THE NADA

Earlier on in these talks, we mentioned that the reason for the performing the seven steps of Hatha yoga was to enable the aspirant to hear the inner sounds: the Dada. However, what takes place at this, the final stage, is more significant than just the hearing of some sounds. The final stage is laya, absorption or dissolution. In other words, your whole being is to be absorbed into the nada

The Hatha yogis viewed all seven aids to hearing the nada (and to having this laya) as one unit not as independent practices. In order for the whole being to be absorbed into the nada, it was necessary for the aspirant to first purify the nadis. For the nadis to become purified, the aspirant not only had to have the experience of intense visualization of the Ada, pingala, sushumna, and all of the chakras, but also needed to know if the flow of prana had become obstructed and if so, be able to correct the situation. That is why (in addition to Yoni-mudra, chakra meditation and nadishuddi) pranayama was added to the yogis list of important practices. Of course, in order for the pranayama to be effective some asanas and mudras (not excluding the various bandhas) would have to be utilized. Pratyahara (turning the senses, and therefore, the mind, inward) is also understood to be essential for all these practices, as is meditation. Samadhi or direct experience of transcendence is possible through meditation.

All these seven, viewed as one, bring about the laya, or dissolution. The dissolution must encompass the entire personality, so that the entire being is dissolved in the nada, and the spiral of consciousness-energy is returned to its source. Until this happens, there can only be said to be progressive absorption (dissolution). The spiraling motion will continue in some form until the personality merges with the nada. Where does that take place? You have, no doubt, heard this famous expression quoted at one time or another:

I am the Alpha. I am also the Omega. I am the beginning. I am also the end.

This is an apt description of what we've called the "bindu. " The bindu is not only the point from which the whole process began, but it is also the point of absorption, where everything gets dissolved.

In our previous discussion of this process, we have mentioned that the attention is focused rather than fixed upon various chakras. The yogis say that if one engages in contemplation of the element of a particular chakra, one becomes attuned to that element, and merges with it. Pondering all of this seems to imply some kind of mastery over the natural elements. Mastery implies the retention of the ego-sense. After all, it's the ego that says "I can walk on water," not cosmic consciousness. Cosmic consciousness is under water, inside water, above water; it is water! It is everywhere! only the ego-sense says: "I can walk on water. I can lift a mountain. " So although various powers may be mentioned as the fruits of contemplation of the various psychic centers, the contemplation is itself meant to dissolve that which attempts to manipulate these powers, the ego-sense. Dissolving the ego-sense is also what will take place in the hearing of the nada There is no manipulation of the sound at all. It is given the name "nada-nusandana, " which not only means contemplation of the nada sound, but also its "adoration. "

Sound is represented by color, the whole universe being composed both of name and of form. Name is form, and form is name. These two are indistinguishably one, identical. Science corroborates this in its study of vibration (sound) as matter. The yogis go one step further, and insist that each sound has got its own corresponding light. You can put it another way: each vibration has both a sound value and a color value. When the vibration is apprehended by the ear, it is heard as sound. When the same vibration is "seen, " it is apprehended as color. If you can digest this truth, a whole new dimension of understanding will open up for you. You will understand, for example, why the yogis give a mantra with its own corresponding deity, or give the mantra (sound vibration) for a specific chakra its own corresponding 1ight.

Although samadhi is the last of the seven aids to hearing of the nada, no individual practice can be given for it. Samadhi must be thought of as a final stage rather than as a final practice. And so, the last practicable aid to the hearing of the nada are the dhayana practices, or meditation practices. With few exceptions, most yoga texts do not attempt to define classifications for the various meditation practices. One exception is Patanjali's Astanga Yoga, which we will discuss when we come to the subject of Raja Yoga. Another exception is the Gerandha Samhita.

In the eleventh chapter of the Gerandha Samhita, three types of meditation are mentioned. The three types are Sthula-dhyana, Jyotih-dbyana, and Sukshma-dhyana. "Sthula" means "gross", "jyotih" means "light", and "sukshma" means "subtle." This last one, sukshma meditation, is the very opposite of sthula meditation, and is an extremely subtle form of meditation.

