Soundless Sound – The Tone that fills the Cosmos From Yoga International Magazine
“The knower of the mystery of Sound knows the mystery of the whole universe.”
– Hazrat Inayat Khan
Most readers would be aware of the different forms of popular yoga, namely: Hatha yoga, Jnana yoga, Bhakti yoga, Karma yoga, Raja yoga, Mantra yoga and Laya yoga. Regardless of the differing emphasis one tradition of yoga places over another, all should have the same goal. That goal, put simply, is to separate the individualized soul from mind and matter, and unify it with the universal Soul (God or Brahma). There is, however, one other ancient yogic tradition (some would go so far as to say the most ancient), which generally speaking is lesser known, but which aims for a no less noble objective. That tradition is called Surat Shabd yoga, or the yoga of the celestial Sound Current.
Those precious beings who have mastered this form of yoga profess that the universal Soul manifests Itself into two primary elements, a lightless Light and a soundless Sound. Although these two spiritual elements mirror the relationship between mundane light and sound, in so far as light is sound of a very high vibrational frequency, they are not equivalent. Because the Light and Sound are part of the universal vibratory continuum, if one is able to contact the Sound Current then one is surely on the road to the Light that all the great past Masters spoke of.
In fact, throughout history many great figures have made this distinction between worldly sound and a wondrous celestial Sound, which at higher vibrational frequencies is believed to have enchanting musical attributes. For example, the ancient Egyptian Plotinus, who is regarded as the founder of Neoplatonism, said: “All music, based upon melody and rhythm, is the Earthly representation of heavenly music.” Pythagoras believed that we are constantly in contact with the “Music of the Spheres,” which fills our inner ears from the moment of our birth. And the famous fifteenth-century Indian mystic and poet, Kabir, wrote extensively about mysterious “Unstruck Music” which delivers the soul into a state of enchanting rapture:
There falls the rhythmic beat of life and death:
Rapture wells forth, and all space is radiant with light.
There the Unstruck Music is sounded; it is the music of the love of the three worlds.
There millions of lamps of sun and of moon are burning:
There the drum beats and the lover swings in play.
There love-songs resound, and light rains in showers;
and the worshipper is entranced in the taste of the heavenly nectar.
Although often unscrupulously edited, or misunderstood by well-meaning translators, major religious scriptures still contain references to this heavenly Sound. For example, in the Gospel of Saint John the divine Sound is referred to as the Word: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) This was substantiated when the late Dr. Edmond Bordeaux Szekely, philologist, archaeologist, and co-founder of the International Biogenic Society, accidentally came upon secret Aramaic texts in the Vatican, which date back to the third century after the death of Jesus. Dr. Szekely translated a revealing document called the “Essene Gospel of Peace” in which the following appears: “In the beginning was the Sound, and the Sound was with God, and the Sound was God.”
Almost two decades of meticulous research convinced Dr. Szekely that Jesus was a member of the highly respected Essene spiritual community and therefore would have had intimate knowledge of their spiritual tradition. As he relates in The Essene Jesus, “There was the Essene Brotherhood at the Dead Sea which planted the Essene Tree of Life, whose highest branch was represented by the Essene Jesus.”
There are numerous other references to the divine Sound in the Bible. For example, from the Book of Revelation 14:2: “And I heard a voice from heaven like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder; the voice I heard was like the sound of harpers playing on their harps.”
In Buddhism’s Surangama sutra, Buddha Shakyamuni agreed with his fully enlightened disciple, Manjushri, when he deemed the divine Sound method of meditation to be the only way to Nirvana: “All the Brothers in this Great Assembly, and you too, Ananda, should reverse your outward perception of hearing and listen inwardly for the perfectly unified and intrinsic sound of your own Mind-Essence, for as soon as you have attained perfect accommodation you will have attained Supreme Enlightenment. This is the only way to Nirvana, and it has been followed by all the Tathagatas (saints) of the past.”
The Upanishads, the vast ancient Indian philosophical treaty, uses the terms Sabda Brahman, Akash Bani, Nad and Sacred Word, among others, to refer to the primal Sound. For example, the Hansa Naad Upanishad states: “Meditation on Nad or the Sound Principle is the royal road to salvation.”
Muhammad perceived the divine Sound in the cave at Gare-Hira, and the original Sufis called the divine Sound, Saute Surmad, which means “the tone that fills the cosmos.”
Lao Tzu described the Tao, or Way, as “unimpeded harmony,” and the source of all things. He also wrote about the Great Tone “that goes beyond all usual imagination.” Chuang Tzu, who lived some three hundred years after Lao Tzu, also expounded the merits of contacting the spiritual Sound when he said: “Hear with the mind instead of the ears; hear with the energy instead of the mind. Hearing stops at the ears, the mind stops at contact, but energy is that which is empty and responsive to others. The Way gathers in emptiness; emptiness is mental fasting.
“If you have your ears and eyes penetrated inwardly, and are detached from conceptual knowledge, then even if ghosts and spirits come after you they will stop…”
In the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, which is Sikhism’s holy book and possibly the most complete scripture available today, the terms “Unstruck Melody” and “Word” are often used to refer to the divine Sound:
Blessed, Blessed am I, that my God is my Spouse,
Within whose Court Ringeth the Unstruck Melody (of the Word).
