News Bureau – Anushka Saigal
A guru once asked his disciples: “What do artists and musicians have in common with mystics?” No one knew. The guru said: “The insight that the finest speech does not come from the tongue.” Art speaks, music speaks, nature speaks, God speaks. Listen!
Silence speaks louder than words. The stubborn sullenness of a student, the bashful blush of a newly-wed bride, the icy stare of a teacher and the pitiable gaze of a skeletal beggar speak volumes. It’s unfortunate that our world is so noisy and verbose that we lose our capacity to let silence speak and listen.
In the Bible, silence expresses a wide spectrum of emotions and attitudes: awe, attentiveness, restraint, respect, loyalty, wisdom, deep thought and rest. Negatively, it can convey guilt, fear, faithlessness, pain, defeat, destruction and death.
Silence is a great teacher. Silent people look, listen and learn. By contrast, compulsive speakers might think that they are exuding wisdom and impressing others. This need not be; since, as philosopher Wittgenstein famously said, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” Some experiences are best expressed through silence.
Today, be silent and listen to nature: the whispering of winds, the pitter-patter of raindrops, the symphony of birds and the gurgling of flowing rivers. Be silent and listen to your family: the faint smile of your aged parent, the warm touch of your spouse, the bowed head of your child, the wide eyes, frowns, winks, breathing, trembling and other gestures of all those around you.
The Bible says: “Be still and know I am God.” God invites us to a daily dose of silent stillness — journeying from the senses and mind, to the psychic level, and deeper still to the innermost core of our being: the sanctum sanctorum of our “self” where God abides. Likewise, the Chandogya Upanishad says: “Seek the divine in the silent space within you.”
During silent nights and before daybreak, Jesus would spend hours in silent communion with God. This was the wellspring of his wisdom and his wondrous works. About prayer, he taught his disciples, “Go into your inner chamber and pray to God silently.” When arrested and accused of fabricated charges before Roman authorities, Jesus stood defiantly silent.
God speaks in silence. But there are times when we experience “the silence of God” as unsettling — when we expect divine inspiration or intervention and nothing is forthcoming. What do we do then? Nothing. Seek deeper stillness and silence.
Silence is not just absence of noise, but an emptying of one’s ego. Silence is the stairway to ascend to the “upparwalla” and descend to the “antaryami” who is best heard when we keep silent and interiorly realise that God is God.