“The merging of mind is achieved by listening to inner sound.”
– Hatha Yoga Pradipika
We dwell not only in an ocean of light (color), but of sound as well. Vast tides of this vibrational energy, which Tantriks call nadam, flow around and through all things – living and non-living, visible and invisible. The Shastra teaches that even before there was light at the dawn of creation, God’s first manifestation was shabda, a sound or word.
Christian scripture expresses the same view. John, the beloved disciple, wrote:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
The Divine Mother Who Sings The Symphony Of The Universe
Thus, as the creative fiat of God, Shabda or sound vibration is present everywhere. It expresses itself in a million different ways, from the “music of the spheres,” to all the cacophony of man’s society. Tantriks say that it is the Divine Mother who sings the symphony of the universe, “the beginning of which is creation, and the conclusion is dissolution.” In the industrialized West, the omnipresent sounds that assault our ears seem less the voice of God than the infernal din of the devil. Most of us spend our lives amidst a vast pandemonium of harsh sounds, which science has shown are greatly detrimental to both health and peace of mind. Experiments made in the course of various noise abatement campaigns in all our large cities have revealed that the constant repetition of strident and penetrating noises actually produces lasting damage to the nervous system and to the various organs of the body affected by it. Stomach ulcers, hypertension, degenerative diseases of the arteries and nervous exhaustion are just a few of the common ailments that science now attributes in part to our noisy environment. Those of us who dwell in large cities are exposed around the clock to traffic uproar, sirens, pneumatic drills, blaring speakers of neighborhood radio and TV sets, airplanes overhead, and so on. Researchers tell us that the respective vibrations from these sources reach us in the form of waves trans-mitted through the air, and that our brains are constantly at work sorting and identifying them, even though we are not consciously aware of it. They state that urban residents today have not the faintest idea of what the word quiet means. For example, ordinary street sounds and background noise during an average day in any city will usually measure 40 or 50 decibels. Compare this with the same day in the country, where the gentle rustling of leaves measures only i0 decibels. The true implications of a noisy environment may be forcibly brought home to the reader when he considers the fact that the automobile horn, to which he is exposed during most of his waking hours, produces an average noise level of 90 decibels (i0 to i5 feet away from the source). Tests have clearly established that a noise of 90 decibels causes the amount of blood pumped through the heart to double. Yet recent surveys have revealed that in large cities, traffic noises are increasing from year to year.
After conducting on-site studies, one sound engineer declared that:
“A person standing on the corner of 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City, where, in business hours the noise level fluctuates between 60 and 75 decibels, is for the moment just as badly off in audition as a person of defective hearing whose threshold in the middle range of frequencies is 45 to 60 decibels above normal. He has lost 25 to 35 percent of normal hearing.”
It is evident, however, that this state of existence is wholly acceptable to the city dweller, who is unaware of the ravages being wrought on his person. So accustomed is he, in fact, to the deafening background of his life that the quiet, low-decibel sounds of the country are painful and terrifying to him.
One New Yorker who went to the country for “a little rest and quiet,” soon hastened back to the roaring metropolis. He complained bitterly of being awakened early in the morning by “those damned birds screaming on the window-sill.”
In our day, the terrifying destructive power of sound extends much further than mere background noise in our cities, however.
Residents of areas near military airfields have had some intimation of the formidable power of sound. Jet bombers, in supersonic power dives at low altitudes, produce shock waves that resemble bomb blasts. Moreover, they produce visible damage in the form of shattered windows and broken dishes.
Dr. Heinz Gartman, a German scientist whose field is jet propulsion and aero engines, observed:
“We may imagine the consequences if a Hustler (a large jet bomber) were permitted to roar across the country at supersonic speeds while remaining at low altitudes. A path of destruction 1000 feet wide would mark its route. Gusts of hurricane force would smash houses, vehicles, ships; would mow frightful swaths through fields, orchards and woods; would wreak destruction wherever it passed. Imagine utilizing such a weapon over a crowded highway.”
A California scientist, Dr. Leo Baranski, was recently quoted as saying that the idea of destroying an object by intensifying its frequency could lead to satellite-borne weapons, tuned to frequencies of concrete and steel, which would disintegrate cities.
On the biopositive or constructive side, Dr. Baranski believes that experiments now under way may lead to doubling man’s lifespan. This would be accomplished, he said, by using resonant frequency to stimulate a finger-sized area at the top of the spinal cord.
Situated at this point is an organ known as the medullary mitochondria, which produces a substance called adenosinetriphosphatase (ATP for short), that is released throughout the body. Molecules of this substance have a peculiar ability to absorb photons (the vitality globules previously discussed) from the sun, and to store them in food.
By using the proper sound frequency, concentrated at this point, Dr. Baranski believes the ATP molecules should release greater amounts of free energy than they now do.
