There are four different practices using inner spontaneous sound that I am presenting in this book. The first is called Great Responsiveness Meditation. The second practice is the Yoga of the (Inner Spontaneous) Sounds of the Four Elements. These two form a sequence in the sense that necessary accomplishments, which are derived from the Great Responsiveness Meditation, are needed before the Yoga of the Sounds of the Four Elements can be attempted. Once that point has been reached, both practices can continue to be used in parallel.

The third and fourth practices will be discussed in another document and should only be attempted once the first two practices have been mastered. I will explain exactly what is needed to be in place below.

It is interesting to note that the second practice was once one of three practices encompassed within Tibetan “Dzogchen” teachings, but is no longer used in that tradition. Dzogchen is the most direct path within Tibetan Buddhism leading to complete enlightenment. The Yoga of the (Inner Spontaneous) Sounds of the Four Elements is nowadays dismissed as having been “just a preliminary practice” that was once used to enter into the two “principal” Dzogchen techniques, but is no longer necessary. This is believed even though the main Dzogchen practice manual used for more than three centuries, the Yeshe Lama, begins by recognizing the many serious attestations, recorded within the Dzogchen tantras, stating that the sound yoga had been considered to be the most efficacious practice capable of bringing about complete enlightenment on its own.

The title of the root tantra of Dzogchen — the “Dra Thalgyur,” can be translated as either the “Reverberation of Sound” or “All-Penetrating Sound.” The name alludes to, and the tantra asserts,⁠¹ that the whole spiritual teaching is itself the manifestation of the natural sound of reality — the self-sound of the Dharmata, in Buddhist terms. This tantra, considered the ‘root’ text of all other tantras in the Dzogchen tradition, includes instructions for the practice of the Yoga of the Sounds of the Four Elements. Modern translators characterize this text as quite difficult and terse, considering the amount of material it covers. It was only after the discovery of an extensive commentary by Vimalamitra, called “Illuminating Lamp” that organized efforts to translate this text began in earnest.

One can assume then that the “sound” being spoken of in this tantra, from which this highest teaching in Tibetan Buddhism originated, is not the sounds found in the mundane world. And thus, the sound yoga was “preliminary” only in the sense that, for those able to use it, no further techniques, nor explanations were needed. Indeed, this tantra states that all teachings and dharmas arise through these inner spontaneous sounds alone. I attest to these reverberations — these inner spontaneous sounds — as being the source of all such teachings, including this.

After much research, I have come to the rather startling conclusion, based upon contemporary authentic Dzogchen teachings, and private communications with an advanced Dzogchen practitioner and the senior student of a much respected Tibetan Tulku — a reincarnated high lama — who has used the inner spontaneous sounds as his meditation support for much of his life, that the support for this sound yoga practice became misunderstood over time, and then the technique became ineffective, when the wrong support — external mundane sounds — were substituted for the use of inner spontaneous sound.

For example, one modern teaching on the sound yoga practice mentioned in the Yeshe Lama, and described tersely in the Dra Thalgyur, completely misrepresents the sound yoga by ignoring the stated description of it in that root tantra, which clearly states the practice uses the transcendent sounds of the Four Elements — and not the mundane sounds found in the environment.

Basically, the essential nature of the inner spontaneous sounds — that they do not arise, nor disappear, but are continuously, and primordially present when we turn our attention to them with a calm mind, seem to conflict with basic Buddhist teachings about the ephemeral nature of all things, especially those teachings that are geared towards progressive paths that are suitable for the general public. So external sounds — common sounds of the world — were substituted for the use of inner spontaneous sounds of the four elements, because those teaching the yoga practice were themselves not taught how to access these inner spontaneous sounds, and so they could not recognize them for what they truly were. This change undermined the efficacy of the sound yoga technique completely, and so, over time, it was dropped.

If you are interested in the specifics of my analysis of the instructions from the Dra Thalgyur, please read the article “The Mystery” found in Volume Three, The Way of Tradition, here in Tranquillity’s Secret, which gives the background details that I’ve uncovered.

The purpose in my raising this issue is to ensure that you do not fall into a similar misunderstanding.

There is an important difference between caused sound, which arises as a sympathetic resonance with physical conditions (such as air density changes known as “sound waves” that activate the ears, primarily), and inner spontaneous sound that arises autogenously as resonances of the underlying naturing of our being.

