Spirituality of the Flute
When I first began playing the Native American flute, one day while I was practicing, I had a vision of a peacock sitting on the end of the flute, and for about 2 months after that, whenever I would play at the bus stop by Lowry Park Zoo, there were two peahens that would come across the street and sit in the trees or on top of the houses whenever I played. So I decided to look on the Internet to find out about flutes and peacocks. Of course, I discovered hundreds of listings referring to Lord Krishna playing for and riding peacocks. Interestingly, after I read about Krishna playing the flute for the peacocks, the peahens never came back to listen to me play - I had learned the lesson they were there to teach me. And now sometimes when I am playing I will see Lord Krishna standing in front of me playing his flute with me.
The Flute of Krishna
Hazrat Inayat Kahn explains Krishna, the flute, and the peacocks as follows:
"Krishna is pictured in Hindu symbology with a crown of peacock's feathers, playing the flute. Krishna is the ideal of divine love, the God of love. And the divine love expresses itself by entering into man and filling his whole being. Therefore, the flute is the human heart, and a heart which is made hollow will become a flute for the God of love to play upon. When the heart is not empty there is no place for love.
Rumi explains this idea more clearly. He says the pains and sorrows the soul experiences through life are like holes made in a reed flute, and it is by making these holes that a player makes the flute out of a reed. This means that the heart of man is first a reed, and the sufferings and pains it goes through make it a flute, which can then be used by God as the instrument for the music the He constantly wishes to produce. But as every reed is not a flute, so every heart is not His instrument. As the reed can be made into a flute, so the human heart can be turned into an instrument of the God of Love. No earthly instrument can produce that music which the heart produces, raising the mortal soul to immortality.
The crown of peacock's feathers leads to a further revelation - that it is the music of the heart which can be expressed through the head; it is the knowledge of the head and the love of the heart that together fully express the divine message. It is by keen observation that man acquires knowledge and knowledge without love is lifeless. So, with the flute, the crown of peacock's feathers makes the symbol complete.
The Komuso were wandering priests of the Fuke-Shu sect of Zen Buddhism who wandered Japan during the Edo period (1600-1868). These priests were samurai who had lost their masters, and who took the problems and illnesses of people upon themselves by playing a certain kind of shakuhachi music called Sui-Zen, or "blowing mediation." The ko in komuso means "emptiness" or "nothingness," so the komuso were literally priests of the emptiness. They would wear tengai, a kind of woven basket, on their heads, hiding their faces. This was for anonymity, to suppress the ego. As selfless, empty vessels, other people's problems could be "poured" into them. When someone needed a komuso to play for healing, the patient would see only a flute extending from the bottom of the basket, not a person. The idea of Sui Zen is to become one with the music so that you experience no other distractions, worries, problems, illnesses, or stresses. Both player and listeners enter into a trance state through this music.
After the Hopi emerged into the Fourth World they began their migrations to the four directions. The following is an excerpt from the chapter titled "North to the Back Door" from the "Book of the Hopi" by Frank Waters.
So the people began their migrations, climbing up a high mountain. They were accompanied by two insect people resembling the katydid or locust, the máhu [insect which has the heat power]. On top they met a great bird, the eagle. One of the máhus, acting as a spokesman for the people, asked the eagle, "Have you been living here very long?"
"Yes," replied the eagle, "since the creation of this Fourth World."
"We have traveled a long way to reach this new land," shad the máhu. "Will you permit us to live here with you?"
"Perhaps," answered the eagle. "But I must test you first." Drawing out one of the arrows he was holding in his claws, he ordered the two máhus to step closer. To one he said, "I am going to poke this arrow into your eyes. If you do not close them, you and all the people who follow you may remain here."
Whereupon he poked the point of the arrow so close to the máhu's eye it almost touched, but he máhu did not even blink. "You are a people of great strength," observed the eagle. "But the second test is much harder and I don't believe you will pass it."
"We are ready for the second test," said the two máhus.
The eagle pulled out a bow, cocked an arrow, and shot the first máhu through the body. The máhu, with the arrow sticking out one side of him, lifted the flute he had brought with him and began to play a sweet and tender melody. "Well!" said the eagle. "You have more power than I thought!" So he shot the other máhu with a second arrow.
The two máhus, both pierced with arrows, played their flutes still more tenderly and sweetly, producing a soothing vibration and an uplift of spirit which healed their pierced bodies.
The eagle of course, then gave the people permission to occupy the land, saying, "Now that you have stood both tests you may use my feather any time you want to talk to our Father Sun, the Creator, and I will deliver your message because I am the conqueror of air and master of height. I am the only one who has the power of space above, for a represent the loftiness of the spirit and can deliver your prayers to the Creator."
Ever since then the people have used the feathers of an eagle for their prayer-feathers and sing to a sick child, knowing that the sweet power of music will help to heal him.
The locust máhu is known as the Humpbacked Flute Play, the kachina named Kokopilau (or Kokopelli), because he looked like wood (koko=wood; pilau=hump). In the hump on his back he carried seeds of plants and flowers, and with the music of his flute he created warmth. It was for these two máhus that the Blue Flute and Gray Flute clans and societies were named.