* * * * * * * S R I M A D - B H A G A V A T A M* * * * * *

The Power of Sound

Rendered from Sanskrit into English,

with commentary,

by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta

Swami Prabhupada,

Founder-Acarya of the International Society

for Krishna Consciousness

Lord Kapila, an incarnation of Lord Krsna, is teaching His mother, Devahuti, about the fundamental principles of material nature. As the Srimad-Bhagavatam continues, Lord Kapila explains how all objects have their origin in sound.


			tamasac ca vikurvanad			
			sabda-matram abhut tasman			
			  nabhah srotram tu sabdagam

tamasat-from egoism in ignorance; ca-and; vikurvanat-undergoing transformation; bhagavat-virya-by the energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead; coditat-impelled; sabda-matram-the subtle element sound; abhut-was manifested; tasmat-from that; nabhah-ether; srotram- the sense of hearing; tu-then; sabda-gam-which catches sound.

When egoism in ignorance is agitated by the sex energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the subtle element sound is manifested, and from sound come the ethereal sky and the sense of hearing.

PURPORT: It appears from this verse that all the objects of our sense gratification are the products of egoism in ignorance. It is understood from this verse that by agitation of the element of egoism in ignorance, the first thing produced was sound, which is the subtle form of ether. It is stated also in the Vedanta-sutra that sound is the origin of all objects of material possession and that by sound one can also dissolve this material existence. Anavrttih sabdat means "liberation by sound." The entire material manifestation began from sound, and sound can also end material entanglement, if it has a particular potency. The particular sound capable of doing this is the transcendental vibration of Hare Krsna. Our entanglement in material affiars has begun from material sound. Now we must purify that sound in spiritual understanding. There is sound in the spiritual world also. If we approach that sound, then our spiritual life begins, and the other requirements for spiritual advancement can be supplied. We have to understand very clearly that sound is the beginning of the creation of all material objects for our sense gratification. Similarly, if sound is purified, our spiritual necessities also are produced from sound.

Here it is said that from sound the ether became manifested and that the air became manifested from ether. How the ethereal sky comes from sound, how the air comes from sky and how fire comes from air will explained later on. Sound is the cause of the sky, and sky is the cause of srotram, the ear. The ear is the first sense for receiving knowledge. One must give aural reception to any knowledge one wants to receive, either material or spiritual. Threfore strotram is very important. The Vedic knowledge is called sruti; knowledge has to be received by hearing. By hearing only can we have access to either material or spiritual enjoyment.

In the material world, we manufacture many things for our material comfort simply by hearing. They are already there, but just by hearing, one can transform them. If we want to build a very high skyscraper, this does not mean that we have to create it. The materials for the skyscraper - wood, metal, earth, etc. - are already there, but we make our intimate relationship with those already created material elements by hearing how to utilize them. Modern economic advancement for creation is also a product of hearing, and similarly one can create a favorable field of spiritual activities by hearing from the right source. Arjuna was a gross materialist in the bodily conception of life and was suffering from the bodily concept very acutely. But simply by hearing, Arjuna became a spiritualized, Krsna conscious person. Hearing is very important, and that hearing is produced from the sky. By hearing only can we make proper use of that which already exists. The principle of hearing to properly utilize preconceived materials is applicable to spiritual paraphernalia as well. We must hear from the proper spiritual source.


			arthasrayatvam sabdasya			
			   drastur lingatvam eva ca			
			tan-matratvam ca nabhaso			
			   laksanam kavayo viduh

artha-asrayatvam-that which conveys the meaning of an object; sabdasya- of sound; drastuh-of the speaker; lingatvam-that which indicates the presence; eva-also; ca-and; tat-matratvam-the subtle element; ca-and; nabhasah-of ether; laksanam-definition; kavayah-learned persons; viduh-know.

Persons who are learned and who have true knowledge define sound as that which conveys the idea of an object, indicates the presence of a speaker screened from our view and constitutes the subtle form of ether.

PURPORT: It is very clear herein that as soon as we speak of hearing, there must be a speaker; without a speaker there is no question of hearing. Therefore the Vedic knowledge, which is known as sruti, or that which is received by hearing, is also called apaurusa. Apaurusa means "not spoken by any person materially created." It is stated in the beginning of Srimad-Bhagavatam, tene brahma hrda. The sound of Brahman, or Veda, was first impregnated into the heart of Brahma, the original learned man (adikavaye). How did he become learned? Whenever there is learning, there must be a speaker and the process of hearing. But Brahma was the first created being. Who spoke to him? Since no one was there, who was the spiritual master to give knowledge? He was the only living creature; therefore the Vedic knowledge was imparted within his heart by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is seated within everyone as Paramatma. Vedic knowledge is understood to be spoken by the Supreme Lord, and therefore, it is free from the defects of material understanding. Material understanding is defective. If we hear something from a conditioned soul, it is full of defects. All material and mundane information is tainted by illusion, error, cheating and imperfection of the senses. Because Vedic knowledge was imparted by the Supreme Lord, who is transcendental to material creation, it is perfect. If we receive that Vedic knowledge from Brahma in disciplic succession, then we receive perfect knowledge.

