(This Chapter must be read in conjunction with
Chapter 8, Part 3 and Chapter 13 of this part.)
What is sound? According to modern science, it is vibration. "If you
examine the core of an atom you will realise that all matter is one.”
Advaitic conclusion is arrived at according to nuclear science and the
concepts of Einstein. All this world is one flood of energy (sakti);
everything is an electromagnetic flow. But how do we account for the
manifestation of different objects? It is to be attributed to different
Where there is vibration there is a sound. Conversely, to produce a
the vibration corresponding to it must also be created. The scientific
concept that the different vibrations of the same energy are the cause
creation is the same as the belief that world was created with the
of the Paramatman manifesting itself as the sound of the Vedas.
Consider human beings and other creatures. What is it that determines
their health and feelings? The breath that passes through our nadis,
blood vessels, during respiration produces vibrations and on them
depends the state of our health. Those who keep their breathing under
control through the practice of yoga are healthy to an amazing degree.
They do not bleed even if their veins are cut. They are able to remain
buried in the earth in samadhi stopping their pulse and heartbeat. They
are not poisoned even if they are bitten by a snake or stung by a
scorpion. The reason is that they keep the vibrations of the nadis under
control during breathing.
Breath is vital not only to the body but also to the mind. The mind
is the source of thought and the vital (pranik) energy that is the
breath are the same. Healthy or unhealthy thoughts are to be attributed
to different vibrations of the nadis. You may test this for youself. See
yourself how you breathe when you are at peace before the sanctum of a
deity or in the presence of a great and wise person and how you breathe
when your mind is quickened by desire or anger. The happiness you
experience when you take part in something divine, like a bhajan or
atemple festival, must be different from the pleasure that sensual
gratification gives you: the vibrations of the nadis concerned will also
When you experience joy of an elevated kind the passage of breath will
be through the right nostril, but when you are enjoying sensual pleasure
it will be through the left. When you meditate, with increasing
concentration, on the Reality Serene which is the source of all your
and feelings, the breath will pass through both nostrils slowly, evenly
rhythmically. When you are absorbed in the object of your meditation
breathing itself will cease, but there will still be life. The great
called jnana will then be in bloom as it were.
The inert body of a man and the awareness that is the vital essence of
life are both dependent on the course of his breathing. They grow or
decay according to it. The course of a man's breath keeps his inner
vibrations in order.
Is it not from the Paramatman that so many countless inert objects and
so many sentient beings have originated and grown? The movements
appropriate to these should have also occured in the Ultimate Object
is the Paramatman.
Even according to non-dualism, the Brahman that is utterly still and is
unconditioned and has no attributes (nirguna) manifests itself in the
countless disguises of this cosmos with the power of Maya, Maya that
cannot be described. Disguises or no disguises, we have to concede the
existence, in a mundane sense, of the inert world and of the sentient
beings. But we must remember that even Maya has its source in Isvara
who is "Mayin". But the power of Maya apart, all that we see have arisen
from the vibrations in the Object called the Parabrahman. At the same
time, with all these vibrations, this Object remains still and tranquil
inwardly. This stillness not withstanding, there are movements that are
apparent to our perception. They are not disorderly movements but
constitute a system embracing vast heavenly bodies like the sun at one
end and the tiniest of insects on the other or even something as humble
as a blade of glass.
It is this orderliness that goes to make worldly life happy. The
Paramatmam has created this by bringing all powers of nature within an
orderly system. But if you sometimes see flaws in it and the natural
going against us, it is because he likes to be playful now and then.
The human mind can go astray to any length. Indeed it keeps wandering
aimlessly like a globin or an imp. Whatever the extent to which cosmic
is orderly, it (the human mind) breaks free from all control and runs
about like a mad dog.
When the powers of nature are unfavourable to us, is there a way to
change their behaviour and make them favourable to us? Is there also a
means by which our mind could be brought under control when it goes
haywire? If everything is caused by vibration, by sound, there must be a
way of making the forces of nature favourable to us and of purifying our
mind and bringing it under control through this very sound. The Vedas
constitute such sound.
By controlling our breath through the practice of yoga, it is possible
gain access to the breath of the Paramatman and by this means perform
such actions as can uplift our own Self as well as mankind. Here the
vibrations of the nadis do not produce the sound that is audible to us.
Science tells us that there are sounds outside the range of human
in the same way as there is light that does not pass through the lens of
the human eye.
However, it is possible to bring within us (within our reach) that which
without. When a musician sings on the radio, the sound of his music is
converted into electromagnetic waves which travel through space. But
how do we hear music? The receiving set captures the electromagnetic
waves and reconverts them into sound waves.
(Science is not opposed to religion. It seems to me that it even helps
the growth of religion. A century ago, before the radio and the
were invented, it would not have been easy to counter the arguments of
an atheist who dismisses claims made on behalf of the sound of the
Vedas as absurd. Now the discoveries of science have come to our rescue.
