Nada yoga is a distinct path of yoga. It is closely related to mantra yoga, japa yoga, music and any other path that is concerned with sound. In fact, nada yoga is often used as a collective term to describe all yogic practices which utilize sound. However, in our definition nada yoga is regarded as having one characteristic feature. In the other paths a specific sound is created as a vehicle of awareness. That is, one chants a particular mantra in mantra yoga and japa yoga, and makes a fixed pattern of sound in music and singing. In nada yoga, as we teach it, one does not create a specific sound as such, but listens to internal sounds allowing the perceived sound to arise spontaneously. This is an obvious though fine difference. In later stages these paths join with each other, for they are all concerned with merging with the reservoir of sound – the underlying substratum.
Nada yoga is a simple yet powerful practice. It is a method of tracing sound back through its psychic and more subtle manifestation to the source.
Nada yoga is an important sadhana of many sects. These include Radha Soami Satsang, Kabirpanthis and many others. Nada is known by many different names. It is called shabda (sound), sural (sound), nam (name), akashvani (sound of the ether), dhun (tune), Nad-i-asmani (the heavenly harmony), vani (word), the word, holy spirit, the holy ghost, logos and many other names. In Zoroastrianism it is called sraosha. It is widely discussed and praised in the holy scriptures of the Sikhs, the Adi Cranth Sahib. It is also the ‘music of the spheres’ described by the Greek mystic Pythagorus. He conceived the whole universe and each individual as a monochord, with its single string connected at the lower end to gross matter and at the upper end to pure consciousness. In between were all the different layers of subtle energy or nada. This relates directly to nada yoga, for the aspirant first perceives gross sound at the lower end of the string and gradually moves along the string with perception of progressively subtler sound. Eventually this sound leads to the upper end of the string or pure consciousness. This is the path of nada yoga. Incidentally it is said that Socrates and other Greek mystics used nada as a means to transcendence.
According to traditional yogic scriptures, nada brahman (transcendental sound) is the seed of the manifested world from the gross to the subtle and from the visible to the invisible. Nada is flowing in the living and the nonliving, in the trees, grass, animals, everywhere. This concept is an integral part of tantra and Hinduism in general. It is also mentioned in the first verse of the Gospel according to St. John in the Christian Bible where nada is called ‘the word’.
Modern science is also starting to postulate that everything in the universe is composed of wave forms at all levels of subtlety and vibratory rates. This applies to light, X-rays, radio waves, material bodies and so forth. It includes the vibration of the atoms, molecules, stones, flowers and the human body and mind. They are all vibrating at a multitudinous number of different frequencies. It also includes colours that can be seen and colours not seen, sounds that can be heard and sounds not heard, odours that can be smelt and odours not smelt, things that can be felt and things not felt and substances that can be tasted and those which cannot be tasted. They are all formed from vibratory wave form. All materials that you see can be regarded as solidified vibration. A good way to illustrate this is to consider a humming-top. When it spins very fast it appears to be stationary. Any person who has seen a stroboscope in action will have seen similar phenomena: a body vibrating at high frequency appears to be stationary. These analogies illustrate how nonsolid bodies appear to be solid. Here we are not trying to prove anything, only that the outside world is not really what it “In the early stages of the practice, the aspirappears to be at normal levels of awareness. ant hears gross, loud sounds. Gradually more by raising one’s level of awareness one begins subtle sounds are heard. The sounds are like to see the external world as it really is. This outside world composed of vibration is called the mahakaslia (great ether). In nada yoga we are specifically concerned with the inner ether, the chidakasha. Nada is the sound of the chidakasha, but this sound means far more than the sound we hear in the external world. This inner nada operates on different levels of subtlety. The aim is to use this inner sound as a vehicle of awareness so that one can transcend normal limitations and dive deep into the mind. Complete absorption in the inner sound makes one oblivious to outside sounds and disturbances, and this leads to pratyahara (withdrawal of awareness from the sense organs and outside world). When the mind flows towards the sound then it becomes very concentrated. Nada yoga is the link to expanded awareness. It leads directly to meditation.
Nada yoga is a part of laya yoga, the path in which one becomes totally absorbed in one thing. In the case of nada yoga one becomes totally aware of inner sound. In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika it says: “Countless methods of lava yoga have been described but amongst them nadanusandhana (discovery of inner sound) is the best”, (4:66) This clearly indicates the importance of nada yoga.