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Out of the Silence That Is Peace

Section 5 of the Light on the Path for Awakening Climbing the Mountain Path

Part Two

Out of the silence that is peace a resonant voice shall arise. And this voice will say, It is not well; thou hast reaped, now thou must sow. And knowing this voice to be the silence itself thou wilt obey.

Thou who art now a disciple, able to stand, able to hear, able to see, able to speak, who hast conquered desire and attained to self-knowledge, who hast seen thy soul in its bloom and recognized it, and hear the voice of the silence, go thou to the Hall of Learning and read what is written there for thee.

Silence that is peace

Out of the silence that is peace….

It is not the mere silence of no sound, just as keeping silence does not mean to simply not speak. There are those who are noisier when they “keep silence” than when they do not. How well do I remember what a joke some people’s “day of silence” would be. I could know it was their day of silence because they banged everything they picked up, stomped across the floor when they walked, and slammed every door they closed. If they did a simple thing like the dishes it sounded like the Charge of the Light Brigade. It was obvious they just could not endure silence. And instead of staying home and being quiet, they would go around people with a piece of paper pinned on them saying: “This is my day of silence.” Then they would gesture wildly and make odd noises rather than speak–wasting more energy than if they had shouted and jumped around. One woman would go into a temper spell if her gyrations and huffings were not understood. Therefore one contemporary spiritual leader of India has said: “Avoid at all costs those who while pretending to keep silence write notes and make gestures.” If we just do not want to speak that is one thing; but if we want to keep silence, that is another.

So the silence that is peace is something more than just the absence of sound. The great Staretz Adrian of Novo-Divyevo said that from childhood he perceived real spiritual atmosphere and presence as a pervading silence in the midst of all movement and sound. He said that he especially found it in church services; that although singing and movement were going on he experienced an utter stillness which he intuitively knew was the essence of spiritual life–the stillness could be found in the heart of movement, not in the absence of movement.

His words bring to mind the statement of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita it is said that the man of wisdom perceives the action that is in inaction and the inaction that is in action–the movement that is in stillness and the stillness that is in movement. “He who sees the inaction that is in action, and the action that is in inaction, is wise indeed. Even when he is engaged in action he remains poised in the tranquility of the Atman” (Bhagavad Gita 4:18). That is why in the temples of India when it is time for worship all of a sudden everything begins to bang and clang–gongs are beaten, conch shells are sounded, and bells are rung. Usually many people are singing loudly. And yet, if you examine your inner mind you will discover that in that moment you have entered into perfect silence. This is a secret that only the East–the right brain–comprehends. To attain silence we need not stop sound, rather we need to move into That which is at the center of sound.

Saint Silouan of Athos wrote that people have lived in deserts and caves, supposedly alone, and yet have had the whole world with them in their minds; but Saint John of Kronstadt, who was never physically alone except for a hour or two a day, was always alone–that when he was in the midst of thousands of people pressing around him, wanting to touch him and speak to him, it was evident that he was absolutely alone, that nothing of the pandemonium around him was touching his mind. He was alone with God even then.

I have seen people mobbing Mother Anandamayi as though they were going to tear her into little pieces. Some came armed with scissors to cut off her hair and pieces of her clothes to keep as relics. Sometimes a regiment of police had to be called out to safeguard her. Yet she was as tranquil as if there was no one there. Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh was the same. Lesser saints, though greatly developed, did not have that ability. But those who were out of the game, having won home, did not change, whatever the external circumstance.

Peace in the form of unmoving consciousness is the true Silence. It is out of vogue now, but back in the ’twenties through the ’fifties there was a lot of talk about “Entering The Silence.” Many metaphysical books had a chapter on “How To Enter The Silence.” But the instruction would be nothing more than to sit like a lump and try to not think. This is a futile attempt since we are a miniature universe–wherever we are, everything is going on. Everything. Nothing can be escaped because we are a part of it through our bodies which connect us to relative existence. But if we shift our awareness into that eternal part of ourselves which is as transcendent as is God Himself, then the game is over. This is what the Master is speaking of, and of which Jesus spoke when He told His disciples: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.”

