The Jewel of Listening
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I had returned from the monastery during a time of serious tension. It had been rumored that a nun had attained absorption--but it was almost impossible to really know for sure. The anxiety surrounding the incident was high and the monks were keeping a strict poker face about the matter. Indeed, the repercussions if this entire matter. If it were true would be potentially embarrassing. This is why I decided to keep quiet and go for a walk in the forest.
I had heard about absorptions, but had never really experienced one, nor had I really spoken to anyone--who had attained concentration that was possible of really generating one. The entire matter was quite mysterious to me. Yet, here I was in the forest contemplating the possibility that someone I knew in the monastery had actually attained an absorption. It was hard to know the truth. But I was determined to discover it. No matter what it took--even if it meant arousing the anger of the monks. It was well known in some circles that I was a fearless detective.
Being a detective is like falling into an abyss. One walks off the edge of a cliff looking for clues to solve the mystery. Getting an absorption is very much the same proposition. The absorber is just swallowed up in an ocean of total mind. The absorber begins to drop away from the sensory realm and begins to weaken the ego which feeds off it. Sex and food become less important. The mind enters into a more subtler space and the craving for sublime experiences becomes the new trap-door for the unsuspecting absorber. The new sublime experience generated a soft saintly glow in the absorber.
This is what I had observed then in the nun under observation. Her ignorance of meditation theory had served her well. There had been no expectations. The mind had been caught off guard and now she was glowing. She also refused to serve the monks and this had added potential insult to injury. Many of the monks had sat for years and had failed to attain absorption. Now an upstart nun has accomplished the feat in three weeks. Or so it seemed.
Only a master with super-normal powers could know for sure. However this monastery had only one candidate for this honor and he was keeping quiet. This canidate was the abbot. I had spoken to him and he had confirmed the nun's achievement--but a few hours later, his assistant had denied he had said such a thing. Thus the matter was thrown into question once again. Perhaps, politics was involved. Perhaps not. There had been a lot of politics lately. The detective was no stranger to any of this.
There was actually two questions that had to be answered. Had the nun achieved absorption and if she had which one? For there there were eight and each higher absorption like a rung on a ladder led to a higher bliss state. The abbot had mentioned that the nun had just gotten to the second absorption--but this had all been thrown into question by the assistant's denial.
Unfortunately, the climate for cool and careful inquiry was not a serious possibility, for the detective had been angered by the behavior of one of the monks. This monk had ripped up and thrown away a photograph of the detective sitting in a chair in front of a group of standing monks. The incident could have been trivial to an outsider, but in the monastery voices had been raised over the incident. It was rumored that the negative had also been destroyed. But this was impossible to independently confirm. It was in this state of curious affairs that the detective found the jewel of listening.
I had been sitting near a tree when I noticed a slight shimmering near a pile of dead leaves. On closer inspection the shimmering revealed a small piece of glass no larger than a marble. It looked quite ordinary.
The detective would have completely ignored it had he not also noticed a slight tinkling in the air. Indeed it was barely audible.
The matter of solving the riddle of the nun continued to plague me. I didn't have time for pieces of glass or tinkling noises.
But the tinkling became louder until the detective was compelled to pick up the object in question and for reasons not fully understood he put it in his ear to listen. To his great surprise he heard a voice. At first it was faint. But with time it grew louder. The tinkling sound became an ocean roar. The detective could hear a voice now. It said: " All negative thoughts are black magic. "
I was startled by this message. I was worried about absorption and this piece of glass was telling me that negative thoughts were black magic! perhaps there was something to this--but there was no time to worry about this. A mystery needed solving. But once again the piece of glass spoke: " Listen to your heart. " This message startled me.
The detective became sad. He thought about a young girl he had fought with and had realized too late that he really adored her. A last minute reconciliation had opened a hole in the wall between them and it was through this hole that now something warmer wanted to flow through. Alas the young girl was gone and now the detective sat in the forest alone. Dusk was setting and he picked himself up to go to his cell for a good night's rest. The piece of glass felt slightly painful as the detective lay on his stomach. The detective was really no stranger to pain.
The piece of glass continued to talk. The detective listened in the dark. He could hear the voice saying" Go into that stillness so deep...." the voice then trailed off. The detective strained to listen. He heard the voice again: Out of bliss comes intelligence, out of misery comes stupidity. " The detective was startled by this and quickly sat up in his bed and listened to his labored breathing. He realized that he could now hear his heart. All he had to do was just listen....
The next morning the detective was walking in the courtyard when the nun passed him by and gazed at him with her deep penetrating blue eyes. The voice quietly said: " I want to be loved. " The nun shifted her gaze and walked on. Then a monk passed by and the voice said: " I want peace. " The detective was startled. What could this mean? Then he heard the voice within himself say: " Do you love her? Do you love him? Stop chewing on the crust and start biting deeper into the loaf. "
The detective remembered something the nun had told him. She had told him that space and time were an illusion. That you somehow had to go beyond it in order to be a good listener. The detective thought how stupid it all really was. He lived in a culture that chopped up and sold to the highest bidder bits of space and time. The struggle for these bits of space and time created a lot of high anxiety. How can someone really buy and sell time?
This reflection was distracting the detective from solving the riddle of the absorption. He walked over to the rose bushes and heard the glass speak: " You are not your mind. Go beyond it and listen inside the stillness. That stillness is the heart speaking. Learn to listen...."
All of a sudden the abbot came out and asked the detective what he was doing. The detective failed to answer and the abbot pointed to the hose nearby. The detective failed to listen and the abbot raised his voice. The detective still wasn't listening and the abbot was now shouting. His face wore an angry scowl....this startled the detective.
I finally understood what the abbot wanted. I uncoiled the hose and began watering the roses. The abbot calmed down and began to smile. I then asked him: " did she attain an absorption? " The abbot smiled and looked at the roses. I then asked: " Number one or two? " I pointed towards my fingers. The abbot raised two fingers and continued gazing at the roses. I realized now that this business was concluded.