"Raindrops keep falling on my head..." Or do they?!
Outside – is it raining outside? What is ‘outside’ in current experience? Science teaches us that our five senses collect information (in this case sound) and send it to the brain, where it is known by the mind. Accepting this, I might decide that in truth I am not in the world, but rather the world is in me. In this sense, there is no ‘outside,’ for everything is experienced here, in my mind. It is raining in me, or, as the old song goes, “It’s raining, raining in my heart.”
So, common sense tells me that it’s raining outside me, whereas science tells me that as I know it, it’s raining inside me. But, what of direct experience? What does that tell me? Above, I wrote that when focusing attention on the rain and nothing else, the presumption that it’s over there whilst I am here weakens. This seems to be corroborated by scientific descriptions of how we experience the world. So, in the spirit of science, perhaps we might conduct a little experiment to see into this matter further.
Focusing attention on the rain (or any other sound), take note of its characteristics. How loud is it? What is its rhythm? How about its pitch? Take a while to examine these aspects of what you are hearing. Now, turn awareness around to that which is listening. Is it loud or quiet? Does it have rhythm or pitch? Or, is it without any particular characteristics? Is it a spacious knowing that contains sounds but is itself silent?
All assumptions put to one side, I do indeed find a silent knowing. In truth (in direct experience) here is a spaciousness that all sounds arise in; they are not over there, but rather here, in this awareness. This view of life reflects a branch of Buddhist philosophy called Yogacara, which states that all we experience is dependent on mind, occurs in the mind, and is an expression of the mind. Hence, this tradition’s other name, the ‘Mind-Only School.’
Rain, properly observed in its truest context is ‘buddha rain,’ a manifestation of the Dharma (the way-things-are). Paying attention to it, as it arises in awareness, can reveal the underlying reality behind all our experiences that is called buddha-nature. Listening to rain in its true context reveals this nature, as well as this fact of human experience: the world is in the mind, not the mind in the world. It seems that scientists & Yogacarins are right after all, but we don’t need a degree in science or philosophy to see this truth for ourselves. Just listen to the rain.