by Smt. Susmita Devi
As I looked at the Saccidananda Society’s calendar for 2014, the quotation under the picture of Sri Sri Babathakur shows one of his aphorisms: “Silence is the true language of the Self”. The ‘silence’ mentioned on the calendar and referred to on innumerable occasions during His talks, is the inner one – the one that we must go ‘within’ to become One with the Self. One may, however, function part-time outwardly as per the requirements of the society one lives in. Practicing inner and regular outer silence is bound to create the appropriate psychological condition for spiritual progress, and will eventually result in a changed behavior pattern that is sure to facilitate one’s daily living.
Iwas subsequently pondering over how many kinds of silence the individual ‘I’ has experienced: Silence of speech (practice of ‘moun’), Silence during a meditative state, Silence due to lack of conversation topic, Silence rooted in an offended ego, Silence to spare another’s ego from being hurt, Silence following anger, Silence during intense listening (not mere hearing!).
Silence of speech (practice of ‘moun’):For a number of years while living in a joint family and when doing social work, I practiced silence of speech for 24 hours once a week. In the beginning, it was just to avoid answering random questions, which was rather difficult as people around me tried to get me to talk so that they could subsequently gloat over their success in breaking my silence. Later that became easy and the next step was to still the thoughts as much as possible for that period of time. This also was achieved by and by. It was actually lovely to have a ‘blank’ mind for some time, for it meant some period of ‘ananda’ which is not only ‘happiness’ in the conventional sense but rather a deep feeling of peace and harmony. At such times, non-verbal guidance from higher sources would happen. To observe moun also permitted me to withdraw from the hustle and verbal bustle of some of the social engagements - although I performed the normal duties without speaking. At that time I regularly went by bus to sit at the feet of Sri Sri Babathakur in the afternoon – and so as not to break the silence, I made sure I had the exact bus fare ready the evening before. That allowed me to remain silent even in the bus. Later on it became rather easy to maintain the silent days, and now, being alone most of the time, silence has become an integral part of life.
Silence during a meditative state:Anyone having meditated regularly recognizes the ‘inner silence’ slowly manifests during meditative periods. The mind, when not busy finding words to tell or comment on outer events, turns towards higher spheres where verbal communication is not needed. The whole idea of speech belongs to humanity which inherently knows silence (but has forgotten the importance of non-verbal communication from higher awareness levels in the form of vibration-creating thoughts). Such silence has been compared to a half-empty glass which can be filled up with better-quality ideas and teaching.
Silence due to lack of conversation topic:Silence may be of both positive and negative character in society. When in company of people who, for various reasons like language difficulties, paucity of thought, stammering, mental deficiency, preoccupied with work etc., find it difficult to communicate, it becomes easier to maintain a positive silence. It may also be that two or more persons have different occupations in the same room. Such a positive silence is a companionable silence. If hostile vibrations are present, the silence becomes negative and creates new negative thought pattern. One must learn to become aware of which aspect is the prevalent in one’s life and eventually deliberately counteract the negativity through positive spiritual practices (e.g. by not responding with mental negativity to the off-putting expressions or feeling of others).
Silence rooted in an offended ego:
I have often deliberately avoided both verbal and other non-verbal expressions when the ego is hurt. It is a very efficient way to stop negativity from spreading to others. The subsequent part is to self-analyze how and why the ego was offended, whether the reprimand was deserved or not, and then deciding to not being subject to negative feelings and explore how to let the ego remain positive or neutral in perceived negative situations. It is, of course, a question of constantly being ‘on your guard’ and practicing not to let the small ego be in command. The same goes for one’s interaction with others.
Silence to spare another’s ego from being hurt:It is a common practice to point out negative aspects of another individual and ignore one’s own. Being compassionate amongst other things entails refraining from reporting the negative aspects uttered by someone. People’s egos are, in general, rather sensitive to their reputations and don’t like to be talked about in a negative way. One should therefore avoid participation in gossip mongering. If directly asked by another whether the color combination selected is good, avoid being blunt if the combination does not tally your sense of color. I used to answer such questions by saying that if the person concerned is happy with it, then another’s opinion is irrelevant. Another aspect of avoiding hurting an ego is simply to avoid expressing one’s own opinions in a forceful or contemptible way; that will only enhance your ego and not serve the other. Another constructive response may be to suggest an alternative combination. To be courteous is an also a way to spare the ego of friends and foes alike. Don’t forget that the ultimate repository of courtesy is the inherent Self.
Silence following anger:It is common practice to strongly counter any negative comment about oneself. Regrettably, most people willingly participate in scorning others. A prominent ego is, indeed, a very fragile part of the personality. When angry for whatever reason, it is rather easier to abuse the other person verbally than to silently accept that the criticism may or may not be justified. My father repeatedly told me to slowly count to ten before retorting against anyone who made me angry because it would give me time to reflect if the slight was justified or not. To keep up anger-silence for longer periods can be detrimental to any relationship and such silence creates very strong negative vibrations in and around the unvoiced one. It is far better to sort out any disagreement once the sense of hurt has been reduced to a level where a sensible discussion may take place. I learned to soothe tempers by smilingly saying: ‘Let us agree to disagree’.
Silence during intense listening (not mere hearing)!:During the first couple of weeks of sitting at the beautiful feet of Sri Sri Babathakur and listening to Him talk, I could hardly keep my mind on the intrinsic meaning of what I heard. I was only hearing, not truly listening. My mind worked concurrently on other topics of daily happenings and observations of how the other followers behaved and dressed. This is a common occurrence - for one’s attention span must be trained to listen instead of merely hearing (which allows only bits and pieces of the instructions to be remembered). The practice of meditation may help one to focus for a longer span of time, which in turn may lead to true listening, so that the essential teaching can be fixed in the mind and stored in the memory and thus be useful at a later stage of one’s spiritual development. Now-a-days, the electronic age has promoted recording devices galore; however to hear a rendition of a lecture through an electronic medium doesn’t easily penetrate the depth of one’s mind and memory. Recordings allow one to hear any given talk over and again when time permits! Self-effort and discipline therefore become minimized and the results manifest, but slowly. Recordings are, of course, a blessing to those who have not been able to be in direct contact with the Guru and may serve to spread the teaching far wider than a live talk. Recordings, at least, represent the direct words of the Master. The written words, rendering the talks and happenings, may have slightly more impact than a recording. They are, however, prone to individual interpretations, if not if failed memory.
Willingness to train one’s mind in a specific direction is necessary, as is assiduous adherence to a practice regime. One of the important practices for me has been to maintain silence, notwithstanding the surrounding people trying their level best to disrupt it.