Yogi Bhajan, Ph.D. compiled by Gurucharan Singh Khalsa, Ph.D.
The Use and Science of the Gong
The most sublime instrument of the Yogi is the Gong. It is a musical instrument, a healing tool for the nervous system and a cauldron in which you can create alchemical blends of qualities that open and develop the Inner Self. Yogi Bhajan has asked that each ashram and yoga center have a gong and play it regularly. He said it would help repair the ravages of drugs in the nervous system. The sound of the gong creates deep relaxation, releases you from the torrent of thoughts and stimulates the glandular system to a higher level of functioning. Each student of kundalini yoga is encouraged to become familiar with the basic idea, use and experience of the gong.
To begin, look at the physical gong. It is a sheet of metal that is pounded into a variety of shapes. The gong is usually round. The surface is flat, but rounded on the circumference. The center of the gong is either flat, in which case it is just called a gong, or it is raised into a small dome, in which case it is called a muffled gong.
The surface of the gong is divided into three regions. Each region produces a different quality of sound when it is played. Each area is also symbolized differently. Think of the gong as the sun. It is a symbol of the spirit. It represents the initial stillness and potential of creation. The sound it issues forth is the first movement of the Infinite. Its vibrations are the life currents of all forms, beings and thoughts that exist or can exist. With a single stroke of the mallet, the gong radiates life across a spectrum of frequencies. With a rhythmical pulse that world is maintained and transformed with indefatigable creativity.
The gong is also a complete representation of the subtle world. The sun, or center, is the fire energy of awareness and consciousness, purusha. The region of the prakasha is where the mind projects and creates. The outer region of the prakriti is the manifestation in the concrete patterns of the body and nature.
The Inner Approach to the Gong
The gong is a sacred threshold. It is a portal that links the finite and the infinite experience of the self. Whenever our intention is to cross that portal, we must consciously link to the chain of being. The Golden Link should be established before playing the first note of the gong. The Golden Link is the connection with the lineage of teachers of higher consciousness. It is the connection to your own neutral mind. It is the connection that automatically arises when you consciously put your ego aside and choose to obey and be commanded by your highest self.
When asked to explain the effects of gong meditation and its uses, Yogi Bhajan responded:
“The gong is very simple. It is an inter-vibratory system. It is the sound of Creativity itself.
The gong is nothing more, nothing less. One who plays the gong plays the universe. The gong is not an ordinary thing to play. Out of it came all music, all sounds, and all words. The sound of the gong is the nucleus of the Word.
2 - The Art of the Gong
Today I played Har Hari on the gong. It was perfect. I enjoyed it. It was a multiple projective sound. The way I play it is my pleasure. The gong is not a musical instrument, nor a drum. The gong is God. So it is said; so it is.
The gong is a beautiful reinforced vibration. It is like a multitude of strings, as if you played with a million strings. The gong is the only tool with which you can produce this combination of space vibrations.” ( Women in Training - 1984, 7/5/84)
The master player of the gong links himself and attunes his mind to the power of the original sound current.
The proper way to link the mind and the subtle body to play the gong in kundalini yoga is to give a prayer. The prayer can be done internally or out loud. The prayer has three steps to it. You accomplish each step by reciting a mantra. Each mantra relates to a different level of your being. The three mantras in sequence are:
Ad Gurey Nameh - I bow/invoke the teacher who exists at the beginning Jugad Gurey Nameh - I bow to the teacher who teaches through all times Sat Gurey Nameh - I bow to the teacher who teaches from the truth
Siri Guru Dev A Nameh - I bow to the unseen subtle teacher of all
Ong Namo - I bow to the infinite creator of all
Guru Dev Namo - I bow to the divine subtle teacher who guides my soul
Ad Such - The truth that existed before beginnings
Jugad Such - The truth that exists through all time and circumstances Haibhee Such - The truth that exists at this moment
Nanak Hosee Bhee Such - That truth which Nanak’s mind sees will ever be true
The first mantra is called a Mangalacharan Mantra. This means it is a celebration of the qualities of God. It is an acknowledgment of gratitude and happiness. It invokes the mind to bow before the teacher and to accept the world as a teaching and a blessing. It relates to the daily experience of living on the earth. It is a witness to the joys and sorrows, the successes and failures, the births and deaths that make up the richness of our personal encounter of life. It celebrates that vastness and asks to be taught and guided with each sensation, challenge and moment. The first mantra gives you peace and centeredness. It is a Bhakti Mantra - a mental projection of devotion and acceptance of the gift of life and an appreciation of this moment of opportunity where you may play the gong.
