All meditation practices use a support—at least initially—upon which you focus your attention. This is done in order to keep your mind in check. It is through the slowing down and even pausing of mental “chatter” that the common health-related benefits, including tranquillity in the face of stress, and improved concentration are obtained. These are the most sought after results of meditation, and most mindfulness meditators today are happy with those results. Mindfulness meditation is quick, it’s easy, and it’s productive… so why not?
Mindfulness meditation uses different types of phenomena as the “support” for the practice. The support is that which you focus your attention on in a mindful manner. The breath is the most frequently used, but really any phenomenon will suffice as they are equally beneficial. Through the effort to focus the attention, you can calm your mind.
But there are other types of meditation, with other goals. Most of these other goals are directed at various aspects of enlightenment, via a progression of insights gained through the meditation technique.
And then, of course, there are the various types of yoga which are based upon physical movement and postures. Here too, the goal today is mostly in health benefits, including improved range of motion, balance, body awareness, and flexibility. Interestingly, yoga was originally an important entryway into an advanced type of meditation. It was also referred to as “yoga” and was specifically called “Nadanusandhana,” and it was said that it was the ultimate goal of all the other yoga practices.
That name comes from the root Sanskrit word “Nāda” meaning sound, but in this case the sound in question was characterized as Anāhata Nāda—unstruck sound. It is said that this is experienced by many that practice advanced yoga. This unstruck sound is not heard in the common sense of hearing, but within the mind, as this sound is awakened within by the yogic practices. Nadanusandhana is a meditation practice that uses these unstruck sounds to further progress on the path to enlightenment.
But this is only one type of practice that uses these unstruck sounds. The Four Elements Inner Spontaneous Sound Yoga is another kind of practice that use the unstruck sounds, and is unrelated to Hatha yoga practices. The name of this practice includes the word “yoga,” however, because it specifically makes use of union with the unstruck sounds—in a particular way—in order to catalyze fundamental changes in you, the practitioner.
Thus this meditation practice is notable for two things: first, it does not use a physical, caused, phenomenon as a support, and second, its result goes beyond the body-related benefits of mindfulness meditation and basic yoga practices.
The particular support used in this practice has been used in different ways in many spiritual and religious traditions. Unfortunately, each use has earned it a different name. So besides the already mentioned “Anāhata Nāda,” it is also called: Astral sound, Chönyid kyi rangdra (or Chos Nyid Kyi Rang Sgra), Dharmata Swayambhu Nada, Divine Tremoring, Eternal Sound, Inner Sound, Music of the Spheres, Primordial Sound, Resonance of Emptiness, Sacred Sound, Shabda, Sound of Creation, Sound of Silence (also Thunder of Silence), Soundless Sound, Transcendental Sound, Unborn Sound, Unstruck Sound, and The Word of God.
And I have added another name because this practice is not presented here in relation to any doctrinal system, but has been specifically reframed to focus on the practice and its result, which are not in any way dependent on a doctrinal system to understand. Thus I call the support of the Four Elements practice: autogenous resonances.
The Four Elements Inner Spontaneous Sound Yoga is an advanced meditation practice that uses these autogenous resonances in a specific way to catalyze particular changes in the practitioner.
In Tibetan Buddhism, these autogenous resonances are known to be the self-arising sound of the naturing of Dharmata. The Dharmata is the intrinsic naturing of reality. These sounds then are the reverberations, or resonances, arising from the naturing of everything.
In Hindu traditions, in which these autogenous resonances are known as the Anāhata Nāda, they are described in many ways, and are sometimes presented as “vibrations” (also “tremoring”).
However, it is confusing to think of these “sounds” as vibrations because vibrations require space, time, and the movement of something, but the Anāhata Nāda is “unstruck,” and the Dharmata is “timeless,” and its essence is “empty,” i.e., both are commonly presented as non-physical, non-spatial, non-temporal, and non-substantial. How then is there vibration?
Because this practice is presented outside of any particular doctrinal system, including that of the current physicalist view of a material reality, all unnecessary complications have been distilled out it.
Instead, see these autogenous resonances as what is noticed when you turn your attention inward and away from all outward phenomena. This “inward” turn does not mean just inside you, because then it would be limited to the whoosh of blood, the thumping of your heart, the gurgles of your digestion, and the cracks and gratings of bones. Rather, this “inward” turn is into your mind, and it employs that which is interpreted as sound by your mind.
The more you place your attention, without straining, on these autogenous resonances in your mind, the more developed they become over time. And since they do not block each other, the more developed they become, the richer the experience becomes, as they are all present to your awareness together.
The different kinds of resonances are often described in relation to the different centers and flows of your “subtle energetic body,” a term that is let stand here because of its recognized effective and practical use in Acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Medical Chi Gong, and of course, Yoga. So what you are really doing as you develop these resonances is gathering yourself into a harmonious whole. Great tranquillity comes from this, and that is the first benefit to be derived from using this support and this practice.
Initially, these resonances are not apparent, or very subtle, and require a great deal of patience to access. Meditation is sometimes described as “listening to the silence between thoughts,” and our effort in meditation is rightfully directed towards consciously increasing the periods of such silence. And yet, silence is heard, even though there is no phenomenon that is causing a sound. In the same way, these autogenous resonances are heard even though there is no source for them. They are self-arising, uncreated, and not dependent or contingent on any external or internal cause.
There is one important difference between this support and all others that is crucial, however. In the Buddhist Surangama Sutra, the Bodhisattva Manjushri, who is associated with transcendent wisdom, explains that this support, since it is not a contingent or compounded (caused) phenomenon as all others are, it is continuous in the sense that it does not arise and pass away as the breath does, and as normal sounds do. It is therefore always present when we turn to it.
All other supports, such as the breath, are discontinuous, and thus one reaches a point where, in order to proceed further and accomplish greater concentration leading to enlightenment, one needs the presence of Dharma teachings and/or an enlightened teacher to overcome their discontinuous nature. This is why, according to the Surangama Sutra, all Buddhas reach enlightenment through the use of this support alone.
However, we can just say that these resonances are important because of this one fact: they bring our attention onto the fundamental and essential nature of the mind itself—and this leads directly to enlightenment.
There are two renowned changes that are catalyzed by this practice, which I can attest to based upon my own use of it, that I’ll mention: One is a remarkable ability to be patient. Very little fazes you, and you have a seemingly limitless equanimity when dealing with difficult situations.
The second change is much more remarkable and is attested to in every tradition where this support has been used—it changes you so that you begin to manifest “great compassion.” This is called “mahākaruṇā” in Sanskrit, and it is well-known in Buddhism and Hindu traditions. In brief, you become self-less and your every act sublimates into the ultimate compassionate response to whatever situation confronts you. Loving-kindness becomes an automatic response, unclouded by any unbalanced self-interest—thus your compassion is equally balanced between yourself and others.
In short, compassionate virtue is the effect of using this support.