One Purpose Of This Book Is To Share A Very Important, Relatively Unknown, Often Poorly Understood, Support For Advanced Meditation


The primary purpose of this book is to share the use of a very important, relatively unknown, and often poorly understood support — and associated techniques — for spiritual attainments. I refer to this special support as inner spontaneous sound. If you have taken the time to read and contemplate the dialogs found in the Way of Unsaying part of this book, then you already have a feel for the difficulties involved in understanding this very unique support for meditation.

If you haven’t already read that section, then suffice it to say that trying to speak about this support suffers from the same difficulty, and entrains similar misunderstandings, as that experienced by physicists today who, in the course of their theoretical work, try to explain the behavior of the subatomic phenomena they study by remarking on their similarity to both particles and waves.

Their words are often misinterpreted as saying that these phenomena have a double nature — that they are both a particle and a wave — when in reality they are neither. How could they have a double nature since the characterizations are so logically conflicting? Even the phrase “double nature” is oxymoronic because a particular type of thing can only have a single nature that is the distinguishing essential characteristic of that thing. To say that something is like something else does not, and cannot, mean that they are the same thing. Two brothers can be very much alike, but both are still, and always will be, two individuals who are related as brothers — at least on the mundane level of daily living.

The problem for physicists is they have a language to describe these entities mathematically, but when they try to translate their mathematical models into common vernacular for non-physicists, most of whom are innumerate — that is, they do not have the background to understand the mathematics involved — they reach for human-scale concepts to illustrate some of the characteristics of the phenomenon they are talking about, so as to present the information in as digestible a way as possible.

Physicists have therefore been forced to describe these quantum-level phenomena as “like” a particle and as “like” a wave, depending upon the circumstances involved. But these illustrations they are giving us are more like poetic tropes then they are actual classifications. Thus, much misunderstanding occurs, much misinterpretation follows on those misunderstandings, and the majority of us think we know something that we — in truth — don’t know.

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.⁠¹

In the case of the meditation techniques and the support they use, which I am about to illustrate, and which are often described as sound-based meditation techniques, the same confusion arises.

True, there are many meditation techniques that use sound — they use music, or chanted mantras, or the sounds found in nature, or sacred syllables, or just guttural utterances — all sorts of sound. The meditation techniques in this book, though, use an incredibly different support that is sound that is neither externally sourced, nor caused — it is not a physical phenomenon. So why are they called sounds?

Without repeating the long dialog from the Proem on this very subject, I will just say: they are sounds… it’s not these sounds that are misconstrued — it is all externally sourced, or caused sounds that are misunderstood, mischaracterized, and misinterpreted. We just have the wrong idea in our head about what a “sound” is.

More accurately depicted, inner spontaneous sound are the resonances or reverberations of the fundamental activity of naturing the manifestation of this world, ourselves, and everything else.

If I were to use a sheet of paper, a magnet, and some iron filings to illustrate this, these reverberations would not be found in, nor arise from, the magnet, the paper, or the filings.

Rather — and this is terribly important — these reverberations would be found accompanying our visual perception of the movement of the iron filings, our auditory perception of the slight noise their friction across the paper makes, and our tactile perception of the contact between our hands and the paper we are holding and the magnet we are moving around underneath it, as well as our proprioception of the movement of our hands and their spatial placement, and that of our body as a whole.

Which is to say, these inner spontaneous sounds are never external, and never about anything external. They may be arising in conjunction with our perceptions of the external world, and our proprioceptions of our body, but they are arising solely from the naturing of our bodies as these activities— at all scales — at each and every moment of our lives. If it helps you initially to hold onto this idea, think of the naturing of our bodies, in all its facets, as the effect of a field — meant in the way science uses that word — except there is no field-thing, just a set of conditions, an innate creative responsiveness, and the simple rule that whatever arises must be coherent to the extant conditions.

And the same holds for each of us, for every living being, and for every manifestation of form, whether it occurs on a micro-, human-, or macro-level scale of existence. We can only access the inner spontaneous sounds of our own naturing, but like any good mystery, the reveal to come is that this naturing, although intrinsic to our being, is not uniquely our own. Every thing that we can point to and say “that exists,” is the manifestation of the same self-less and responsive naturing, which is not the activity of some thing, nor some entity. We can only be aware of this ceaseless activity. Saying anything more than that results in nothing but erroneous misinterpretation.