When meditating with any natural mundane phenomenon or bodily process, we are stymied by the discontinuous nature of all these supports in two ways:

1) being discontinuous (for example: the breath starts and stops), we are unable to dissolve our awareness into the support;

2) being caused or “struck”, we are not led to our true nature directly by the support, but must rely on a doctrinal system of explanations and pointing-out instructions which tells us what we are to understand. But there is an unbridgeable gulf between conceptual knowledge and direct meditative insight. Conceptual knowledge is useless in attaining direct meditative insights; but direct meditative insights can be conceptualized as pointing out instructions. This is a huge difference and a major difficulty for all meditation supports, other than inner spontaneous sound.

The first practice, called Great Responsiveness Meditation, is described at length in the Buddhist “Surangama Sutra,” and I have included the important sections of that sutra within Tranquillity’s Secret. Included, are detailed discussions about general mind training practices, as well as the most specific attestation to the efficacy of the Great Responsiveness Meditation practice, as used by Avalokitasvara, given therein by Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Transcendent Wisdom.

The practice itself isn’t given a specific name in that sutra, and as I had already chosen to call it Great Responsiveness Meditation before discovering the Surangama Sutra, after its most important effect on the meditator, I’ve kept that name.

In the Surangama Sutra Manjushri attests to this practice being the specific practice used by Buddha, Avalokitasvara (also known as Kuan Yin, Kennon, and Chenrezig, among other cultural variations), Manjushri himself, and “all Buddhas of the past and the future,” in order to reach enlightenment. The reason why all Buddhas reach enlightenment this way is simply that there are no authentic teachings, doctrines, or pointing out instructions available before each Buddha enters this world. Therefore, they must find and utilize inner spontaneous sound — the source of all such teachings, doctrines, and pointing out instructions.

Interestingly, it was brought to my attention that there is also a prophesy that was written down by Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro sometime in the 1940s or 50s (he died in 1959), that asserts that this practice is the best to be used during the period from 2022 to 2032, a period foreseen to be one of increasing insecurity and environmental disasters, including the breakdown of governments and society.

The name given to the practice in that prophecy is the same as I had chosen: Great Responsiveness Meditation, and it is clearly attributed to Avalokitasvara, the “Greatly Responsive One” in the prophecy.

What you do in this first practice is very much like any mindfulness practice: sit comfortably, wearing loose clothing, and initially focus on the most easily experienced sound, which is a very high-pitched squeal, (which is often called “meditation-induced tinnitus,” or just “tinnitus,” by those who don’t understand it), with your eyes closed.

In the past, in certain Hindu practices, there was a hand gesture (the “Shanmukhi Mudra”) which was used to close off the ears and the eyes. It is difficult to maintain for long periods of time. Also, placing your thumbs over your ears to plug them up, itself creates extraneous sounds, and so is not conducive to an effective practice.

Public domain

In my own case, I came to use industrial earplugs and found them to be of great usefulness for blocking external noise, making it easier to discover the inner spontaneous sounds of the four elements. Over time, earplugs may no longer be necessary, but I still find them useful for creating ‘distance’ between my attention and intrusive external sounds. This is actually very important in the third practice, which will be discussed in a later text.

I am including a pdf describing the type of earplugs I use, at the end of this document. These are industrial-grade earplugs that reduce external sound by almost 30 decibels. They’re inexpensive and last a very long time, and are washable.

As you focus on the first shrill sound, every time you notice that your mind has wandered, bring it back to the sound, without judging yourself or getting impatient. This moment of noticing is a period of “mindfulness.” While you are initially learning to focus your attention and concentrate on this support, you will invariably not be in a state of mindfulness. Why is this? Mindfulness is not something that you adopt as a way of being, it is something that develops over time as you meditate. That point is often lost in modern secular ‘mindfulness’ meditation .

You are looking to develop two aspects of your awareness: focus, which is your “paying attention” to the sound, and concentration, which is the unwavering aspect of your awareness. As these develop, you will begin to notice that you are noticing that your mind wanders from time to time. This is a form of metacognition which develops out of the moments of mindfulness when you notice what your mind is doing, and which naturally aid in the lengthening of the periods in which you are mindful of the focus and concentration of your awareness.

This metacognition is the fertile ground from which spiritual insights arise, and attaining it for long periods of time — even during your daily activities — is called “samadhi.” There are a number of stages of samadhi, often differing from one tradition to another, but in general, it is the absorption of your awareness in this meta-cognitive state, to varying degrees.

