Chapter 8: Going beyond the Senses
Practice turns misery into pleasure and pleasure into misery. If you go on tolerating misery, your sensitivity decreases and you become accustomed to it. Misery becomes a habit. If you are continually happy it creates boredom, it creates uneasiness, and you want to get rid of it also.
If we can understand what is pleasant and what is not pleasant then we can understand how happiness turns into suffering. What is pleasant? What do you call pleasant? The sage has said: What is favorable to and in accord with the senses is pleasing - in harmony with the senses, not you - and what is not favorable to and in accord with the senses is unpleasing.
Music is pleasing when the musical vibrations are in harmony with your ears - then it does not disturb you, then the music does not trouble you but instead it helps to pacify the turmoil within. But this is not always so. For a man who is in deep silence even music is unpleasant, because even music is a disturbance.
A great Western musician, Schubert, used to say this about music: Music is a composition of sounds which are the least unpleasant, the least disturbing. But there is disturbance, because, after all, music too is an outcome of friction. The ultimate music is silence, and for someone who knows that silence, music is not a joy to his ear.
Hui-Hai was a great Chinese musician. The deeper his music went, the more silent his musical instrument became. Then one day he threw his instrument away. His fame had spread far and wide, people used to come to hear him from distant places. But the next day, in the morning, when new visitors came to listen to him and they saw him sitting under a tree without his instrument, they asked him where it was.
Hui-Hai answered, “Now this instrument has become a disturbance to the music. When the music becomes complete the veena, the musical instrument, has to be discarded.”
And there is a reason for it.. If we understand it rightly, then musical sounds are enchanting to our ears because there are so many unpleasant sounds within us, there is so much disturbance and so much chaos within us. In that chaos, these enchanting sounds are like tranquilizers. They feel pleasant, they are consoling, and they create a kind of silence. But if the music is chaotic, only a frantic noise, it becomes distasteful and painful to the ears because it creates uneasiness and there is no tranquility achieved.
Within our physical system, the senses are the doors that allow the happenings which occur in the outer world to enter inside. What-ever makes them feel calm and quiet is pleasant to them, whatever makes them uneasy is unpleasant to them. That is all that “pleasant” and “unpleasant” mean, nothing more than this. But what pacifies the senses today may disturb them tomorrow, because the senses themselves are like a flowing river, changing from moment to moment.