Exploring Inner Space Via Surat Shabda Yoga Meditation
By James Bean
Copyright November 2005
The self-existent Lord pierced the senses
To turn outward. Thus we look to the world
Outside and see not the Self within us.
A sage withdrew his senses from the world
Of change [samsara] and, seeking immortality,
Looked within and beheld the deathless Self.
(Katha Upanishad, part 2, 1, 1,)
"The individual soul has descended from the higher worlds [realm of the Divine] to this city of illusion [bodily existence]. It has descended from the Soundless state to the essence of Sound, from that Sound to Light, and finally from the realm of Light to the
realm of Darkness.
"The current of consciousness which is dispersed in the nine gates of the body and the nine senses must be collected at the tenth gate (the sixth chakra, the third eye, bindu, center between the
eyebrows). Therein lies the path for our return. This is the act of leaving the gates of the sense organs and becoming established in the soul. We travel back from the realm of Darkness to the realm of Light, from the Light to divine Sound, and from the realm of Sound to the Soundless state. The Divine Essence permeates all beings yet transcends them.
"The four practices are gross to subtle in an ascending order: manas jap and manas dhyana, Dirsti yoga, Nadanu-sandhana (Sound Yoga), and the Soundless Yoga. The practice of manas japa (mantra) and manas dhyana is the worship of the (material) qualified (personal) form of God (God perceived as name and form in the gross realm); the practice of the meditation on the infinitesimally small point is the worship of the subtle qualified form of God (God perceived as the infinitesimal point); Concentration on divine sounds (other than Sar Sabad, the Divine Sound of the beginning, Word, Logos) is the worship of the qualified formless Divine. And, finally, meditation on the Sar Sabad (the Original Divine Sound) is worship of the Unqualified-Formless (transcendent Godhead)." (Sant Sevi Ji Maharaj)
The first paragraph describes the origin of the soul. The soul is part of the Supreme Being in the true realm, ultimate reality. Then the soul individualized, and incarnated into various coverings or bodies (mental, akashic, astral and physical) going to various realms, living out separate existences being dominated by the senses. God is described as the Nameless or Soundless One. Then there are realms of Sound and Light, and the relatively dark matter of the physical universe or multiverse. This is where most of us are, or where we think we are - this is where are awareness is most of the time. We are aware of the world as we perceive via the five
In the second paragraph we see a reversal of this process being advocated, an inversion or going within. The soul, during
meditation, begins the journey back to its Source. By merging into the divine Light, then the divine Sound, the soul, transcending the physical world, astral, causal, mental, and etheric realms, eventually returns home. It returns to itself again as the pure naked soul, it's true Self.
In Sant Mat, one is trained to listen for certain inner Lights and Sounds of the various planes. In meditation, it can appear like one is going through a tunnel, or, scenes change from one thing to
another, lights within lights, lotuses within lotuses. There are sounds within sounds also. The bell sound morphs into a conch-shell, or thunder/drums, sitar, flute-like sound, bagpipes, vina, and so on. Beyond all the "veils" of the physical body and the subtle bodies associated with the different planes, is the soul. In this form of meditation, surat shabda yoga, the awareness of the soul travels from this outer world of the five senses, through astral,
causal, mental, and etheric realms, and back to itself again - know thyself as soul. Beyond all these veils of darkness, Light, and Sound, is the Soundless One, the Supreme Being.
The third paragraph discusses the meditation techniques used to "get There from here".
- Manas jap: "manas" means mental, and "jap" or, "jappa" refers to the chanting of mantras, sacred names. Thus, manas jap is the practice of mentally repeating names of God with the "tongue of thought". This practice is also called Simran, and the Sufis call it Zikhr. This is a spiritual exercise one can do within the privacy of one's mind throughout the day to remember God in all of our activities, and this is also the first technique in Sant Mat meditation.
- Manas dhyana, is the technique of mentally visualizing a Form of
God or the image of one's Guru. This is a visual form of relaxation, and the repetition of sacred names is the auditory equivalent. One repeats the name their teacher gives them while visualizing. Together, these are a powerful combination, making it possible to get centered and helps to prepare one for the next stage. "Coupled with this physical stillness and ceaseless repetition of God's name [Simran practice], the next step is to contemplate the Light
within." (Yogani Mataji)
The Spiritual Senses, Seeing and Hearing Within
- Dirsti yoga: the Yoga of Light: "the practice of the meditation on the infinitesimally small point [bindu] is the worship of the subtle qualified form of God (God perceived as the infinitesimal point)." Other terms for this "infinitesimal point" are: Single Eye, Third Eye Center, Seat of the Soul, and Tishra Til. As one is in the darkness repeating divine names and visualizing the form of their Guru or Ideal, Light may manifest itself: flashes of Light, shimmering Light, lights of various colors, clouds of Light, sparks or fireflies, stars, suns, moons, etc.... This is being centered at
the Third Eye, which is like a Door or Portal to the worlds beyond. This is our own Hubble Space Telescope Within, so to speak. In meditation, one simply gets relaxed and centered, and notices a shift from an awareness of the five-sense world to our "Within" or Inner Space. With a certain amount of concentration, with the help of the sacred name or names one is repeating, along with visualizing the form of the teacher, one sees the inner Light. Seeing Light beyond the darkness is what it means to reach the Third Eye Center. At the time of initiation, one's teacher reveals the details of what
kinds of visions and Lights one should contemplate. Certain sights in Inner Space are associated with particular planes and serve as markers along the way. "At first, Mataji pointed out, there will be only darkness but eventually Light will appear in the form of either small flashes or small star-like points. In any case, one should focus on the radiance, keeping one's Simran intact and allowing the Light to draw the soul inward." (Yogani Mataji)
- As one's concentration develops at the Third Eye Center, one begins to make the transition from lower to higher, from outer to inner, from visualization of a form, to real-Light-seen, from the sound of Simran words being repeated in one's thoughts, to the Divine Sound, a Mantra that repeats all by Itself. Even as contemplating real inner Light is preferable to visualizations, there is meditation upon inner Sound, which is viewed as a higher or more advanced stage of practice than the repetition of mantra-names.
