Sound Makes Up Your Core

By Devamrita Swami

Sound vibration makes up your core. An easy way to begin to understand what makes up your inner self is to analyse the sound that goes into your ears and rolls off your tongue. You can judge a person not by the clothes they wear, but by the company they keep. Most accurately, you can judge by the sound vibration the person associates with and the sound vibration he or she presents to others. Sound is powerful. It molds our consciousness.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life, so many sounds can disturb us. If you’ve ever spent the day stuck in traffic amongst honking cars in some second or third world country, you will know how stressful it is. On the other hand, when alone in a house, especially if the house is big, you might have music on in one room and a TV on in another room to make you feel that you are not alone. The yoga texts teach us that sound can present both reality as well as illusion. The right kind of sound can free us from illusion while ordinary sound that we are familiar with in this world contributes to deepening our illusion.

Material sound deadens

Think about what you could be hallucinating about. The bhakti-yoga texts, especially Bhagavad Gita, explain that sound that reinforces a mistake— the mistake of thinking that we are material and contact with matter will satisfy us—is our worst enemy. Now just think about the various kinds of sounds that enter into your ear holes and those that roll over your tongue. Are those sounds actually able to bring you beyond time and space, beyond beginnings and endings, beyond matter and material situations, beyond psychology and physiology?

Are the sounds you hear reinforcing your attachment to the temporary material phantasmagoria, which shoots through the sky, like a comet?

Are the sounds you hear reinforcing your attachment to the temporary material phantasmagoria, which shoots through the sky, like a comet?

A comet in the night sky appears fascinating for a few seconds—then pssh! It’s gone. Our tiny spot of a life is like that. It seems to offer promise. If you are born into privileged circumstances, or happen upon some good fortune at some point in your life, your future appears promising. But just as if I were to suddenly blow on some candles and extinguish them, our temporary life is stubbed out. Because of that, we have to say that sounds reinforcing our attachment to the material scene are unhealthy. They deaden our higher spiritual faculties, and in this way, despite our noble, sincere efforts, the sound of the materialistic mindset traps us. Think about the various things you discuss with family, with friends, at the workplace, at university, on the streets, in the forest, on the boat. What is the substance of that sound vibration? What may sound like innocent chatter has an effect.

Why do people have comparatively low levels of aspirations these days? Why do we neglect higher possibilities? We want to make a bit of money, travel, experience a few relationships, have a few good times, but we neglect something deeper than that.

By examining the sound vibration that goes into the ear and rolls off the tongue, we can learn about how sound affects our consciousness.

By examining the sound vibration that goes into the ear and rolls off the tongue, we can learn about how sound affects our consciousness.

Material sound vibration compresses our lives into a tiny bubble of illusion, deadening our higher potential. It promises that you are going to be satisfied with gratification, achievement, acquiring, interacting, all on the material plane of physiology and psychology—the fleshy stuff and mind stuff. The bhakti-yoga texts point out that from the time you are born, you are hearing sounds of material entanglement. Just as a kitten tangles itself in a ball of yarn, similarly, we entangle ourselves in material complexity as we seek fulfillment in the temporary cosmos.

The constant material sound vibration pounds away at our possibilities for higher consciousness, and we become accustomed to that as normal. But kirtan (mantra meditation) opens you to higher possibilities.

Glimpsing the spiritual reality

Om namo bhagavate Vasudevaya is a chant that refers, preliminarily, to the all-pervading spiritual reality, and more profoundly, to the ultimate personal basis of that all-pervasiveness.

This is an example of how our sound vibration can either deepen our illusion or take us beyond material time and space, temporary limitations, past, present, and future. The bhakti-yoga texts explain that when you approach the Supreme Absolute Truth from a distance, your preliminary impression is formlessness and bright light. You can compare this to when you are driving late at night and another car is approaching you with its high beam on and your vision is dazzled, but as you get closer, when the lights dim, you can then make out the form of the car. Similarly, when we first get some spiritual awareness, we realize that there is an all-pervading spiritual reality. Sometimes you hear people talking about the white light, or the oneness, the undifferentiated, or the spiritual cloud that pervades all beings and everyone –this is the first stage in spiritual development.

Beyond the preliminary phase

If we’re pushing ahead, following a genuine spiritual process, we will advance past the preliminary phase of realizing there is an all-pervading oneness and we will start to understand that there is something beyond.

