The Unstruck Sound: A Buddhist Perspective | Mantra | Zen

OZMO PIEDMONT The Unstruck Sound

Final Paper
CBS 5!" #istor$ o% Buddhis&
The Unstruck Sound: A Buddhist Perspective
O'&o Pied&ont
Pra(na Institute %or Buddhist Studies
March )* !)
Ta+le o% Contents
OZMO PIEDMONT The Unstruck Sound
Final Paper
CBS 5!" #istor$ o% Buddhis&
), Introduction -
Personal account -
#indu Ori.ins" /UM 5
Da0id 1ordon 5
2ondhe 5
Ed3ard Sali& Michael 5
, Mantra$ana" /UM 4
Mantra 4
Dalai 2a&a 5
6on.trul 5
Na&kai Nor+u 7

8, Buddhist Te9ts 7
Thera0ada 7
Mahaa:sakuludaa$isutta )!
Mahali sutta )!
Maha$ana ))
Shuran.a&a Sutra ))
-, Teachers and Teachin.s )-
Thera0ada Forest D3ellers )-
/(ahn Sa&edho )-
Chan )5
Maha$ana Nun 1uo Cheen )5
1reat Master ;$au.uan. )5
Zen )<
Zen Master Bassui )<
Zen =in'ai Master 2in Chi )4
Zen 6oan" One hand clappin. )4
5, Conclusion )5
=e%erences )7
The Unstruck Sound: A Buddhist Perspective
OZMO PIEDMONT The Unstruck Sound
Final Paper
CBS 5!" #istor$ o% Buddhis&
1. Introduction
Se0eral $ears a.o* on a 0isit to the desert ho&e o% the reno3ned ps$choanal$st =o+ert
;ohnson* a student o% Carl ;un.* I happened upon an e9traordinar$ e0ent* one that 3ould lea0e a
pro%ound i&pression on &e, M$ %riend =o+ert led &e to the +e.innin. o% a path3a$ in the
&iddle o% the desert* +oth literall$ and %i.urati0el$* since this path 3ould lead &e to a stran.e
e9perience that 3ould open a door3a$ to ne3 spiritual perceptions and understandin.s, #e
instructed &e to %ollo3 this path alone and %ind 3here it 3ould lead, >ith so&e dread and
trepidation* I set out on 3hat I 3ould +e a pleasant* i% not* da$ o% si.htseein.
and rela9ation, Instead* I %ound the door3a$ to a &$ster$ that continues to re0eal itsel% e0en
The path3a$ initiall$ led to a 3onder%ul oasis* %illed 3ith 3ater%alls* pal& trees* %lo3ers*
and cool shade to protect &e 3hile I &editated in peace%ul rela9ation, But little did I kno3 3hat
la$ ahead, On &$ (ourne$ +ack to the rende'0ous point 3ith =o+ert* I +eca&e a3are o% a
peculiar sound %ro& &$ %eet as the$ pressed into the desert sand, The air 3as so still and
cr$stalline that &$ steps see&ed to re0er+erate all around in the silence o% the spaciousness, I
listened &ore intentl$ to this unusual sound* and to &$ surprise* I to hear another sound
acco&pan$in. the steps* a sound that did not co&e and .o 3ith the &o0e&ent o% sand displaced
+$ &$ %eet* +ut rather 3hat see&ed like the hu& o% +illions o% crickets on a su&&er?s e0e* a
sound I had heard as a +o$ on &$ 0isits to &$ .randparents? house in the plains o% Missouri*
3hen 3e pla$ed hide and seek a&on. the trees on their %ront la3n in the earl$ e0enin. a%ter
dinner, But here there 3ere no crickets* onl$ sun* sand* rocks and cactus, /s I +eca&e a3are o%
this hu&&in. sound all around* it +eca&e louder* as a rushin. o% 3ater, I 3ondered i% it 3as
co&in. %ro& a ri0er +ed I sa3 in the distance, I approached the ri0er +ed* seein. it 3as dr$ and
OZMO PIEDMONT The Unstruck Sound
Final Paper
CBS 5!" #istor$ o% Buddhis&
3ithout an$ &o0e&ent, I +eca&e perple9ed +$ 3hat see&ed to +e this continual sound* 3hich
3as steadil$ increasin. in intensit$* like a thunderous strea& o% chi&in. +ells, But it 3as
constant* ne0er endin., I suddenl$ +eca&e o0er3hel&ed +$ 3hat I reali'ed 3as the Unstruck
Sound, Man$ &$stics in histor$ ha0e re%erred to this sound +$ &an$ na&es" e,., the @Music o%
the Spheres*A the @Soundless SoundA* the @Pri&ordial SoundA* or the @Sound o% CreationA, I had
al3a$s assu&ed it 3as s$&+olic %or a Truth that 3as +e$ond 3ords, No3 I 3as e9periencin.
