Sound & Light Resonances


In INSIGHTS by StillJustJames12 Comments

All meditation practices use a support, at least initially, upon which you focus your attention. This is done in order to keep your mind in check. It is through the slowing down and even pausing of mental chatter that the common health-related benefits, including tranquillity in the face of stress, and improved concentration are obtained. These are the most sought after results of meditation, and most mindfulness meditators today are happy with those results. Mindfulness meditation is quick, it’s easy, and it’s productive… so why not?

Mindfulness meditation uses different types of phenomena as the support for the practice. The support is that which you focus your attention on in a mindful manner. The breath is the most frequently used, but really any phenomenon will suffice as they are equally beneficial. Through the effort to focus the attention, you can calm your mind.

But there are other types of meditation, with other goals. Most of these other goals are directed at various aspects of enlightenment, via a progression of insights gained through the meditation technique. And then, of course, there are the various types of yoga which are based upon physical movement and postures. Here too, the goal today is mostly in health benefits, including improved range of motion, balance, body awareness, and flexibility. Interestingly, yoga was originally an important entryway into an advanced type of meditation. It was also referred to as yoga and was specifically called Nadanusandhana, and it was said that it was the ultimate goal of all the other yoga practices.

Milarepa, listening.

That name comes from the root Sanskrit word Nāda meaning sound, but in this case the sound in question was characterized as Anāhata Nāda, unstruck sound. It is said that this is experienced by many that practice yoga. This unstruck sound is not heard in the common sense of hearing, but within the mind, as this sound is awakened within by the yogic practices. Nadanusandhana is a meditation practice that uses these unstruck sounds to further progress on the path to enlightenment.

But this is not the only one type of practice that uses these unstruck sounds. The Four Elements Inner Spontaneous Sound Yoga is another kind of practice that use the unstruck sounds, and is unrelated to Hatha yoga practices. The name of this practice includes the word yoga, however, because it specifically makes use of union with the unstruck sounds, in a particular way, in order to catalyze fundamental changes in you, the practitioner. Thus this meditation practice is notable for two things: first, it does not use a physical caused phenomenon as a support, and second, its result goes beyond the body-related benefits of mindfulness meditation and basic yoga practices.

The particular support used in this practice has been used in different ways in many spiritual and religious traditions. Unfortunately, each use has earned it a different name. So besides the already mentioned Anāhata Nāda, it is also called: Astral sound, Dharmata Swayambhu Nada, Divine Tremoring, Eternal Sound, Inner Sound, Music of the Spheres, Primordial Sound, Sacred Sound, Shabda, Sound of Creation, Sound of Silence, also Thunder of Silence, Soundless Sound, Transcendental Sound, Unborn Sound, Unstruck Sound, and The Word of God.

And I have added another name because this practice is not presented here in relation to any doctrinal system, but has been specifically reframed to focus on the practice and its result, which are not in any way dependent on a doctrinal system to understand. Thus I call the support of the Four Elements practice: autogenous resonances. The Four Elements Inner Spontaneous Sound Yoga is an advanced meditation practice that uses these autogenous resonances in a specific way to catalyze particular changes in the practitioner.

In Tibetan Buddhism, these autogenous resonances are known to be the self-arising sound of the naturing of Dharmata. The Dharmata is the intrinsic nature of reality. These sounds then are the reverberations, or resonances, arising in harmony with the naturing of everything. In Hindu traditions, in which these autogenous resonances are known as the Anāhata Nāda, they are described in many ways, and are sometimes presented as vibrations, or tremoring.

However, it is confusing to think of these sounds as vibrations because vibrations require space, time, and the movement of something, but the Anāhata Nāda is unstruck, and the Dharmata is timeless, and its essence is empty, i.e., both are commonly presented as non-physical, non-spatial, non-temporal, and non-substantial. How then is there vibration?

Because this practice is presented outside of any particular doctrinal system, including that of the current physicalist view of a material reality, all unnecessary complications have been distilled out it. Instead, see these autogenous resonances as what is noticed when you turn your attention inward and away from all outward phenomena. This inward turn does not mean just inside you, because then it would be limited to the whoosh of blood, the thumping of your heart, the gurgles of your digestion, and the cracks and gratings of bones. Rather, this inward turn is into your mind, and it employs that which is interpreted as sound by your mind.

