Aphorisms on meditation by Sri Chinmoy
Photos: Menaka, Sri Chinmoy Centre Gallery
Aphorisms on meditation by Sri Chinmoy
Photos: Menaka, Sri Chinmoy Centre Gallery
click to enlarge
About the Artist
Sri Chinmoy was a fully illumined spiritual master whose artistic creations served as a tangible expression of his enlightenment, conveying the profound joy, beauty, colour, dynamism and spontaneity of the inner worlds. Through art, writing, music, meditation, humanitarian projects and athletics, Sri Chinmoy offered boundless inspiration for happiness and peace in the world.
“When it is a matter of my paintings, there is no mind, no form. Something within me is coming to the fore freely, effortlessly, with infinite inspiration…spreading its beauty and light so that my paintings flow spontaneously. When I paint, I try to go deep within to the source of creativity where it is all peace, calmness and quiet.
I feel that when people look at my art and find peace, this helps to bring forward their own soul’s qualities and thus increase their own wisdom and joy. When looking at my art, they enter not into the battlefield of life but into a garden of light—the garden of their heart’s divine reality.” ~ Sri Chinmoy
Question: How can we be joyful in spite of life’s difficulties?
SRI CHINMOY: How can we be joyful? Give selflessly. We get joy not by coming forward before others, but by bringing others to the fore. Real joy is experienced by self-giving, not by possessing or showing our own supremacy. When we allow others to get joy first, we feel our joy is more complete and more perfect.
We can have more joy and less tension in life only in self-giving, not in demanding. When there is tension, it is because we want something to be done in our own way. We become tense because we see light in one way and others see light in some other way. So there is no peace, no poise, only tension. Understand that God operates not only in us, but in others as well and in our so-called enemies too. But these are not our real enemies. Our real enemies are our doubts, fears, anxieties and worries. When instead of trying to perfect others we try to perfect ourselves, then we will have joy.
If we do not expect anything from anyone, we will have joy. If we can know that we are not indispensable, that without us the world can go on perfectly well, we will have joy. This way, we can all have abundant joy in life.
Nobody can be as happy as a person who is detached. When we are attached to something or someone, we become a victim of that thing or person. If we want to have true joy and peace, we must be totally detached. Detachment does not mean that we shall not work for the world—we will work for the world, be in the world, but we shall not allow ourselves to be carried away by anything.
The outer sign of progress is inner joy. Inner joy is something very sweet and intense; it always fulfills our thoughts and actions. There are two kinds of joy—outer joy and inner joy. We think that the possessor of outer joy is someone else, not ourselves. Again, we may try to get joy by talking or mixing with others. But inner joy is not got like this. When we meditate or contemplate, at that time we feel that we are the soul of joy. We get real joy from silent and profound meditation. In the outer life, when we talk and mix with people, or exchange ideas with others, we may get a kind of satisfaction. But this is not real joy. Real joy is something very deep, illumining and fulfilling. The joy we feel inside is like a fountain; it comes spontaneously. Inner joy has no fear and it can transform our nature.
When the heart is open, you will feel boundless joy, boundless love and boundless purity. Then you will see joy in everything. A day will come when you will get spontaneous joy from everything. You will look at a flower and get joy, you will look at a child and get joy, and you will look at the world and get joy. You will also get peace and the feeling of universal oneness.
Question:What is the relationship between our soul and God?
SRI CHINMOY: We know that there is something that we call the soul. The soul is the representative of God here on earth, a spark of God. Who is God? God is our own highest reality. He is in the soul and with the soul, guiding it constantly. A human being can never be separated from God. God is playing His divine Game and at each moment He is revealing Himself in and through us. God has a particular divine mission to fulfil through your unique soul. To fulfil this mission, He will utilise your soul and no other as His chosen instrument.
In the Hindu tradition, atman and paramatman are the individual soul and the Supreme Self. God comes down into manifestation and takes the form of the individual soul. Then the individual soul in the process of its evolution reaches and becomes the Supreme Self. That is why in India we say atmanam viddhi, or “know thyself”. If you know yourself, then you know God, because in essence there is no difference between you and God. Self-realisation is God-realisation. In the same vein, all the esoteric traditions have maintained that true knowledge is found within. That is why Jesus said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.”