so&ethin. directl$* and I 3ondered 3hat it trul$ &eant,
Follo3in. this e9perience* I read #indu te9ts on $o.ic practices associated 3ith this
soundless sound, The #indu tradition eBuates it 3ith the /UM* the pri&ordial sound o% the
uni0erse C2ondhe !!5D* 3hich is likened to the hu& o% the ato&s and the &usic o% the spheres*
an ener.$ that holds the 3hole &aterial 3orld to.ether, In Sanskrit* the Unstruck Sound is
called @NadaA and there is a spiritual practice and &editation utili'in. this sound called /nahata
Nada Eo.a, The ph$sical 0er+ali'ation o% the /UM sound is considered to &ost closel$
rese&+le the actual Unstruck Sound 3hich co&es out o% the Silence* passes throu.h each o%
three s$lla+les /:U:M* leadin. +ack into the pure stillness o% open e9istence* oneFs true nature
C1ordon* !!:!!4D,
The French &$stic Ed3ard Sali& Michael C!)!D stu&+led upon this pri&ordial @NadaA
sound +$ accident late in his li%e* openin. hi& to a pro%ound &$stical e9perience o% at:one:&ent
3ith the Uni0erse, This trans%or&ati0e e9perience inspired hi& to .i0e up his artistic career as a
%ine arts painter in order to help others e9perience this cos&ic connectedness, #e descri+es the
Nada o% inner sound in the %ollo3in. 3a$"
G>hen the aspirant e&plo$s this Nada Cinner SoundD as the &ain support %or his
&editation* he &ust %ollo3 all its slender %luctuations* su+tle 0ariations o% note*
and &$sterious (e3el:like .litterin.s* second +$ second* 3ith the ut&ost
OZMO PIEDMONT The Unstruck Sound
Final Paper
CBS 5!" #istor$ o% Buddhis&
dili.ence, #e 3ill disco0er that this unusual Sound 3ith its stran.e 0i+rations*
celestial t3inklin.s* and* a+o0e all* eni.&atic continuit$ 3ill +eco&e a &ost
precious support %or his concentration in all his %uture &editationsH>hen the
aspirant has'ed this Nada IInner SoundJ and %a&iliari'ed hi&sel% 3ell
enou.h 3ith it* he 3ill percei0e that* contrar$ to the inner and outer
conditions that he 3as used to up to that &o&ent* this &$stical Sound has a
stran.e unearthl$ continuit$ a+out itHit can also +e co&pared to the so%t 3hisper
o% the 3ind and the continuous hissin. noise o% the ocean 3a0es* 3ith a shrill
GultraG Sound on top o% it* co&posed o% all the har&onics in the Uni0erse, On
hi.her spheres* this sacred Nada 3ill ha0e a stran.e sort o% sil0er$ aspect to it*
so&e3hat si&ilar to the uninterrupted (in.lin. Sound o% 0er$ little pieces o% .lass*
3ith other s&aller* e0er &ore su+tle Sounds superi&posed on it* until %inall$ these
%iner Sounds see& to disappear into in%init$, CMichael !)!D

Michael then .oes on to descri+e the actual &echanics o% &editation upon the unstruck sound"
GIn the +e.innin.* the seeker should %i9 his attention on the part o% the Sound that
is &ost shrill and* as e9plained in the pre0ious chapter* oscillatin. sli.htl$
so&e3hat like the t3inklin. o% a star, It 3ill +e easier to hear that 3a$, 2ater*
3hen the aspirant .ets &ore %a&iliar 3ith it* he 3ill to hear t3o or &ore
Sounds at the sa&e &o&ent, /t %irst he &a$ not Buite reali'e* or +e reall$ sure*
that he is hearin. t3o Sounds si&ultaneousl$, #o3e0er* i% at such ti&es he listens
care%ull$* he 3ill note that one o% these t3o sounds is sli.htl$ &ore o+0ious*
3hereas the other is a little &ore hi.h:pitched and &ore su+tle, #e should listen
care%ull$ to +oth Sounds %or a 3hile until it +eco&es a+solutel$ clear to hi&
3hich o% these t3o Sounds is the &ore su+tle and hi.h pitched, It is to this one he
&ust then .entl$ let his attention turn and concentrate on, #e &ust not +e te&pted
to %ollo3 the &ore o+0ious o% these t3o Sounds an$ &ore :: e0en thou.h it 3ill
keep intrudin. and dra3in. hi& +ack to it, CMichael !)!D
This attention to the &ore su+tle aspects o% the Sound +eco&e a spiritual practice o% &ind%ulness
to the &ore su+tle aspects o% one?s li%e* the &ore re%ined and spiritual aspects o% one?s true
These concepts see& to re%lect certain +asic truths in Buddhis& such as %indin. one?s true
nature and disco0erin. that 3hich is +e.innin.less and endless* that 3hich is pure* eternal and
unconditioned, Until recentl$ I had not read an$ re%erences in Buddhis& related to this Sound,
>hile stud$in. Buddhist histor$ and &editation techniBues at the Pra(na Institute o% Buddhist
Studies* I +eca&e a3are once a.ain o% this soundless sound that is al3a$s present, I 3ondered i%
OZMO PIEDMONT The Unstruck Sound
Final Paper
CBS 5!" #istor$ o% Buddhis&
there 3ere an$ teachin.s o% Buddhis& related to it, I to in0esti.ate* and to &$ surprise* I
%ound &an$ re%erences related to this soundless sound %ro& a Buddhist perspecti0e, The
%ollo3in. essa$ 3ill sho3 ho3 teachin.s o% the Unstruck Sound ha0e a stron. .roundin. in
Buddhist Dhar&a* includin. Thera0ada and Maha$ana te9ts alon. 3ith se0eral Buddhist
teachers %ro& a 3ide ra.e o% 3ho incorporate this a3areness into their spiritual
.uidance* includin. Ka(ra$ana* Thera0ada* Chan* =in'ai and Soto Zen,
2. Mantrayana: AUM
Ori.inall$* Buddha prohi+ited an$ use o% #indu Kedic &antras or &a.ical spells, But
3ith the e&er.ence o% Mantra$ana Buddhis& Calso called Ka(ra$ana Buddhis&* Tantric
Buddhis&* Northern Buddhis&* and Ti+etan Buddhis&D in the 4th Centur$ CE* &antra 3as
incorporated into Buddhist chantin. and &editations %or the purposes o% +lessin.s*
protection* or e&po3er&ent* and could also +e used as a &ental instru&ent to con(ure up a
particular hol$ +ein. so as to de0elop that +ein.s spiritual Bualities C#ar0e$* )77!* p, )8<D,
Mantras are sacred 3ords o% po3er* &ostl$ &eanin.less s$lla+les or
strin.s o% s$lla+les* 3hich .i0e an arran.e&ent o% sound o% .reat potenc$H>hen
pronounced in the 3a$* 3ith the attitude o% &ind* the sound:
arran.e&ent o% a &antra is seen as Ltunin. in? the practitioner?s &ind to a +ein. he
3ishes to 0isuali'eH&akin. the practitioner?s &ind so in tune 3ith a hol$ +ein.
