The soundless sound

From Pratiksha Apurv's desk Media Watch

… there is nothing more beautiful and ecstatic than the inner sound of Aum, writes Pratiksha Apurv in The Speaking Tree, published on December 22, 2019.

Painting by Pratiksha Apurv

Sound of Inner Being, painting by Pratiksha Apurv
Sound of Inner Being by Pratiksha Apurv, Acrylic and Oil on Canvas, 48″x48″, 2019

The debate on the difference between knowledge and wisdom is as old as humanity. For a researcher, knowledge is everything, but for a mystic it is useless. About knowledge, a mystic would say that it may not be able to transform the person because it is merely information. On the other hand, wisdom is always transformative. What we hear from people, or accumulate through books, is merely knowledge. It is always borrowed from another.

However, the prayer within, the sound inside us, is real wisdom. It is the sound of existence, and most importantly, it doesn’t belong to any language, region or religion. Philosophers and scientists have argued at length about sound. Aristotle said that sound is only produced when an object moves its surrounding air thereby causing it to vibrate, and that this movement ultimately gets carried to the air walled up inside the ear of the listener.

Physicists have different theories on the origin and perception of sound. However, the co-founder of the Theosophical Society and mystic Helena Petrovna Blavatsky had, in 1889, suggested that meditation is the only way to hear the inner sound and comprehend it. While external sound required an object to be struck, she stated that the inner sound happened during deep meditation, and didn’t require any object. Therefore, it was an unstruck sound or soundless sound. Although she explained that the inner sound can be heard in at least seven ways, her emphasis was upon that moment when all the six sounds were laid at the master’s feet. The seventh sound, which merges the disciple into one unified whole, immediately presents itself before the meditator. In my experience, this is one of the most profound statements about the inner sound. Blavatsky said that in meditation when the first six sounds – a nightingale’s song, clanging of the cymbals, sound of ocean, strumming of the veena, the sound of the flute and the rumbling of thunder – are all transcended, the mystic naad, the inner sound, then starts playing.

What Blavatsky had described, more or less happens to all of us in our everyday lives. We are searching for God everywhere, in shrines and in statues without even thinking whether He is actually going to be there. We have built places to meet God, but we don’t look within ourselves, a place not created by man, but God Himself. Our inner being is the only space where the key is to be found. We accumulate knowledge but forget to remember that one place created by Him.

The realization that we are part of the whole is wisdom and the last stage, as explained by Blavatsky, is to hear the soundless sound. This sound depends on the extent of our reach towards our inner centre. So, what is this sound? It is Aum. Interestingly, since ages the sound of Aum has never been represented by any alphabet or language but only by a symbol. And, that is why, despite difference in our languages, the symbol is used in Sanskrit, Prakrit and various other languages.

Aum is heard only when the mind has totally gone silent. When one has gone beyond all words and languages and there is not even a ripple inside but pure silence, then at that moment, Aum, the soundless sound can be heard.

The Mandukya Upanishad starts with the description of the beauty of Aum. It says, Aum ity etad aksaram idam sarvam, tasyopavyakhyanam bhutam bhavad bhavisyad, iti sarvam aumkara eva yachaanyat trikalatitam tad aapy aumkara eva, meaning ‘This imperishable word of Aum is the whole of this universe. What has been created, what is being created and what will be created, all the three states is Aum and what exists beyond these three states of the universe of time, too, is nothing but Aum.’

The soundless sound of Aum is the inner naad, the divine sound, which is eternally present, and the seeker stepping into the stream of eternal existence will be able to hear it. This sound doesn’t explain any philosophy or religion, but it vibrates in our inner being creating states of joy and celebration, which cannot be experienced by any other external sound.

The moment one gets to hear the sound, transformation happens immediately because there is nothing more beautiful and nothing more ecstatic than the inner sound of Aum. That is why ancient scriptures and sages have said that this is the sound through which the universe was created. The Svetasvatara Upanishad highlights that God is the syllable Aum.

In chapter 10 of the Bhagwad Gita, Krishna says, Giram asmy ekam aksaram, meaning ‘Of vibrations I am the transcendental Aum.’ Kabir says that the divine sound is already there in our deep inner centre and that is the ultimate sound that makes us part of existence, completely eliminating the separate ego personality: Kabira shabd sharir mein, bin gun baaje taant. Baahar bhitar rami raha, taate chhuti bhrant, meaning ‘The sound resides in the body without any musical instrument and it surrounds me within and without thus dissolving all illusions.’ He further says, Aadi naam nij mool hai, aur mantra sab daar, meaning ‘This primordial sound is the root of our being.’

American writer Max Ehrmann, in his poem Desiderata, says, “Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.” This is a very significant stanza of the poem that tells a seeker that the world is full of noise and haste but one should go peacefully with prayerfulness, with silent moments, because only in silent moments we will know what peace is, what inner silence is. In my experience, only the divine sound can tell us what is essential and what is non-essential and we should always avoid getting entangled in non-essentials by living life intensely, passionately and listening to the sound of our inner core.

Osho says that the sound of Aum is our truth and our very being. “We are made of it. The whole existence vibrates, and through different vibrations of the same sound, there are different things, but they are simply different vibrations. A certain vibration creates a tree, another vibration creates a bird, another vibration creates a man, but the whole existence, according to the mystics, is made of sound. This sound is certainly the most sacred, the most divine,” he says. One should be completely possessed by the sound of our inner being. Let it pulsate in the blood and heartbeat because life is, always has been and will always be a celebration of the soundless sound.

Quote by Osho from Hari Om Tat Sat, Ch 1, Q 1

Pratiksha Apurv

Pratiksha Apurv is a painter and writer. She lives and works in Pune.

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