PAINTING: Odilon Redon, “Buddha Walking Among the Flowers,” 1905.
The mystic and author G.I. Gurdjieff, suggests that there are two world. He says, “There is in us a zone where noise and tumult have no place, and a zone where everything reverberates. Hazrat Inayat Khan also tells us through his writings, that everything emanates from silence and gives rise to all that exists, including ourselves and our many manifestations. There is so much to say about silence, but shhhh! – I won’t be saying it. Here’s a Zen tale on the subject… Enjoy! 🙂
Learning to Be Silent:
The pupils of the Tendai School used to study meditation before Zen entered Japan. Four of them who were intimate friends promised one another to observe seven days of silence.
On the first day all were silent. Their meditation had begun auspiciously, but when night came and the oil lamps were growing dim one of the pupils could not help exclaiming to a servant: “Fix those lamps” The second pupil was surprised to hear the first one talk. “We are not supposed to say a word,” He remarked.
“You two are stupid. Why did you talk?” asked the third. “I am the only one who has not talked,” – concluded the fourth pupil.
sorry about errors on first post.. (Had to repost.)
Silence Flowing Like a Stream From Paul Brunton’s, Search in Secret India
“Happiness is your nature.It is not wrong to desire it.What is wrong is seeking it outside, when it is inside.” ~ The Maharshi
“We shall now go in the hall of the Maharshi,” announces the holy man of the yellow robe, bidding me to follow him. I pause outside the uncovered stone veranda and remove my shoes. I gather up the little pile of fruits which I have brought as an offering, and pass into an open doorway. Twenty brown-and-black faces flash their eyes upon us. Their owners are squatting in half-circles on a red-tiled floor. They are grouped at a respectful distance from the corner which lies farthest to the right hand of the door. Apparently everyone has been facing this corner just prior to our entry. I glance there for a moment and perceive a seated figure upon a long white divan, but it suffices to tell me that here indeed is the Maharshi.
The divan is but a few paces away from a broad high window in the end wall. The light falls clearly upon the Maharshi and I can take in every detail of his profile, for he is seated gazing rigidly through the window in the precise direction whence we have come this morning. His head does not move, so, thinking to catch his eye and greet him as I offer the fruits, I move quietly over to the window, place the gift before him, and retreat a pace or two.
A small brass brazier stands before his couch. It is filled with burning charcoal, and a pleasant odour tells me that some aromatic powder has been thrown on the glowing embers. Close by is an incense burner filled with joss sticks. Threads of bluish grey smoke arise and float in the air. I fold a thin cotton blanket upon the floor and sit down, gazing expectantly at the silent figure in such a rigid attitude upon the couch. The Maharshi’s body is almost nude, except for a thin, narrow loin-cloth, but that is common enough in these parts. His skin is slightly copper-coloured, yet quite fair in comparison with that of the average South Indian. I judge him to be a tall man; his age somewhere in the early fifties. His head, which is covered with closely cropped grey hair, is well formed. The high and broad expanse of forehead gives intellectual distinction to his personality. His features are more European than Indian. Such is my first impression.
Pin-drop silence prevails throughout the long hall. The sage remains perfectly still, motionless, quite undisturbed at our arrival. I look full into the eyes of the seated figure in the hope of catching his notice. They are dark brown, medium-sized and wide open. If he is aware of my presence, he betrays no hint, gives no sign. His body is supernaturally quiet, as steady as a statue. Not once does he catch my gaze, for his eyes continue to look into remote space, and infinitely remote it seems.
It is an ancient theory of mine that one can take the inventory of a man’s soul from his eyes. But before those of the Maharshi I hesitate, puzzled and baffled.
The minutes creep by with unutterable slowness. First they mount up to a half-hour by the hermitage clock which hangs on a wall; this too passes by and becomes a whole hour. Yet no one in the hall seems to stir; certainly no one dares to speak. I reach a point of visual concentration where I have forgotten the existence of all save this silent figure on the couch. My offering of fruits remains unregarded on the small carved table which stands before him.
