Am I Listening Correctly?
Sounds cannot be eliminated. No matter where you are or how quiet it is, there are sounds that cannot be eliminated. The “sound of silence” can therefore be acknowledged as an impossible-to-eliminate sound, the sensory object of quietude.
Knowing the different types of sounds, the question now posed is: how do you know if you are attached to any sound (or sound of silence)?
Master Jiaoguang responds:
For those of you who listen inwardly and most earnestly, the nature of hearing for you is clear like the moon in the autumn sky. There is not a moment that it is blurry or darkened. Since there is no outflow directed toward even one sound, no sound is missed.
You can try these two tests to see if you are grasping or attached to any sound in the slightest: One, the nature of hearing would be the first to become blurry and unclear all of a sudden. Second, an outflow [of warm energy and attention] towards only one sound would mean you miss all other sounds.
Let me further clarify with an analogy. For instance, someone gets dizzy at the sight of water and cannot go over a body of water by himself. He needs another person to take him across by holding his hand. The companion tells the man to look up at the sky and not focus on the water for a minute. Were he to forget the advice and to look at water for a moment, he would immediately feel faint.
Similarly, directing hearing towards your inherent nature is like staring at the sky. Quitting your search for sound all around is like avoiding gazing at water. Along these lines, you would have no problems with being misdirected just as you would have no problem with being drowned. In this way, you know you cannot eliminate every possible sound, but you can listen inwardly and focus on that. So just as water cannot be eliminated around you, you can look up at the sky and focus on that.[i]