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Articles by Swami Veda Bharati

Silence

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Psychology of Silence

When we contemplate silence and begin to talk about it, would we find ourselves at a loss for words? We want to reach the point of silence where the words would be totally lost and the silence of mind that ensues, that alone, would be our communication.
 
Since we are using a verbal vehicle of communication, we are still in the world of analysis, though it is not possible that silence, through silence, can be analyzed. It is that whole which is not constituted of parts. However, we know it, we know its presence, we know its possibility by visible manifestations, by tangible experiences, by its signs and symptoms. It is said in the Yoga Sutras that the yogi in samadhi does nor say he is in samadhi. Only when he emerges from samadhi, seeing that time has elapsed, lie knows that he was in samadhi. So also we know true silence only by the symptoms-- manifestations that it leaves in its wake -- the waves that arise from its depths. Spiritual psychology has not yet been defined. A text book of spiritual psychology has not yet been written. Much that passes for psychology has its roots in the world of manifestations; and the experiences thereof. Although the founder of modern psychology, Freud (it is not well known) began his investigations under the tutelage of a teacher who was very keen on understanding breathing processes, but Freud soon abandoned that line of investigation and took a different route into the unconscious.

Many of our experiences of life, and psychological conditions that have been forgotten, which lie in our unconscious, actually do not quite originate from where he says they do. For example, the human urge to return to the womb -- the unconscious memory of the womb experience --it is such a widespread thought nowadays that these terms of analysis have become commonplace daily idioms. Actually much that is attributed to the womb really belongs to that part of our being which is beyond the unconscious, which is the truly conscious, which is the world of silence. The desire for a return to the womb has its origin, not in a desire. I repeat, the desire for a return to the womb has its origin not in a desire but in a recognition we all have of our origins being in a very, very deeply eternally silent place. When we are in that eternally silent place, a holy night, it is the truly silent night. There is a mantle of silence under which we seek to conceal ourselves from the world of manifestations. From the world of noises we seek to shelter ourselves. I have reached these conclusions after observing my own moments of excitation and agitations in life, the very excitatory phenomena that have become an integral part of our culture nowadays whereby we think that the more exciting the better. After observing those phenomena with great care, I have reached the conclusion that we seek excitations and agitations also because those excitations and agitations lead us to exhaustion. It is actually the exhaustion we are seeking for, the restless kinetic form of energy. Because, the large majority of us who do not know the direct route into the "eternal rest," we try to go to it by way of exhaustion, through resting.
 
Those who have begun to find that direct route, take to the path of pratyahara. What is pratyahara? Ordinarily in the spiritual circles of all the religions and all the traditions, people speak of conquering the senses, of mastering them. Pratyahara is that state when the mind has become naturally pacified and the senses that only reflect the conditions of the mind, the senses that are only symptomatic of the conditions of the mind, enter the mental condition of quietness. Thereby they become just as still as the mind is. That state of the integration of mind and senses into a common experience of stillness is called pratyahara. That having been arrived at, then we no longer seek the path to rest by way of exhaustion, starting out from the excitatory experiences of life.
 
That is why, in our practice of meditation also the khechari mudra is practiced. The word khechari means "that which takes one on a flight into the skies." The tongue is turned into the palate. Actually the particular nadi, the energy channel that has its location in the tongue, is turned back and is merged into that central ,energy channel which flows through the palate into the brahmarandhra, into the center of the sahasrara chakra. It is not an act of turning the tongue; it is the act of merging the oral, vocal energy into the path of sushumna and one cannot accomplish khechari, the practice of silence in meditation, until or/and unless one prepares for that union, that merger. It would become contrived, an effort like our asanas which similarly become an effort unless we understand the pranamaya kosha (the prana body). That is why in our philosophy we describe the practice of hatha yoga to be a practice not of annamaya kosha, not of the physical body, but the practice of the pranamaya kosha.
 
In fact the aim of japa (continuous repetition of mantra) is this: that all thoughts and emotions be replaced by a single thought, or, for the want of a better word, a single sentiment of devotion, so that finally, even that thought, even that sentiment may be discarded and we reach the deepest silence.
 
Real meditation actually begins only at that moment when even the thought called the mantra is abandoned. When we speak of silence then, we do not mean silence of words; it is this silence that is in the pranamaya kosha, the silence that is in the manomaya kosha (sheath of mind) that is to be experienced.
 
We have been taught that silence is the renunciation of the intention to speak but from where does this intention arise? What is the origin of this intention to speak, the inclination to communicate? It is in emotions. What is an emotion? Emotions are something on the borderline between the samskaras (latent tendencies) and vrittis (waves of thoughts arising from the deep subconscious reservoir of mind). Samskaras lie hidden in us in what others call the unconscious. Something unconscious is that of which our conscious mind, or our neocortex, is not aware. For the samskaras to become vrittis we come to a baseline thought which is still undivided into its constituent sub-emotions, into its component thought forms and then the word forms. That baseline thought is called emotion. That baseline thought then seeks to express itself, seeks to become so many signs and symptoms of that which is lying unexpressed in us. The intention is renounced only when purification occurs, at that level of the unspoken, unmanifest baseline thought. The intention to speak is then not important; it no longer drives us. It does not become the main impelling force in our relationships, in our communication. There is some other form of communication that we begin to learn at that stage and that is the true communication.
 
The great founder of the path, the Buddha had a senior contemporary Mahavira, whose name is not so well known in the west but whose religion, Jaina, is just as powerful, one very widely known in India for its practice of silence, austerity, and purity. When the monks of the Jaina path know that their work for life is done, they abandon food and water and speech. The highest among them are known as digambaras, the monks who, after long rigorous practicing and testing, are permitted to remain only sky-clad. They become sky-clad for the rest of their lives. These monks are not permitted or do not choose to take even a sheer on their body in the coldest weather at night. When they abandon their body they do so by a process of leaving our all speech, all food, all water and gently let the mind merge into the supreme mind, letting the body be left behind. Such a path was taught by Mahavira, the great contemporary of the Buddha. And it so happened that in the course of their wanderings, Buddha and Mahavira stayed at the same house for many days but never uttered a word to each other. They had nothing to say to each other. Silence sufficed.
 
We want to aspire to reach that womb from where all our baseline thoughts and emotions have arisen, the womb of Mother Silence. If the silence grows deep and true, khechari will form by itself and you will become a sky-wandering one.
 

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