Unit V.  Mahanada


1.  Parabindu
2.  Sabdabrahman
3.  Sound and Creation
4.  Mantra
5.  Bija
6.  Inner Guidance
7.  Implications for Practice

Materials needed:  Journal

Books needed:

Mantras: Words of Power or CD
The Cloud of Unknowing


Mantras of Power
The Cuckoo of the State of Presence


Inner Guidance
Chanting to Clear

Mahanada means “Great Sound.”  Maha means “Great.”  And Nada is the mystic sound of the Eternal, the primal sound or first vibration from which all    creation has emanated; the first manifestation of the unmanifested Absolute.  For all practical purposes, sound means vibration in this context.  You will remember that vibration creates the object or reality that corresponds to its frequency and that the reverse is true: everything vibrates to its own keynote.

Mahanada The mahanada is like a plough in shape because it is considered to be half of Shiva.  The other half is Shakti.  It also resembles the spraying out of a huge  explosion which would be apt in this context.

    We left the last unit resonating with triads especially the triad of feeling, knowing and doing.  And there was the question: If we take these three up to the next highest level like the apex of a pyramid, what would we have?  What do these activities have in common?  How are feeling, knowing and doing alike?  Well, they are all gerands, i.e., verbs acting like nouns.  So we might be looking for another gerand or for a noun at the top.  But, if we go deeper into the meaning of these words, what do they have in common?  We have said they are archetypes or patterns from which manifestation can occur.  So what would come before the pattern in creation?  I’ll let you think about that while I continue.

Para means “beyond.”  Bindu means a “golden dot,” “essence of energy,” “seed of life,” “point of dissolution,” “the unextended point,” “spiritual germ,” “void,” and other similar ideas.  A  parabindu  is causal, that is, it makes something happen.  What is and has been a single vibration now takes on characteristics that distinguish one category from another.  Intead of a single vibration, we now have vibrations of feeling, knowing and doing.  So separation is occurring, continuing differentiation. What this means for the return is that all these different ideas, categories, principles, etc. must now be withdrawn into a single vibration.

In creation, mahanada is the intermediate causal body, and we find here the first actual movement to create.  So there is something or somebody there who wants to make something.  There is an intention to do something.  Creative will arises and attention is focused on the task.  You have experienced this if you’ve ever written a term paper, designed a garden, built a tree fort, made a cake, fixed the screen door, etc.  Think of something you have created recently, and keep it in mind while we continue.

In creation, vibration creates the tattvas.  The parabindu explodes into all the varied essences and archetypes that are the foundation for all of objective reality. It produces nada, bija and bindu, the Tripura-sundari.  Or, it is followed by nada, bodhini and bindu.  Or, it is succeeded by Sadahkya, Isvara and Suddha-vidya.  Or, it generates the kamakala triangle.  All of these are just different ways of conceptualizing the process of one becoming three – the three from which all manifestation subsequently proceeds.

But we are returning. So, what do you think is the keynote of mahanada?  What do feeling, knowing and doing  resolve into?  The first clue is that the word Iccha translates into both “feeling” and “willing.”  It also means “desire.”  We all know that desire means we want something.  It is a feeling.  It also inspires the will to get it.  Another name for will is “intention.”  And it seems to me that that is the keynote of mahanada.  The intention to create activates the creative will and draws attention to a focus on the means of achieving whatever is desired.  Intention is a feeling, it knows what it wants, and it begins to act or do something to achieve the goal.  So it brings together the kamakala triad.

In dissolution, then, we must withdraw our feelings, knowings and doings into only intention.  That would be what we are conscious of.  The implications are enormous.  If this is true, we have to become consciously aware of our intention behind all we feel, know and do.  It might be that, at this point, we will discover the purpose for our embodiment.  Why did you come into a body?  What was your intention?  What is the over-arching, lifelong intention that contains all the other minor ones?  The answer to this question will be different for each individual, so you must discover it for yourself.  The values hierarchy you constructed in the early stages of this work will give you important clues.  And you may want to construct another one based on what you have learned about yourself since then.

