DSCN0003.JPGA friend posed some questions to me about the Anahata Nada that I use as a meditation support. I want to share my answers with you as well.

He asked:

1. Is it really an ‘unstruck’ sound – such as the dwindling sound of the creation running on into the indefinite future – or is it a ‘struck’ sound – such as the sound of your blood circulating?

2. If it is unstruck, is it also unconditioned, and will it stay with us after death (into the bardo, and even the next life).

3. We perceive the Nada as sound, but more correctly it is vibration. Is it the vibration caused by the world arising and passing away every instant?

4. The Nada is a powerful support for Samadhi, but can it be used for insight meditation? If so, how can it be used to be more present?

I responded:

First, “nada” itself just means “sound” so it needs to be qualified. Technically “nada yoga” uses any kind of sound, whether external, internal, unstruck, mantra, musical instrument, etc., whereas “anahata nada yoga” uses only the inner, unstruck sounds as the support.

This difference is crucial because of the very important distinction between the anahata nada and ALL other meditation supports. In the Buddhist “Surangama Sutra,” the Bodhisattva Manjushri, who is associated with prajñā (transcendent wisdom) in Mahayana Buddhism, explained that this support is not a contingent or compounded evanescent phenomenon, thus it is continuous in the sense of not arising and subsiding, but always being present. All other supports, like the breath, are discontinuous, thus one reaches a point where to proceed further, to accomplish additional insights, one needs the Dharma, a teacher, something, to overcome the discontinuous nature of the support. This is why all Buddhas reach enlightenment through this technique alone. This point about the nature of the anahata nada is of paramount importance, and it should put to rest the question of whether or not this support is useful for insight meditation—it is the best support for insight meditation.

The anahata nada is called many things, and is sometimes thought of as “vibrations” (also “tremoring” in the Sant Mat Indian tradition, “reverberations” in Tibetan Bön and Buddhism, and the “Word” of God, in Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions). However, it is dangerous to think of them as vibrations because vibrations require space, time, and the movement of something, but the anahata nada is unstruck, i.e. non-physical, non-spatial, non-temporal, non-substantial, so none of those apply.

Instead, see the anahata nada as what is noticed when you turn your attention inward and away from all outward phenomena. This “inward” does not mean just “inside” because then it would include the whoosh of blood, the thumping of your heart, the gurgles of your digestion, and cracks and gratings of bones. This “inward” turning is towards your true nature, or mind, or God (depending on the tradition), and thus what is interpreted as sound by the mind is the naturing or manifesting of all things. Initially, you can access only the anahata nada that are closest, meaning the naturing of your mind and body. Later, you may expand “outward” from that, because the limitation is only an error, meaning your mind rejects what is not close-by.

On the top of every Buddhist stupa is a representation of this understanding in the form of the “sun and moon,” or the Bindu-Nada “void-point” and “vibrational emanation.” The anahata nada is our direct experience of that manifesting of all appearances.

I should point out that when you use earplugs, not only can you hear more subtle anahata nada tones, you can also hear more physical sounds. The difference is obvious, and just by focusing on the anahata nada, the physical sounds fade away.

And that leads me to an obvious question that some may have—are these sounds just tinnitus? Tinnitus is caused by ear damage, or other organic issues, and is not volitional at all. You don’t have a choice to pay attention to it and bring it into your focus of awareness, or not pay attention and have it recede into the background gracefully, or even disappear entirely. If you can do this, these sounds shouldn’t be considered a malady. So no, it’s not Tinnitus.

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