Magic and Mystery of Sound

From The Golden Collection 3: A collection of original publications from the Bihar Yoga Tradition, Swami Satyananda Saraswati

According to nada yogis and the scriptures dealing with the subject of nada yoga, the nada brahma, or the ultimate and the transcendental sound, is the seed from which the entire creation has evolved. A nada yogi believes that the world is but a projection of sound alone.

The universe and nada

The whole macro cosmic universe is a projection of sound vibrations. From that sound the whole world has evolved. In the Bible there is a reference, "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God." This word is called the 'nada' or the 'shabda'. In India the Sufis, a Mohammedan cult, call it 'surat'. Surat or shabda yoga is another name for the nada yoga practice. The Muslim saints of philosophical temperament also believe that out of sound and form the world was evolved. It is believed by the nada yogis that the five elements, five karmendriyas, five jnanendriyas, the fourfold mind and the three gunas have evolved out of one eternal sound. It means that prakriti and the material, mental, psychic and intellectual universe are an outcome of nada brahma. This is the ultimate belief of all nada yogis. So, a nada yogi believes in a reality which manifested itself in the form of vibrations. These vibrations either do not vibrate at all or vibrate at such a high frequency that it is beyond the reach of the human faculty.

The eternal or original nada has the highest rate of frequencies and vibration. When any object vibrates at a tremendous and unimaginable speed, it becomes still. It means that the highest point of motion and vibration is stillness. And, that sound appears to be the creative principle of all matter and the entire material substance.

It is the contention of nada yogis that everything in the universe originated and evolved from the eternal and infinite nada. In this context a study of the Upanishads is recommended, with special reference to the Nada Upanishad, Bindu Upanishad and Hamsopanishad. There are also various other spiritual cults who have specialized in the science of nada yoga and one such well-known sect in India is Radha Swami.

Music is also a materialized form of nada. The movements of prana in the body are also nothing but the expressions of nada. The purpose of nada yoga sadhana is to find out the primal and the finest, the ultimate and the inner sound or the word or the shabda.

In order to discover the transcendental and non-empirical sound, the process has to start from the gross. The ultimate form of sound is conceivable only through going into the deeper realms of our consciousness.

The centre of nada

Which is the centre where the transcendental nada is situated? Bhaktas try to find out the centre of their ishta in anahata. Yogis try to find out the centre of intuition in ajna. Vedantins try to find out the centre of hiranyagarbha in sahasrara. Likewise, nada yogis locate the centre of nada in bindu, which is a familiar centre to the students of this International Yoga Teacher's Training Course.

Bindu is the centre where the continuous, eternal, inaudible, unbroken and unbeaten sound goes on. Since when, it is not known. For the purpose of discovery of nada, it is true that the bindu has to be spotted primarily and finally.

Before one ventures to go into the depth of this science, it would be better for the aspirant to locate or discover the mental, astral and psychic nature of the sound of nada. Different practices of nada yoga are introduced in order to help the aspirant to go through the different psychic and non-physical sounds, before the consciousness can finally be attuned with the real nada.

Practice of nada in bhakti yoga

The practices meant for bhakti yoga are also to be included as practices of nada yoga. When a bhakti yogi performs japa of a mantra, in the first stage, he remains aware of the mantra. He tries his best to maintain awareness of the sound produced by the mantra. After getting used to this practice or after having developed a deeper and greater awareness of the sound of the mantra, he stops producing an audible sound vibration and tries to intensify his awareness on the basis of mantra chanted in whispered tones.

In the second stage, he tries to merge or fuse his awareness on whispered mantras. When this task is accomplished satisfactorily, he stops whispering also and tries to chant the same mantra mentally. He tries to hear the mental and subtle notes which, though inaudible, can be visualized through a deeper form of awareness. Sometimes at this stage, there is a possibility of actual experience of hearing the same mantra. The bhakti yogi will have the feeling as if he had really chanted the mantra in an audible tone. When the awareness of mental chanting of mantra is absorbing and the mind is completely fused in a deep realm of awareness, mantra or nada is transformed into a constant inaudible repetition which will appear to the aspirant on the plane of consciousness as audible; but it will be imperceptible and inaudible to others. This is the way to practise mantra and nada yoga by bhakti yogis.