that it can appear to hi& in a 0isuali'ed %or&Hthe hol$ +ein.s in0oked can +e
seen as not Le9ternal? to hi&* +ut as ps$chic %orces or le0els o% consciousness
latent 3ithin the practitioner?s o3n &ind, / &antra is seen as actin. like a
ps$chic ke$ 3hich ena+les a person to ha0e po3er o0er Lph$sical? thin.s* or
ena+le hi& to 0isuali'e and co&&unicate 3ith a +ein.M%orce 3hose &antra it is
C#ar0e$* )77!* p, <!:<)D,

Mantra$ana Buddhis& is %ound &ostl$ in Ti+et* Northern China* Mon.olia* 6orea* and
;apan C#ar0e$* )77!* p, )88:)85D and has &ade inroads to &an$ other countries throu.hout the
3orld, The &antra +eca&e an inte.ral part o% Mantra$ana practice, Indeed* the /UM has +een
OZMO PIEDMONT The Unstruck Sound
Final Paper
CBS 5!" #istor$ o% Buddhis&
incorporated into &an$ Buddhist sacred phrases* such as the %a&ous @O& Mani Pad&e #u&A o%
the Ti+etan Ka(ra$ana tradition* 3hich is chanted throu.hout the 3orld* as e9e&pli%ied +$ #,#,
the Dalai 2a&a o% Ti+et* an incarnation o% /0alokitesh0ara* the Bodhisatt0a o% Co&passion* 3ho
chants alon. 3ith his %ollo3ers this &antra %or peace* li+eration* and %reedo& %ro& su%%erin. %or
all +ein.s, The Dalai 2a&a e9plains the &eanin. o% /UM as %ollo3s"
It is 0er$ .ood to recite the &antra OM M/NI P/DME #UM* +ut 3hile
$ou are doin. it* $ou should +e thinkin. on its &eanin.* %or the
&eanin. o% the si9 s$lla+les is .reat and 0ast, The %irst* OM* is
co&posed o% three pure letters* /* U* and M, These s$&+oli'e the
practitionerNs i&pure +od$* speech* and &indO the$ also s$&+oli'e the pure
e9alted +od$* speech and &ind o% a Buddha CDalai 2a&aD,
The Dalai 2a&a .oes on to e9plain ho3 the i&purities in the practitioner are trans%or&ed and
puri%ied throu.h the spiritual practice o% co&passion and the 3isdo& that sees the i&per&anence
o% all thin.s* +oth aspects s$&+oli'ed +$ this &antra, Throu.h the tantric 0ehicle o% &antra* one
is trans%or&ed and de0elops the seeds o% purit$* the essence o% the Buddha nature* into %ull
Buddhahood CDalai 2a&aD,
The Ti+etan la&a ;a&.on 6on.trul C)5)8:)577D* a pree&inent scholar o% the &antra$ana
tradition eBuates the pri&ordial essence to enli.hten&ent* transcendent 3isdo&* and the nada o%
pri&ordial sound"
The pri&ordial indestructi+le .reat 0ital essenceH3hich is the root or .round o%
all o% c$clic li%e Isa&saraJ and per%ect peace Inir0anaJ* is kno3n as pri&ordialH
+ecause it has no +e.innin. or endO as indestructi+leH+ecause it is indi0isi+leO as
0ital essenceH+ecause it per0ades the 0arious appearancesO and as .reatH
+ecause there is nothin. that it does not enco&pass, There are countless s$non$&s
%or the pri&ordial indestructi+le .reat 0ital essence* such as G.reat sealGH G.reat
+lissGH Gpri&ordial soundG C nāda D* Gall:per0adin. 0a(ra o% spaceGH Gordinar$
a3arenessGH Gpristine a3areness channelGH Gpristine a3areness 3indGH
Gin0inci+le hamGHGin0inci+le 0ital essenceGH Gessence o% enli.hten&entG…and
Gtranscendent 3isdo&GH CCP=* %, 7a8:+D,

C6on.trul* !!5* p, 8<D
OZMO PIEDMONT The Unstruck Sound
Final Paper
CBS 5!" #istor$ o% Buddhis&
/nother Ti+etan Buddhist la&a* Cho.$al Na&khai Nor+u speaks o% the @Hinner sound 3e can
onl$ %eel throu.h 0i+rationsO 3e don?t need ears %or hearin. or disco0erin. inner sound, Still
&ore i&portant is secret sound, Secret sound 3e disco0er onl$ 3hen 3e disco0er our real nature
CNor+u* /u.ust !!)D,A Thou.h these la&as identi%$ the Unstruck Sound as 0ital to spiritual
de0elop&ent* one &a$ 3onder i% there are Buddhist te9ts %ro& other supportin. their
3. Buddhist Tets
The Thera0ada school o% Buddhis&* 3ith its e&phasis on personal li+eration throu.h
one?s o3n e%%orts .uided +$ the Dhar&a C#ar0e$* p, D* traces its ori.ins directl$ +ack to the
Buddha* and has %aith%ull$ preser0ed his teachin.s in the o% Pali* a dialect si&ilar to
3hat the Buddha spoke* Old Ma.adhi C#ar0e$* p, 8D* in a Canon* or collection o% scriptures*
kno3n as the Tripitaka* re%errin. to three +askets o% pal&:lea%ed &anuscripts consistin. o% the
&onastic disciplines CKina$a:pitakaD* the Discourses CSutta:pitakaD and the Further Teachin.s
C/+hidha&&a:pitakaD C#ar0e$* p, 8D, The Suttas are discourses containin. the &ain
teachin.s o% the Buddha* and 3ere ori.inall$ orall$ preser0ed and trans&itted* +ut 3ere
e0entuall$ recorded in the Pali Canon* one o% the earliest records o% the Buddha?s discourses
