Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 24: The Peace within You > Chapter 4: Seek the Deeper Stillness
Seek the Deeper Stillness
When the personal ego's thoughts and desires are stripped off, we behold ourselves as we were in the first state and as we shall be in the final one. We are then the Overself alone, in its Godlike solitude and stillness.
One feels gathered into the depths of the silence, enfolded by it and then, hidden within it, intuits the mysterious inexplicable invisible and higher power which must remain forever nameless.
A life with this infinite stillness as its background and centre seems as remote from the common clay of everyday human beings, and especially from their urban infatuation with noise and movement, as the asteroids.
This stillness is the godlike part of every human being. In failing to look for it, he fails to make the most of his possibilities. If, looking, he misses it on the way, this happens because it is a vacuity: there is simply nothing there! That means no things, not even mental things, that is, thoughts.
The spirit (Brahman) is NOT the stillness, but is found by humans who are in the precondition of stillness. The latter is their human reaction to Brahman's presence coming into their field of awareness.
That beautiful state wherein the mind recognizes itself for what it is, wherein all activity is stilled except that of awareness alone, and even then it is an awareness without an object--this is the heart of the experience.
The Stillness has so much to give mankind, yet mankind ignores or neglects it.
The Mystic who penetrates to this depth of meditation is momentarily lost to the world, lost indeed to everything except himself.
This glorious interlude of blissful peace, when thoughts come to rest and speech is silenced, ought to be valued at its proper worth.
It is true peace because he is inwardly at peace with himself, with his fellow men, and with God.
What he experienced in those quietly rapturous moments is to be used as a standard of comparison with what he experiences in everyday life. This will teach him, better than guides or books. It will show him his spiritual shortcomings and give him his right direction.
The Overself is first and last felt or experienced as a deep peace within oneself. Hence the larger meaning of the greeting used in the Orient and in early Greek Mysteries that "Peace be with you!"
When he first awakens to this great stillness, ordinary life seems a mere agitation and fuss.
In the ordinary person, consciousness remains only at his periphery, but in the adept it can be drawn at any moment and at will to this centre.
The Stillness may speak directly to a man's heart in clear feeling or leave its value and existence to be inferred from subtle clues provided.
It is not the kind of silence which shuts anyone else out rudely: it is too benevolent for that, too concentrated in seeking the inner reality to be so negative.
It is all the difference between living at the still centre and on the bustling circumference, at the mysterious core and on the prosaic surface.
"With an untroubled soul, abiding in himself he enjoys extreme happiness. This tranquillity may be described as resembling sweet sleep, or a lamp which in calm air burns without flickering. So, as time goes on, fixing his soul in itself, eating little, inwardly purified, he sees the soul in himself."--Mahabharata
It is in these deeper moods that life seems to pulse more quietly.
There is a silence born of ignorance and another born of knowledge--mystical knowledge. The right interpretation comes only through the intuitive faculty--not through the intellect.
With such a perspective as can be gained on the mountaintop of the ultimate, commanding the entire scene as it does, every stage of the shift from ego to Centre can be seen.
The ordinary man, living his simple existence uncomplicated by questions about the abstract meaning of that existence, not troubling his head about yoga, religion, God, and such matters, enjoys his own kind of limited peace, one which the quester has forfeited.
There is no need for sensational psychic phenomena; because consciously or unconsciously you love being Being, therefore you have taken to the Quest.
Essence of Mind is more important than the temporary stages on the way to discovery of its ever-presence.
What men of our modern age, bewildered by tremendous world-wide happenings, crushed by the forces of an apparently uncontrollable destiny, deafened by the noises of a scientifically mechanical civilization, are really yearning after is simply Stillness. This, which would seem to be the simplest of all things, is inwardly the hardest to find of all things. This is what Jesus spoke of when he said, "Few there be that find it." Why is it so hard to find? The answer is that a price must be paid, as with all things. That price is the giving up of self. For Stillness is behind the self.
It is far subtler than the first ecstasies of a newly made mystic, much more refined than the personal joys of a religious saint. It is deeper, quieter, more relaxed yet, withal exquisite--this peace.
