Heavenly Music?

DN16:5.2.5: And heavenly music played in the sky in honor of the Realized One.

AN8.41:8.1: ‘As long as they live, the perfected ones give up dancing, singing, music, and seeing shows; and beautifying and adorning themselves with garlands, fragrance, and makeup.

So what is one to think about music? :thinking:

Music enthralls, captivates and compels. For some it brings tears. For others it brings dance. For many it gives relief from the pain of the moment in a substitution of transient resonance.

For others, music brings practice and mindfulness. Restless fingers gentle. Distracted minds settle. Awareness infuses breathing. Postures realign with equanimity. Ensembles attend in common. Playing music requires immersion. But is it Right Immersion?

Turn off the sound to your computer. This is important! Turn off the sound. :hear_no_evil:

Now look at this video and watch the player. Her awareness is quite focused. Her posture is relaxed and disciplined, fierce and determined. She is quite mindful. Immersed and unswayed by the world.

Now turn the sound back on and listen to the music. What changes in the hearing of that music? :thinking:

Oddly this video, with or without the sound, inspires me to meditate in silence. :meditation:

DN16:5.2.5: And heavenly music played in the sky in honor of the Realized One.

So what is one to think about music? :thinking:


If music be the food of love, play on…
Give me excess of it, that surfeiting
the appetite may sicken … and so die.

William Shakespeare, Twelfth night



Apparently, my study of Shakespeare would have been better informed by a prior study of Buddhism. :laughing:

Thank you for the lovely quote! This was new.



If the mind is beautiful it will hear all kinds of music, even in the silence between accords and words. My wife is yelling out: Dinner! and that sounds like music in my ears … :yum:


I don’t think it’ll get you enlightened, but some has helped me establish mundane right view.


I think what you said is pointing to the essence of listening to music. It is about the awareness of the present moment, not being distracted by thinking about the past or future. A true musical experience can give you a taste for samadhi. If you take the sense experience away then one might start as well to meditate. From what I have heard why monastics are not allowed to listen to music is that memories of music can disturb your true samadhi. Imagine when an ‘ear-worm’ comes to visit in your meditation, for example :slight_smile:


Very nice, @Karl!

A very similar insight by a video (without) music - where the intentional missing of exalted sounds in contrast to a very immersed mechanic’s view on a thing to be repaired cleared the same question. I come from a family of an engineer who told us boys to look deeply and undistracted.
Here are two of the best videos of a series . I’ve posted this to family members and daughter:

Du solltest dir eine richtig ruhige halbe Stunde (oder zwei) aussuchen.

Das erste video https://youtu.be/JmSXo0XdWoA - Schraubenzieher
das zweite video Antique Kitchen Scale Restoration - The Masterpiece - YouTube - Küchenwaage

Moreover, because of the repairing spirit in the video, I felt this even as remedy to what was problematized in another thread about the being “… filled up with disturbing news…”.


That’s a great point.

What’s fascinating is that a musical ear-worm will be surpassed by a sutta. Guaranteed. Every time. So although Vivaldi Spring might rouse energy and a bit of rapture, the music struggles to keep up with just this:

SN47.40:1.2: Listen …
SN47.40:1.3: And what is mindfulness meditation?
SN47.40:1.4: It’s when a mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of the body—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world.
SN47.40:1.5: They meditate observing an aspect of feelings …
SN47.40:1.6: mind …
SN47.40:1.7: principles—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world.
SN47.40:1.8: This is called mindfulness meditation.

:notes: The beat changes to the breath. The key changes to silence. :meditation:

My Zen Roshi used to teach music. When a student asked about jazz music and Zen, he simply remarked in passing, “Listen to classical.” It was a memorably cryptic comment.

Oh YES! This is one of my favorite videos. The love, compassion, rejoicing and equanimity of that repair is humbling. Without words or sounds it sings the limitless.



There is a great drum seated amidst the clouds in the heavens, far above Sumeru, with the name of “Bodhi.” When the gods become vain and infatuated with their images, when they become haughty and prideful, when they begin to bicker amongst themselves as to who is the greatest, the Great Dharma Drum beats and a voice issues forth: “You are gods. You will behave like gods.” The voice of the Tathagata is deep and far-reaching and chastises the children of the skies.
(Flower Garland Sutra, “Voice of the Tathagata” parivarta, paraphrase)

This has no relevance. I thought it was a cute Buddhist quote concerning “music.”


