Sound & Light Resonances


In INSIGHTS by James Corrigan4 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

James Corrigan

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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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  1. 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. 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!

  2. 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

  3. 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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