a higher plane. That is, because Channels uses imagery from nature, it’s really helping us understand how to live in the material world with high-mindedness, rather than encouraging us to leave the material world behind completely.

In fact, this kind of circling around the chakras reminds me of the curvature of the Ananda Joy symbol, and how that symbol represents to many things all at once. What looks like an arrow in the middle of the symbol is actually a bird, and the base of the symbol is a mountain. The curves represent our upward aspirations, just as this song is trying to magnetize in each of the chakras. As a whole, too, the symbol is like the chorus of Channels in which the whole spine is singing together.

As we’ve identified the various positive aspects of the chakras, we can see that the Channels serves to overcome the opposite negative aspects:

Upward-flowing heart energy to the throat chakra overcomes self-preoccupation as well as mental dryness (the lack of love or feeling).

Steadfastness and determination overcome disloyalty and wishy-washiness, along with purposelessness.

High, spiritual aspiration overcomes worldliness and forgetfulness of one’s divine nature.

Forbearance overcomes irritation and intolerance.

Self-control overcomes scatteredness.

Flow overcomes fixity and stubbornness.

Indeed, to reverse the consciousness of the song would be to shut down each of the chakras, ending with a downward flow of energy in the heart. When this happens, life’s experience becomes very bland, very dry, very pointless but not the necessarily to the point of depression. It’s more like being trapped in mundane realities.

And there’s one more little secret to point out. In the chorus we sing, “Open these channels,” the chakras, “that the world,” that is, the inner kingdom of the spine, “once more may sing,” which is to say, celebrate its true nature. The little secret is that quickly-passing phrase, once more. These words imply that we have, in the past, already sung this song of divine union. But somehow we’ve forgotten our divine nature! Thus, through Channels, through attunement with the Divine expressing itself through nature and through own chakras, we’re reminded of where we originally came from. And in that realization, of course we’re grateful! Mother, we thank You!