“Nada” — The Divine Melody
‘Nada’ (pronounced as — Naad): Literally, the sound, noise, chime; mystically, the eternal Sound or Melody; (the Holy Word; the Audible Life Stream) the Sound Current; used in the Upanishads and later texts for the Sound which created and maintains the entire universe. Saints and yogis have commonly spoken of the anahata Nada (un-struck Sound).
The primary characteristic of sound is vibration and movement. The physical senses are essentially organs which respond to movement and vibration of various kinds. The eyes respond to light or electromagnetic vibration. The sensation of sound results from the detection of vibrations in air or water. The response of the tongue and nose to different substances comes about through movement and activity at a molecular and atomic level. Touch is a response to the shape, consistency and density of things — characteristics of matter derived from the internal motion and interaction of atoms and molecules.
Everything at a physical level is the result of vibration and movement. What creatures consider to be the physical universe is actually no more than the input to their sense organs of vibrations of various kinds which are then experienced in their own minds. Even scientific studies of physical matter reveal that its fundamental reality is one of intense movement at subatomic and even deeper levels.
Existence and movement are thus inextricably intertwined. The one cannot exist without the other. And while scientists have been very astute at describing the characteristics of this motion and utilizing this study in the development of technology, they admit that the fundamental source of this amazing and continuous motion is unknown. The universe is seemingly in perpetual motion at both sub-microscopic as well as galactic levels, but the fundamental reason ‘why’, remains a mystery.
Some scientists and philosophers have come close to the descriptions of mystics when they have suggested that the fundamental reality of the universe is a Sound or a Motion that rings and flows through all things. But the idea is not a new one. Mystics have said that this Sound can be known as reality through direct, personal mystic experience. In the Vedas, among the oldest of the world’s writings, this creative Sound is called the Nada, which means Sound, while other Indian mystics have called it the Shabd, which means Word or Sound. Many other similar names have also been used.
Mystics say that this creative Sound is God Himself in dynamic action. God is the centre of all existence. He is the One — at rest, motionless, undifferentiated, silent and pure. His act of creation is really an act of projection or emanation. He makes waves within Himself; and the primary wave or motion from which all other motion is derived, and by which it is actively sustained, is His Sound, also called His Word, His Cry, His Voice, His Call, His Name — and by many other names. Inayat Khan says:
Vibration was the first original aspect of Brahma, the creator. Every impulse, every action on any plane of existence has its origin in the one Source.
-lnayat Khan, Sufi Message, The Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan, vol.8 p.145
The Vedanta speaks of Nada Brahman, Sound-God, meaning that the Word or Sound or Vibration was the creative aspect of God, which shows that the mystic does not differ much from the scientist who says that movement is the basis of the whole creation. When one finds this similarity between the conception of the scientists of today and that of the mystics, the teachers of ancient times, one begins to agree with Solomon that there is nothing new under the sun. The difference is that the mystics of ancient times did not make a limit called movement or vibration, but they traced its source in the divine Spirit.
-Inayat Khan, Sufi Message, The Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan, vol.2 p.185
Just as the mind, through the physical senses, can perceive some of this Vibration or Sound at the physical level, though without realizing what it is, so too do the mind and soul possess the faculty of hearing on the inner planes of creation. And there they can realize the source of what they hear. The mind and soul are also endowed with the faculty of inner sight, but — as in the physical realm — this sight is derived from the vibration of the ‘substance’ there. That is, inner sight is also derived from the primary Sound.
All of creation, then, possesses its own Sound, and mystics point out that this Sound is experienced differently in different realms. In the absence of any adequate language to describe things which lie beyond this world, they have likened these sounds to the sounds of this world. Speaking of the sounds heard in the early stages of meditation, the Nada Bindu Upanishad says:
Sitting firmly in the cross-legged posture (siddhasana),
the yogi should adopt the yogic pose of the devotee (vaishnavi mudra),
and listen fixedly to the Sound (Nada) from within
that comes from the right side.
This practice of (listening to) the inner Sound (Nada)
makes him deaf to external sounds.
Overcoming all obstacles,
he will enter turiya pada (super-consciousness)
within fifteen days.
