Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan

The Mysticism of Sound
Chapter 8
Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan


Abstract sound is called Saut-e Sarmad by the Sufis; all space is filled with it. The vibrations of this sound are too fine to be either audible or visible to the material ears or eyes, since it is even difficult for the eyes to see the form and color of he ethereal vibrations on the external plane. It was the Saut-e Sarmad, the sound of the abstract plane, which Mohammad heard in the cave of Ghar-e Hira when he became lost in his divine ideal. The Qua’an refers to this sound in the words, ‘Be ! and all became.’ Moses heard this very sound on Mount Sinai, when in communion with God; and the same word was audible to Christ when absorbed in his Heavenly Father in the wilderness. Shiva heard the same Anahad Nada during his Samadhi in the cave of the Himalayas.


The flute of Krishna is symbolic of the same sound. This sound is the source of all revelation to the Masters, to whom it is revealed from within; it is because of this that they know and teach one and the same truth.


The Sufi knows of the past, present and future, and about all things in life, by being able to know the direction of sound. Every aspect of one’s being in which sound manifests has a peculiar effect upon life, for the activity of vibrations has a special effect in every direction. The knower of the mystery of sound knows the mystery of the whole universe. Whoever has followed the strains of this sound has forgotten all earthly distinctions and differences, and has reached that goal of truth in which all the Blessed Ones of God unite. Space is within the body as well as around it; in other words the body is in the space and the space is in the body.


This being the case, the sound of the abstract is always going on within, around and about man. Man does not hear it as a rule, because his consciousness is entirely centered in his material existence. Man becomes so absorbed in his experiences in the external world through the medium of the physical body that space, with all its wonders of light and sound, appears to him blank.


This can be easily understood by studying the nature of color. There are many colors that are quite distinct by themselves, yet when mixed with others of still brighter hue they become altogether eclipsed; even bright colors embroidered with gold, silver, diamonds, or pearls serve merely as a background to the dazzling embroidery. So it is with the abstract sound compared with the sounds of the external world. The limited volume of earthly sounds is so concrete that it dims the effect of the sound of the abstract to the sense of hearing, although in comparison to it the sound of the earth are like that of a whistle to a drum. When the abstract sound is audible all other sounds become indistinct to the mystic.


The sound of the abstract is called Anahad in the Vedas, meaning unlimited sound. The Sufis name is Sarmad, which suggests the idea of intoxication. The word intoxication is here used to signify upliftment, the freedom of the soul from its earthly bondage. Those who are able to hear the Saut-e Sarmad and meditate on it are relieved from all worries, anxieties, sorrows, fears and diseases; and the soul is freed from captivity in the senses and in the physical body. The soul of the listener becomes the all-pervading consciousness, and his spirit becomes the battery which keeps the whole universe in motion.


Some train themselves to hear the Saut-e Sarmad in the solitude on the sea shore, on the river bank, and in the hills and dales; others attain it while sitting in the caves of the mountains, or when wandering constantly through forests and deserts, keeping themselves in the wilderness apart from the haunts of men. Yogis and ascetics blow Sing (a horn) or Shanka (a shell), which awakens in them this inner tone. Dervishes play Nai or Algosa (a double flute) for the same purpose.


The bells and gongs in the churches and temples are meant to suggest to the thinker the same sacred sound, and thus lead him towards the inner life. This sound develops through ten different aspects because of its manifestation through ten different tubes of the body; I sounds like thunder, the roaring of the sea, the jingling of bells, running the water, the buzzing of bees, the twittering of sparrows, the Vina, the whistle, or the sound of Shankha until it finally becomes Hu, the most sacred of all sounds. This sound Hu is the beginning and the end of all sounds, be they from man, bird, beast, or thing. A careful study will prove this fact, which can be realized by listening to the sound of the steam engine or of a mill, while the echo of bells or gongs gives a typical illustration of the sound Hu.


The Supreme Being has been called by various names in different languages, but the mystics have known him as Hu, the natural name, not man-made, the only name of the Nameless, which all nature constantly proclaims. The sound Hu is most sacred; the mystics call ism-e Azam, the name of the Most High, for it is the origin and end of every sound as well as the background of each word. The word Hu is the spirit of all sounds and of all words, and is hidden within them all, as the spirit in the body. It does not belong to any language, but no language can help belonging to it. This alone is the true name of God, a name that no people and no religion can claim as their own. This word is not only uttered by human beings, but is repeated by animals and birds. All things and beings proclaim this name of the Lord, for every activity of life expresses distinctly or indistinctly this very sound. This is the word mentioned in the Bible as existing before the light came into being, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’


The mystery of Hu is revealed to the Sufi who journeys through the path of initiation. Truth, the knowledge of God, is called by a Sufi Haq. If we divide the word Haq into tow parts, its assonant sounds become lu ek, Hu signifying God, or truth, and ek in Hindustani meaning one, and both together expressing on God and one truth. Haqiqat in Arabic means the essential truth, Hakim means master, and Hakim means knower, all of which words express the essential characteristics of life.