A few kriyas combined with bandhas and mantras should also be included in order to stimulate the dormant psychic regions of the aspirant. He should begin his task of discovering the first sound or nada by plugging his ears. When his practice is fairly advanced, he need not plug his ears in order to commune with the different dimensions of sound. Instead, he should try to commune with the inner sound during the stillness of the night without closing the ears. It is easy to apprehend the inner sound at midnight.

Music and nada yoga

Music also is nada yoga. In the case of music, nada is rendered absolutely scientific and classical. The development of musical systems in the past was done strictly in accordance with the views of nada yoga sadhanas. The well-known and most ancient Soma Veda is always sung with a scientific exactness and in accordance to nada yoga sadhana. Pranayama forms an important preliminary and essential part of this sadhana. At different stages of conscious awareness, the mind is easily attracted by different waves of nada. Certain vibrations of nada seem to be disagreeable at a particular time, while some are agreeable at a particular time of the day. Certain combinations of nada are agreeable to some people and disagreeable to others. These nada vibrations in music are known as raga or musical notes. A raga having short vibrations is not relished by some. The morning music of India, the Bhairavi or Bhairava raga, is appealing to a few but not to all. I like the midnight music of India, the Malkos, the Durga or the Jogia ragas. The evening raga, like Bhimpalasi, is also popularly appreciated. Generally, girls and boys of a tender age prefer Bhairavi. This proves that the mind reacts differently to different sound waves.

Music could be taken up as a spiritual practice of sadhana, as a preliminary, or just as a pleasant, interesting and inspiring sadhana of nada yoga, through which the mind could be attuned to the subtlest vibrations before proceeding to discover the last transcendental sound of nada.

Nada in different sheaths of consciousness

These sounds which are heard are true. They are the symbols of the content of the mind and the consciousness. The mind rests on these symbols and goes in quickly with their help. These sounds are experiences of the deeper layers of consciousness, belonging to the annamaya kosha, pranamaya kosha and manomaya kosha. These sounds are not imaginary. They may be understood as the vibrations of different spheres of one's existence. The physical, pranic, mental, supramental and the ananda or the atmic are the five spheres of one's existence. In different spheres of existence different sounds are heard. There are physical sounds first, but when consciousness becomes fine and transcends the physical plane, it will come in touch with the subtle sounds of the movements of pranic consciousness in the physical body.

The entire range of human consciousness is divided into three or subdivided into five parts. The conscious state is constituted of the annamaya and the pranamaya koshas, and these two bodies are made up of food and prana. The second sphere of the personality is constituted of manomaya and vijnanamaya koshas and mainly contains mental and astral matter. The third dimension of consciousness is comprised of anandamaya kosha, which is a body full of bliss.

In the practice of nada yoga, the manifestation of nada takes place in accordance with the relation established between the mind and the other spheres of consciousness. For instance, if the mind or consciousness is rooted in the physical body, by closing your ears you will hear the sounds or vibrations produced by the movements of the heart, lungs, brain, circulation of the blood and the process of metabolism and catabolism that are going on inside the body.

If consciousness is dwelling in the pranamaya kosha and has penetrated it, you will hear the nada of a flute accompanied by many more sounds. If the mind has gone deeper into the anandamaya kosha, then the other sounds will disappear and in its place the effect of nada yoga will remain.

It is difficult to tell which particular nada belongs to a particular sphere. In India, illustrations are given in the form of symbolic stories. The individual consciousness which keeps on soaring high and discovering the transcendental notes is symbolized as Rishi Narada in Indian mythology. Without denying the historical existence of Rishi Narada, the esoteric significance of the word 'Narada' should be understood. Narada is supposed to be a rishi who has a veena, a musical string instrument, in his hands. In nada yoga, the sound of the veena is considered to be the music of a very high sphere. According to all the traditional cults of nada yogis, the nada of murali, flute, or veena belongs to that sphere of consciousness where dvaita bhava or the duality of consciousness ceases to exist.