Excerpt from My Buddhist Journal; A Year in the Life of a Buddhist
One Hand Clapping
That’s a strange turn of phrase, “to the centre of the universe.” Perhaps not as strange as I once thought. The idea of seeing straight to the centre of the universe came to me during a sitting at the centre. We were all seated and at rest, when the meditation guide struck the brass bowl with a rubber wrapped stick. It’s a sound I’ve heard dozens of times before.
I started thinking about what caused the sound. Obviously the striking of the bowl with the stick and the resultant vibration of the bowl setting up pressure waves in the air and causing my eardrums to reverberate, etc. On the surface, all of that is true, that’s how we’ve been taught to think. Yet something else was there.
In reality (there’s an interesting choice of words) what happened is that I heard the sound of the universe. That bowl had makers, people who knew how to forge the metal. It also had others, somewhere in history, who learned how to extract metal from ore, knew how to find ore, knew how to mine. It had farmers who provided the food for those who knew all the previous. It had a cart and driver to haul the food or ore, and a wheel-right and an ox keeper, etc. The stick was made of wood and needed soil and sunshine and water and appropriate nutrients and oxygen. It needed an entire world to be cooked in the furnace of the big bang.
The sound the bowl made upon being struck needed a, “no sound,” for how could there be sound without silence and vice-versa? It needed parents of the person who wielded the stick. Thank you lust.
Without everything that came before it, the bowl could not have sounded. Without the entire universe in which all these things came together the bowl could not have existed to sound. Quite sobering.
This makes me think about that Zen koan or riddle that asks something along the lines of, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” Maybe the sound of one hand clapping is the same as two hands clapping and the same as ten hands clapping. It’s the emptiness of one hand not clapping or two hands not clapping, nor ten. It’s the same sound as the bowl, it’s the sound of the universe before we add our biases.