Q. A tree falls in the forest when nobody is there to hear it. Does it still make a sound?
A. The point of this question is whether a thing, or an incident which happens beyond our consciousness has any influence upon our emotions, or our decision-making. This shows a good example of Buddha’s teaching that everything is the product of our discrimination.
What matters more than whether something happens, is whether you are conscious of it or not. What is more important than what happens, is in what way you are conscious of it. However big or serious an incident may be that takes place near to you, it is as meaningless to you as if it didn’t happen at all if you are not conscious of it.
For example, if you are asked whether the falling trees made sounds or not, when they fell in a virgin forest of the Mesozoic era, before the advent of human beings, you might say, “Yes, they did.” or “I think so.” This is because you can imagine what happens, including how it sounds when trees fall in the forest, at the very instant when you hear the question. In other words, the moment you hear this question, you can feel as if you were already at the scene seeing and hearing what is happening there. This shows that you are conscious of the situation through indirect experience and discriminate based on what you are conscious of.
However, when you didn’t think of, or were not conscious of this situation before the question, the situation was as meaningless to you as if it had not happened.
So, my answer to your question is ‘How was it before you thought of this question?’
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway http://ow.ly/i/vMCTQ