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
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
Then how should the path and the essence be approached
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
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
on the Great Wall