Resonance and the Om

Monks meditation on waterfall


Essential to an understanding of Buddhist and Hindu cultures, meditative practices, and religious precepts, is a comprehension of resonance. Resonance addresses how even the slightest vibrations transfer energy and subsequently cause movement to spread like ripples until the energy dissipates and the vibrations settle. Resonance also applies to sound studies because of the relationship between sound and movement. Sound waves are caused by movement and even the Brownian motion, the movement of atoms, create sound waves.

Resonance holds a place of great importance when studying these cultures because of the Om and other basic tenets found within these religions. A deep belief in the interconnectedness of the universe lies at the foundations of these two cultures. Understanding the phenomena of resonance is direly important to attaining a state of inner and outer peace is the ultimate goal. By attuning themselves to resonance through use of the Om, meditation, and learning, these peoples are also learning to control the vibrations they cause and to better receive those of others. Resonance is more than just an acoustic property to these cultures; it’s also symbolic of the ebb and flow of life and the universe, of which humans are merely specks within. By exploring resonance within these cultures I will examine these eastern cultures and the sound, mind, and body connections therein from a western intellectual perspective.





The Om is extremely important to meditative and yogic activity in both Hindu and Buddhist culture. This simple sound is intrinsically linked to the very foundations of these two religions, and is representative of the thrumming movement of the universe. This particular video captures a group of Tibetan monks chanting the Om in accompaniment with quiet bells and drums. Though the Om is not always carried out for such an extended period of time, it is often used to denote the beginning and end of different activities like praying, meditating, reciting mantras, or as a preface to a religious text.



Resonance of Mind, Resonance of Body



Questions concerning the mind, body, soul triad have for many eons puzzled humans. Consistently throughout history humans have searched for answers and balance within the three, but many to no avail. What is the appeal of these meditative states and capabilities? Well for many, it’s the inner peace and calm that is associated with the practice of such yogi activities.

Now although my research is majorly populated by the relationship aforementioned, it is another, more specific symbiosis of life that I will be examining. The main focus of this research will concern sound, mind, and body, and the interaction between the three through different practices such as meditation and yoga. As well, I will specifically explore the effects of sound, dissect them in terms of various authors, such as Schafer, Atali, Feld, and Veal. To complement my research I will also gather and create a select number of sound replications that might be associated with Buddhist and Hindi meditation.

Using the below mentioned five sources as my foundation, with possible changes to come, I will trace the cultural and spiritual history of these techniques and their sounds. Once the significance has been established and a fair understanding of the narrative of meditation throughout human history is realized, the research will then move towards more recent studies and scientific breakthroughs concerning the sound, mind, and body interaction.

The historical and cultural explorations will focus upon the Tibetan Buddhist tradition as well as the ancient Indian Hindu religion. Both of these “religions” are known to be interpreted more as ways of life, not exactly dictated religious precepts. These ways of life include a great deal of sensory (body) and mind reorientation through meditative practices. The spiritual importance of these beliefs and behaviors stems from the emphasis these ways of life put upon connection and peaceful stasis. In meditation, mind and body, including the sense of hearing, seek equilibrium. This practice has heavily influenced a great many members of this world, and the three religious texts used, Siddhartha, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, and the Baghavad-gita, will provide thorough and exciting insight into the various cultural backgrounds.

I will also address certain characteristics of sound, namely resonance, dissonance, types of sound, and other various attributes sound may possess. In this way I hope to give my readers a full historical and cultural view of meditation, and then address modern applications and neurological studies. This continuity will provide readers with a lot of interesting information to digest and to come away with. With the inclusion of different sound replications, I am sure that this topic will be easily adapted into a vibrant poster format.

My last hope for this project is that it reveals aspects of sound, mind, and body interaction that I have previously been unaware of. My greatest want is to explore this topic and find something new out. Something that will utterly change the way I think. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, it can just be a small new phenomena that I am made aware of. With this plethora of exceptional literature and research before me, it seems inevitable that new discoveries are bound to occur.

Annotated Bibliography

Coleman, Graham; Jinpa, Thupten; Dorje, Gyurme. Meditations on Living, Dying, and               Loss. New York: Penguin. 2005. Print


Hesse, Herman. Siddhartha. New York: Penguin, 1999. Print.


Kozasa, Elisa H.; Sato, Joao R.; Lacerda, Shirley S. Meditation Training Increases                    Brain Efficiency in an Attention Task”.  NeuroImage. 2 January 2012. Vol. 59,          Issue 1, Pages 745-749.


Prabhupada, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. Bhagavad-gita. California: Krishna Books. 1972. Print.


Zeldan, F., Grant, J.A. “Mindfulness Meditation-Related Pain Relief: Evidence for         Unique Brain Mechanisms in the Regulation of Pain”.  Neuroscience Letters. 29 June 2012. Vol. 520, Issue 2, Pages 165-173.



Siddhartha – The plot of this novel follows the theoretical first Buddha, Siddhartha Gotama’s, life in his development from a young and impetuous man into a being of patience, compassion, and simplicity. Herman Hesse has written extensively, specifically concerning Eastern religions and philosophies. This source adds to the sense of historical narrative that I am attempting to couple with the modern research techniques of the two scientific articles. It is intended for all, especially those searching for religious, spiritual, and ethical guidance.


