Hsu Yun Chan Yuen
Home : Literature : Essays by Yin Din Shakya
 »Spiritual Experiences in the Surangama
Rev. Yin Din Shakya

Spiritual Experiences in the Surangama

by Yin Din Shakya, OHY

    Devi says:

    O Shiva, what is your reality?
    What is this wonder-filled universe?
    What constitutes seed?
    What centers the universal wheel?
    What is this life beyond form pervading forms?
    How may we enter it fully, above space and time, names and descriptions?
    Let my doubts be cleared.

                   -- Opening verse of the Vijnanabhairava, translated by Paul Reps.
                      Zen Flesh, Zen Bones

Dwight Goddard, in A Buddhist Bible, gives us an excellent translation of the Surangama Sutra to which we now refer. The Buddha responds to the incessant questions of Ananda:

"I have now shown you clearly how the knots in the kalpa handkerchief can be untangled. It should be clear to you now. Do not ask again."

In page after page of the Surangama the Buddha uses words and strings of logic to bring the mind of his disciples around to a realization of that which cannot be expressed in words and logic. Though he reminds us all that such figurative expressions have no basis in reality, our mind tends to attach itself to every phrase and yearns to penetrate its depth. For some of us this becomes a circular hell in which we find ourselves endlessly revolving. Fortunately, Ananda found himself in the same predicament.

A great teacher whom I have had the privilege of encountering once told me: "You have built the sandwich, you have observed the sandwich, you can describe the sandwich. My boy, when are you going to eat it!" In essence, this is what the Buddha was saying to Ananda.

All information and knowledge comes to us through the six sense organs, the five common ones - taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing - and the added sixth organ that thinks about the others in conscious ways. These comprise the six knots of the handkerchief we are to untangle.

The fact is that all the information gained through these senses is illusionary. By various means we can penetrate these illusions and get to the root cause of them. With proper concentration we untie the knots of our false impressions. To untie one of them is to untangle them all. Once the Intuitive Mind Essence has seen the falsity of one it will reveal the falsity of them all, bringing about the Diamond Samadhi.

The Surangama Sutra is well suited in its style of presentation to our Western tastes. It has an almost Socratic feel with question and answer, a Buddhist dialectic. Building point upon point, the Buddha tirelessly lays out the argument, even tossing in some eyebrow cocking humor, as in the opening quote - we get the feeling Lord Buddha is getting to the point that a little hemlock may be preferred to Ananda's questions. But Ananda, God bless him, keeps asking.

Then about three-quarters through the Sutra the Buddha changes tactics and asks different individuals to describe their experiences as to which sense was used in their individual 'untangling of the knot':

I want to enquire of each one of you as to how you attained Samadhi. When you began to realize, in the early stages of your devotion and practice, the falseness of the eighteen spheres of mentation in contact with objects by the sense organs, which one of the spheres first became thoroughly enlightened by means of which you attained to Samadhi?

In response, twenty-five or so vignettes are given; and while each described method differs in its incidentals, all of them employ a common "deep" process. The culmination of which brings to mind one of my favorite sayings by Rumi, "It is like a key turning in a lock and the lock makes a soft opening sound." When the door is finally opened, we see the similarity in each description. Such phrases as; "It came like a rap at the door," or "It was as if I were clear as a crystal ball," or "It was a transparent view, instantly, suddenly, etc…"

Let's look at a few of the methods used to attain this "untangling."

Upanishad, later called Nishad, explains his technique of meditating on the dissolution of the body. He observes its decay, its return to dust, and its disappearance into thin air. When objects become as empty as clear space, the attainment of transcendental sight is reached.

Gandha-prabasa-alamkara describes an experience that occurred during one evening after he had listened to a talk by the Buddha. After he had left the hall, a few monks lit incense on the Great Altar, and he, at a distance, began to smell the fragrant odor. He realized that the smell was not of wood, nor air, nor smoke, nor flame. The fragrance seemed to come from nowhere, and when it ceased, it vanished into nothingness. From that time on, he no longer discriminated smells from objects, and the meaning of transcendental fragrance replaced this discrimination. He further developed his intuitive powers, attaining perfect insight through the sense of smell.

We get a peek into the common historical roots of medicine when two brothers, Baisajagara and Baisajattma, who were physicians, relate that they had constantly tasted different drugs, herbs, woods, metals, and so on. They describe the different qualities of taste and the substances' efficacy in healing. By meditating on the different qualities of taste , they discerned that they belonged neither to body or mind nor being independent of both, they became enlightened through the sense of taste.

