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Songs for Awakening

Bhikshu Heng Sure


I walked into Tathagatha Monastery cafeteria one Saturday noon during a Buddha's birthday celebration. A loudspeaker blared the drumbeat and jingling chords of some rock'n roll tune I'd never heard before. My ears reeled, my body unconsciously responded in an organic "first thought" reflex. I felt invaded, defiled. The pulsing music hit my mind like drops of ink on a white sheet. It was the first and only time I heard "Songs for Awakening". The words may have Dharma-inspired, but the back-alley rhythm of the bass and drums turned the pure Wayplace brieffly into a Saturday afternoon sock hop at the YMCA. The song echoed in my mind for weeks. It would rise just at the gate of stillness and set the warm embers on fire once more. Samadhi power for beginners is hard-earned and easily lost. The experience was a good advisor in reverse: I saw clearly that I have a deep lingering attachment to the dust of sounds. Having no genuine samadhi, my ears are still cocked from the sounds of drums, guitars, flutes, and female voices. I used to listen to these for hours on end. The Way-place is a hospital, a refuge for ears scared by worldly sounds. Proper Dharma purifies the ears with the Buddha's voice of sweet dew. To met rock'n roll in the monastery dining hall shocked me back into old grooves I want very much to forget ...  

Looked at a TIME magazine clipping last month for the first time in six years. Felt like I'd ripped the petals off a delicate wildflower in my mind. The reverberations from reading the articles, and scanning the ads and photos trashed my concentration for weeks after. Why? Real samadhi takes time to mature and to gain strength. The slightest mote of worldly dust, before one's samadhi power is solid is all it takes to mar the mirror of the mind.  

With on thought unproduced,

the entire substance manifests.

When the six organs suddenly move,

you've covered by clouds.

Read a piece on Scientology in the TIME clipping and recalled old friends who'd gotten tangled in web of that curious religion. Emotions flooded my mind.  

Looked at the faces in the photos next to the text and began reflexively to analyze them in terms of physiognomy, a parlor trick I haven't played for years. Fortune-telling used to amuse friends but it's a deviant livelihood for a Bhikshu. All the same, the old habit energy responded at a glance. Pointed out my observations to Heng Ch'au. He warned me of my error but the words were already in the air. The tongue moves quick as a snake and gossip is an offense!


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