The voice in the silence

a resonant voice shall arise. The prophet Elijah had this experience: “And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice” (I Kings 19:9-12).
Wind, earthquake, and fire–but God was not in them. Then there was silence, yet in the silence there was a voice. “A still small voice” means that silent (still) subtle (small) impulse which is the very root of “word” and therefore Word itself. The New King James Version gives it as “a delicate whispering voice.” The Greek Septuagint has “the voice of a gentle breeze,” evidently keeping in mind that the Holy Spirit is the Breath of God and often manifests as wind. The Slavonic text renders it “the movement of a silent light.” This, too, is appropriate, for the Holy Spirit is also Light. Actually, it cannot be at all expressed in human terms, for it is far beyond the senses and ordinary experience. But however it might be described, it is the voice of God coming through the pure spirit that is our true essence.

Reprimand of the spirit

And this voice will say, It is not well; thou hast reaped, now thou must sow. Being oriented to egoic gratification, even in spiritual life we have the idea that we need only enjoy our attainments, revel in them, and congratulate ourselves on having at last “made it.” But the Voice of Truth tells us that such “is not well.” Rather: “Thou hast reaped, now thou must sow.” This is very interesting, for we usually think that reaping is the end of it all. We reason that we are in the world to reap our karmas, and when that is done, all has been done–rebirth will be ended, all bonds dissolved. But the inmost voice says otherwise. There is more to be done.

And knowing this voice to be the silence itself thou wilt obey. We will not wonder whether the voice is right–in that state we will know it is Truth itself, the truth of our own Self, and the Self of our Self that speaks. And we will obey. This is the path of the disciple. It is not rhapsodic talk about “masters” that is the path. Rather, discipline is the path, but discipline that is an act of our illumined will, not a passive acquiescence to an outside influence.

A disciple

Thou who art now a disciple, able to stand, able to hear, able to see, able to speak, who hast conquered desire and attained to self-knowledge, who hast seen thy soul in its bloom and recognized, and heard the voice of the silence, go thou to the Hall of Learning and read what is written there for thee. Those who have truly attained to any degree of spiritual progress do not want to be teachers, but aspire to be perfect learners. To help us, then, the Master is going to outline just what the traits of worthy disciples are.

“Able to stand.” That is, able to be established in one spot, unshaken in spiritual awareness, able to endure, possessing firmness and stability on all levels, which also implies definition on all levels.

“Able to hear.” In other words, possessing the ear of the spirit.

“Able to see” with the single “eye” of enlightenment. “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light” (Matthew 6:22).

All these descriptive statements imply something, namely that before this time we are not able to stand, to hear, and to see. Of course we could do so on the lower level of existence. Indeed we can entrench ourselves in ignorance very easily. We can hear all kinds of foolishness, see all kinds of foolishness, and speak all kinds of foolishness. But it can be said of us: “Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17). All that we do out of ignorance is but a mockery of the real powers we should–and already innately do–have.

“Able to speak,” possessing the Power of Word. This is perhaps the most important of all, for it is listed last as the capstone, the finishing touch. Perhaps the most commonly heard complaint from those dwelling in the darkness of their egos is that of not having their prayers answered–that God does not hear their prayers. Of course they are right. God does not hear their prayers–because God is a spirit, and they do not “pray with the spirit” (I Corinthians 14:15). Only the disciple has opened the inner mouth with which effective prayer or affirmation can be made. The non-disciple may speak much, but on the inner planes he is a mute.

“Who has conquered desire and attained to self-knowledge.” Notice the cause and effect implied here. Desire is an impediment to Self-knowledge. How can that be? Because desire is based on–and affirms–the delusion that external objects can produce the internal experience of happiness, peace, or fulfillment. As long as desire is allowed to motivate our behavior we are willfully blinding ourself to the truth that everything is within us, that we can have nothing else, and that spiritually we are sufficient unto ourselves.

Keep pressing on

Once we attain Self-knowledge, is it the end as most suppose? No. Beyond Self-knowledge is God-knowledge, beyond Self-realization is God-realization–although in a mysterious way the two are one. Once we have established our consciousness in the little deity of our Self, then we have to learn to expand into the infinite Deity–Whom the German philosophers have called the Over-Soul and whom the sages of India have named Parabrahman, Paramatman, and Parameshwara.