For example, imagine you are driving along State Highway 1, approaching Mount Ruapehu. From a distance, it can look just like a dark mass up ahead.

For example, imagine you are driving along State Highway 1, approaching Mount Ruapehu. From a distance, it can look just like a dark mass up ahead.

Because you are far away, you cannot see the actual form or the top of the mountain. You cannot see how it is variegated. But as you get closer, the mountain takes a distinct shape and you can almost see this shape as you make further progress up the road.

Although the chanting of om namo bhagavate Vasudevaya  creates an awareness of that all-pervading spiritual reality, it also points out that we should go further. We should go further up the road, and then we will see that the impersonal is based on the personal. Because you are a person, you know how to be impersonal. It takes a person to be impersonal. That’s why in Bhagavad Gita, the prime yoga text, Krishna Himself explains that the impersonal reality is based on the Supreme Absolute Truth, the Supreme Person, Krishna.

Sometimes people have a bias against the Ultimate Spiritual Reality. How could it be personal, isn’t anything personal limiting? Isn’t any person with activities, quality, personality and form material? Unconsciously, we think that for something to be spiritual it must be the opposite of individuality because we have only ever known these to be material. Negation of the material fact must establish the spiritual truth and take us to the spiritual reality. The yoga texts explain that this belief is fatal speculation and nothing more. If you have been sick for a long time, you forget how it feels to be healthy and when you look at others you may not be able to understand what it feels like to have a healthy body. There is the old saying: a cow that has been in a burning barn always feels paranoid. Similarly, we have been burned by material individuality, personality and activities lifetime after lifetime.

The Vedic texts explain, we (the conscious being) have already experienced it all, having transmigrated through all the possible species of life. The human form is the ultimate opportunity to develop our original spiritual consciousness. – Photo credit to Mahavan das

The pure spirit self has adopted so many different temporary bodies, in so many different species of life, in so many dimensions, that we have a built-up paranoia about individuality. Because we think that this must all be material, we speculate that the highest truth must be bland and formless, lacking personality and activity. Instead, we think that the void is spiritual.

Approaching the personal reality

The yoga texts try to educate us out of this speculation. The chanting of om namo bhagavate Vasudevaya is meant to bring you through the haze to the absolute personal reality. But, you may say, although I have heard about this chant Om namo bhagavate Vasudevaya, what about the Hare Krishna mantra? Is that distinctive of a particular group?

The Hare Krishna maha mantra is a yogic prescription that has existed since time immemorial.

The Hare Krishna mantra does not belong to a particular group, but when serious yoga practitioners take shelter of the Hare Krishna mantra, their lives become enhanced. Others then benefit from associating with such sincere yogis, who cultivate freedom through pure sound. But this is just the beginning—the Hare Krishna maha mantra can do much more. This mantra is a sound that can supply all your necessities, and even make you think, what do I actually need? We all point out how, these days, people have great difficulty distinguishing their wants from their needs: I want this, therefore, I must need it. It all collapses into one, one thing:

I need it.

I need it.

Because our mind and senses are out of control, we are so easily susceptible to being bombarded by external material stimuli, and in this way our spark of illusion simply increases.

Uncovering your core

Preoccupied with the externals, our life becomes full of unnecessary desires, which are not innocent, because they force us to act artificially. Cutting through all that accumulated perplexity and artificiality, the genuine mantra helps us to shed those unnecessary layers. This process is not just about mitigating accumulated negative effects; the positive application of this genuine mantra is that it revives your dormant spiritual identity—your spiritual identity as part of the Complete Whole. That Complete Whole, the yoga texts describe, is unlimitedly attractive. Krishna means “the unlimitedly all-attractive.”

The Hare Krishna maha mantra rescues our consciousness from material illusion and reconnects it with the ultimate all-attractive reality, Krishna.

The Hare Krishna maha mantra rescues our consciousness from material illusion and reconnects it with the ultimate all-attractive reality, Krishna.

Finding that dormant relationship

When a child touches fire, the fire does not ask the child, do you know that I am fire, do you know I can burn? Whether the child is aware of the fire’s quality or not, the fire will burn. Similarly, whether you know what the Hare Krishna mantra is all about or not, the spiritual technological process will manifest a beneficial effect. At the same time, the bhakti-yoga texts point out that the more conscious you are of what the Hare Krishna maha mantra can do, the more profound and deep acting the effects will be. Naturally, progressive human beings want the deepest experience; they want to get through the nebulous, preliminary stage of spiritual experience, because that all-pervading spiritual reality does not give us relationships. We have to go past the impersonal glare to get to relationships. And you will be shocked to know that this is the very thing we are most afraid of, because past material relationships have given us so much suffering and disappointment. But in its purified, untainted existence, relationship is what awaits us beyond the impersonal all-pervading spiritual cloud.