He can buy this rare peace only at a costly price. He can be immune to the miseries of life only by being immune to its elations.
The immobility of that higher plane of being frightens most people away from it. They are ignorant of the blessed peace that is conjoined with it.
We may hold talent--be it the craftsman's, the intellectual's, the artist's--in high esteem, yet not lose our hold on the stillness. It is a delicate balanced position, reached after risky attempts.
There is intense feeling in this experience but it is as quiet as it is deep. The sensational or the violent mystical raptures belong to the beginner and occur on the shallower level.
It is in this superb stillness that truth finds its origin and beauty touches the heart. It is here that love--not its poor substitutes--is at last known. Such precious treasures must be paid for. The price is high and the purchasers few.
We ought not judge a deeper and different plane of being by our reactions to the present one. Here, its limitations inevitably cause boredom, impatience, and dullness if we have to sit unoccupied for a few hours. There, those limitations are non-existent and consequently we may sit for a whole eternity, yet in its stillness feel only contentment, serenity, and the sensation of being unutterably alive.
If he goes into the silence enough, he will become accustomed to the obstacles that bar entry and learn by practice how to deal with them.
Each man must create his own inner peace by his own struggles with himself, with his ego. It is attainable but the price must be paid.
In the stillness may be the Truth, but it has to come to him through his emotional beliefs, through the prejudices instilled in him by family and society, and through the limitations of his lack of higher education, his inability to grasp metaphysical statements above his simple elementary level.
The Sufis even use the term "veiling" when referring to ecstatic mystic experiences and discussing them with students sufficiently advanced to profit by this advice. Indeed one of the Sufi masters whose name was Junaid and who lived in the ninth and tenth centuries, wrote that his ecstasies vanished altogether as he advanced to a higher stage.
The wise seeker after Truth will not lose himself in mystical and magical symbolisms. In the end they become obstacles, screens between himself and that which they ought to represent.
There is an immense realization of abiding at last in the complete truth about life, the final word about reality. There is a perfect inner silence, broken only when presently shapes from environment come into the field of awareness again or sounds from the external surroundings make themselves heard. There is an utter emotional calm when desire and fear lie quite still. There is a sense of reality, a reality that ever was and ever will be, and of the surface-illusions having stopped at last.
In this deep stillness wherein every trace of the personal self dissolves, there is the true crucifixion of the ego. This is the real meaning of the crucifixion, as it was undergone in the ancient Mystery Temple initiations and as it was undergone by Jesus. The death implied is mental, not physical.
The city's uproar and the brain's turbulence die down. The desires and troubles slip slowly away. There is a renewal of calm as consciousness settles deeper and ever deeper until an utter void is reached.
He feels that he is now in the very centre of his being, that he has shifted identity there. The ego no longer covers it over and occupies his whole view. Rather is it now transparent to the light radiating from this centre. This transparency is peace.
Subtle and, in the beginning, almost imperceptible is the growth of that exquisite inner peace.
Learn to be satisfied with this gift, this grace of the Stillness. Do not ask for more or for something more striking and dramatic. This is a common error, and an ungrateful one.
The intensity of this experience, the deep tranquillity, separates it from all other experiences.
The quester may reach a point when the aspirations and activities, the practices and exercises, the meditations even, of the quest itself will fade away as the grace invades him and the inner silence takes over.
Not seldom this high phase of the Quiet is accompanied by great light, of which this "Divine Body" is made and by which he may feel great ennobled awe.
Sitting there in deep contemplation, shut off from the world, detached and unconcerned in every way, he becomes the incarnation of stillness and silence.
Here is the final consummation of all his highest aspirations, as with bowed, humbled head he receives the mysterious bestowal of a supreme grace.
The most important kind of spiritual development is usually undramatic and unexciting. It is found and felt in a deep peace.
Quiet the ego
Peace is a quality which man must extract for himself by himself and within himself.
The seeker after stillness should be told that the stillness is always there. Indeed it is in every man. But he has to learn, first, to let it in and, second, how to do so. The first beginning of this is to remember. The second is to recognize the inward pull. For the rest, the stillness itself will guide and lead him to itself.
