In Yoga, the world is sound and reality is a four-
The outer sound, that which we hear with
our ears. Vaikhari. This is the least powerful
level of sound, even though it is great.
The inner sound that we hear in our minds.
Madhyama. This is more powerful, because it
is inside you.
The vibration just before it becomes audible
to inner hearing; a luminous pulsation of energy.
Pashyanti. More powerful still.
The beyond–space, the potentiality of resonance.
The ocean of silence. Para.
Secretly, I think the Lord of Music has added
more strings in the past few thousand years – who
is to say that God cannot innovate? But let’s go
with these four for the sake of discussion.
Meditating with a mantra is the skill of listening
to sound on all these levels. You don’t just say the
mantra out loud. You listen to the subtler strings
and allow the beauty to carry you away into the
silence. This is a profound dissolution, which has
echoes of orgasm, that little-death, sleep, and something more – the utterly refreshing sense of an individual body renewing its contact with the universal
body of love. A fresh start, a new breath, a rebirth,
and you get a new astrological chart. We crave the
same thing in music: carry me away, cleanse me,
save my life. The energy that carries us into the ecstasy of a good concert, or the sublime bliss of a
good meditation, is the same: the desire for oneness, to become one with the music of life, to merge
with the fundamental pulsation of creation.
People seem to think that mantras are peaceful,
that they are the transcendental song of life, always
vibrating everywhere. Of course this is true, but the
mantras we use are also saturated with despair and
broken-heartedness, if we look up the stories associated with the major mantras: Shiva and Shakti;
*Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary, p 454
Rama and Sita; Krishna and Radha; Their lives are
a combination of occasional bliss and incandescent
terror. Shiva and Shakti were in love and wanted to
marry, but her father refused, so she threw herself
into the sacrificial fire and burned to death. Rama
and Sita were married, but Ravana captured her
and kept her hostage. With the help of Hanuman
Sita was returned, but people were gossiping –
maybe she had sex with Ravana, the demon-king.
And maybe, therefore, it is Sita’s fault that there
was a miscarriage in the village. So they tested
Sita by making her walk through fire. Krishna and
Radha were in love, but Krishna was a player, and
the astrologers said they did not match up for long-term happiness. Also, in some versions, Radha was
already married, with no possibility of divorce, so
their love was condemned to be unfulfilled except
in the hot nights down by the river. It was a passionate, illicit love; heartbreak from one end to the
other. The stories embedded in the mantras are as
raw and primordial as any rock song blasting out
its endless ache of lust and longing.
Arati is Sanskrit for dissatisfaction, so we could
say the plot of these mantras is propelled by arati-shakti, the power of divine discontent. It’s what
makes us search and it is what propels us on our
journey through the universe. These stories point
to eternal yearning for union, everlasting bliss, and
the risky adventure of being incarnate in a body.
Even the gods, when they take on bodies, are in for
the ride. This is because divinity meets us where
we are. By chanting the names of the gods, doing
mantra Yoga and listening to all four strings of
God’s guitar, we make the voyage from yearning
The teaching in the VBT is: Throw yourself in to
your practice; don’t hold back. Let everything you
are, all your desires, give power to your meditation. Every ache in your heart adds to the arati-shakti of your sadhana, your personal practice.
Anything you think is unworthy in yourself, the
gods suffer also. Bring your rebel rocker, bring
your loneliness, bring your exuberance, bring it
all, and let your meditation be the inner music of
your dance with life.
Dr. Lorin Roche, a mediation teacher for more than forty years, is the
author of The Radiance Sutras and the coauthor, with his wife, Camille
Maurine, of Meditation Secrets for Women: lorinroche.com