"The individual soul has descended from the higher worlds [realms of the Divine] to this city of illusion. 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 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." (Swami Sant Sevi Ji Maharaj, The Harmony of All Religions, published by Maharshi Mehi Ashram)
"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 (visualization) 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)." (Swami Sant Sevi Ji Maharaj)
The first paragraph above describes the origin of the soul. The soul is part of the Supreme Being, the Supreme Soul, 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 outwardly focused senses. God is described as the Nameless State 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 at least where we think we are -- this is where own awareness is directed most of the time. We are aware of the world as we perceive it via the five senses.
In the second paragraph of Swami Sant Sevi Ji above we see a reversal of this process during meditation 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 the Sant tradition of India, the Path of the Masters of the East, one is trained to watch and listen for certain inner Lights and Sounds of the various planes, Auditory and visionary experiences are at the heart of the meditation practice (Surat Shabda Yoga). In meditation, it can appear like one is going through a tunnel, or, scenes change from one thing to another, various colors, 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. 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. Beyond all these veils of darkness, Light, and Sound, is the Soundless One, the Supreme Soul.
The third paragraph discusses the meditation techniques used to "get there from here".
1) 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.
2) 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 also 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)
Using Your Spiritual Senses To See and Hear Within
3) Dirsti yoga: the Yoga of Inner 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 or Lights. Seeing Light beyond the darkness is what it means to "reach the Third Eye Center". At the time of initiation, one's teacher reveals all 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)
4) 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 mind, to actually hearing Divine Sound. 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" or "Mantra" one can encounter. The Divine Word is the True Name or Naam. Nadanu-sandhana: Concentration on divine Sound -- the Yoga of Inner Sound: These are inner Sounds. At the time of initiation one is given instruction on meditating upon certain sounds within. There are many sounds in the cosmos, 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)
5) Soundless Yoga: Beyond form is Formlessness. Beyond Sound is the Soundless State, God, the Nameless One, the Soundless One, the Nondual Ocean of Love. Reaching this State of Oneness or Union with God, the Beloved, is the goal of the practice known as Surat Shabda Yoga.
Yogani Mataji once said: "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." 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 Golden Rule, no Sermon on the Mount, no Four Noble Truths, no Eightfold Path, no Precepts of Ahimsa, no Rumi poetry, no satsang discourses or hymns of Saints, no living Path of the Masters. 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, as a result of following specific methods of spiritual practice communicated from one generation to the next.
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 too. In India, this is called Satsang (association with the eternal Truth or God). We get together to hear the teachings and meditate as a group. 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 or other advanced meditators, 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 all day long or be "blown away", made off-center as a result of the experience. We are simply adding another level of consciousness to our daily 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 of Consciousness." ////////
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