“Controlled release of ATP’s energy, with brief bursts of radiation, could mean incredible strength of mind and body to meet emergencies,” he said. Tantrik literature contains many passages which, in different terminology, state theories quite similar to that of Dr. Baranski.
One text declares: “The manifest sound of God (Shabdabrahman) exists in all things as consciousness. So it is this sound, the substance of which is consciousness, which exists in the bodies of living beings in the form of kundalini; and then appears as letters in prose, poetry and so forth, being carried by the psychic current to the throat, teeth, and other places.”
Hindu teachers of antiquity held that the gibberish of a child just learning to talk is not due to his imperfect imitation of words he hears, but to an obstruction of the main nadi or subtle channel leading from the root chakra to the throat.
When, through obstruction of the vocal passage, a child utters indistinct sounds, it is the kulakundalini who, playing in the aperture of the muladhara and coiled around sushumna, utters indistinct sounds repeatedly. It is the echo of this indistinct sound which issues from the passage of a child’s throat.
Elsewhere it is written that the same obstruction or “defilement” occurs also at death. “At the beginning of Japa (breathing), a devotee is affected by birth uncleanliness, and at the end of Japa by death uncleanliness.”
Words – or more precisely, the individual letters that comprise them – are nothing more than the mysterious kundalini, given articulate form in speech or symbolized in writing.
As the supreme energy of Brahman, brought to manifestation in speech, language has for the Tantrik both a wonderful and a terrifying significance.
Each letter of the alphabet is a mantram, that is, a sound vibration of given frequency, which produces its own shape in the ether. In ancient India, there were rishis or great seers who claimed they could see the shapes thus produced in the akasha (ether of space). They taught that, since these sound forms or etheric doubles of universal objects were imperishable, words are also imperishable.
In a modern study of how sounds can produce definite forms or structures, experimenters have made use of a technical invention called an eidophone. A plastic, paste-like mixture was spread over the surface of a diaphragm. When words were spoken underneath it, it was found that vocal sound waves created beautiful floral shapes – trees, flowers, and leaf fronds.
Similar experiments have been conducted with musical sounds, both as to their form and their colors. Sages of antiquity developed an extensive vocabulary of secret words of power, formed from Sanskrit syllables. The most widely known, most powerful and basic of these is, of course, the mystic syllable OM.
Patanjali, the great Indian pundit who codified the systems of yoga two centuries before Christ, stated that the repetition of OM invokes Isvara, the supreme God.
According to Tantrik texts, the sound-form of OM embraces all creation. It is everywhere, in all things, manifest or unmanifest. Properly intoned, it will produce harmony and balance in body and mind.
In passing, it is interesting to note that Indian tradition regards only the original Vedic idiom as valid for mantra making. The sacred literature asserts that the entire cosmos was evolved out of fifty bija mantras or seed sounds. These sounds were revealed to the early rishis during deep spiritual states and came from God’s own mind.
From their subtle matrices the process of evolution brought forth etheric centers of force around which revolve molecules and atoms that form visible and dense matter.
So it is said: “The particular letters and number of letters which God has ordained should convey a particular meaning, and are capable of conveying that meaning do, when uttered successively in the manner prescribed, convey that meaning.”
Later non-Vedic languages are regarded as merely conversions or permutations of the substantive Sanskrit. Few modern authorities on linguistics agree with this view, although some notable scholars have indicated that there may be some truth in it.
Sir William Jones, one of the first Westerners to make a thorough and critical study of Sanskrit, wrote:
“The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either; yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and in the forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong, indeed, that no philologer could examine them all three without believing them to have sprung from some common source, which perhaps no longer exists.”
Be that as it may, Tantrik ritual holds strictly to the seminal Matrika-shakti or fifty Sanskrit letters, from A to Ksa, as being the primary manifestation of kundalini, “the seed of all things moving or non-moving.
The letters are called varnas, which means colors, because each has its own vibrational hue. Some are red, some of a brilliant electric blue, some white, and so on.
They are, of course, as the gurus of antiquity have said, to be considered merely the outward or gross expression of the more subtle aspect of sound, which is consciousness itself. For this reason, Tantrik writings refer to lettered and unlettered sound.
The unlettered or subtle aspect of sound is said to flow inside the body as currents of vital energy, owing to the movement of prana, as we inhale and exhale in breathing. That is why, as previously stated, breathing itself is called ajapa mantram or unrecited prayer.
Even though sound is outwardly expressed from the vocal organs, it is not generated there, according to Shaktism. Instead, it appears first at the opening of the muladhara or root chakra, where it makes a faint, murmuring sound, like the humming of a swarm of bees. In the Satchakra Tattva, it is written: “She it is whose sweet constant murmuring and humming, sounds like that of a swarm of black bees, intoxicated with a draught of honey.”