Bhadrapala rises and describes what happened to him during one "bath holiday." When entering the bath he suddenly realized through the sense of touch the true nature of water; that it neither washed away dirtiness nor cleansed the body. With this realization, he understood that nothing abided anywhere. In peacefulness and calm, he attained perfect emancipation from attachments and contaminations and attained enlightenment through the sense of touch.

Maha-Kasyapa rises to describe his practice of concentration and meditation on the Dharma of Emptiness, describing the Enlightenment which follows the realization of the transitory nature of all phenomena.

We also learn of solutions to the familiar problems often encountered by beginners.

Anaruddha relates how he had trouble with sleepiness when he first became a convert. He forced himself to stay awake to such an extent that he lost his eyesight. The Buddha then taught him how to see with his spirit eye, and he not only regained his sight but was able to see the spirit essence of anything at a distance.

Suddhipanthaka speaks about his poor memory and how he could never remember a single complete verse of what the Buddha would say. No matter how often he tried to repeat it, he would remember the first part and forget the second or if he remembered the last he would forget the first. So he describes how the Tathagata took pity upon his stupidity and taught him how to sit quietly with an empty and tranquil mind, regulating his breathing. By concentration on his regulated breathing, he became more and more tranquil until he attained emancipation through the perfect emptiness of thinking.

Gavampati confesses to a mixture of arrogance and blasphemy committed when he made fun of disciples and thereby brought "the karma of chewing my cud like a cow, for many recurring lives" down on his head. He was shown the door of purity and humbleness of heart when he was led to concentrate on the true functions of the tongue. In attaining liberation, he says he felt like a bird that had escaped its cage.

Poor Pilankapatha has a painful story. He was contemplating the Buddha's teaching that none of the world's attractions is truly worthy of enjoyment because each eventually leads to suffering. When Pilankaptha manages to step on a poisonous thorn, his body throbs with pain. He suffers. He then remembers that it is only because of sensations and perceptions that he feels pain.

"Although I felt the pain in my whole body yet I was mindful that in my pure and Essential Mind there was no pain and no perception of feeling pain. I was mindful, also, that as there was only one body such as mine, how it was possible to have two different sets of feelings - pain in my foot because of the poison, and joy in my deeper mind because of my intuitive insight into the Dharma Door. Holding my mind in concentration on the question, suddenly my body and mind became empty of all arbitrary thoughts about things, and in three weeks, all attachments and contaminations vanished from my mind."

His enlightenment was the direct result of attaining perfect unconsciousness of his physical body and his mind's return to the perfect intuition of its intrinsic essence.

Subhuti attests to attaining realization by means of recollecting and mindfulness. He says,

"At last, through the inspiration of my Lord's teaching concerning the principles of the perfect and true emptiness of the wonderful, mysterious Mind Essence and of its highest perfect Wisdom, instantly, thereafter, I became absorbed into my Lord's gloriously radiant Ocean of Mind, so that my mind became like the mind of my Lord sharing in a measure, his insight and his intelligence."

Besides this sense of instant (suddenness), which is described by so many, his description of being absorbed into the radiant Ocean of Mind is worth noting. It suggests that sensation of viewing the world through the eyes of God, "my mind became like the mind of my Lord." This is a fine way of putting it.

Sariputra describes transcendent brightness within his own mind "whose shining beams illuminated my intelligence and reached as far as my insight could penetrate." When he reflects on the fact that everything arises from causes and conditions and is empty and transitory, he determines that, "From that time I followed my Lord and my perception of mental sight became transcendental and perfectly enlightened, so that I instantly acquired an attainment of fearlessness and confidence."

Samantabhadra explains the Essential Mind's 'intrinsic hearing' and its spontaneous understanding and response. "The transcendental hearing of my Essential Mind became very pure and transparent," he says, "so that I could use it to discriminate the understanding and ideas of all sentient beings."

With the development of his unceasing compassion, he became aware of its vibrations through the transcendental sensitiveness of his hearing and he would then "ride to them on the mysterious elephant of six tusks," which is the Bodhisattva's identifying "seat."

