A reader asked what the hum was that she hears in her ears. Other readers have asked on earlier occasions what the ringing or the high-pitched whine is. Since more and more people will be hearing this ring in the future, perhaps it’s a good time to consider what the sages say about it.
I hear it all the time and have heard it for years. Many people consider it to be tinnitis, but Paramahansa Yogananda says it’s not. He says it’s the sound of the universal creative vibration that calls all matter into being, holds it in place for a while, and then returns it to the formless, the cosmic motor, the music of the spheres, in the first form in which it manifests itself to us.
Unfortunately the only quote I no longer have is the very one from the Self-Realization Fellowship lessons where Yogananda specifically addresses the matter and says the ringing is not tinnitis but the sound of Aum. Over the holidays I may see if I can find the Lessons again, but I do have many other quotes from him in which he gets close to the subject. (For more, see 1.)
Religions have various names for this primal vibration. Some call it Aum or Amen, others Shakti, Prakriti/Procreatrix, still others the Holy Spirit, Wisdom (Solomon), Sophia, and so on. It’s synonymous with movement and sound. The Father is still and silent. I follow Sri Ramakrishna’s practice and call it the “Divine Mother,” as in this passage: “O Mother! O Embodiment of Om!” (2) And here:
“Everyone is under the authority of the Divine Mother, Mahamaya, the Primal Energy. Even the Incarnations of God accept the help of maya to fulfill their mission on earth. Therefore, they worship the Primal Energy.” (3)
Here is Yogananda explaining that Aum is known to all religions.
“Aum of the Vedas became the sacred word Hum of the Tibetans, Amin of the Moslems, and Amen of the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Jews, and Christians. Its meaning in Hebrew is sure, faithful.” (4)
Here he is equating it with the Holy Spirit:
“Holy Ghost, Aum of the Hindus, the Mohammedan Amin, the Christian Amen, Voice of Many Waters, Word are the same thing. Aum is called the word because the word signifies cosmic intelligent vibratory sound which is the origin of all sounds and languages. This intelligent cosmic vibration or word is the first manifestation of God in creation. ” (5)
“The Cosmic Energy, or Vibration, … has a voice of Cosmic Sound which is called Amen by Christians or Om by Hindus. This Amen is the faithful witness in the beginning of creation — that is, all vibrating creation is accompanied by the Cosmic Sound of Amen or Om or the Word or Holy Ghost, which is the first vibrating manifestation of God.” (6)
Here he explains what is mystically meant by “voice of God” or “God said,” given that God the Father is silent and still:
“The Aum vibration that reverberates throughout the universe [is] the ‘Word’ or ‘voice of many waters’ of the Bible.” (7)
“Throughout the Bible wherever the word ‘VOICE’ or ‘GOD SAID’ is used, it signifies that God did not speak through a throat but that, whenever God wills to create something definite, His will stirs up and energizes the Cosmic Energy which produces various sounds. Hence, ‘God said’ means God vibrating, and His Voice signifies His Intelligent Cosmic Vibration and Energy.” (8)
In case anyone did not follow what he just said, God the Father does not directly speak but stirs up God the Mother (Aum, the Word, the Holy Spirit) who “speaks.” If you have trouble imagining this, consider what Krishna said about God the Father:
“This entire universe is pervaded by me, in that eternal form of mine which is not manifest to the senses. Although I am not within any creature, all creatures exist within me. I do not mean that they exist within me physically. That is my divine mystery. You must try to understand its nature. My Being sustains all creatures and brings them to birth, but has no physical contact with them.” (9)
Here Yogananda explains Aum as a cosmic vibration upholding creation:
“God is the Word or Om or Holy Ghost or Cosmic Vibration or Cosmic Energy. God is Cosmic Sound resulting from the Cosmic Energy and Cosmic Vibration. God’s first manifestation is the Word or Intelligent Cosmic Vibrating Sound.” (10)
“Aun [sic] or the Holy Ghost, [is] the sole causative force that upholds the cosmos through vibration.” (11)
Regarding the manner of creation, the Divine Mother is Herself composed of three cosmic forces or movements, which Hindus call the three “gunas.”We have no equivalent notion for the gunas in the West. What Yogananda refers to here as the “outflowing consciousness” or “Christ Intelligence” could also be considered the Child of God, the Third member of the Trinity, the Transcendental Father in the womb of the Phenomenal Mother. We now have all three members of the Trinity: Father, Mother, and Child or Brahman, Shakti, and Atman (Hindu).