This extremely subtle state of sound, called para in Hindu texts, goes unperceived by the ordinary person. Its energy moves upward within the central nadi of the spine to the anahata chakra in the region of the heart. There, says the Vishvasara Tantra, is produced the “unstruck sound.”
“It is here that the Syllable of Obeisance – OM – is manifested, here that the living self stands like a lamp in a windless spot.”
Om, the sacred syllable which exists in this silent place of the heart, is the greatest of all words of power.
Ancient seers declared it to be representative of the highest aspect of God. When properly recited by the aspirant, its secret meaning is gradually understood and liberation results.
Continuing upward through the central channel, the vibrational energy of Shiva is transferred into a gross state. It is as the latter that it issues from the throat in the form of articulate sound.
Such sound may assume any modulation: speech, wordless cry, grunt, groan, etc. Regardless of the way in which it is expressed, it is the supreme consciousness of God, issuing as gross sound.
Some schools of Shaktism assert that the quality of this sound in man – that is, speech – is an indication of his stage of spiritual development or condition of life. One of the first signs that yogic practice has borne fruit is said to be a pleasant and resonant voice. The theory is that as the sadhaka purifies himself through practice, the sound energy within him comes to resemble more closely the creative harmony of Mantra-shakti or divine sound.
Learning to hear the inner, “unstruck sound” is in itself a creative act. It forms one of the most important of the Tantrik disciplines. For, “leaving all thoughts and all strivings, meditating upon sound alone, his mind merges into sound,” 9 finally to pass beyond into the ether of pure consciousness.
Tantrik gurus differ according to their respective schools as to the number of ways the aspirant must perceive inner sound. Some say seven, others ten. These sounds have been likened unto those of the ocean, thunder, waterfall, clinking of tiny silver chains, a swarm of bees, rustling of leaves, a huge drum, shrill whistling, a bell, a flute, a conch, humming of a wire or a stringed instrument.
There is no prescribed order in which these various states of inner sound may appear to the yogi. Authorities say it depends upon the advancement of the individual, that is, whether he has practiced yoga in former lives, and so on.
However, most adepts agree that the first sounds perceived are more plenary and intense, such as the ocean’s roar, thunder, or a bass drum. As the sadhaka advances with practice, the sounds become musical: bells, a stringed instrument, a flute. Finally, as inner attunement becomes more refined, the yogi perceives directly the. subtle modes of cosmic sound, like distant tinkling of bells, a lute, a bee.
“Thus are the many sounds heard, growing more and more refined. Even when the louder sounds like that of a big drum are heard, the yogi should continue to listen to the subtler ones.” In India and Tibet, several methods of listening to inner sound are taught, but the following are probably the most suitable for Western students:
The Shastra prescribes the post-midnight hours for the practice of this discipline. The sadhaka first retires to a place of comparative quiet, where outside sounds will not distract him as he begins to concentrate upon the inner sound.
Seated in a comfortable position, facing either East or North, he calms his mind by japa mantra, that is, by breathing in and out rhythmically, while mentally repeating the sacred syllable Om. Inhalation should be to the count of seven. Hold one count. Exhale seven. Hold one; inhale, etc.
The mystic syllable is repeated mentally one hundred and eight times in this way. For keeping count of the breaths, the Yogini Tantra recommends a rosary of one hundred and eight beads. These may be of rudrakshas (seeds of a plant employed in Shiva rites) or of pearls, crystals, gold, silver, coral; or of shells.
After the thoughts are stilled, the sadhaka gazes steadily, without blinking, at some fixed point (such as a candle flame) on a level with the eyes, and four or five feet away. As he looks, without winking, at this point, he listens intently for the inner sound in his right ear. To achieve more intense concentration, after gazing at the point for a minute or more, he may close his eyes. Even though the first three or four sessions may not yield satisfactory results, the sadhaka is instructed to persist in his practice for at least a week.
At the end of that period, if he feels the need for more concrete results, he may try the method known as yoni mudra, which is performed as follows:
Seated in an erect posture, rest the elbows on a pillow or cushion placed before you on a table or desk top. Place the thumbs lightly upon the tragus (small flaps) of the ears, thus closing them to exterior sounds. Close your eyes with the index fingers. Press the lips together between the remaining two fingers. Then breathe slowly and gently through the nose. Meanwhile, concentrate the attention solely upon sounds to be heard in the closed ears.
After some practice, the student will find that his mind is more and more absorbed in the sounds, so that he forgets his body, senses and thoughts. He loses himself in the vast sea of sound vibrating throughout the universe. The two polar streams of creation – male and female, Shiva and Shakti – will unite in the ultimate harmony of being.
It is the echo of man’s yearning, which sounds even unto the realm of eternal life.