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THE SHABD YOGA TECHNIQUE

The Shabd Yoga Technique

ESOTERICA FROM THE EAST

BOOK ONE

THE SHABD YOGA TECHNIQUE

The Theological Cul-de-sac:


How our spirituality gets entrapped by religious belief systems
Shabd yoga works. It is an ancient technique that when performed correctly can elicit a series of remarkable experiences, not the least of which is a deep sense of euphoria. However, this ancient practice (which apparently dates at least to the pre-Vedic period in India) has become so intertwined with varying religious doctrines (ranging from Nathism to Radhasoami) that the simplicity of its technique has been overshadowed by unnecessary theological overlays. The technique is not at all complex. Sitting as still as possible the neophyte calmly and patiently listens to subtler and subtler internal sounds within ones head with the desired aim of melting or blending into certain melodies which give one an almost immediate sense of bliss. Varying religious systems have arisen in India and elsewhere which have attempted to give a spiritual or ontological interpretation to what these inner sounds mean and what they purport. However, the technique itself doesnt have to be lost to such theological entrapments because it actually succeeds regardless of whether one is an atheist, agnostic, or a firm believer. Just as anyone can potentially have amazing dreams at night, so anyone can potentially hear inner sounds and have remarkable experiences thereby. But the utter simplicity of shabd yoga has all too often been encrusted with religious dogmas so that one tends to believe that a prior initiation under a so-called master is necessary before one can listen to the inner sound current. While guru followers may believe such, the fact remains that the technique demands no such restrictions since it is essentially the innate ability within human beings to focus their attention within. Seeing inner light or hearing inner sounds or following subjectively the source of ones consciousness isnt so much a granted privilege bestowed only on a deserving few, but instead part and parcel of being a human being endowed with self-reflective awareness. This book series, Esoterica from the East, is designed to present ancient yogic practices by focusing more on their technical aspect than their religious explanations. In order to accomplish this aim, we have tended to center on the practical aspects given in earlier codices even though they are invariably theologically embedded.

THE SHABD YOGA TECHNIQUE

Nada-Bindu Upanishad,
Translated by K. Narayanasvami Aiyar 26(b)-27. As a person through illusion mistakes a rope for a serpent, so the fool not knowing Satya (the eternal truth) sees the world (to be true). When he knows it to be a piece of rope, the illusory idea of a serpent vanishes. 28-29(a). So when he knows the eternal substratum of everything and all the universe becomes (therefore) void (to him), where then is Prarabdha to him, the body being a part of the world ? Therefore the word Prarabdha is accepted to enlighten the ignorant (only). 29(b)-30. Then as Prarabdha has, in course of time, worn out, he who is the sound resulting from the union of Pranava with Brahman who is the absolute effulgence itself, and who is the bestower of all good, shines himself like the sun at the dispersion of the clouds. 31. The Yogin being in the Siddhasana (posture) and practising the Vaishnavi-Mudra, should always hear the internal sound through the right ear. 32. The sound which he thus practises makes him deaf to all external sounds. Having overcome all obstacles, he enters the Turya state within fifteen days. 33. In the beginning of his practice, he hears many loud sounds. They gradually increase in pitch and are heard more and more subtly. 34. At first, the sounds are like those proceeding from the ocean, clouds, kettle-drum and cataracts; in the middle (stage) those proceeding from Mardala (a musical instrument), bell and horn. 35. At the last stage, those proceeding from tinkling bells, flute, Vina (a musical instrument) and bees. Thus he hears many such sounds more and more subtle. 36. When he comes to that stage when the sound of the great kettle-drum is being heard, he should try to distinguish only sounds more and more subtle.