The presence is always there, always waiting to be recognized and felt, but inner silence is needed to make this possible. And few persons possess it or seek it.
There is an area of peace hidden within every man. Its presence is the gracious gift of God but his task is to discover it.
There is a stillness in the depth of each man, but he has to find it for himself, a work demanding patience and humility.
Whatever method of meditation is used, the last phase must always be the Great Silence.
He must begin this meditation by isolating himself in thought not only from the world but also from other people. He is not to be afraid of being inwardly alone. Only so can he find the great Friend who shall appear and speak to him out of the stillness.
That is that ultimate solitude to which all human beings are.
"Seek lonely happiness," taught the first Shankara, "and concentrate the mind on Paramatma."
The higher he climbs, the lonelier he becomes. The crowds forgather at the base; the chosen few scatter around the peak.
The feeling of oneness with others will not last if he is carried farther by this indrawing force. They seem removed from him, receding, and then vanishing.
Far from the arguments of mind-narrowed men, he will find himself without a supporting group in the end. He is to meet God alone, for all his attention is to be held--so fully that there is nothing and no one else. Thus the three become two, who in turn become the One, which it always is. Truth is no longer needed; its seeker has vanished. The great Silent Timelessness reigns.
Although other human voices cease to speak to him, he must now look only to, and be alone with, God, for the Silence itself will thenceforth speak to him.
He must learn not only to be alone and like it but, even more, to love it. For in the great silence of being shut in with his higher self he can find great satisfaction, serene fulfilment.
This is his private secret place. Here he must keep out of the world. Here he stands alone in the divine presence.
Each personal existence has its place to fill here in life and its development to undergo, but it is given a higher meaning than the animal's only as it is sought and found. Neither psychology nor physiology, neither metaphysics, religion, nor mysticism can each by itself sufficiently explain the human being. If, however, they work together in harmony they come much nearer to this goal; but their totality is still incomplete. The last turn of the key is philosophy. Thereafter the final revelation must come by itself, by grace, for man has then removed the obstruction, the tyranny of his own little self. If the ego remains to live and act in the world, whether busy in doing or lost in meditation, it is a purified, a surrendered being. But it has not surrendered to other egos. Even the gurus, however reputed and respected, can teach and lead others only by the path along which they themselves came. Their work can be helpful, valuable, encouraging; but at a certain point, when apprenticeship must give way to proficiency, it can become repetitive and restrictive. After that, the courage and strength to obey the Voice of the Silence, sought and given by the Silence itself, must alone lead him.
This aspiration must be his one master-feeling, the single key that fits all the ciphers of his destiny.
You get sidetracked into thoughts about various persons. Think only of one person--the true self or the guide. Apart from that, drop all thinking and dwell in his stillness alone. The thoughts about others must be reserved for some future date after you have thoroughly established yourself in the thought-free state of utter stillness.
The silencing of our thoughts and the inward concentration of our forces bring a rare stillness, a remarkable peace to us.
The Quest will come to an end when he turns away from teachers and teachings and begins to receive instruction from within himself. Previously all that he got was someone else's idea; now he is acquiring firsthand knowledge.
When the quiet receptivity is deep enough, we enter the stillness. When the stillness is deep enough, we cease to think, to desire, and to will anything.
Without leaving his room he finds out Truth! He simply sits still! This is the source of his knowledge and strength. The conclusion is: learn to sit still, but not only bodily; it must also be mentally. Yet not only that, not only for half a minute or so, but to sit still patiently. He must wait the situation out. So much--if not most--of the world's evil and misery and wrong action is due to the inability to do it.
To produce a result, one usually has to perform an action. But here is a non-action which produces an intangible result, one that cannot be photographed or packed or shown to someone else. Yet it is there, all the same, a marvellously satisfying harvest of peace unutterable, of inner support impregnable.
Let the personal will relax in this gentle peace.