The more you place your attention, without straining, on these autogenous resonances in your mind, the more developed they become over time. And since they do not block each other, the more developed they become, the richer the experience becomes, as they are all present to your awareness together.

The different kinds of resonances are often described in relation to the different centers and flows of your subtle energetic body, a term that is let stand here because of its recognized effective and practical use in Acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Medical Chi Gong, and of course, Yoga. So what you are really doing as you develop these resonances is gathering yourself into a harmonious whole. Great tranquillity comes from this, and that is the first benefit to be derived from using this support and this practice.

Initially, these resonances are not apparent, or very subtle, and require a great deal of patience to access. Meditation is sometimes described as listening to the silence between thoughts, and our effort in meditation is rightfully directed towards consciously increasing the periods of such silence. And yet, silence is heard, even though there is no phenomenon that is causing a sound. In the same way, these autogenous resonances are heard even though there is no source for them. They are self-arising, uncreated, and not dependent or contingent on any external or internal cause.

There is one important difference between this support and all others that is crucial, however. In the Buddhist Shurangama Sutra, the Bodhisattva Manjushri, who is associated with transcendent wisdom, explains that this support, since it is not a contingent, compounded or caused, phenomenon as all others are, it is continuous in the sense that it does not arise and pass away as the breath does, and as normal sounds do. It is therefore always present when we turn to it. All other supports, such as the breath, are discontinuous, and thus one reaches a point where, in order to proceed further and accomplish greater concentration leading to enlightenment, one needs the presence of Dharma teachings and an enlightened teacher to overcome their discontinuous nature. This is why, according to the Surangama Sutra, all Buddhas reach enlightenment through the use of this support alone. However, we can just say that these resonances are important because of this one fact: they bring our attention onto the fundamental and essential nature of the mind itself, and this leads directly to enlightenment.

There are two renowned changes that are catalyzed by this practice, which I can attest to based upon my own use of it, that I’ll mention: One is a remarkable ability to be patient. Very little fazes you, and you have a seemingly limitless equanimity when dealing with difficult situations. The second change is much more remarkable and is attested to in every tradition where this support has been used, it changes you so that you begin to manifest great compassion. This is called mahākaruṇā in Sanskrit, and it is well-known in Buddhist and Hindu traditions. In brief, you become self-less and your every act sublimates into the ultimate compassionate response to whatever situation confronts you. Loving-kindness becomes an automatic response, unclouded by any unbalanced self-interest, thus your compassion is equally balanced between yourself and others. In short, compassionate virtue is the effect of using this support.

About the Author


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James is a writer, philosopher, contemplative practitioner and theorist, living in the Dordogne region of France, where he runs a Bed & Breakfast. He was formerly a software engineer in New York, as well as a university professor of philosophy where he taught Ethics, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Nature, and meditation. Other LEVEKUNST articles by the same author.

Photo provided by the author. Milarepa image from a cave in Nepal.

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    When was this posted originally, please?

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    You (a sense of separate entity) say “I’m not doing anything other than conditioning my mind”.

    The above statement shows as if there is an entity called you, I, me, mine, etc which is perhaps altogether false. Next as if this entity is in control of the activities (including so called thinking and conditioning) of the body. Without the so called thought even the sense of being cannot be expressed. Important question is that is there really a thought as such? Is it not simply an interpretation of electrical impulses by the nervous system as per its training which is continuously going on? No training (whether by oneself or others) of nervous system no question of existence of thought although electrical impulses would be there because that exists as such.

    The “life force as such” again just a pointer (concept) for an imagined thing because of which the life forms appear to be living, perhaps has nothing to do with any of our (body’s) so called spiritual ideas and experiences.

    However in “so called my” view the most important existential questions are who am I and where am I? Until and unless these questions are not solved, all are just mental entertainment or throwing the arrows in dark.

    Anyway thanks for your lovely reply!

    1. James Corrigan Author

      This is why, in nondual traditions, spiritual practitioners are warned away from conceptual thinking, and toward meditative practices, since the content of concepts does not bring one toward an understanding of reality and its unity, but instead, leads further into the imaginative world of human ideas and the illusion of agency.