Right now when we think of ourselves, we think of our body and not our soul. Unfortunately, we identify ourselves all the time with our lowest part. Our being is like a house that belongs to us. We do not use the third floor at all, but spend most of our time in the basement or on the first floor. Since we spend most of our time there, we feel the basement is our reality. The third floor is also ours, if only we can find our way there.
The total process of evolution on earth includes the soul as well as the physical form. The soul fights against doubt, obscurity, ignorance, imperfection, limitations, worries and so forth. It tries to reveal its own inner divinity and establish the divine Truth on earth according to its capacity. The soul is uncovering what it has always known, but while it is uncovering, it is growing and enriching itself by taking into itself the divine essence of its earthly experiences. Meanwhile, the physical consciousness is becoming more and more conscious of the soul’s unlimited divine capacity.
The soul has already realised God. It is a portion of God and it is eternally for God. It is only the human being—our body, vital, mind and heart—that must realise God, but not the soul proper. The soul proper must manifest God to the world at large; that is why the soul has come into the world.
Question: How should I do meditation if I have never done it before?
SRI CHINMOY: When we meditate, what we actually do is enter into a vacant, calm, still, silent mind. We go deep within and approach our true existence, which is our soul. Meditation is the conscious feeding of our soul. If we eat every day, we become very strong because of our regular nourishment. So also when we meditate every day the soul is being nourished. Then it gets the opportunity to manifest itself better, that is to say, to manifest the Divine on earth.
As a beginner, first try to be calm and quiet for five minutes at least three times a day: in the morning, at noon and in the evening. You do not have to actually do any kind of meditation. Just feel that these five minutes belong to you and nobody else. Act like a miser. Feel that you are not going to give these five minutes to anybody, not to your relatives or your friends, or your enemies—nobody. These five minutes are absolutely yours. When you are with yourself this is not self-centered ego. Here, ‘you’ means you in your highest form. Your highest form is God, and you are growing into this highest form.
Regularity is necessary. Although we are regular, we may not give first importance to our meditation. But if we give importance to our meditation and are wholeheartedly sincere then automatically our power of meditation will increase.
The main thing is not to become discouraged. When you begin taking exercise, you cannot do it for more than five minutes. But if you practice daily, then after a few months you can take exercise for an hour or two. What we need is regular practice at a regular time. If you can mediate early in the morning at a particular hour, then try to continue meditating every day at that hour. At that hour, God will knock at your heart’s door. Open it and He will offer you His Peace, Light, Bliss and Power.
“There is nothing worth knowing but the soul.
There is nothing worth becoming but God.”
Question:Often when I try to practice non-attachment to the things I love or feel are mine, I become angry. Have I misunderstood something?
SRI CHINMOY: Yes, you have misunderstood something. One thing is renunciation and another thing is illumination. You have left certain things reluctantly, abruptly, even though you still have a desire for them. This is renunciation. Only through proper meditation can you achieve sincere non-attachment.
In this world everybody has some responsibility. Your first responsibility is to take care of your body, vital, mind, heart and soul. If you decide to renounce or neglect the body then what will happen to the temple that houses the soul? If you dislike or hate your body-consciousness that means you have forgotten that inside your body is God.
If you renounce your vital, thinking that it is very impure, you are forgetting that inside the vital is God’s Dynamism. If there is no dynamism, then how are you going to make progress? If you renounce the mind because the mind is constantly bothering you with unruly, undivine thoughts, then again you are making a mistake. Inside the mind you have to develop the poise and peace of a higher reality. If you want to renounce the heart because you feel that your heart is very weak or emotional, this again is the wrong attitude. Your heart is the messenger of divine love and fulfillment. Its weakness must be transformed into strength.