In the beginning of the practice,
many kinds of loud sound (nada) are heard.
But as the practice progresses, they increase in pitch
and are experienced with increasing subtlety.
At first, there are sounds like those coming from the ocean,
from the clouds, from a kettledrum and from waterfalls.
In an intermediate stage, they are like those
emanating from a mardala (small drum), a bell and a horn.
Lastly, they are like those produced
from tinkling bells, a flute,
a vina and the humming of bees.
Thus, many kinds of sound (nada) are heard
possessing increasing subtlety.
When he reaches that stage
where the sound (nada) of the great kettledrum is heard,
he should try to distinguish
only the more increasingly subtle sounds (nadas).
He may shift his concentration
from the gross sound (nada) 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 on any one sound,
fixes firmly to that, and is absorbed in it.
The mind, becoming insensible to external impressions,
becomes one with the sound (nada), as milk with water,
rapidly becoming absorbed in chidakasha (sky of the body).
Being indifferent towards all objects,
the yogin, having controlled his passions,
should by continual practice
concentrate his attention upon the Sound (Nada)
that destroys the mind.
Having abandoned all thoughts
and becoming freed from all actions,
always focus attention on the Sound (Nada).
The mind will then merge completely in the Sound (Nada).
-Nada Bindu Upanishad 31–41; Thirty Minor Upanishads by K N Aiyar, pp.196–197, 315–316; The Yoga Upanishads by Ayyangar & S’astri, pp.177–178
The author of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, clearly aware of the Nada Bindu Upanishad, writes in a similar manner:
The yogi … should listen with collected mind to the Nada heard inside the right ear. Closing the ears, eyes, nose and mouth, a clear, distinct sound will be heard in the purified sushumna (central current of life energy) ….
A feeling of bliss will be experienced in the void of the heart, and the unstruck Sound (Anahata), like the sound of tinkling ornaments, will be heard within the body.
-Hatha Yoga Pradipika 4:66–67, 69; Hatha Yoga Pradiptika, by Pancham Singh, pp.56–57
In my opinion, contemplation on the space between the eyebrows (the actual cross/third eye) is the best for rapid attainment of the mindless (unmani) state. Even for those of lesser intellect, it is a suitable method for attaining perfection in Raja yoga. The Laya (absorption) attained through Nada gives immediate experience.
The bliss in the hearts of yogishvars who remain in Samadhi (absorption) through attention to Nada is beyond description…. Closing the ears with his fingers, the muni (sage) should listen attentively to the inner Nada until the mind becomes fixed in it. Then the state of stillness is achieved.
By sustained listening to the Nada, awareness of external sound diminishes. The yogi thereby feels great joy, overcoming mental distractions within fifteen days.
-Hatha Yoga Pradipika 4:79–82; Hatha Yoga Pradiptika, by Pancham Singh, pp.58–59
The writer continues, now following the Nada Bindu Upanishad quite closely, though adding to it:
Just as the bee prinks nectar, caring not for the fragrance (of the flower), so does a mind which is always absorbed in the Sound (Nada) entertain no craving for sensory things. Bound to the sweetness of the Sound (Nada), it abandons its flitting nature.
With the sharp goad of anahata Nada, the mind, which is like a rogue elephant roaming in the garden of the senses, is controlled. When the mind is caught in the snare of Nada, it gives up its restlessness, and becomes calm like a bird with clipped wings. Those desirous of the kingdom of yoga should take up the practice of the un-struck Sound (anahata Nada) with a collected mind, free from all cares. The Nada is like a lure for catching a deer (mind). When caught like a deer, it can also be killed like a deer. The Nada is the bolt on the stable door, locking the horse (the mind) inside. A yogi must resolve to meditate regularly upon the Nada. As liquid mercury is solidified by sulphur, so is the mind bound by Nada, and freed from restlessness…. As a serpent is captivated (by music), forgetting everything else, so too does the mind cease from movement on hearing the Nada.