In this unit, we are going to be dealing with the energy body or voice of the triad: body, voice and mind.  This is called Sabdabrahman and it is this aspect that is associated with mantra and the creative power of sound.

Sabda means “sound” or the “power of speech.”  It is a quality of akasa sensed by hearing, a vibrant sense of sound or vibration within.  We could call it sound power to distinguish it from the mahanada which is the actual movement to create.  Sabdabrahman is a tool of the intermediate causal body.  Whereas Shakti is the power of consciousness, Sabdabrahman is the power to become and to change.  Nada is defined as the first produced movement in ideating, cosmic consciousness which leads to sabdabrahman. So nada comes first. Brahman is called the creator.  

Back at the beginning, Ultimate Reality divided part of Itself into Brahma Caitanya, or consciousness; and into Sabdabrahman, vibration.  These two are complementary and mutually dependent because they are two sides of the same reality.  That means that consciousness is always accompanied by a corresponding vibration, and the reverse is true also.  This is the basis for mantra practice.  We can create a certain level of consciousness by chanting the mantra whose vibration is related to it.

“Sabda-Brahman is the consciousness (Caitanya) in all creatures” (Woodroffe, 1973, p. 100).  It is a cosmic sound, the initial, creative vibration.  As such, it corresponds to the Logos or “word” or God in the New Testament.   It is called the “kinetic, ideating aspect of undifferentiated, Supreme consciousness.”  Kinetic means moving and ideating means thinking.  So what we are talking about here is the ability of your consciousness to think.

We could look at it this way.  The One being (that is you too) is awake and aware of what is going on around It, if anything is.  It has a mind (called intelligence in eastern texts) that can think.  For reasons of Its own, It wishes to create something.  So It generates an image in Its mind of what It will make.  Then It generates the energy to produce what It has in mind which then “explodes” into being through the route of archetypes into form.  Thus, to put it into other words, the idea begins to move, then there is inner naming at the subtle level.  That leads to the first assumption of form.  Then there is uttered speech at the gross level.  Then we have name and form which together make up the whole.

This produces a double line of creation, then, that manifests as name and form (nama and rupa).  We have two sets of movements: 1) sabda (with a little “s”) which is mental vibrations of cognition or thought (inner) that leads to vocal sound or speech (outer), and 2) artha that is mental images (inner) and the actual form of objects (objects).  Taken all together, they are Vak or Logos or the Word.  See Table 6 for relationships.
Table 6. 

       Sabda (Name or nama)       Artha (Form or rupa)
  Inner, intangible
 Thought, cognition, meaning
Mental images, concepts
  Outer, tangible, manifested
 Speech, language, vocal organs  Form of objects, objective

In this sense, the universe is said to be composed of letters, i.e., mental images + articulation.  Mind comes first and the physical world evolves from it.  Speech as a form of feedback, in turn, invokes mental images, so the idea can become conscious as a mental operation.  That operation when intensified is itself creative.  So mantra can actually create us in the image of God.  To create something, mentally and vocally, we must utter its natural name with creative force because creative thought ensouls the uttered sound.   See the four states of sabda below for clarification.

Four States of Sadba

There are four states of Sabda.  This means Sabda in its comprehensive sense.

1.  Para-Vak – causal differentiation before manifestation.  It is a non-particularized motion.

2.  Pashyanti – the first movement in creation which is a visualization of what is to be created.  The Creator  “sees.”  Iccha or will is about to display the universe in seed or bija form.

3.  Madhyama – mental ideation, inner naming, mental images.  This is Jnana or the first assumption of form.  This is subtle, mental cognition or thinking.