3 - The second mantra is the connecting Adi Mantra. This invokes a linkage to the lineage of teach- ers of all times. It establishes a link to the feminine manifesting energy of the world. In the Indian symbolism it relates to the energies of the Goddess Saraswati who rules music and feminine expressiveness. It is this energy which must be invoked to become a channel for the experience of the gong. It gives you subtlety. It is a Shakti Mantra - a mental projection that creates the power to manifest what you love.
The third mantra is the initiating Bija Mantra - a mental projection that takes you into the subtlest of the creative realms of Being. It comes from the first line of Japji by Guru Nanak. It is a direct kundalini mantra. It raises the kundalini energy and brings the focus of the mind into the ether. It brings you into the place where sound and energy are as compact as a seed - a bija. This is the realm of the element of ether.
The first mantra starts at the earth within the realms of ordinary experience. The third takes you to the threshold of the realm of being itself. If you recite these mantras as prayers, with devotion and willingness to put your own ego aside, then you are lifted to the point of Infinity. That is the place from which to play the gong. Let yourself be an instrument for the flow of consciousness. Blend yourself into the energy and qualities of the sound of the gong. In this state the gong becomes a divine instrument. You will avoid the common problems of the ego that seeks loudness and recognition, or that becomes tired or bored, or which seeks cleverness and performance. From the position of Infinity you can serve the consciousness in all the students for whom you play the gong. You can act from duty and from the ecstasy of the sound current of the gong.
The mechanical and reactive nature of ordinary awareness is our normal condition. The wheel in the diagram represents it. The task of self-initiation is to awaken the consciousness from that “normal condition”. You must become neutral, unattached, receptive and spontaneous. The spiral represents your final awareness. It signifies the energy, motion and aliveness of the enlightened mind. When you play the gong the tool of enlightenment is initially the attitude of seva - doing a service without boundary, limit or self-concern. The mantras project you into that internal position. Then the impact of the sound of the gong consolidates and expands that initial state.
The Stroke of the Mallet
You play the gong by striking it with a padded mallet. The mallet is either very light or it is heavy with an iron inner core. You strike the gong at various percussion points and with different rhythms to create selective effects. The first thing you must master is the basic stroke of the mallet on the surface of the gong.
Most students make the mistake of striking the gong directly with a hit of the mallet. What is required is a glancing blow. If you strike the metal in the central sun region and repeatedly bash it backwards, the sound will be diffuse, noisy and non-rhythmic. The traditional teachers of this art call this type of stroking a “curse against Grace”. It is the sign of the prostitution of higher consciousness and a sign of low sensitivity.
Percussion Target Points
Although the gong can be struck anywhere on its surface to produce a sound, there are special points where the percussion is singularly effective and points where the percussion is diffusive and draining. Each of these points is played with a preferred direction to the stroke. The diagram summarizes this distribution of points. The arrows indicate the direction of the mallet’s stroke. The numbers in the diagram are “clock positions.” The number “3” is placed where three o’clock would be on a clock. The direction of the stroke for this point in an arc from down to up.
The sound of the sun area is very powerful. If you strike it properly, the mind can not listen to it for longer than 3 to 90 seconds without conceding defeat. Your mind is normally filled with a strong current of reactive thoughts and impressions. The sound of the gong from the sun area zeroes that flow and calls the mind to alert. Symbolically this action is the action of pure spirit over the realm of the mind. But spirit or consciousness is always more powerful by nature than the mind or awareness. As Yogi Bhajan put it: “The existence psyche has no power before the pulse of the sun.”
6 - The Art of the Gong
This area can be played upward or downward to full effect. But the sun area must never be struck in the center. Instead hit the sun area just inside the boundary of its zone. Start to play from the edges of the sun.
Playing point 6 will induce earthiness. Playing point 12 will create a sense of loftiness. Playing the sun region will create vastness and a sense of power. Points 3 and 9 will create imagination and projection.
The Gong and the Chakras
The sound of the gong projects to all the chakras and can be used as a powerful instrument to open and balance them. It can also enliven and integrate the 10 bodies of the aura. Certain areas on the gong relate to different chakras. The relationship of the points to each other as well as the type of sound produced by rhythmically striking that area determine the impact of these points. The points played in combination create an impact that is like the complex patterns of a many faceted orchestra. The diagram below summarizes the relationship of the chakras to the basic percussion points.