We do not know who the author of the Gerandha Samhita was, or what type of background he had. Although his classif ications for meditation nearly follow the same pattern as those of Patanjali, some variance can be found in the f irst of the three groups, the sthula-dhyana, which seems very much in tune with Bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion. He describes a type of contemplation that is common amongst certain classes of devotees in India. In this type of contemplation, one is to visualize a very specific scene. Superlatives abound in the scenes described and the images given are meant to be attractive so that the mind is attracted to them:

Visualize your heart as temple. The temple itself shines, and has a golden dome. In the center of this temple, visualize a full-blown lotus. In the center of the lotus is a radiant throne covered in jewels. On that jewel-encrusted throne, visualize your deity.

Actually, the descriptions which you come across don't let you chose the deity that resides in the place which is described. Instead, they prescribe a deity for you. If you investigate this matter, you find that the deity prescribed just happens to be the deity of the author giving the description. The deity given is the deity with which he himself is familiar; the dubiety that has been a part of his experience, his reality. Should a Buddhist give the description, he would no doubt prescribe the Buddha and a Christian would no doubt prescribe the Christ.

Another common feature is that the deity must provide some kind of guarantee:

Visualize the deity seated on the throne ready to grant your boons, and ready to to dispel all your fears.

These are the most common guarantees . The deity must grant al 1 one's boons, and must necessarily dispel all one's fears. Such guarantees seem unfortunate. After all, why not face these fears? In facing your fears, you can get rid of them! Why should you pray to God to be rid of fear?

Even so, sthula-dhyana has its place in the scheme of yoga. If the mind is not subtle (being gross and body-conscious), it will not be capable of entering into the subtle regions of contemplation that has often compared to jumping on one's own shoulders. However great an acrobat you may be, a body-conscious, unsubtle mind will not be capable of jumping on its own shoulders. The yogis, realizing this, suggest that it is most advantageous to realize what stage of development one is at, so that one can adapt one's meditation to that stage of development. If all one knows of oneself is "I am the body, gross, physical, material," then it is suggested that this special materialistic approach towards truth called sthula-dhyana be used.

Even should one realize that the earth is extremely subtle, and not what it appears to be through the gross instrument of the human eye, that it is also a mass dancing electrons, subtle, as energy is subtle, if in one's present state of development the earth is seen as solid, let the contemplation of the divine, of the supreme spirit, also be of something solid. There is no harm in proceeding with this, unless, of course, you start insisting that everyone else must do the same, or worse, use it as a stick to beat everyone else into submission:

"The book says to see the ocean! It's prescribed in THE BOOK! Poor man, not to have seen the ocean!"

It is totally inappropriate to force one's own visualization upon someone else. Each must find their own type of visualization. It's not even a question of remaining within the boundaries of one culture verses another. Even within what you think of as your own culture, there are thousands of variations. Some devotees may visualize a crucifix, while others don't even like the symbol of the cross. Some devotees may prefer to visualize a human form. Others would never dream of using a human figure in a visualization of the Divine. Each will have to find his or her own inner predisposition. The only principal that applies to all is the underlying reason for performing this type of meditation: I am body-conscious at present, and therefore, I need a physical symbol upon which the mind can rest, and focus.

Sthula-dhyana may also use the descriptions of the chakras, each one of which is an elaborate mandala. Like the Tibetan Buddhist mandalas, the mandala designs of the chakras have been deliberately planned to be elaborate. The meditation upon the mandala becomes a great psychological adventure. It may even function as the archetype of union. When you practice sthuladyhana on the various elaborate chakra patterns, it should be with the feeling that there no great hurry. Each chakra meditation may take about an hour or so. There are many petals, and adding and integrating them with the whole being should not be rushed. Moving to the next chakra brings you to a wholly new mandala. Each can be an entire meditation unto itself. Eventually, when the meditation reaches the ajna, there will be the flame, and that light will be the source of your meditation.

