MAHA-SVARA (Ultimate Sound)

translated by the author, Slamet A.Sjukur,
from Kompas-Minggu Jan.8-1995

We can hear because we have ears. But how far we can use our hearing? We live in the era which is dominated more and more by the culture of sight. And we become a stranger with our own ears.

An experience of giving a workshop at Lemah-Putih in Solo (Java). Most of the participants were foreigners (Dutch, Denmark, England, German and Mexico), there were only a few Indonesians. They came from different backgrounds, a student of Japanese Butoh dance and philosophy, a choregrapher and director of School for New Dance Development in Amsterdam, a social worker, an actress, a painter, a teacher, a medicine doctor, a specialist of shiatsu, a specialist of osteopathy, a dancer who earns his living by selling gado-gado [Indonesian food] in Surabaya.

These foreigner came to Indonesia as they were attracted by the teaching of Suprapto Suryodarmo. They certainly are prepared spiritually.

Suprapto invited me to share my experience with them, an experience which I believed as a very personal one and I did not know myself why I did such a thing. Only some twenty years later I began to grasp its meaning and advantage, very slowly and haphazardly.

Respectful listening.

It is important to listen respectfully. It is different from hearing activeley or to make our listening more active. We consider what we listen to as a living entity. There is a dynamic relationship between a listener and the object of listening. The ultimate goal is to listen to the inaudible.

I just wanted to share the technique. I do not like the philosophy. One of the participants was against this confidence, she said that the technique as well as the philosophy could be excessive, a tool only just a tool would be of no sense, likewise an intellectual speculation should not for its own sake. She would be midway, takes the best of both sides.

How to listen respectfully ?

Together we did some funs. I chose the word fun, instead of excercise which is more serious and often doctrinal.

First, we opened the ears intentionally. By closing the eyes and breathing through nose calmly, regularly and as deep as possible, we were concentrating to any feeble sound in the surroundings. It is not easy, as the louder ones attract automatically our attention more than the weak. With patience, the ears will find their own way to solve the problem.

During the concentration, directed especially to feeble sounds, there were many sounds came to pass and unconsciously we rembered it. For example, when I asked them how many times a cicak [a kind of lizard in Indonesia] had made sound, no one could answer, because they did not take attention to. Though after persuasion, many of them were able to recollect the number of sounds, its rhythmical grouping and its change of tempo! Human body is a living antenna which catch everything faster than we suppose.


Second, the concentration was not to feeble sounds, but to the duration of sound of a passing by vehicle. The participants had to be able to detect only one vehicle among many others. There is time when sound comes and then pass away. The moment when sound begins to be heard and when it dies away, depend on our attentiveness. With a little effort we can hear sound much earlier than usual. And like a detective, the hearing is able to follow sound till far away.

How about silence, can we enter into it ?

There is no silence in the nature. We are always surrounded by the sea of sound. Sound is everywhere, audible or not. But mentally created void can be experienced, that is even in a boisterous situation we can lead the ears to the other side of noise, just like a Moebius ring whose two sides meet curiously [Moebius is a 19th century German astronomer and topographist].

Me the centre.

Another fun is to imagine the most meaningful sound, e.g. the sound of our proper name. Imagine you were in an unknown place and suddenly heard someone called you, it made you feel concerned, the others not because it was not their name.

By imagining your name pronounced tenderly by a beloved one, you would feel warm. It is a means to stimulate an inner happiness which in turn has a powerful effect to cellular network. The vibration takes place because psychologically the imagined sound contains the most meaningful message for whom it concerns.

After pursuing the sound outside the body and then to vibrate the body by the sound we imagine ourself, we tried to produce a 'prime' sound.

As the preceding funs, we feel the sound better when we close the eyes. Quietly we inhaled very deeply from the nose and in the same manner we exhaled and at the same time we pronounced M. In order to pronounce it as long as possible, it is necessary to economize the energy by humming it faintly and at a pitch which is not too low. We should also take care the quality of humming from the beginning to the end. For this reason, the constant attentiveness of the ears is needed. The participants were not only to produce sound but to contol it with the willing ears as well. This attitude has a second purpose, that is to help the participants to avoid to fall asleep because of hypnotizing sound.

Apprehension is not a guaranty.

Moreover, we can also listen to sounds in our body without the help of stethoscope: breath, heartbeat, stomach, semihydraulic backbones, air vibration etc

What was the motivation of the foreigners to learn such a thing ? Is it because rationality alone is not enough any more ? Because of their predisposition to accept evrything from the east ? Or they simply want to import it for an export later with convincing packing ?

Whatever the motivation, there were two obvious facts. They are earnest and very critical, rational beings who ask 'how' and 'why' to everything. They need to be guided conforming to their way of thinking. It means that they need also to be convinced, if necessary, that their comprehension is wrong, as long as it is accepted by the logic familiar to them.

Blaise Pascal said that intuition has its own logic which is not known by logic itself.

In the fun to experience sound-consciousness, they did it humbly to enter totally into a new awareness.

The curious thing was what happened to the Indonesians, not because they lacked seriousness, but simply they were concerned in a queer way. They did not know how to be involved, that is the relation between aims and the way to attain it is strange. For example, when they should pronounce M in a long breathing out, they did it in a melodious humming instead of paying attention to the tranquility and quality of sound and how to use the energy carefully. They did it with all their heart, of course.

The ears, as well as other parts of our body, is a priceless gift of god. It is a reliable means of intercourse between us and what is not us, and between us and our inner self.

Dewa Ruci*) is not just a story or symbol. He is a truth which we can experience ourselves.


*) As told in the wayang story, Bima with his giantic body has to enter the ear of Sang Dewa Ruci, a certain god whose frame is so tiny. Impossible ! But how surprised he is when he is inside to find a fast expanse of universe.


Suigyu Library (Japanese)