Perspectives on Sound
The mystics can see with perfect clarity. The rest of us live with concepts – which at best contain only a small part of the truth. This is one of the qualities of a mind that is spread downward and outward. So the mystics explain that what we experience in this life is constantly changing, in the sense that it is only a projection.
What does this actually mean? Let us do a thought experiment that brings together a little clear thinking with what we know of physics. To do this we will take a short journey into the realm of the physics of sound. What we will examine is the following statement: When someone speaks to you, the sound of the voice that you are listening to exists only in your own mind.
Perhaps this seems a bit weird. The implication is that the sound you think you are hearing may not exist at all. But let us examine it a little closer.
We know from the physics of air that what we refer to as sound is in fact very small pressure waves travelling in the air, waves that travel like ripples formed on a surface of a pond due to some disturbance. In the case of sound, this disturbance is the vocal cords of the speaker causing very small ripples of pressure waves in the air. These pressure waves spread out to the listener and cause your eardrum to vibrate. These vibrations are then sensed by nerves in the inner ear, which are then interpreted by the brain as sound. Just as the small ripples travelling over the surface of a pond make no sound, the space around you is completely quiet.
Likewise, the air around us is quiet, and all we are really hearing are sounds in our own heads. This does not mean that the message being conveyed by the speaker is not real; simply that the sound you think you are hearing is no more than an electrical signal interpreted by your brain.
What has this to do with spirituality? First, it tells us that the world that we perceive around us is not what we think it is. In truth it is an experience we have within our own bodies. Nothing in fact comes from the outside, it is all within our brains interpreting various stimuli. Beauty, it turns out, truly is in the eye of the beholder.
If one can accept that all we experience is in fact within our own bodies – that what we think the outer universe sounds or looks like is simply a projection of reality on our own brain – a startling realization dawns. What we are experiencing is nothing more than a projection onto our senses, nothing more than a show.
If this is true, then what is reality? The intellect can only discern what it experiences through the senses, which in truth is simply a projection. Therefore, most of us are in utter darkness, as far as reality or truth is concerned. Great Master explains in Spiritual Gems why this has become the lot of the human being:
He was soul at one time when he was in intimate touch with the Word. But that was a long, long time ago when he was in the spiritual regions. When the soul lost touch with the Word and associated with the mind in the mental planes, the jewel was thrown away and the imitation grasped. The debased coin can pass as genuine on the mental planes only, but is not acceptable in the spiritual planes. The access to the spiritual planes was therefore debarred.
And so the door banged closed on him. But the degeneration did not end here. Great Master says further:
The coin was further debased when mind and soul left the mind planes and associated with gross matter in the physical plane. Here the jewel is no longer traceable, man has no knowledge of soul and a very poor knowledge of mind. The coin has become spurious and has no purchasing power in the markets of the mental and spiritual planes. Soul has been materialised, and human nature has become very weak.
So with our weak faculties, which include the intellect, we have no real answers. We cannot find the way to truth and reality. The much-revered science of matter has no answer, and one has to turn to what the science of the soul has to impart.
From the science of the soul we learn that our soul or consciousness at this level is so mixed with mind and matter that we are unable to differentiate even between mind and soul. In fact, it is mind which dominates. And this mind has only two main states. Either it is being pulled downward and outward or upward and inward.
The state in which we all start in this life is downward and outward. This is in the interest of our own survival, where we have to be totally focused on the material world in order to learn to speak, walk and function. Our survival depends on it.
But when the mind’s dominant tendency is downward and outward, all that we experience is a lie fabricated by the senses. What is more, all that we experience is within our own body and is powered by the soul. Each nerve which is being excited needs life energy. Even each thought of the mind requires life energy. And all this comes from the soul. So whatever pleasure we experience through the senses, is in fact a charade which is causing us to literally haemorrhage life force.
In contrast, if the mind’s tendency starts changing to turn upward and inward, a completely different experience unfolds. In contrast to when the mind is scattered, the consciousness becomes more focused and there is a sense of being replenished. The more upward and inward the mind’s tendency is, the more focused it will be. It is only when we experience this that we can start to see this material world for what it is: an inert shadow-land that is little more than – in Maharaj Ji’s words – a vale of tears.
It is only once we learn to appreciate meditation that we are driven to put in more and more effort to turn our attention upward and inward. But after countless ages of being caged by the mind, we have become so accustomed to our cage that any change of the status quo is perceived as strange to the point of discomfort, especially in the beginning. This is why regular and punctual meditation year in and year out is so essential. It literally takes years and years for many of us to even start to appreciate what we receive in meditation. But this change definitely happens.
Once an initiate complained to Maharaj Ji that simran is very boring. Maharaj Ji quickly responded by saying this was only in the beginning – after some time, the dry stone would become sweet. What changes is our state of mind, a mind that is becoming pure as it withdraws upward and inward.
Stilling the mind and reaching the inner form of the Master right now is not only difficult for most of us, it is impossible. But what is not hard at all, and is within the power of each one of us, is to develop a growing appreciation for the peace that results from turning the mind within. To develop that appreciation, all we need to do is show up for our simran and meditation.
We do, however, get discouraged due to slow progress after years of meditation. About this Great Master says in Spiritual Gems:
It is true … that in the preliminary stages the progress is slow. To give up worldly pleasures, to control the senses, and bring the attention in one centre by controlling the wild runs of the mind while still alive and kicking, is not an easy task. But what is it that with love and faith man cannot accomplish? You strengthen your will power and go ahead. Success is sure.
So these downward and outward habits that we have accrued over so many lives do hamper our progress, especially in the beginning. But creating another habit is also possible.
People may say that doing simran and meditation is hard. It is not. Although doing perfect simran and meditation is not just hard for most of us but seemingly impossible, doing simran and meditation with whatever focus we are capable of is possible. It is actually simple. Our expectations may make meditation feel difficult. But if one expects nothing and does meditation out of love and devotion or even just duty, then it is not difficult.
Over time our meditation will change the mind’s perspective from downward and outward to upward and inward. What keeps the mind pulled downward and outward is love for sense objects. What pulls the same mind upward and inward is more captivating, more satisfying and more beautiful than any love in this material world.
This is more obvious if we remember that love for sense objects is actually love for a mirage. How much depth can really be in this type of love? Now compare this with the love for the divine.
The same goes for our experience of sound. How much we enjoy listening to a favourite piece of music! But remember: this is simply little pressure waves causing electrical signals in our brains; there is no real sound as we experience it. Now compare this to that inner sound which is not only real; it comes with an energizing power of its own. The outer sound cannot in truth really be compared to it at all. This real inner sound is so incredibly beautiful and captivating that even with poor concentration, one may hear and enjoy it. Hazur Maharaj Ji tells us in Die to Live:
Without proper concentration, proper withdrawal, you do hear the Sound. … You will enjoy the Sound, you will hear the Sound, you will relish it, and your mind will be absorbed in it. You will be very happy and feel quite peaceful and blissful.
One cannot imagine what that Sound must be like once perfect concentration has been achieved. But one thing is sure: if there is anything worth striving for, this is it.
The beginning and end of all things is Shabd. All gross matter, the sky, and so forth, subtle matter, sound, form, taste and scent are all Shabd. Whatever is manifested from Shabd cannot be anything but Shabd. Shabd is our creator. Shabd is our sustainer and Shabd is ours.
Maharaj Sawan Singh, Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. IV