Yoga’s Science of Sound and Listening
These statements about listening–or more appropriately, hearing speech and sound–are, of course, epistemological–they are about “how we know.”
But in the truest sense, these statements are ontological–they say something about “what we know” and the nature of the human organism, the nature of consciousness and the structure of the cosmos.
I know that is saying quite alot.
For these, and other reasons, what I write below may be difficult for many to give credibility to.
The branches of yogic science are many, and in the yogic Darshanas (roughly “philosophies” but–literally–a “Ways of Seeing”) we call Samkhya and Tantra there is a kind of Periodic Table of the Elements called the tattvas.
The tattvas are arranged similarly to chemistry’s Table–and indeed, the tattvas have actual material qualities–but they identify constituents of consciousness–which (if you can get your head around this) are no different than the constituents of the cosmic structure.
In fact, a “table” of the tattvas could be seen as continuous with our Periodic Table–only it would identify constituents “before” or more subtle than hydrogen and–indeed–more subtle than all the muons, “strings” or Higgs’ Bosons, or that empirical science–with its strict dependence the enhancement of the five gross senses through instruments–can possibly identify.
Tantra identifies 36 tattvas.
Among the categories of the tattavas are the jnanendriyas (organs of perception)–of which there are five.
Therein, we have the subtle organ of the ears (tattva #17).
We might think of this “ear” as the latent capacity for hearing which has a natural “tongue in groove” receptivity for sound.
This “potentiality for hearing” is called srotra.
In the karmendriyas (tattvic capacities for action) we have the capacity called “speech” or vak (tattva #22) . We might think of this as the impetus behind sound, but not sound itself.
In the tattvas, #27 is sound itself.
We might think of this as the actual vibration of sound, it’s capacity to quiver or wobble or resonate.
This vibration has many names, including, sabda, spanda and nada.
Divine Hearing (divyam srotram) permits us to hear four progressively more refined aspects of sound, i.e. it’s physical (vaikhari), audible (madhyama), mental (pashyanti) and transcendental (para) forms.
If we can bring about divyam srotram, the relations within language begin to break down and we discern the difference between name and form (nama-rupa) i.e. the difference between the 3 elements of language: the sound, the written words, and their referents, e.g. the sound “cow” the visible alphabetical code, “C-O-W” and the “Platonic” ideal or image of “cow” that appears our minds when we hear the sound “cow” and/or see the code, “C-O-W.”
When this breakup of name and form is complete, one gains not only freedom from logical thought, but access to communication in it’s less dualistic forms–in its less-culturaly coded forms. Such coded forms (e.g., English, German, Swahili) are “the map not the territory.” If we can unplug these codes from their referents, a higher hearing dawns, and we gain access to all language–both human and animal.