Top critical review
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Yoga of Sound a sincere useful work with some flaws
on January 27, 2012
Russill Paul has put together a comprehensive volume on how to use sound, primarily mantras, based largely on traditional Hindu usage. I am sure it took him many hours of research and devotion to the topic to bring it all together. The end product provides a very usable tomb with many specific practices to follow. It is highly doubtful that one would adopt all of those proscribed, but his thoroughness gives the reader many choices.
I have two issues with the material presented. The first is a minor one. I found his recommendations a bit over the top. I am afraid that recommending such an extensive devotion of time and energy to learning how to do all of the practices and then maintaining them would prevent many people from taking that first step. If it's going to be that hard, why should I bother? That is, as I indicated, a minor issue. Most people will be like me and take (what I see as) a sensible approach and adopt those things that enhance their use of sound and not overwhelm themselves by trying to reach some unobtainable level of sound yoga mastery. He may well have reached that fabled level, but I don't see it realistic to expect all of his reader to do so.
The second issue is a bit more problematic. Although I liked his global approach of breaking down the yoga of sound into four sub-components, and found the overall theme of each of these four areas of sound quite reasonable, thought provoking, and beneficial to a greater understanding of the use of sound, many details in each section were either so vague that they were meaningless or else outright incorrect. For example, he writes that one of the principles of Shabda Yoga is that there is "an irrefutable sense of truth in the word and the sound." All I can say to that is "Huh?" And to his claim that words and sounds of Vedic mantras "awaken memory - knowledge that is already encoded in our cell, genes, and DNA" I can only shake my head in disbelief.
Many of his specific references to science are incorrect. For example, in his chapter on consciousness he writes about delta brain waves and says these appear when a "person is in a coma or suffering from a drug overdose." He says the "delta state simulates a near-death experience." I can assure you, as one with a Ph.D. in electrophysiology of the brain, that is not the case. Delta waves appear in normal deep sleep. His comment on oscilloscope on page 197 is equally off the mark. Numerous other false or pseudo scientific statements abound. In fact, these kind of non-informative and/or false claims appear not just as a trickle throughout the book, but as a constant rushing stream. This gushing bath of unintelligible metaphors and fake science detracted from a very useful work. He would have had a much better book if would have just stuck to what he himself knows based on his vast amount of experiences.