Aluk is the sacred word that the Vairagis, the adepts of India, use as their sacred chant. In the word Aluk are expressed two words, al meaning he, and Haq truth, both words together expressing God the source from which all comes. The sound Hu becomes limited in the word Ham, for the letter m closes the lips. This word in Hindustani expresses limitation because Ham means I or we, both of which words signify ego. The word Hamsa is the sacred word of the Yogis which illumines the ego with the light of reality. The word Huma in the Persian language stands for a fabulous bird. There is a belief that if the Huma bird sits for a moment on the head of anybody it is a sign that he will become a king. Its true explanation is, that when a man’s thoughts so evolve that they break all limitation, then he becomes as a king. It is the limitation of language that it can only describe the Most High as something like a king. It is said in the old traditions that Zoroaster was born or a Huma tree. This explains the words in the Bible, ‘Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.’ In the word Huma, hu represents spirit, and the word mah in Arabic means water. In English the word ‘human’ explains two facts which are characteristic of humanity: Hu means God and man means mind, which word comes from the Sanskrit Mana, mind being the ordinary man. The two words united represent the idea of the God-conscious man; in other words Hu, God, is in all things and beings, but it is man by whom he is known. Human therefore may be said to mean God-conscious, God-realized, or God-man. The word Hamd means praise, Hamid, praiseworthy, and Mohammad, praiseful. The name of the Prophet of Islam was significant of his attitude to God. Hur in Aragic means the beauties of the Heaven, its real meaning is he expression of heavenly beauty. Zuhur in Arabic means manifestation, especially that of God in nature. Ahura Mazda is the name of God known to the Zoroastrians. This first word Ahura suggests Hu, upon which the whole name is built.


All of these examples signify the origin of God in the word Hu; and the life of God in every thing and being.


Hay in Arabic means everlasting, and Hay-at means life, both of which words signify the everlasting nature of God. The word Huwal suggests the idea of omnipresence, and Huvva is the origin of the name of Eve, which is symbolic of manifestation; as Adam is symbolic of life, they are named in Sanskrit Purusha and Prakriti. Jehovah was originally Yahuva, Ya suggesting the word oh and Hu standing for God, while the A represents manifestation. Hu is the origin of sound, but when the sound first takes shape on the external plane, it becomes A, therefore alif or alpha is considered to be the first expression of Hu, the original word. The Sanskrit alphabet as well as that of most other languages begins with the letter A, as does the name of God in several tongues. The word A therefore expresses in English one, or first; and the sign of alif expresses the meaning one, as well as first. The letter A is pronounced without the help of the teeth or tongue, and in Sanskrit A always means without.


The A is raised to the surface when the tongue rises and touches the roof of the mouth when pronouncing the letter l (lam), and the sound ends in m (mim). The pronunciation of which closes the lips. These three essential letters of the alphabet are brought together as the mystery in the Qua'an. With A deepened by ain the word Ilm is formed which means knowledge. Alim comes from the same, and means knower. Alam means state of condition, the existence which know.


When alif the first and lam the central letters are brought together they make the word al which means ‘the’ in Arabic. In English all suggest the meaning of the entire or absolute nature of existence. The word Allah, which in Arabic means God, if divided into three parts may be interpreted as ‘the One who comes from nothing’. El or Ellah has the same meaning as Allah. The words found in the Bible, Eloi, Elohim and Hallelujah, are related to the word Allahu.


The words om, omen, amen and ameen, which are spoken in all houses of prayer, are of the same origin; A in the commencement of the word expresses the beginning, and M in the midst signifies end; N the final letter is the re-echo of M, for M naturally ends in a nasal sound, the producing of which sound signifies life.


In the word Ahud which means God, the only Being, two meanings are involved by assonance. A in Sanskrit means without, and Hudd in Arabic means limitation.


It is from the same source that the words

Wahdat, Wahdaniat, Hadi, Huda and Hidayat all come. Wahdat means the consciousness of self-alone; Wahdaniat is the knowledge of self; Hadi, the guide; Huda, to guide; Hidayat means guidance.

The more a Sufi listens to Saut-e Sarmad, the sound of the abstract, the more his consciousness becomes free from all the limitations of life. The soul floats above the physical and mental plane without any special effort on man’s part, which shows its calm and peaceful state; a dreamy look comes into his eyes and his countenance becomes radiant, he experiences the unearthly joy and rapture of Wajad, or ecstasy. When ecstasy overwhelms him he is neither conscious of the physical existence nor of the mental. This is the heavenly wine, to which all Sufis poets refer, which is totally unlike the momentary intoxication’s of this mortal plane. A heavenly bliss then springs in the heart of a Sufi, his mind is purified from sin, his body from all impurities, and a pathway is opened for him towards the world unseen; he begins to receive inspirations, intuitions, impressions, and revelations without the least effort on his part. He is no longer dependent upon a book or a teacher, for divine wisdom, the light of his soul, the Holy Spirit, begins to shine upon him. As Sharif says,

‘I by the light of soul realize that the beauty of the heavens
and the grandeur of the earth are the echo of Thy magic flute.’




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