Nada Yoga is listening for the subtle background of sound that underlies creation. To listen to sacred music or sit in quiet woodland aware of the subtle sounds of nature against a background of stillness is a help in becoming aware of the first movements toward manifestation. Stillness being the canvas on which the eternal presents its life forms, and listening to the subtle sounds of nature helps in refining the consciousness of listening.
To quote from Byron:-
There’s music in the sighing of a reed;
There’s music in the gushing of a rill,
There’s music in all things, if men had ears,
Their earth is but an echo of the spheres.
Nada Yoga the Yoga of listening has been from the earliest times a reference to the mystical or inner sounds, which can be heard during this form of meditation. These sounds are referred to in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, and to quote a few lines from these early Sutras.
“Yogis who practise Samadhi (Contemplation) on those internal sounds experience an indescribable joy”.
“The Muni (Sage) should close his ears with his hands and fix his attention on the internal sounds until he attains perfect stillness”.
“At the beginning of practice various sound are heard, and as practice continues subtler and higher sounds”.
The Pradipika also describes the types of sounds, which are heard, such as the sounds of the ocean, small drum, a conch, a bell and a gong.
For many people sounds heard within the ears are an unwanted phenomenon and listed under the medical condition “tinnitus aurium”. It may be that some of these sounds are more than just a malfunction of the hearing system, as Yogi Dr Ramamurti Mishra, when a guest at Faith House Yoga and Natural Health Centre, put forward a remarkable theory, that some tinnitus was the result of psychic or higher levels of consciousness, attempting to make a break through whenever a change of direction was needed.
It is during the meditative process of stilling the mind and listening that we become aware of the profoundly subtle, and if we attempt to verbalise the intuitive response at this level it can resemble a Zen koan. For example one meditator described the transcendent sound of the breath as the ‘sound of unstruck gold’, which at one level appeared very apt, but at another not to make much sense.
The Yoga of listening is both therapeutic and healing as there is a level of transcendent awareness at which healing is more likely, help along the way is listening to sacred music. Which one writer described as music that is not chained to the instrument, but which when released reaches heavenward, transforming the nature of the listener?
It is worth noting that there is a close link between the Sanskrit word Nada (sound) and Nadi (nerve Vessel), that is the channels in which the which the vital force travels around the body, and when listening to music the body becomes a sounding board and the music can be felt to resonate at different levels. The purer the tone the more specific is the level affected.
To quote from an article by Roland Everett, Music in Teaching.
The three families of the musical instruments are representative of the three elements of music, of melody, harmony and rhythm, and these again are closely connected with threefold Man in his thinking, feeling and willing.
Instruments Elements of Music Faculties of Man
Pipe – wind section of an orchestra melody thinking
Lyre –string section of an orchestra harmony feeling
Drum – percussion section of an orchestra rhythm willing
Background music played in a Yoga class can prove to be a useful aid in creating a stress free and relaxing atmosphere as well as being conducive to healing, and to support this here is an extract from an article by June Kynaston “Can Music cure sick minds?” (Health for All, July 1958). Hephzibah Menuhin, the concert pianist and sister of violinist Yehudi Menuhin, claims to have made an extraordinary experiment with music. It is the curing and rehabilitation of the insane through social clubs in which music plays a very large part.
“Music is a mysterious thing” she said, “like the mind. Perhaps that is why I have found it a language that speaks directly to lost minds,” Between concerts and recording sessions, Hephzibah spends much time in mental hospitals playing, singing and talking to patients… In Australia, three hospitals have paid tribute to this novel approach to mental patients, which, is unlike the dangerous medical methods at present in vogue, may prove to be a humane contribution to the constructive treatment of mental illness.
There is no doubt as to the value of music in its ability to calm and relax and for sacred music in its power to build up and mould the organs of spiritual perception. It is however an aid under the control and direction of the Will, not the earth bound Will conditioned by earthly expediency but the Will of the higher Self and Supreme that flows through life and nature and to quote Schopenhauer “music is the inner life of the Cosmos”. The aim of Nada Yoga does not lie in the separate notes which appear in time but in the space between and the transcendent harmonies, beyond which lies perfect stillness and the silent voice of the Universe.
Many inner sounds or voices are not mystical in origin, but suppressed thoughts long kept out of sight. By meditating with a still mind thoughts will rise like bubbles to the surface of a pool. You will hear the sounds of parents and educators telling you things. Some things you will agree with and others not. Some things will be said with great authority, none the less examine them all and say to yourself “do I really believe these things”? If they stand the test of your Conscious examination, affirm them and make them your own and keep them close to your heart. If not, throw them out, and by so doing avoid the second death, which will be the death of all your unrelated ideas. By so doing you will be working to be reborn in this lifetime to all that is universally true.
Listening to spiritual and uplifting music is simply a means to an end on the Journey toward experiencing Nada Yoga and the perfect stillness which is the living backdrop to life itself. The music, sounds or mantras that we choose are usually subjective and we have to discover our own as time and place will determine the music that is needed for the next step. The right music has the power to transform at the levels of Mind, Feeling and Will and to quote a line from Carlyle, “Music is a kind of inarticulate speech, which leads us to the edge of the infinite and let us for a moment gaze into that”
A good time to listen to relaxing and soothing music is immediately prior to sleep when it has the power to calm the mind after a busy day and transport us into the eternal presence of the Divine. Here is a quote from the writer Eleanor C. Merry in “The Flaming Door” (Rider)… (Music) is there in eternal and inaudible beauty and we speak of this – to us – inaudible beauty, as the “harmony of the spheres”. Sometimes, in the moment of waking out of a sleep we can feel ourselves streaming earthwards in a river of light and of great organ tones – a magnificent and indescribable harmony comes with us, “trailing clouds of glory”. Then suddenly we are awake, and it is silent.
The pure sounds and tones which we experience in music, mantra and the sounds of nature, remind us of God as Supreme Artist and the harmonies we establish within ourselves provide the subtle link between the world in which we live and the profound underlying stillness in which wisdom lies. Great teachers of the past such as Patanjali came to this realisation and to remind us of his sutra. “Yoga is controlling the activities of the mind (chitta)”. Which when achieved with full awareness we can truly listen to the pure tones subtle harmonies that we associate with Truth, Beauty and Goodness.