Buddhism And Inner Sound Meditation

"Repeat the Name of your Beloved, day and night, again and again. With care in thought, word and deed, you will cross to the other shore." — Dadu

Extracts from "The Tibetan Book of the Dead", "The Surangama Sutra", "A Buddhist Bible", "My Experience in Meditation" by Tai Hsu, and "The Sound of Silence" by Ajahn Sumedho

"The Shabd is the basis of all true religions, for religion means ‘that which connects us with the Lord’. All forces of nature are sustained by the Shabd. The Life Force is also its manifestation, even though it is working in the regions of maya. Like electricity, Shabd, whether manifest or unmanifest, pervades everywhere. It is all-powerful and is the Creator of all. In the scriptures of all religions, Shabd is recognized as the Creator of the universe." ("Philosophy of the Masters", abridged edition) 

 Ajahn Sumedho, a bhikkhu of the Theravada school of Buddhism, from, "The Sound of Silence": As you calm down, you can experience the sound of silence in the mind. You hear it as a kind of high frequency sound, a ringing sound that’s always there. It is just normally never noticed. Now when you begin to hear that sound of silence, it’s a sign of emptiness – of silence of the mind. It’s something you can always turn to. As you concentrate on it and turn to it, it can make you quite peaceful and blissful. Meditating on that, you have a way of letting the conditions of the mind cease without suppressing them with another condition. Otherwise you just end up putting one condition over another.

"A Buddhist Bible," Surangama Sutra: Avalokiteshvara Buddha (Quan Yin), the hearer and answerer of prayer, has visited all the Buddha-lands of the ten quarters of the universe and has acquired transcendental powers of boundless freedom and fearlessness and has vowed to emancipate all sentient beings from their bondage and suffering.   How sweetly mysterious is the Transcendental Sound of Avalokiteshvara! Is is the subdued murmur of the seatide setting inward. Its mysterious Sound brings liberation and peace to all sentient beings who in their distress are calling for aid.

Absence of sound is not the end of hearing,
And sound when present is not its beginning.
The faculty of hearing, beyond creation
And annihilation, truly is permanent.
Even when isolated thoughts in a dream arise,
Though the thinking process stops, hearing does not end,
for the faculty of hearing is beyond
All thought, beyond both mind and body…..

Ananda and all you who listen here
Should inward turn your faculty
Of hearing to hear your own nature
Which alone achieves Supreme Bodhi.
That is how enlightenment is won.
Buddhas as many as the Ganges’ sand
Entered this one gateway to Nirvana.

(The Surangama Sutra: Selections from the Upasaka Lu K’uan Yu Translation, Published by Rider and Company, London)

As you calm down, you can experience the Sound of Silence in the mind. You hear it as a kind of high frequency Sound, a ringing Sound that’s always there. It is just normally never noticed. Now when you begin to hear that Sound of Silence, it’s a sign of emptiness — of silence of the mind. It’s something you can always turn to. As you concentrate on it and turn to it, it can make you quite peaceful and blissful. Meditating on that, you have a way of letting the conditions of the mind cease without suppressing them with another condition. Otherwise you just end up putting one condition over another. This process of putting one condition on top of another is what is meant by making ‘kamma’. For example, if you’re feeling angry, then you start thinking of something else to get away from the anger. You don’t like what is going on over here, so you look over there, you just run away. But if you have a way of turning from conditioned phenomena to the unconditioned, then there is no kind of kamma being made, and the conditioned habits can fade away and cease. It’s like a ‘safety hatch’ in the mind, the way out, so your kammic formations, "sankharas", have an exit, a way of flowing away instead of recreating themselves. One problem with meditation is that many people find it boring. People get bored with emptiness. They want to fill up emptiness with something. So recognize that even when the mind is quite empty, the desires and habits are still there, and they will come and want to do something interesting. You have to be patient, willing to turn away from boredom and from the desire to do something interesting and be content with the emptiness of the Sound of Silence………………

You can turn to the emptiness of the mind– to the sound of silence. This gives the conditions like anger a way out to cessation; you let it go away. (The Sound Of Silence — by Ajahn Sumedho: http://www.4ui.com/eart/188eart1.htm )

In practice I’ve used the listening faculty. I listen. When I listen, I listen to myself, and I listen to the sounds that impinge on my ears: the sounds within and the sounds without. This attentive listening is very supportive to intuitive awareness. So I listen to the rain, I listen to the silence. When I listen to the silence, I listen to the Sound of Silence. (Sumedho)