When it comes to the most common type of Sthula-dhyana, such as those found in the Gerandha Samhita in which one visualizes beautiful scenes with thrones and deities, some people will no doubt ask if it is not just bluffing oneself to spend time visualizing temples, shrines, thrones, and deities. The frequent accusation is that such practices merely sanction hallucinations. The only response to this charge is:

"What are you seeing in front of you? Isn't that also an hallucination? It is merely the other side of the spiral, the world of matter! Isn't it possible that is made up of its own hallucinations? How do you know that what you are seeing in the physical world is true? At least by raising this inner 'hallucination', or vision, our confirmed conviction in the reality of the physical world has been shaken!"

You sit in your own meditation room, contemplating the ocean, or the orb of the sun, the mountains, etc. Maybe there is a throne with someone sitting there illuminated by seven lights or candles. For the time being, it appears to absolutely real. You feel that you touch that person. You feel that you could even talk to that person. Then you open your eyes, and ask:

"Was all this hallucination? It was hallucinacation, yes? In my meditation room, I saw Siva, Buddha, Krishna, Jesus. Now, having come out of it, I and see only myself, and this room. Maybe I am a hallucination too? What's the difference?"

Something shakes deep within. At that point, one cannot take anything for granted, because from that moment on, one is inquiring. An inquiring mind never gets caught.

The basis of what the yogis call "non-attachment, " or psychological freedom, is the spirit of inquiry. If this spirit of non-attachment is constant, without letup (even for a second), one never forms attachment. In this spirit of inquiry, there is merely questioning, not doubting but merely questioning:

"If that is hallucination, maybe this is also hallucination."

They are only images. If one image, or imaginary being, turns around and calls another image, which is also an imaginary being a "fool", must one begin to fight with that hallucination? Must one fight with a phantom? What for? Therefore, this spirit of itself is the answer to attachment, non-attachment, and the whole lot! It gives freedom, total freedom, not only from external forces, but also from internal forces. One person may say:

"I am all admiration for you. You are such a good man!"

The other person might say:

"And to think that I really thought that I saw God in you!"

One may be as much of an illusion as the other! In this inquiry, one questions what is seen outside. One questions the seer also.

There is questioning of the seer, not doubting. The seer obviously exists. The yogi merely questions:

"There is a subject, but is it as a subject? The word subject, and the concept of a subject relates directly to the object. It seems obvious that there is an object, otherwise there is no subject, no vision. What is it, and what is the subject?"

One continues to question, but there is no doubting of the existence of ... existence. There is inquiry, and out the spirit of inquiry, freedom is born.

The orthodox yogis who read this will be cross to hear that all this tremendous meditation is only to rouse this spirit of inquiry. However, the aspirant will not be ready for any type of meditation as long as the mind's gaze is restless and unsteady, and unable to focus. Such a aspirant will only overcome the need for diversions, and paraphernalia, when the mind has reached a more subtle dimension.

Next, from this sthula-dhyana on an elaborate physical form one can practice the Jythih-dhyana. As we said earlier, " jyotih' means "light. " In this meditation, the yogi visualizes a single brilliant flame. It can be contemplated in the muladhara chakra, or in any of the other chakras. This flame may- also be visualized between the eyebrows, where, according to the Gerandha Samhita, the flame is the light of "Om. " The flame is steady and un-agitated. In this meditation, the mind merges with the flame.

The sukshma-dhyana is complicated to explain; complicated in the sense that one has to digest many of the doctrines of Hatha yoga before one can really grasp its significance. It involves the awakening of the kundalini in the sahasrara, where resides the bindu, the point of beginning and ending. As we have said, it is the point where the spiral returns, and turning upon itself, finds the center. That bindu, it is said, refuses to be confined to the physical body. The Hatha yogi practices shambhavi-mudra, and there is what is called the "wakened gaze" where the eyes are unseeingly open. Some describe this as having the eyes "vacantly focused, " but, of course, when the eyes become "vacant" they are not focused. Of course, it will be impossible to find any appropriate terminology.