“Ghost signifies an intelligent, invisible, conscious force, or intelligent cosmic vibration. It is holy because the emanent (outflowing) consciousness of God the Father, or Christ intelligence, guides it to create all finite matter. The ancients, not versed in the polished language of modern times, used ‘Holy Ghost’ and ‘Word’ for Intelligent Cosmic Vibration, which is the first materialization of God the Father in matter. The Hindus speak of this ‘Holy Ghost’ as the ‘Aum’. ‘A’ stands for ‘Akar’ or creative vibration; ‘U’ stands for ‘Ukar’ or preservative vibration; and ‘M’ for ‘Makar’ or destructive vibration.” (12)
“The potencies of sound and of vach, the human voice, have nowhere else been so profoundly investigated as in India. The Aum vibration that reverberates throughout the universe (the ‘Word’ or ‘voice of many waters’ of the Bible) has three manifestations or gunas, those of creation, preservation, and destruction. Each time a man utters a word, he puts into operation one of the three qualities of Aum. This is the lawful reason behind the injunction of all scriptures that man should speak the truth.” (13)
In my opinion, Hindus personalized the three gunas and called them Brahma (creation), Vishnu (maintenance), and Shiva (transformation). Of course, I could be wrong.
Spiritually-sensitive people hear the first manifestation of this Holy Spirit or Divine Mother as a ringing in the ears. Others have to meditate deeply to have the sound arise within themselves.
“The intelligent holy vibration, or the first manifestation of God the Father, … manifests as the cosmic sound of Aum, or Amen, which can be heard in meditation.” (14)
“Patanjali speaks of God as the actual Cosmic Sound of Aum that is heard in meditation. Aum is the Creative Word, the whir of the Vibratory Motor, the witness of Divine Presence.” (15)
“‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock (sound through Om vibration): If any man hear my voice (listen to Om), and open the door, I will come in to him.’ (Revelation 3:20). Patanjali (a great Hindu Raja Yogi) wrote: ‘Meditate on Om to actually contact [God]. Om is His symbol (manifestation of creation).'” (16)
Here is Da Free John hearing it as a click:
“I could feel and hear little clicking pulses in the base of my head and neck, indicating the characteristic Presence of the Mother Shakti.” (17)
Yogananda explains what the Yogi does with the sound of Aum, this ringing in our ears:
“[One] hears the sound of Holy Ghost when all bodily and astral sounds cease. Then, by deeper meditation on this sound, by higher processes learned from the Guru, he can be one with the sound and ‘touch’ it. Then, after touching or feeling it, by still higher methods, the spiritual aspirant will find his consciousness vibrating simultaneously in his body and in several continents. As he progresses further by deeper and longer meditation, he will find his consciousness vibrating simultaneously in his body, in the earth, the planets, the universes, and in every particle of matter.” (18)
“When the Yogi … listens to cosmic vibration, his mind is diverted from the physical sounds of matter outside his body to the circulatory sounds of the vibrating flesh. Then his consciousness is diverted from the vibrations of the body to the musical vibrations of the astral body. Then his consciousness wanders from the vibrations of the astral body to the vibrations of consciousness in all atoms.
“Then the consciousness of the Yogi listens to the Holy Ghost or Cosmic Sound emanating from all atoms. This is the way the ordinary consciousness should be baptized or expanded into Christ consciousness through the expanding power of the Holy Ghost, or the all-spreading ‘Aum-vibrating-sound’ heard in meditation.” (19)
“All human beings find their consciousness hidebound by the body, but by listening to and feeling the ‘Aum’ vibration and intuitive Christ consciousness the Yogi realizes that God the Father’s cosmic consciousness exists inactively in regions where there is no motion or presence of the Holy-Ghost vibration. (For the Holy-Ghost vibration is limited only to a certain tract of space which is peopled by the cosmos and all island universes. Holy Vibration is condensed into planetary creation.)” (20)
Note Yogananda’s contention that the Divine Mother can only be found in a certain tract of space.
