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.