Now at the end of this text, I wish to close with the mystery of the disappearance of the use of inner spontaneous sound as a meditation support in Tibetan Buddhism over the last few hundred years.

I am not singling out this spiritual tradition for any reason other than that the use, and its discontinuance, of inner spontaneous sound is sufficiently well documented in Tibetan Dzogchen that it provides a ready example of the kind of fate awaiting all meditation techniques, as well as their associated doctrinal systems, that the Buddha himself warned about in regards to his teachings, and all spiritual teachings.

This example is illustrative of how hard-won knowledge can be lost over time as misunderstandings accumulate, until, no longer comprehending the origin of that knowledge, nor why it was of such use in the past, it is relinquished to make way for “something better.”

So the mystery isn’t why it was lost in this way, but why it was lost at all, given the character of the glowing accolades for its simplicity, the testimony to its effectiveness, and most confusing of all, the assertions and evidence that it was the support and technique used by the greatest enlightened beings present at the founding of Buddhism — and all spiritual traditions.

For example, the Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī, who was second only to the Buddha himself, praised it as the most effective meditation technique of all, and asserted that it was the one that he himself, Gautama Buddha, “and all Buddhas,” used to reach full enlightenment — as well as Avalokitasvara, the bodhisattva who is the very embodiment of great responsiveness in Buddhism.⁠¹

And yet, it isn’t used anymore. In the 18th century, the Tibetan Vidyādhara Jigmé Lingpa commented in his still widely used Dzogchen instructional manual, the “Yeshe Lama,” that the so-called “yoga of sound” was actually performed by so few at the time he was writing, that it was acceptable to omit it from the Dzogchen practices, for which it was characterized as a “preliminary” practice, but one that uncharacteristically resulted directly in the attainment of enlightenment.

First, of the six million four hundred thousand verses on the natural Great Perfection, in the extraordinary root tantra “Reverberation of Sound” (sgra thal ‘gyur) it states:

“The stages of training in the three kayas emphasize the qualities of the elements. Diligently training in the sound of earth, water, fire, and wind will bring certain accomplishment.”

Thus, although this quote expresses the value of practicing with the four sounds [of the elements], since this is seldom practiced anymore, it is acceptable to omit this.⁠²

His remark is confusing, but perhaps it was meant to be that way just to highlight the general confusion about what the practice itself was — did it use the sound of “earth, water, fire, and wind,” the way it is characterized and understood today by so many, or the sounds of the four Elements, which are called Earth, Water, Fire, and Wind?

Does a practitioner sit by a waterfall listening to its thunderous roar? Or does she turn her hearing inward and listen to the inner spontaneous sound of the element Water that she is comprised of?

How simple it would be for us — enthusiastic future beach bums — if it was the former. But how simplistic an understanding that reflects.

Perhaps it was because, as Manjushri himself explained, this technique is the only practice that succeeds even in the absence of all Dharma, because this technique works directly with the original source of all such teachings themselves: the intrinsic resonances of Dharmata — inner spontaneous sound — so no teacher is needed.

Inner spontaneous sound is not a contingent or compounded evanescent phenomenon like that of a waterfall. This is why all Buddhas reach enlightenment through this technique alone — in the absence of any true and uncorrupted Dharma, how could anyone reach enlightenment using a technique that is dependent upon contingent and compounded phenomena?

Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī asked exactly this rhetorical question in the earlier quoted text from the Śūraṅgama Sūtra:

Merely turn your hearing round
To listen to your genuine true nature,
Which is the destination of the Path that is supreme.
This is the genuine way to break through to enlightenment.

It is the way that the innumerable Buddhas followed
Straight to nirvana’s gate. All Thus-Come Ones of eons past
Succeeded by this method.

Given this technique’s self-supporting nature then, what tradition should be built upon it? What teacher would be in demand to teach it, beyond giving a brief introduction and the sharing of the techniques for its use? What “-ism” should needfully support it?

Or perhaps its loss is because we have been so turned away from believing in our own experience, in having faith in our own heart’s wisdom, that we can’t fathom the idea that we can actually transform ourselves — literally — by turning toward something so close to us that we don’t even notice it anymore, and if we do, we think there is something wrong with us and seek out medical assistance.

Personally, I feel that the most important action that will potentially save us from the inevitable future that we humans have orchestrated for ourselves in this age, is for these practices to be available to anyone willing to make the effort to free themselves from the inculcated selfishness, disrespect of each other, and the commonplace malevolence that is the structural support of the opportunistic system of excessive consumption that we find ourselves forced to live in, and which is leading us all to ruin — in our own lives and to the world we live as a part of.

As well, by freeing ourselves from the tyranny of the imposed belief that we are nothing more than an accident of random material processes, on the one hand, or the plaything of a ruling lord in some heaven above us, on the other — both images inculcated into us by masters of manipulation masquerading as the conduits for absolute knowledge — we may once again take stock of ourselves and join hands in a compassionate and cooperative association that benefits all equally.