There is a Chinese sutra in which the Buddha asked all the bodhisattvas their method for realizing enlightenment. Each one described a specific meditation practice. Avalokiteshvara described meditation on hearing. She said she starts her meditation by listening to the sound of the roar of the sea. Then she takes that Sound and turns it inward. She returns the hearing to listen to the ear organ. By doing this she realizes the true way. Some years ago Ajahn Sumedho was teaching a retreat at a Chinese monastery in California. For years the people at this monastery were puzzling over this phrase, "returning the hearing to listen to the ear organ." They couldn’t figure out what that meant. Now, Ajahn Sumedho had been teaching a meditation on the Sound of Silence, the Nada Sound. Suddenly the people at the monastery realized this must be what he was teaching, this active inner listening. Listening to the inner sound brings the heart into a position of acute inner awareness. It is not that the inner sound has some magical property. Rather, it is that bringing of the alert mind, bringing openness and receptivity to Sound, is symbolic of the presence of ultimate truth. The Sound is always there. We don’t have to create it. It is featureless. It is ever present. So it is a good symbol for Ultimate Reality itself. In the sutra the Buddha praised this method, the meditation on listening, as the best method for enlightenment. Ajahn Sumedho had been teaching the meditation on the Nada Sound for some years so he was tickled by this connection to another Buddhist tradition. He hadn’t realized that there had been so much emphasis on this in traditional Buddhist meditation practices. (Ajahn Amaro: http://nyimc.org/articles/thinking.htm )

Sustain your attention on that emptiness at the end and see how long you can hold your attention on it. See if you can hear a kind of ringing Sound in the mind, the Sound of Silence, the Primordial Sound. When you concentrate your attention on that, you can reflect: ‘Is there any sense of self?’ You see that when you’re really empty — when there’s just clarity, alertness and attention — there’s no self. There’s no sense of me and mine. So, I go to that empty state and I contemplate Dhamma: I think, ‘This is just as it is. This body here is just this way.’ I can give it a name or not but right now, it’s just this way. (Ajahn Sumedho: http://www.glbvihara.org/teaching8.htm )

Extracts from "The Tibetan Book of the Dead" (Bardo Thodol), edited by Dr. W. Y. Evans-Wentz (London, 1957):

O nobly-born, when thy body and mind were separating, thou must have experienced a glimpse of the Pure Truth, subtle, sparkling, bright, dazzling, glorious, and radiantly awesome, in appearance like a mirage moving across a landscape in springtime in one continuous stream of vibrations. Be not daunted thereby, nor terrified, nor awed. That is the radiance of thine own true nature. Recognize it.

From the midst of that radiance, the natural sound of Reality, reverberating like a thousand thunders simultaneously sounding, will come. That is the natural sound of thine own real self. Be not daunted thereby, nor terrified, nor awed.

O nobly-born, five-colored radiances . . . vibrating and dazzling like colored threads, flashing, radiant, and transparent, glorious and awe-inspiring, will . . . strike against thy heart, so bright that the eye cannot bear to look upon them.

. . . Be not afraid of that brilliant radiance of five colors, nor terrified; but know that Wisdom to be thine own.

Within those radiances, the natural sound of the Truth will reverberate like a thousand thunders. The sound will come with a rolling reverberation.

Fear not. Flee not. Be not terrified. Know them (i.e., these sounds) to be (of) . . thine own inner light.

Extracts from "My Experience in Meditation" by His Holiness The Venerable Tai Hsu (Chinese Buddhist monk), translated by Bhikku Assaji:

. . . From this time I discontinued my old routine of meditation; this was from 1908 to 1914. When the European War broke out, I began to doubt Western theory and my own power to save the world with Buddhist teaching. I felt it was a sheer waste of time, if I did any more of what I had done. So I went to "Po-To" island, where I secluded myself in a monastery to develop further spiritual advancement.

After two or three months of seclusion, one night when I was meditating, my mind became calmer, I heard the sound of a bell from a neighboring temple. It seems that my chain of thoughts was broken by that sound and I sank into a state of something like a trance, without knowing anything until early next dawn, when I heard the sound of the matin bell and I regained my sense of knowing. At first, I only felt that a light melted into me. There was no distinction of self and other things and of what was inside and what was outside.

After this experience, I continued my life of reading sutras, writing books and meditating, for about one year, and after that one year, I chiefly engaged myself in studying the books of the Vijnana School. I especially paid attention to the Records on Wei Shi (Vijnana). Here I once more experienced another trance-like state. I was reading for several times repeatedly a certain paragraph of the said Records, explaining that both conditional things and the Truth are devoid of the substance of Self. I entered the trance-like meditation. This time it was different from the former two; I perceived in it that all things which exist on conditions had their deep and subtle order, minutely arranged without the slightest confusion.

This kind of comprehension I can produce now whenever I desire.

The third experience showed me the truth of cause and effect, which appear to be so on account of our consciousness. It is true, the law of cause and effect has its natural way without disorder.

After each of these three experiences, there was some change physically and mentally, and I also happened to have some presage of divyachaksus (clarvoyance), divya-srota (clairaudience) and parachitta-jnana (thought reading).

If the six supernatural powers are possible, then the theory of Karma and Rebirth, which is based on the demonstration of clairvoyance and purvanivasan Usmritijnana (knowledge of all former existences of self and others) is also believable.