The Yoga of Sound – Listening to the Music of the Universe, Parts III & IV
By James Bean
THE PATH OF SOUND IN THE WORLD RELIGIONS
Across the many centuries and around the world, mystics, in the scriptures they left behind, recorded some of their experiences with inner Sound, the heavenly Music that comes from beyond the silence. Encountering the Sound Current might be as subtle as hearing a faint tone or hum in meditation, or as blissful as becoming one with a cosmic symphony on a higher plane of existence — an experience beyond what earthly language is capable of truly conveying.
THE SOUND CURRENT IN BUDDHIST MYSTICISM
The ancient Buddhist scripture known as the Surangama Sutra speaks of the way to enlightenment through meditation upon the inner Sound. “Avalokiteshvara Buddha, the hearer and answerer of prayer, has visited all the Buddha-lands of the ten quarters of the universe and has acquired transcendental powers of boundless freedom and fearlessness and has vowed to emancipate all sentient beings from their bondage and suffering. How sweetly mysterious is the Transcendental Sound of Avalokiteshvara! Is is the subdued murmur of the seatide setting inward. Its mysterious Sound brings liberation and peace to all sentient beings who in their distress are calling for aid.”
This beautiful sutra contains discourses teaching those who practice meditation to turn their attention inward and listen for spiritual Sound. “All the brothers in this great assembly should reverse your outward perception of hearing and listen inwardly for the perfectly unified and intrinsic Sound of your own mind-Essence.” (“A Buddhist Bible,” Dwight Goddard, Beacon Press)
INNER SPIRITUAL HEARING AND SEEING IN BAHAI [AND SUFI] TEACHINGS
The following quote, which teaches us about acquiring ‘spiritual eyes’ is taken from The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, Vol. 2, p. 31 by Adib Taherzadeh:
“Bahá’u’lláh teaches [quoting from] the Mathnavi [written by Rumi, the Sufi poet] that: ‘man will not be able to receive the Light of God in this day unless he acquires a new Eye. Eyes which are fixed on the things of this world can never see the glory of His Revelation, and ears which are tuned to the voices of the ungodly cannot hear the Melodies of the Kingdom.’ By ‘new eyes’ and ‘new ears’ He means spiritual eyes and spiritual ears. He states that since the Eye of the Spirit receives its Light from God it is shameful to let it turn to a stranger, and re-affirms that the purpose of God in creating the inner Eye was that man might behold the beauty of His Manifestation in this world.
In ‘The Hidden Words’, Persian #11, Bahá’u’lláh reveals:
O Son Of Dust! Blind thine eyes, that thou mayest behold My beauty; stop thine ears, that thou mayest hearken unto the sweet Melody of My Voice; empty thyself of all learning, that thou mayest partake of My knowledge; and sanctify thyself from riches, that thou mayest obtain a lasting share from the ocean of My eternal wealth. Blind thine eyes, that is, to all save My beauty; stop thine ears to all save My Word; empty thyself of all learning save the knowledge of Me; that with a clear vision, a pure heart and an attentive Ear thou mayest enter the court of My holiness.”
THE SOUND CURRENT — THE AUDIBLE LIFE STREAM IN CHRISTIANITY
Experiences with the Sound Current — people hearing heavenly Music — are also recorded in the Bible and other spiritual writings of the West. In the Book of Revelation we find this: “And I heard a Sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters, and like a peal of thunder. After that, the Sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps.” (from Revelation, 14)
Hildegard of Bingen, the German Mystic, wrote: “To the Trinity be praise! God is Music, God is Life that nurtures every creature in its kind.” She also said:
The soul is kissed by God in its innermost regions. With interior yearning, grace and blessing are bestowed. It is a yearning to take on God’s gentle yoke, It is a yearning to give one’s self to God’s way. The marvels of God are not brought forth from one’s self. Rather, it is more like a Chord, a Sound that is played. The tone does not come out of the chord itself, but rather, through the touch of the Musician. I am, of course, the lyre and harp of God’s kindness!
The English Mystic Richard Rolle reflects in “The Fire of Love:”
“When Christ wishes it ….. he receives within himself the Song sent into him from the heavens, and his meditation is changed into Melody, and his spirit lingers in marvelous Harmony.”
The great Masters teach that the Sound of God is within everyone — this Holy Stream of Sound is within every living thing. This is why those given to exploring inner space through meditation, be they from the East or the West, have discovered this Reality playing within themselves.
The Nag Hammadi Library that was discovered in Egypt,
Sufi literature, the scriptures of India.
HEARING THE MUSIC OF THE SPHERES IN SUFI MYSTICISM
“The Mysticism of Sound” by Hazrat Inayat Khan is an amazing book presenting the Sufi teachings on inner Sound and the HU Chant (HU is an Arabic word pronounced: “whoooooooooo”). I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the Sound Current teachings of Sufi mysticism.