Our world is in desperate need of a cohort of self-less-ly compassionate people to help show us a different way forward, in order to inoculate us against the diseases of greed and egotistical uncaring: for we need to rise above the sociopathic behaviors that are expected of us by our society today. And to do this we need to learn how to allow ourselves to manifest self-less loving compassion, that is, Great Responsiveness, towards every living being — ourselves included.

We don’t need to become fully enlightened buddhas first to do that. The practices in this text using inner spontaneous sound transforms you as you focus upon it. It even changes your DNA in positive ways (all meditation does that). You have no control over these alchemical changes, nor do you need to effortfully work for it to happen — beyond the needed diligence in practicing these techniques.

Use these practices with inner spontaneous sound and your focus will move outwards, no longer centered within your misleading and undermining self-concerns — and indeed you will no longer be confined to your “self” existence. It may take you a thousand lifetimes, as the Buddhists say, to reach buddhahood; but in the meantime, in this life, you can become a being of light and loving compassion to everyone around you.

It seems that whenever ideas such as this — of a spiritual solution to today’s problems — is raised, it is invariably derided as superstitious nonsense; or it is just paid lip-service to by those in power. Yet today is different. We know more today, than in the past. And we are beginning to take stock of the irrefutable changes wrought through the use of meditation practices.

I’ve heard it said that once (upon a time) we were free to grow and transform ourselves while living in accordance with the rest of nature. Perhaps that Eden never truly existed. Today, however, we seem to be enchained to the idea of leaders, authorities, and experts who we must listen to and whose false and misleading ideas, posing as wisdom, we must defer to; all the while internalizing our own impotence to independently do the right thing. Because anyone who follows their heart is a fool, or so we are told. But if we look at history, look at the world around us, or look at the news tomorrow — we can all see what following “authorities” gets us.

Every human heart contains a seed of the truth in the form of an innate wonder and awe. Humans can look out upon their world and the greater universe and understand completely that there is something greater than the little “self” they think they each are, without having to listen to the intermediaries telling them they are wrong — that it is all just an illusion in their illusory little minds.

Yet we can feel that awe as we gaze upon this awesome world, using our own inherent wisdom to dismantle the grotesque facade that has been placed over reality in order to blind us from the truth. It is in this way that we can begin to understand that which we are an indivisible aspect of. We can stand in wonder of it and seek our own answers, stirring that seed of hope — that is already in our heart — into life.

But people such as this are hard to rule, hard to manipulate, and hard to confuse as to what is right and what is not, so the very idea of self-transformation was first demonized by organized religionists seeking hegemony for themselves, while today it is ridiculed from within the crowd of adherents of scientism — forever stuck in their mechanical view of the universe, that has also taken hold of our own minds, shading everything we think we know.

You may think humanity has made progress because we are no longer ruled by fear; but we are still ruled by it — all the old fears still lie in wait for us, wielded by some authority or other against us, as well as the ever-present fear of ridicule wielded by the “experts,” who have weaponized ridicule in order to keep their hegemonic control over our minds.

Rather than facilitating a focus on self-transformation, our time — our lives — are directed to competing and fighting — for everything. For food, for comfort, for “truth”, and for “happiness” — we are sacrificed in the internecine wars and conflicts of the authorities who speak for God, or Science, or “Truth,” or “Justice…”

But God doesn’t need a spokesperson, and it doesn’t matter if your understanding is that “God” and “Nature” are the same thing, or that there is a “greater force” at work in the universe. Look around you, feel what’s in your heart. What need is there for cheap human words in the face of such awe and wonder, once we free ourselves of self-doubt?

Nor is science an authority on anything other than its own field — it is ridiculous that we are now relying on science to provide us with their “findings” on the efficacy of meditation techniques that have been known and documented for millennia, long before anyone thought to patent the “scientific” method.

We don’t need a science of meditation — but we do need a meditation of science in order to disclose the unfounded preconceptions and unsightly unknowns brushed under the carpet in a thoroughly lazy act of hubris by those who “know better than us.” Science is a method to find practical truths, the little brothers of the Absolute Truth which lies always just beyond our grasp — and that is the wonder of it.

And what of that Absolute Truth? It’s signature is everywhere — all we need do is look around without our conceptual blinders on. We are that Truth also, so why would we need any intermediary to spin us some illusion as they send us on our wasted journey to our exhausted deaths? Isn’t it enough that we nurture the seed that is already planted in our heart at birth? Why is that a scary thought today for most people? Because it goes against the crowd mentality that is our jailor?

So, paraphrasing a Buddhist aphorism, if you meet an authority on the road one day, kill him — it’s a metaphor for the process of transforming ourselves, leaving behind the fears and illusions that we have been taught to live by, forgetting all the ideas that limit us, and the idols we have been told to honor, while turning our attention to that which is in our heart, feeling the awe and wonder that is our birthright.

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།


¹ See “The Śūraṅgama Sūtra,” Buddhist Text Translation Society, 2009, pgs 253–257

² “Yeshe Lama,” translated by Lama Chönam and Sangye Khandro, Snow Lion Publications, 2008, pg 21

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