3ritten do3n in Sri 2anka around 5! BCE C#ar0e$* p, 8D, In the Mahasakuludayi Sutta is %ound
a passa.e 3herein the Buddha instructs his disciples a+out a &ethod 3here+$ the$ can acBuire
puri%ied hearin. +e$ond hu&an hearin.* 3hich allo3s one to hear hea0enl$ sounds"
/.ain* Uda$i* I ha0e declared this &ethod to &$ disciples* %allen to 3hich
&ethod &$ disciples could 3ith the puri%ied hea0enl$ ear ele&ent +e$ond hu&an*
hear sounds +oth hea0enl$ and hu&an* %ar and near, 2ike a po3er%ul dru&&er*
3ould instantl$ +reak the ne3s in the %our directions, In the sa&e &anner I ha0e
declared this &ethod to &$ disciples* %allen to 3hich &ethod &$ disciples could
3ith the puri%ied hea0enl$ ear ele&ent +e$ond hu&an hear sounds +oth hea0enl$
OZMO PIEDMONT The Unstruck Sound
Final Paper
CBS 5!" #istor$ o% Buddhis&
and hu&an* %ar and near, Thus too &$ disciples a+ide ai&in. per%ect kno3led.e
%or e&ancipation CMa((hi&a Nika$aD
In another sutta* the Mahali Sutta CDN <D* the Buddha?s disciple* Mahali* asks 3hether one can
achie0e hea0enl$ hearin. throu.h &editation and concentration, The Buddha a%%ir&s it is
possi+le sa$in.* @The$ are real* those hea0enl$ sounds* pleasant* %itted to satis%$ one?s desires*
e9citin. in one?s heart* 3hich he could not hear, The$ are not thin.s o% nou.htA CMahali
Sutta DN <D, #o3e0er* he cautions one should not +eco&e attached to such +eauti%ul hea0enl$
sounds* since there are hi.her and s3eeter conditions o% consciousness one can reach throu.h the
practice o% the Path 3hich leads to /rahatship and Nir0ana" @Hin that e&ancipation o%
&ind* that e&ancipation o% heart* 3hich is /rahatship that* MahPli* is a condition hi.her still and
s3eeter still,,,Keril$ it is this No+le Path* that is to sa$" 0ie3s* aspirations* speech* action* a &eans o% li0elihood* e%%ort* &ind%ulness* and
ecstas$ in sel%:concentration, This* MahPli* is the path* and this the &ethod* %or the reali'ation o%
these conditionsA CMahali Sutta DN <D, E0en thou.h the Buddha had placed the hearin. o%
hea0enl$ sounds in a secondar$ position in relation to the attain&ent o% hi.her states o%
consciousness* one 3onders 3hether this hea0enl$ sound is that o% the Unstruck Pri&ordial
Sound* 3hich 3hen listened to* is proclai&ed in a Maha$ana tradition as the &ost e%%ecti0e
&ethod %or attainin. Nir0ana and li+eration,
The Maha$ana linea.e e&er.ed +et3een )5! BCE and )!! CE* e&phasi'in. the
Bodhisatt0a:path* as 3ell as* 0isuali'ation practices directed at the Buddha as a .lori%ied*
transcendent +ein.* and a ne3 philosoph$Mcos&olo.$ +ased on the e&ptiness o% pheno&ena as
e9pressed in Sutras 3ritten in Sanskrit as authoriti0e teachin.s o% the Buddha hi&sel%* 3hich
3ere attained throu.h inspired 0isions* &editations* and drea&s* +ased on the sa&e per%ect
OZMO PIEDMONT The Unstruck Sound
Final Paper
CBS 5!" #istor$ o% Buddhis&
3isdo& o% the Buddha?s Dhar&a* 3hich 3ere understood as hidden teachin.s o% the Buddha,
The$ 3ere +elie0ed to ha0e e&er.ed as a second turnin. o% the >heel o% Dhar&a deepenin. the
teachin.s o% the ori.inal earl$ Suttas in Pali, These ne3 Sutras portra$ a hea0enl$ Buddha
surrounded +$ other Buddhas and Bodhisatt0as* e9istin. in &an$ re.ions o% the uni0erse* 3ho
are the&sel0es sa0ior +ein.s 3orth$ o% de0otion and pra$er C#ar0e$* pp, 57:7)D, In this ne3
re0ealed Dhar&a o% the Sutras o% Maha$ana* the Sound o% Silence no3 +eco&es the &ost
e9cellent &eans to reali'e li+eration and Nir0ana,
In the Maha$ana Shuran.a&a Sutra C!))D the Buddha is discussin. 3ith 5 and
+odhisatt0as their practices o% conte&plation, Since the$ all had attained enli.hten&ent* he asks
each one 3hat practice 3as &ost help%ul to the&, The last one to co&&ent is /0alokitesh0ara*
the Bodhisatt0a o% co&passion* 3ho recounts ho3 he had +een instructed +$ a prior Buddha*
3ho 3as also called /0alokitesh0ara* to use the o% the ear to listen and +eco&e enli.htened
CCheen* !)D,
Thereupon /0alokitesh0ara Bodhisatt0a rose %ro& his seat*
prostrated hi&sel% 3ith his head at the %eet o% the Buddha
and declared" I still re&e&+er that lon. +e%ore nu&+ers o%
aeons countless as the sand .rains in the* a Buddha
called /0alokitesh0ara appeared in the 3orld, >hen I 3as
3ith #i&* I de0eloped the Bodhi Mind and* %or &$ entr$ into
Sa&Pdhi* I 3as instructed +$ #i& to practice &editation +$
&eans o% the o% hearin., CShuran.a&aD
/0alokitesh0ara no3 e9plains the actual &ethod +$ 3hich he attained Enli.hten&ent"