There is something in this man that holds my attention as steel filings are held by a magnet. I cannot turn my gaze away from him. My initial bewilderment, my perplexity at being totally ignored, slowly fade away as this strange fascination begins to grip me more firmly. But it is not till the second hour of the uncommon scene that I become aware of a silent, resistless change which is taking place within my mind. One by one, the questions which I have prepared in the train with such meticulous accuracy drop away. For it does not now seem to matter whether they are asked or not, and it does not seem to matter whether I solve the problems which have hitherto troubled me. I know only that a steady river of quietness seems to be flowing near me, that a great peace is penetrating the inner reaches of my being, and that my thought-tortured brain is beginning to arrive at some rest. I surrender myself to the steadily deepening sense of restfulness until two hours have passed. The passage of time now provokes no irritation, because I feel that the chains of mind-made problems are being broken and thrown away.
Comes the first ripple. Someone approaches me and whispers in my ear, “Did you not wish to question the Maharshi?” The spell is broken. As if this infelicitous intrusion is a signal, figures rise from the floor and begin to move about the hall, voices float up to my hearing, and-wonder of wonders!-the dark brown eyes of the Maharshi flicker once or twice. Then the head turns, the face moves slowly, very slowly, and bends downward at an angle. A few more moments, and it has brought me into the ambit of its vision. For the first time the sage’s mysterious gaze is directed upon me. It is plain that he has now awakened from his long trance.
The intruder, thinking perhaps that my lack of response is a sign that I have not heard him, repeats his question aloud. But in those lustrous eyes which are gently staring at me, I read another question, albeit unspoken. “Can it be – is it possible – that you are still tormented with distracting doubts when you have now glimpsed the deep mental peace which you – and all men – may attain?”
The peace overwhelms me. I turn to the guide and answer: “No. There is nothing I care to ask now. Another time.”
This is such a beautiful story, I thought I would share it with you all.
The Sacred Hill – Arunachela
Paul Brunton (October 21, 1898 – July 27, 1981) was probably born as Hermann Hirsch of German Jewish origin. Later he changed his name to Raphael Hurst, and then Brunton Paul and finally Paul Brunton. He was a philosopher, mystic and a traveler. He left a journalistic career to live among yogis, mystics, and holy men, and studied Eastern and Western esoteric teachings. Dedicating his life to an inward and spiritual quest, Brunton felt charged to communicate his experiences about what he had learned in the East to others. His works had a major influence on the spread of Eastern yoga and mysticism to the West. Taking pains to express his thoughts in lay person’s terms, Brunton was able to present what he had learned from the Orient and from ancient tradition as a living wisdom. His writings express his view that meditation and the inward quest are not exclusively for monks and hermits, but will also support those living normal, active lives in the Western world.
true teaching is always an epiphany; sometimes a clap of thunder…but often only a whisper, easily missed”
Silence is the only language of the realized. Practice moderation in speech. That will help you in many ways. It will develop Prema, for most misunderstandings and factions arise out of carelessly spoken words. When the foot slips, the wound can be healed; but when the tongue slips, the wound it causes in the heart of another will fester for life. The tongue is liable to four big errors: uttering falsehood, scandalizing, finding fault with others, and excessive speech. All these have to be avoided if there is to be santhi for the individual as well as for society.
Be still and you will move forward on the tide of spirit
Be gentle and you will need no strength
Be patient and you will achieve all things
Be humble and you will remain entire.
From the Writings of St. Augustine
When I love, what do I love? It is not physical beauty nor temporal glory not the brightness of light dear to earthly eyes, nor the sweet melodies of all kinds of songs, nor the gentle odour of flowers and ointments and perfumes, nor manna or honey, nor limbs welcoming the embraces of the flesh; it is not these I love when I love my God.
Yet, there is a light I love and a food, and a kind of embrace when I love my God – a light, voice, odour, food, embrace of my inner man, where my soul is flood lit by light which space cannot contain, where there is sound that time cannot seize, where there is a perfume which no breeze disperses, where there is a taste for food no amount of eating can lessen, and where there is a bond of union that no satiety can part.
Dakshinamurthy taught His disciples by His silence. Yes, what He did was to make the disciples rely on their own intelligence. Do not demean your talents, when you dive deep into yourselves, you can discover the source of all strength. (Sathya Sai Baba, SSS. Vol. 4 p. 155)
Many true seekers visit Sathya Sai Baba but he does not speak to them often. In the case of some devotees, he speaks not at all! Those seekers can visit year after years and yet never receive an interview or even a word at darshan. Why is it so? The truth is that physical speech is on a lower level of communication. According to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, no words are necessary. Words reduce, limit, harden, take away the subtleness and true strength – the life of the true teaching. Here is a sweet story about the importance of silence from Sai Baba.
