Shabda (or Nada-Brahman) is a spiritual musical sound that can be heard during yogic meditation and is believed to have a spiritually transformative power. The emphasis on inner spiritual sounds or a current of sound is especially seen in the Sikh and Radha Soami traditions in the Punjab. This current of sound was also a common theme in the poetry of popular medieval saint Kabir, who was born in Varanasi in the 15th century. Kabir is highly respected by these groups and his poetry has been elevated to scripture to the point where it has been included in their holy books. Kabir could never lose awareness of the divine presence because, as he wrote in a poem, “the rhythm of His music beats in my ears” “whether I rise or sit down.”
The view that the universe contains waves or currents that can be perceived as sound and that move between the two poles of existence is a common theme in Nada Yoga traditions. The first pole is in the higher spiritual planes of being where the templates for all life forms and the templates that define the basic order of the material world are said to exist. The second and opposite pole is manifestation and the physical world as we normally perceive it.
These traditions claim that, on one hand, there is a flow of creative energy or spirit issuing from the first pole responsible for the material order and evolution that we see around us. The consciousness present in all life forms is said to depend upon this outward expanding spiritual flow. In this world view, the universe is being constantly created or recreated, and refreshed or renewed by this outward flow.
On the other hand, there is also said to be a returning flow that reverses creation and draws or carries the traveler back from the second pole or material world to his origins in the spiritual realms. The salient point of this discussion lies in the fact that the spiritual traveler who can perceive these returning currents of sound can learn to catch the returning wave and ride it back to a higher plane of being, thus the reason for our interest in these sound currents. They serve both as the mechanism of travel and a compass orienting the traveler through the psychic planes and into the spiritual planes.
The ability to tune the soul to perceive the sounds of Shabda must come first. Then, one must learn how to catch and metaphorically ride them. This advanced stage involves transitioning from immersion in a single, lower sound associated with a psychic state represented by, for instance, the sound of drums or thunder to the higher sounds of flutes, violins or vinas which are associated with different heavenly or spiritual worlds.
Developing one’s spiritual hearing is a process that takes time and effort and is a worthy goal on the spiritual path. It is also a skill that is sometimes ignored or overlooked. The spiritual traveler needs to take a special interest in this form of spiritual development in order to truly understand the kind of freedom and knowledge that spiritual travel can offer.