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Śabda (Skt., ‘sound’). Indian, and especially Hindu, recognition that ‘sound’ has levels of meaning, and is not mere noise: (i) sphoṭa, arising from the eternal, unmoving principle with illuminating power (śakti); (ii) nāda, perceptible only to a poet or ṛṣi; (iii) anāhata, potential (e.g. a thought) but not expressed; (iv) āhata, sound of all kinds, whether humans can hear it or not. Śabda has power in its own right, not just in speech, especially in mantras or in bells and drums: Śiva's drum (ḍamaru) manifests creation. Śabda-brahman is the ultimacy of sound devoid of attributes, the realization of Brahman. Initially, this was equated with the Vedas, but in the Upaniṣads it is Brahman.

For the particular Sikh understanding of śabda, see ŚABAD.