Responsibility and the Nature of Sound

Sound. Those of us who work with it know it's power, some of us very intimately. Those just starting out along the path may not yet realize the power and it's complexity. Sound is nothing to trifle with, nothing to just play around with, especially when it comes to playing Gongs/Bowls/Bells for others. Besides the great aspects of meditation and healing we can bring forth with sound, we can also cause confusion and disorientation with it too. Again, this is why I am so opposed to people who take a weekend course, get a pretty certificate, then proceed to claim themselves some sort of master and offer their services far and wide.

Sound and all its aspects is a lifelong journey. And it's tricky. Just when you think you've got a hold of it, it presents something new and different to you, as if to say, “There's much more to me than you think!”


Alan Watts

Sound is the primordial force, the first mover. In his book, Buddhism The Religion Of No-Religion, the great philosopher/spiritualist, Alan Watts, had this to say about sound:

The Hindus say that in the beginning was vac, which is exactly the same thing as saying, “In the beginning was the word,” as in the Gospel of John. But vac doesn't mean logos as it does in the Gospel of John, it means vibration. It is fundamentally the sanskrit word om. […] Om is the holiest of all names. You can chant om, you know, and really stir things up.
All Hindus and Buddhists alike use this word to induce a meditative state. It is very easy to concentrate on sound. It is much more difficult to keep your eyes still. But sound is very easy to concentrate on, and the is the whole point of a mantra: it is a method of digging sound. I hope you know what I mean by “to dig.” It means to get right down into. When you dig sound you realize that the flow or vibration of sound is a way in which you experience basic existence, being here. You can learn everything from sound, because it is not a constant. It comes and goes. It is on and off. You only hear it because it is vibrating. The lesson is that life is on and off, black and white, life and death, inside and outside, knowing and not knowing: they’re all vibrations. It’s easy to explain that in words, but to feel and understand that in your bones you have to learn how to listen to a sound. It was to teach that skill that this system of chanting was invented.  
It is very easy to concentrate on sound.” Sound is all around us, but even more accurately, vibration is all around us. Sound is perceived by the ear, but vibration is also perceived by the body. We hear sound, but we feel vibration. This is especially apparent with the Gong/Bowl/Bells: the sound is clear and the vibrations are strong. There is as much feeling—or even more—as there is hearing.


Yogi Bhajan

In the words of Yogi Bhajan:

The Gong is the first and last instrument for the human mind, there is only one thing that can supersede and command the human mind, the sound of the Gong. It is the first sound in the universe, the sound that created this universe. It’s the basic creative sound. To the mind, the sound of the gong is like a mother and father that gave it birth. The mind has no power to resist a gong that is well played.

Dane Rudhyar 


In The Magic Of Tone And The Art Of Music, the great mystic, Dane Rudhyar, wrote:

In primitive societies the transmission of knowledge is effected through the duplication of movements — gestures and vocal sounds. To speak is to move the organs of the body involved in speech. Motion (activity) is always the primordial fact of human existence; the child and pupil learn by imitating gestures and vocal sounds. Words (which originally are the Names of entities), their intonations, and the special manner in which the tone producer passes from one word to another are transmitted orally.
[…]
When a shaman intoned his magical incantations, when a bard or a celebrant in an ancient cult recited the deeds of culture heroes or the teachings of a divine personage, they acquired their knowledge of the tones, rhythms, and inflections they used through oral transmission, either from father to son, or during long periods of initiatory training. Even when men and women of a tribe sang the monophonic chants they had heard since early childhood, they did so in a spirit of unanimous attunement to the psychic power that bound them into an organic whole.

As you can see, each of these esteemed figures placed great importance on sound. There is much to learn, much to know, much to experience. So do not take what you do lightly, because the vibrations you bring forth affect the world around us greatly.

~ MB


Chop Wood / Carry Water / Play Gongs™


Comments

  1. Another superb Way of the Gong Michael. I'd like to add some additional commentary to what you presented. Vac or Vak is one of the 4 stages of tonal manifestations by which Nada yoga develops. Vak was considered by the ancient Rishis of Indian as incomprehensible by ordinary sense organs. Vak is a feminine noun, and in the Upanishad's it refers to OM as Paranada or transcendental sound. But this OM is beyond vibration and holds the 'nature' of jyoti or light. The Rishis saw OM as the Son of Vak or the Mother giving birth to a Son. And indeed the word 'flow' does apply to this pair of words as the esteemed Mr. Watts references. However, I diverge from the opinion of Harbhajan Singh, the sound of the Gong would be classified as the 4th stage of Nada Yoga or Baikhari. To further my point, in some of the oldest texts, older than the Rig Veda, the primordial creative sound is not OM, not even close to OM. This can be an argument for another day, but please, before the yoga community 'freaks out', I would advise you to research Archaeomusicology and you may actually learn something new. In regards to Mr. Rudhyar, I came across a link recently which I thought was interesting and your readers Michael, may find engaging (I offer this as a means for understanding, many who quote or use Rudhyar in their writings, I feel, don't understand him at all) - http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.14.20.2/mto.14.20.2.trinastic.html

    Keep up the good work!

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  2. Thanks for the contribution and the link. There is much of Rudhyar's writings and related material available on the web. Rather than write a full dissertation, or a book, I write these blogs more as food for thought, and hopefully, seeds for further conversation. It is hoped that the readers will take it upon themselves to investigate things further if they feel the interest.

    Thanks again!

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