Continuing with the first sound, you should note that you get immediate feedback on how well you are doing with your focus and concentration because of the noticeable change of pitch and loudness of that tone as your focus and concentration strengthens. This is why this shrill tone occurs at times during extreme events that may befall us in our lives. At such times, our focus and concentration reach extreme states that are naturally accompanied by the shrill tone. This tone also becomes apparent when a trance state is attained, and this was how I was shown to access this first inner spontaneous sound.

The objective of this first stage is to develop your attentional focus and concentration so that your mind stays as inactive as possible, with a noticeable lengthening of the pauses between arising thoughts.

When we focus on inner spontaneous sounds, what is experienced must be non-discursive (our minds are not quickly going to and fro with our attention). Specifically, we leave awareness on the sounds, and do not allow our mind to be led off by a “story” about the sounds, or anything else for that matter. We can have a wide focus and be aware of different kinds of inner spontaneous sound, but our focus must not waver from these to take in external sounds, or inner speech, or mental images. Selectivity without judgement is the key here. It’s like looking for your friend in a crowd. As you scan faces, looking for your friend, you don’t judge those who aren’t your friend, you just move your attention to the next face until you find them.

When you do not get distracted by an arising thought, a continuation of thoughts, starting from that first thought, does not develop, and thus you begin to experience longer periods marked by a quiescence of thinking, resulting in mental calm, and silence. It is in those periods of mental silence that the inner spontaneous sounds of the four elements become most noticeable.

Once you have achieved a calm mind through practiced focus and concentration on that first shrill sound, you begin to notice the subtle sounds of the four elements, and your focus naturally begins to widen, while your concentration remains strong so that the mind doesn’t wander.

You must allow this widening of awareness as it widens beyond your sense perceptions and thoughts. Noticing the Element Sounds is facilitated by a very open focus of attention, because they are naturally centered in the main chakras within the body, and there are other inner spontaneous sounds that are related to energy flows through various ‘channels’ within the body. All of these are useful, and the more subtle the sound, the more concentrated your awareness must become in order to discover it.

I sometimes describe this state of heightened concentration, or “heightened awareness” as it is colloquially referred to, as being like one’s natural reaction to being alone in a deep forest in the middle of the night, when a state of unwavering attention to the littlest sounds of the forest around you overtakes you, whether out of fear of being attacked, or in delight in the marvelous cacophony of creatures freed from their own fear of being attacked by humans. You must try to be mentally still — completely still — until this becomes your default way of being. No thoughts then will arise to distract you from noticing all the sound that is present in the light of your awareness.

The shrill sound lowers in pitch somewhat, and even more so in loudness, when your focus of attention is wide.

Once the sound of the first element — usually that of Water — is achieved, you develop the others in the same way. And once the four Element sounds become familiar to you, you can begin to use the second technique — the Yoga of the (Inner Spontaneous) Sound of the Four Elements — which is a process of ‘raising’ the different element sounds, through the first four chakras of the body (see below), one into the next, and then into the next, and again into the next, drawing the lower sound ‘upwards’ with your unwavering awareness, like a ‘tractor beam’ of light pulling each sound ‘up’ to merge into the ‘higher’ sound that is characteristic of the next chakra. Once the two sounds are balanced, equally present to your awareness, allow the ‘lower’ chakra sound to fade away as the ‘higher’ sound becomes dominant in the light of your awareness. Do not rush this. Savor it. This will create a rising energy flow through your body. In fact, using this method, you can balance the chakras based upon the ‘fullness’ of each sound, and convert ‘lower’ sexual energy into ‘higher’ spiritual energy.

Truly there is no ‘lower’ or ‘higher’ in an absolute sense. And so, you can, if needed, do this process in a ‘downward’ direction as well, and even work with ‘non-adjacent’ elemental sounds. To do this, place your awareness in the Ajna, or Third Eye, chakra, which is associated with all sounds and then follow the same process.

To balance your energy, if there is an imbalance, start with Fire and merge into Earth, then to Water, Fire again, and then Air (Wind).

Manipulating these sounds leads to energetic effects that have both physical manifestations and lead directly into the visionary displays of light that are the support for Dzogchen Thögel practice.

Once you hear the Element sounds, you leave the high-pitched sound behind and it will recede into the background naturally as you begin to focus on the Element sounds.