When the eyes are "vacantly focused, " and the kundalini reaches the bindu, and the bindu shines like a blue diamond, or with the radiance of a "blue pearl. " The light emerges through the eyes, and stands, as it were, in front of the yogi in that twelve-inch space, the magnetic field that we have talked about in our discussion of prana. It stands within that twelve-space, guiding the yogi in all that has to be done from that point on. It is seen outside, but at the same time, the yogi does not know whether it is inside or outside, because inside and outside are all within this magnetic field. It is both inside, outside, and no side! With the vision of this blue light, or "blue pearl," one's own personal deity is seen. It can be regarded as a vision of " God. "

We could easily end our discussion upon this high note were it not for the fact that we have yet to discuss the hearing of the nada Before experiencing the subtlest nada, various other inner sounds are heard. These are often referred to as the anahata sounds. As with visualization, the yogis have written down descriptions of the sounds they had experienced, so that yoga students who were to come after them would know that such sounds existed. One can find such descriptions in yoga texts such as The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, The Gerandha Samhita, or Swami Sivananda's kundalini Yoga. You will find that different descriptions of them, the descriptions being only approximations of the sounds that are heard. The list found in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika says that the sounds resemble:

"the ocean, the cloud, the kettle drum the jarajara drum, the conch, the bell the horn, tinkling bells, the vine, and bees".

Swami Sivananda also lists ten kinds of sounds: 'chini' (like the pronunciation of the word) the 'chini-chini' sound, the bell, the conch, the lute, the sound of cymbals, the tune of a flute, the voice of a drum, the sound of the double drum (mridanga), and the sound of thunder.

Besides giving descriptions, these three texts also list some procedures for hearing the sounds. We have already covered these in our discussion of the mudras. You may recall that after assuming the yoni or shambhavi mudra, the yoga aspirant listens for these sounds by first directing the attention to the right or left ear. Why do the yogis require this? The reason is that by providing a specific point for the aspirant to listen, the entire attention will be able to be funneled to that one point.

For instance, there is a custom that concerns the giving of a mantra that was practiced in my younger days and which is still practiced today. According to this custom, when someone gives a student a mantra, even if the mantra is well known and has millions of people who know and repeat it, it is given by whispering the mantra in the ear of the recipient. Why whisper the mantra if everyone knows it? One whispers it so that the recipient will be more intently focused to listen to it when it is whispered. This enhances the attention of the recipient. In the same way, one listens through the right or left ear when attempting to hear the inner sounds so that all the attention is focused at one point, which, in turn, brings more depth to the awareness. It's an explanation that is full of common sense. Of course, you will probably find many different explanations for it.

There is also a simpler way of looking at the entire practice of hearing the anahata sounds. It's such a departure from the traditional viewpoint that when some people hear it, they may feel inclined to throw stones; it's so terribly unorthodox. How does this unorthodox view take shape?

To begin with, the word "anahata, " what does it mean? The word "anahata" simply means "unstruck. " "Ahata" means "striking. " The sound produced by one object striking another is the normal way of producing any sound. "Anahata" is the opposite of that sound, produced by non-striking. What you call the mental repetition of a mantra is a non-striking sound. You hear the sound of the mantra within you, and yet, you are not producing the sound in the throat by vibrating the vocal cords. In this way, I am constantly hearing anahata sound! When I am thinking and the thinking comes in the shape of words, that is anahata sound also. Do you begin to see the simplicity in this?

One person proudly exclaims: "I hear it!" Well, I hear my mantra also. I was going to ask you another question just now, and I heard that also! The formulation of the question was heard within. That's anahata. In fact (and this is perhaps the most terribly unorthodox of all), any mental verbiage is anahata! And so, by directing the attention to my mental verbiage, I am already engaged in the practice of listing to anahata sounds. Somehow it seems less blasphemous to use the example of the mentally hearing a mantra than it does to use the one of mentally asking a question, so we'll use the (former) example of hearing the mantra instead. Without striking anything, a mantra is heard. Where is that sound produced? Where does that sound originate? And, who hears the sound?

In view of all this, ask yourselves this important question:

"Why must I look for extraordinary phenomenon when the ordinary phenomenon itself is puzzling?"

If I close my eyes, I can see an orb of light there. And even though I may not be interested in the color of that orb the color keeps on changing. That is already a puzzling but simple ordinary phenomenon! So also is the question of where the sound of the mantra originates. By directing the attention to it, and by inquiring into it, I get out of it . . some truth. I can arrive at an understanding of the self, which is self-knowledge.

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YASODHARA YOGA TALKS

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Copyright 1997