Bhakti is about reviving your dormant relationship of pure love. For a love to be supreme it must connect with what is unlimited and flawless. The yoga texts explain that Krishna is the ocean of all spiritual tastes and flavors.

For there to be spiritual tastes and flavors there has to be relationships, so the greatest confidential spiritual knowledge is about pure relationships between the part and the Complete Whole.

The Hare Krishna mantra works to renovate those realities. Once you re-establish that relationship between a part of Krishna and the Complete Whole then you are actually natural, otherwise the struggle to be the all and all, in this temporary material world, is a very exhausting, frustrating process.

The struggle to be the all and all, in this temporary material world, is a very exhausting, frustrating process. – Photo credit to Mahavan das

Bhakti-yoga means to understand that you are a tiny particle of the Supreme and you are meant to exist harmoniously with the Supreme, and that the most extraordinary characteristic of the Supreme is unlimited attractiveness. Bhakti is a personal thing.

This personal feature is what makes the Hare Krishna mantra special: it has a negative aspect and a positive aspect. The negative aspect dispels illusion –  the misconception that “I am this body, I am this mind,” and the positive aspect renovates your pure relationship with the Supreme Reality, your pure relationship with Krishna. Therefore, you will hear the Hare Krishna maha mantra in so many different places and in many different tunes. If you go to India you will find thousands of tunes because they have been chanting Hare Krishna from time immemorial. So, in addition to our other mantras, we always chant the Hare Krishna maha mantra. Depending on your perspective, it’s either the king or queen of mantras.

The mantra gives us everything

I would like you to take with you the concept that sound can nourish you with all your necessities. It’s a mind-boggling thought, at first. Especially in this age of anxiety, incompletion, disconnection. You may ask, how can sound supply me with everything I need? But that is the special characteristic of the Hare Krishna maha mantra. At the core of our being we crave authenticity, but how can we be authentic in the bleakest of times when human beings think they are most advanced but are, in reality, the first species to destroy themselves and their own habitat? How can we become an authentic being in these bewildered times when people are overwhelmed by their mind and senses; oppressed by consumerism, exploitation, and abuse; and lacking knowledge of the self, the Supreme Self and the relationship between the two?

How can we truly be authentic? – Photo credit to Mahavan das

No one likes to be a phony, although material society forces that mold upon you. People who are trying to be for real finish last. You have to learn how to swim with the sharks and you’ll be successful. And that, of course, means being a phony to yourself, taking leave from whatever higher principles you may have conjured up. We don’t know what is best, we don’t know what is real, so we establish some of our own ideas about what is good, and then we become embarrassed, because even those self-created concepts of what is good become violated under pressure from our own mind and senses in the scramble to live.

The yoga texts explain that especially in this particular time, the Hare Krishna maha mantra spreads its rays like the rising sun, so anyone who takes shelter of that particular sound has all their real necessities supplied. Of course, we have to understand what our real necessities are. We are not this body and mind; those are external garments; therefore, we do not put all the emphasis on what is outside. What is inside is the most important, so let us not neglect the internal.

The Hare Krishna maha mantra corrects that imbalance in our priorities. It readjusts our internal dynamics. Sound can do that, therefore, please take this nourishing sound with you and let it expand within the core of your being.

By taking shelter of that sound your life becomes rich and can be transformed according to how much you take shelter of the pure spiritual sound.

Do not be afraid to let this mantra start managing your life! Your life can be managed either by external forces, or by internal spiritual dynamics. So, the Hare Krishna mantra is at your service, so to speak. Either we submit to the superior spiritual energy and let our internal dynamics take over our life or we submit to the inferior material energy of illusion and allow ourselves to be pushed around by so many external pressures.

We choose which river we want to jump in, and once we jump into our particular chosen river, we are swept away.

We choose which river we want to jump in, and once we jump into our particular chosen river, we are swept away.

This way I hope you will take with you a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of material sound and spiritual sound.

Photo credits to Mahavan das