-Hatha Yoga Pradipika 4:89- 96; Hatha Yoga Pradiptika, by Pancham Singh, pp.59–60; Nada Bindu Upanishad 42, 44–45
The Hamsa Upanishad enumerates similar initial sounds heard after strenuous repetition of a mantra. It also adds that the tenth sound can be heard without hearing the first nine. “Chini” and “chinchini” are onomatopoeic words, like ‘tweet’:
Nada is heard after repeating this japa (mantra)
ten million times.
Nada is of, ten kinds:
The first is ‘chini’;
the second is ‘chinchini’;
the third is the sound (nada) of a bell;
the fourth, that of a conch (shankha);
the fifth, of a lute (tantri);
the sixth is the sound (nada) of cymbals (tala);
the seventh of a flute (venu);
the eighth of mridanga (double-ended drum);
the ninth of bheri (a coarse wind instrument);
the tenth of the clouds (thunder).
He may experience the tenth without the first nine sounds.
-Hamsa Upanishad 16; Thirty Minor Upanishads by K N Aiyar, pp.163, 299
Echoing the Upanishads, and pointing out that these sounds emanate from sahans dal kanwal (thousand-petalled lotus), the central powerhouse of the astral realm, Charandas writes:
In the heavens is a thousand-petalled lotus,
where recitation is performed a thousand times (countlessly),
and where a powerful, radiant light is manifest.
Seek this by means of yoga,
and behold it with the eye of the soul.
There, ten forms of the Anahad (Unstruck) resound,
into which your being, merges.
-Charandas, in Mysticism: The Spiritual Path, by L R Puri, pp.89–90, http://www.scienceofthesoul.org/product_p/en-059-0.htm
More or less following the Hamsa Upanishad, he also enumerates the sounds:
There are ten forms of sound (nad): …
The first is like the chirping of chihn
the second, like the sound of chihn chihn.
The third is the tinkling of a small bell,
the fourth, the sound of conch (shankh).
The fifth sounds like a vina (bin, a stringed instrument),
the sixth, like cymbals (tal).
The seventh is like the sweet strains of a flute (muraliya),
the eighth sounds like a pakhavaj (double-ended drum),
the ninth, the sound of a nafiri (trumpet),
and the tenth rises like the roaring of a lion.
After leaving the nine and going towards the tenth,
you will hear the unstruck Melody (Anhad) and merge into it.
Then the soul will become as the unfathomable Brahm.
-Charandas, Bhakti Sagar, Ashtanga Yoga Varnan 58, p.64
According to those Saints who teach the higher Sound Current, all these sounds are preliminary. The Sound that confers salvation comes from the supreme Source. Referring, perhaps, to this higher Sound, the author of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika observes:
All bad karma is destroyed by the constant practise of Nada. The finite mind and prana dissolve into the supreme Spirit (Param-atman).
-Hatha Yoga Pradipika 4:104; Hatha Yoga Pradiptika, by Pancham Singh, pp.61–62
When speaking of this Sound, Indian Saints have commonly used such expressions as nirmal Naad (pure Sound), Naad bindu (seed Sound, primal Sound) and mul Nad (root Sound, essential Sound). It is called the immaculate or pure Sound to distinguish it from the lower sounds:
Obtaining divine comprehension from the true Guru,
the mortal abides within the Lord’s true home
in the state of seedless trance.
Nanak, within him resounds the
immaculate Music (nirmal Naad, pure Sound)
of the Name (Shabd Dhun, Melody of the Word),
and he merges in the Lord’s true Name (Naam).
-Guru Nanak, Adi Granth 1038
It is identified as the seed or primal Sound because it is the primal, creative, life-giving Vibration out of which all things grow, and in which all things are present as potential, just as a great tree grows from a small seed within which the blueprint and primal energy for the tree exist:
Only he who rejoices in the primal Sound (Naad bindu)
can be called a devotee of the Lord.
-Saint Kabir, Shabdavali 1, Jhulna 6:3, Kabir Sahib ki Shabdavali, vol.1 p. 74, Belvedere Printing Works
— Quoted in book “A Treasury of Mystic Terms, Part 1, Volume 3”
Labels: Adi Granth, audible life stream, Divine Power, guru nanak, kabir, nada, shabd, Word, उपनिषद, नाद, राग-ए-इल्लाही