Mauna, the teaching of Silence
“All spiritual practices exist to help us enter the Great Silence. Inner silence is like a direct and transforming flow of knowledge. It is not about filling ourselves with intellectual notions, but about immersing ourselves in our own essence.” Swami Satyananda Saraswati writes in his book Mauna, the teaching of Silence.
With Swami Satyananda Saraswati we have discussed the Great Silence.
Swamiji, could you tell us what the Great Silence means?
The authentic silence, valued by sages since ancient times, is the Silence within. Entering the Silence means going beyond the mental space; it means going to the root of what we already are.
The mental space contains the conditioning of our past, of our own history, and the imaginations and speculations of the future. In it, we support the illusion of a character.
To be in Silence, with capital letters, is to enter an undefinable space, where there is no thought, no emotion, no concept, only pure existence; where I do not exist in the limited sense, but I do exist fully in the Real sense; it is to go to the source, to the root of existence, to the pure Essence. This is the great Great Silence.
How to start? How can we get to this Silence?
We should first be able to have a few moments a day to be alone. How many times a day do we spend being quiet with ourselves? We do many things, but how many moments do we simply dedicate to being?
Supposing we were to give ourselves these moments, where would we be? In a deep silence or in the noise of our mind? Possibly we would be listening to the psychological character (a character that we intend to be fantastic although many times it does not seem so) and to a whole series of concepts that have nothing to do with us. Nothing we think, feel or remember has to do with our true Essence.
At the beginning it is necessary to create an external silent space, to be able to enter the internal silence and still the mind with its endless history. The mind is continually creating new inner worlds. It is here that the practice of yogic and meditative techniques is important (but now, I will not dwell on this point).
In this process, regular practice is very necessary. Through it, we are entering spaces with less mental content and little by little we can remain in the inner silence. With this preparation, we will enter into a very important state. If we have intensity and at the same time detachment, this initial yogic practice will lead us to a profound observation: if in inner silence I experience my existence without being related to the experiences of the body, the mind and the intellect, then, who am I? This profound observation is called vichara or self-inquiry and it is a practice of great relevance in the path of Advaita Vedanta. It is not a matter of waiting for any conceptual response, nor of any experience, but of recognizing the closest and most intimate, the most obvious: the consciousness that always exists in us regardless of the states that our minds and bodies experience.
To reach the Great Silence, it is also of immense help to find a teacher who can guide us on the subtle path of knowledge and be able to recognize the fullness that always exists in us. Once fullness is recognized in our hearts, we can recognize it in all beings and in everything that exists. This is called prajña or wisdom. It is a direct knowledge, it is not a knowledge filtered by the mind or by the intellect with its determining factors; it is an internal recognition, a direct experience that involves a profound transformation.
Is this Silence the goal of the path?
The word silence is a way of expressing something ineffable. For thousands and thousands of years, many people have dedicated their lives to achieving the Great Silence. Such is the immensity of this discovery! Recognize what we really already are, what is real in us, beyond the conceptual world. The ancient sages said that, once having seen That, there is nothing more to know. It is the ultimate goal. Throughout history, many people have given their lives to this process of self-knowledge.
Can you tell us about your experience?
In the almost thirty years that I lived in India with my master and with other masters, the moments of greatest teaching, of most plenitude, the most glorious, were in silence. The most intense moments of learning were being with my guru in silence. What occurred? Nothing. What was he transmitting? A state of independent plenitude. It is difficult to explain. Directly and not mentally, internal recognition took place. The recognition of a fullness that does not depend on anything. A glimpse of the recognition of the non-dual Essence that the Advaita Vedanta texts speak of.
Why are we not always in this Silence if it is our own essence?
Silence is the heart of everything and is beyond the little “I”, but we are in love with the little “I”. We have created a whole world of concepts that bind and limit us around our little “I”. We have to be able to make the leap into the vastness of consciousness. The texts speak of purna, plenitude, as the state of freedom where no limitation exists, because all concepts have been transcended. As the great sage Sri Ramana Maharshi said in his Upadesa Sara (Essence of Teaching): “There is no action left for this great yogi, whose mind has been extinguished and who rests in his own transcendent Self”.
(This conversation has been translated by Àngels Barnadas)
The collection “Dialogues with Swami Satyananda Saraswati” by the new publisher Advaitavidya Editions, is dedicated to publishing different monographic titles on the most relevant pillars of the spiritual path in Hindu tradition. In a close and at the same time profound style, it publishes the teachings that Swami Satyananda Saraswati has been imparting. The first two volumes can be found in specialized bookstores, in Amazon or by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. More information at www.advaitavidya.org