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Art of Silence
by Swami Veda Bharati
This passage has been taken from a transcription of a lecture given by Swami Veda Bharati in 2007 to a group in Hong Kong.
We are born from silence and at the end we re-enter that silence. At the end you re-enter that silence. When three souls unite and the very first globule of the fetus is formed it is silent. Slowly within the womb subtle waves of awareness begin to form. Very subtle images of past lives, memories of the moments of past enlightenments that have been forgotten. Yes, memories of the past enlightenments that have been forgotten. Again the images of the karmic lives and again those moments of absolute silence of divinity.
Slowly the parental noise of the mind penetrates that silence and a coherent silence slowly in the fetus begins to change into the same incoherent noise that the self-forgotten, us adults, constantly generate. Wish that we were not instruments of drowning that silence of the fetus because in the traditions of India and of the Himalayan yogis it is said that a child’s education begins three years before conception and is completed in the nine months within the womb. After that it is all noise and the adults have taken upon themselves the task of de-educating the enlightened ones and disturbing the innocent ones. We call that education.
We are born from that interior silence of the mother’s womb. What mother? Not just this physical mother where three souls unite. The yoga word for the Guru in the most ancient traditions is Hiranyagarbha, the golden womb. It is said that if you can stay in the womb of the Guru three days and three nights you become a brahmarcharin, one who wanders and walks in God like Nachiketa of the Katha Upanishad who knocked at the doors of the death and stayed three days and three nights before being granted enlightenment.
Our journey through the disturbance of noise through life ends again when the noise making instruments of the brain begin to shut down and one enters that total silence which the noisy ones among us fear. Only the noisy ones among us fear that. Others enter that silence, which the majority have named as death. From silence we begin and into silence we merge and re-enter but we never quite forget our origin in silence. Every night we tire of the noise of the day and we enter the silence of sleep involuntarily. One who talks in sleep, everyone laughs at him. The only difference is that the yogi sleeps consciously. You sleep unconsciously.
In the texts of Vedanta there are a great many discussions on the nature of sleep and it is said to be just one step short of the supreme ananda: the bliss of divinity. If it is conscious it is ananda. If it is unconscious, it is just a blurring of awareness. A forced resting of the mind. We long for that silence. We go for excursions in the woods. We sit by flowing streams. When you sit down by that quiet flowing stream and do not wish to get up, it’s so peaceful and quiet here. We forget that it is our inner silence that is calling us. That which is our origin. That which is our end.
You need to re-interpret the meaning of life not in terms of words but in terms of silence and the terminologies of silence. You need to learn to measure your capacities and qualifications in terms of that silence. How deep are we in that silence? That is the height of our qualification. How shallow we are in that silence, to that level we are beginners in the discovery of our potencies, capabilities, creativities and powers.
If you are a journalist or a photographer, before touching the pen to the paper or putting your hand on the key of the computer, before clicking your camera, go into silence for a moment, the kind of silence that you experience during meditation. Let it descend into you just for a moment, for five seconds and your hand will move by itself. Your fingers will write by themselves and the photograph that you are taking will be a masterpiece.
The yogis sit hours upon hours in silence. Some have become so tired of life after life of noise making and noise pollution that they have taken to life-long vows of silence. Among certain orders of the Catholic monks, in the Sufi orders, in the orders of the Buddhist monks, among the yogis I know personally monks who have not spoken a word for more than twenty years.
Practice of silence is a very refined art. Practice of silence is a very intricate science. It is not simply closing your mouth and not wagging your gossiping, back biting tongue. In the traditions of yoga there is a word, tapas. It is used very commonly. An intense endeavor, ascetic endeavor till you sweat. Not necessarily from the pores of your body but your mind sweats and frees itself of all its impurities. We are all afraid of this tapas. We are all afraid of intense endeavor. We’re afraid of long term commitments but if you make a long term commitment to discover the secrets of the depths of silence there is nothing else that is left to achieve. I assure you of that.
23 March 2009
At some point in one’s spiritual progress an urge to silence arises uninvited; a wave that carries the mind self-wards, atman-wards.
