Nadam: Listening for the Unstruck Sound

by Sharon Gannon |
June, 2003
Tasya vachakah pranavah

Always chant OM; God is OM, supreme music

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1.27

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika declares that samadhi is achieved when the anahata nadam, the unstruck sound, can be heard. The aim of Hatha Yoga is to hear this soundless sound, which is Om, the dissolution of all sound, and the music of the spheres. To do this the yogi must first perfect the ability to listen. The fruit of meditation practice is the ability to listen, to be receptive enough to perceive the subtlest sounds emanating from within each of us.

Sound is the essence of all energy. The first vibration, the Nadam, was “unstruck,” meaning that it occurred at a time when there were no things to strike against each other to make a sound. That first very subtle vibration is still resonating through each and every vibration that has arisen since the beginning.

Nada Yoga is the yoga of deep inner listening. Nada is a Sanskrit word meaning sound; the related word nadi means river or stream. It also means rushing or sounding. Nadis are the subtle channels through which consciousness flows.

To begin the practice of Nada Yoga, the yogi first practices pratyahara by drawing the senses inward and forcefully shuts out as many external sights and sounds as possible. The first stage of pratyahara is to become still and quiet, and allow an inner tranquility to permeate the senses.

This is not easy to do, so a prerequisite might be to refine your ability to really listen. To refine your ability to listen, start by appreciating good music. But be choosey about what you allow to enter your being through your ears. It is helpful to choose music that induces an inner state of well-being.

Once you refine your external listening, you can turn your ability to listen inward. The nada yogi longs to pulse with the inner pulse of life itself. Yoga practices provide techniques for tuning the instrument, for rendering an ordinary body into an instrument for Divine will. Through the practices of Nada Yoga, the yogi’s mind becomes absorbed in the inner sound of Om.

Excerpt from Chapter 11, Jivamukti Yoga by Sharon Gannon & David Life