It is possible for humans to earn the power of energy possessed by such
an inert object as the radio set. Indeed we can earn much more, do much
more. It is tapas, ascetic endeavour, that will give us such energy.
tapas? It is the determination to find the truth: it is keeping the mind
one-pointed in this search, forsaking food, sleep, home, everything. But
when you are a seeker like this, you must remain humble and erase the
least trace of egoism in you. You must realise that the truth you seek
be revealed to you only with the grace of Isvara. The sages performed
austerities in this manner and attained to the highest plane of yoga.
could perceive the vibrations in creation, that is the course taken by
breath of the Supreme Godhead. Besides, they also knew them as sound
capable of being heard by the human ear in the same manner as electric
waves converted into sound waves. It is these sounds that they have
passed on to us the mantras of the Vedas.
The Vedas are called "Sruti. " That which is heard is Sruti. "Srotra"
the "ear". The Vedas have been handed down orally from generation to
generation and have not been taught or learned from any written text.
That is how they got the name of "Sruti". Why were these scriptures not
permitted to be written down? Because the sound of the Vedas cannot
be properly transcribed. There are sounds or phonemes that cannot be
accurately represented in any script. For instance, the one between "zha"
and "la". Such sounds have to be learned by listening. Besides there are
svaras for Vedic mantras (tonal variations, proper accentuation):"udatta"
(raised syllable), "anudatta"(lowered syllable) and "svarita"(falling
syllable). Mistakes in enunciation are likely even if diacritical or
other marks are used in the printed text. Wrong chanting will not bring
the desired results. There is much difference in the vibrations caused
pronouncing a syllable laying stress on it and pronouncing it without
stress. Correspondingly, there will be changes in our feelings and urges
and the divine forces that rule nature. There is a story in the
Samhita of the Vedas which illustrates how wrong chanting can produce
results contrary to what is intended. Tvasta, the divine carpenter,
chanted a mantra with the object of begetting a son who would be the
slayer of Indra. But he went wrong in the intonation of some syllables.
unwittingly, he prayed for a son who would be slain by Indra instead of
one who would slay that celestial. And his prayer (that had gone wrong
the intonation) was answered. When the wavelength shifts even minutely
on our radio we receive the broadcast of a different transmitting
Fine-tuning has to be done to get the required station. So is the case
the intonation of Vedic mantras. There should not be the slightest
mistake in the svaras. Just as we receive a different station on our
when the wavelength is changed, so the result is different when we go
wrong in the intonation.
This is the reason why it is of the utmost importance to learn the Vedas
by listening - hence the name "Sruti", in Tamil "Ezhutakkilavi"
old text). Another explanation occurs to me for the name "Sruti". The
sages heard, did they not, the sound of the divine vibrations that
be perceived by the common people? Did they read the Vedas in any
book or did they compose them themselves? Sruti is an apt name for the
Vedas since they were made known to the world after they had been first
heard by the sages.
The Vedic seers have the name of "mantra-drastas" --a "drasta" is one
who sees. In Tamil it is "parppavan". "Parppan" also means the same
thing. If the sages "saw" the mantras it would mean that they did not
"hear" them. Which of the two versions is correct? Did the sages see the
mantras or did they hear them? If they saw them, in what script did they
appear? There was no script at the time, neither Devanagari nor Grantha
nor Brahmi, the basis of all. But, then, the sound of Vedas, their
cannot be truly written down in any script.
The answer to this problem is that when the sages were meditating the
mantras of the Vedas appeared to them in a flash in their hearts. It may
be that in this state of theirs they could neither see nor hear
The mantras must have appeared in a flash in the inner recesses of their
"Seeing" or "looking" does not denote merely what is perceived by the
eye. It is a term that covers a variety of perceptions and experiences.
When we say that a man has "seen" all sorrows in his life, does the term
"seen" imply only what he "saw" with his eyes? Does it not mean what he
has "experienced"? The term "mantra-drasta" also could be taken in a
similar manner as referring to what is perceived through experience. It
further believed that the sages were able to hear the Vedas with their
Arjuna wished to see the Lord's cosmic form (visvarupa). The Gita has it
that Krsna Paramatman said to him: “You will not be able to see my
cosmic form with these eyes of yours. I will give you a celestial eye. .
. . . "
Just as Arjuna was endowed by the Lord with a divine eye, the sages must
have been invested with celestial ears to grasp the sound emanating from
the Paramatman and pervading the vast space.
The vibrations of the Vedas serve the purpose not only of creation and
the conduct of life. There are indeed Vedic mantras that help us to
transcend this life and become one with the Ultimate Truth. When a man
returns by the same way as he comes, does he not arrive at the starting
point? In the same way when we go seeking how creation came about,
we are led to the point where there are no vibrations, no movements,
where there is utter stillness. Some mantras that create vibrations in
nadis accomplish the same noble task of taking us to such a goal. Such
the Upanisadic mahavakyas and Pranava.
In sum, the Vedas are not anyone's compositions. The sages did not
create them, nor were inscribed by the Paramatman on palm-leaves.