Good morning everyone! This is today’s Dharma Espresso on Cultivating the Ears.
Yesterday, I talked about cultivating the tongue. The tongue is connected to one's heart where
love resides. Thus the tongue is a tool to express that love. We should be mindful of the timing, the circumstances and the appropriateness of what we say. We should speak gently, using kind and peaceful words so we can touch and open people’s hearts.
I also talked about cultivating the eyes. The eyes are connected to the soul, the essence of human nature, also called Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Our eyes should look and see Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in all things around us. Thus, the cultivation of the eyes is very important, helping us to see and feel the beauty so that our viewpoint will not be influenced and obscured by evil acts. That is the cultivation of the eyes, the liver, and the soul, so the essence inside us turns toward Truth, Goodness, and Beauty more and more every day.
Today I shall talk about cultivating the ears. The ears are connected to one’s kidneys. The
ears and the kidneys are very special organs because there are two ears and two kidneys. The two ears are not located on the mouth or on the forehead, but on each side of the head, next to the temples. Why? Because they want to listen to all the sounds, sounds around them, sounds of the past and present; the ears want to listen to everything.
The eyes can see the front only, not the back; the eyes can see the present only, not the past. The ears are different. The ears can listen to everything. To listen to everything, we are required to utilize both ears: listening to the good and the bad, to the right and the wrong. Then, as the ears listen to everything, we feel we get deeper into the darkness, like we are entering a cave, and that cave leads to a place called the kidneys.
A cave is a very dark place and, as we all know, a place full of fear. When we enter a cave, we never want to go alone. We need some kind of light to guide us, since a cave is a symbol of something very dark such as schemas, fears, and blind spots; it also symbolizes the sub-consciousness, the very deep consciousness inside us.
Therefore we need to know “how to listen” while the right and the wrong, the good and the
bad we heard slowly get into our deepest consciousness. For that reason, the ears are closely connected to the kidneys, and the kidneys are found at the back, not in the front or in the abdomen area. Neither are they are in the chest area for us to gently massage them.
Most of the time when we listen to something, we let it enter our sub-consciousness; we kind of suppress it and let it fall into the darkness. Why is that? Because we do not have the ability
to harmonize or synthesize it. So how should we listen? We should follow Confucius’s advice. What did he advise? He suggested us “to listen without protest”. He said people can have that ability only when they are close to 60 years old. The ability “to listen without protest” is to listen without resistance or fighting, without selecting what we want to hear or
not to hear. It is the ability to listen in such a way that we can understand the motive of the person who tells the story or the story itself. To listen without protest is to listen without bias.
For further explanations, we need to mention the name of a bodhisattva we are very familiar
with. That is Kwan Yin Bodhisattva. “Kwan” in Vietnamese means “listening”, not only seeing. “Yin” means “sounds”. Kwan Yin means listening to all sentient beings’ sounds. For what purpose? This is the key to our ear cultivation. We listen so we can understand deep inside people’s minds.
Sometimes, a person has lots of sufferings, but when they talk, they just talk about fame or wealth; however inside themselves, there is no peace, just suffering. If we listen to those sufferings and have empathy with them, we are helping that person become less fearful. Our goal of listening is to have empathy for the sufferings accumulated for many years inside that person. Sometimes we listen to feel their intention or motive. It could be the intention to seek revenge, to kill somebody, but behind that intention is a suffering soul of someone who once got hurt and lost everything. Sometimes we listen to recognize behind the spoken words, the wishes or yearnings that never got fulfilled. Sometimes we listen to feel that, as human beings, we are as small as a tiny dust in the universe. We should listen more and more deeply in order to understand and to have empathy. Words have no problems reaching our ears or eardrum. But the more important word inside “listening” is “empathy”. We listen with a goal to understand, to have empathy.
Another special reason to follow Kwan Yin Bodhisattva’s teaching is to listen in such a way that we can open up to our True Mind. Her method of listening is “using the ear organ for complete and thorough listening”, reaching deep into the True Mind. To reach our True Mind is to see Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in all things at all times. Not only should we listen to sentient beings’ sufferings but also to their beautiful aspects. We listen so we can touch, see, feel, perceive, and understand. What we call True Mind is our inherent or ever-present clarity and light within us. In summary, the ears should be seen as an extremely important tool to accomplish empathy, a complete and thorough understanding. Hence, throughout our life, we should sit down and listen to people who hate us, people who get mad at us, people who love us, and people who are suffering. In particular, we should listen to people who are sick, people who work with us, and people who are younger. Doing so, we will feel very good since it will transform us into
a thorough and complete person. When we hate somebody and say, “I don’t want to listen to you any more” we stop being the perfect and complete person we were born to be.
Enjoy today’s Dharma Espresso.
Dharma Master Heng Chang
(Translated and transcribed by Compassionate Service Society)