This is not actually as easy to do as it is to write that sentence. First off, you have to learn to place your awareness in different parts of your body, because the element sounds are strongest in different energy centers (chakras) in the body. Placing your awareness is different than focusing your attention on something. I literally mean learning to be in a part of your body other than your head, where we tend to be all the time because of the concentration of our senses there. If we are injured in some way, our awareness naturally jumps to that place in the body. You must learn to move it there without being injured.

There are hand mudras, that will be introduced in subsequent documents, that assist you in placing your awareness. They work both because of the configuration of your hands, and because of the placement of your hands on various points on the body, while making the mudra.

There are also body postures that you will need to develop in order to get your energy channels open. This helps reinforce the element sounds so that they are more easily found. There are also some movements that you can use to get energy moving properly through your body, in case there are blockages, which is quite common today. And, also, some yoga postures that help increase your ability to sit properly for long periods of time without discomfort. All of these will be explained in detail in subsequent documents as you establish your practice using the first shrill sound.

You are actually very fortunate if you hear this high-pitched responsive sound already. It truly allows you to develop your concentration and focus of awareness quicker than standard mindfulness meditation supports because of the feedback from the changes in pitch and volume of that sound.

If on the other-hand, you do not notice that sound yet, there are techniques that can help bring it out. Entering a trance state is the primary way to do this, and such a state can be established in a myriad of ways, including mantra repetition, repetitive motions, and repetitive drumming, amongst others. I have attached links to a video demonstrating a personal practice that I have developed over time to achieve multiple goals at the same time, using both repetitive motion and mantra repetition, while learning to properly align your spine. As well, I have made available a set of shamanic drumming recordings that you can access, if that is helpful to you.

The more you learn to place your attention, without straining, on these sounds within the mind, the more developed and clear 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 attention together.

The different kinds of inner spontaneous sounds are often described in relation to the different centers and flows of your “subtle energetic body,” a term that is useful here because of its recognized efficacy 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 balanced energetic whole. Great tranquillity comes from this, and that is the first benefit to be derived from using this support and these practices.

If you have a quiet place to meditate, away from road and equipment noise, that makes it easier for you to notice the other, more subtle, inner spontaneous sounds of the four elements. In general, late at night, or early in the morning are the best times to meditate using inner spontaneous sounds.

Achievement of contentment (in contrast to modern ‘happiness’), attaining equanimity, and acquiring “great responsiveness” are the key benefits of this practice.

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།


The Seven Chakra Sounds

Sample Sounds

These samples are meant as a guide only so that you understand the character of the inner spontaneous sound you are listening for. These sounds are subtle at first, but their character is unmistakable, even though it can change from day-to-day. Water, for instance, can be any kind of naturally moving water: rain falling on leaves; small rivulets, streams, rivers, waterfalls. Wind can be a gentle breeze up to storms of various intensity. Earth just seems to get more pronounced.

Earth Element Inner Spontaneous Sound Example

Water Element Inner Spontaneous Sound Example

Wind Element Inner Spontaneous Sound Example

* Fire does not have a sound equivalent in external phenomena. The sounds that we think of when we are imagining fire are all related to the fuel being burned, and/or the environmental conditions, such as wind, in which the fire is burning. Wood, for example, snaps when some moisture explodes into steam, and cracks when tension in the grains is suddenly released.

Listen to a candle flame, while in a closed room. If the wax is pure, and there are no air currents, the candle is silent to our hearing.

The Fire Element sound is energetic and unwavering, so listen for a steady tone of a middle to high pitch (but not the very high pitched squeal of the first sound), as that is how this inner spontaneous sound can be characterized. But it is more than just a simple tone, as it always has a certain complexity, as there are resonances to the fire sound, almost like overtones, creating a sensation more like an electric hum. The key telltale is the energetic quality of the sound, which is more profound than just volume, and which is accompanied by a sympathetic vibration in the Solar plexus.

Mantra pdf:

Om Ah Hum Vajra Guru Pema Siddhi Hum — A4

Om Ah Hum Vajra Guru Pema Siddhi Hum — US LTR


3M EAR UltraFit Earplugs

Drumming Recordings

Shamanic Drum Voyage with Prep, Callback, and Background

Shamanic Drumming With Callback only


¹ This is stated in the article: “The Drathalgyur, All-Penetrating Sound Tantra” published in The Mirror, #128, July 2015 by Shang Shung Institute

Share this post