Every word we hear has a meaning behind it. As soon as we hear the word "water," there is a substance - water - behind the word. Similarly, as soon as we hear the word "God," there is a meaning to it. If we receive the meaning and explanation of "God" from God Himself, then it is perfect. But if we speculate about the meaning of "God," it is imperfect. Bhagavad-gita, which is the science of God, is spoken by the Personality of Godhead Himself. This is perfect knowledge. Mental speculators or so-called philosophers who are researching what is actually God will never understand the nature of God. The science of God has to be understood in disciplic succession from Brahma, who was first instructed about knowledge of God by God Himself. We can understand the knowledge of God by hearing Bhagavad-gita from a person authorized in the disciplic succession.

When we speak of seeing, there must be form. By our sense perception, the beginning experience is the sky. Sky is the beginning of form. And from the sky, other forms emanate. The objects of knowledge and sense perception begin, therefore, from the sky.


			bhutanam chidra-datrtvam			
			   bahir antaram eva ca			
			   nabhaso vrtti-laksanam

bhutanam-of all living entities; chidra-datrtvam-the accomodation of room; bahih-external; antaram-internal; eva-also; ca-and; prana-of the vital air; indriya-the senses; atma-and the mind; dhisnyatvam-being the field of activities; nabhasah-of the ethereal element; vrtti-activities; laksanam-characteristics.

The activities and characteristics of the ethereal element can be observed as accommodation for the room for the external and internal existences of all living entities, namely the field of activities of the vital air, the senses and the mind.

PURPORT: The mind, the sense and the vital force, or living entity, have forms, although they are not visible to the naked eye. Form rests in subtle existence in the sky, and internally it is perceived as the veins within the body and the circulation of the vital air. Externally there are invisible forms of sense objects. The production of the invisible sense objects is the external activity of the ethereal element, and the circulation of vital air and blood is its internal activity. That subtle forms exist in the ether has been proven by modern science by transmission of television, by which forms or photographs of one place are transmitted to another place by the action of the ethereal element. That is very nicely explained here. This verse is the potential basis of great scientific research work, for it explains how subtle forms are generated from the ethereal element, what their characteristics and actions are, and how the tangible elements, namely air, fire, water and earth, are manifested from the subtle form. Mental activities, or psychological actions of thinking, feeling and willing, are also activities on the platform of ethereal existence. The statement in Bhagavad-gita that the mental situation at th etime of death is the basis of th next birth is also corroborated in this verse. Mental existence transforms into tangible form as soon as there is an opportunity due to contamination or development of the gross elements from subtle form.


			nabhasah sabda-tanmatrat			
			  kala-gatya vikurvatah			
			sparso 'bhavat tato vayus			
			  tvak sparsasya ca sangrahah

nabhasah-from ether; sabda-tanmatrat-which evolves from the subtle element sound; kala-gatya-under the impulse of time; vikurvatah-undergoing transformation; sparsah-the subtle element touch; abhavat-evolved; tatah-thence; vayuh-air; tvak-the sense of touch; sparsasya-of touch; ca-and; sangrahah-perception.

From ethereal existence, which evolved from sound, the next transformation takes place under the impulse of time, and thus the subtle element touch and thence the air and sense of touch become prominent.

PURPORT: In the course of time, when the subtle forms are transformed into the gross forms, they become the objects of touch. The objects of touch and the tactile sense also develop after this evolution in time. Sound is the first sense object to exhibit material existence, and from the perception of sound, touch perception evelves and from touch perception the perception of sight. That is the way of the gradual evolution of our perceptive objects.


			mrdutvam kathinatvam ca			
			  saityam usnatvam eva ca			
			etat sparsasya sparsatvam			
			  tan-matratvam nabhasvatah

mrdutvam-softness; kathinatvam-hardness; ca-and; saityam-cold; usnatvam-heat; eva-also; ca-and; etat-this; sparsasya-of the subtle element touch; sparsatvam-the distinguishing attributes; tat-matratvam-the subtle form; nabhasvatah-of air;

Softness and hardness and cold and heat are the distinguishing attributes of touch, which is characterized as the subtle form of air.

PURPORT: Tangibility is the proof of form. In actuality, objects are perceived in two different ways. They are either soft or hard, cold or hot, etc. This tangible action of the tactile sense is the result of the evolution of air, which is produced from the sky.


			calanam vyuhanam praptir			
			  netrtvam dravya-sabdayoh			
			sarvendriyanam atmatvam			
			  vayoh karmabhilaksanam

calanam-moving; vyuhanam-mixing; praptih-allowing approach; netrtvam-carrying; dravya-sabdayoh-particles of substances and sound; sarva-indriyanam-of all the senses; atmatvam-providing for the proper functioning; vayoh-of air; karma-by actions; abhilaksanam-the distinct characteristics.

