The method that we will shortly describe is similar to the method described in the previous lesson1. The main differences are that this practice is not preceded by a vocalized humming sound and that it is combined with retention of breath. Each of the practices has a specific use. The first method utilizing bhramari pranayama is most suitable for beginners and for those who are overwhelmed by outer and mental disturbances. The loud humming sound helps to drown out these distractions and make the mind more concentrated so that one can eventually perceive the inner sounds. The method described here is more suitable for those who have a reasonably harmonized mind and who are not beset by distractions. It is the more advanced practice of the two.
The method to be described has various names. It is called shanmukhi mudra, which literally means ‘the attitude of the seven gates’. It is so called because the two eyes, two ears, two nostrils and the mouth are closed during the practice. These are the seven doors of outer perception. It is through these doors that one receives data from the outside world. These doors are closed to allow the awareness to be directed into the mind. The practice is also called baddha yoni asana – ‘the locked source pose’. Here the word locked refers to the closing of the seven orifices of perception. Another name for the technique is yoni mudra, which means ‘the invocation of the source’. That is, it is a method of merging with the source of nada.
One should sit in any comfortable meditative asana, preferably padmasana, siddhasana or siddhayoni asana2. The hands should be raised in front of the face with the elbows pointing sideways. The ears should be closed with the thumbs, the eyes with the index fingers, the nostrils with the middle fingers and the mouth should be sealed by placing the ring and small fingers above and below the lips respectively. The fingers should gently but firmly close the seven doors.
Take the prescribed sitting pose. Relax the whole body. Hold the spine and head upright. Throughout the practice, the middle fingers should release the nostrils during inhalation and exhalation; without this it will be impossible to breathe. Inhale deeply and slowly. At the end of inhalation close the nostrils with the middle fingers. Retain the breath (antar kumbhaka). Try to hear sounds at the region of the back of the head (bindu), in the middle of the head or the right ear.
At first you will either hear many sounds or none, it does not matter, only listen. Hold your breath for as long as is comfortable. Then release the pressure of the middle fingers and slowly breathe out. This is 1 round. Breathe in again, close the nostrils, and retain the breath. Listen to the inner sounds. Then after some time release the nostrils and breathe out. Continue in this way throughout the practice. During the period of breath retention your whole awareness should be directed to the perception of inner nada. At first there may be a confused jumble of sound, but gradually you will hear a sound; this may take a few days or a few weeks, but it will be perceived. Many people hear the sound in the right ear, it does not matter. When you hear a distinct sound be totally aware of it. It will become clearer and clearer. Keep your awareness fixed on the sound. Listen very carefully. If your sensitivity is sufficiently developed then you will hear another sound in the background; it may be faint, but perceivable. Leave the first sound and transfer your awareness to perception of the fainter sound. In this way you will transcend the first sound. Eventually this second sound will overwhelm your whole attention.
Again, with practice and enhanced sensitivity you will hear another sound begin to emerge. It will be faintly perceptible behind the louder second sound. Direct your awareness to this new sound. Carry on in this manner: perceive a sound and then discard it when you can perceive a more subtle sound. The more subtle the sound that you can perceive, the deeper you will delve into the depths of your being.
Note: do not expect to hear subtle sounds on your first attempt. Practice is necessary. Eventually you will develop the knack of transcending first the gross external sounds and then the progressively more subtle sounds. Don’t dwell on any of the sounds for too long. This is not the purpose of the practice. The aim is to leave each sound and to go deeper. Don’t become lost or distracted by the beautiful sounds on your journey.