Tuesday, January 22, 2008

silence | the adored path of the mystics

Buddha empty handTraditionally the mystics of all ages know the limitations of words and are never a big appreciator of words when it comes to living and embodying the Reality. it has always been maintained that the Highest Truth can never be put into words. the moment one attempts to describe the Highest Reality, one distorts it and what is described is not what IT Really IS.

"the one who remain silent becomes free"
"either speak good or remain silent" - Prophet Muhammad

tradition has it recorded that everynight after isha or night prayer, Prophet Muhammad entered into silence and would not speak to anyone. Prior to the beginning of his prophetic mission he used to go for silent retreat in a nearby mountain cave. later for lay practitioner entering silence was institutionalized during the last ten days of ramadan, the month of fasting. its called itikaf where one stays in a corner of mosque or house, devote oneself in prayer in complete silence devoiding oneself from all wordly engagements. Itikaf is the islamic tradition of contemplation, solitary and practicing silence.

Mouni or silence is something very important part of ancient hindu spiritual path as well. Buddha who himself was born into a hindu family and culture, also entered into long silence and deep state of meditation before he received enlightenment. a major reason of all spiritual retreat and seclusion is to remain silent in order to tune in, to listen to the inner voice, which is the voice of the Divine Itself. in the life of Buddha a story survived in Buddhism which is also considered the beginning of Zen tradition.

. the first zen story | the Flower Sermon

Buddha, truly a mystic in heart, was staying at a place sharing his teaching each day with his followers. one morning he arrive to find many monks, nuns and lay people seated, waiting to listen to his words. Buddha sat before them in silence. For a long time he just sat there quietly and his followers sat in silence waiting and wondering.

Finally between his fingers he held up a flower, silently displaying it to the crowd. Nobody understood this gesture except Mahakasyapa, one of his monk disciples, who smiled, having understood that no words could be a substitute for WHAT IS.

Buddha handed the flower to Mahakasyapa and began to speak. “What can be said I have said to you,” smiled the Buddha, “and what cannot be said, I have given to Mahakashyapa.”

What Buddha was trying to transmit? He was trying to make the point that enlightenment couldn’t be attained by lecturing. Enlightenment would come from a silent mind.

"All real spiritual teachers teach in silence." - Sri Chinmoy

The highest teaching is not conveyed in words, but in silence. that's why highest teachings are always transmitted from heart to heart without dependence merely on words. The 'silence-loving heart' is the best receptive vessel. "Be still and know God" is also the ancient, ancient reminder from the Psalms. and mystics know in their heart, God is the Great Silence, Who is accessed through silence.

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