But pause here, just a moment, and take that in. We are not the result of random chaos causing chance encounters between particles and objects, all governed by anthropomorphized “laws” of “nature” — a nature which is itself nothing, but merely references the collection of these “laws” — acting to constrain the activity of the various “forces” at work, which over very long periods of time results in the magnificence and beauty that is this universe we find ourselves a part of.

Instead, we are the manifestation of self-less and responsive naturing so that we ourselves are no different in grandeur and magnificence from the greatest to the least of all that exists right now — because everything is natured in exactly the same way. Every piece-part of our body is similarly natured, down to the smallest aspect of our phenomenal form. So that there is no elite, and no dregs, but simply a creative beauty born of self-less coherent responsiveness — that is nothing other than enlightened presence animating the very possibility of this display.

And which is more intimate and knowable by us — these anthropomorphized “laws” and theoretical “forces,” that act upon us, outside of us, and unperceived by us? Or the visceral feeling of our existence and the presence to us of the evidence of our continuous naturing? Even as you may be suffering, you can pause for just a quiet moment and turn towards the reverberations of your very being, and remember what you are, and how you come to be, because you are, at all times, immersed — as if in a cocoon — by the reverberations of your genesis.

It is not that these conceptual ideas of science about “laws” and “forces” are stupid, or erroneous. It is that they are themselves evidence of the spontaneously creative naturing of everything, even that of thoughts which arise because of our focus on gaining knowledge about something that we are trying to make sense of, and in so doing, create the conditions for the possibility of that knowledge being understood in a way that is practically useful.

But we confuse ourselves and imprison ourselves in misunderstanding instead, when we believe that we have found something real with these conceptual ideas. All understandings are fundamentally erroneous because they are structured as someone understanding something, which is a dualistic structure that is insupportable for reasons explained in the Proem, and throughout human history by others.

The scientific method eschews such assertions of absolute truth, but the scientific community seems to be, embarrassingly, very often threatened by dissidence from outside of their community — which is self-defined as those that are adept at knowledge, thus a community of “scientists” — and this gives rise to some of them becoming the most virulent political commissars, attempting to force their ideology upon we “citizens”, while defaming anyone that appears to challenge their self-recognized authority over all knowledge, much as their predecessors within “The Church” historically did before them.

Science is very proud of the edifice of knowledge that it has accumulated, but we can see many similar edifices of knowledge accumulated in other endeavors, other sectes, and these are equally held in high regard by their adherents.

Yet, what is most noticeable is that an understanding of that knowledge, in most cases, is lacking, and wisdom developed from direct experience, careful apperception, and the resulting coherent and well-grounded understandings, is but a rare jewel in science, as it is elsewhere.

Modern scientific practice is just that — a practice — not a new form of Man. Thus, we are confused when we translate Homo sapiens — knowledgeable humans —into English as “Wise Humans,” because knowledge and the wisdom of how to use that knowledge are two entirely different attributes. “Knowledgeable humans” is a translation; “Wise Humans” is self-delusion, especially given our troubles today.

Science today is overflowing with daily increasing knowledge, but most scientists are devoid of any wisdom whatsoever — working equally to advance human well-being and to develop the most awesome weapons of mass destruction to destroy those very same humans.

Man is the only animal species capable of conceiving the notion of his own disappearance, and the only one capable of the despair that notion brings. What a strange race: so savagely determined to destroy itself, so savagely intent on preserving itself.⁠²

The scientific community pushes the virtue of valuing knowledge above all else, while belittling understanding that knowledge as just too much “philosophy,” and wisdom derived from direct experience as some silly pastime of navel-gazers to be avoided as an obstruction to gaining even more knowledge as they dig deeper and deeper into the heart of the world — thus the horrors of the practice of science are legion, as are its advancements in knowledge.

Whatever external improvements such knowledge — in the absence of understanding — can bring, is offset by the destabilization of the inner tranquillity of each of us, and it often leaves a void within us — as each new advancement of scientific knowledge seems to bring with it new occasions for ever-increasing sickness in the souls of all humans.

Science without understanding is soulless, but without wisdom, has become our desolation.

Criticism of the Church improved the church by making it recede into its proper place, away from meddling in the political and privates lives of citizens — and most especially, in the intellectual endeavors of those dedicated to the discovery of knowledge. Criticism of Science will do the same, and Science will be the better for it.