      But there is a difference between thoughts that reflect truth, even if imperfectly, and those that are imaginative assertions of universality: the former entail a turn back toward unity, while the latter maintain a focus upon phenomenal manifestations and a search therein for the shadows of unity.

      We notice aspects of manifested phenomena and we fabricate names for them. Sometimes what we are noticing has no truth in reality at all and thus are error and false belief; other times they are but the faint appearance of some truth, which, like the elephant of Indian lore, is characterized this way and that because its unity is not seen. Only the names of imaginative imagery are.

      You asked and answered your important question. But your answer reminds me of some scientists who decided they would discover how we focus our attention on only some visual stimuli while ignoring the rest. After much work that resulted in complete failure, they noticed a small bundle of nerves hanging off the optic nerve and decided that had to be the solution! Not being able to explain how the brain focuses its attention on something, they pointed to that much smaller and less complex bundle of nerves hidden in back of the eye and—without explaining how it does it—claimed that was where the focusing of attention on a subset of the arriving visual stimuli happened. Just more dust under the carpet I suppose…

      Which leads me to remark that your repeated assertion about that magical and unexplained: “interpretation of electrical impulses by the nervous system as per its training which is continuously going on” cannot possibly be the answer to anything at all.

      I have found the most effective way to answer the “most important existential questions” is not to “solve” them, but to let them go, seeing them as just more illusion—and one accomplishes that by meditating upon their arising in the mind, and not thinking about their imaginative and erroneous content.

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    The article is definitely quite well written.

    But the basic truth is that there is no entity as such to do anything whatsoever including listening the so called Anahat Nada.

    It’s all electrochemical reactions happening inside the body and the interpretation of electrical impulses flowing through the nervous system. The interpretation happens as per conditioning (training) of nervous system. No electrochemical reactions and no electrical impulses hence no interpretation, hence, no question of existence of an entity nor any question of interpretation of impulses as this or that (light or sound or any experience).

    1. James Corrigan Author

      Hello Raman,

      Thank you for your complement about my writing.

      I see a confusion in your critique of the need for such an article as this one, and that confusion is reinforced for me by the scientific explanation of how sense perceptions occur in the brain that you give as your reasoning.

      You use the word “conditioning” in regards to the nervous system, and I prefer to use that word myself for my daily meditation conditioning.

      I prefer that word over the more common word used, “practice,” because I’m not doing anything other than conditioning my mind.

      What arises because of that conditioning of my mind is, of course, not my doing as it happens spontaneously. It is my attention, however, that has turned toward mind conditioning practices, such as the use of inner spontaneous sound techniques, that has opened up new possibilities in my life.

      I could be watching television instead, and then different things would happen in my life. I’d probably never get enlightened while watching television, just as an astronomer would probably never come up with a better way to solder plumbing pipes—she would be so busy watching the sky that she would never focus on the issue of leaky pipes!

      So what have you done, by saying that there is “no entity as such” (I agree!) that needs to do conditioning, but then explain how the nervous system (something!) needs to be conditioned. I guess underneath your “basic truth” is a more basic truth: there are no entities as such, and by conditioning one’s mind on a daily basis, opening up new possibilities for what self-less-ly arises in one’s life, one day, suddenly, an insight will arise in one’s meditation about what truly is meant by “no entities as such.”

      Forms are empty; Emptiness is form.

      Forms self-less-ly, spontaneously, and coherently manifest, and they are without an inherent self-existence.

      Forms arise from the ground of their naturing, without leaving the ground or being other than the ground—just like ocean waves arise from the ocean, without leaving the ocean, or being anything other than the ocean.

      “Emptiness,” the name given to this understanding, is just another kind of form that arises coherent with the conditioning of one’s mind—it is a thought-form.

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    This seems to be an article “about” the fact that such practices exist.
    Despite the fact that you claim to be reducing such practices to a purely non religious
    I.e. Non Buddhist context,
    I don’t see any guidance in your article about how to actually practice at all.
    So what gives.??
    Even TULKU Orgyen Rinpoche would often give pointing out to anyone, even non Buddhists
    But you seem religiously constrained to even talk about practice aspects here. I doubt that would be the case if you had realized results from this practice..??!!@!

