Hearing Beyond the Sound : An Interview with Jogen

Live-blended soundscapes enchant awareness as Jogen Beyond-J enters the stream of DJ to provide a listening experience accessible to anyone willing to sit down and open to the waves of sound blessing the Heart of Wisdom zendo.

Beyond the Sound is a musical experiment emerging from Jogen’s deep love of listening to music and blending songs and sounds to birth something new. “It’s a deep pleasure to have two or three of your favorite musicians ‘playing together’ – even though they lived in different eras.” And music is a deep pleasure for Jogen, one he discovered early in life. “I was one of those kids who came home from the record store, put the record on, sat on the floor- and just listened to it, while I read the liner notes. Music has been an absorptive and at times transcendent experience all my life, probably my first real taste of samadhi.”

Though music was always a deeply spiritual practice to him in and of itself, it also acted as a gateway to opening up the religious path to him. When he first heard Alice Coltrane at age 19, a devoted Hindu nun and one of Jogen’s favorite musicians, he immediately resonated with her music’s integration of her jazz and gospel background with her airy harps and devotional spirit. Her music “communicates transcendence,” Jogen says, and brings “heaven and earth together”. Hearing that she eventually gave up her mainstream music career to found a Hindu ashram helped Jogen to take the spiritual path seriously; Alice Coltrane made religion cool to him. She demonstrated how beautiful, transportive music and devoted spirituality can exist side by side.

As his interest in meditation and dharma began to grow, he started selling his giant record collection. Before moving to the monastery in 2002 he sold the last remaining gems for $1000. Now, 16 years later, he is collecting again. “My tastes have changed, I really only am interested in something if I can use more then one track for Beyond the Sound. There is a certain genre, electronic, ambient, world and spiritual jazz that when blended together is excellent for absorptive listening.”

Jogen weaves with two turntables, two tape decks, an I-pad, a set of chimes and a big ‘hey! Remember you’re meditating’ drum a multi-dimensional sound experience unlike anything else that is being done today. He offers recordings of the mixes free of charge on MixCloud, with teaching encouragements:

Source and Recipient are One Great Circle. Be Undone in deep listening devotion.

I delve into the dharani dream to forget my fixations and hear with the Eye once again.

Each one dwells exactly at the summit of the Mystic Peak . Words don’t reach there.

Open the Ear of the Heart, widest. Wider. Hold your ground. Then the bright sky floods in.

Sink your self into the sounding and savor the royal taste of the essence.

Being-here generously, and it all dances without weight in the lunar-like heart.

Board this tone-ship to the other side of the sky.

Despite its elaborate technological setup and polyphonic blendings, Jogen cites that what he’s doing is not new. Zen has had a long history of listening practice, from the koans that ask you to listen to the sound of silence or the Surangama Sutra, which asks you to look into the source of hearing. There is an intimacy to listening, a seamless blending of subject and object that can leave the listener questioning the supposed separation between the hearer and the heard.

This sort of questioning of conventional reality and its supposed fixed structures and divisions is a big part of what Jogen is after in “Beyond the Sound”. One of the joys he derives from his offering is when his music can help “inject space into the sense of oneself,” or get past the conventional idea of subject and object as separate entities. By fully immersing oneself in the sounds, Jogen hopes to break down those rigid sense-barriers and have access to the this experience of nonseparation, which he calls a kind of bliss. To him, bliss is not a feeling but a direct intimacy with one’s life, independent of condition or circumstances.

At its core, Jogen believes that the dharma is not some tool to use on your life to make it this way or that; that would imply a separation between practice and one’s lived experience. The dharma is a way of being, he says, a complete existential shift in how we view self and other. Jogen hopes his sound events can help get us back to this fundamental essence of non-separation, drink deeply of the purity of being, and, at the very least have an enjoyable sensory excursion.

Jogen has been working with artist and friend Lisa Cline to produce visual art pieces that reveal something about the experience of deep listening. Lisa’s artwork is profoundly spiritual, to see more of her art visit her webpage.

Follow him on MixCloud.

Have records or cassette tapes that you think he could use? Contact Jogen directly for information on how to donate music to his cause.

Interview and much of this piece was written by Chloe Eisho Margherita