The Silence of Meditation
All perfect mystics emphasize the value of silence, and its practice is one of the foremost requirements of any spiritual path. Silent vigil has been demanded of the seeker in almost every faith. But modern man seems to be either afraid of silence or willing to disregard its impact altogether. Nowadays, it is the clamour of the outer world which is of interest, and silence that is shunned. François Fénélon, the seventeenth-century French mystic, writes:
How rare it is to find a soul still enough to hear God speak.
As quoted in The Eight Points of the Oxford Group
What is meditation? Meditation is simply the preparation for the ultimate encounter with one’s true self, and the eventual reunion with the Father in the oneness of the Shabd. The Lord is already present within us. All we have to do is realize His active presence within us. But there is a catch – He is hidden and also utterly silent.
There is only one way to get to Him, which is to get into that silence and stillness within. We have to play the hide-and-seek game; we have to enter His court on His terms and on His playing field. Everything else we do hardly matters unless we are willing to go forth and meet Him in the arena of silence.
Mystics explain to us that because of the condition of our minds, we are presently too involved in identifying ourselves with our external environment and things of this creation. The clamouring noise of our thoughts, our judgements, our analyses are constantly buzzing in the well-oiled machine of our mind, and that is all we hear, even during the so-called silent moments of our life when we are neither talking nor listening to anything or anyone.
This ongoing noise is not an imaginary one but quite real. It presents a significant barrier on the path to God-realization, and our duty is to eliminate it and its effects.
Evagrius of Pontus, an Egyptian monk, has given us this classic definition of prayer which has been handed down through the centuries:
Prayer is raising the mind and heart to God through the laying aside of thoughts.
Open Mind, Open Heart
The aim of meditation is to silence the mind, to still it and free it from its instability and natural tendency towards dispersion. In meditation, we gather the mind at its very centre, and we lead it beyond all its activities to the stillness of pure self-awareness.
As we have heard in satsang so many times, we cannot see our own reflection in turbulent and shaky waters. Only when the water is completely still, does the image take shape.
As François Fénélon wrote:
God is our true Friend, who always gives us the counsel and comfort we need. Our danger lies in resisting Him; so it is essential that we acquire the habit of hearkening to His voice, or keeping silence within, and listening so as to lose nothing of what He says to us. We know well enough how to keep outward silence, and to hush our spoken words, but we know little of interior silence. It consists in hushing our idle, restless, wandering imagination, in quieting the promptings of our worldly minds, and in suppressing the crowd of unprofitable thoughts which excite and disturb the soul.
The Spiritual Letters of Archbishop Fénélon: Letters to Men
Our primary goal on the path of Sant Mat is to get to that interior silence. And the universal remedy prescribed by all perfect mystics is meditation. Satsangs, books and seva are tools that will help us on the way but they will not take us to that silence within. It is only meditation that can take us deeper and bring us in contact with the eternal Shabd.
I have wandered in pursuit of voices that drew me,
yet led me nowhere.
Now let me sit in peace and listen to Your words
in the soul of my silence.
Rabindranath Tagore, The Heart of God