"It is only because the sage does nothing that he can do everything. Nature never makes any fuss, and yet It does everything. If a ruler can cling to It, all things will grow of themselves." These are Lao Tzu's words. His advice to "do nothing" as the way to the best accomplishment simply means that ordinarily whatever we do is done at the ego's behest. It cannot therefore lead us into any happiness that will not be illusory in the end, any accomplishment that will not be destroyed in the end. To continue action in the old way is to perpetuate the ego's rule. But to refuse to do so, and to "be still," is to create the inner vacuum which allows the higher self to enter and work through us. This is inspired action.
Once he has touched this stillness briefly, learned the way to it, and comprehended its nature, his next task is to develop it. This takes time and practice and knowledge. Or, rather, the work is done on him, not by him. He has to let be.
In this condition, with the self quieted and the thoughts collected, patient waiting may bring on the inner stillness. Here, the world and its ways, the person and his desires drop out of the field of interest and attention; the Overself absorbs all the energies, its presence rendering him utterly humble, his consciousness now put on an ethereal plane.
He does not, can not, fabricate this inner silence, but he provides the correct conditions of relaxed concentrated listening which allow it to be discovered as a presence within himself.
By this simple act of unlearning all that you know--all that you have acquired by thinking, by remembrance, by measurements, by comparison, and by judgement--when you return to the mere emptying of the consciousness of its contents of thoughts and ideas, and when you come to the pure consciousness in itself, then only can you rest in the Great Silence.
He must not only give up the slavery of passion, but also the slavery of intellect.
Shiva Yoga Dipika: "Listen, I shall mention to you the method of worshipping Shiva who is made of Intelligence. It is a secret--the essence of the Sastras and the bestower of instantaneous freedom. . . . Thoughtlessness is the contemplation of Shiva; Inactivity is his worship; Motionlessness is going round him in veneration; the realization of the state `I Am He' is prostration before him; Silence is singing his glory; knowledge of what ought to be done and what not, is good character; looking on all alike is the supreme pleasure."
When we dig down into the under-surface conditions which give rise to such a question, we find that the question itself vanishes and so there is no longer any need to try to find an answer to it. For it depended upon the mind's agitation, turbulence, curiosity, or imbalance, and when the mind's activity died down, when above all stillness lulled ego, the question died down with it.
The mind must constantly give itself up to the idea of its own infinity.
In her book Mysticism Evelyn Underhill writes: "The psychic state of Quiet has a further value for the mystic, as being the intellectual complement and expression of the moral state of humility and receptivity: the very condition, says Eckhart, of the New Birth. `It may be asked whether this Birth is best accomplished in Man when he does the work and forms and thinks himself into God, or when he keeps himself in Silence, stillness and peace, so that God may speak and work in him; . . . the best and noblest way in which thou mayst come into this work and life is by keeping silence, and letting God work and speak. When all the powers are withdrawn from their work and images, there is this word spoken.'" She goes on to quote Eckhart further on the same theme: "And thus thine ignorance is not a defect but thy highest perfection, and thine inactivity thy highest work. And so in this work thou must bring all thy works to nought and all thy powers into silence, if thou wilt in truth experience this birth within thyself."
Chinese philosopher Lieh-tse wrote: "Avoid action, and keep the silence; all the rest is commentary."
Every outer activity is to be brought to an end; every inner one is to be stilled.
Thinking is mental action, just as moving is physical action. The admonition "Be still and know that I am God" refers not only to the body but also to the mind. Both are to cease from activity if the higher consciousness is to be attained.
Thinking can put together all sorts of theories and speculations and even discoveries. But only when it dies down and lets the pure quietened mind come to rest in the very essence of consciousness, at peace with itself, with nature, with the world, only then is there a deep sense of utter fulfilment.
When thinking comes naturally to its rest, either because he has felt his way through intense reverence to the higher power or because he has apprehended the truth by the subtlest and sharpest perception, then stillness is born. It would be an error to continue either the feeling or the thinking beyond this time. The utter stillness must take their place, and he must humbly yield to it. At such a moment, the ego is withdrawn; the knowing intuition, the great Peace, alone remains.
The process acts with the sureness of a chemical combination; if you quiet the ego, the Overself becomes responsively active.
Where the heart goes, there soon or late the other faculties will follow. This is why it is so important to let the Overself take possession of the heart by its total surrender in, and to, the Stillness.
