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March 17, 2012

By Stephen Damon

It’s still early and the sun hasn’t risen, but I’ve been up for a couple of hours, walking the dog, sitting, having breakfast, and reading.  It’s a morning like every other morning—nothing special to report.  But I did come across a small passage in a book by Katagiri Roshi, the founder of our lineage that I’d like to share.

He says: If you really study yourself, you will hear a strange sound.  There’s a cry.  It’s the sound of the world, the sound of everyone.  It comes from inside you.  Inside yourself you will hear the quiet cries of the world.  To hear this sound means you really want to know how to live.

Over the years I have discovered over and over again the central importance of whole-hearted listening—to what people are saying, to the sounds of the world, to the sound of my breath, to the sound of silence, to everything.  Attentive listening is not a function of just my ears—it is the function of my whole being.  When I am in the state of listening, my entire body feels as if it is receiving sounds.   Thus, the sounds that I am listening to, come from inside me.  I see that if I am really listening to the sound of the voice of another person without judgment or response of any kind, it seems to come from inside me in much the same way as impressions of myself appear during sitting meditation. Invariably, when I able to listen in this way I get a sense of a certain suffering or sadness that is behind whatever the person is saying.

Right now, as first light is appearing, I am listening to the solitary song of a bird awakening to the new day…



From → Zen Buddhism

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