Sandrananda relates that after becoming a Buddhist convert he kept all the Precepts but nevertheless was unable to free his mind from its constant state of diffusion. He laments that he was unable to acquire immunity from the intoxicants of this world. Then the Buddha taught him to concentrate attention on the tip of his nose; and after practicing three weeks, he began to notice that his breath became like smoke out of a chimney. At the same time his body and mind became bright internally and he saw the whole world become clear and transparent like a crystal ball. Later the smoke gradually vanished and his breathing became luminous and shining. His breathing seemed to pervade the whole universe.

My mind, constantly on the lookout for ease, notices a repetition, "after three weeks," the same time frame used in many of these stories. I believe it to be a true one. Not that samadhi will be guaranteed in three weeks but that within three weeks of practice one will surely begin to note the incipient changes of progress being made. Three weeks is not a long time…yet three weeks can be an eternity (or should I say it can be the beginning of eternity).

Purna Metaluniputra describes his accommodation by means of the intrinsic sound of the Mysterious Dharma. His description in part: "by means of the development of my hearing by reason of which I am conscious of the transcendental sound of the Dharma, reverberating like the roar of a lion."

Uparli ascribes his method as being one of keeping the body and mind pure; a model of perfect behavior among the disciples. (I eat too much sugar for this one.)

Maudgalyayana's report is unique in its method and astonishing description. He attributes the sphere of mentation used as follows:

"It was my mind becoming abstracted in tranquil reflection that mysteriously developed its enlightening brightness, as if my mind that had been a muddy stream had suddenly become clear and transparent like a crystal ball… I have made visits to all ten quarters of the universe, without hindrance by space, passing instantly from one Buddha-land to another without being conscious of how it was done."

For some reason I find it meaningful that the last part about not being conscious of the how is important and could be said of all these experiences. It is interesting to think of some of these phrases - for instance, without hindrance of space is by definition without hindrance of time. Passing instantly is again outside time. I sometimes get trapped in these distance metaphors until I realize they are in effect time metaphors which for some unknown reason are easier to digest, but in the end are probably just as difficult to comprehend.

Ushusma begins his recital by again referring to a particular problem he had in his make-up. One we have all shared, he states, "My heart was always full of lustful covetousness." He relates that at one time there was a Buddha named Akasraga who taught him how to practice intuitive insight by reflecting on parts of his body and skeleton and to the susceptibility of the body to heat and cold. By this method the lustful thoughts were sublimated into burning torches of wisdom and intelligence causing him to attain a samadhi of radiating brightness. Therefore he states, "My first thoroughly perfect accommodation was my keen insight into the states of coldness and warmth of my body, and the darkness and brightness of my mind." Again, I am drawn by the nuances of the description and how they can describe certain aspects of the experience. Here it is well put in the phrase, my first thoroughly perfect accommodation..., because upon reflection, after the excitement has drifted away the experience does feel as if it were nothing more than a thoroughly perfect accommodation. The word certainly implies that all that is needed is adjustment or adaptation and the experience itself verifies that it is self-contained. We need only accommodate it.

There begins a set of stories dealing with the Four Elements, Earth, Water, Fire and Wind.

Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Dharanindhara, who must be the patron saint of civil engineers or quantum physicists, describes how he was taught to concentrate on the element of earth and so he always labors near the earth. While leveling roads for passersby, widening the pathways where they were narrow, and filling up the potholes for the benefit of travelers, he was visited by the Buddha Vessabhu who noticed his endeavors and instructed him by saying, "First level your own mind, then every part of earth will become level." This brought him to instant enlightenment and since that time he observes,

"The dust that made up the great earth and that made up my body were the same. I also realized that it was of the nature of dust particles not to be in contact with each other, and even when a sword cut through a body it never came in contact with the particles of dust that make up the body."

Also he notes:

"I realized that it was an essential part of all phenomena that there was no re-birth, only an endless succession of non-rebirth. In answer to my Lord I would say that my first perfect accommodation was my first insight that there was no difference between the Earth element of my body and the Earth Element of its sphere of mentation…both were only fantastic manifestations from the Womb of Tathagata, and when I realized their unreality my intelligence became perfectly clear."