So if you simply renounce and discard your physical, vital, mental or psychic existence, then how are you going to achieve anything in your own life? What you have to do is illumine and transform all the parts of your being. What you have to renounce immediately is the imperfection and the wrong thinking in yourself. These are the things that you have to renounce, not the things you love or the things you right now need. Anything that is undivine in you, you try to renounce. Anything that is divine in you, you will not renounce. The divine in you is love and concern for the universe. The divine in you is your inner cry and your feeling of oneness with the Absolute, the highest Truth. These are the things you will not renounce.
Again, in the spiritual life there comes a time when you realise that you do not renounce anything; you only transform. Feel you have two rooms: a room that has light and a room that needs light. The best thing is to stay as much as possible in the light-room, which is the heart. Then, when your inner being and outer being, your whole existence, is inundated with light, you can enter into the mind room, which is right now all darkness and confusion, and transform it with your inner light.
Question: How can we live a life of true joy and real meaning?
SRI CHINMOY: True inner joy is self-created. It does not depend on outer circumstances. To live in joy is to live the inner life. This is the life that leads to self-realisation. Self-realisation is God-realisation, for God is nothing than the Divinity that is deep inside each one of us, waiting to be discovered and revealed. We may also refer to God as the Inner Pilot or the Supreme. But no matter which term we use, we mean the Highest within us, that which is the ultimate goal of our spiritual quest.
Only if we feed the inner life can the outer life have real meaning. Three times a day we feed the body without fail. But again, there is deep inside us a divine child called our soul; we do not find time to feed this child. The soul is the conscious representative of God in us. Unless and until the soul-child is fulfilled, we can never be fulfilled in our outer life.
How do we make the connecting link between the inner life and the outer life? If we know the divine art of meditation, easily and consciously we can unite these two worlds. When we practise meditation, each moment becomes a golden opportunity to cast aside depression, frustration, anger, fear and other negative qualities and to bring forward the divine qualities of the inner world: love, peace, joy and light. Meditation gives us a natural and spontaneous life, a life that becomes so natural and spontaneous that we cannot breathe without being conscious of our own divinity.
A spiritual person should be a normal person, a sound person. In order to reach God, a spiritual person has to be divinely practical in his or her day-to-day activities. In divine practically, we share our inner wealth. We feel the divine motivation behind each action and share the results with others. Spirituality does not negate the outer life. The outer life should be the manifestation of the divine life within us.
For further information about the writings of Sri Chinmoy visit www.srichinmoy.org.
Question: Why do we meditate?
Sri Chinmoy:We meditate because this world of ours has not been able to fulfil us. The so-called peace that we feel in our day-to-day life is five minutes of peace after ten hours of anxiety, worry and frustration. We are constantly at the mercy of the negative forces that are all around us: jealousy, fear, doubt, worry, anxiety and despair. It is only through meditation that we can get lasting peace. If we meditate in the morning and receive peace for only ONE minute, that one minute of peace will permeate our whole day.
If we feel that we are satisfied with what we have and what we are, then there is no need for us to enter into the field of meditation. The reason we enter into meditation is because we have an inner hunger. We feel that within us is something luminous, something vast, something divine.
Question: What is the difference between prayer and meditation?
Sri Chinmoy: The difference between prayer and meditation is this: when we pray, we feel that our existence is a one-pointed flame soaring upward. When we meditate, we throw ourselves into a vast expanse, into an infinite sea of peace, or we welcome the infinite Vast into us. When we pray, we talk and God listens. When we meditate, God talks and we listen. When we pray, we go up to God; when we meditate, God comes down to us. Ultimately they are the same.
The highest prayer was uttered by the Saviour Christ: “Let Thy Will be done.” This prayer is also the beginning of meditation. When prayer stops its journey, meditation begins.
Meditation is like going to the bottom of the sea, where everything is calm and tranquil. On the surface of the sea there may be a multitude of waves, but the sea is not affected below. In its deepest depths, the sea is all silent. When we start meditating, first we try to reach our own true existence—that is to say, the bottom of the sea. Then, when the waves come from the outside world, we are not affected. Fear, doubt, worry and all the earthly turmoils just wash away, because inside us is solid peace. Thoughts cannot touch us, because our mind is all peace, all silence, all oneness. This is meditation.
