Inner Spontaneous Sound Leads Directly To A Definitive Experience Of The Nature Of Mind, And This Is Its Unique Excellence


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 commonly sought health-related benefits, including tranquillity in the face of stress, and improved concentration, are obtained. These are the most sought after results of meditation today, and most mindfulness meditators 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 a phenomenon 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 your attention, you calm your mind.

But there are other types of meditation, with other goals. Most of these other goals are directed at various aspects of, and paths to, enlightenment, via a progression of insights that occur, in a facilitated manner, via these other meditation techniques.

And then, of course, there are also different 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, these yoga movements and postures were originally an important gateway into an advanced type of meditation. It was also referred to as “yoga” (union) and was specifically called “Nādānusandhāna,”⁠¹ and it was said that it was the ultimate goal of all the other Hathayoga practices.

That name, “Nādānusandhāna,” comes from the root Sanskrit word “Nāda” meaning sound, but in this case the sound in question is characterized as Anāhata Nāda — unstruck sound, meaning it is not a phenomenon that has a cause, or source, but arises autogenously. It is said that Anāhata Nāda is experienced by many that practice advanced yoga, advanced meditation, as well as because of “merit” or “grace,” and generally, as the result of having learned to calm their mind by whatever means they employ. The reason in all cases is that it is in the stillness of mind between thoughts that these sounds become evident.

This unstruck sound is not heard in the common sense of hearing, but arises directly within the mind, as this sound is awakened within mind by the accomplishment of the practices employed, yoga for example. Nādānusandhāna, then, is a meditation practice that is employed once a yoga practice has advanced to a stage where the mind is calm and which uses these unstruck sounds to progress along the path to complete enlightenment.

But this is only one type of practice that uses these unstruck sounds. The Four Elements Inner Spontaneous Sound Yoga, also known as the “Sound of Four Elements Practice” in Tibetan Dzogchen, is another kind of practice that uses the unstruck sounds, and is unrelated to Hathayoga practices. The name of this practice includes the word “yoga,” however, because it specifically makes use of union with the inner spontaneous sounds — in a particular way — in order to catalyze fundamental changes in you, the practitioner.

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 inner spontaneous sounds used in this practice have 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: Abstract Sound, Astral sound, Chönyid kyi rangdra (or Chos Nyid Kyi Rang Sgra), Dharmata Swayambhu Nada, Divine Tremoring, Eternal Sound, Holy Stream of Sound, Inner Sacred Sound, Music of the Spheres, Nada-Brahman, Omkara Dhvarni, Primordial Sound, Resonance of Emptiness, Sawt-e-sarmad, Sacred Sound, Shabda Brahman, Sound of Creation, Sound of Silence (also Thunder of Silence), Soundless Sound, Transcendental Sound, Unborn Sound, Unstruck Sound, and The Word of God.

I have added a new name — inner spontaneous sound — to this list because the practices presented here are not related to any existing doctrinal system, but have been specifically reframed to focus solely on the practices and their result, which are not in any way dependent on a doctrinal system to use.⁠²

In Tibetan Buddhism, these sounds (Chönyid kyi rangdra) are known to be the self-arising sound of the naturing that is called Dharmata. Dharmata is the intrinsic naturing of all appearances. Thus, these sounds are described as reverberations, or resonances, arising in conjunction with the naturing of everything, but not as the result of the naturing of all appearances. Also, the Dharmata is “timeless,” and its essence is “empty,” i.e., these sounds are commonly presented as non-physical, non-spatial, non-temporal, and non-substantial, and thus are not the cause of, nor caused by, anything.

Because these practices are presented outside of any particular doctrinal system, including that of the current physical view of a material reality, all unnecessary complications have been distilled out them.

Instead, you must understand that these autogenous resonances are what is noticed when you turn your attention inwards and away from all outward phenomena. This “inward” turn does not mean just inside you, because then it would be focused on things like the whoosh of blood through your body, the thumping of your heart, the gurgles of your digestive system, and the cracks and gratings of bones. Rather, this “inward” turn is into your mind, and thus 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 energetic 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 physical cause.

There is one important difference between this support and all others that is crucial, however. In the Buddhist Surangama Sutra, the Bodhisattva Manjushri, who is associated with transcendent wisdom, explains that this support — since it is not a contingent or compounded (caused) phenomenon as all other phenomena are — 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 and insights leading to enlightenment, one needs the presence of Dharma teachings and/or an enlightened teacher to overcome their discontinuous nature. This is why, according to the (Mahayana) 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 also two renowned changes that are catalyzed by this practice, which I can attest to based upon my own use of it, that I will 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.⁠³

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 what is called “great responsiveness” (sometimes mischaracterized as “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 consideration of self-interest — thus your compassion is equally balanced between yourself and others.

In short, compassionate virtue is the alchemical effect of using this support.

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ


¹ Nādānusandhāna literally means “meditation on the sound.” This is one of the methods described by the works on Haṭhayoga for the laya, or dissolution, of the mind. Nādānusandhāna has four stages which have to be learned from competent teachers of Haṭhayoga. It leads to complete control over the mind and the senses. This practice, which involves a mudra consisting of putting one’s fingers in one’s ears while listening to a succession of internal sounds, is said to be a technique of laya (dissolution).

² This point was made by Mañjuśrī (“Manjushri”), the Buddhist Bodhisattva of transcendental wisdom, in the “Surangama Sutra,” Buddhist Text Translation Society, 2009, pgs 253–257. However, using a practice and understanding the results of the practice are two different and unconnected things. Thus, while one can use this meditation technique and support without a doctrinal system to explain, or facilitate, it in any way, coming to terms with the resulting immediate experiences (“imperiences”) and accompanying insights requires a foundational shift in one’s understanding.

³ However, this equanimity does not preclude behavioral manifestations due to having achieved the ninth insight into the true state, or reality, of naturing: “atammayata” (unconcoctability). The nine insights are enumerated as: aniccata (impermanence), dukkhata (unsatisfactoriness), anattata (not-selfhood), dhammatthitata (naturalness), dhammaniyamata (lawfulness), idappaccayata (conditionality or interdependence), sunyata (voidness), tathata (thusness), and atammayata (unconcoctability).

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