The more he can keep his personal will passive and his personal mind still, the more shall wisdom and peace flow into him.
It is nice and noble to talk about becoming an instrument in God's hands, a channel of the Overself. But this is still an inferior relationship. It is not the highest kind. It is still occupied with the ego. Ascend to a higher level, give yourself completely to, and talk about, the higher power alone.
To the extent that a man keeps inwardly still, to that extent he unfolds himself and lets the ever-perfect Overself shine forth.
This centre of his own being never moves. It is forever in stillness.
Whether they are positive or negative, let all thoughts die. Then there will remain only Mind, which is always there, which is the Real.
He does not know why the grace is present, only that it is. He does not use the intellectual machine to find out. There is contentment, acceptance, peace. It is enough just now to take no precise scientific measurements but to stay with the Stillness.
In the Stillness he can renew his lost forces, re-find his store of wisdom and, if it is accompanied by solitude, find his innermost being.
An understanding based on logic alone, on the faculty of the intellect alone, may produce seemingly solid and sound ideas, but with time it may also produce counter-ideas which effectively oppose the earlier ones. For as it itself changes with the years and with the body, the ego may shift its standpoint, may accept what it previously rejected and reject what it previously accepted. If stability is to be found, it must be found at a deeper level and that is the changeless Overself.
Men try to fill the heart's emptiness with things and other persons when, if they would only let it alone ("Be Still!"), grace would enter and fill it for them.
Putting aside one's own internal and personal pressures is a precondition which sooner or later lets in the Overself's peace.
The still centre within
How beautiful, how comforting, and how profitable are those minutes of withdrawal from the world into the blessed stillness in the deeper layers of the mind and heart. Here one can enjoy oneself, one's self, one's inner self, one's Overself.
However dark or blundering the past, however miserable the tangle one has made of one's life, this unutterable peace blots it all out. Within that seraphic embrace error cannot be known, misery cannot be felt, sin cannot be remembered. A great cleansing comes over the heart and mind.
The more he gives himself up to this element of stillness within and lets it work on him, the less destructive will his character and tendencies be.
The past has become a vanished phantasmal world. He can stay in peace.
There will be a zone of peace around him which some feel but others cannot. It seems to put him quite at his ease and free him from any trace of nervousness.
It is not generally known that Florence Nightingale drew her inspiration and courage for her Red Cross work in Crimea from her meditations in silence.
In that silent centre there is immense power and rocklike strength.
The Stillness is its own enthralling inner gain, sufficient in itself to pay for the time or effort given, but with return to activity there is a varied outer harvest.
This beautiful peace is both the reward of his efforts and the atmosphere surrounding his higher nature.
In this deep stillness the worst sinner feels that he is like a reformed, reborn man.
Whether from his study of inspired books or from meditations in the silence, he will draw understanding and strength for his life in the active, busy turmoil of the world.
There are situations which may seem beyond endurance and circumstances beyond sufferance. It is then that those who have learned how to withdraw into their interior being, how to return to their source, may find some measure of help and strength.
From this deep source, he nourishes the continuous tranquillity of the atmosphere he carries about with him; from it he gains the solid assurance that the quest is worthwhile and its goal very real.
When you have trained yourself to empty your consciousness of its thoughts at will, your worries will naturally be emptied along with them. This is one of the valuable practical fruits of yoga.
This is the refuge to which he must turn when troubled, this is the place of divine beatitude. Let him go into the silence; there he will find the strength to conquer.
In this wonderful atmosphere of unimaginable intense peace, all that was negative in the past years is effaced so radically that it becomes as nothing.
Even if there were no joy in the realization of the Overself it would still be worth having, for it would still be richly loaded with other treasures. But the joy is also there and always there.
Profundity and serenity become his great strength.
He can return from these visits to his innermost being richly laden with gifts, precious and uncommon.
Out of these deep silences he will gather wise decisions and originate new progressive inclinations; from them he will come with, first, the love of God and, second, the knowledge of God.
The quietness of this deep daily initiation into the Overself may seem a small and flat thing against the thrilling raptures that religious mystics and babbling evangelists have described. But its life-guiding and life-changing power, its truth-revealing light, will be of a much higher voltage.
