Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Some concert pics from last Saturday's Fleet Foxes' show at The Tabernacle from Atlanta's Creative Loafing web site.

Although they did pick up an electric guitar or bass from time to time, they played mostly acoustic instruments, the better to allow the audience to hear their fine vocal harmonies, adding flourishes of mandolin, flute, and piano when necessary. The full house was remarkably quiet while they played, but roared in thunderous approval at the end of each song. Even though I was right up by the stage and near the speakers, the only time my ears rang was during the call for an encore.

It's been said that Zen Master Baso was able to shout so loud it made one of his monks deaf for three days. I wouldn't think that was humanly possible - the human voice can't reach the decibels necessary to deafen another - but then, some yogis and monks are capable of doing some truly remarkable things, and for the sake of my hearing, I won't challenge anyone to prove me wrong on this point.

This story of Baso's shout is usually considered allegorically, however, an expression of the intimacy between a master and disciple. I've been told that after the shout, the monk did not need to hear anything else - no further teaching was necessary. The "deafness" was simply a way of expressing that no further words were needed.

I think that explanation misses the mark. The story is about intimacy, but in another sense. For there to be such a thing as "hearing" presupposes that there is a transmitter of the sound and a receiver. But Baso's shout awoke the monk into a realization of no-self, and there was no longer any separation between the transmitter (Baso) and the receiver (the monk). There was no longer any "hearing" possible, as all was one.

Zen Master Dogen understood this story. Commenting of the monk's deafness, Dogen said, "This mountain monk (meaning himself, Dogen) has not yet received the shout, so how come I am completely deaf, for one, two, three, even four lifetimes? All Buddhas in the three times have one deaf ear, and the six ancestral teachers in China were slightly deaf."

Dogen is saying that even though he is several generations removed from Baso ("one, two, three, even four lifetimes"), he experiences the same realization of complete and total intimacy between transmitter and receiver, between the ancient teachers and his current state. The Buddhas were all also like this - not sticking to either the absolute or the relative, they were all "deaf" in the one ear tuned to the absolute, but still capable of hearing with the other ear tuned to the relative. As were the patriarchs in China before Baso's time.

So would it be going too far to say that even as I enjoyed the music, there was nothing to be heard?

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