You, O disciple, are one who has “attained to Self-knowledge, who hast seen thy soul in its bloom and recognized it, and heard the voice of the silence.” This is no small thing–to have perceived the evolution of the spirit and by means of that perception to have heard the Word spoken in the depths of the soul. Yet it is in no way the end. Having attained to a high degree of knowledge you are now capable of learning much, much more. Therefore: “Go thou to the Hall of Learning and read what is written there for thee.” Written into the very fabric of the creation are those principles or archetypal patterns that we think of as “laws.” Many of them are related to spiritual life–that is, spiritual evolution. So if we would truly ascend beyond the bonds of all limitations of consciousness we will carefully ascertain those laws and follow them scrupulously.

It is so easy to be fooled by the ego and our inexperience into thinking that we have attained everything when we have only just begun. I once read an autobiographical sketch of a woman who claimed that when she began spiritual life she attained cosmic consciousness in two weeks and then quickly went on to higher things. Not likely! Once in India I heard a man speaking to a friend of mine about getting an interview with Sri Anandamayi Ma. “I don’t need any advice on spiritual life from her,” he confided, “because I already have attained self-realization. I’m not concerned about that.” Triguna was visibly amazed. “Well, then, what do you want to talk to Mother about?” “I want to ask Her if there is anything beyond perfection that I should be looking for.” Hearing this exchange, I could not help but remember a letter written to Swami Bhaktivedanta, the founder of the Hare Krishna movement. A man wrote that he had joined some of Swamiji’s disciples in singing the Hare Krishna mantra one afternoon in Central Park. He had felt very uplifted and inwardly elated by doing so, and he wanted to know if that meant he had become enlightened. Bhaktivedanta replied: “When you eat a big meal do you need to ask someone if you are full? Keep on chanting Hare Krishna.” Simple profound truth.

1. Stand aside in the coming battle, and though thou fightest be not thou the warrior.

In the first section we were exhorted to be completely active–“kill out ambition,…kill out desire of life,…kill out desire of comfort,…work as those who work, work,…seek,…desire,…look….” So much to do! In light of that we would naturally assume that we are going to be told more of the same. But not so. This time we must step aside. Yet not because it is going to be a time of peace, for the entire instruction is: “Stand aside in the coming battle.”

There is a battle coming, and we should step aside? It seems confusing, but there is an incident in the Mahabharata that may help us. After years of attempts at peace between the Kauravas and the Pandavas, it was seen that war was inevitable because the Kauravas wanted it. Sides were being drawn up. Arjuna the great yogi was going to be the leader of the Pandava side and the evil Duryodhana would head the Kauravas. All the rulers of India had gathered for the negotiations, so Arjuna and Duryodhana were going to each one and asking which side they would fight on. Most said that they would fight on the side of the Kauravas. (The Kauravas outnumbered the Pandavas more than twenty to one when the battle finally took place.) Last of all they went to Krishna, Whose army was one of the largest in India. Duryodhana hated Krishna, Whom he had several times tried to kill. So he was sure that Krishna would side with the Pandavas. Arjuna was of the same opinion. But when they put the question, to the astonishment of both Krishna said: “There is my army and there is me. One of you can have my army, and the other can have me–but I will not fight.” Duryodhana was chagrined–surely Arjuna would choose the army and he would be left with Krishna whom he loathed and hoped to kill. Arjuna did not hesitate. “Duryodhana can have your army,” he said, “but You must drive my chariot, even though You do not fight.” And so it was agreed. Krishna did not fight, but drove the chariot of Arjuna…and the Pandavas won, for: “Where Lord Krishna is, and Arjuna, great among archers, there, I know, is goodness and peace, and triumph and glory” (Bhagavad Gita 18:78). That is, where there is the Supreme Reality and one who heeds Its wisdom, there is victory assured.

A matter of identity

So the Master is not telling us to be negatively passive, but rather to identify with pure spirit, the eternal witness of all that takes place in relativity. Creation and its “story” is the dance of the Holy Spirit Mother before the Only-begotten Father-Son. When we identify with the dance it sweeps us along in its tides, but when we identify with the unmoving Consciousness of God we are the masters, the lords, of the dance.