Sometimes I must be silent,
For that is the only way
To know a little better, to think a little wiser,
To become a little more perfect.
Question: Is meditation practical in terms of helping us to lead a better life?
Sri Chinmoy: We say somebody is practical when he does the right thing at the right moment, so that his outer life runs smoothly. But no matter how clever we are, how conscious we are, at times we are at a loss in the outer life. We do not know what to say or do. Or, despite our saying and doing the right thing, everything goes wrong. We sincerely want to do something or become something, but we cannot do it.
Why does this happen? It happens because our outer capacity is always bound by our inner awareness. We always grow from within, not from without. It is from the seed under the ground that a plant grows, not vice versa. The inner life constantly carries the message of Truth. This inner Truth is the seed. No matter how many hours we work, or talk, or do anything in the outer world, we will not approach the Truth. But if we meditate first, and afterward act and speak, then we are doing the practical thing.
The inner practicality must guide the outer life, not the other way around. The life-breath of the outer life has to come from the inner life. If we are brave enough to enter into the inner life, we will see that the inner world is practical, real and natural. Love, light, peace and joy are divinely normal. If we bring forward what the inner world can offer, then the outer world will also become divinely normal, practical and fulfilling.
Yesterday I was clever.
That is why I wanted to change the world.
Today I am wise.
That is why I am changing myself.
Question: Is proper breathing important in meditation?
Sri Chinmoy: Proper breathing is very important in meditation. When breathing in, try to breathe as slowly and quietly as possible, so that if someone placed a tiny thread in front of your nose, it would not move at all. And when you breathe out, try to do so even more slowly. If possible, leave a short pause between the end of your exhalation and the beginning of your inhalation. But if it is difficult, do not do it.
Each time you breathe in, try to feel that you are bringing into your body peace, infinite peace. When you breathe out, feel that you are expelling the restlessness within you and all around you. After practising this a few times, please try to feel that you are breathing in power from the universe. And when you exhale, feel that all your fear is coming out of your body. After doing this a few times, try to feel that what you are breathing in is joy, infinite joy, and what you are breathing out is sorrow, suffering and melancholy.
There is another thing that you can also try. Feel that you are breathing in not air but cosmic energy. Feel it flowing like a river inside you, washing and purifying your whole being. Then when you breathe out, feel that you are exhaling all your negative thoughts and impure actions. Anything inside you that you do not want, feel that you are exhaling. This is a most effective method of breathing. If you practice it, you will soon see its results in your meditation.
Question: Could you please speak about music?
Sri Chinmoy: Music and spirituality go together. God Himself is the Supreme Musician and each human being is a note in His cosmic Game. God is playing His cosmic Role in mankind through music. Music and God cannot be separated. The one who creates music everywhere and at every moment is God. Music is the language of God. It is not like mathematics or geometry. It is a language of love.
Everybody on earth is a musician and a singer. A singer does not have to carry a note perfectly. If we love music, that is enough. If we love music, we do not need to know the proper techniques and so on. Otherwise, if we do not love something most sincerely, most intensely, then no matter how many years we spend practicing, we will just learn the techniques and after a few years we may forget them.
When somebody is singing or playing music, it is very easy for us to identify with it because we are on the same level. Music is a universal language. We do not need any other language. God has created a universal language, and that is music. Because it is universal, it has to be inside any material object. The universe itself is music. Unfortunately, most of the time we do not hear the music of the universe. We hear only the air conditioner or some outer noises. But if we can enter into the inner existence of the air conditioner, we will hear music. When we talk, even inside the talking, there is music. In everything, if we can become aware of it, there is music. Everything in God’s creation embodies music. We can hear it only when we dive deep within.
Music keeps us alive. The sweetness and the haunting quality of music teaches us how to behave properly. Our inner music does not allow us to create disharmony. Music gives us the feeling of sweetness, tenderness and softness. The inner music always inspires us to do something good for humanity. Our inner music is a form of prayer and meditation.
