Himalayan Yoga Academy

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Nada Yoga : The Yoga of Sound

25 Mar 2022 HYN Himalayan Yoga Academy

Nada Yoga

Nada Yoga is the ancient Yoga of sound- both the inaudible and the audible – and we have considered it from time to time already, nothing the concept of inaudible sound quite carefully. It has been said by Alain Presencer that those Tibetans who worked with the bowls followed the sound into the silence. We have also noted that the ancient Chinese bellmakers were asked to create a bell that was most sonorous and that rang on for a long time. The dividing line between the sound of the bowl and silence can be very blurred when a bowl rings on for anything from one to over four minutes. Hearing sound turn slowly into the voice of the silence brings us quite naturally to the study of nada yoga. This non-linguistic element of music bridges our world with that of the formless. The singing bowls would be a natural complement to nada yoga, offering one of the simplest forms of music. They provide us with the opportunity to enter into what lives within that one sound. With the bowls, the sound does not move very far away from the silence. As the inner sound of the nada yogi is a call to the spirit, so, too, the various bowls, each with their unique sound, call us to join with one aspect of the spiritual community of beings. One of the best singing bowls that I`ve found for this is the Manipura Lingams.

From within the enormous number of thoughts that may arise from this one world, sound, let us begin with the lexical definition of mada that reads: ‘A loud sound, roaring, bellowing, crying, any sound or tone, the nasal sound represented by a semicircle( in Yoga philosophy) and used as an abbreviation in mystical words’. Etymologically, nada means ‘flow of consciousness’ and so it is that some speak of it as the ‘Sound Current’. For the initiate, nada is the primal vibration, the divine ever-present creative sound, and the very core of spiritual practice. The syllable na means breathe, and the syllable da the fire ( of intellect) . Born of the union of breath and fire, intelligible sound is called nada.

The expression, nada yoga, adds another word. The word yoga means union; that is ; union with the divine source of all life, whilst nada is often translated as sound or river. The Hindu goddess of music is named Saraswoti after an incident river in India. As the divine is living within all things, so it is that there  are many rivers or pathways to the divine. The major ones are probably raja yoga, karma yoga, jnana yoga, hatha yoga, laya yoga, bhakti yoga, and mantra yoga, but we find forty others including agni yoga, kriya yoga, shiva yoga, and nada yoga.

Nada Yoga: The Branch of Mantra Yoga :

In a sense, nada yoga could be seen as a branch of mantra yoga, as both are concerned with sound. From the views of both, vac, the Hindu metaphysics of sound( which teaches that sound has a fourfold process), and the inclusive tantric perspective, nada yoga could be said to incorporate and include all forms of sound or music. However, in practice, the nada yogi places his or her focus upon what is termed the anahata nada or the inaudible ( or to use the more literal translation, `unstruck`) sound. That is to say, it represents a sound that is not made as a result of two or more objects striking one another. It is, in fact, a sound not coming to the human ear from outside of the body but rather from within. However, it isn`t an imagined sound- such as might happen were we to recall a sound or piece of music to ourselves and sing it in silence, mentally. Neither is it an “earworm”- the phenomenon we know so well when we have some song or tune irritatingly repeating itself over and over inside our heads. Nor is it like the sound inside our ears during take-off in a plane, as it rises up higher and higher, or like the sound inside a deep lift shaft nor any other such physical situations where we experience the sensation of sounding inside of our ears. Neither is it tinnitus.

The way of inner sound is found in certain spiritual organizations established in their tradition where one can safely unfold this gift. Being rooted in the eternal truth, it is also ever-present for those who can provide the right conditions for its manifestation independently. I know of a few such that have been blessed with this gift. Nada is a form of yoga suited to those who are attracted to work with sound. There have been periods in history when this form of yoga has had little appeal and only a very few yogis have followed the demands of such a path. It is only relatively recently that it has become known in the west. The aim of the nada yogi is to find the inaudible sound within and, meditating with this experience, to enter into communication with the Supreme being and so attain liberation. Listening to the inner sound is a way of purifying the nadis – or subtle channels within the body.

It is not uncommon nowadays for nada yoga teachers to be involved with music-making, too. The exploration of music has been developing since the Middle Ages but it is only in the past few centuries that a connection between music and nada yoga has been established, although it remains one of the least documented streams of sacred sound. With musicians who choose nada yoga, the structure of the musical tradition forms part of their nada yoga practice. For instance, the singing of the musical scales, or the playing of the notes of a raga, and with yoga hari, the particular method of playing the Indian harmonium, comprise the practice. But in essence, it is the practice of listening to the inner inaudible sound that has been the way.

Conclusion : Nada Yoga

To summarize, Nada yoga is the path of union with the Divine through sound or music. Many great religions also state that the origin of life is sound or vibration. Once we are able to reach that place of great stillness and silence deep within our hearts, we are able hear this ‘ Music of the Spheres’ and are able to approach the source of our being through this gateway of vibration. or via this path of sound, than of hearing ten inner sounds. Samadhi or union with the paramatman or totality can be entered into through nada yoga.

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