/t %irst +$ directin. the o% hearin. into the
strea& o% &editation* this organ was detached from its object,
and +$ 3ipin. out Cthe concept o%D +oth sound and
strea&:entr$, both disturbance and stillness became clearly
non-existent. Thus ad0ancin. step +$ step +oth hearin. and
its o+(ect ceased co&pletel$* +ut I did not stop 3here the$
ended, >hen the a3areness o% this state and this state itsel%
3ere reali'ed as non:e9istent* both subject and object
OZMO PIEDMONT The Unstruck Sound
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CBS 5!" #istor$ o% Buddhis&
merged into the void* the a3areness o% 3hich +eca&e all e&+racin.,
>ith %urther eli&ination o% the 0oid and its o+(ect
+oth creation and annihilation 0anished giving way to the
state of Nirvna 3hich then &ani%ested,
Suddenl$ I leaped o0er +oth the &undane and
supra&undane* there+$ reali!ing an all-embracing brightness
per0adin. the ten directions* and acBuired t3o unsurpassed
C&eritsD, The %irst 3as in accord with the fundamental
"rofound #nlightened Mind o% all the Buddhas hi.h up
in the ten directions and possessed the sa&e &erci%ul
po3er as the TathP.ata, The second 3as in sym$athy with
all living beings in the si9 real&s o% e9istence here +elo3 in
the ten directions and shared 3ith the& the sa&e plea %or
com$assion. CShuran.a&aD
So the Bodhisatt0a /0alokitesh0ara sa$s here that he %irst detached the o% hearin. %ro& the
o+(ect o% hearin.* 3hich he +eca&e a3are is +oth non:e9istent and 0oid* 3hich in turn led hi& to
the reali'ation o% Nir0ana" an all:e&+racin. +ri.htness* i,e, Enli.hten&ent* and a s$&path$ 3ith
all li0in. +ein.s* i,e, co&passion, /t this point the Buddha asks the 3isest o% all +odhisatt0as*
Man(ushri* to critiBue all the a%ore&entioned practices and sa$ 3hich one he thinks is the +est,
Man(ushri ans3ers that he considers the +est is the practice 3ith the %acult$ o% hearin.* since
hearin. is al3a$s present and can +e practiced - hours a da$"
=e0erentl$ I declare to the Tatha.atha 3hat /0alokitesh0ara said"
@%hen one dwells in silence* =olls o% dru&s in ten directions*
/ll can +e si&ultaneousl$ heard, Thus is hearin. co&plete,
Seein. cannot penetrate a screen* Neither can taste nor s&ellO
Feelin. co&es onl$ in contact* /nd in %ocus lack,
&ut sound whether near or far, 't all times can be heard(
The other senses are i&per%ect* Onl$ hearin. is trul$ per0asi0e,
The presence and a+sence o% sound* Percei0ed +$ the ear as e9istent or notO
/+sence o% sound &eans nothin. heard* Not hearin. de0oid o% its nature,
'bsence of sound is not the end of hearing* /nd presence o% sound is not its
+e.innin., )he faculty of hearing is unborn, *ndying and one with the )ruth,
E0en 3hen thou.hts stop* #earin. does not end, For hearin. is +e$ond all* Be$ond +oth &ind and +od$, CShuran.a&aD
OZMO PIEDMONT The Unstruck Sound
Final Paper
CBS 5!" #istor$ o% Buddhis&
>hen one .oes into the silence* one disco0ers the sound that can al3a$s +e heard* 3hich is ne0er
endin.* is un+orn* und$in.* and one 3ith the Truth* i,e, the Unstruck Sound, 2ater he .oes on to
descri+e ho3 to attain this hearin. throu.h the techniBue o% in0ertin. +$ turnin. one?s attention
3ithin throu.h one:pointed &editation"
To hear $our true sel%* $ou &ust invert* >hat $ou use to hear the Buddha?s 3ords,
#earin. has no natureO It o3es its na&e to sound,
+reed from sound by inverting hearing* >hat do Csic, $ou call this thin.Q
>hen one sense returns -sic, to its source, /ll other senses 3ill +e li+erated,
Seein. and hearin. are +oth illusions* 2ike %allin. %lo3ers in the sk$,
.earing without sound* The illusionar$ sense 0anishes,
>hen o+(ect is no &ore* the su+(ect is no &ore,
/nd pure is the &odhi attained, Its pure* per0ades all,
It?s shinin. stillness %illin. the 0oid, CShuran.a&aD
There%ore* +$ in0ertin. one?s attention in3ard* throu.h &editation* one +eco&es %reed %ro&
e9ternal sound* hearin. the soundless sound* ena+lin. one to return to the Ulti&ate source o% all
sound* the Bodhi, This Bodhi is eBuated 3ith enli.hten&ent 3hich is in turn eBuated 3ith the
Tatha.ata* or Buddha"
2ike3ise are the senses* Deri0ed %ro& one /la$a Cstore consciousnessD,
I% one returns to the source* So 3ill the other senses %ollo3,
>ith all illusions ended* &odhi is thereby attained,
De%ile&ent represents sentient +ein.s* #nlightenment re$resents the )athagata.