Night and day, I abide in Joy, hearing ever the Music of Bliss:
Yea, no more in this state is Pain or Sorrow, neither birth nor death.
Furthermore, many ancient cultures, including the Aztecs, Eskimos, Malayans and Persians, also support the notion that the universe has its origin in Sound. Australian Aboriginals also believe in Songlines or the “Way of the Law,” which sang the world, and everything in it, into existence. A modern day physicist would use the typically prosaic phrase “Big Bang” to describe what certainly must be essentially the same phenomenon.
Indeed, the considerable scriptural evidence of a primal Sound or Vibration is supported by scientific evidence which recognizes that the basis of all matter is vibration: “All of Nature exists as a vast oscillatory spectrum. . . That sound shapes matter and imparts structure was unarguably demonstrated by Swiss scientist Hans Jenny in the 1960’s. Using electronic sound oscillators and sophisticated photographic equipment, Jenny documented the reality of wave phenomena underlying matter (a new field he called cymatics) by filming the instantaneous shaping effects of tones, music, and vocal sound on various substances. . . spread on a metal plate. He meticulously catalogued the symmetrical, geometrically perfect structures and elegant sound mandalas that resulted from directing hundreds of different frequency and rhythmic combinations, from single tones and intervals to complex musical harmonies, through the plate.”
Even more recent developments in the field of vibrational/sound therapy have produced some remarkable results, clearly indicating the significant effects of vibrational frequencies on living organisms. As author Larry Dossey relates, “A child psychologist recently reported his experience with an 11-year-old boy who was diagnosed as a catatonic schizophrenic. The child had not uttered a word in seven years. In one session with him, the therapist played Bach’s `Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’. The boy began to weep. When the music ended he announced through his tears, “That is the most powerful music I have ever heard; now I can speak!”
If worldly sound can have such profound effects on our states of consciousness there can be little doubt about the potency and spiritual significance of the celestial Sound.
As my own master, I believe Supreme Master Ching Hai has perfected the ancient art of Surat Shabd yoga after finally finding Her master in the Himalayas, from whom She received the mastership transmission. Her incredible search for a master, which spanned several countries over many years, was punctuated with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The trials She endured made Her steadfastly resolve to make this ancient yogic tradition easily accessible to all sincere seekers of Truth. While many may find it difficult to comprehend the concept of a transcendental Sound and, moreover, appreciate the spiritual significance of this Sound, in a few simple words Supreme Master Ching Hai so aptly explains:
“The worldly sound is very important for our sensual and mental comfort, but the supra-worldly Sound draws us back to God.”
“This inner Sound is the Great Creative Force of the cosmos. It is a Vibration that sustains and nourishes all things. Its manifestation in the outer world can be heard as the natural melodies such as the sound of the wind, the water, the birds, insects, et cetera. . . There are more subtle and higher Sounds which are inaudible to the mortal sense, because they vibrate in the higher dimensions. . . . To catch these higher Sounds we must raise our own levels to those worlds beyond our senses.”
The key to raising one’s level of consciousness to perceive the divine Sound is finding a living spiritual master who can genuinely initiate spiritual seekers. Initiation is necessary to fully awaken one’s God-nature or master within. After initiation one needs to meditate, according to the master’s instructions, on the Light and the Sound each day to make continued spiritual progress.
A second and equally important role of the living master is to accept the past-life karma of their neophytes. Hence the master must take on a physical body to suffer the karma that would normally befall their students. Without this incredible sacrifice by the master, the neophyte’s karmic burden would be too heavy to escape the endless cycle of rebirth. As Supreme Master Ching Hai observes, “While a living Master is on Earth he takes on some of the karma of the people, especially those who believe in the Master, and even more-so those who are disciples of the Master. . . .Therefore, the Master suffers for the disciples, and for mankind at large, in his lifetime. . . he might be sick, he might be ill, he might be tortured, he might be nailed on the cross, or he might be slandered.”
Furthermore, the master’s omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent qualities protects the initiate at all times because, once initiated, an eternal, spiritual link is established between the master and initiate until mastership is attained. This ensures the numerous pitfalls along the spiritual journey are avoided. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus alluded to the precarious nature of the spiritual journey when He said, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:14)
Although not as well known as other yogic traditions, the yoga of the celestial Sound Current is regarded by some to be the highest tradition. The compelling written evidence from ancient, wise philosophers and past great spiritual masters certainly supports such a view. While therapists are only recently discovering the healing effects of worldly vibrational frequencies, for thousands of years the great past masters have imparted the one unified Truth and the one path of celestial Sound and Light through which to assimilate this Truth. The fundamental unity of their message derides the superficial divisions that have taken root in the minds of influential, but sadly misguided, religious fanatics throughout the ages. Since the past masters are no longer with us, a living master is the key to experiencing this Truth and to contacting the divine Sound that pierces the dark layers of consciousness to uplift the soul to a supremely blissful spiritual reality within us all, where, we are told, the Light of millions of lamps of sun and of moon burn eternally.