When we play soulful music, we elevate our consciousness most rapidly. Soulful music is a form of aspiration, a form of meditation. But if we play undivine music, then it destroys our aspiring consciousness. This music comes from the gross physical or the lower vital. Undivine music tries to awaken our lower vital consciousness and throw us into a world of excitement. But soulful and spiritual music really helps us; it feeds our inner life. Divine music immediately elevates our consciousness, whereas undivine music immediately lowers our consciousness and tries to destroy our sincere inner cry for a better spiritual life.
Music has to play a most important role in bringing about world oneness, for music is the connecting link between the One and the many and between the many and the One. Music transcends the barriers of nations, nationalities and religions. Music—soulful, spiritual music—will play a most important role in bringing about world oneness, for music embodies the universal Heart, the universal Light and the universal Truth.
Visit Sri Chinmoy Library for further writings by Sri Chinmoy.
Our health is founded upon a relationship between body, mind and spirit – and the wellness of each part – and the physical body itself is only one component in the overall equation of well-being. This principle of holistics recognises that a stress free and happy mind and a blossoming spiritual life are major factors in our physical health. Just as stress and negative emotions silently erode our life force, so too the practice of meditation releases a new and positive life force – borne of inspiration, happiness, peace – into every part of our existence, creating the optimum conditions for vitality and health. With meditation even our sleep pattern can change – an improvement in quality, a likely reduction in quantity. More time and energy to live our lives!
The way we feel and function in our outer life is determined to a very great extent by our inner life – our happiness, our confidence, our moods, our consciousness. We often have little power to change events in the outer world, but we can change the way we react to them. When we are happy and calm, difficulties and problems are easily coped with – when we are anxious or unhappy, the same difficulties can become nightmares. Our whole experience of life is coloured by our own consciousness – our life is the creation of our minds! Meditation balances the inner and outer worlds and brings out the bright colours of our nature – joyfulness, serenity, loving kindness, strength. These emerging positive qualities reshape our very experience of life, for everything starts within.
The writings of all the great sages and pathfinders over the centuries share many recurring ideas and truths – one of these is a belief in the wisdom and beauty of the human soul. Sri Chinmoy describes the soul as our ‘inner pilot’ – it is our highest Self, our truest Self, our in-house life guide. The more we listen to our soul, the more our outer life will flourish and prosper – and it is in the silence and stillness of meditation that the wisdom of the soul can most easily be felt and experienced. In everything of life – decision-making, problem solving, the search for fulfillment and purpose – the inner pilot is there to show us the way and we can learn to access it through our deepening practice.
The great sages also tell us that each soul is unique and has something very special to accomplish on earth. It is by listening to our ‘inner pilot’ that we begin to feel and understand what our life’s deeper purpose is and then our outer life becomes increasingly in harmony with this knowledge. The discovery and fulfillment of the soul’s special promise brings us great happiness.
The many techniques employed in learning meditation share a common theme – harnessing and concentrating the power of the mind. By-products and benefits of this effort are numerous – an ability to focus and concentrate quickly, enhanced memory, a stillness in the meditating mind which enables us to access deeper, intuitive, creative and inspirational parts of our being.
Sri Chinmoy places great emphasis on the spiritual heart in our quest for happiness, for it houses many of our most powerful spiritual qualities. A widening, deepening capacity for love; compassion for others; a oneness with all of life; inner wisdom; a desireless happiness, like the fragrance of an inner flower, spreading out into our life – a treasure trove waiting to be discovered! The heart is an egoless, unhorizoned consciousness and living ‘in the heart’ is one of the secrets of real happiness. One of the principle forms of yoga – bhakti yoga – is centered in the spiritual heart as well. Here, the power of devotional love is directed out to God and sees divinity in all things.
