What is Nāda Yoga?
When we merge into the ocean of sound, and vibrate in harmony,
this is where we find the union with the absolute,
this is where, in absence of the ego, we can live in the present,
which is the only truth
Today the word Nada Yoga and its meanings are quite confused.
By interviewing the Gundecha Brothers we have tried to get a better look into the actual meaning of Nāda Yoga. With this reflections we would like to add some of our personal experiences on this matter.
Lets first examine the word itself :
Nāda : * “according to the lexicon Nāda is : m. a loud sound, roaring , bellowing, crying; any sound or tone; (in the Yoga) the nasal sound represented by a semicircle and used as an abbreviation in mystical words. The words sonant, resonance, and reverberation are also associated with the generic term Nāda.”
Yoga : The literal meaning of the word "Yoga" is "union". It is derived from the Sanskrit root "yuj," (pron. "yug") meaning "to join", "to unite".
So if we put together this two literal meanings we get Sound Union.
So what does that means? Of course at this point we can interpret in different manners getting so many different point of views. The angle we choose to look at this is from the Dhrupad point of view, which being the most ancient form of Indian classical music is the closest to the original meaning and use of music and concept of sound in India.
By the meaning union in the word Yoga it is meant that by certain practices we are able to feel and be the one. The one beyond dualism, beyond the conception of me and the others, or wrong and right, black and white, the one beyond Māyā, the illusion of the reality. The Yoga teaches us certain technique to go beyond the separation and dualism that mainly is created by the ego. And as in all this practices there is no magical word or position that transfers you immediately into this certain state of mind beyond the ego, beyond maya. It is by hard practice and Sādhanā ( which literally means accomplishing something and is an ego-transcending spiritual practice ) that we are able to reach the Yoga.
But lets go back to the Sound Union, and lets try to understand what is the Sādhanā of the Nāda Yoga.
In Dhrupad we practice the consonance the Samvād, with the Sa, the tonic in which all sounds are present which is sung or played with the Tanpura ( a accompaining string instrument that keeps the tonic) which symbolizes the cosmic sound, the unstruck sound called Anāhata Nāda, the primordial sound, that pervades all the universe.
This practice requires a very long journey of consciousness in sound, a very accurate listening and is achieved by intense practice. If practiced correctly it creates the union between the I and the absolute by creating the consonance and thus vibrating together, extinguishing the division between the two and in this way creating the union.
In case of the voice it also implies a correct use of the voice, by finding the correct Akār, which means to balance the sounds of different parts of the body as described in the short interview to Gundecha Brothers.
In case of an instrument also it is implies the same research of presence and balance between sounds, especially in blowing instruments which have so much in common with the voice.
One of the most important branches of Yoga it the Prāṇāyāma the Yoga of breath. It is considered one of the most powerful practices of Yoga and thus it is in Dhrupad music. The sustaining of sounds, the long and stable notes are possible only with a correct use of breath. Singing or playing wind instruments in the correct way is actually a Prāṇāyāma exercise.
As Gundecha Borthers explain, when we sing and play Raga music in the Dhrupad style, this is a form of meditation, a meditation in form of sound.
By coordinating the whole body with meditation in form of sound, by discovering all the sounds in one sounds, by practicing the laws of harmony, vibration, consonance, we are practicing Nāda Yoga.
Moreover, as our Ustad Fariddudin Dagar reminds us, sound is, like god and wind, a thing hidden from sight. To this I would like to add that sound is created from a physical instument and creates a vibration that is hidden from our sight, and thus is a bridge in between the form and the senses, between what is material and what is not, and again also in this way creates the union.
In this sense going deep into Dhrupad music, with consciousness we do Sādhanā of Nāda Yoga.
When we merge into the ocean of sound, and vibrate in harmony, this is where we find the union with the absolute, this is where, in absence of the ego, we can live in the present, which is the only truth.
The concept of the present, brings us inevitably to the concept of rhythm. As with sound, the beat also has a center, a place of resonance in time. By following the path of rhythm we complete in the sphere of music the realm of being.
Swara (note) travels in space, and the Tāla (beat) defines the time. Space and time, the two pillars of existence are the two pillars in music as well and by following their teachings we enter the realm of the Nāda Brahma, the all pervading sound, when the I and the primordial consciousness become one and absolute in the OM.
One more essential feature of indian rythms and Dhrupad in general is the cycle.
“Normally, Dhrupad is known only by its literary meaning from the words dhruva and pada. Conceptually, however, it has a different meaning: it refers to and emphasizes the circulatory construction of our music. The most important feature of Dhrupad is the point of return. “
Well, returning to the point...
‘What is Nāda Yoga?’, we hope to have given a rough idea of how Nāda Yoga connetcts to the practice of Dhrupad, and of Nāda Yoga as Sādhanā, that differs from many other point of views as Nāda Yoga as sound relaxation or sound massage or sound therapy.
Om Nāda Brahma