This shell was given me by a Canadian monk and I treasure it greatly. Such shells are used during a number of Buddhist ceremonies in this tradition of Buddhism. It is blown like a trumpet and has a piercing sound. This shell, being quite small, is high pitched other larger shells are low and deep in sound. Hearing a long and sustained note and especially when out of doors has the effect of bringing one up short. The sound cuts through to ones center and its all pervading, all embracing nature in turn calls back from all directions. It is said to be the sound of the Unborn.
Last year at this time I was on retreat in the mountains of Northern California. Every morning after meditation and singing scriptures the conch would be blown and the sound would echo around the mountain tops. Now I am back from two weeks of quiet time and gradually getting on with my monastic responsibilities. I’m making a note to myself to build into my day, when possible, not only formal meditation but also quiet time. Time to simply sit still, do nothing and reflect/read/listen.
These past couple of weeks have been really good in many ways. The aspect of our practice, perhaps the whole of our practice, that has come to the fore is listening/following. That’s at the very heart of meditation both formal meditation and everyday going along meditation. You might asking, Listening to who? or Following what? We have a saying; One calls One answers.
I’m looking at Rational Zen, The Mind of Dogen Zenji translated and edited by Thomas Cleary and published Shambhala. My intention is to draw on, for the purpose of contemplation, sections of Dogen’s Eihei Koroku – Universal Book of Eternal Peace.
Note added 27th June: There is a translation of Dogen’s Eihei Koroku by Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura which I will be working from. You can download a free extensive and detailed index not appearing in the hardcover edition. The link is at the bottom of this page.