Meditation will make you a very peaceful person. This peace comes about through a growing self-acceptance and self-confidence, and through an inner poise that comes from a deeper part of our being. This peace is not something passive and fragile – it is very powerful and dynamic. This kind of inner peace will lift you above success, failure, the positives and negatives of life – it leaves in us an adamantine poise and a sense of calm detachment in the face of life’s changing fortunes and tribulations. People who have developed inner peace are very powerful.
Meditation is the awakening to our true nature, a spiritual path to enlightenment, self-realisation, oneness with God. This is why one should always feel gratitude for the impulse to meditate – we have consciously begun the great journey of awakening that lies at the very heart of all human life.
Janaka is a writer and poet, born in Glasgow and currently writer-in-residence at Aberdeen University. He writes novels, short stories, plays and poetry. His first collection of short stories It’s Colours They are Fine was published in 1977 and his most recent novel is Seasons of the Heart. Janaka is a member of the Edinburgh Sri Chinmoy Centre
The nice thing about being up early in the morning is the stillness, the silence. The hustle of the day hasn’t really started, and it’s a good time to just sit, quiet and meditate.
My spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy – a man I’ve known for over 30 years – expresses it beautifully:
Meditation is silence, energising and fulfilling. Silence is the eloquent expression of the inexpressible.
The key word here is energising. That quiet place inside us is a source of tremendous strength.
When we meditate what we actually do is enter into the deeper part of our being. Meditation is like going to the bottom of the sea, where everything is calm and tranquil. On the surface, there may be a multitude of waves, but the sea is not affected below. In its deepest depths it is all silence.
To enter into that place, now, first thing, is to tap that strength inside us, let it sustain us through the day.
When the waves come from the outside world, we are not affected. Fear, doubt, worry and all the earthly turmoils will just wash away.
Just take a moment, to breathe. Breathe slowly and evenly. Use your imagination, feel you’re breathing out all the rubbish you want to let go of. Feel you are breathing in pure energy.
Meditation is silence, energising and fulfilling.
Sri Chinmoy tells a story about a pious man who studies the scriptures devotedly, and likes to discuss philosophy with a scholar who comes to visit him. They earnestly discuss the path to spiritual liberation, but deep in his heart, the man knows this endless talk is not bringing him any closer to attaining his goal. Now, it happens that the man has a little caged bird in his room, and he likes to hear it sing. But one morning he notices the bird is not singing at all, it has fallen completely silent. He speaks to the bird, tries to coax it, but it makes not a sound. Eventually the man opens the cage door and the bird, in an instant, escapes, flies out of the cage, through the open window of the room, and soars into the infinite freedom of the sky.
The bird taught his master an important spiritual lesson. Silence liberates!
We can talk endlessly, argue, discuss, debate. But the real truth of things, we discover in silence. Eventually we have to hush the mind and its chatter, discover that vastness in our hearts and soar into it.
That image of the bird in flight, going beyond the mundane, is at the heart of one of Sri Chinmoy’s devotional songs:
Bird of my heart,
Fly on, fly on.
Look not behind.
What the world offers
Is meaningless, useless
And utterly false.
Bird of my heart,
And it recurs in one of his simple, beautiful, mantric poems:
My Lord, a tiny bird
Claims the vast sky.
Similarly the finite in me
Longs to claim
Your Infinite Absolute.
Some years ago I edited a little collection of writings on meditation by my teacher, Sri Chinmoy. I called it The Silent Teaching. I wrote in the introduction that the title might seem strange, even paradoxical. To the mind accustomed to regard teaching as instruction, or practical demonstration, the notion that such a process can be silent, wordless, might be difficult.
But in discussing meditation, we are moving in a realm where, traditionally, truth is communicated directly, in silence, by a look, a gesture, a touch.
One of the best-known examples is Buddha’s Flower Sermon. The Buddha came to address a large gathering and his lecture consisted of holding up a flower! One of his followers, Maha Kashapa, responded by smiling, and Buddha said in that moment the disciple had received everything. The teaching is not conveyed in words, he said, but in silence.
Sri Chinmoy expresses the same truth: All real spiritual teachers teach in silence.
But beyond that again, he realises our own ‘real teacher’ is deep within.