“Stand aside in the coming battle, and though thou fightest be not thou the warrior.” Amazing! We are to fight and not be the warrior. Yet it is not contradictory if we realize that it is the Eternal that does all things within time, that there is only one Doer, and that is God–including the god within (and which is) us. It is a matter of identity. Act, but do not act. Be out of the picture while in the picture. This is no easy matter. Nor is it just talk. Mark Twain wrote about an encounter with a mental healer who went on quite volubly about how there is no pain, only pausing to yell “Ouch!” when she stuck her finger with a pin. After having “worked” on him for healing she gave him a bill for a whopping sum of money. He looked at the bill, then looked at her and asked: “Nothing exists but Mind?” And she answered: “Nothing!” “So I wrote her an imaginary check,” he says, “and now she is suing me for substantial dollars.” No theory here–only Gnosis will do the needful.

We must understand that everything we are experiencing is simply the movement around us of the divine light, that it is teaching us, showing us the truth–that it is an illusion, but not a lie–that is, it is a “training film” of Wisdom. After all, the word “gate” is not a gate, but we do not refuse to use it, for it gives us the awareness of the actual gate. In the same way the Divine Illusion leads us to the Divine Reality.

In the illusion

Our problem is that we have fallen into the Illusion and identified with it fully, forgetting the truth of our nature as consciousness–as spirit. Recently we have been hearing about “virtual reality” in which we can electronically experience space flight, etc. But that is what we have already been doing through countless incarnations. And we have forgotten the truth about ourselves and come to believe only in the truth of our perceptions, which are illusions. We struggle with them and suffer as a consequence. For we do not learn from them, we do not get the message. And we never will until we pull back, stand aside, and observe.

This is really essential, and this is very, very, very hard to do, because naturally we want to meddle with the movie and control it, not realizing that it is only going to unfold as it is going to unfold–that we are just pinpoints in a vast sea of creative power which is meant to teach us and develop in us the capacity for ever-increasing modes of consciousness. And it is only through perfection of consciousness that we can truly deal with the world around–and within–us. We must stop thinking that the mirror image is our real face. We should use the mirror, but we must not lose sight of the fact that it is a mirror and not “the thing itself.” We must come to identify with spirit and use the fundamental instrument of consciousness: the creative will.

The creation dances–we do not dance. But it appears that we do. We must not succumb to that appearance. Once when seeing a temple flag waving in the wind, a disciple asked his master: “Which is moving, the flag or the wind?” The Master replied: “The mind is moving.” We “fight” through the application of our will, but it is the creation that responds and is the real “warrior.”

So we do fight…but we are not the fighter. It is all by “remote control.” We must learn to “do” things as God does them if we would truly come to sit within His throne. (“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” Revelation 3:21).

Muppet wisdom

The first time we went to the Hall of Learning (in Part One) the Master let us think we were the doer, because he understood that we could not yet comprehend the truth of this, and if we did we would most likely dislike it. We would no doubt be like the famous muppet, Fozzie. He looked down and called out in alarm. When Kermit came to see what was the trouble, Fozzie grabbed him and yelled: “Don’t look down!” Then he said in a loud whisper: “There is somebody underneath me.” And he looked down and shouted, “No, don’t look! There’s somebody underneath you, too!” “Of course. We’re Muppets and those people are working us,” Kermit explained. Fozzie put his hands on his head and protested: “I just can’t relate to that concept!” We would have reacted the same way.

Our minds have to be evolved enough to handle the higher metaphysical facts. Otherwise we misunderstand or reject them. Some people simply shatter when confronted with the truth. And then they run. Even Vivekananda, when he first came to Sri Ramakrishna, used to mock the idea that all was God. But in time he learned–and spent the rest of his life teaching multitudes that all is God. We, too, must ripen, and the Master knew that. First he urged us to act, and now he tells us to stand aside, just as our parents send us to school in hope that one day we will graduate and quit going to school. As we move from level to level in our growth there will be corresponding changes in our outlook and approach to life in all its aspects. It is like the Buddhist Master that asked a philosophical question of a disciple. When the disciple answered, the Master said: “Yes, that is right.” The next day he asked the same question, and upon receiving the same answer responded: “No, that is wrong.” “But yesterday you said my answer was right,” the disciple protested. “Yesterday it was right; today it is wrong,” the Master told him. Was he being capricious? No. In the meantime the disciple had grown enough to hold a more accurate view. And chances are the “right” answer switched back and forth several times before he attained that state in which there are no answers at all, for there are no more questions or even the possibility of questions.

It is time to stop Doing and start Being.

Next in Light on the Path for Awakening: Look for the Warrior

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