I acknowledge this delightful picture of Ganesa with a stringed instrument from the Net.

In the 18th dharana of Vigyana Bhairava Tantra Shiva says

Awareness totally focused on

Deep long sounds of musical instruments

Mindbody reaches the supreme space

The sense of sound drives this dharana as well.

In the last three dharanas as well, Shiva used the sense of sound to reach the inner most part of the being, the void or the infinite, whatever one wishes to perceive it as. First, Shiva used the anahata sound emanating from the heart. The next two dharanas dealt with the same sound in the form of AUM, the pranava mantra.

This dharana deals with pure sound, not with a mantra. This dharana deals with any sound we hear. Though Shiva mentions musical instruments, with practice this dharana can be extended to any sound, even what we may feel unpleasant as noise. Once you understand the essence of this dharana, its utility can be enormous.

In Tibetan Buddhist training of monks, novitiates stay inside a large metal bell with breathing holes, while ordained monks beat on the bell outside at specific points. The sound inside for the trainee can be a torture till he or she gets used to it. The vibrations produced energize different points of the mindbody system. The mindbody tunes in with the external vibration.

To start with, pluck the string of a musical instrument once (or beat on a drum, or ring a bell, or sound a tuning fork) and listen to the sound as it fades. Pluck again and listen. Focus on the trailing sound and become familiar with the process of staying with the sound. You can then move forward to continuous plucking of the stringed instrument or any other device, either by yourself or an expert and learn to stay with the sound.

Start with any instrument that you love the sound of. As you keep listening to the sound totally focused, you will go beyond the sound. You will reach a state of vibration, pure energy, as if you no longer hear the sound. You move from the dharana, the focused sensory attention, to dhyana, unfocused meditation.

From a beloved sound, move to those you are unfamiliar with. Practice till you become comfortable. Then move to sounds you dislike, perhaps writing with a squeaky chalk on a blackboard. All sounds sound the same. Our experiences make the memories pleasant or unplesant.

The cry of a baby that brings a loving mother running to feed it may make another want to strangle it. Your beloved’s sweet melodious voice may not be as sweet to another not infatuated with her.

Over time, you will find that external noises do not affect you adversely. Noise too makes sound. You can go into the void sitting in the midst of a peak hour traffic in cities like Bangkok or Bangalore.

Years ago, in one of my meditation classes, a Western scholar collecting meditation techniques, complained that my switching off the lights during the class disturbed his meditation. The sound of children playing outside infuriated him. He said, i cannot meditate under these circumstances. I told him, meditation does not make you deaf; it merely helps you disengage. If sound disturb meditation, your meditation needs to improve.

Shiva teaches a life truth here. Through sound we reach the void and silence of disengagement. This helps us in life.

This process needs to be experienced. No one can explain.