In all spiritual traditions the aspirant is assigned periods of silence, not to speak of the masters who have maintained total silence for their entire life-spans.
Silence is not merely an absence of speech. It is a fullness of the mind; the mind filled with the flow of an energy stream rising from within. For such a silence one needs guidance, because there is a science to practicing silence that many are not aware of.
It is in such methodical and guided silence that one’s pent up emotions do not keep arising and disturbing one, bringing one to tears now, to laughter then, and to an urge to quit the retreat or the Ashram and just run away (this happens after the third day of the retreat to many participants). The guide to the silence retreat takes care of the problem from within the Tradition.
Silence is the practice of the science of self-healing even if one is not impelled by a strong spiritual urge. Let us look at it this way. What is speech, physically speaking? Place your open palm in front of the lips and speak a few sentences. You will find that speech comes in the form of erratic bursts of breath. Speech is jerky breath. It means that when we speak our entire internal system is being jerked, the lungs, the heart, the blood pressure, navel centre, and diaphragm muscle (the chief breathing organ of the body), not to speak of the mind itself. Quite rightly, then, when we want someone to stop talking we say in English: Save your breath! Don’t waste your breath!
Silence is the art of longevity. The human life span is not measured in years; it is measured in the number of breaths allotted karmically. How long would one live? It all depends on how quickly, by fast and jerky breathing, one may choose to spend out one’s allotment. Or one may spend it slowly and invest a major portion to cultivate even a deeper silence, to have yet more to invest.
The science of silence, a guided silence, includes man)steps, for example:
- Using the breath to enter the state of mental silence;
- Calming the emotions so that the urge to speak may not arise;
- Using silence for self-healing so-that the energies commonly leaked in the process of speech may be absorbed, assimilated, channeled.
For example, unless one learns to breathe without a jerk, one cannot enter into silence. Mastering the pause between the breaths not only leads to kevala-kumbhaka (see Swami Veda Bharati’s Commentary on the 2nd chapter of the Yoga-sutras, II. 51). It
- leads one into deep interior silence;
- Makes one a conqueror of the forces of time;
- Grants the mastery over death.
But how does one master the pause between the breaths? That is for a silence and meditation guide to teach. A Silence Retreat with Swami Veda Bharati includes
- Hatha in a meditative context, guided by his assistants (see his book: Philosophy of Hatha Yoga;
- Guided meditations, so deep that hours may pass without one noticing the passage of time;
- Time for pranayama;
- Spiritual journaling;
- Contemplative walk, guided as to the different methods (see Swami Veda’s booklet: Contemplative Walk.
- Learning the rudiments of the science of sleeping: for example, not entering from wakefulness into sleep through the pathways of fantasies and reveries but through meditation; not emerging from sleep through tossing and turning but through the channel of the meditation state.
A silence retreat is not for learning “techniques”. Oh, would someone write a book about the correct technique for smiling, after full scientific investigation of what hormones are released when the lips are stretched quarter of an inch on both sides as against half an inch (need a control group, right?)! Write the book if your ambition is to make all smiles vanish from the earth. Techniques and methods are boats that have to be left behind after a certain river crossing – only for now the boat is needed. A silence retreat is for sadhana, intensive spiritual purification for progress.
The ideal silence retreat for a serious practitioner begins at ten days duration. Make it twelve days; one day for arrival; ten days for washing the mind’s fabric in the infinity stream; twelfth day for departure. Often, a teacher may increase it to fifteen days. Quite often at our Rishikesh Ashram, when a novice arrives with the intention of intensive sadhana, and asks for his personally tailored program, s/he is told: no schedule for three days. Just sleep, exercise, walk, sleep again; get all the fatigue out of your system, otherwise you will sit for meditation and nod off or will tie for shava-asana practice and will snore. One carries enormous amount of fatigue in the body besides all the emotions that we store in our muscles. All these need to be rinsed before one can meditate.
A silence guide embraces the participants into his/her own field of silence, and becomes a channel for the grace that ever flows from the ancient lineage of the Himalayan masters.