    1. James Corrigan Author

      Hello John,

      I apologize for the late reply! I’ve been so busy writing a book (to be called “Tranquillity’s Secret”) about inner spontaneous sound practices, that I didn’t have time to respond (nor, actually, the inclination). The book is almost 700 pages long now, and I’m only half-way, and four years, through it, so by your logic I must have seen quite a great deal of results from this practice since I have so much to say about it!

      And when you see it, I hope you won’t excoriate me for having written it, in the way that I’ve written it!!! 😁

      But in defense of my decision to extricate them from the variety of their implementations (in order to get to the heart of their importance), since these practices exist in all spiritual traditions, and since the phenomenon of inner spontaneous sound has also been experienced by notable individuals (Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, for example) outside of any tradition (because they went on to found their tradition), it’s truly hard to label the practices as the intellectual property of any one of them!

      But I have gone to the trouble to document every tradition and individual using these techniques that I can find, with relevant quotes from source documents–these practices are so ancient they precede writing, by the way–so I am not taking credit for anything, rest assured.

      In the meantime, I’d like to share with you a short little story about Padmasambhava and human ignorance, that I have included in the foreword to my book:

      “While demonstrating some of the extraordinary signs of his realization near the Mahabodhi Stupa in Bodhgaya, an old lady asked him, “Who is your teacher? To which lineage do you belong?” Guru Rinpoche replied, “I have no teacher and have no need of one. Neither do I belong to any particular lineage. I am a totally enlightened being, primordially aware.” The old woman immediately responded by saying, “Oh, that’s not right. Without the blessings of a teacher, you cannot be enlightened. You must have a connection with a master. Lacking that, no one will accept your words.” He quickly understood the import of the old woman’s statement in relation to making the teaching available to others. To demonstrate the supreme means of approaching the Dharma, “the Supreme Knowledge Holder” (Padmasambhava) began to seek out lineage masters and followed teachings according to their instructions. This indicates that even if you are already a highly enlightened being, it is still necessary to have lineage connections[1].”

      [1] “The Eight Manifestations Of Gurupadmasambhava,” by Khenchen Palden Sherab

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    Also note: the sound of rushing wind, the Ancient Greek rhoizos; the motion of the stars as “rushing harmonious voices,” rhoizoumenas enharmonious phônas in Iamblichian theurgy. Peter Kingsley describes the significance of this sound associated with the sun for the initiates of Apollo (In the Dark Places of Wisdom, 125-33). It’s the sound the stars make as they turn through the heavens that composes the music of the spheres, for Neoplatonic thought.

    1. James Corrigan Author

      Hi Randy! Long time, no see. Thank you for these references. I was in the States in December and I brought back my copy of “In The Dark Places of Wisdom” because I thought it would be pertinent to what I am doing. I had already written extensively about the “piping” sound that is prominently mention by Parmenides in the proem to his poem. I just read the referenced section you mention above and it is excellent. Merci beaucoup!

      Do you have a preferred source for Iamblichus where I might find more on the references you shared? Part of the work I am doing is collecting all the different references to these convergent practices that use the inner spontaneous sounds.

      Thanks again, Randy!

  6. Erik Pema Kunsang

    Received from Trong Suốt:

    A good article! This sound come from the empty nature, it is primordial and not external, for a person that close enough to the Source it spontaneously manifested without you to have to put attention to it. For me, it comes from born and along in my childhood as far as I can remember, and now it manifested as part of my clarity, continuously, naturally, 24/7.

    While the content of the article is good in many extent but the image of Milarepa seems to listen to something outside that the author used is quite misleading. His posture is for a kind of practice of Atiyoga. The sound is not external and is not heard by the ears. If you put your hand in a posture like Milarepa the sound is not louder or clearer. It remains the same.

    With respect.
    Trong Suốt

  7. Erik Pema Kunsang

    Received from Bob Phelps:

    Nada Brahma: The World : The World Is Sound by Joachim Ernst Brendt was among the most important and life-changing books that I so luckily encountered when first encountering the Dharma a quarter century or so ago. I remain infinitely grateful for both.

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