There is a higher Name of God one can encounter. The Divine Word is the True Name or Naam. Nadanu-sandhana: Concentration on divine Sound -- the Yoga of Sound: These are inner Sounds. At the time of initiation one is given instruction on meditating upon certain sounds within. There are many sounds, but certain ones will attract the soul, pulling it up to higher levels of awareness. "The most important step, Mataji said, is to listen to the Sound that issues forth from the Light. It is this Internal Music which will numb the body and allow the consciousness to leave its ordinary dwelling. By
riding this Current of Light and Sound, like a fish going upstream, the soul will be able to go back to its original Home." (Yogani Mataji, a Radhaswami Guru I've always liked, quoted in the book, Enchanted Land)
- Soundless Yoga: Beyond form is the Formless. Beyond Sound is the Soundless State, God, the Nameless, the Soundless One, the Formless, Nondual Ocean of Love. Of this state, Swami Ji Maharaj said: "The Supreme Being Sat Purush Radhaswami is Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent. His attributes are Grace, Mercy, Love, Bliss and Peace."
"From one step to another the soul beholds strange things which cannot be described in human language. Every region and everything is utterly beyond words. What beauty and glory! How can I describe
them? There is nothing here to convey the idea. I am helpless.... "Love plays the supreme part. It is all love.
"So says RADHASWAMI."
Why the need for a living master and Initiation into the Secrets of Surat Shabda Yoga? Of course, if it wasn't for living masters, recent masters and past masters, we would not be having this
conversation. There would be no understanding or organized path teaching this as a divine possibility, that human beings can taste something of heaven, even now during this present life, in this present moment of time.
Note: a word about masters and spiritual paths: A true master does not charge money for this sort of meditation practice according to the Sant Mat tradition. A spiritual master also is compassionate, and is ethical in his or her conduct, practicing what they preach, following the principles of ahimsa: non-violence in thought, word,
and deed. In other words, with a true master there is no abuse of power, no sexual misconduct, no misappropriation of funds, and no unloving tone or atmosphere. The tone of the teachings will be compassionate, positive and healthy. Even if a guru's teachings are essentially correct but they are not ethical in their conduct, they are not a real master. 'The student is genuine, even if the teacher is not', and therefore may benefit somewhat from any number of teachers over the years, but a more advanced master of the Positive
Power will be a much better influence and will take one higher.
In the ancient Sanskrit language, the word "Sant" means master of the highest order. The definition of a master in Sant Mat is, esoterically, someone who has reached the Fifth Plane or Above -
that makes them a Sant - a soul that has merged in God. For them to function in the capacity of a Satguru, they are usually someone who has been appointed ('accredited') by their teacher to be the next master of a lineage or spiritual community. Someone like this gives out not only the theory of the meditation, but is the embodiment of it as well. A true master experiences these realms for themselves. Thus, their students not only have the theory of the meditation practice, but generally, they have success in their own experience of Divine Light and Sound within when they meditate and are accurately following the instructions they were given at the time of initiation.
There is a spiritual principal that: "we are influenced by the company we keep". When we associate with those who experience Divine Light and Sound, there is a spiritual influence which helps us to open up to Light and Sound as well. In India, this is called Satsang
(association with eternal Truth or God). People get together to hear the teachings and meditate together. There is a Group Energy that provides a boost or jump-start that helps open us up to our own experience. "Where two or three are gathered in My Name, I Am in their midst", as the saying goes. Even better than meditating with other initiates is to meditate with a living master, and this is what initiation is, along with complete guidance and instruction on
how to meditate, as well as on how to integrate this sort of meditation practice with one's daily life in a balanced and healthy sort of way. It is a "far out" form of meditation, but we need not meditate in a cave all day long or be "blown away" by the experience. We are simply adding another level of consciousness to our existence. Along with the waking state, the unconscious state of deep sleep, and the dream-state, we are adding the meditative state of inner Light and Sound - Surat Shabda Yoga, to our daily schedule and spend some time in Inner Space, what some call "the Fourth State
Yogani Mataji: "On the journey within, the soul must be guided by a true master so as not to be detained in any of the lower illusory regions."