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།

These inner spontaneous sounds are manifested as sound-like imperiences⁠³, but not like the misconstrued sound conditioned by external or internal vibrations. Sounds are normally understood to be some kind of vibration, so these inner spontaneous sounds are thought of as being vibration-like too. And it is this that is the fault leading to their misinterpretation.

What does “vibration-like” mean? That some thing is vibrating? Isn’t that what physical sound itself is? So why are these sounds different? Is this “vibration-like” nature nothing more than a poetic trope like “particle-wave duality” is in physics?

This is the main challenge in writing this book. There are many ways to frame the description of inner spontaneous sound. The one I first heard as a child was “The Word of God.”

I always thought God “spoke” because he looked like us and talked like us — or rather, we looked like “him!”

What a silly misunderstanding that is. The human mouth, throat, lungs, and vocal cords are nowhere near as fluent in making sounds as that of the Lyre bird who can replicate both natural and manmade sounds in its environment. How could God not have the most magnificent ability to make sounds?

Without delving into the theological possibilities, a quicker rebuttal is that the Word of God is nothing like our speech. It would be like the world itself — not words as we speak, but mountains, planets, rivers and oceans, nebula and galaxies, and of course, all the beings and creations that fill them…

But this is the interpretation of only one spiritual tradition, and you will find that there are many, many others as well. And even in traditions in which these practices, or practices like them using inner spontaneous sound, were known, there can be immense differences in the understanding of this support, its nature, and its effects, today.

These practices using inner spontaneous sound have a particular effect that results in the transformation of the practitioner in a way that leads to the genesis of an exceptional character to manifest self-less loving compassion (great responsiveness) towards all sentient beings — in short, to become a saint.

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།

In the Tibetan Nyingma tradition, for example, this is explained in the “Dra Talgyur,” the main, or root tantra, of the esoteric instruction class of the practice of Atiyoga (also known more popularly as Dzogchen — the Great Perfection) which “explains how to attain the level of nirmāṇakāya and how to accomplish the welfare of others through practices related to sound.”⁠⁴

The Sanskrit word “nirmāṇakāya” is a compound of two words: nirmana, a participle meaning “forming,” or “creating,” and kaya, a word meaning “body,” “robe,” or “vehicle”; thus, nirmāṇakāya literally means “formed-body,” but it carries with it the meaning of “body of compassion.” An example of someone that attained the level of nirmāṇakāya was the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni.

The sound referred to is the Chos Nyid Kyi Rang Sgra in Tibetan — the natural/spontaneous sound of Dharmata, which is the intrinsic naturing of phenomena, that we habitually call mind, and is therefore the sound (or vibration) of all phenomenal existence.

This sound — actually sounds — is, in Tibetan Buddhism, related to the the intermediate state, or Bardo, between death and rebirth, called The Luminous Bardo of Dharmata, when these sounds (and light) becomes vividly obvious to everyone as they arise immediately after death.

However, it should be noted that even in the Buddhist tradition, as recently as the 18th century, the Tibetan Vidyādhara Jigmé Lingpa commented in his still widely used Dzogchen instructional manual, the “Yeshe Lama,” that the so-called “yoga of sound” practice that had been a part of the Atiyoga, was actually performed by so few by the time he was writing, that it was acceptable to omit it from those practices, which are more directly focused today on enabling the practitioner to reach an advanced state of visualizations.

First, of the six million four hundred thousand verses on the natural Great Perfection, in the extraordinary root tantra “Reverberation of Sound” (sgra thal ‘gyur) it states:
“The stages of training in the three kayas emphasize the qualities of the elements. Diligently training in the sound of earth, water, fire, and wind will bring certain accomplishment.”
Thus, although this quote expresses the value of practicing with the four sounds [of the elements], since this is seldom practiced anymore, it is acceptable to omit this.⁠⁵

Gangteng Tulku Rinpoché agreed and adds that these practices mainly resulted in the attainment of the common spiritual powers (thun mong gi dngos grub).⁠⁶ These are the eight Siddhi, or ordinary spiritual accomplishments prior to attaining the final supreme Siddhi — that of Enlightenment, according to Buddhist tradition.

