In the cacophony that surrounds us, to dwell within requires great vigilance on our part. Silence as a regular practice facilitates inner quest. It is the quieting of mental activity . Thoughts travel faster than light. We cannot avoid thoughts. But by silencing the mind, we can scale down the thinking process.
Thinking is the activity associated with thoughts. Needless thinking leads to worry . The practice of silence helps in sensitising us to our inner consciousness, the essence of our being. German philosopher Nietzsche says, “Our greatest experiences are our quietest moments.“
While loneliness is poverty of the self, solitude is its richness. Theologian Paul Tillich says, “Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone.“ It has created the word `loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word `solitude’ to express the glory of being alone. We become sensitive to the joy of connecting with the inner self when in solitude; we silently listen to our inner voice. Advaita texts highlight the power of silence. Shiva in the form of the young sage, Dakshinamurti, dispels all doubts of his disciples through the power of his silence.
Indeed, when we are troubled and in doubt, we discover answers when we tune in to our inner voice. Much like the musk deer who roams the forest frantically in search of the fragrance of musk, little realising that it abides and exudes from within itself, we look for answers in the external world.Persistent conditioning because of association with external events and happenings poses a challenge. This challenge can be met through the power of silence and listening.
Combining the twin activities of silence and listening as a daily practice helps in increasing our awareness and connecting with the power within. We then start understanding the import of what Buddha said, “Events happen, deeds are done, consequences happen, but there is no individual doer of deeds.“ The Gita expounds this powerfully by giving us the right to actions, not outcomes. Interestingly , this concept has been validated by scientific and mathematical experts.The butterfly effect proposed by mathematician Edward Lorenz points to the impos sibility of determining the future outcomes of two small states whose difference is imperceptible.
Outcomes of our actions are inconsistent despite our best efforts; sometimes for the better, other times for the worse. Our attention therefore has to centre on right intentions and means instead of outcomes. The more we relate and use the power of silence and listening, the better will be our responses to life’s uncertainties.
The practice of silence and listening, besides quickening the path to realising the truth, helps us understand the futility of trying to control outcomes and avoid the constant struggle and concern with what happened and what will be. Our problem stems from an over emphasis on results.
Silence and listening help us refocus our energies on the power within and live life moment by moment; to be more mindful, conscious and sensitive to what we think, say and do. We realise that silence is a powerful mechanism that we possess into which the world cannot intrude. Our actions then emanate only from good intent and sincere effort. The benefit will be peace of mind and tranquility despite intense activity.
We will over time gradually accept the Buddha’s words on what enlightenment means, a process of negation rather than gathering anything afresh.Simply put, the `end of suffering’.