In the end, as in the beginning, it is best to defer a grave decision to the Stillness.
The Overself remains always the same and never changes in any way. It is the hunger for this quality, thought of as "peace of mind," which drives men to seek the Overself amid the vicissitudes of health or fortune which they experience.
To complain that you get no answer, no result from going into the silence indicates two things: first, that you do not go far enough into it to reach the intuitive level; second, that you do not wait long enough for it to affect you.
In seeking the stillness and the beautiful inner equilibrium which comes with it, he will learn to find a new way of life.
It is as though he had an inner, separate consciousness which was forever fastened to a central point of his being.
He who has attained this stage will be ready to forgo all those worldly activities, benefits, and assets which the bidding of his higher self may call for.
This reached, he reaches the true source of power, evicts all confusions, and becomes inwardly clear.
According to the intensity of his concentration and withdrawnness will be the sharpness of his realization that: This is the truth!
The stillness is not experienced in the same way as a mere lazy and idle reverie: it is dynamic, creative, and healing. The presence of one man who is able to attain it is a gift, a blessing, to all other men, though they know it not.
No problems vex the mind here, because none can arise. All problems are now seen to be fictitious because they arise out of a wrong view of the world.
The Stillness possesses a power to purify the heart, to heal strained nerves and sick bodies.
He who can gain this deep buried state will gain the attributes of supernal power and untroubled calm which go with it.
This will change your life and give you real peace. You will know that you have touched truth, and henceforth problems of the whys and wherefores of human existence can come no more to vex your head and pain your heart.
This peace is not to be confounded with lethargy and inertia, for it is a dynamic condition. It is the peace that comes after storm. It puts tormenting desires to rest. It brings the confused mind into surety. It heals the wounds caused by other people, by our own selves, and by a harsh destiny.
Out of the Stillness what is true may come forth with high certitude.
Out of this stillness will come the light he seeks, the guide he needs, the strength he requires.
The first way of finding peace when harassed by a hard problem or situation is to turn away from the tumult of thoughts and look for the still centre within. When it is found and just when it leaves, or must be left, ask it for the guidance needed. Let it correct those thoughts.
From this inner stillness the highest truths have come forth and passed into human knowledge.
The more still it becomes, whatever the mind knows it knows more clearly, and hence truly.
The stillness does for you what you're unable to do for yourself, and therefore it can be said to manifest grace. For by yourself you can only use your will, the ego's will.
As a serious Quaker, John Woolman was, as he himself wrote, "a man taught to wait in silence, sometimes many weeks together, until he hears God's voice."
All questions can find some kind of an answer in this mental silence; no question can be brought there often enough without a response coming forth in time. It is needful to be patient and to have faith during the waiting period. The inner monitor is certainly there but we have to reach it.
The Stillness is the only magical panacea, applicable always in all situations.
Amid the trouble and clamour created by one's own weaknesses and other people's misunderstandings, it is better to remain silent, to rest content with entering the stillness and turn the problem over to the Higher Power.
There comes a time when out of the silence within himself there comes the spiritual guidance which he needs for his further course. It comes sometimes as a delicate feeling, sometimes as a strong one, sometimes in a clear formulated message, and sometimes out of the circumstances and happenings themselves. Not only does it tell him and teach him, but sometimes it does the same for others. Such is the effect of the Divine Life now working increasingly within him.
The certitude of truth and the plenitude of reality--with their coming a great peace falls onto man.
In that peace-filled oblivion of the lesser self there is renewal of life and rebirth of goodness in, and by, the Overself.
The more he finds his way from the tumultuous surface of his consciousness to the quiet mystery of the centre of his being, the more he finds the steady comfort of truth and the better he understands life.
Just as a man who has escaped from the inside of a burning house and finds himself in the cool outdoors understands that he has attained safety, so the man who has escaped from greed, lust, anger, illusion, selfishness, and ignorance into exalted peace and immediate insight, understands that he has attained heaven.
When he has achieved the capacity or gotten the Grace of sitting in the unbroken stillness of a perfect contemplation, he will feel a loving sweetness indescribable by human words and unmatched by human joys.
