The Unstruck Sound: Nada Yoga
“With perseverance and devotion
I mastered the vina’s errant chords;
but then practicing the unborn, unstruck sound
I, lost my self.” – Mahasiddha Vinapa (The Musician), from the
Sheja Dzö or ‘The Treasury of Knowledge”
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika states “When the mind ceases to be fickle and is united by fixing it in nada, it becomes immobile like a wingless bird.” IV:92
One of the divine teachers upon my path, Avalokitesvara / Chenrezig the bodhisattva of compassion, attained enlightenment through single pointed focus on the subtle inner sound. Standing on the shore staring out upon the sea, Chenrezig focused on the sound of the waves exhaling to shore and inhaling back out to sea. Like an instrument being tuned to a tuning fork, his mind became in tune with his surroundings through deep listening. As distraction dissolved, he grew aware of more subtle sounds within. Through the art of deep listening, an unwavering focus and stability of mind arose.
When we can ‘tune in’ like this, we rest effortlessly in the Here and Now. Sound fades into the background. Our experience seems more like a movie screen on which ideas, emotions, sensations, and sound are projected. In this state of greater, spacious awareness, practice holding fast to this steady point of view: watching, yet not involved in the “movie script”.
I used to sit for hours on end meditating in the sand dunes, staring at the sea. Walking in the shadowed footprints of my teacher Avalokitesvara, I retraced the steps that lead him to illumination by using the same tools: the ocean, the breath and deep listening. The more I sat, the less entangled and ensnared I became in the trappings of my mind. I felt I had stared at the sea since time immemorial, and yet was unmoved by any of it. No words can describe the feeling of this kind of peace. There was nothing for me to become and yet I was everything. The sea began to move with my breath, as the moon began to dance with the sea. Like the rings from a stone cast upon a pond, I felt vibration expanding outward, yet I remained still and unmoved. For this moment, I was in union with time’s eternal aspect. There was no part of me separate from anything, in anyway.
Think about all the labels we have fashioned for ourselves and others since the moment we hopped out of bed. The judgements placed on the toothpaste, the breakfast, the bad driver, the song on the radio, the teacher, the student, how others were dressed, and how we look in the mirror. Observe all the ways we divide and judge the world inside use and around us.
Now, be kind, don’t rewind and replay, soften and let these sounds fade, for they are but a limited perception of what you truly are. Don’t over involve the mind and get caught in letting them go. Analysis is Paralysis.
The world around us is said to be a direct projection of the mind and karma. The monsters we see were created within. As in a dream, the more we give power to the monsters before us, the more we feed them with fear, the more difficult it becomes to escape their grasp. Nightmares can skillfully be subdued we when realize things are not as real as they seem. Have you ever caught yourself when you were dreaming and realized, ‘wait a minute, I think this is only a dream’? Like watching a movie or dreaming and experiencing it as if it were happening to us, when we step back and rest in our true awareness, the affect is very different. Next, if we have compassion for the seething beasts before us, then their power fades and we see their true nature, which is called emptiness. Nada yoga is a training tool to help us expand our awareness of what’s really going on and avoid caught in what is unreal.
Listen for the Unstruck Sound, the subtle vibration behind everything. Do You Hear it? If you focus on the sounds around you and turn inward, you are likely to hear a high-pitched sound in the background behind everything. This sound is without beginning and end.
The Unstruck Sound is absolute sound and within our grasp. It is the potential of everything composed and everything that has yet to be composed. Nada is the Sanskrit word for sound, and nada yoga means meditating on the inner sound, the infinite sound of silence and our “auditory equivalent of phenomenal emptiness”. Ancient Rishis’ say when we focus on the inner sound we can hear the Anahata / Heart Chakra and there is a high pitch frequency ringing.
As you seek the Nada sound, let all concepts, divisions, and theories fall away, just watch, just listen. Use the inner sound just as you would the breath, making it the primary object of attention and letting it fill the whole space of your current experience. Skillfully and consciously, let everything else fade; Drop the feelings in your body and grasp not to the thoughts that arise. At the same time allow for the inner sound to completely encompass the focus of your attention.
Yoga is the realization of non-dualism, where the illusion of separation between “I” and the rest of the Universe is removed and we recognize them as one. No difference. No division. With the practice of nada yoga, we follow the Sacred Sound, and realize our ultimate state of blissful reconnection. Be fearless.
Samadhi, a state of intense concentration that opens us up to the highest states of consciousness and bliss, is achieved when the anahata nadam, the unstruck sound, can be heard. Some say that the goal of Hatha Yoga is to hear the soundless sound of Om/ Aum. To attain this, a yogi must harness the ability to listen and to be receptive enough to be aware of the most subtle sounds within each of us.
“How sweetly mysterious is the Transcendental Sound of Avalokiteshvara ! It is the pure Brahman Sound. It is the subdued murmur of the sea tide setting inward. Its mysterious sound brings liberation and peace to All in this Great Assembly. 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 to Supreme Enlightenment.” – The Buddha
The Mantra of Chenrezig : Om Mani Peme Hung, which purifies body, speech and mind.
This is the Tibetan version and pronounced (Om Mah-Knee Peh-Meh Hoong)
Even though you may be accustomed to the Sanskrit version, try this Tibetan version. Honor the struggle they have in Tibet and the difficulties they endure just to be free to practice their Dharma. Also, as a reminder, no matter what war we are in the middle of fighting, whether an inner or outer conflict, remain firm in the practice. When things hit the fan, you will truly know how diligent you were or were not.
I pray you experience great compassion bestowed upon you in the 3 times….
My Tibetan lineage always prays this at the end of every practice and I offer it as a most beautiful gift…
At this very moment for the peoples and nations of the earth,
May not even the names of disease, famine, war, and suffering be heard,
But rather may pure conduct, merit, wealth and prosperity increase,
And may supreme good fortune and well being always arise.
Tibetan Buddhist Prayer
Robacharya, aka Sherab Lhundub,
The name bestowed upon me as I was taking Bodhisattva Vows in the year 2000.
This name was given by a very high Tibetan Lama whose name means Spontaneous Wisdom. I later found out why…
OM MANI PEME HUNG
Written by Rob Dill