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Buddhadharma : Win 2012
30 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY WINTER 2 0 1 2 The nada sound can help us recognize the suchness of experience as well. Suchness is by its nature hard to pin down conceptually. But while it has a quality that may make it seem vague or unreal, ironically, that is a necessary part of its meaning. Significantly, the word the Buddha coined to refer to himself was Tathagata, meaning either “one who has come to suchness” or “one who has gone to suchness,” depending on the interpretation. So even though suchness seems intangible, it also conveys a fundamental reality. A comparison might be made with the math- ematical concept of the square root of minus one. In the world of real numbers, there is no integer that you can multiply by itself to produce minus one. If such a number did exist, however, then all sorts of interesting possibilities would unfold, as was discovered in ancient times and devel- oped further by mathematicians in the eighteenth century. Even though this number has imaginary sta- tus, it still manages to be essential in constructing phase-shift oscillators used for sound engineering and is put to extensive use in computer graph- ics, robotics, signal processing, computer simu- lations, and orbital mechanics. Like suchness, it has a clear and demonstrable presence in the real world. Seeing the World in the Mind Beyond emptiness and suchness is a third, even more subtle characteristic of existence called atammayata, which means “not made of that.” Although we may have seen through the “I am” conceit, known as asmi-mana, traces of clinging can remain—that is, clinging to the idea of an objective world being perceived by a sub- jective knowing, even though no sense of “I” is discernible. There is the feeling of a “this” that expresses the idea of saying “yes” to the phenom- enal world. A thought, a daffodil, or a mountain may not be a separate, solid thing, yet there is something, an ultimate reality, that underlies, permeates, embraces, and constitutes each. Such- ness is thus an appreciation of the true nature of reality, and its realization can be characterized as knowing and embodying the presence of the unconditioned, the deathless, or amata-dhamma. In the Pali canon, emptiness usually means “empty of self and what belongs to a self,” but it also refers to the insubstantiality of objects. When you stabilize the skill of attending to the nada sound, so that its shimmering, silvery tone is a constant presence, it can greatly enhance your capacity to realize both these kinds of empti- ness—that of subject and object, self and other. Inner listening facilitates the recognition of the insubstantiality of all I-, me-, and mine-based attitudes and thoughts. It is like a bright light by which we can clearly see the hollowness of bubbles as they float by. Similarly, the presence of the nada sound helps illuminate the transpar- ency of the mental objects we experience—all the things we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch and all the memories, plans, moods, and ideas that arise in our minds. As the Buddha put it: Material form is a lump of foam, feeling a water bubble; perception is just a mirage, volitions like a plantain’s trunk, consciousness, a magic trick— so says the Kinsman of the Sun. However one may ponder it or carefully inquire, all appears both void and vacant when it’s seen in truth. —“A Lump of Foam,” Samyutta Nikaya, 22.95 The inner sound is like a screen on which all other sounds, physical sensations, moods, and ideas are projected. The inner sound’s presence in the background helps remind you that “this is just a movie; this is not reality.”