After nine years, Bodhidharma, the first Zen patriarch, who took Zen to China from India in the sixth century, decided that he wished to return home. He gathered his disciples around him to test their perception.
Dofuku said, “In my opinion, truth is beyond affirmation or negation, for this is the way it moves.”
Bodhidharma replied, “You have my skin.”
The nun Soji said, “In my view, it is like Ananda’s insight of the Buddha-land – seen once and forever.”
Bodhidharma answered, “You have my flesh.”
Doiku said, “The four elements of light, airiness, fluidity, and solidity, are empty, and the five skandhas are no-things. In my opinion, no-thing is reality.”
Bodhidharma commented, “You have my bones.”
Finally, Eka bowed before the master and remained silent.
Bodhidharma said, “You have my marrow.”
I can see clouds a thousand miles away,
hear ancient music in the pines.
Of what music have I been talking to you? The Hindu mystics have called it omkar, the ultimate sound, or even better, they have called it the anahata, the soundless sound, the sound that is uncreated, the sound that has always been there, the sound of existence itself. It is surrounding you, it is within you, without you. You are made of it.
Just as modern physics says that everything is made of electricity, Eastern mystics have said that everything is made of sound. On one thing modern physics and ancient mystics agree: modern physics says sound is nothing but electricity, and ancient mystics say electricity is nothing but sound.
It seems that if you observe the eternal music from the outside, as if it is an object, then it appears like electric energy. If you feel it introspectively, not as an object but as your very being, as your subjectivity, then it is heard as sound, anahata; then it is heard as music. This music is constantly there, you need not do anything else except listen to it. Listening is all that meditation is about: how to listen to that which is already there.
In a small school it happened that a small boy sitting in the rear of the classroom appeared to be daydreaming.
“Johnny,” asked the teacher, “do you have trouble hearing?”
“No ma’am,” he replied, “I have trouble listening.”
I know you can hear, there is no trouble about it, but you cannot listen. Listening is totally different from hearing. Listening means hearing without mind, listening means hearing without any interference of your thoughts, listening means hearing as if you are totally empty. If you have even a small trembling of thinking inside, waves of subtle thoughts surrounding you, you will not be able to listen although you will be able to hear. And to listen to the music, the ancient music, the eternal music, one needs to be totally quiet, as if one is not. When you are you can hear, when you are not you can listen.
How not to be is the whole problem of religion: how to be in such a deep silence that being becomes almost equivalent to non-being – that there remains no difference between being and non-being, that the boundaries between being and non-being disappear. You are, and yet in a certain sense you are not; you are not and yet in a certain sense, for the first time, you are.