By Rudra Shivananda
There is a close connection between the evolutionary yogic techniques of Kriya Yoga and the little known system of spiritual development called Nada Yoga. In the Kriya system, there are a series of techniques called Omkar Kriyas which involve listening to the sound vibrations of Om. Also, an advanced technique called Jyoti Mudra which requires both the vibrations of light and sound. These parts of Kriya Yoga are an integration of the light sound techniques of Nada Yoga.
The authority for Nada Yoga goes back to antiquity, to the most revered spiritual texts called the Upanishads. There are 108 recognized Upanishads, some dating back to 1000 BCE. The Nada-Bindu Upanishad gives a thorough foundation for the system of Nada:
Seated in the yogic perfect pose
With aid of Vaishnavi-mudra practice
Be absorbed in the inner sound from the right ear
To the modern spiritual practitioner, it may appear that Nada Yoga doesn’t seem to be mentioned much and its lineage vanished. However, the truth is that it has been incorporated and absorbed into most of the modern spiritual yoga lineages and forms the basis of a few modern groups under different labels.
The practice variously called jyoti-mudra, shambavi mudra or yoni mudra plays an important role in Kriya, Tantra, Hatha, Laya, Kundalini and Shabda yogas, as well in the lineages of the Kabir Panth and Radhasoamis.
Consider a quote from the 8th century spiritual giant Shankaracharya: ‘With a calm mind and abandoning all thoughts, meditate upon Nada if you desire to attain perfection in Yoga.’ Or one from the Shiva Samhita, a Hatha Yoga treatise: ‘The best posture is the perfect pose, the best way to cultivate strength is by holding of breath, the best energetic seal is the Kechari Mudra, and the best way to dissolve the mind is by Nada.”
There is a basic difference in polarity between Mantra and Nada, although eventually, they lead to the same point. In mantra, the practitioner repeats a set of sounds that have the power to calm the mind and lead to higher consciousness. In Nada, there is a mode of listening and being absorbed in the inner, “unstruck sounds”, a witnessing and detachment from all mental processes. In Mantra yoga, in the active repetition of the mantra, there is also a process of becoming passively absorbed in its vibration. Therefore, in reality, both are active-passive but from different poles.
In Nada, we see the vibration of light – the bindu point, before becoming absorbed in the para-nada of cosmic consciousness. This is an important part of the practice of Kriya Yoga.