Sri Sri Ravi Shankar lovingly called as Guruji, the founder of Art of Living Foundation through which He relieves the stress at individual levels, thus reducing violence, sufferings and conflicts and spreading the love, harmony, peace throughout the world in various societies.
There is a story about Silence. Once there was a Guru who had four disciples, who were observing a period of silence. In the evening after their meditation, the four disciples were taking a nature walk; just as we do here in the Ashram.
Now, it is usually a habit to go around in groups instead of being alone during these walks. So, all four of them decided to walk together. When they came to a point, one of them said, “Wow, The weather is so pleasant, and there is such a beautiful sunset before us. The environment is so peaceful”.
Hearing this, the second disciple said, “My dear, you have broken your silence by speaking”. The third disciple saw this and remarked, “I am going to complain to Gurudev about you two for breaking your silence”.
The fourth one said “I am the only one here who is maintaining a really good silence.”
During Silence, we should not do such things. Silence is bringing the mind together. It is about collecting and steadying the mind which is scattered. When you sit idly, you will see that your mind runs off in so many directions, it is scattered everywhere. Gathering the mind and retrieving it back to the centre is silence. Silence is moving the mind away from all external actions and influences that one has due to what one may have heard, or seen, or smelt, or experienced, and focusing one’s sight and attention to the centre, to oneself.
Silence is not just about keeping quiet all the time. No, silence means that one need not read or write anything as well. Silence brings enormous strength, and when you are in silence, you should keep smiling. For many people, silence means keeping a long serious face. You do not need to do that. Give a smile to yourself. Smiling at yourself is silence.
Silence involves cutting off from all that is around us for a while; cutting off from the world we have been living in and getting back to the central point of our existence.
When you are observing silence for the first time, there will be restlessness, and all sorts of thoughts, worries and concerns may come up on the surface. Regrets may come, many plans and ideas may also pop up in the mind. You just keep them all aside. It is alright for that to happen. When it happens, you do not need to fight or struggle with it. Just agree with them all and say to yourself, “It is alright. I will look into it after coming out of silence”, and come back to the centre.
I know it is very difficult for the first time, or maybe even the second time when you are observing silence. It is because you are so used to activity all the time. As soon as you wake up, you are engaged in activity till you get so tired that you want to just fall asleep. Some people do activity even in their sleep too! That is a different issue. What I am saying is: we have not known rest properly. Silence is a way to go deep within and find the deepest rest.
You can write down all your wants, your botherations and put it in the basket during the course. Do not worry about anything that is bothering you. I tell you, it will be taken care of. That is why you need a Guru to go into Silence, to go deep into meditation and also on the path of spirituality, because you cannot go into silence properly with all your problems, botherations and other things that trouble your mind.
Your Gurudev will tell you, “You do not need to worry about your botherations. I am with you. I will handle all your problems, you simply relax, meditate and go into silence”. When you get this assurance, you feel comfortable. Then it becomes easier for you to go into silence.
In Buddhist monasteries, you must have seen the image of Lord Buddha sitting peacefully in meditation with one hand raised in Abhaya Mudra.
If you go to any temple, you will find that the idol of the deity is seated with one hand in Abhaya Mudra, which means to say “My dear, do not worry and drop all your fears. You need not struggle with your fears and worries. Drop everything here and just relax”. This is an opportunity for you to be happy and go peacefully into silence.
When you realize that everything is going to be over one day, something within you wakes up.that something in you that is the eternal peace, which nothing can shake or destroy.
We keep one more basket for you to express gratitude. On the last day of the course, many participants come forward saying, “Gurudev, we do not have any botherations or questions as such. But we do have wonderful stories to share. We feel so grateful at the end of this course. What do we do to express this?”
So I said, “Okay, we will also keep a gratitude basket in the course. Each one of you have many good things happening to you, and I know how deeply grateful you are for it. You can write your gratefulness and put that also in the basket. This is the way to go into silence".
When you spend time alone with Nature, with plants, trees and animals, you will see that you do not get too many thoughts in your mind. But when we see someone’s face, then suddenly cravings and aversions arise in us. Nature never creates or incites cravings and aversions in us. It is only people who do so. This is the time for you to be with Nature – with your own nature, and also with Mother Nature outside. Do not make signs when you see people. If it is very urgent only then you may communicate using a bit of sign language, otherwise maintain your silence.
Another thing that I want to tell you is: Just look back at everything that has happened in your life till now. Is it not like a dream? You went to school, grew up and went to college, and so on. Whatever has happened in your life till this very moment – does it not all appear to be a dream?
Whatever happened has happened and is over. It does not exist anymore. You arrived in the morning today, then had your lunch and then came to attend satsang. Just reflect on everything gone by till now. Has it all not dissolved and disappeared in the waves of time? It is all gone. After some time you will retire to your rooms, and you will come to the session tomorrow and day after, and then you will eventually return to your homes. In this way, another 10 or 20 years more will pass by. Does it not all look like a dream? Just wake up and see.
Whatever money you have earned till now will remain safe in the bank, but one day you will die and pass on. People will cremate your body and offer the ashes into the river Ganga. Or people will bury you in the ground, and after the last rites they will all return to their homes. That’s it, the story will come to an end. This is surely going to happen, there is no escaping this truth. Life is going to come to an end one day. There will be some happy days, there will be some unhappy days, but anyway life will be finished one day or another. When you realize that everything is going to be over one day, something within you wakes up. It will not be tomorrow, it has to be at this very moment, right now! You have to wake up now, this very moment, and see – that there is something in you that is the eternal peace, which nothing can shake or destroy. The deep seated contentment, joy, love – all that springs in the present moment. This is very important.
When Self-knowledge dawns, there is no worry, there is no more conflict or duality in the mind. There is no bondage of aversions or cravings anymore. Then there is only joy, and bliss in every moment, and one experiences deep love all around.