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Buddhadharma : Spri 2013
SPRING 2 0 1 3 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 17 That wasn’t the right answer. The koan reminds us that most of what we know is perception. Sound is one of the ways we perceive what happens in the world. If our ears and mind do not perceive the tree falling in the forest, it has not created sound. The tree has fallen, of course, but it produced vibrations that we cannot fully understand with our human sense of sound. Unlike most koans, this question has a scientific answer as well. Scientific American explains, “Sound is vibration, transmitted to our senses through the mechanism of the ear and recognized as sound only at our nerve centers. If there be no ears to hear, there will be no sound.” But what if my words fall in the middle of a crowd and no one hears? Let’s use the simple idea that sound is the perception of the vibrations created by a physical event. If no one hears me, and no minds perceive my words, then my body has not produced sound. It is because of you that my voice exists. And if you don’t do your job, this is what I will have to put up with: “Didn’t see you there.” “You’ve been quiet.” As a Buddhist, I shouldn’t have pet peeves. I love all sentient beings, etc. But one of my pet peeves is being called quiet by people who never gave me the chance to talk. I didn’t start out quiet. I said, “Hey, dude, good to see you.” (I know you like being called dude, so I called you dude. That’s how mindful I am.) I asked you about yourself. Then you started making mouth vibrations and turned off your ear vibrations. A very funny joke came out of my mouth and had nowhere to land. No vibrations, no sound. So I stopped trying. And then, and only then, was I quiet. Children cry so they can tell their parents, “I need a nap.” “I don’t like this hippie food you’re feeding me.” “I made a present for you in my diaper.” As children and adults, we develop speech so we can communicate more effectively. When our words are not heard, we feel that the fundamental purpose of the voice has not been served. What is the sound of invisibility? It’s the sound of a voice that no one hears. So keep your ears vibrating. that something is missing.” That is, the very incompleteness of our being, actions, aspi- rations is a manifestation of buddhanature itself. Everything is broken. No regrets. Over the years I have tried to “deal with” (that means get rid of) depression in various ways. I have done talk therapy and acupunc- ture. I’ve sampled organic remedies like St. John’s wort, SAM-e, homeopathy, and most recently vitamin D. I have been on and off a modest dose of fluoxetine (Prozac). Actually, Prozac seemed to work for a while. When I began to take it—twenty years ago, on the advice of my therapist and in consultation with a psychiatrist—it was as if a dark cloud that had always circled my head just disap- peared. It was a great and joyous relief. But the relief seemed to be only temporary. So I return to what I trust, meditation, and to that other reliable remedy: friendship. Actually, the two are not unrelated. Medita- tionisnotacure,butifIcansitdownina quiet space and follow my breath, the weight of depression usually lifts while I am sitting. If sitting is not possible, I will take a long walk. Either way I have bridged the internal dis- connect; I am, for this time, friendly toward myself. The power of friendship multiplies when extended beyond oneself. I keep in mind E. M. Forster’s famous epigraph to Howard’s End: “Only connect.” In the darkest moments, when I feel least able to do so, I know this is necessary and true. FROM INQUIRING MIND, FALL 2012 THE SOUND OF INVISIBILITY Susan Yao ponders what it means to talk when nobody cares to listen. What is the sound of invisibil- ity? It’s similar to a Zen koan I was asked once: If a tree falls in the middle of a forest, does it make a sound? My answer: “Yup, and it sounds like this: BOOM.”