Monday Morning Greetings 2018 #39 – Silence

September 24th, 2018

I’m not a silence guy. I’m a New Yorker. Hustle and bustle are music to my ears, at least by my nature. And I like to talk. Thank God I chose the path of bhakti where you can talk all day as long as it is about Krishna. But the path of bhakti brought out another side of me. This extrovert is no longer fearful of dwelling within, as long as the sound of the holy name is my constant companion. I was thus intrigued with Madan’s seminar at the Bhakti Immersion Retreat this year: “Forest Walk: A Meditative Stroll in the Forest”. I couldn’t attend, but I got very good feedback from the participants about his seminar. The format for Madan’s class was ingenious.

 

While sitting by the bridge, he first read a very profound poem from Khalil Gibran about silence. Then the group walked across the bridge, where they sat on the porch of the forest sanctuary and each individual had a chance to share their thoughts on silence. They ended with a meditative stroll through the forest in silence to deepen their realization about the subject.

 

What I heard inspired me to try my own hand at this on Monday to explore what silence means to me. First the poem by Gibran:

You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts;
And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart you live in your lips, and sound is a diversion and a pastime.
And in much of your talking, thinking is half murdered.
For thought is a bird of space, that in a cage of words may indeed unfold its wings but cannot fly.

There are those among you who seek the talkative through fear of being alone.
The silence of aloneness reveals to their eyes their naked selves and they would escape.
And there are those who talk, and without knowledge or forethought reveal a truth which they themselves do not understand.
And there are those who have the truth within them, but they tell it not in words.
In the bosom of such as these the spirit dwells in rhythmic silence.

When you meet your friend on the roadside or in the market place, let the spirit in you move your lips and direct your tongue.
Let the voice within your voice speak to the ear of his ear;
For his soul will keep the truth of your heart as the taste of the wine is remembered
When the colour is forgotten and the vessel is no more.

(“On Talking”, The Prophet)

 

My Thoughts:

 

There is no such thing as silence. You can either hear your mind or hear God. I was always struck by the Bhagavad-gītā verse that gives the simple advice that when the senses are controlled, the Supersoul is at reach.[1] In true silence we can therefore hear God’s voice of compassion guiding us, or even His flute calling us. I once remember hearing the voice of God when, by circumstance, I was forced into abject silence. Yes, I am convinced that God personally spoke to me.

 

When the deprogrammers kidnapped me, I would neither eat anything nor talk to anyone, no matter how hard they tried to engage with me. My senses, especially the tongue, was completely restrained. After thirty-six hours in total silence, I suddenly developed an intense desire to return to the shade of the lotus feet of Śrī Śrī Radha-Kalachandji, the presiding deities of the temple in Dallas where I was serving at the time. I remember praying as sincerely and intensely as I ever did in my life. A clear vision of the deities appeared in my mind. Suddenly I heard a voice with a very cogent and detailed plan: “If you want to get out, then do this, this, and this and you will be free.” I followed the plan to the T. Within two hours I was miraculously free.

 

It is beyond the scope of today’s Greetings to share the whole story with you now,[2] but what I can share is that the voice was so clear, the plan so ingenious, and the personal instructions so effective that I can fathom no other explanation for what happened than God. So yes, when by silence my attention was finally diverted from the chatter of the senses, I could clearly hear what had always been there: the voice of the Lord of my heart directing me.

 

In writing and reflecting on this it, I am embarrassed by how much I feel the need to talk or hear others talk. The words of Gibran hit me hard: “And in much of your talking, thinking is half murdered”. I pray that the month of Kārttika comes as soon as possible, where in Govardhana, not New York, I am able to sit alone in silence for long periods of time just with the holy name. That sweetness is my silence. So yes, silence is golden, but also the color of a monsoon cloud.[3]

 

 


[1] Bg. 6.7

[2] In 1975 I was kidnapped by the infamous Ted Patrick in an attempted deprogramming. It is a long and intriguing story. If readers want to hear that story they can drop me a line and if enough are interested I will arrange a podcast where I will retell it.

[3] For those not familiar with the Krishna bhakti theology, the holy name of Krishna is considered non-different from Krishna and Krishna is the color of a monsoon cloud. Krishna appeared 500 years ago, but in a golden hue, to spread the holy name.

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