4.  Vaikhari – uttered speech, language.  This is the Kriya form, that of the external, objective universe.

You will see the three forms of the kamakala triangle here, as well, in numbers two through four above.  These processes both express and invoke inner thought and movement.   They represent consciousness in all creatures.  Note that consciousness as a mental operation (thinking) is not yet actual sound.  The inner processes precede the outer ones unless the outer ones already exist.  Here we have another type of differentiation in which inner thought leads to externalization.   Logos or Vak or Word = thought and word combined.  So, to reverse the creative lineage and return to the Source, we must raise the vibrational frequencies of the energies involved.  Another way of putting this is that we have to refine the aspects.  For example, emotions become finer feelings which, in turn, become consciousness.  In terms of sound, we might consider not talking but watching our thoughts instead.  This would be an example of moving from vaikhari to madhyama.

Sound and Creation

These states of Sabda are lawfully related to the chakras.  On the return trip, we have the power of consciousness (Kundalini) in the first chakra coiled around the linga and asleep.  This means that most of us are unaware of the spiritual realm until some kind of awakening happens.  When the sabdabrahman is unawakened, it is in the form of Para-Vak which is quiet and peaceful.  When awakened, it pierces the granthi knot in the first chakra and moves into the susumna to begin to rise toward the top of the body.  

At this point, we say that Kundalini “sees” everything that is going to come to be when the universe is created or when you become enlightened.  This is the pashyanti form of sabdabrahman.  It is also called Iccha as will or Vama as the Shakti who vomits forth the universe.  What all this means is that a creative image is formed in the mind.  Pashyanti is associated with chakras one through three and the activities of manas or intellect.

The next movement is the first assumption of form called madhyama or the jnana (knowing) aspect of consciousness.  Here is a particular motion that would correspond to the line that is projected out from the point in creation.  This occurs in chakras two to four and is associated with buddhi mind.

Finally all of the gross forms, letters of words and their objects are produced, and this is called vaikhari which is the kriya (doing) aspect of consciousness.  This is like the three-dimensional or pyramidal part of projection.

Projection Process

Samsaras or memories from another time are the seeds of the thinking consciousness.  They arise in the resting Para-Vak and stimulate the projection process.  Remember that this is a movement from the inside outward.  “Thoughts create reality” is a famous saying.  Woodroffe (1973) is telling us that the same process that created the universe is operating in our own everyday life as projection.  He says that when the mind perceives an object, it is transformed into the shape of that object, i.e., a mental image occurs.  And whatever the mind dwells upon for a length of time becomes a likeness of it.  This is why devotion is recommended as a spiritual practice – because it transforms us into a likeness of the deity we worship.  It is a purification process and is a fundamental principle of sadhana.  Mind is the power.  Its function is to distinguish and identify.

Consciousness is soundless.  In its supreme form (para-sabda), it has a general, undifferentiated movement toward articulate speech.  Its first move is to generate the power, then it appears as subject (sabda) and object (artha) first in the subtle mind, then in the gross forms of language which give external expression to the ideas.  This is the reason letters of a language are seen as the seeds of outer speech and are symbolic in themselves.


In the same sense as the letters given above, bijas are the seed mantras for each of the tattvas in the chakras and in the Sahasrara  Padma.  The tattvas spring from and re-enter the bijas in the same kind of circularity we have seen before as a general principle of creativity.

              The Natural Name of anything is the sound [vibration] which is
               produced by the action of the moving forces which constitute it. . .
               who[ever] mentally and vocally utters with creative force the natural
               name of anything brings into being the thing which bears that name.
               (Woodroffe, 1973, p. 96)

I think the “Natural Name” refers to the frequency of vibration that constitutes the electronic and/or molecular structure of atoms and particles.  All this in the Zero Point Field.  So this is why we chant – to create a higher level of consciousness by raising the frequency of our bodymind.  