THE SHABD YOGA TECHNIQUE

37. He may change his concentration from the gross sound to the subtle, or from the subtle to the gross, but he should not allow his mind to be diverted from them towards others. 38. The mind having at first concentrated itself on any one sound fixes firmly to that and is absorbed in it. 39. It (the mind) becoming insensible to the external impressions, becomes one with the sound as milk with water and then becomes rapidly absorbed in Chidakasa (the Akasa where Chit prevails). 40. Being indifferent towards all objects, the Yogin having controlled his passions, should by continual practice concentrate his attention upon the sound which destroys the mind. 41. Having abandoned all thoughts and being freed from all actions, he should always concentrate his attention on the sound and (then) his Chitta becomes absorbed in it. 42-43(a). Just as the bee drinking the honey (alone) does not care for the odour, so the Chitta which is always absorbed in sound, does not long for sensual objects, as it is bound by the sweet smell of Nada and has abandoned its flitting nature. 43(b)-44(a). The serpent Chitta through listening to the Nada is entirely absorbed in it and becoming unconscious of everything concentrates itself on the sound. 44(b)-45(a). The sound serves the purpose of a sharp goad to control the maddened elephant Chitta which roves in the pleasure-garden of the sensual objects. 45(b)-46(a). It serves the purpose of a snare for binding the deer Chitta. It also serves the purpose of a shore to the ocean waves of Chitta. 46(b)-47(a). The sound proceeding from Pranava which is Brahman is of the nature of effulgence; the mind becomes absorbed in it; that is the supreme seat of Vishnu. 47(b)-48(a). The sound exists till there is the Akasic conception (Akasa-Sankalpa). Beyond this, is the (Asabda) soundless Para-Brahman which is Paramatman. 48(b). The mind exists so long as there is sound, but with its (sounds cessation) there is the state called Unmani of Manas (viz., the state of being above the mind). 49(a). This sound is absorbed in the Akshara (indestructible) and the soundless state is

THE SHABD YOGA TECHNIQUE

the supreme seat. 49(b)-50(a). The mind which along with Prana (Vayu) has (its) Karmic affinities destroyed by the constant concentration upon Nada is absorbed in the unstained One. There is no doubt of it. 50(b)-51(a). Many myriads of Nadas and many more of Bindus (all) become absorbed in the Brahma-Pranava sound. 51(b)-52(a). Being freed from all states and all thoughts whatever, the Yogin remains like one dead. He is a Mukta. There is no doubt about this. 52(b). After that, he does not at any time hear the sounds of conch or Dundubhi (large kettle drum). 53. The body in the state of Unmani is certainly like a log and does not feel heat or cold, joy or sorrow. 54. The Yogins Chitta having given up fame or disgrace is in Samadhi above the three states. 55. Being freed from the waking and the sleeping states, he attains to his true state. 56. When the (spiritual) sight becomes fixed without any object to be seen, when the Vayu (Prana) becomes still without any effort, and when the Chitta becomes firm without any support, he becomes of the form of the internal sound of BrahmaPranava. Such is the Upanishad.

It is all a matter of unwavering attention. Every ray of attention must be centered and held there. It may be said safely that if any earnest student should hold his attention fully upon the given center for three hours, without wavering, he must go inside.Sawan Singh _______________

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Hatha Yoga Pradipika, 15TH century, by Svatmarama


PARICHAYA AVASTHA 73. In the third stage, the sound of a drum is known to arise in the Sunya between the eyebrows, and then the Vayu goes to the Mahasunya, which is the home of all the siddhis. 74. Conquering, then, the pleasures of the mind, ecstasy is spontaneously produced which is devoid of evils, pains, old age, disease, hunger and sleep. 75. When the Rudra granthi is pierced, and the air enters the seat of the Lord (the space between the eyebrows), then the perfect sound like that of a flute is produced. 76. The union of the mind and the sound is called the Raja-Yoga. The (real) Yogi becomes the creator and destroyer of the universe, like God. 77. Perpetual Happiness is achieved by this; I do not care if the mukti be not attained. This happiness, resulting from absorption (in Brama), is obtained by means of RajaYoga. 78. Those who are ignorant of the Raja-Yoga and practice only the Hatha-Yoga, will, in my opinion, waste their energy fruitlessly. 79. Contemplation on the space between the eyebrows is, in my opinion, best for accomplishing soon the Unmani state. For people of small intellect, it is a very easy method for obtaining perfection in the Raja-Yoga. The Laya produced by nada, at once gives experience (of spiritual powers). 80. The happiness which increases in the hearts of Yogiswaras, who have gained success in Samadhi by means of attention to the nada, is beyond description, and is known to Sri Guru Natha alone. 81. The sound which a muni hears by closing his ears with his fingers, should be heard attentively, till the mind becomes steady in it.