One of the significant features of the gong is the interactive nature of the sounds it produces. The gong produces a note projected against a background spectrum of notes. Each note interacts with the background. They alter each other. This creates a complex, non-linear pattern that interweaves the sense of the whole with the sense of the part.You can feel this in your body when you listen to the gong. The entire body vibrates and changes as specific areas of the body are pressed and stimulated by the waves of the gong. Whatever the relationship was between your body parts and the whole of the body, it is challenged and transformed by a good gong session. The chakras usually act in concert, functioning in pairs and trios not alone and singular. The gong helps the chakras to interrelate and coordinate. They are freed from emotional patterns that lessen their fluidity and responsiveness.
Sequence and Rhythm of the Strokes
There are unlimited sequences and rhythms to play on the gong. They are as varied as music and imagination. One of the best ways to learn is to watch and listen to the videotapes of Yogi Bhajan when he uses the gong in meditation classes.
The diagram on the next page is an example of a sequence demonstrated by Yogi Bhajan in a gong class. The gong sequence begins with a baseline built up by percussion at the 9 o’clock point. This is intensified with a rapid 1 to 3 beat combination between the 9 and left side of the sun region.The heart is expanded and the entire mind feels elevated.Then the energy is distributed throughout the body with a rotation between points 9, 6, 3, and 12. Then the energy is concentrated through the heart center. Then the 0 position is played at an increased 3 1/2 rhythm. This builds the sun and Kundalini energy strongly. Loudness increases along with the feeling of inner energy and fullness. Then the sequence rotates the points again to distribute and balance the energy. The 6 o’clock position is played with a consistent down-stroke to concretize and contain the sense of mental energy. And lastly resting the padded mallet at the center of the sun region stills the gong. In a class, the students would sit and meditate silently after this sequence. They would become mindful. The mind’s state is changed and is exceptionally clear.
The diagram shows a yogi sitting in easy pose with the hands over the knees. The rhythm of the beat changes the area of impact of the sound on the body. The lower region is affected more by the slow beat. The higher centers are affected more by the fast beat.
As you play the gong you guide the experience of the listener through various blends of these qualities. Like an artist, you can color the composition in innumerable hues and shades. The sequence described in the diagram above will clear the mind, give you energy and allow you to relax from worry. It also strengthens the immune system.
The Learning Curve
Even an excellent student of the gong will progress through the stages of the learning curve.
Those five stages are called saram pad, karam pad, shakti pad, sehej pad and sat pad.
In saram pad you are attracted to the use of the gong and you learn basic rules that are clear to follow. This initiates you and prevents gross mistakes. The points given earlier of 0, 12, 3, 6, and 9 are classical gong percussion points. At first it is good to experiment just with these. Let each gong playing session go from 3 minutes to a maximum of 6 minutes. This will prevent fatigue and build the strength of the muscles.
In karam pad you begin to learn from the many hours of practice. You play the gong under many situations. The audience varies. You will sense things that are not easily written. You switch points as the low versus high pitch ratio switches and the feeling of rotation and projection increases
in the upper body. It is like learning to ride a bike and tell the difference between leaning into a curve and falling from lack of surface friction. In this stage many hours of practice and listening to tapes of Yogi Bhajan playing the gong will guide your reflexes.
In shakti pad you begin to sense when to bend the rules. You play more points and the sequences seem to come from the spontaneous situation. It is very important at this stage to stay emotion- ally and mentally in the elevated place you are guided to by the initial mantras. It is easy for the ego to feel pleased with increased skill. This attachment and attention to the pleasure of the
skill itself will distract you from paying attention to the impact on the class. In this stage you will learn from student’s energy changes and from the challenges of a good teacher.
In sehej pad you will learn patterns of sequences and respond to the circumstances and students almost automatically. You will focus on the goal and the state and not on the techniques them- selves. This state is only achieved through extensive practice and a willingness to become an instrument of the higher mind.
Sat pad is a stage of merger and mastery given by grace and much service done in humility. The final stage is never attained by effort, but by a new perspective that comes through the free grace of the higher self.
To begin with, start as a novice. Follow the clear rules and be patient. Allow your sensitivity to grow and to mold to the task of the gong. Do not try to force the gong to serve your purpose. Diligence and willingness to receive negative as well as positive feedback will guide you to become an excellent practitioner of this ancient technique.