Buddhism as music — Vedanta as architecture.

by Trevor Leggett

Buddhism can be looked at in terms of music, whereas the Vedanta of the Upanishads could correspond to architecture, where reality is something immense and unchanging, with events, including human events, passing in and out, to and fro, like shadows. They pass away. But the great reality remains, unchanging. In Buddhism, on the other hand, Buddha‑nature is change. In this sense, Buddhism can be compared to music, the essence of which is also change.


As an example, take the familiar opening chords in Rachmaninov’s popu­lar Second Piano Concerto. The movement begins with seven crashing chords. Most pianists have to fake them today, as Rachmaninov wrote for his own hands, which were exceptional in their stretch. This is a famous dramatic passage. Each chord is different, but there is a dramatic inevitability in the sequence. Listening to it, each one is perfect in itself, but though it is perfect, we do not feel: Oh, let it stay. It is perfect. Let it stay forever. The next chord, too, is perfect and the next one. As we listen, we find that the sequence of the chords, too, is per­fect. Bukko is saying: Each chord is perfect, and the sequence is perfect. But you spoil it because when one is being played, you’re thinking it should stay. Or else you’re thinking of the next one, or perhaps of the last one, or perhaps all these things together. So you don’t appreciate the things as they stand.

An extract from The Old Zen Master

Read more teachings from Trevor Leggett here.

Categories: Buddhism, Buddhist, Chan / Seon / Zen, Trevor Leggett

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