And clarifying this point in a teaching on the these Dzogchen practices, the Tibetan Khenpo Namdrol Rinpoche acknowledged the past importance of this practice in the Dzogchen tradition:

Actually, for this practice — the ngöndro that trains in the sound of the four elements — at the time of the life of the omniscient Longchenpa⁠,⁷ this practice was engaged actively and was a very predominant practice for this stage of the preliminaries; but after some time, it declined to the point of more or less disappearing.

The mystery here is why this practice disappeared from the Dzogchen tradition (and as we will see, also the Ch’an Buddhist tradition). I will explain this in more detail in the following dialogs.

Based upon the direct meditative imperiences over my life, and their evolution over time, as well as my studies of the use of this support by other traditions, these practices can directly result in the attainment of the “perfect body of self-less loving compassion,” in parallel with, and independent of, the standard progression of meditative insights leading to full enlightenment, which substantiates the high praise that is heaped on this support. But in addition, this particular practice directly leads to the arising of the visionary experiences that are used in the two other practices still used within Dzochen, Trekchö and Tögal.

From a Buddhist perspective, I feel it is time to refocus on these practices today because we find ourselves in the “degenerate” third millennium after the time of Buddha Shakyamuni, when he prophesied that his Dharma would disappear from the world.

Perhaps today’s focus on self-enlightenment and Buddhahood for oneself, even while giving voice to infinite compassion for all sentient beings, robs those very sentient beings of the assistance they need in these difficult times.

Today, humanity has reached a level of moral schizophrenia that assures its destruction and that of unimaginable and uncountable other sentient beings. And the sole recourse is to change the way we humans act in the world. What we need most is to lose our inculcated self-centeredness, expanding the circle of our concern to encompass all sentient beings within its domain, so that we spontaneously act out of self-less loving compassion, rather than selfish desire.

From a non-Buddhist perspective, the argument for the application of these techniques to mind-training is this: scientists today acknowledge that contemplative practices have real-world effects and thus no sort of meditation should be dismissed as “just navel-gazing” as it has been in the past by all too many. Even though scientists cannot explain or account for the real-world effects that are plainly visible — even to them — they have had to accept that they are real. The special change that the use of inner spontaneous sound brings may be equally unexplainable and unaccountable, but it is just as plainly visible to those who care to look with an open mind.

Large businesses today invest significant sums of money in contemplative practices for their employees because of the bottom-line improvements such training make possible. And there are actually both historical and present-day verifications of the unusual effect the use of inner spontaneous sound can have on those individuals who have sufficiently trained their mind to be able to access and utilize these sounds.

As well, practices using inner spontaneous sound appear to have been the foundational practice of most, if not all, spiritual and religious traditions. As such, you would think they would be more widely known, taught and practiced. But that is not the case. They are practiced in some Eastern traditions (Sant Mat and Sikhism, for example), and are found among various Indian Yoga traditions — in fact the yoga practices in Hatha Yoga are performed in order to develop the ability to access these sounds, which have nothing to do with movement, per se.

Finally, there is a distinct and unique difference between inner spontaneous sounds and all other phenomena that are used as supports for meditation — that is not an opinion, it is attested to by all the traditions, as you will see in the following dialogs.

This, then, is my intent: to introduce you to this special and unique support for meditation, and techniques that use it; provide you with an understanding of what they are, first by having deconstructed our modern view and understanding of the world, and later by showing what these inner spontaneous sounds evidence for us about reality; and finally, by providing you with insights into the various traditional sources and use of techniques using inner spontaneous sound over the course of human history.

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།


¹ William Shakespeare, Sonnet 130

² Robert Merle, Malevil, 1972

³ If you haven’t already read the dialog on “Understanding Experience,” this term is explained and justified extensively in that dialog located within the Proem of this book. In short though, an imperience is a directly lived event that arises logically prior to the apperception of it as a fully qualified, characterized, and integrated experience.

⁴ Footnote 102 in “The Treasury of Knowledge, Book 8, Part 4, Esoteric Instructions,” Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé, translated by Sarah Harding of the Kalu Rinpoché Translation Group, Snow Lion Publications, 2007, pg 383

⁵ “Yeshe Lama,” translated by Lama Chönam and Sangye Khandro, Snow Lion Publications, 2008, pg 21

⁶ Footnote 103 in Jamgön Kongtrul, Ibid.

⁷ The writer of the “Reverberation of Sound” (sgra thal ‘gyur) tantra.

Share this post