AHYMSIN

Love, Serve, Remember

Articles by Swami Veda Bharati

Silence

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On Personal Silence

A silent one apologizes for his lack of courtesy: You greet him and he answers with a nod, but apologizes. Though he finds it restful to be as silent as possible, this doesn't mean that he will not do his duties. If communication is necessary, he'll be at your service. Living in the world, he finds that since he leaves all of us to just withdraw into a cave, he has to create his own cave. We Americans like portable things. So a portable cave comes straight out of stealth technology and doesn't show itself! Wherever you go, you do carry that cave. All you have to do is sit down and carve the space around you. There it is; you're all alone. Then you find that your compulsion to communicate has ceased. You feel that there's nothing words talking about in the world except God. And God one cannot talk about because one has not seen Him, vet.... So There’s no point in all this chitter and chatter that goes on in our heads and becomes sounds; and all the radio stations, and the TV stations, reproduced in god knows how many languages. Sooner or later, you have to find a way to rest from it all.
 
By maintaining as much silence as is possible without neglecting one's duties, the meditation deepens. If you practice silence, the depth you used to achieve in 30 minutes, you can then achieve in three minutes if you practice silence. It is also because normally one's own voice gives a feedback to one's mind, which is more disturbing than one realizes.
 
The biggest noise the mind hears is one's own voice, because it is so close to itself, to the mind. But if the mind is anyway dis¬eased with its own internal chitter-charter, then the tongue will definitely wag. Stopping the tongue from wagging does not stop the chatter of the mind. So if you think that by tying some kind of a cloth around your mouth or maybe gagging yourself, you would be able to achieve mental rest, that will prove too optimistic.
 
First, there has to be a condition in the mind. The mind should not need to go into such a state of dependence on others that without them, it feels lost. People say, "Oh, how I would like a moment of peace and quiet. You kids get out. Go away!" As soon as they're out and away, on goes the TV. And there goes the peace and quiet, because people have not understood the mind's need.
 
We indulge unnecessary amounts of emotional disturbance, being all members of the local chapter of the Masochist Club. We enjoy torturing ourselves. But you can cease that torture, as you find that a close relationship between vocal silence and mind's quietness will become more and more evident.
Have someone else who will enjoy speaking, well, let them have the pleasure!
 
By maintaining silence--for some reason which I'm still trying to observe inside me--the emotional edge is blunted. Things that would ordinarily stick sharply like thorns in the heart and mind, will nor be felt that sharply during the times one takes to intentional silence. The emotional edge is blunted during silence because you are aware that if you allowed an intensity of emotion then you would want to use words. In silence your mind reminds you: "But, hey, you are on a vow of silence, so don't get worked up. This way the inclination to break the vow of silence diminishes.
 
The silence itself calms you down. It has a feedback effect. It reduces the intensity of emotions, and the absence of the intensity of emotion reduces the inclination to speak. That, in turn, again reduces the intensity of emotions and that further reduces the inclination to speak. Is there an antonym for "vicious cycle"? Beneficial cycle? That beneficial cycle goes on.
 
It is also a practice in patience. There are always unpleasant things happening around you. Your normal reaction is to burst out and protest. But in a vow of silence, you have to practice patience.
 
In my own feeble efforts at silence while doing my duties to centers and students I communicate often with notes. This way, one rests while one works. I speak by proxy through written notes. I've learned to do two things by proxy, these being the two functions of the mouth: taking in and taking out. If I want to eat something that I really enjoy but it's not recommended for my physical condition, I feed people with affection and thereby receive a very subtle satisfaction. And I speak by proxy.
 
In such a situation one can do all his duties by communicating with fewer words. Just scribble a note. It's much better and it is physically restful. When far away from such duties, in solitude, the need even for dutiful communication ceases.
 
Even physically, health wise, silence is so great one needs a little less sleep by maintaining silence. We do not know what percentage of our tiredness at the end of the day comes from speaking. The practice of silence is beneficial not only for spiritual reasons but even for physical reasons. Being diabetic, I have checked my blood pressure and blood sugar levels during vows of silence, and both went down considerably compared to when I am not on the vow, with no other factors being changed in life. Carrying on the usual work, I found myself less tired at night, needing less sleep, simply because of the practice of silence.
 
