Book Bits, The Masters

What to Do About Noise

One day a student at the Cambridge Zen Center said to Seung Sahn Soen-sa, “I am disturbed by noise when I sit Zen. What can I do about this?”

Soen-sa said, “What color is this rug?”


“Is it quiet or noisy?”


“Who makes it quiet?”

The student shrugged his shoulders.

Soen-sa said, “You do. Noisy and quiet are made by your thinking. If you think something is noisy, it is noisy; if you think something is quiet, it is quiet. Noisy is not noisy, quiet not quiet. True quiet is neither quiet nor noisy. If you listen to the traffic with a clear mind, without any concepts, it is not noisy, it is only what it is. Noisy and quiet are opposites. The Absolute is only like this.”

There were a few moments of silence. Then Soen-sa said, “What is the opposite of blue?”

The student said, “I don’t know.”

Soen-sa said, “Blue is blue. White is white. This is the truth.”


From ‘Dropping Ashes on the Buddha – The Zen Teachings of Master Seung Sahn’