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The Sound of Rain

·366 words·2 mins·
2024 Quote
Jerry S
Jerry S
Table of Contents

The sound of the rain needs no translation.
– Alan Watts


Every once in a while, if my mind is calm and something happens that freezes me in my tracks, I get it. In that moment nothing crosses my mind and it isn’t until later, a few days, or weeks, or months after, that the quote above pops into my head.

What’s it for?

There are things in life that you experience immediately without any need of explanation. Trying to come up with an explanation dilutes, distracts, and even erases what is or what happened.

Expanding the quote

The quote originates from a longer talk and I include a longer version of the quote below.

…We were talking about the various people who are working to
translate the zen books into English.
And he said that’s a waste of time.
If you really understand zen, he said, you can use any book;
you could use the bible,
you could use Alice in Wonderland,
you could use the dictionary because, he said,
the sound of the rain needs to translation.

– Alan Watts talking about a chat he had with a zen master from Japan
Click to go to the Youtube Lecture

About Zen

Alan Watts studied and translated zen. I’ve listened to several of his published talks on Youtube as well as some that aren’t published. I don’t know if I’ve learned anything, or if I’ve improved somehow by listening to the talks, or if I understand even the smallest bit of zen, but I know that certain things he has said have been etched into my memory and that when I see the stars they make me dream, like Van Gogh.

The rain, like the stars, conjures something in me. Suddenly it feels as if I understand something that, a moment before hearing it or a moment before seeing them, I didn’t understand.

When the rain stops or the clouds block my sight…that understanding disappears as quickly as it showed up.

And that’s how I live, looking for the moments that don’t need translation. If by chance I happen to remember them later, I write them down and smile.