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82. By practicing with this nada, all other external sounds are stopped. The Yogi becomes happy by overcoming all distractions within 15 days. 83. In the beginning, the sounds heard are of great variety and very loud; but, as the practice increases, they become more and more subtle. 84. In the first stage, the sounds are surging, thundering like the beating of kettle drums and jingling ones. In the intermediate stage, they are like those produced by conch, Mridanga, bells, &c. 85. In the last stage, the sounds resemble those from tinklets, flute, Vina, bee, &c. These various kinds of sounds are heard as being produced in the body. 86. Though hearing loud sounds like those of thunder, kettle drums, &c., one should practice with the subtle sounds also. 87. Leaving the loudest, taking up the subtle one, and leaving the subtle one, taking up the loudest, thus practicing, the distracted mind does not wander elsewhere. 88. Wherever the mind attaches itself first, it becomes steady there; and when it becomes absorbed in it. 89. Just as a bee, drinking sweet juice, does not care for the smell of the flower; so the mind, absorbed in the nada, does not desire the objects of enjoyment. 90. The mind, like an elephant habituated to wander in the garden of enjoyments, is capable of being controlled by the sharp goad of anahata nada. 91. The mind, captivated in the snare of nada, gives up all its activity; and, like a bird with clipped wings, becomes calm at once. 92. Those desirous of the kingdom of Yoga, should take up the practice of hearing the anahata nada, with mind collected and free from all cares. 93. Nada is the snare for catching the mind; and, when it is caught like a deer, it can be killed also like it. 94. Nada is the bolt of the stable door for the horse (the minds of the Yogis). A Yogi should determine to practice constantly in the hearing of the nada sounds.

THE SHABD YOGA TECHNIQUE

95. Mind gets the properties of calcined mercury. When deprived of its unsteadiness it is calcined, combined with the sulphur of nada, and then it roams like it in the supportless akasa or Brahma. 96. The mind is like a serpent, forgetting all its unsteadiness by hearing the nada, it does not run away anywhere. 97. The fire, catching firewood, is extinguished along with it (after burning it up); and so the mind also, working with the nada, becomes latent along with it. 98. The antahkarana (mind), like a deer, becomes absorbed and motionless on hearing the sound of bells, etc.; and then it is very easy for an expert archer to kill it. 99. The knowable interpenetrates the anahata sound when it is heard, and the mind interpenetrates the knowable. The mind becomes absorbed there, which is the seat of the all-pervading, almighty Lord. 100. So long as the sounds continue, there is the idea of akasa. When they disappear, then it is called Para Brahma, Paramatmana. 101. Whatever is heard in the form of nada, is the sakti (power). That which is formless, the final state of the Tatwas, is the Parameswara. 102. All the methods of Hatha are meant for gaining success in Raja-Yoga; for, the man, who is well-established in the Raja-Yoga, overcomes death. 103. Tatwa is the seed, Hatha the field; and Indifference (Vairagya) the water. By the action of these three, the creeper Unmani thrives very rapidly. 104. All the accumulations of sins are destroyed by practicing always with the nada; and the mind and the airs do certainly become latent in the colorless (Paramatmana). 105. Such a one does not hear the noise of the conch and Dundubhi. Being in the Unmani avastha, his body becomes like a piece of wood. 106. There is no doubt, such a Yogi becomes free from all states, from all cares, and remains like one dead.

THE SHABD YOGA TECHNIQUE

Simran, Dhyan, and Bhajan:


Repetition, Focusing, and Listening
One of the more instructive books on the efficacy of constant repetition of a prayer or mantra (or even a self-generated phrase) is found in the anonymously authored, The Way of a Pilgram. In this narrative the author recounts how he learned that by repeating the Jesus prayer thousands of times a day his mind became inwardly centered and peaceful. In shabd yoga practice this mechanical repetition is a means by which ones attention begins to gravitate within. Concurrently with such repetition it has been advised to contemplate or focus ones visual faculty (nirat) at the proverbial third eye. To help facilitate this visual focusing (dhyan), some yogis have suggested contemplating on any sparking light that may arise. By doing both, the mind tends to get absorbed. The more this is done before even attempting to listening to the inner sound (bhajan), the easier it becomes to absorb ones self in subtler and subtler melodies. The first robust sensation that occurs which indicates that the meditation procedure is working is an overall numbness in the lower extremities. This sensation should not be confused with how ones foot or leg goes to sleep if positioned too long in one place. Rather, the feeling of numbness is distinguished by an emerging sense of withdrawal from the lower part of the body, such that a distinct pulling occurs from the top of the head and beyond. If the numbness rises to the chest and above, the meditators internal concentration will be exponentially magnified and the particular sound of a tinkling bell or bells will become more and more refined. This pealing of this inner sound has a dramatic effect on ones consciousness, so much so that an overwhelming feeling of leaving: ones body transpires. Indeed, the rush is such that it can literally make the meditator feel as if he or she is entering into a totally new realm of existence. Once this occurs, a deep tunneling sensation permeates the meditators visual field. At the end of the tunnel is