“By deep meditation … the student can hear the voice of cosmic sound, emanating from all atoms and sparks of cosmic energy. By listening to this omnipresent sound the consciousness of the body-caged soul begins gradually to spread itself from the limitations of the body into omnipresence. One listening to the cosmic sound will find his consciousness spreading with it to limitlessness.” (21)
“After listening to and feeling the cosmic sound in all the Physical, Astral, and Ideational cosmos, or in the Physical, Astral, and Ideational Holy Ghost, his consciousness will vibrate in all creation. Then when his expanded consciousness becomes stable in all creation, it feels the presence of Christ consciousness in all vibration. Then the [Yogi] becomes Christ-like; his consciousness experiences the Second Coming of Christ; he feels in his vehicle the presence of Christ-consciousness as Jesus felt Christ expressed in His body.” (22)
“Through the divine eye in the forehead (east), the yogi sails his consciousness into omnipresence, hearing the Word or Aum, divine sound of ‘many waters’: the vibrations of light that constitute the sole reality of creation.” (23)
So if you’re hearing the blessed sound of Aum as a ringing in your ears, rejoice. Welcome it. Talk to it. Say, “Hello, Mother. What are your wishes for me today?” or “What are you bringing me today?” Listen to it and allow it to grow within your consciousness. Hearing the sound of the universal motor is a great blessing indeed.
(1) Interestingly I did a search online and turned up this near-reference to it, from one Omgurom who read it in the SRF Lessons as I did:
“What you are hearing sounds like the Aum (om) vibration, it is heard in the right ear by people who do a lot of yoga and meditate. Paramahansa Yogananda talks about it a lot in his SRF lessons. If you wish to contact SRF – Self Realization Fellowship you could talk with a nun from there. They will be able to help you understand more about it.” (Yoga Forums, at http://www.yogaforums.com/forums/f20/ringing-in-right-ear-6720.html.)
Here’s another reference to it in a kundalini discussion group, by a nameless correspondent:
“[The ringing in your ears] probably the background static of consciousness. A yogi (e.g., Yogananda) will tell you it’s the OM vibration, the word of God. A Zen master will probably call it original sound. Concentrating on it is a form of meditation. When [kundalini] becomes active it turns into a roar like a waterfall.” (http://www.kundalini-gateway.org/threads/th_sound.html.)
And finally here is a statement from Yogananda that all sounds are Aum, which again is not the exact quote but provides the foundation for it:
“The earthly sounds of all atomic motion, including the sounds of the body—the heart, lungs, circulation, cellular activity—come from the cosmic sound of the creative vibratory activity of Aum. The sounds of the nine octaves perceptible to the human ear, as well as all cosmic low or high vibrations that cannot be registered by the human ear, have their origin in Aum.” (http://www.yogananda.com.au/pyr/pyr_aum.html.)
(2) Paramahansa Ramakrishna in Swami Nikhilananda, trans., The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1978; c1942., 299.
(4) Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi. Bombay: Jaico, 1975, 237n.
(5) Paramahansa Yogananda, The Second Coming of Christ. Dallas: Amrita Foundation, 1979-86, 1, 19. Ghost=Spirit. Spiritus = Breath. Breath = movement. The Divine Mother or Holy Ghost is movement; the Holy Father is stillness.
(6) Paramahansa Yogananda, SCC, 2, 22.
(7) Paramahansa Yogananda, AY, 17n.
(8) Paramahansa Yogananda, SCC, 2, 22.
(9) Sri Krishna in Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, trans., Bhagavad-Gita. The Song of God. New York and Scarborough: New American Library, 1972; c1944, 80. I do not recommend any other translation of the Bhagavad-Gita than this one.
(10) Paramahansa Yogananda, SCC, 2, 22.
(11) Paramahansa Yogananda, AY, 487n.
(12) Paramahansa Yogananda, SCC, 1, 15-16.
(13) Paramahansa Yogananda, AY, 17n.
(14) Paramahansa Yogananda, SCC, 1, 17.
(15) Paramahansa Yogananda, AY, 237.
(16) Paramahansa Yogananda, Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons, Number 29, 3.
(17) Da Free John, The Knee of Listening. Original Edition. Clearlake, CA; Dawn Horse Press, 1984; c1973, 132.
(18) Paramahansa Yogananda, SCC, 1, 17.
(19) Paramahansa Yogananda, SCC, 1, 20-1.
(20) Paramahansa Yogananda, SCC, 1, 29.
(21) Paramahansa Yogananda, SCC, 1, 15.
(22) Paramahansa Yogananda, SCC, 1, 29.
(23) Paramahansa Yogananda, AY, 267-8.