Chandra-prabhasa relates his experiences of attaining Samadhi by concentration on the nature of the Element of Water. From meditating on the fluids in his own body - spit, urine, blood, semen, mucus, and pus - his mind was filled with loathing. One day it came to him that all these disgusting fluids were of the same essential nature as the fragrant oceans in which the Fairy Isles of the Blest were immersed. Yet he could not fully rid himself of the idea of the substantial nature of his own body. One day as he was meditating a young disciple of his looked into the room and could discern nothing but clear water in the room. Being ignorant and foolish the boy threw a broken tile into the room and ran away. When Chandra-prabhasa emerged from meditation he was filled with strange foreboding and heartache. He began to think that he is slipping in his attainment levels. The boy notices his dejection and explains what happened when he peeked into the room. Chandra-prabhasa then instructs the boy that should he ever see him in that water-state again to enter the room and remove the broken tile, carry it out and throw it away. The boy did as he was told and when Chandra arose from that meditation he was as calm and peaceful as ever but for a long time never made any further advances in spiritual attainment.

"Ages went by but I could not put the idea of my self-ness out of my consciousness. With help from a Tathagata named Raga I came to realize that I had all along been throwing shards of thoughts of personality into the pure limpidity of my essential nature. It was by means of concentration on the pure Water Element whereby I came to realize the pure fluidity of my essential nature and attained the first and most thorough accommodation of the eighteen spheres of mentation in contact with objects through the sense organs."

The Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Akshobhya then describes his attainment through intuitive insight into the infinity of space as illumined by the element of Fire. What I find so intriguing are the descriptions used and the number of them that have appeared in so many other Zen stories through the ages. Expressions such as:

" . . .everything was luminously clear to my intuitive insight, even to the farthest Buddhalands of the most remote universe. Moreover within my mind, there manifested a great mirror that was marvelously self-illuminating that radiated ten kinds of wonderful, glorious, far-reaching brightness…mingling of different colored lights, merged with my body into the pure brightness and clarity of infinite space, there being no hindrance to their entrance and passing…due to my deep intuitive insight into the source of the Four Great Elements, by reason of which I was able to see that they were nothing but the appearing and disappearing of false imaginations, which were as essentially empty as pure space and with no more differentiation than pure space."

Vejuria, taught to concentrate his mind on the essential sameness of the Samsara world and all sentient beings in it, realizes that they were all manifestations of the Element of Wind (or Ether) and its rhythmic vibrations revealing and manifesting all else. In the practice of meditation he reflects on how the world, his body, and everything else was kept in motion, moving and standing on the rhythmic vibration of its life, established and maintained by breathing, upon the movement of the mind, thoughts rising and passing. "I reflected upon various things and marveled at their great sameness without any difference save in the rate of vibration." (This would be a great insight even for a 21st century man.). And then he asserts,

"I realized that the nature of these vibrations had neither any source for their coming, nor destination for their going, and that all sentient beings, as numerous as the infinitesimal particles of dust in the vast spaces, were each in his own way topsy-turvy balanced vibrations and that each and every one was obsessed with the illusion that he was a unique creation. …Like millions of mosquitoes shut up in a vessel and buzzing about in the wildest confusion, sometimes they are roused to madness and pandemonium by the narrow limits of their confinement."

After becoming enlightened he was able to view the Buddhaland of Immovability in the Eastern heavens, which is the Pure Land of Buddha Amitayus. "My body and mind became perfectly rhythmic and alive and sparkling mingling with all other vibrations without hindrance to its perfection." Vejuria attests to his intuitive insight into the Element of Ether and how, by its balanced and rhythmic vibrations, everything was embraced in perfect purity in the Enlightening Mind…in that Samadhi "I realized the perfect oneness of all the Buddhas in the purity of the Wonderful Mind Essence, that is the Bliss-body of Buddhahood."

This is a tough one to top. All String Theorists out there should get a kick out of it. The Mantra of the Strings is "Nothing but vibration, nothing but vibration."

Then an odd account is given: the Future Buddha Maitreya speaks about consciousness.

"...my perfect realization that all ten quarters of the universes were nothing but activities of my own consciousness. It was by that that my consciousness became perfectly enlightened and the limits of my mind dissolved until it embraced all reality.

Space and thought have so recently been conceived as consciousness in many different branches of science. I also like the way the expression, "limits of my mind dissolved," points to that which is already contained within it rather than the more often seen expression, "expanding consciousness," which is suggestive of something "out there" as opposed to "in here."

Maha-sthama-prapta includes in his description the seeds of the Pure Land school by citing the recitation of the name of Amitabha: Namo-Amitabha-Buddhaya. The value of the practice consists in the mindfulness which comes with repetition. If two persons recited each other's name, they would remember each other and develop affinities for each other. In the same manner those who recite the name of Amitabha Buddha develop his spirit of compassion toward all sentient life and will be permeated by that spirit as a perfume maker is permeated by the scent of perfumes. His assertion of the perfect accommodation is that he recognized no differences in any of the six senses and merged them into one Transcendental Sense. No actual description of how this was done is included save the recitation of the name. I am not overly vocal in my practice and cannot attest to its efficacy but many are and many do. Late in his career D.T. Suzuki became fond of the Pure Land methods.

