Friday, January 25, 2008


“Master Po, what is silence?”

The old man sits on his cushion not even breathing or blinking.

Monk Ki, unaware as usual, misses the answer. “Master PO, did you hear my question?”

The old man looks at his student. “Yes.”

“So what is the answer? What is silence?”

“The old man slowly raises his hand as if to smash his student’s nose and the hand halts a millimeter from impact and hangs there in space with no further movement.

Once more poor Monk Ki does not understand. “The mountain stream makes noise. The blood coursing through my ears makes noise. I sit very still and I hear so many noises. It is as if there can be no silence.”

The old man shakes his head and lowers his hand.”When you eat, what noise do you hear?”

Monk Ki thinks a moment. “I hear my teeth grinding. I hear my tongue moving. I hear my throat swallow.”

“Last night when you were hungrily eating your rice and tofu, exactly what noise did you hear? Don’t tell me what noise you think you heard. What noise did you hear?”

Our intrepid student looks quizzically at his master. “I can’t tell you. I don’t remember.”

Te old man smiles. “Ah, perhaps there was no noise. Perhaps there was silence.” He laughs. “If you were to sit meditation with as much involvement as you attend to your eating, perhaps you might hear silence.”

“But master,”

“Hush, Monk Ki, I’m busy listening to the universe.”