Bliss begins only when the point of contact with the Overself is approached and reached. For at this point the mind begins to be taken possession of, and the ego to be absorbed. Naturally the experience is most intense, most vivid, and most rapturous during meditation, for then there are no other distractions to share attention or get in the way.
He will find that this tremendous peace puts all his desires to rest, that the great love it engenders overpasses all his other loves.
If there is a paradise anywhere it is here, deep deep within a man, where he is absorbed forever into a state of utter desirelessness, of complete negation of living, of unruffled contentment in habitual contemplation.
It is a sweet peace gracious beyond all telling.
One arrives at a blessed state where all lesser desire comes to an end, because it is Satisfaction itself; where all will ceases to be active, because there is nothing that needs doing; where the little and limited love which depends on someone else, whether for receiving or giving, dissolves into an infinite ocean of pure love.
The peace overwhelms everything else. Nothing seems to matter any more. There are no problems, no difficult decisions to make, no trying situations to endure. There is only this loving benignant Power holding them all, more important than them all.
Such is the enchantment of the Stillness, that one would like to stay in it forever.
"I, the Homeless, have My home in each person's heart." This is what the Great Silence told me.
Friction and opposition cannot exist on this higher level where all is at peace.
The Tamil poet and sage Tiruvalluvar calls this sublime state of Yoga "the vision of the supremely beautiful," reminding us of similar language in Plato.
How sweet is this tranquil relaxed state by contrast with the inevitable struggle of day-to-day living!
To sit in this delicate tender exquisite stillness, aloof from all that is ugly, coarse, violent, or brutish, is a lovely experience.
In its beautiful soothing peace he lets his hurts lapse from memory, his troubles evaporate from mind.
From this peace which is always within him now he looks out, as from a citadel, upon the world's disharmonies and distresses.
In the depths of meditation, when one is sitting still and enchanted, all egoism gone for the moment and all care suspended, it is possible to understand what the word "Heaven" really means.
The peaceful feeling which comes over him shows more vividly than words what the desireless state means.
The freedom which he attains is in the background of consciousness, as it were. For here he rests tranquilly in the mind-essence alone. No separate ideas exist here, whereas the foreground is occupied by the ordinary ideas involved in human existence. He perceives now that the value of all his former yoga practice lay in its capacity, when success crowned it, to enable him to approach behind the stream of ideas to the bed on which it flowed, that is, to the mind-stuff itself.
The harmony of the highest state is unbroken by thoughts. It is like a song without words; it is the perfumed essence of stillness, the deepest heart of silence.
There are times when the white sheet on the desk before me remains untouched minute after minute, for words will not come to express the inexpressible mood, the strange presence, the incredible loss of memory which makes me forget where I am, what I am, what I am trying to do, and which mysteriously merges me into That which is, but is not any particular thing. Only after I return to normality do I discover that during that mood I was no longer the writer or even the thinker, for there were no thoughts. It was a mood of release and a benign one.
When one comes into the real, deep stillness, every mental and emotional activity comes to an end.
The Stillness is both an Understanding, an Insight of the mind, and an Experience of the being. The whole movement or vibration comes to a stop.
When he temporarily achieves this lofty condition, he ceases to think, for his mind becomes inarticulate with heavenly peace.
The effort should be to find inward stillness through a loving search within the heart's depths for what may be called "the soul," what I have called "the Overself." This is not the soul thought of by a judge when he passes the sentence of death and asks the Lord to have mercy on the condemned man's soul. It is the Holy Ghost of Christian faith, the diviner part of man which dwells in eternity. The nearer we get to it in our striving, the greater will be the mental peace we shall feel. It can be found and felt even whilst thoughts continue to move through the mind, although they will necessarily be thoughts of a most elevated nature for the baser ones could not obtain entry during this mood.
The whole of one's aim should be to keep the mind in an unbroken rest permanently, while using the intellect whenever necessary in an automatic manner to attend to external duties. "Does not that destroy the efficiency of the intellect?" it may be objected. No--only its selfishness is destroyed. Do the hands lose their efficiency because we use them in a purely mechanical manner? Just the same, when one unites with God he regards himself as greater than mere intellect, which becomes for him only an instrument to deal with the external world.