SILENCE IS THE TRUE SPIRITUAL INSTRUCTION
Once a devotee came to visit Bagawan Sai Baba and said that the great Sages of the past had travelled extensively preaching the Truth and thus had served the world at large. Similarly, if Bhagavan were to travel thus it would be beneficial to many. Smilingly, Bhagawan replied, that His being settled in one place is also beneficial and narrated the following story.
“Brahma, the Lord of Creation, once lost interest in the work of creation and thought of taking to a life of tapas (penance). So, out of his mind he created Sanaka, Sanatkumaru, Sanandana and Sanatsujata, with the intention to hand over to them his job in the course of time. They grew up and mastered all of the branches of study. Brahma then decided to hand over to them his job and to retire. Sage Narada came to know of his father’s intention. Since Narada knew that his brothers were full of dispassion and fit to be initiated into the path of Self-knowledge, he decided to warn them beforehand of Brahma’s intention. On hearing this, the four brothers, who had no intention to follow the path of action, left home in search of a Guru without informing their father. They all proceeded to Vaikunta, the abode of Vishnu. There they saw Lakshmi sitting on Vishnu’s couch massaging His feet. On seeing this, they thought, “How can this family man bound by the intimate glance of his consort render us any help in learning adhyatma-vidya (Knowledge of the Self). Look at the splendour of this palace and this city! This is enough. Let us seek the help of Lord Siva”.
Lord Siva, who was in Kailas with His family, knew beforehand about their coming and understood their plight. He was sure that they would be disappointed on seeing him with a family, so taking pity on them, He decided to impart spiritual knowledge to them. The kind-hearted Lord, left Mount Kailas and taking the youthful form of Dakshinamurti, seated Himself with Chinmudra (lotus position), under a Banyan tree on the Northern side of Lake Manasarovar, just on the way by which these disappointed devotees were returning to their respective homes.
When they came and sat before Him, He went into samadhi (Absorption in the self). He was in Perfect Repose. Silence prevailed. They saw Him. The effect was immediate. They fell into samadhi and their doubts were cleared.
Silence is the true upadesa. It is the perfect upadesa. It is suited only for the most advanced. Others are unable to draw full inspiration from it. Therefore they require words to explain the Truth. But Truth is beyond words. It does not admit or explain. It merely indicates the truth through self-discovery.”
-story told to devotees by Shri Sai Baba
“The highest form of grace is silence. It is also the highest upadesa (teaching).”
-Sri Ramana Maharshi
Question: Can the Guru’s silence really bring about advanced states of spiritual awareness?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: There is an old story, which demonstrates the power of the Guru’s silence. Tattvaraya composed a Bharani, a kind of poetic composition in Tamil, in honour of his Guru Swarupananda, and convened an assembly of learned Pandits (pundits) to hear the work and assess its value. The Pandits raised the objection that a Bharani was only composed in honour of great heroes capable of killing a thousand elephants in battle and that it was not in order to compose such a work in honour of an ascetic.
Thereupon the author said, “Let us all go to my Guru and we shall have this matter settled there.”
They went to the Guru and, after they had all taken their seats, the author told his Guru the purpose of their visit. The Guru sat silent and all the others also remained in mouna (silence). The whole day passed, the night came, and some more days and nights, and yet all sat there silently, no thought at all occurring to any of them and nobody thinking or asking why they had come there. After three or four days like this, the Guru moved his mind a bit, and the people assembled immediately regained their thought activity. They then declared, ‘Conquering a thousand elephants is nothing beside this Guru’s power to conquer the rutting elephants of all our egos put together. So certainly he deserves the Bharani in his honour!
Question: How does this silent power work?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Language is only a medium for communicating one’s thoughts to another. It is called in only after thoughts arise. Other thoughts arise after the “I”-thought rises and so the “I”-thought is the root of all conversation. When one remains without thinking one understands another by means of the universal language of silence.
Silence is ever speaking. It is a perennial flow of language, which is interrupted by speaking. These words I am speaking obstruct that mute language. For example, there is electricity flowing in a wire. With resistance to its passage, it glows as a lamp or revolves as a fan. In the wire it remains as electric energy. Similarly also, silence is the eternal flow of language, obstructed by words.
What one fails to know by conversation extending to several years can be known instantly in silence, or in front of silence. Dakshinamurti and his four disciples are a good example of this. This is the highest and most effective language.
To read more about the importance of silent teachings: