Of Rain and the Colors of Noise

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.

Doing research for voice compression, I came upon the rather peculiar understanding that the chaos of noise actually conveys meaning in speech. As an example, simply say “essssssss”. In this way we see that the sibilant “s” tone is actually noise–it is chaos. There is meaning in chaos.

Noise apparently has many colors. Indeed, there is white noise, brown noise, pink noise and many more colors of noise. All of these colors of noise sound like well…rain. Does rain have colors? Well if we listen carefully, perhaps rain does have colors. Perhaps rain has the colors of noise.

And as I listen to these colors of noise, something quite odd arises in perception. Some colors of noise are blissful. Other colors of noise are distant or close. And those perceptions gives rise to a question of whether such an experience is idiosyncratic or shared.

So a poll for the curious:

Which noise would be easiest to meditate with?

  • White
  • Brown
  • Pink

0 voters

Which noise would be hardest to meditate with?

  • White
  • Brown
  • Pink

0 voters

Which noise would you use to communicate with and be heard?

  • White
  • Brown
  • Pink

0 voters

If we all share these perceptions, then this simple test might be an example of how shared feelings arise from something as simple as chaos. And these noises are indeed random.

NERDFACT: White noise can be generated simply by summing 12 random numbers.


Thank you for sharing Karl! There are people who hear colours too! Imagine hearing music and a personalized light show in your head :grin:. I remember reading about this in an Oliver Sacks book. Chromesthesia is what I think it is called…

Brown reminds me of the ocean and the beach…:ocean::beach_umbrella: Comforting as I am in minus Celsius territory today…:snowflake:


It is profitable to cultivate guarded sense input prior to the verbal:

“The eye is not the fetter of forms, nor are forms the fetter of the eye. Whatever desire & passion arises in dependence on the two of them: That is the fetter there. The ear is not the fetter of sounds… The nose is not the fetter of aromas… The tongue is not the fetter of flavors… The body is not the fetter of tactile sensations… The intellect is not the fetter of ideas, nor are ideas the fetter of the intellect. Whatever desire & passion arises in dependence on the two of them: That is the fetter there.”—SN 35.191

Note 19 to SN 1.61—Nananda:

"perceptual data of the five external senses, in all their permutations and combinations, finally come to be assigned names and pigeon-holed as ‘things.’ This convenient but superficial indentation beclouds the mind and prevents the immediate understanding of sense-contact "


Beyond the noble eightfold path, two of the ways of approaching the dhamma are through the sense media and the elements.

These lines have no verbal symbolism but have different direct-sense responsive meanings, which of the following element descriptions can be applied to each?

Anything … that’s liquid, watery, & sustained
Anything … that’s fire, fiery, & sustained:


Which element is this type of line expressive of?

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Thanks, @paul1 for the wigglies, jaggies and loopies. And thanks @ficus for the note on synesthetic color. They remind me of:

MN115:9.3: There are these two elements:
MN115:9.4: the conditioned element and the unconditioned element.

Randomness is unconditioned.

Randomness in unconditoned, yet here we all experience common feelings and perceptions to the various manifestations of these unconditioned elements. So perhaps these shared experiences might be understood as simple examples of the infinite consciousness of the unconditioned. :thinking:

Looking a bit more closely at this, we note that white noise is unconditioned but pink noise and brown noise are definitely conditioned even though they arise from the unconditioned white noise. Both pink and brown noise are louder at lower frequencies than at high frequencies. Both pink and brown noise are conditioned to remove high frequencies–those irritating calls to action.

With pink and brown noise we effectively have simple examples here for an understanding of the conditioned, because pink and brown noise are examples of the conditioned element. Pink and brown noise both are conditioned to dampen high frequencies. And brown noise dampens pink noise as much as pink noise dampens white noise.

We’re used to thinking about conditioning and kamma. We’re used to thinking about actions and consequences, about good intent and bad intent. But the conditioned and unconditioned elements are more subtle than that. Here we have examples of conditioned and unconditioned elements that precipitate shared feelings and experiences. And those shared feelings are both pleasant (brown noise) and unpleasant (pink noise while trying to meditate). But there was no intent involved here. Pink noise is just pink noise. And brown noise is just brown noise.

SN35.95:10.1: “In that case, when it comes to things that are to be seen, heard, thought, and known: in the seen will be merely the seen; in the heard will be merely the heard; in the thought will be merely the thought; in the known will be merely the known.

Interesting topic Karl.

I guess listening to any noise is always conditioned though because ears are always conditioned.

I found this an interesting article



Readers may note the noble eightfold path is conditioned but that doesn’t mean the practitioner avoids it.

The conditioned element is hardly subtle as it includes the majority of known sense experience:

“Monks, I will teach you the All. Listen & pay close attention. I will speak.”

“As you say, lord,” the monks responded.

"The Blessed One said, “What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All.”—SN 35.23

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It is conditioned by the distribution it’s drawn from.

White noise and pink noise just have a different notion of uniformity.


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(I :heart: 3B1B.)

As it turns out, the reason I ran into this quagmire of understanding is peculiar.

Basically I need an algorithm for generating pink noise for speech compression. And although I have found many algorithms for generating pink noise, they don’t generate pink noise with sufficient randomness.

In other words, the existing algorithms are too conditioned by programmers. And that is the subtlety of conditioning–I’m going a bit crazy trying to find the right algorithm. The existing ones don’t work. :laughing:


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The “All” in SN 35.23 is the Buddha’s reuse for teaching purposes of the Hindu sound “Om” which is said to encompass all conditioned phenomena. The difference between the two religions is that the Buddha discovered something outside the conditioned, so in Theravada there is always a duality never a unification.

“It (Om) refers to Atman (Self within) and Brahman (ultimate reality, entirety of the universe, truth, divine, supreme spirit, cosmic principles, knowledge).”—Wikipedia

The Indian ‘Om’ demonstrates how abstract sounds communicate universally, as ‘omni’ in Latin means all, and the Greek letter ‘omega’ is the last letter of the alphabet and therefore associated with universality. This relates to the Buddhist meditation to establish the elemental level beyond words.

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I’ve always had difficulty trying to meditate with “Om”. It’s a bit too…full (like pink noise).