Playing By Ear
This is something really difficult to talk about, and not for everyone’s ears.
Everything can be done either by learning the ‘notes’ (text) or experiencing and realising. Again, this brings to mind the words, “Do not take my word for it; test it for yourself.”
The short video below is about playing the piano by ear, rather than reading the notes on a page. It’s the nearest I’ve come to someone explaining how experiencers – rather than those who learn by rote – work. There is no right and wrong to either method, but one may feel more natural to us.
Both the realisation of the nature of mind and the creation of a self cannot be achieved through theories. We only understand through experiencing and then realising.
The point to acknowledge is that the note reader has to have the notes to play the tune, while the ear player has to know the tune first.
To be a teacher, we have to be a scholar of some sort, but realisation can take place by being an ‘ordinary’ being who does not teach. As shown in the video, those who play by ear cannot teach it, but only indicate the way that they see it or play with it.
The trick is finding a key element that works for us, and improvising on that. This is what the Buddha did, and this is what we have to do. My key element is, “Do not take my word for it”, so I don’t have to copy others. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve asked, in private interviews with a lama, “Do I have to be like them? Like the other students?” This was always met with a blank expression 😀 For you, the key element that works may be different.
It’s a problem that I’ve had all my life: when going to retreats or teachings, I feel there are too many words, too many hidden rules, too many answers. I always wish we could just sit together, quietly.
In spiritual groups, there are the scholars (word lovers), the ritualists (the worshippers), and the experiencers (those who play by ear), which all bring us into subtle conflict with other students because of the different ways in which we all see and hear things. When talking to others after a teaching, I used to wonder if we had actually attended the same teaching!
The Buddha found his own way. Any Buddha would the same, and we have to too. This isn’t about inventing a new path which is self-orientated; it’s about how we see, and what works for us.
As I have many ‘melodies’ going around my mind at the same time on a similar theme, I’m putting this forward as well:
How Far Away Is Enlightenment?
This blog is about conclusions formed over fifty years of spiritual practice. after having come into contact with many teachers. Maybe, like me, you thought that enlightenment was way, way up there – something very mysterious, with a fancy dress and a fancy name. After all, the term ‘Rinpoche’ means ‘precious one’ or ‘jewel-like’ (or, one could say expensiveness!).
If this was the case, we have all those steps up the ladder to climb to enlightenment, with all those special practices to adopt: the 4 x 111,111 (or more) Ngondro practices, for example, are very intense. But what if the ladder wasn’t like that at all? What if there is no ladder? What if there is only a suggestion of a ladder? What if all the rungs of this ladder are made of illusory obstacles?
In reality, we are not, in fact, refining our practice; we are taking away all the nonsense! We have been standing on the ground all along, being told there is a ladder to climb when, in fact, we are already where we should be, on the ground here and now.
One might say, “Well that’s ego talking – wishful thinking.” One might say that, but I’m not saying that.
What would an enlightened person be doing right now? Just seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, hearing. No magic tricks, no supernatural powers, but just being aware, content and happy. We may be tired and aching, with lots to maintain in our life, but we can still be aware, content and happy.
Humans can develop skills. They can lay bricks, run fast, talk eloquently, write marvellous verses, gather a crowd together, tell stories of miracles … but these are all just things that humans can do. Or we may have no particular skills. Karma brings different things to different people, or nothing at all.
What if enlightenment was just being ‘ordinary’, with feet on the ground, here and now? The point is that we don’t want to be ‘ordinary’; we do not think of ourselves as ordinary. We want to special. We want to believe in old texts and stories, rather than that which is actually experienced. What if this dualistic believing only creates more rungs on the ladder?
We know enough by knowing we are pure knowingness itself. Pure awareness, pure consciousness. The moment we hear the wrong note in the mind, it is satisfaction enough! 😀