Man(ushri ends +$ praisin. the conte&plation o% sound as superior to all other &ethods in
attainin. Nir0ana* declarin. that all the Buddhas and Bodhisatt0as ha0e also &astered this
teachin.* 3hich he considers as the +est one to practice in this corrupted era"
Buddhas o% all 3orlds* Man$ as sands*
Thus entered this Nir0ana, 'll the $ast )athagatas, .ave this method $erfected.
'll the $resent &odhisattvas, .ave this teaching mastered.
/ll $ou %uture sentient +ein.s* Should learn this dhar&a 3ell,
OZMO PIEDMONT The Unstruck Sound
Final Paper
CBS 5!" #istor$ o% Buddhis&
/0alokitesh0ara did not practice aloneO For I Man(usri 3as 3ith hi&,
The Enli.htened and >orld:honoured One* /sked &e %or the +est e9pedient* +or
those in the /harma ending era, %ho wish to esca$e from this Samsara( 0n their
search for Nirvana, 0t1s best to contem$late sound2-Shuran.a&aD,
!. Teachers and Teachin"s
Thou.h the Shuran.a&a Sutta is %ro& the Maha$ana linea.e* Buddhist practitioners and
leaders %ro& 0arious ha0e incorporated the &editation on the Unstruck or Soundless
Sound into their teachin.s, One such &onk co&es %ro& the Forest D3ellin. tradition o%
Thera0ada linea.e, >hen the Buddhist teachin.s 3ere %irst 3ritten do3n in the %irst centur$
BCE* learnin. 3as considered &ore i&portant than &editation* 3ithout 3hich the ori.inal
teachin.s 3ould +e lost* adherin. to the &onastic rules* Kina$a* and austere practices ai&in. to
culti0ate non:attach&ent and 0i.or* li0in. o%% al&s* eatin. one &eal a da$* and li0in. under a tree
%ar %ro& the* and sleepin. in the sittin. position C#ar0e$* pp, 8:85D The &onk /(ahn
Su&edho +elon.s to the Forest D3ellers tradition, #e happened upon the soundless sound +$
accident in )744 3hile 3alkin. in the Buiet ni.htti&e streets o%* ha0in. le%t his ho&e in
Thailand* 3hose ni.hts 3ere Buite nois$ due to the ;un.le sounds, #e in0esti.atin. this
soundless sound* due to its constanc$ and holistic Bualities* 3hich onl$ later he disco0ered as
+ein. discussed in the Shuran.a&a Sutra"
I al3a$s use the practice o% listenin. to the sound o% silence R that su+tle*
continuous* inner tone in the +ack.round o% e9perience R +ecause e0er$
ti&e I open to the &ind* that?s 3hat I hear, Its presence contains and e&+races the
+od$* the e&otional Bualit$* and the thinkin. &ind all at once, ItFs not like /:B:C
or an$thin. in tande& or seBuence* +ut in (ust the 3a$ it is* as a 3hole* it
includesO it doesn?t pick and choose* as in @I 3ant this +ut I don?t 3ant that,A ;ust
noticin.* trustin.* and 0aluin. this a+ilit$ that each o% us has, ItFs so&ethin. to
reall$ treasure and culti0ate CSu&edho* !!4* p, )8<D
The Maha$ana Buddhist nun 1uo Cheen C!)!D anal$'es the Shuran.a&a Sutra +ased on the
teachin.s o% +oth /(ahn Su&edho and the 1reat Master ;$au.uan. %ro& the Chan linea.e,
OZMO PIEDMONT The Unstruck Sound
Final Paper
CBS 5!" #istor$ o% Buddhis&
Buddhis& arri0ed in China around 5! CE +$ 3a$ o% tra0elin. %orei.n &erchants, It 3as
in%luenced in its de0elop&ent +$ Con%ucian philosoph$ o% societal ethics* %ilial piet$* and
ancestor 3orship* as 3ell as +$ the Taoist philosoph$?s lo0e o% nature* 3ith an e&phasis on
har&on$* hu&ilit$* and co&passion* +$ %ollo3in. a &$sterious %orce o% nature called the Tao
C#ar0e$* p, )-5D, In the Chan linea.e .reat e&phasis is placed on &editation to disco0er oneFs
Buddha Nature 3hich is present in all thin.s* and that the 3orld is not di%%erent %ro& e&ptiness*
thusness* /+solute Mind* or Nir0ana C#ar0e$* pp, )5):)5D, This Buddha Nature is also
descri+ed as the Suchness o% =ealit$ +$ 1uo Cheen* 3ho sho3s ho3 the Shuran.a&a Sutra
descri+es the sound o% silence as the sensor$ o+(ect o% stillness* a superior &editation to consider*
since @Hsounds cannot +e eli&inated, No &atter 3here $ou are or ho3 Buiet it is* there are
sounds that cannot +e eli&inated, The Lsound o% silence? can there%ore +e ackno3led.ed as an
i&possi+le:to:eli&inate sound* the sensor$ o+(ect o% sound,ACCheen* p, 5D She .oes on to state
that the nature o% all sound is illusor$ and te&porar$* arisin. out o% the Suchness o% =ealit$
CCheen* p, 4D, One &ust not +e satis%ied in hearin. an$ sound* +ut rather one should return to the
nature o% hearin. itsel%* that 3hich is our Buddha nature, >e &ust learn @Hto hear the nature o%
hearin.* instead o% the sensor$ o+(ects o% sound,A CCheen* p,5D The nature o% hearin. neither
co&es nor ceases* is not ph$sical* nor an aspect o% consciousness,ACCheen* p, )!D One &ust
learn to listen* not to the sensor$ o+(ects o% sound* +ut rather to the nature o% hearin.* that 3hich
has the a+ilit$ to listen, The on.oin. in0esti.ation +eco&es L>ho is it that listensQ? CCheen* p,
))D One re0erses the hearin.* to hear one?s inherent nature instead o% the o+(ects o% sound,
CCheen* p, )-D