“Mindfulness Meditation-Related Pain Relief” – This article focuses upon recent discoveries of the potential for mindfulness and mediation to be employed in pain relief practices. The five authors seem credible as well as intelligent and thorough. The article communicates abstract and difficult topics quite effectively. Most likely intended for further scholarly work and possible applications in modern day medicine. This article will be used as a source in combination with the other peer reviewed article, to establish and examine the contemporary applications and occurrences of the ancient practice of meditation.


Bhagavad-gita – This famous text concerns the battlefield dialogue between the Lord Sri Krsna and Arjuna. The Gita is considered a sacred “song” in Vedanta cultures. Its exploration of the religious and spiritual themes heavily associated with yoga, and its examination of yoga itself are of great interest due to their relationship of sound, mind, and body. This text adds a deeply spiritual perspective to the research that will complement the empirical studies conducted on the observable mental effects.



Meditations on Living, Dying, and Loss – This text also focuses on spiritual and ethical teachings and advice but provides a different point of view. While the Bhagavad-gita descends from an Indian Hindi culture, The Tibetan Book of the Dead is one of the great works to come out of the Buddhist milieu of Tibet. It contains much of the Buddhist lore that surrounds the origin of meditation and its spiritual precepts. It also examines the role of the senses, including hearing, in understanding of self. The editors and translators all possess preeminent degrees in their respective fields, and the Dalai Lama is the source of Tibetan Buddhist culture. I am extremely interested to see what this source will add in terms of human experience with meditation and associated beliefs.


“Meditation Training Increases Brain Efficiency in an Attention Task” – This study examines the attentive ability of meditators in comparison with non-meditators. In Their findings they have found that attention attribution efficiency and impulse control are increased in meditators. The relationship between meditation and sensory attunement is a direction I would like to head with this research, and I feel this article will emphasize and support this focus. This source will provide assertions and statements with factual back-up. The exploration of this phenomenon will add much credence and understanding to meditation as a practice and tradition.



Elevator music: The forgotten noises of ambient sound

In considering the sonic content that makes up my life, I couldn’t help but notice the abundance of passive noise, sounds that I don’t even notice because they’re so commonplace. In this Audiography, my “Elevator Music,” the passive, background sounds that facilitate a day to day existence are documented in context of the role they play in everyday rituals and habits and what implications they hold.

BLINDS: After you wake up, you can usually hear the sound your roommate makes when opening up the blinds to let the sunlight in. There’s been much less of it, now that it’s really winter. The blinds sound almost crudely mechanical, a utilitarian noise byproduct of another action.

PILL: The shrink wrapping around your morning medication is really way too complicated for reason to explain but you crack it open anyways – the sharp, popping noise is a ritual of sorts that you just as easily forget as soon as you swallow with some water

HANGERS: The soft “snick, snick” of a plastic hanger gliding over the aluminum bar in your closet makes an appearance whenever you consult your wardrobe: However, this noise is muffled by your mental chatter before it can even be considered as a noise worth giving attention to.

DOOR: The sound of a door – a smooth swish, the gentle “click” of validation, and the louder sound of locks slipping past each other as you tug the door open is so commonplace that it transcends association with any one emotion or state of mind. You hear in the morning and late at night; when you’re tired, anxious, excited, or resigned; alone or with a huge gaggle of people. You here it when you want to go home to the dorm, and when you want to really go home go home because you’re sick of the day to day noise that crowds your thinking spaces.

BREAKFAST: When you’re having breakfast outside of New World Tortilla before it opens in the few spare minutes before your math class starts you focus on reading the paper online, or checking your e-mail or finishing an assignment. The concurrent burble of the morning time around flows you – the clatter of dishes, beeps and creaks and the radio fading in and out, maybe making a brief cameo in your steam of consciousness but never really elevating itself to “the object to be observed”(Chion, 1994). These sounds remain “a vehicle for something else,” (Chion, 1994), just a small blip on your radar reminding you that life continues outside your own bubble of consciousness.

SNIFFLES: The byproduct of the pervasive cold weather, the integral soundbit of a snuffling stuffed nose doesn’t even get a head turn of recognition anymore.

SALAD: The noises of eating are often dubbed over by conversation or forgotten, if your mind is busy. They’re frequently gross and never enjoyable, so no one complains when they settle to the bottom of our consciousness.

LINESUPS: As you try to desperately finish your programming assignment for computer science class before it’s due, the chatter your friends make fills the space around you like it often does, a sort of soft, ambient padding against the admittedly silent and jarring sound of being alone. It does however tend to decrease productivity.

FUEGO: Another sound of utility, you barely even notice the flick of a lighter anymore as you light candles or watch your friends have a cigarette.

HOMEWORK: Music fills your room as you whittle away at this week’s assignments. You’re so attached to that dear machine, it would seem as if you’d be attuned to the clicking keys, but this noise is covered up by all the other traffic running through your mind.

If the resonance of sounds “entails adjacency, sympathy and the collapse of the boundary between the perceiver and the perceived” (Erlman, 2010) then even the most seemingly insignificant noises contribute to the stage life is acted out on. Considering these resultant noises through a new, more critical lens let me “take control of the sensory experience” (Horowitz, 2012) I have everyday and see the soundtrack of my life in a new light.


Works Cited

Seth Horowitz, The Science and Art of Listening (New York: The New York Times, 2012)

Veit Erlmann, Reason and Resonance: A History of Modern Aurality (New York: Zone Books, 2010)

Michel Chion, “The Three Listening Modes.” The Sound Studies Reader. Comp. Jonathan Sterne. New York: Routledge, 2012