In silence, other senses naturally come under control. Gandhi used to say that the control over the desire to eat is the control over speech in the form of silence and the practice of celibacy; that all these forms of self-control are intertwined. If I want to lose weight and go into silence, I lose weight much more quickly. Very quickly. The desire to eat is not there as the mouth's other function is being sublimated. Thus you don't have to fight against a desire to reduce the food intake during silence. Similarly, with the practice of silence, celibacy becomes even more natural. So all of these great benefits help to develop a certain interior energy source. That energy can go into creativity; or into guiding meditation; or one can sit down without preparing a lecture and weave a yarn of inspiring words effortlessly.  What experienced teachers of meditation tell you is not based on books. It's not based on what one has learned by listening and taking notes from somebody's lectures. Whatever they tell you is from the personal experiments they have made in their lives.
 
Their successful experiments are the ones that are helpful to us. They have said: "Silence is golden." Start saving a little gold with a little practice of silence, say, one hour at a time. One hour. When you decide to keep silence for an hour, don't turn on the TV. Do switch off the phone. Don't use that time for writing a long letter. Because then the mind is still chattering.
 
Don't use that time for eating because then the mouth would still be going. But you may continue to do, say, some physical duties: cleaning house or washing dishes. Or go for a walk in the woods for that hour and walk silently. If somebody stops you, there is no harm in playing dumb.
 
One would have to experiment. Try one hour of silence and then at the end of that hour, see how you are feeling emotionally. Because a lot of suppressed emotion comes up to the surface, it needs to be channeled. It may compel you to break the silence. So, begin gently, and do not start your forty days in the cabin abruptly! Practice climbing hills before you embark on an Everest expedition.
 
Initially, when you have stopped the communication, you experience that it is like the thoughts arising during meditation, emotions arising during silence. So, go at it cautiously, if you have never done it before. Teachers are often asked: Would you do any reading during silence? I would suggest: take a one hour's silent walk instead. Then sit down and see what your feelings are. What is happening? Then try without the walk another day and see how it feels. The best is the silence of mind. You need to get used to the silence of mind, and to know what to do with the mind if you're not reading.
 
What is mind doing? That is the question. It you are not reading, and you're not watching lti', what will you do with the mind? And if the mind has to keep chattering, no point in this pursuit. Do experiments, Some experts can maintain silence of mind while reading, but the majority cannot.
 
When we are using our minds ordinarily, the major part of our brains and all kinds of sympathetic systems therein become excited. During one cerebral activity, many parts of the brain are also agitated and working. The practice of deep silence is very different, as follows: You can be creative; you can be reading; you can even be speaking; but if you are using only that much of your neurocerebral system that is absolutely necessary for that activity, then the rest of your mind and brain remain in silence.
 
But many people are unable to practice that kind of isolating. An expert rnuni, practitioner of silence, may read, write or give messages, but during those activities he may maintain silence and is not very much disturbed because he can focus selectively on only that work, yet keeping other parts of his mind quiet. Swamiji (Swami Rama) always says: karni aur sumirni, that is, we should learn to remain busy and remember God at the same time.
 
So, if you are reading during silence, what is the rest of your brain doing? What is your body doing? You come upon a thrilling, exciting portion in the book, what response is your body giving to that? And if the body is reacting to all of those things during the narrative of an event in an emotional manner, then you are not practicing silence. So, there are no strict rules. You have to watch your mind, your level of emotion, your level of reaction. That's it.  
 
One may speak and still be silent if he has mastered regulated speech by following the three principles of speech that is silence: hitam, initam, priyam--beneficial, measured, pleasant. Is what I am saying beneficial? Is it measured in tone, level of voice, number of words, to be most effective? And is it being said in the most pleasant manner that is efficacious for the purpose? Any more pleasant is not efficacious. Any less pleasant is violent. But this kind of silence during speech, being with God while in action; is far more advanced than the majority can handle. Begin with an hour of silence, and the seed will grow into a tree bearing abundance of spiritual fruit.
 

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