The action of the air is exhibited in movements, mixing, allowing approach to the objects of sound and other sense perceptions, and providing for the proper functioning of all other senses.

PURPORT: We can perceive the action of the air when the branches of a tree move or when dry leaves on the ground collect together. Similarly, it is only by the action of the air that a body moves, and when the air circulation is impeded, many diseases result. Paralysis, nervous breakdowns, madness and many other diseases are actually due to an insufficient circulation of air. In the Ayurvedic system these diseases are treated on the basis of air circulation. If from the beginning one takes care of the process of air circulation, such diseases cannot take place. From the Ayur-veda as well as from the Srimad-Bhagavatam it is clear that so many activities are going on internally and externally because of air alone, and as soon as there is some deficiency in the air circulation, these activities cannot take place. Here it is clearly stated, netrtvam dravya-sabdayoh. Our sense of proprietorship over action is also due to the activity of the air. If the air circulation is stifled, we cannot approach a place after hearing. If someone calls us, we hear the sound because of the air circulation, and we approach that sound or the place from which the sound comes. It is clearly said in this verse that these are all movements of the air. The ability to detect odors is also due to the action of the air.


			vayos ca sparsa-tanmatrad			
			  rupam daiveritad abhut			
			samutthitam tatas tejas			
			  caksu rupopalambhanam

vayoh-from air; ca-and; sparsa-tanmatrat-which evolves from the subtle element touch; rupam-form; daiva-iritat-according to destiny; abhut-evolved; samutthitam-arose; tatah-from that; tejah-fire; caksuh-sense of sight; rupa-color and form; upalambhanam-perceiving.

By interactions of the air and the sensations of touch, one receives different forms according to destiny. By evolution of such forms, there is fire, and the eye sees different forms in color.

PURPORT: Because of destiny, the touch sensation, the interactions of air, and the situation of the mind, which is produced of the ethereal element, one receives a body according to his previous activities. Needless to say, a living entity transmigrates from one form to another. His form changes according to destiny and by the arrangement of a superior authority which controls the interaction of air and the mental situation. Form is the combination of different types of sense perception. Predestined activities are the plans of the mental situation and the interaction of air.


			dravyakrtitvam gunata			
			  vyakti-samsthatvam eva ca			
			tejastvam tejasah sadhvi			
			  rupa-matrasya vrttayah

dravya-of an object; akrtitvam-dimension; gunata-quality; vyakti-samsthatvam-individuality; eva-also; ca-and; tejastvam-effulgence; tejasah-of fire; sadhvi-O virtuous lady; rupa-matrasya-of the subtle element form; vrttayah-the characteristics.

My dear mother, the characteristics of form are understood by dimension, quality and individuality. The form of fire is appreciated by its effulgence.

PURPORT: Every form that we appreciate has its particular dimensions and characteristics. The quality of a particular object is appreciated by its utility. But the form of sound is independent. Forms which are invisible can be understood only by touch; that is the independent appreciation of invisible form. Visible forms are understood by analytical study of their constitution. The constitution of a certain object is appreciated by its internal action. For example, the form of salt is appreciated by the interaction of salty tastes, and the form of sugar is appreciated by the interaction of sweet tastes. Tastes and qualitative constitution are the basic principles in understanding the form of an object.


			dyotanam pacanam panam			
			  adanam hima-mardanam			
			tejaso vrttayas tv etah			
			  sosanam ksut trd eva ca

dyotanam-illumination; pacanam-cooking, digesting; panam-drinking; adanam-eating; hima-mardanam-destroying cold; tejasah-of fire; vrttayah-functions; tu-indeed; etah-these; sosanam-evaporating; ksut-hunger; trt-thirst; eva-also; ca-and.

Fire is appreciated by its light and by its ability to cook, to digest, to destroy cold, to evaporate, and to give rise to hunger, thirst, eating and drinking.

PURPORT: The first symptoms of fire are distribution of light and heat, and the existence of fire is also perceived in the stomach. Without fire we cannot digest what we eat. Without digestion there is no hunger and thirst or power to eat and drink. When there is insufficient hunger and thirst, it is understood that there is a shortage of fire within the stomach, and the Ayurvedic treatment is performed in connection with the fire element, agni-mandyam. Since fire is increased by the secretion of bile, the treatment is to increase bile secretion. The Ayurvedic treatment thus corroborates the statements in Srimad-Bhagavatam. The characteristic of fire in subduing the influence of cold is known to everyone. Severe cold can always be counteracted by fire.

to be continued...

BTG(Jan/Feb 1995)