Zen Buddhis& o% ;apan e0ol0ed out o% the Chan Buddhis& %ro& China* around the <
CE* e&phasi'in. &editation as the pri&ar$ &eans to Enli.hten&ent throu.h either sudden
OZMO PIEDMONT The Unstruck Sound
Final Paper
CBS 5!" #istor$ o% Buddhis&
reali'ation o% one?s Buddha Nature* as in the =in'ai school* or .radual un%oldin. o% reali'ation*
as in the Soto school C#ar0e$* p, )54D, ;apanese Zen 3as hea0il$ in%luenced +$ the indi.enous
reli.ion o% Shintois&* 3hich 3orshiped di0ine +ein.s as personal or i&personal %orces %ound in
nature* and a deep appreciation o% natural +eaut$ and ritual purit$ C#ar0e$* p, )<)D It places a
.reat %ocus on intuiti0e kno3in.* sel% disco0er$* ethical discipline* and a disre.ard %or death,
The =in'ai school had an a%%init$ 3ith the 3arrior class o% ;apan* the Sa&urai* 3hereas the Soto
school 3as &ore popular 3ith the co&&on people* kno3n as the 3a$ o% the %ar&er C#ar0e$* p,
)<5,D The )-th C, CE ;apanese Zen teacher Bassui Tokusho ad0ocated &editation 3ith @listenin.
to the listenerA as a 3a$ to return to one?s ori.inal nature o% Buddhahood* dra3in. %ro& the
Shuran.a&a Sutra and the 7
C CE teachin.s o% 2in:chi I:hsuan as a (usti%ication %or this practice
CBra0er&an* !!* p, )-D, 2in:chi* the %ounder o% the =in'ai Zen linea.e* also encoura.ed his
students to @listen to the listenerA to reali'e enli.hten&ent* sa$in."
I% $ou 3ish to +e %ree and untra&&eled in the 3orld o% +irths and deaths,,,'e no3 the &an 3ho is listenin. to &$ ser&on* 3ho is a+o0e shape
and %or&* not rooted or planted in an$ place* nor a+idin. in an$ a+ode, Eet he is
0er$ &uch ali0e and alert* respondin. readil$ to all situations 3ith his unli&ited
resource%ulness* per%or&in. his %unction accordin. to the circu&stances 3ithout
+ein. pinned do3n to an$, #e eludes $our e&+racin.* e0ades $our seekin.,
#ence he &a$ +e called the 1reat no3* this man is clearl$ +e%ore
our e$es 3ith a +ri.htness uniBuel$ his o3n,,, C>u* !!8D,
Zen Buddhist teachers ha0e also used the sound o% silence in koans* 3hich are riddles to
+e re%lected upon in &editation* directin. the practitioner +ack to his or her ori.inal nature, In the
+ook 3en +lesh, 3en &ones there is a stor$ illustratin. the use o% the soundless sound 3hen the
teacher asks his pupil"
Eou can hear the sound o% t3o hands 3hen the$ clap to.ether, No3 sho3 &e the
sound o% one hand,G
The pupil .oes o%% to &editate on this &atter, #e hears so&e .eisha &usic throu.h
his 3indo3 and thinks that this is the ans3er, So he returns to his teacher* and on
OZMO PIEDMONT The Unstruck Sound
Final Paper
CBS 5!" #istor$ o% Buddhis&
+ein. asked the Buestion he pla$s the .eisha &usic as his ans3er, NoS The teacher
sends hi& a3a$ to &editate %urther,
>hile conte&platin. the Buestion a.ain* the pupil hears 3ater drippin. %ro& a
.utter, Back he .oes to the teacher and i&itates Nthe sound o% one handN as
drippin. 3ater, NoS GThatNs the sound o% drippin. 3ater* not the sound o% one
hand*G sa$s the teacher* and sends hi& a3a$ to practise &ore,
The pupil keeps tr$in., NThe sound o% one handN is the si.hin. o% the 3ind, NoS
NThe sound o% one handN is the hootin. o% an o3l, NoS
NThe sound o% one handN is the chirpin. o% locusts, NoS
/t last* a%ter al&ost a $ear* he 3ent to his teacher, G>hat is the sound o% one
handQG asked the teacher, But no3 the pupil 3as di%%erentO he had transcended all
sounds and co&e to the sound#ess sound* the sound o% one hand* and he
de&onstrated his realisation to the teacher, C=eps* )754D
In the +ook )he Sound of the 4ne .and5 678 3en 9oans with 'nswers* C#o%%&ann* )744D the
correct ans3er is .i0en to this sa&e koan" @/ns3er" The pupil %aces the &aster* takes a correct
posture* and 3ithout a 3ord* thrusts one hand %or3ard,A
$. %onc#usion
The Unstruck Sound has +een sho3n to +e a 3ell supported teachin. 3ithin 0arious
Buddhist* te9ts* and teachers* includin. Thera0ada* Maha$ana* Ka(ra$ana* Forest
Meditation D3ellers* Chan* =in'ai and Soto Zen, The %acult$ o% listenin.* +ein. %ore0er
constant in one?s perception is an e9cellent 3a$ o% turnin. 3ithin to disco0er one?s true nature,
Since the Unstruck Sound is not tied to the o+(ects o% listenin.* +ein. itsel% the o+(ect o% the
nature o% hearin.* it is the easiest 3a$ to turn in3ard to %ind the o% listenin. %ro& 3hich all
e&* the suchness o% e&ptiness, >hether one is @listenin. to the listenerA or @hearin. the
sound o% silenceA* the Unstruck Sound can ulti&atel$ lead to Enli.hten&ent Itsel%* sho3in. the
door to Nir0ana and the =eali'ation o% Buddhahood,
OZMO PIEDMONT The Unstruck Sound
Final Paper
CBS 5!" #istor$ o% Buddhis&
Bra0er&an* /urthur, C!!D Mud and >ater" The Collected >orks o% Teachin.s o% Zen Master
Bassui, >isdo& Pu+lications" So&er0ille* M/,
Cheen* 1uo, C!)!D @>ho?s 2istenin.QA Uploaded 8M)4M!)!, SC=IBD,
/ccessed )M!M!)