Of all the interior journeys described in the Surangama, the one by the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, the Hearer and Answerer of Prayer, is given the most space and detail. Avalokitesvara outlines his practice as follows:

I was taught to begin practicing by concentrating my mind on the true nature of transcendental hearing, and by that practice I attained samadhi. As soon as I had advanced to the stage of Entering the Stream, I determined to discard all thoughts discriminating as to where I was or had been. Later I discarded the conception of advancing altogether, and the thought of either activity or quietness in this connection did not again arise in my mind. Continuing my practice, I gradually advanced until all discrimination of the hearing nature of my self-hood and of the intrinsic Transcendental Hearing was discarded. As there ceased to be any grasping in my mind for the attainment of intrinsic hearing, the conception of Enlightenment and enlightened nature were all absent from my mind. When this state of perfect Emptiness of Mind was attained, all arbitrary conceptions of attaining to Emptiness of Mind and of enlightened nature were discarded. As soon as all arbitrary conceptions of rising and disappearing of thoughts were completely discarded, the state of Nirvana was realized. Then, all of a sudden, my mind became transcendental to both celestial and terrestrial worlds and there was nothing in all the ten quarters but empty space ...

Within that short space is contained some of the historical seeds of the sudden and gradual schools of development. The recommended way of attaining samadhi is the method of Transcendental hearing - transcendental being the key word. All of these related spiritual events are descriptions of the unifying experience we all seek. This is the knowing, the place of peace, the transparent brightness, the Buddha-Self, the Unity. It can be had by everyone purely and simply because everyone already has it. It is in everyone. It is us. Here is where the compassion of the bodhisattvas originates, where charity and love and kindness are matured and transformed from mere sentiment to hard and clear reality. Here is the beginning of understanding that strips away lazy platitudes and feigning virtues and imbues us with strength and beauty and the dignity of our true nature.

It is about immanent experience. It is not out there, it is in here. We all, deep down, suspect this to be true.

The experience is universal as can be seen in any number of traditions: We are attracted to Zen Buddhism simply because its whole intent is to initiate and then to cultivate that experience. All other exercises in metaphysics, temple building, rituals, discussions and actions, can be placed in the side basket called "expedient means." The reason Zen has been able to percolate through so many diverse cultures is that it is an essentially empty form and its form is emptiness. It is a hard religion to proselytize about.

Manjusri is then called upon to give a summation of all he has heard and his opinion of which method could be called best and why, as a starting point for a novice, other methods of attaining samadhi are inferior to Avalokitesvara's method of Transcendental Sound. This is not to say these other methods are not worthwhile to one who has a particular inclination to a specific method, but rather that other methods have drawbacks that hearing does not. One of these is that of all the senses, hearing is the most refined and least transitory. He comments:

The body develops feeling by coming into contact with something, and the sight of the eyes is hindered by the opaqueness of objects and similarly with the sense of smell and taste, but it is different with discriminating mind. Thoughts are rising and mingling and passing. At the same time it is conscious of sounds in the next room and sounds that come from far away. The other senses are not so refined as the sense of hearing; the nature of hearing is the true reality of Passability.

The essence of sound is felt in both motion and silence, it passes from existent to non-existent. When there is no sound, it is said that there is no hearing, but that does not mean that hearing has lost its preparedness. Indeed! When there is no sound hearing is most alert, and when there is sound hearing nature is less developed.

The perception of Transcendental Hearing is not developed by any natural process under the control of your own volition. Some time when reflecting upon your Transcendental Hearing, a chance sound suddenly claims your attention, and your mind sets it apart and discriminates it and is disturbed thereby. As soon as you can ignore the phenomenal sound the notion of a Transcendental Sound ceases and you will realize your Intrinsic Hearing.

All the brothers in this Great Assembly, and you too, Ananda, should reverse your outward perception of hearing and listen inwardly for the perfectly unified and intrinsic sound of your own Mind-essence, for as soon as you have attained perfect accommodation, you will have attained to Supreme Enlightenment.