Actually it is quite relevant. A heavenly drum for heavenly music! :drum:
In the Zendo there was a huge gong. That too was heavenly music.

It is also an insightful reminder that perfections squabble and in that squabbling we have the suffering of the gods. So even gods might wish for an end to the exaltation of extremes, leaving the heavens falling as rain into human lives, gently flowing to the ocean.

AN10.61:4.1: It’s like when the rain pours down on a mountain top, and the water flows downhill to fill the hollows, crevices, and creeks. As they become full, they fill up the pools. The pools fill up the lakes, the lakes fill up the streams, and the streams fill up the rivers. And as the rivers become full, they fill up the ocean.

Thanks for the wonderful quote!


This interpretation does it for me :pray:t3:
I know sometimes it feels like cliche, but listening some classical music( Western and Indian) works for my brain :brain:
As someone with a crazy monkey mind :monkey_face:, playing piano helps me bring my attention to a one pointed focus. It is indeed a taste of samadhi for me.
I have also noticed that playing by ear and memory helps me relax and enjoy the playing more than sight reading a piece.

But then, nothing beats a walk in the woods


The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night
And his affections dark as Erebus:
Let no such man be trusted.
(Merchant of Venice 5.1.83-88)


…he loves no plays,
As thou dost, Antony; he hears no music. (Julius Caesar 1.2.204-205) ( describing Cassius)



And yet the Buddha knew skill in music.

DN21:1.6.1: When Pañcasikha had spoken, the Buddha said to him, “Pañcasikha, the sound of the strings and the sound of your voice blend well together, so that neither overpowers the other.

But that was heavenly music… :notes:

How startling! I used to listen to Kempf’s Beethoven sonatas frequently as well. :heart:
I once memorized Beethoven’s first piano sonata. But then the piano broke and I forgot the sonata. I think the neighbors rejoiced.


I’m not sure if anyone has seen this

Clearly the music is having an effect on this lady afflicted by dementia (all the debate about the names, old video footage etc…I think is besides the point). Oliver Sacks wrote about this beautifully in his book ‘ Musicophilia’.

Maybe music has this imprinted effect on our minds ( not just the brain) that comes through even though the brain is failing.

Mind over matter indeed :pray:t3:

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I was with you up until I turned the sound back on … then there occurred an overwhelming rush of intense negative vedana that inspired me to do a whole lot of precept-breaking actions …
Then I remembered a conversation I had with @karl_lew ages ago. His sort of music conditions the arousing of overwhelm, stress and rage in me, while my sort of music (classical), Karl says, “has too many notes.” …

This leads me to conclude that it’s not the music itself, but the way we relate/react to the music. Our reactions are the product of individual patterns of conditioning. Georg, says it well:

Seen like this, music is just another sense experience to be noticed, that can draw some people into meditation. But like all sense experiences, it carries the danger of our grasping after it and wanting more, or disliking it and pushing it away. These are equally unskillful reactions.


Related to this, I found this passage quoted in Punnadhammo’s ‘The Buddhist Cosmos’. It is the story about Ven. Anuruddha being visited by the Devas called ‘Loveable’:

4Then one of those deities sang, one danced, and one snapped her fingers. Suppose there was a quintet made up of skilled musicians who had practiced well and kept excellent rhythm. They’d sound graceful, tantalizing, sensuous, lovely, and intoxicating. In the same way the performance by those deities sounded graceful, tantalizing, sensuous, lovely, and intoxicating. But Venerable Anuruddha averted his senses.

Does all music have to be ‘intoxicating’? I know of music (mostly classical) that is refined enough to create a sense of peace, joy, tranquility and happiness, although it talks through the sense of hearing. I don’t think it is a ‘bad thing’ as a layperson to listen to this kind of music if it is inspiring, and as long as one knows where the true happiness lies ultimately. And, if you’re really fortunate, eventually you can give it up.

Or how about this one:

Among the various sense pleasures of Tāvatiṃsa, music and dance are frequently mentioned. One of the female devas in the Vimānavatthu describes how she is woken from her sleep in the morning by sixty thousand musical instruments.

I wonder what the music of this band of 60,000 will sound like…


Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again

Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
'Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by
The flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening

People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

“Fools”, said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words, like silent raindrops, fell
And echoed in the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made

And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming

And the sign said:
“The words of the prophets are
Written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whispered in the sound of silence.”