Your mind has a flood of questions. There is but one teacher who can answer them. Who is the teacher? Your silence-loving heart.
This ‘silence-loving heart’ is receptivity itself. It is our capacity to be still, be open, and simply listen. The mind has all the questions. The heart has, and is, the answer.
Meditation speaks. It speaks in silence. It reveals that our life is Eternity itself.
I’ve been talking a lot about silence. (And that’s a typical paradox in itself – talking about silence!) But clearly there are different levels and qualities of silence.
There is an Indian story about four monks who decide, as a form of spiritual discipline, to maintain a day of silence. That way they can be more focussed and concentrated, not waste their energy on smalltalk or get into useless arguments.
Well, everything goes well throughout the day. They go about their tasks feeling very virtuous and showing each other great respect. Then towards evening, it starts to get dark, and one of the monks, who is busy preparing food, says “Somebody should light the lamp”. The second monk turns to him and says, “You spoke!” The third monk says, “Will you two shut up!” And the fourth monk says, “Now I’m the only one who hasn’t broken the vow of silence!”
Maintaining even an outer silence – keeping our mouths shut – is more difficult than we might imagine. Much more difficult is maintaining an inner silence – the absence of thought. (Just try not thinking about anything for a minute!)
Yet, as my teacher Sri Chinmoy says, there are deeper levels again. He talks about the outer silence and the inner silence, then about the inmost silence.
This silence is not just the absence of sound. It is not even the absence of thought. It is the blossoming of our indomitable inner will.
It is that dynamic quality which characterises true meditation:
Beyond speech and mind,
Into the river of ever-effulgent Light
My heart dives.
Today thousands of doors
Closed for millennia
Are opened wide.
Recently I went to a performance by American artist Laurie Anderson. In the middle of the show she made a point about silence. She stood quite still, centre-stage, held total silence for a couple of minutes. The silence was fairly comfortable – this was a sophisticated audience, we knew our minimalism, our John Cage – this was one of those silences, right? Then she made the point that when that happened on radio, or even worse, on TV, it was cause for panic. Dead air! The void had to be filled!
Socially too – round a dinner table say – if a silence falls there’s a nervousness, a clearing of throats, before someone kicks in with ‘Say… I, uh… saw this show on TV…’ In such situations, there’s a fear of silence, an embarrassment, a sense of feeling exposed.
And it’s true, I think, at a deeper level, that silence is something we fear. Dead air. Fill the space. Switch on the TV. Plug in the headphones. Shout down the mobile phone. Anything rather than face the emptiness, for that would mean facing ourselves.
Meditation is that very act of facing ourselves, accepting the silence.
Sri Chinmoy writes:
Meditation is not an escape exercise… The seeker who meditates is a divine warrior who faces suffering, ignorance and darkness and tries to establish the kingdom of wisdom-light.
And with perseverance, we reach the depths of our being, our true self.
When we meditate, what we actually do is enter into a vacant, calm, still, silent mind. We go deep within and approach our true existence, which is our soul.
At the start, I quoted from my teacher Sri Chinmoy, talking about meditation as a diving deep within. Here is another passage where he expands on that idea:
How do we meditate silently? Just by not talking, just by not using words, we are not doing silent meditation. Silent meditation is totally different. When we start meditating in silence, we feel the bottom of a sea within us and without. The life of activity, movement and restlessness is on the surface, but deep below, underneath our human life, there is poise and silence. We imagine this sea of silence within us, or we feel that we are nothing but a sea of poise itself.
And the ideal is to carry this poise into everyday life. The spiritual life is one of balance – silence at the heart of action, but also dynamism at the heart of silent meditation.
Sri Chinmoy once described the difference between prayer and meditation as follows: ‘When I pray, I talk and God listens. When I meditate, God talks and I listen’.
Meditation is that listening, attentively and in silence, to the voice of the Absolute within us.
There is a special way to listen to the Voice of God, and that is to meditate in silence. Then there is no tomorrow, there is no such thing even as today. It is all now. The eternal Now is the only reality.