Cheen* 1uo, C!)D @Meditatin. upon the Sound o% Silence" the /stral Bell Sound #eard Behind
the Silence o% MeditationsA,
/s %ound inH
Dalai 2a&a* #is #oliness Ten'in 1$atso* The Fourteenth Dalai 2a&a o% Ti+et,
@On the &eanin. o%" OM M/NI P/DME #UM,ACFro& a lecture .i0en +$ #is
#oliness The Dalai 2a&a o% Ti+et at the 6al&uck Mon.olian Buddhist Center* Ne3
;erse$,D Transcri+ed +$ N.a3an. Tashi CTsa3aD* Drepun. 2oselin.* MUN1OD*
/ccessed Fe+, )<* !),
1ordon* Da0id, C!!:!!4D @/:U:M:SilenceHthe ancient sound o% LOM?A
/ccessed Fe+, )<* !),
OZMO PIEDMONT The Unstruck Sound
Final Paper
CBS 5!" #istor$ o% Buddhis&
#ar0e$* Peter, C)77!D, 'n 0ntroduction to &uddhism5 )eachings, history and $ractices.
Ca&+rid.e Uni0ersit$ Press" Ne3 Eork* N,E,
#o%%&ann* Eoel* trans, )he Sound of the 4ne .and5 678 3en 9oans %ith 'nswers, Ne3 Eork"
Basic Books, )744,
/s accessed inH
6on.trul 2odrW Ta$X* ;a&.Wn, Cauthor* co&pilerDO Elio 1uarisco CtranslatorDO In.rid Mc2eon
Ctranslator* editorD C!!5D, )he treasury of knowledge5 book six, $art four5 Systems of
&uddhist )antra, Ithaca* Ne3 Eork* US/" Sno3 2ion Pu+lications,
/s %ound 3ithin 6on.trul 2odro Ta$e Cauthor* co&pilerDO 6alu =inpoche Translation
1roup CtranslatorsD C)775* !!8D, )he )reasury of 9nowledge, &ook 4ne( Myriad
%orlds5 &uddhist :osmology in 'bhidharma, 9;lacakra, /!og-chen,
2ondhe* Susha&a, C!!5D ' )ribute to .induism5 )houghts and %isdom S$anning :ontinents
and )ime 'bout 0ndia and her :ulture. Pra.un Pu+lications" Ne3 Delhi* India,
/s accessed Fe+, )<* !)
Mahali Sutta CDN <D* TripitakaMSutta PitakaMDi.ha Nika$aMSilakkhandha:0a..a,
/ccessed Fe+, )4* !),
OZMO PIEDMONT The Unstruck Sound
Final Paper
CBS 5!" #istor$ o% Buddhis&
Ma((hi&a Nika$a, II, 8,4, Mahaa:sakuludaa$isutta,&
C44D /d0ice to the 3anderin. /scetic Sakuluda$i, Sister Upala0anna CTrans,D,
Kipassana,In%o, Source" Metta Net* Sri 2anka* http"MM333,&etta,lk
/ccessed Fe+, )4* !).
Michael* Ed3ard Sali&, C!)!D, )he <aw of 'ttention - Nada =oga and the %ay of 0nner
>igilance* Inner Traditions" Ker&ont,
Nor+u* Cho.$al Na&khai, C/u.ust !!)D @>orkin. 3ith Circu&stancesA* The Mirror"
Ne3spaper o% the International D'o.chen Co&&unit$, Edited +$ 2i' and Nao&i
/s accessed 3ithin
=eps* Paul* co&piler, C)754D 3en +lesh, 3en &ones5 ' :ollection of 3en and "re-3en %ritings.
Ne3 Eork" /nchor,
/s accessed inH
Shurangama Sutra. C!))D Taisho Tripitaka* No, 7-5, >ordPress,co&, Translated durin. the
Tan. D$nast$ +$ Shra&ana Para&iti %ro& central India, Chapter < /0alokites0araNs
Dhar&a:1ate REnli.htened throu.h the .ate3a$ o% ear,
OZMO PIEDMONT The Unstruck Sound
Final Paper
CBS 5!" #istor$ o% Buddhis&
/0alokitesh0ara?s Methods and Ko3sMM%ro& Shuran.a&a Sutra MM P/=T ) o%
/0alokitesh0araFs Meditation on #earin. %ro& Shuran.a&a SutraMM P/=T o%
Su&edho* /(ahn, C!!4D, LThe Sound o% Silence?, >isdo& Pu+lications" So&er0ille* M/,
>u* ;ohn, C!!8D, )he ?olden 'ge of 3en. >orld >isdo& Pu+lisher" Bloo&in.ton* Indiana,
/s %ound in,,,
Sa$in.s o% Other Tan. D$nast$ Ch?an Masters,

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