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The 2nd Limb: Listening

The science of listening is the second limb of Naad Yoga. To talk about listening, we must talk about the physical universe on a quantum level; in other words, the sub-atomic level of existence. The science of listening requires us to observe the nature of sound, its vibratory frequencies, and the relationship between sound, the creation and infinity. We must let go of all distractions in order to achieve a state of shuniya, which means “to become zero”.

Deep listening invites us to find that creative emptiness within, and hear the primal sounds of creation inside ourselves. For me it is the most fundamental and important part of the practice of yoga; for in this experience of deep listening, lies the ultimate reality experienced within one’s own self. We may work hard and practice many techniques of meditation – these are forms of dhyan, or concentration. However, only when we hear the inner sounds, can we enter into a state of sahej: “the easy way”. Sahej is a state of effortless flow, wherein all life is experienced as an endless harmony.

The great Sikh teacher Guru Nanak said, “Sunia lagai sahej dhyan.” By true hearing (deep listening), concentration becomes easy. In fact, Guru Nanak wrote four stanzas of his famous prayer Jap Ji Sahib, specifically about sunia – the practice of listening.

Later we will discuss sunia from a scientific view point. To me, science, though it can be cold, calculated and often overly-focused on small details instead of the whole, confirms much of the cosmology of yoga; specifically the teachings of Nanak. Having grown up in the West, a scientific approach gives me a certain comfort. It recalls the words of the Dalai Lama who said, “If science proves any of our beliefs to be false we should stand ready to adapt to that reality.”

However, sometimes the scientific approach seems to me like trying to understand the layout of a huge sixty-room mansion and acres of landscaping and gardens with a narrowly focused flashlight beam. There is a part of me that appreciates the somewhat simpler approach of Kabir[1], whose many writings were considered to be “in Naad”[2] and are included in the Sikh scriptures, the Siri Guru Granth Sahib[3]. I used to chant “Ram, Ram, Ram”[4]. Now, Ram chants “Kabir, Kabir, Kabir”.

And again, Lao Tzu[5]: “One can see the whole universe without leaving one’s room.”

As is the microcosm (the individual), so is the macrocosm (the entire creation). By turning inward and listening consciously, we focus on the subtle essence of what flows through us, allowing our finite self to touch our infinite self, ultimately opening up vast vistas of the mind that are often hidden from us in the limitations of our daily perspective.


[1] Kabir – A 14th century saint and poet. He was born a Muslim and raised as a Hindu and learned to access the teachings of yoga.

[2] The phrase “in Naad” refers to any mantra, poem or scripture that raises one’s frequency to the point of allowing the perception of the Divine essence or Naam.

[3] Siri Guru Granth Sahib – compiled by the fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Dev. He included not only the writings of the Sikh teachers, but also the writings of thirty-some saints and sages from many traditions, which held the frequency to connect the reader with the Naam, or divine essence. The Siri Guru Granth Sahib is not a book. The word granth means a “knot” that ties you to that infinite sound vibration.

[4] Ram – A name of God used as a mantra.

[5] Lao Tzu – A fifth century Taoist saint from the North of China.