Swami Veda Bharati,
Disciple of Swami Rama of the Himalayas
There are many misunderstandings about yoga. There are many paths in yoga and different yogis choose different paths. Here we shall speak only of two paths to clear up some misunderstandings. There is a common perception that all yogis are glowing with health and youthfulness. Sometimes we hear questions like: If he is a yogi why does he wear eye glasses? We shall explain a little.
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa died of cancer. Swami Vivekananda died of diabetes. Paramahamsa Yogananda died of heart attack – so we hear. But we do not doubt their achievements in yoga.
Here, there are two paths. The path of dhyana-yogis and the path of hatha-yogis. The hatha-yoga practices that grant youthfulness and glow of health are time consuming. The dhyana-yogis do basic hatha just to enable the body to sit in meditation. They prefer then to spend more time in the internal meditative practices to achieve the goals of the realization of eternity and moksha.
Even the practices of dhyana-yogis and hatha-yogis differ on many grounds. For example, hatha-yogis teach kumbhaka, retention of breath. The genuine dhyana-yogis, both of the Himalayan tradition of yogis and of the Buddhist orders, teach awareness of the soft and suavely flowing breath and related practices. These latter prefer to perfect kevala-kumbhaka, which is when the breath becomes so subtle that it goes into akasha-tattva, the ‘space’-element. This can be understood only experientially. Very few know these practices and have mastered them.
Then among the dhyana-yogis (and jnana-yogis), there are those who sit in the solitude of caves (if any caves are left by now!) and monastic cells of solitude. They do not take many disciples, and remain absorbed in their contemplative practices.
Then there are those who have chosen, or have been ordered by their guru, to serve and teach widely out there in the world. They travel around the world, meet and guide thousands of people and manage to find time only for their spiritual practices, besides giving the necessary attention to guiding and helping others, not to mention often undertaking massive charity projects. In such a life, because these demands on their time are so heavy, there is no time for these guides of dhyana-yoga and jnana-yoga for their own physical well being.
So, with the few minutes or few hours jealously saved, one can either go into meditation or do eye exercises to take off the glasses!
Then, is there no physical benefit to the path of meditation? That would also be erroneous.
First of all, these dhyana-yogis dwell in the inner world of the mind from where they derive endless flow of inner knowledge which they continue to share.
Secondly, such yogis do not make body conditions into mind conditions and their spiritual practices give them the ability to endure even when, in the course of service, their bodies collapse. They have served the mission of their guru lineage and die in satisfaction and inner peace.
Third is the greatest benefit to the body. The practices of meditation awaken their prana bodies and it is the prana that gives them the inner strength to continue to serve far beyond the capacity of ordinary people.
Here I will give a personal example.
I started full-time traveling and lecturing, domestic and international, in 1946. It has been non-stop for 68 years of my current 81 years.
For many decades those serving close to me have seen me often at the verge of collapse and suggested I cancel appointments, travel or lectures. I go through special and subtle internal prana-revival practices, not known to hatha-yogis. Half an hour after those practices and deep meditation, the same people are surprised to see me give my lectures, teachings and appointments with full force.
Have you ever heard of a case where a person with six heart arteries 100% blocked for a number of years has done several round the world lecture tours? That is my case, by the power of dhyana-yoga.
So, the path of dhyana-yoga is not totally useless in the body’s care!
What is meditation? How does it work? Can meditation help you achieve genuine peace and happiness in today’s hectic, often chaotic world?
By Swami Rama
Meditation is a word that has come to be used loosely and inaccurately in the modern world. That is why there is so much confusion about how to practice it. Some people use the word meditate when they mean thinking or contemplating; others use it to refer to daydreaming or fantasizing. However, meditation (dhyana) is not any of these.
Enkele jaren voordat Louella Gerritsen – een van onze kerndocenten – de status van internationaal gecertificeerd yogadocent in de Himalaya Yoga Meditatie Traditie bereikte, voltooide zij de yogadocentenopleiding van Stg. Raja Yoga Nederland.
Zij studeerde af, in 2006, met een scriptie getiteld Hoe word ik weer heel?
Het thema van de scriptie is “Meditatie als kracht bij genezing”.
Deze scriptie is nu ‘vrijgekomen’; de nagenoeg integrale versie kunt u hier downloaden.