A Tantrik Message: Sound Creates the Body. ~ Eric Shaw

Via on Jul 30, 2013

1899 Public Domain Chakras

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. ~ John 1:1

Kirtan is the rage, and sound healing is a hip health modality. Many of us chant Sanskrit daily in yoga classes, but few know the deeper implications of its use and Sanskrit’s relationship to Tantrik history and yoga practice.

The Body of Sound, known in Sanskrit as the Nada Deha or Sabda Sarira, is a development of Tantra and emerged around the 6th century.

Saraswati goddess Pub domain

One of the names that developed for the Tantra path was Mantramarga—the path of the mantras. Tantra was a path where the guru was primary, and individual mantras were given to Tantrik practitioners to help refine their general karmic disposition.

This emphasis on sound is a legacy of India’s Vedic tradition, where it was seen as one of the first evolutes of the universe.

The universe was understood to be constructed from sound, and the 50 phonemes of the Sanskrit alphabet were its foundational members.

Vac, the Goddess of sound (who later became the art and music goddess, Saraswati) was a key deity, and the Agni Hotra (Fire Ceremony) depended on chants for its efficacy.

Indeed, the first two Vedas, the Rig and Sama (1500 – 1000 BCE), are completely composed of chants.
The complexity of the Vedic chanting ritual attempted to create a “sound body” of the universe. This functioned as a microcosm of the universe’s macrocosm. The rituals redirected universal energy for the support of individuals or human society.

Sanskrit.LowRes.jpeg

Our modern sun salutation is derived from a cycle of 12 vedic chants, one for each “house” of the sun, addressed by different names (paadas).  The names evoked the virtues of the sun—generosity, fame, reliability—even as they resonated with different parts of the body for personal health and created the conditions for wealth and happiness.

Tantra’s idea of the human form as a “sound body” draws from this legacy. The body is seen as a microcosm of the universe, but here the emphasis is not on directing life matters to gratify us, but to refine our anatomy to create the most effective conditions for human evolution.

The definition of the Sabda Sarira was complex: the graduated vibratory centers of the body, the chakras, were understood to be made of petals (dalas) which consisted of sounds from the Sanskrit alphabet. Like matter itself, the body was constructed of these 50 sounds and their proper harmonization determined the degree to which a human was “attuned” to their surroundings and/or the larger vibratory state of the universe.

sacred geometrycymatics1

This attunement was, of course, a definition of health and critical to the “sound healing” of another era. Health was seen as being of two particular states: 1) healthy in terms of attunement to relative conditions—i.e. the stresses of one’s particular life situation, or 2) attunement to one’s universal capacity for Awakening.

Kleshas of Svadisthana Chakra

These were not always the same thing. One can be adapted for survival within certain conditions which do not serve a greater evolution.

Ideally, the two are aligned in some form of right livelihood.

At the practice level, certain ritual practices of Tantra worked with a chakra sound anatomy that was carefully elaborated. The Root Chakra (Muladhara) had six sounds; the Sacral Chakra (Svadisthana) also six; the Navel Chakra (Manipura) had 10; the Heart Chakra (Anahata), 12; and the Throat Chakra, 16, for a total of 50.

This Tantrik understanding of the “Body of Sound” has implications for modern sound healers and for any of us choosing to work with Sanskrit or practices aiming at health through the chakras.

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Ed: Sara Crolick

About Eric Shaw

Eric Shaw , MA.SE, MA.RS, MA.AS, has been a yoga teacher since 2001 and has done deep study in many forms of meditation and yoga practice. He maintains a lively international teaching schedule and is the creator of both Prasana Yoga—a form that reveals alignment in movement—and Yoga Education through Imagery—lecture programing that teaches yoga’s traditions through archival imagery and new scholarship. He is an E-RYT 500 with two degrees in Art, and Masters Degrees in Education, Religious Studies and Asian Studies. His essays appear in Yoga Journal, Common Ground, Elephant Journal and other publications. To find out more, please see: www.prasanayoga.com

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9 Responses to “A Tantrik Message: Sound Creates the Body. ~ Eric Shaw”

  1. Rogelio Nunez says:

    Thanks Eric enjoyed this article, Praahant Iyengar, teaches sound connections to the cakras, it is very powerful. where can i find the 50 sounds u mention?
    thanks

  2. Nicolette Bell says:

    Thanks Eric,
    I wrote about the power of sound also … as Nada Yoga which features alot in Satyananda Yoga which is a tantric tradition. http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/07/stop-doing
    Such an important tool for transformation. Love your writing – Hari Om

  3. i read in sanskrit for the sound value. i also practice TM, a mantra based meditation. are you familiar with Dr. Tony Nader's work? He linked the 36 branches of Vedic Literature with the human physiology. I took a graduate class on Veda and Physiology at the Maharishi school in Fairfield Iowa. We only scratched the surface, it's so complex…and almost unbelieveable. There have been no follow up studies to falsify his claims but I expect he's creating a whole new field. I need some follow up research before I'm totally sold, it's just so complex and out there. He also linked the Ramayana with the human physiology, and every character and relationship in the story is somehow a representation of the human physiology. I read pieces from the six Vednagas and noticed different sensations and feelings in each one. I did the same with the six darshanas. In the "TM" world (and oh good God it's its own world…) the yoga sutras are supportive of cosmic conscoiusness, karma mimamsa is related to God Consciousness and of course, Vedanta was Unity or Brahman Consciousness. i enjoyed the brahma sutras a lot and have been reading a chapter or two in sanskrit before bed. it has a very calming effect. anyway, i'd LOVE to read more from a different perspective like yours. i just recently got into a new, tantric approach to asana. sivasana between each pose, eyes closed. i feel like my body is meditating by the time i'm done. anyway, so glad to read something on the value of sanskrit.

  4. Eric Shaw Eric Shaw says:

    Regolio, Here is anexcellent site with some further information on the Chakra sounds:
    http://shrifreedom.org/yoga/chakra-petal-sounds/ Glad to hear Prashant is working with these.

    Nicolette! Thank for the reference to your piece. I loved it! You articulate important information clearly and with real verve! I, too, often reflect on the key dualities in the practice and how they relate to our social disposition and pursuit of health in yoga.

    Natalie! Thanks for sharing about your process. I'd love to share more of my work with you. Find my blog here:
    http://www.prasanayoga.com/category/blog/

  5. Ken Chawkin says:

    Here is an illuminating video of Dr. Tony Nader speaking about the Ramayana in Human Physiology and how the sounds of the Veda are found in the body. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iaZ8Zai_1Yg. Amazing cognition explained in scientific terms of how the physiology works as it grows and evolves to enlightenment told in the story of Ram and the different characters in the story of the Ramayana. I posted more about this on my blog http://wp.me/pD0BA-59F.

  6. Interesting article and great education, Eric.

    Posting this to Best of Yoga Philosophy.

    Bob W.
    Yoga Demystified

  7. Ken Chawkin says:

    Here is an illuminating video of Dr. Tony Nader speaking about the Ramayana in Human Physiology and how the sounds of the Veda are found in the body. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iaZ8Zai_1Yg. Amazing cognition explained in scientific terms of how the physiology works as it grows and evolves to enlightenment told in the story of Ram and the different characters in the story of the Ramayana. I posted more about this on my blog http://wp.me/pD0BA-59F.

  8. I don't understand this but I totally get it. I know that sounds contradictory but it's because I get it in my unreasoning brain. Sound was the impetus for movement that lead me to a physical expression of yoga and continues to feed the practice. There is no denying it.

  9. Eric Shaw Eric Shaw says:

    Thanks for this affirmation, Hilary.

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