The sound of silence is like a subtlety behind everything that you awaken to; you don't notice it if you're seeking the extremes. Yet as we start to become more poised, more present, fully receptive of all this moment has to offer, we start to experience it vividly and listening to it can draw us ever--deeper into the mysteries of now.
Always skillful and good humored, Ajahn Sumedho's teachings defy boundaries. Anyone--from laypeople looking to deepen their grasp of the Buddha's message, to lifetime Buddhist monastics--will appreciate the author's sparkling insights into to such key Buddhist themes as awareness, consciousness, identity, relief from suffering, and mindfulness of the body. The Sound of Silence represents the best of Ajahn Sumedho's masterful work to help us all see each life with a new and sustaining clarity.
Ajahn Sumedho was born Robert Jackamn in Seattle, Washington in 1934. He was raised as Anglican and from 1951 to 1953 studied Chinese and history at the University of Washington. He served as a medic for the US Navy until returning to the University to ccomplete a BA in Far Eastern Studies in 1959. In 1966 he went to Thailand and was ordained as a novice Buddhist; in 1967 he received a full ordination.
I first read this book 7 or 8 years ago. It blew my mind then at the very beginning of my practice, now after all those years if anything its impact has been even greater. After years of meditation and reading the teachings of Sumedho penetrate deeply. He expresses himself with such clarity, unmuddied by jargon or woolly thinking. He is for me one of the outstanding western teachers of the Buddhist way anywhere in the world. He speaks to me in ways that others just never quite manage. I picked this book up again after recently finishing another by him in the same format of transcribed Dharma talks, I'm so glad I did. I think if I had to select the five books which have been most important to me on the journey two of them would be his.
Other than the daily practice of meditation and the Dhamma, I understand that awareness is to be trusted as well as the here and now of acknowledging your conditioning, experiences and struggle. All that remains is the fictive residue of thought and emotion. (I agree with Wallace Stevens that this is a necessary fiction: it provides meaning in our existence). (But it is a fiction and thus not to be feared).
This is one of the most informative and clear books on mindfulness and Buddhist teaching that I have ever read. Ajahn Sumedho gives wise and inspired teaching on the suffering that we experience due to our ignorance and clinging and cogently shows how we can find peace and refuge in our awareness of our own minds and bodies.
Sumedho was born in LA and travelled to Thailand where he studied Thai Forest meditation under Ajahn Chah. In 1975, he moved to the UK where he has established monasteries. He retired in 2010 being succeeded by the English monk, Ajahn Amaro.
The Thai Forest tradition is a lineage of Theravada Buddhist monasticism which began around 1900 when two monks from NE Thailand sought to return to traditional/classical Buddhism. The tradition tends to be down-to-earth and have an anti-textual stance.
Sumedho places emphasis on paying attention to the constant tinnitus sound that is the background to consciousness (the "sound of silence"). He also stresses an approach of just paying attention to and accepting the various emotions that arise.
There is considerable, often unnecessary use of Thai and Sanskrit terms in Sumedho's book that can be ignored. Apart from this, it is an easy read with many anecdotes on his background and his monastic training. The penultimate chapter on "Toward the Future" has a valuable message that, even after meditation, life will contain irritations until we die. This is the nature of the human body. Liberation comes with reflecting on this situation, rather than being caught up and a victim of our conditioning.
This approach ties in with Shinzen Young, discussing the teaching of Sasaki Roshi, that you do not need to suppress the arising of the self--it will arise and you learn how to deal with this.