So it is hearing but not normal hearing that is the most easily opened Dharma gate that brings the long sought sense of Permanency. As beginners then, let's concentrate on the method of meditation that is most apt to give the quickest and surest way to realization and see what it's about.

We already have seen that this "hearing" precedes "sound." Sound is interpreted here as "meaningful sound." By this it is meant that we interpret the sound, ascribe a source or identity to it, and thereby evoke associated thoughts. We "hear" a car pull into the driveway next door. We determine that it is the "sound" of our neighbor's station wagon. We start to think that he's getting home a little late, and so on. To achieve transcendental hearing, we must limit ourselves merely to hearing the car. Our ears will detect other noises; and we must hear them without considering their source or significance.

To formalize this method, the following instructions may be useful: The back must be straight. Try for the lotus position or a reasonable facsimile that is comfortable. Taking a specific meditation posture is a signal to yourself that you are now "going to work" at the most important job we can do in this life.

Concentrate deeply on proper breathing techniques. Five to ten cycles of the "healing breath" (the instructions are given in Chapter 10 of The Seventh World of Chan Buddhism on our website. This breathing exercise calms as well as invigorates for the effort to follow.

Now begins the work. We hear but do not listen. In other words, we attach no thoughts to what we hear. We sit quietly and record sound as mindlessly as a tape recorder would. We "witness" our hearing, but do not investigate it.

It is as if we have two thought organs. One is the "recording mind" and the other is "meaning mind" and they seem to have nothing to do with each other. The first task is to free one by not using the other. The next task is to unify the arbitrary differences.

For example, in the Surangama, Manjusri makes a statement concerning what changes occur after enlightenment, and he says something worth repeating. "Nothing really, we may think the same thoughts and be concerned with the same things, only those thoughts and concerns have a sense of universality about them."

In this sense, music - both playing it and listening to it, lends itself to a kind of switching or attunement to this universality. Some very strange things can happen with music. We become so concentrated on hearing it that we are absorbed into the music and do not analyze the sound or the significance of it. In other words we don't say, "That note sounds flat." Or "That is a hackneyed phrase." Or "The composer should have relied more on the strings." Or even, "Solti conducts it better." And certainly we never say, "Oh, this is the song that was playing the night that Mabel broke up with me. What a lousy night that was." Etc.

Sometimes not much happens when we are engaged in "formal" meditation; but then, spontaneously, when we are unprepared for it, music does its transcendental work. At such an unexpected time we can be most attuned to the desired effect. I recall one particular experience some years ago while I was driving on a leisurely road listening intently to Bob Dylan's album, Time Out of Mind. Suddenly, and from out of nowhere, a shift in consciousness occurred. I entered the pure meditative state. This can be dangerous on a highway because when abruptly exiting the meditative state, there is a period of confusion, a sort of "Where am I?" that produces a momentary panic.

At other less dangerous times music can transport us. I recall watching a Gene Wilder movie, sitting on the couch, sipping a nice glass of wine, watching Gene sing. The movie was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I slipped into a profound state, an altered consciousness that I can remember clearly to this day. The switching from one level of awareness to another is a peculiar sensation that remains with us for years. The point is that the music doesn't have to be Mozart.

All that is necessary is that we focus on it without letting our ego-consciousness intrude in the listening process.

In similar fashion, we can achieve transcendental results by being fixed on the meaning of the words we hear. We hear a line of scripture and it seizes our mind and the words expand their meaning to universal significance. The line seems suddenly to explain everything to us. So as we think and think around the line, calling up a variety of associations; we can use this, too, as an effective way to achieve the kind of penetration that permits transcendental hearing. It is an ephemeral sensation beyond the words themselves. It is an example of going beyond the finger pointing at the moon to the moon itself. Language is a fascinating human invention. So deeply imbedded is it that we subliminally assume that the words we use actually have meaning. We think as if each word was a self-contained packet of liquid logic and that if we put them together properly we can enter the Ocean of Understanding, but it is only in those precious moments of transcendence, where the words lose their meaning, that they have any meaning at all.

This then illustrates the difference between recording sound and imbuing it with significance. Ultimately, the differences are unified in the experience of profound concentration. We cannot train for spontaneity. We can train in the recording or simple hearing method.

Despite his incessant questioning, Ananda no doubt already knew this; but perhaps he liked to hear the Buddha's voice. And who can blame him? 


back   Back 
Last modified: November 22, 2004
©2004 Zen and The Martial Arts