Note: The audio begins after the first two sentences. For clarity the deleted sentences are included here.
In the summer of 1968, Himalayan Academy conducted an Innersearch Travel-Study program to Ascona, Switzerland. I was working on a little book called The Advaitin. The book was about refined states of experience deep within the inner realms of pure consciousness, just before one merges into the Self and after one comes out of that state. The book was unfolding beautifully, but upon reading what had been written, I thought, “This is going to be so difficult for beginning students to understand. There are no words in the English language for what I wish to portray. Unless my students have had deep experiences themselves, it will be difficult for them to believe in the reality of the inner man, simply because there are not enough words to describe it.”
I then began to feel that using Sanskrit might be necessary to find adequate words to convey the meaning of these refined areas of the mind. I thought these areas should have their own names in the same way that emotions and physical things have their own names in English. At our Ascona summer retreat I began looking through several Sanskrit dictionaries to locate certain words that could be used in “The Advaitin.” (They had a very good library there at the Eranos, Casa Eranos in Ascona.) But in three dictionaries, each translator had translated each of the words in a different way. I threw up my hands at this and said, “This is going to make it more confusing.”
The feeling began to come that what was really needed was another language, a new, a fresh language, one giving me a vocabulary that we could use to accurately describe inner states of consciousness. Two or three days later we traveled to Venice, Italy, for a few days’ excursion. This idea of a new language was still very strongly in my mind.
So, I went within myself, and wrote down some instructions to my outer self as to how to proceed and where to go to be able to unfold this language. (Isn’t that an interesting statement? His inner self is writing instructions to his outer self.) My instructions were: “Go within the ooda current.” That is the current of mind flow where language exists.
In following the instructions, my spine lit up in a beautiful pale yellow and lavender light. The yellow and the lavender intermingled, one color coming in and out of the other. It was just beautiful! But I only found one end of the ooda current, and did not have any results in Venice. Three days later, after returning to Ascona, I found both ends of the ooda current while working within myself. Within two hours of meditation, the script, the fundamental alphabet of 18 sounds and the syntax–as well as some of the basic vocabulary all came through. The first word to be uttered was Shum. Shum now names the language of meditation. As fast as I could, I wrote it all down and ran downstairs to one of the monks shouting, “I have it! I have it! Here is our language!”
Because I thought I needed only a vocabulary of fifty or a hundred words, Shum started out in a very simple way. However, in the days that followed, this ooda current became stronger and brighter. I didn’t tell anyone about this at the time, except for two or three of the Saivite monastics who were with me in Switzerland.
I began working day and night. The structure and script for the language began to refine itself, and vocabulary started coming through right from the inner light. I would see light within my head and see little images or letters in the Shum script drop down, one after another, and line up. Vocabulary flowed out like this for two or three weeks. In Nice, in Southern France, the whole concept of leoonasee, the psychic nerve system, and aleekashum, the warmth and psychic heat of the body, came through.
Then later, on our Innersearch in Paris, more Shum developed. Upon returning to the United States, I had a vocabulary of about 300 words, and every day even more were coming through. Finally, the images stopped dropping out of the inner light, and I heard the meaning of the words clairaudiently, almost as if someone were speaking to me. Sometimes they would come in reverse–English first, Shum second.
The vocabulary and the structure of the language developed very quickly, but what was more important, the perspective of the Shum language was now available. I began to realize that each language has its own point of view, or position of awareness, that comes into effect when one is speaking that language. In English and other European languages, our awareness is out in the material world. It seems to be located outside of the physical body, looking back at the physical body. From that perspective, a person, if he is daring enough, might be able to fathom the inner areas of the mind like looking through a little keyhole. But often the external world is so distracting, one does not even bother to try to look within.
The meditative perspective of the Shum language is deep within the mind. It is called shumeef. In shumeef, we have the consciousness that we are the center of the universe. We see light within the spine as the central pole, and then open our eyes and look out into the world.
Shum has grown into a marvelous teaching tool, because within the structure of the language is contained the entire Advaita Yoga philosophy. It has within it the perspective man had to hold to bring back the great yoga of the ancient rishis. As soon as I released a little bit of Shum to my students, they began teaching it all over the country. Two universities wanted to teach Shum language in their philosophy departments.
Working with Shum benefits the individual’s natural spiritual unfoldment. It has the effect of harnessing awareness from straying. It is not a quick cure-all for problems of the subconscious mind, nor is it exclusively a mystical set of mantras although it can be chanted like mantras.
Shum is mostly spoken within a person. When a meditator has an inner experience, he can call it by name in Shum and draw a map for himself, showing how to return to the same inner state again. Shum is not designed to replace secular languages, like French or English, which are conceived to completely address all the detailed needs and concerns of physical and emotional life. Also Shum, as a working language, is still in its formative stages.
The following year, we returned to Switzerland and I experienced the tremendous breakthrough of mambashum. These are Shum maps for meditation that enable a devotee not only to plan out where he is going to go inside before his meditation begins, but also to make memos along the way as it progresses and afterwards when it is done.
That year, nashumeef moolingmee shum came through as well. This special collection of Shum words opened the door to speaking Shum during the day. It became possible to remain in inner states while getting things done around the ashram or in the home without having to use another language. It was easy and fun. Nashumeef moolingmee shum made things look simple and allowed one to deal with the world without getting drawn too far out into it.
That same year in India, I did more work on Shum at Sandakphu, a tiny camp located 12,000 feet high in the Himalayas, 15 miles from the Tibetan border. There, some of the most profound states were unfolded and recorded as mambashum. Sixty-five devotees were with me. Our intense meditations there inspired us deeply.
We found that the study of Shum provided concentrated practices and powers better than any other system in the mystical arts and meditation techniques. Mystical experiences began to develop between myself and devotees, as we would go into the same area of the mind and experience, hear the same sounds and see the same colors.
The vibration the language makes when a group is speaking it is in itself uplifting. When chanting Shum, all one has to do is listen inwardly to the tones of the chakras, and let one or two out orally while chanting. We made a great study of speaking the Shum language. Students chanting Shum found that just by uttering the tones, awareness was drawn into an expanded state.
A mantra vibrates the inner areas of the astral body and the soul body. This allows the soul body to come through the astral into the physical. All this does not have to be understood to occur. It will just happen naturally. You do not have to consciously know the meaning of a Shum chant or even a conversation in Shum for it to have an effect on your inner nerve system.
Before the advent of Shum, we did not encourage group meditation. During a group meditation, there were usually several who meditated quite well, while others let their minds wander here and there, going into a half sleep or becoming distracted. This caused a strange vibration to occur. Now, we have very uplifting group meditations in Shum. In fact, at our monastery in Kauai, we begin every day with a long Siva puja followed by a guided group Shum meditation which lasts about 45 minutes.
One person, speaking only Shum, gently guides the entire group into and out of deep meditation. All individual awarenesses flow into the same areas of the inner mind at the same time. The Shum words give a strong and supportive direction to all present. When this begins to happen successfully, the vibration in the room becomes very strong, more potent and intensely more satisfying–for the group helps the individual, and the individual helps the group.
Isn’t that nice? That’d be a great introduction to a book on Shum I think. You know it’s a first hand story what more could you want? Though it’s hard to remember when we meditated, not in the Shum language, but I have a very vague memory of it and it was a very different experience. As Gurudeva points out there was no shared activity really; everyone was just meditating in their own way, in their own direction. Those who were doing well helped the others stay awake. Those who were having trouble staying awake, didn’t help the others do better. So, Shum is good in that it gives everyone a shared concept of what we are experiencing.
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