Hazrat Khan on hearing the Mystic-Sound: Abstract Sound is called Saut-e Sarmad by the Sufis; all space is filled with it. The vibrations of this Sound are too fine to be either audible or visible to the material eyes or ears, since it is even difficult for the eyes to see the form and color of the ethereal vibrations on the external plane. It was the Saut-e Sarmad, the Sound of the abstract plane, which Muhammad heard in the cave of Ghar-e Hira when he became lost in his divine Ideal. The Qur’an refers to this Sound in the words, ‘Be! and all became.’ Moses heard this very Sound on Mount Sinai, when in communion with God; and the same Word was audible to Christ when absorbed in his Heavenly Father in the wilderness. Shiva heard the same Anhad Nada during his Samadhi [deep meditation] in the cave of the Himalayas. The flute of Krishna is symbolic of the same Sound. This Sound is the source of all revelation to the Masters, to whom it is revealed from within; it is because of this that they know and teach one and the same truth. (The Sufi Message Series, II)
HEARING THE SOUND CURRENT IN THE ANCIENT GNOSTIC RELIGION
Before the Sufi mystics of the west, in ancient times there were Gnostics: Jewish, Hermetic, and Christian mystics who also described hearing the Sound, and seeing the Light of God while in deep states of meditation. The following is from “The Gnostic Mystery” by Andrea Grace Diem. She quotes from the Nag Hammadi Library, several ancient new testament-like collections of holy books written in the Coptic language of Egypt:
Man’s soul shall become, when it leaveth the body, a great flood of Light, so as to traverse all the regions until it cometh into the Kingdom of Mystery.
[I] turned to myself [and] saw Light that [surrounded] me and the Good that was in me; I became divine. (Allogenes) In Trimorphic Protennoia the gnostic writer (in the voice of God) describes how this transformation takes place:
I cast [voiced] Speech [or Sound] into the ears of those who know me. And I am inviting you into the exalted, perfect Light. Moreover (as for) this (Light), when you enter it you will be glorified … you will become gloriously glorious, the way you first were when you were Light. And I hid myself in everyone and revealed [myself] within them, and every mind seeking me longed for me, for it is I who gave shape to the All when it had no form. And I transformed their forms into (other) forms until the time when a form will be given to the All. It is through me that the Voice originated … And it is a Word, by virtue of a Sound; it was sent to illumine those who dwell in darkness…[I] am a Light that illuminates the All. I am the Light that rejoices [in my] brethren, for I came down to the world [of] mortals…
When describing the philosophical nature of the cosmos, Gnostic writers emphasize this Sound Current, variously referred to as Word, Voice, Logos, Speech, or simply Sound. Also, throughout Gnostic texts reference is made to the manifestation of a mystical Light, known as Treasury of Light, Immeasurable Light, etc. In the Trimorphic Protennoia it is described in the following way:
I am [the Word] who dwells [in the] ineffable [Silence]. I dwell in undefiled [Light] and a Thought [revealed itself] perceptibly through [the great] Sound … And it [the Sound] exists from the beginning in the foundations of the All. But there is a Light [that] swells hidden in Silence and it was the first to [come] forth…I alone am the Word, ineffable, incorruptible, immeasurable, inconceivable. It (the Word?) is a hidden Light … being unreproducible, an immeasurable Light, the source of All…It is foundation that supports every movement of the Aeons that belong to the mighty glory. It is the founding of every foundation. It is the breath of the powers. It is the eye of the three permanence’s, which exist as a Voice by virtue of a Thought. And it is a Word by virtue of the Sound … I (the Word) became a foundation for the All……..
(Trimorphic Protennoina in, “The Nag Hammadi Library In English,” James M. Robinson, Harper Collins)
THE NADA AND SHABDA YOGA SYSTEMS OF INDIA
Hinduism is very much a religion of divine Light and Sound; many Indian scriptures and spiritual traditions teach about the universe being created through the Sound of AUM, the ecstasy of hearing the cosmic flute of Krishna, or hearing the Unstruck Melody (Anhad Shabad) of God that reverberates throughout the universe. Yogis of Nada Yoga and Masters of Shabda Yoga Meditation impart to their students knowledge about developing their inner spiritual sense of transcendental hearing.
NADA YOGA, HEARING THE ETERNAL SOUND
A good example of Nada Yoga practice is found in, “The Shambhala Guide To Yoga,” George Feuerstein, Shambala Books: “First, the practitioner should block his or her ears with the fingers and focus inwardly, listening for the arising of the inner Sound. To begin with, a variety of sounds may be heard — the practitioner may hears sounds like: the sound of the ocean, a rain cloud, a drum, a kettledrum, a conch, a bell [ringing sound], a horn, a flute, a lute, or a bee [humming sound].” The “Nada Bindu Upanishad,” an ancient Hindu scripture on Sound Meditation (Nada Yoga), mentions the possibility of hearing a sound that resembles the Vina, an instrument used in Indian classical music. According to this tradition, these sounds are always resounding in the soul, thus when one attains a certain level of stillness and concentration, spiritual Sound becomes audible. In truth, the inner Sound is always there, it is we (our attention) who come and go. We gain awareness of the Sound, creating the illusion that the Sound has “arrived.” When we get distracted or leave off our meditation practice, it seems to us that the Sound has “stopped.” However, this otherworldly Sound continues, like radio waves flowing through the atmosphere, available to be “tuned in” anytime we want to listen.
“The vibrations of this Sound are too fine to be either audible or visible to the material eyes or ears……
” (Hazrat Khan)
Yet, as Masters and mystics often point out, there is another kind of hearing and another kind of seeing. The eyes and ears of the soul — the spiritual senses — can be developed. There is Light coming from beyond the darkness, and there is Music coming from beyond the silence, for those who have ears to hear: those who desire to meditate and discover the wonders of inner space for themselves.
Part Five will focus upon the Shabda Yoga tradition of India: Meditation upon the Inner Light and Sound (Shabad, Saut-e Sarmad) of God.