Mantra works just like bija.  It is the power of consciousness in the form of sound.  Thought is also a power.  All three of these work like the projection process described above to create and/or dissolve depending upon the direction of the action.  Not only are the sounds articulated usually with music or drumming, but it is also necessary to focus the spiritual will, and this is done through concentration.  We have to know the meaning of the mantra, then mentally visualize the desired outcome and couple it with the powers of consciousness and devotion.  And it takes practice, lots of practice.  In time, practice will concentrate and vitalize thought and will power.  “Thought . . is vitalized through its conscious center. . . Sabda which issues therefrom is in the nature of Seed or Bindu” (Woodroffe, 1973, p. 97).  What you are doing is aligning all the cells of your body and mind to the same frequency.  And, at the same time, trying to raise the electromagnetic frequencies of these cells to a higher level than they are used to generating.  Mantra practice over time is called Japa Yoga.

What is being said about raising the frequency of our bodyminds also works to create external reality.  This is the basis for the efficacy of prayer and meditation especially when groups of people are engaged in the practices at the same time.  If you have experienced chanting, you know that the effect is much more powerful when done in groups.  The implications for changing the course of politics, war and eco-sustainability is obvious.

One caution.  In this realm there is no valence.  That means that whatever is visualized may come to pass whether it is good or bad.  Rehearsals of negative outcomes are equally effective in keeping them going.  This is why terrorist propaganda works to maintain and escalate fear in the population.  It can be counteracted by the same processes that established it  – repeated repetitions by groups of people who are visualizing a positive outcome instead of a negative one.

Exercise: Mantras of Power

Secure a copy of Mantras: Words of Power by  Swami Radha (1980) or the CD of the same name from Timeless Books, www.timeless.org and study it.  Among the gems in it are several mantras Swami Radha brought over from India.  “Hari Om,” “Om Namah Sivaya,” and “Om Krishna Guru” are three mantras that I know have been chanted down through the centuries and have accumulated all of the good vibrations from the practice of all those disciples.  This is why they are called “words of power.”

If you have not already set up a mantra practice for yourself, this is the time to begin.  If you cannot play an instrument, you may want to get the CD or a tape to follow along with.  You could ask some friends to join you.  In addition to chanting along with the CD, it also helps to play a mantra in the background while you are working.

Inner Guidance

Toward the One
The perfection of Love, Harmony and Beauty
The only Being.

United with all the illuminated souls
Who form the embodiment of the Master
The Spirit of Guidance.

This is a Sufi Invocation.  Among other things, it invokes the presence of the inner guide.  This is who I call “Spirit.”  It is a guiding presence that you can feel when you get quiet enough and open yourself to It.  With time, you can learn how to dialogue with It, and It will teach you, protect you and love you.  Perhaps you have already encountered this Spirit in your meditations or spiritual practices.  If not, you may wish to seek It out now.

Practice: Inner Guidance

Sit for meditation and let your mind settle down and stop.  Do the Divine Light Invocation and fill yourself with Light.  Let it surround you and protect you.  Then allow your yearning for Love and Light to be directed upward through the third eye.  Invite Spirit to come to you, to be with you, to be you.  Feel yourself open to divine grace.  Spirit will not respond to a demand but only to love or loving light.  So get in touch with your humility and your deepest needs for guidance.  Then wait.  Keep your mind quiet and do not allow it to process what is happening or not happening nor to judge.  Spirit will only enter a quiet meditative space in which Its presence will be welcomed.

In The Cloud of Unknowing (Progoff, 1981), Chapters 36-8 will give you some ideas about the kind of prayer that may summon the divine One.

Implications for Practice
Presence and Seeing

One of our triads was the Dzogchen idea of presence, energy and nature.  In Norbu’s (1996) book: Dzogchen: The Self-perfected State,  he not only discusses these terms and what they mean for practice, but he also offers us “The Cuckoo of the State of Presence” which is based on the six vajra verses from antiquity.  These verses sum up the essence of the base, path and fruit of Dzogchen.  You can see the relationship to presence, energy and nature.  This would be a good time to read this section of the book as it relates to the process of seeing we have been discussing.  Dzogchen buddhism attempts to keep us grounded in the primordial reality.  And it offers sensible ideas for practice on the path.

