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Guanyin - Observing through Sound
When I hear, I see
A Dharma Music Party at Shaolin

24 October 2006

Bodhisattva Guanyin (观音) is the most popular Buddha figure in China. Guan (观) in Chinese means observation and yin (音) is for sound, and that expresses Guanyin’s path to enlightenment which is of observing by listening.

So on the night of 16 October, in the valley of Waiting Immortal (待仙谷) next to the Shaolin Temple, a grand open theatre was set, and 700 musicians and 30,000 audience made a united effort of listening. As on the stage nine lotus flowers blossomed in transient colours, and the Dharma music blended into the raw elements and natural environment, everybody listened in hush to the ripples of water (水乐), textures of wood (木乐), motions of wind (风乐), sight of light (光乐) and weight of stone (石乐).

At that very moment, all the senses around them and inside them were conveyed into the sound of music, and synchronised into the experience of hearing.

The Dharma music party at Shaolin

The Buddha says: All appearances are illusions, so if you see all appearances as no appearances, then you see the all. That is because, the appearance of reality is without appearance, thus it is called the appearance of reality.

Therefore by listening to the forms, smells, tastes, textures and weights, they contemplated the oneness of everything, and unified the myriad appearances.

The Buddha says: If you do not enter forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tangible objects and doctrines, then you have entered the flow of eternity. That is because, for someone who is without the appearance of a self, of others, of a life and of Dharma, he has attained freedom and liberation.

Therefore as they heard, they observed the here and now, and were for the moment truly themselves.

For one thing, in the music of Dharma, knowledge and views were not produced, studies and learning were not performed. And thus it is a true Dharma.

The Buddha once said: If someone says I have spoken Dharma, he slanders me due to his inability to understand what I teach. That is because the essence of and the path to Enlightenment cannot be spoken, and a conditioned doctrine is like a dream, an illusion, a bubble, a shadow, a drop of dew, a lightening flash. It comes and it goes. It is not real.

Then how should the path and the essence be approached and expressed?

By observing the sound, observing the silence, observing sound and rhythm in the midst of space and silence as they have always been, and observing how the transience of sound echoes the change and flow of life that we cannot hold onto. And above all, by not grasping at appearances but being in unmoving thusness.

And that is why the music is Dharma and the Dharma is music, for what is spoken is not really spoken, for what is not spoken is truly spoken.

So listen carefully. And keep listening.

Then, the Buddha says: A unity of appearances is not a unity of appearances. It is called a unity of appearances, for a unity of appearances cannot really be expressed.

Thus do not even grasp at the music of Dharma, as the sound is not actually sound, it is called sound.

Shaolin monks are chanting on the stage

The Buddha once said to his disciple: "Subhuti, if someone says that it seems as if the Thus Come One comes and goes, you shall know he is not a person who understands the meaning of my teaching. Why? The Thus Come One does not come from anywhere nor does he go anywhere. Therefore he is called the Thus Come One."

Therefore, by essence, the Dharma music festival at Shaolin did not really begin at 7:30 pm on October 16, nor did it finish before the midnight. The Dharma music is always there, and will forever be there. And in everywhere.

Therefore, keep listening. When you hear, you’ll see.

Zhang Pengming from Beijing in his quest for a Shaolin fist title

Before that grand Dharma music party, it was a grand opening ceremony of the Second World Martial Arts Festival. In the following four days, 2008 kung fu masters, young and old, from all over the world, displayed 110 sets of martial arts.

Pre: World's Biggest Steamboat
Next: Prayer on the Great Wall


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