Piedmont Yoga Studio News August 2010: The Yoga of Sound | iHanuman


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Piedmont Yoga Studio News August 2010: The Yoga of Sound

The yogis have discovered that the whole universe is emitted, pervaded, and ultimately reabsorbed by sound, or to be more precise, a vibratory power that has both audible and inaudible dimensions. It may seem contradictory to talk about inaudible sound, though of course we're bombarded all the time with sounds we can't hear because of the inherent limitations of our sense of our hearing. But for the yogis, subsonic and supersonic sounds are still considered audible, since we can hear them if our hearing is amplified with special instruments. Instead inaudible sound refers to subtle, or what the yogis call "unstruck" sound. Naturally we can't hear subtle sound with our everyday ears, for that we need to fine tune our inner awareness with constant meditation practice. Though subtle sounds are described in concrete terms-ocean waves, various drums, a gong, a horn-there's little doubt that these are just faint approximations, and that "unstruck" sounds are unlike any sounds we've ever heard before.
The yogis distinguish between four "states" of sound, though it might be more accurate to say that all sound, whether random or organized, broadcasts from the same "soundless" source in three increasingly "sound-ful" extensions. The world evolves from transcendent unity to incarnate diversity, a process which involves a step-by-step splitting off of objects (or the known) from the subject (or the knower). Similarly the word, as it issues from the depths of our sub-conscious, first into thought, then into speech, becomes an "object" for the "subject" or speaker.
The source of sound is called the "supreme sound" or "supreme voice." Like the blank screen in a movie theater, which itself remains unchanged while the moving pictures dance across it, the supreme sound is sound's transcendent, perfectly quiescent background. At this stage there's as yet no differentiation into subject and object, and so no world and nothing to say. In the supreme sound the world/word exists only in potential.
The first faint stirring of supreme sound's world/word-building impulse gives rise to the second stage of sound, called "visible sound." This unusual phrase needs some explanation, since visible sound is still located in the wholly subjective sphere and certainly can neither be seen by a physical eye nor heard by a physical ear. What the yogis are saying is that in this stage we have an intuitive "vision" of the world to come and what we want to say about it, but still there's still no distinct separation between self and other. We've only an intense desire to be a separate self, and to express that self in and through the other, the world of objects.
The third stage is called the "middle sound" simply because of its location in the middle of the second and fourth states, between the sheer possibility of the world/word and the world's palpable inception and sounding out. Middle sound is also known as "hidden speech" because it's associated with ideation and reason. With this stage we're finally in familiar territory. The world is now assuming a shape, with a thought-ful difference between self and other, though it's not until the fourth stage that we actually speak our minds.
This last stage is called, appropriately enough, "corporeal sound," sound that at last has a "body" as the world/word. Corporeal sound, whether random or organized, is the sound of Western science and the everyday world, including human speech. This gradual emergence of everyday sound from its soundless source has been compared to the process of human birth, in which the child first exists only as an abstraction in the loving thoughts of its parents, then as a fertilized egg, then as a fetus, and finally as a neonate. Like every living creature, every sound is rooted in and infused with some quality of its "parent," supreme sound, and every sound we make is a "child" of ours, and so a little world-creation.

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