Exercise:  The Cuckoo of the State of Presence

Read Part II. in Dzogchen: The Self-perfected State by Chogyal Norbu (1996).  See if you can identify examples of the base, path and fruit of practice in your own life.  It might help to outline the sections in the text and then add your own notes to that.

Along these same lines is Journey Without Goal by Chogyam Trungpa (1985).  Trungpa’s orientation is Tantric Buddhism which deals with energy and how to transform it.  His chapters on “The Question of Magic” and “The Tantric Journey” will also parallel what we have been studying and bring a new dimension to what we are learning.  In the chapter on the Tantric Journey, he talks about kriya yoga and how it purifies and prepares us for the non-ego condition.


We are now being asked to withdraw the tattvas into mahanada.  That means all forms of action are being translated into the vibration of their common essence.  All forms are dissolving into the frequencies that give them their unique identity.  So, in terms of sabdabrahman, we will need to use a mantra or bija to turn objects into words, words into mental images and images into peace and quiet.  We are reversing the creative process.  

We do this by chanting words at the same time we visualize what we are working on.  When the image is clear and then finally fades from consciousness, we stop chanting and sit for meditation in order to allow the vibrations to do their work.  If what you experience is peace and quiet with no mental activity, the mantra is doing what it is supposed to.  “Om Namah Sivaya” is a good place to start since Shiva is the deity who removes obstacles, those obstacles being irrelevant mental activity.  You can visualize him standing on the monkey mind within a ring of fire.
Practice: Chanting to Clear

Settle in for meditation with either an instrument or a CD in order to chant a mantra.  Using what you have learned about sound and visualization, set up an intention to clear a form that you see as an obstacle to your practice.  First sit quietly and look at or visualize the form you are going to work with.  Then begin to chant “Om Namah Sivaya.”  When the chant has become rhythmic and melodious, call up a clear image of the form and begin to imagine it dissolving in the mantra.  If you cannot hold an image of the form in your mind, go back to concentration meditation and work with that until you can.  Then proceed.  When the form in your mind disappears, continue chanting for a few minutes.  Then stop and sit quietly until the vibrations recede.  Then express your gratitude for the mantra.

On other subsequent days, work with other forms and/or words that are giving you trouble.  When physical objects are no longer a bother, you may begin on obstacles in the mind and ego as well as emotional issues.  This is not to say that this order of progression is absolute.  You may, of course, work on any issue that is bothering you, at any time, with mantra.

We have been looking at the functions of Mahanada, the Great Mystic Sound.  Its vibrations are the basis for all of creation.  So, in order to return, we must withdraw all forms back into their resident frequencies.  Then those frequencies are dissolved into the one Great Sound which is undifferentiated.  The result is peace and possibly light.

In Unit VI.  Manipitha/Amakala, we reach the pinnacle of ecstasy  and blissful union that resulted in the intention to create.


Harrigan, Joan S.  (2002).  Kundalini Vidya: The science of spiritual transformation.  Knoxville, TN: Patanjali KUndalini Yoga Care.

Kripananda, Sw.  (1995).  The sacred power: A seeker’s guide to Kundalini.  South Fallsburg, NY: SYDA Foundation.

Norbu, C. N.  (1996).  Dzogchen: The self-perfected state.  Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion       Publications.

Progoff, I. (Transl.) (1981).  The cloud of unknowing. New York: Dell Publishing.

Radha, Sw. Sivananda. (1980).  Mantras: Words of power  (CD or book).  Porthill, ID: Timeless Books.

Radha, Sw. Sivananda. (1987).  The divine light  invocation: A spiritual practice for healing and for realizing the Light within.  Porthill, ID: Timeless Books.

Trungpa, C.  (1985).  Journey  without  goal: The Tantric wisdom of the Buddha. Boston: Shambhala.

Woodroffe, Sir J.  (1973).  The serpent power: Being the Sat-Cakra-Nirupana and       Paduka-Pancaka.  Madras: Ganesh & Co.

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