Nada Yoga: Inner Sound Meditation, the Music of the Spheres
By James Bean
Copyright November 2004
The person, who is in tune with the universe, becomes like a radio receiver through which the Voice of the universe is transmitted. (Hazrat Khan)
This creative current, filling all space, may be likened to the electromagnetic waves of the radio. (Julian P. Johnson)
…The Great Creative Current flows outwards and downwards to create, govern and sustain all regions. It passes out from this region somewhat like the radio emanations going forth from a great broadcasting station. It is the Audible Life Stream, the most important factor in the system of the Masters. This Stream permeates the entire system of universes. A thing of great importance to us is that the music of this ever-flowing current, the stream of life, can be heard by a real Master and also by his students who have advanced even a little on the Path.” (Julian P. Johnson, The Path of the Masters)
The subject of Shabd (Inner Sound, The Music of the Creator) is such that we cannot do justice to it by discursive reasoning. All that can be said is that “Shabd” implies the Power of God that has created and is sustaining the various grand divisions, divisions and sub-divisions of the vast creation of God. It is a current from the Ocean of Consciousness and is characterized by Sound-vibration, or in other words, It is a live and active principle which, emanating from God, is enlivening all creation. It is the instrument with which God creates, controls and sustains His vast universe. It acts as a life-line between the Creator and His creation and serves as a golden bridge between the two. The divine currents, like the ethereal waves of a radio, are spread out in the atmosphere in all the directions of the compass, giving out delectable strains of music. We, however, cannot catch the ethereal vibrations and listen to the divine melody until we get in tune with the Infinite by adjusting our mental apparatus. Therefore we become etherealized more and more as we come in tune with the heavenly music. Shabd is the connecting link between God and man. (Sant Kirpal Singh)
“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.
Nada Yoga, Inner Sound Meditation, in Hinduism
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 Shabd Yoga Meditation impart to their students knowledge about developing their inner spiritual sense of transcendental hearing.
Our physical and astral bodies, our Indriyas and the mind, all have Sound as their basis. As we penetrate deep into them they only lead us to Sound. As we analyze our individual existence, it takes us to Sound before we reach the transcendent Self. (Sri Swami Sivananda)
By one who is desirous of attaining perfection in Yoga, Nada alone has got to be closely heard (meditated upon), having abandoned all thoughts and with a calm mind. (Sankaracharya, “Yoga-taravali,” quoted in Nada Yoga by Sri Swami Sivananda, The Divine Life Society)
Let yogi sit on Sidh Asana and while practicing the Vaisnavi Mudra, should hear the sound through his right ear. By communion with the Word, he will become deaf to the external sounds, and will attain the Turya Pad or a state of equipoise within a fortnight. First the murmuring sounds resembling those of the waves of the ocean, the fall of rain and the running rivulets and the Bheri will be heard intermingled with the sounds of bell and conch,… (Nad Bind Upanishad)
The following is from the Nadbindu Upanishad, on the practice of Nada Yoga (Inner Sound) meditation. It’s from Thirty Minor Upanishds – Including the Yoga Upanishads, K. Narayanasvami Aiyar, Santarasa Publications. (“Minor” as opposed to the twelve “major” Upanishads, which are most widely translated: Mandukya, Isa, Katha,Chandogya, etc. There are 108 Upanishads in all.)
The Upanishads represent for the Hindu approximately what the New Testament represents for the Christian. The earliest of these spiritual treatises, which vary greatly in length, were put down in Sanskrit between 800 and 400 B.C. (The Upanishads, Penguin Classics)
Nadbindu Upanishad: “The yogin being in the siddhasana (posture) and practicing the vaishnavimudra, should always hear the internal sound through the right ear.
“The sound which he thus practices makes him deaf to all external sounds. Having overcome all obstacles, he enters the turya state within fifteen days.
“In the beginning of his practice, he hears many loud sounds. They gradually increase in pitch and are heard more and more subtly. At first, the sounds are like those proceeding from the ocean, clouds, kettle-drum, and cataracts: in the middle (stage) those proceeding from mardala (a musical instrument), bell, and horn.
“At the last stage, those proceeding from tinkling bells, flute, vina (a musical instrument), and bees. Thus he hears many such sounds more and more subtle.
“When he comes to that stage when the sound of the great kettle-drum is being heard, he should try to distinguish only sounds more and more subtle.
“He may change his concentration from the gross sound to the subtle, or from the subtle to the gross, but he should not allow his mind to be diverted from them towards others.
“The mind having at first concentrated itself on anyone sound fixes firmly to that and is absorbed in it.
“It (the mind) becoming insensible to the external impressions, becomes one with the sound as milk with water, and then becomes rapidly absorbed in chidakas (the akas where Chit prevails).
“Being indifferent towards all objects, the yogin having controlled his passions, should by continual practice concentrate his attention upon the sound which destroys the mind.
“Having abandoned all thoughts and being freed from all actions, he should always concentrate his attention on the sound, and (then) his chitta becomes absorbed in it.
“Just as the bee drinking the honey (alone) does not care for the odor, so the chitta which is always absorbed it} sound, does not long for sensual objects, as it is bound by the sweet smell of nada and has abandoned its flitting nature.
“The serpent chitta through listening the nada is entirely absorbed in it, and becoming unconscious of everything concentrates itself on the sound.
“The sound serves the purpose of a sharp goad to control the maddened elephant–chitta which roves in the pleasure-garden of the sensual objects.
“It serves the purpose of a snare for binding the deer-chitta. It also serves the purpose of a shore to the ocean waves of chitta. The sound proceeding from Pranava which is Brahman is of the nature of effulgence; the mind becomes absorbed in it; that is the supreme seat of Vishnu.
“The sound exists till there is the akasic conception (akasa- sankalpa). Beyond this, is the asabda soundless Para-brahman which is Paramatma.”
A good example of Nada (Sound) Meditation 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 Nad Bindu Upanishad also mentions the possibility of hearing a sound that resembles the Vina, a somewhat sitar-like instrument used in Indian classical music.
These mystic or heavenly inner 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 innerSound is always there, it is we (our attention) who come and go. We gain awareness of the Sound, and this creates 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 (do bhajan: listen to the inner Sound in meditation).