The Seeds of Sound: Part 1 - Tibet
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Over the past two years, I have dove deep into the unfamiliar waters of music and wellness. I have read accounts and experienced first-hand how vibration affects us – mind, spirit and body. I have been fascinated to see how throughout the world the power of music as singing, chant, non-verbal vocalizing and breathing are viewed as medicine. Musical instruments are not just tools for expression. In the hands of the Medicine Worker or the Shaman, the drum is a key to other worlds. When we beat a drum we are knocking on the doors of the ancestors, the gods, the spirits, and these beings speak back. In further posts, I will take you further into the world of the drum and eventually to other instruments, but for now, we will explore together the most basic, the most human musical instrument, our voices.
"You also have to learn to speak all over again. When you speak with 100% of your being. Your speech becomes your mantra." - Thich Nhat Hanh
This post is the first in a series where I will explore "seed sounds," Seed sounds are short sounds that do not necessarily have explicit meaning on their own, but serve a function. When we speak, chant or sing seed sounds it is like we are "learning to speak all over again." The Western Do-Re-Mi scale is a great example of this with which many of us are familiar. I plan on delving into the esoteric side of these syllables in the future. For this first post, I will guide you through the seed sounds of Tibet.
Tibetan chanting is a unique form of chant. It features the use of scared sounds for the transformation of human consciousness. It is believed that the act of chanting "enlarges the circle of compassion beyond oneself to all sentient beings, and completely removes attention from the desires of the individual ego."
The Five Seed Sounds (Warrior Syllables) of Tibet
The first warrior syllable is, "A" or "Ah," is associated with the crown chakra and the third eye. When you ding this sound, you focus on your forehead visualizing white light. A represents space, the eternal body, the changeless body. When we chant it, we become aware of our blocks and are continually opened. I like to visualize the image of clouds while I sing this. A continued practice will lead to "changeless confidence," meaning when changes occur we don't change. We may become more grounded, and stability can become a constant in our lives.
A is the sound we naturally make with our inhalation and our exhalation. Chanting this sound in a group allow us to attune and resonate with one another. There is some evidence to suggest that the heart, breath and brain waves of two people both chanting A will begin to match each other. A is such as crucial sound to human life that it is considered by many to be the first sound we make when we are born and the last sound we make with our last breath. Use this sound to generate more compassion for yourself and others.
"OM" is seen to be self-clear, which Tibetan monk Tenzi Wangyal Rinpoche explains as it encourages us to "clear all our conditions and reason for feeling complete. We penetrate all out causes and conditions until we feel some sense of completeness without a reason" The inner space within us opens up with OM, and we become vividly aware. The OM represents the body, speech and mind of the Buddha, or an enlightened being. It is sometimes spelled as "AUM" in English as it is made with these three sounds. The “A” vowel represents the body, the “U” vowel represents speech while the final mouth closure, “M,” represents the mind. OM resonates in the crown, throat and heart chakras. Interestingly, the Tibetan school associates OM with the color red.
When you sing OM, focus on completeness. Om connects us with the light within the space within our being. That space is full of the light of awareness and mirror-like wisdom. A mirror does not judge, though we may judge ourselves when we look in it, it is clear and reflects what is. Within the OM we can overcome our habitual patterns of thinking. With it we can experience, spontaneous love, compassion, joy and equanimity – the completeness of OM. OM is ceaseless and unending speech ... the voice of the eternal universe itself.
With the next sound, HUNG, we move our focus on the heart. HUNG is pronounced with a "u" that sounds like the "oo" in the word "book." Through the power of HUNG we clear out doubts, so that we can accept and experience positive qualities unconditionally. Through it you let go attachment to problems and return to a state of simply being.Hung penetrates the patterns and habitual attitudes of our present experience, and allows us to truly enter the present experience or a state of bliss. When we are open to space and complete in that space, we are able to move into bliss.
These are the three meditative experience of which the dzogchen speaks. Rinpoche recommends focusing on blue light as you chant this sound to aid our concentration. I like the idea of this blue light being a clear sky. During the previous sounds, we are focusing on the clouds and now there is only sky. With HUNG we experience undiluted mind.
The fourth syllable is RAM. Again the "A" is sounded as "AH," RAM is focused in our strength, in our solar plexus. RAM is around of power and imagine your obstacles being burned away while your good qualities come into their own. Rinpoche recommends visualizes red light as you chant this. I like to think of it as a red apple, ripe and ready to be picked from the tree. When we sing RAM we are able to focus beyond our internal needs and more into the external; we are able to channel our strength to change the world around us for the better. We are ripe and ready to be picked.
The final warrior syllable is DZA. DZA is the seed sound of action. The very nature of this sound is sharp and percussive, like a drum signaling "The time is now." We are moved completely from the inner space into the outer world. We gather up our resources, our energies and our plans to do what needs to be done. Rinpoche explains this sound as saying, "This is my wish." Tibetan thought associates this sound with the color green. It is doing what needs to be done because it is the right thing to do. Focus on the sacral region while you chant this sound to push the air up through the entire body. DZA takes us into a more confident mind, a mind that blooms in green life. Confiendece will naturally come with practice.
Perennial sound healing expert, Jonathan Goldman, walks us through how we can use sound as personal vibrational therapy for body, mind and spirit. This book or eBook comes with audio recordings.
Goldman, Jonathan. "The Seven Secrets of Sound Healing, Revised Edition." Hay House. 2017.
Vietnamese Zen Buddhist mok, Thich Nhat Hanh may not be Tibetan, but he explains the power of mantra beautifully in ythe Buddhist mindfulness mindset.
Hanh, Thich Nhat. "You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment." Shambhala. 2001.
Om Mani Padme Hum: The Meaning of the Mantra in Tibetan Buddhism. Accessed 12/07/2017.
If you would like to listen to what this chanting sounds like I suggest looking into "Tibetan Mantras for Turbulent Times" by Deva Premal and The Gyuto Monks of Tibet. On this album Deva and the monks take the listener through a series of well-known Pail mantras which use several of these seed sounds.
Tenzin's Wangyal Rinpoche's book "Tibetan Sound Healing" is another resource. Rinpoche explains deep psychological implications of each pdf the sounds as well as their philosophical significance in the Tibetan Buddhist worldview. The book is accompanied by an audio recording.
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