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a brilliant light, which due to deeper and deeper levels of concentration alters in shading and intensity. Multiple lights can be seen to emerge out of this fulcrum. If followed closely to their inevitable decent and reabsorption the meditator can get so enthralled by what such lights produce that he or she can occupy a virtual play, not dissimilar to an exceedingly lucid dream. It can be argued that this electromagnetic fount (neurologically or mystically interpreted) is how astral worlds become projected by ones own awareness. The Tibetan Book of the Dead is psychologically illustrative on this point and that is perhaps one of the reasons that they instruct deep meditators to avoid chasing after such lights since they create worlds the like of which are difficult to awaken from. This is analogous, of course, to deeply enjoyable dreams we have at night, but which being so pleasurable are difficult to consciously extract ourselves from. According to shabd yoga, it is the sound which empowers or juices the inner journey. While the light may be radiantly attractive and allows for increased attention, it is the subtler sounds which energize and sweep the meditator into wholly unexpected regions of awareness. For instance, while a high definition film digitally projected at our local cinema can be exceedingly attractive, it is the powerful surround sound system that jolts one into the proceedings. Just as lightening from a distance can be quite attractive, it is the thunder, however, that involves our entire being particularly if it is nearby. Interestingly, in some yogic texts much is made of a thunder-like sound which allegedly transforms the wandering mind. In any case, the whole modus operandi in shabd yoga is to follow the sound current to its terminal source. The finer the sound, the more pulling it becomes and the more it leads to internal changes within ones own awareness. Just as the fountain of light when broken up into a spectrum causes varying illuminations and virtual worlds colored by such effects, the same holds true with higher internal sounds which when intensely caught carry ones consciousness into hitherto unexplored dimensions.

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The religious systems which have grown up around shabd and nad practice have developed a sophisticated cosmology which attempts to hierarchically arrange the inner sounds and lights into an ascending order from matter to mind to soul to God, utilizing a staircase of higher regions with such terms as Sahans-Dal-Kanwal, Trikuti, Daswan Dwar, Bhanwar Gupha, and Sach Khand. The use of a five name mantra in varying Sant Mat and Radhasoami circles appears to be predicated upon this theological tier system, where greater and lesser deities occupy a great chain of being.While all of this is undoubtedly of great interest and importance to devotees of these guru traditions, it doesnt hold that such a cosmology is necessary or even important for one merely interested in following the simple technique of shabd yoga. In other words, it doesnt follow that the theology is a necessary prelude to the practice of the sound current. Simply put, hearing inner sounds and seeing inner lights precedes each and every theology that has wrapped itself around the natural and human practice of internalizing ones attention via meditation. Can shabd yoga be successfully practiced by a person who doesnt believe in Indian mystical theology? Yes, just as millions of people worldwide have benefitted from engaging hatha yoga regardless of whether they believe in kundalini, chakras, or Shiva. Understandably some long-time adherents may object to stripping down shabd yoga to its skeletal form since much of the philosophy that has evolved with it may be seen as a necessary component. However, because so much of shabd yoga has been encrusted with mystical musings the very simplicity of the practice has, ironically, been neglected by those who are its strongest advocates. The technique, shorn of such theological cul-de-sacs, can be easily explained in one long sentence. Sitting still with ones eyes and ears closed (whether in a squatting position with elbows resting on ones knees or using a T stick for accomplishing the same), the meditator turns his or her attention within by an ancient algorithm of repetition and contemplation so that one can listen to finer and finer sounds which cause an elevation of ones consciousness into subtler and subtler forms of awareness and bliss.

The whole thing is just attention., and then unbroken attention at the eye center, allowing no other thought to intrude itself into the consciousness and lead you away from the center.Sawan Singh

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You should not try to listen to the Sound Current at the same time you repeat the Names. Do the Repetition first for about twothirds of the time set for your Meditation period and then direct your attention to listening for or to the Sound. One thing at a timethat is best. --Sawan Singh