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Buddhadharma : Fall 2012
FALL 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 43 No arising and no lack of arising. No separation of any kind—no walls at all—and therefore perfect interpenetration. No form and no lack of form, no emptiness and no absence of emptiness. No sensation and no lack of sensation. No music and yet the music of the world. [Cage] Well, I use it constantly in my life experience. No day goes by without my making use of that piece in my life and in my work. I listen to it every day... I don’t sit down to do it; I turn my attention toward it. I realize that it’s going on continuously. So, more and more, my attention, as now, is on it. More than anything else, it’s the source of my enjoyment of life... But the important thing, surely, about having done it, finally, is that it leads out of the world of art into the whole of life. When I write a piece, I try to write it in such a way that it won’t interrupt this other piece which is already going on. Cage had (two years earlier) decided to adopt Zen discipline in the form of chance operations. Music was silent prayer—he knew that already. For almost a decade he had been seeking the perfect vehicle. So is 4'33" Cage’s version of zazen? Okay, that’s fine—but what is zazen? Crossing one’s legs? Watching the breath? Saying nothing? Waiting for the bell to ring? That’s where the beginner begins. After a bit more practice, however, zazen expands. Everything interpenetrates, right? Sitting silently, where are you? Who are you? What are you sitting within? As you cross your legs on the cushion, singing a dharani of transformation, the whole world flows in and through you, and all around you. The totality of Creation is sitting with you. Where are the walls? Sitting zazen, you take apart the bricks one at a time, look at them carefully, and set them down. At the end of the process, where are the walls? [Cage] [A] religious spirit in which one feels there is nothing to which one is not related.... This is the experience of silence. Suzuki’s mindstream pervades this moment like a perfume. We notice that 4'33" is not an interpretation of Suzuki’s teachings, but it embodies them perfectly. In this interval of silence and non-doing, 4'33" is always itself. It is always wide open to everything that passes through it. The ego-oval is emptied out to welcome the flow from all directions. Not a single thought arises in 4'33". The ego noise of the audience, on the other hand, is deafening. The composer has not expressed anything. Instead, he has expressed nothing. And the “music of the world” arises from the ground that is no ground at all— unnamed and unnameable, empty of categories, beyond anything that can be said about it—the nothing that sings. ©THEGETTYRESEARCHINSTITUTE,LOSANGELES(980039) PHOTOS YASUHIRO YOSHIAKI John Cage in conversation with D.T. Suzuki, Japan, ca 1962