01 Apr '15
Posted in Blog by Eric Shaw
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”–and on those grounds–especially if someone privileges subjectivity–they are often credible.
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 Samkhya and Tantra we have a kind of Periodic Table of the Elements called the Tattvas.
They are arranged similarly to chemistry’s Table–and indeed, the Tattvas have actual material qualities–but the Tattvas name the 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 name constituents more subtle than hydrogen and–indeed–all the muons, “strings” or Higgs’ Bosons, or what-have-you that empirical science–with its dependence on the rational structure of mathematics or the enhancement of the five senses through instruments–can possibly identify.
In the Tantra stratification we have 36 Tattvas.
Among its categories are the five Jnanendriyas (organs of percepetion).
Therein, we have the subtle organ of the ears (#17).
We might think of this “ear” as the latent capacity for hearing which has a natural “tongue in groove” receptivity for sound.
This “ear” is called Srotra.
In the Karmendriyas (organs of action) we have the capacity called “speech” or Vak (#22) –we might think of this as the impetus behind sound, but not sound itself.
In the Tanmatras, #27 is sound itself.
We might think of this as the actual vibration of sound, it’s quivering.
It is known as Sabda, Spanda or Nada.We then move to the grossest element of the Tattvas, called the Mahabhutas, and here sound relates to #32, space, or Akasha. Akasha is the medium in which sound moves.————————-.That’s the Tattvas.In the science of Sadhana, or work on the yogic path, we have a route to higher perception that is marked by refinement of perception within hearing that distinguishes different levels of sound and develops the capacity for “divine hearing” as it is described in the 42nd verse of the 3rd chapter of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.There, it says, “By samyama [a certain type of concentration] on the relation of the ear and space, there is Divine Hearing.”.The Yoga Sutras are based on Classical Samkhya approaches to reality–the basis from which the Tantric Tattvas partly derived. The Tantric Tattvas list 36 elements, while Samkhya lists 25..Here, Patanjali is describing a process which derives from the structure of Srotra, Vak, and Spanda that I describe above (i.e sound is related to space). By divining the subtle relationship between sound and its medium (space), we gain divine capacities for hearing..—————-
Divine Hearing (Divyam Srotram) therefore permits us to hear four progressively more refined aspects of sound, i.e. physical (Vaikhari), audible (Madhyama), mental (Pashyanti) and transcendental (Para).
With the refinement of these capacities, the relations within language begin to break down and we discern the difference between name and form (nama-rupa) i.e. the difference between sound codes, 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 and/or see the code.
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–even that of animals.