Here, in the divine centre, he can turn at will and rest completely absorbed for a while and completely lost to the world. No thinking will then penetrate its stillness. Here is peace indeed.
This is the Great Silence. While he is under its spell, words will not come to his lips or pen, nor thoughts to his brain. They would only be disturbances.
That deep silence has a melody of its own, a sweetness unknown amid the harsh discords of the world's sounds.
Both the dreamer and his dream, the thinker and his thought, will merge into this sublime stillness.
As the peace settles over him, he becomes as still as a stone. He does not wish to move, to speak, or even to think.
Ideas which are thought, emotions which are felt, and physical experiences which are lived fall away when Stillness is entered.
One may sink inward to the point of being tightly held by the delicious Stillness, unable for a while to move limb or body into activity.
When thoughts cease of themselves the Stillness comes. When thinking rejects its own activity, Consciousness is.
In this practical workaday business of living, thinking is a useful and necessary activity. But on a higher level, the transcendental level of an awed quietude, there is no need or place for thinking nor words--only being.
When all thoughts move far away and then are gone, when mental pictures fade off, then the whole being rests in the Stillness of THAT WHICH IS.
In that beautiful silence, no words form themselves, no intellectual activity goes on.
It is the secret undercurrent which flows beneath all his mind's activity.
The Great Silence
One who has cultivated the inner life and learned to sit quietly without creating or demanding endless talk of a trivial kind, finds that fuss, nervousness, or fidget will be his companion less and less.
Too often people are afraid of sitting in silence. Each thinks he or the others should be continually talking, continually throwing sentences at each other. If the silence does fall and remains a little while, they feel awkward, uneasy, as if they were not doing what was expected of them. It is a sign of human weakness that a person feels he or she must continuously be vocal should someone else be present.
Sufi remark: "If what you come to tell me is less beautiful than the Stillness, keep it to yourself."
Why should silence be such a social sin?
We spoil the silence with our talk.
The strange result of going deeper and deeper into the Real is that silence falls more and more as a curtain over his private experience and private thought. The strong urgency of communication which the missionary and the reformer feel, the strong need of expression which the artist and the writer have, trouble him no longer. The inner voice is tight-lipped, or speaks to him alone. He begins to see how much apostolic utterance is merely the overflow of personal emotion, how much artistic achievement is motivated by personal ambition, how much spiritual service is simply another phase of the ego adoring and serving itself. Thomas Aquinas came to such an insight late in life and he, the author of so many books dedicated to the glory of God, could never again write another line. Those who stand on the outside may consider such a severe restraint put upon oneself to be harsh and fanatical, perhaps even antisocial. But it is safe to say that all these critics have never tracked the ego to its secret lair, never had all movement of their individual will stopped by the divine Stillness.
Whoever enters into this perfect peace must emerge from it again in the end. When he returns to his fellow men he will find it hard--if he is a novice--to keep silent about his wonderful experience, but easy if he is a proficient. This is because the novice is still egoistic whereas the adept is truly altruistic. For the one is concerned with his own experience whereas the other is concerned with whether his fellows are ready to leap so high.
It is not easy to translate this sacred silence into comprehensible meaning, to describe a content where there is no form, to ascend from a region as deep as Atlantis is sunk today and speak openly in familiar, intelligible language; but I must try.
The truth which leads a man to liberation from all illusions and enslavements is perceived in the innermost depths of his being, where he is shut off from all other men. The man who has attained to its knowledge finds himself in an exalted solitude. He is not likely to find his way out of it to the extent, and for the purpose, of enlightening his fellow men who are accustomed to, and quite at home in, their darkness unless some other propulsive force of compassion arises within him and causes him to do so.
We have heard much about the sayings of Jesus, nothing about his silences. Yet it was from the latter that they came and in the latter that he himself lived.
Let him first attain this insight, and then talk about the selfishness of being silent about it if he still feels like doing so.
The man who found his divine soul will not, unless he is divinely enjoined to do so as part of a special beneficent mission, publicly advertise the fact.
"Be ye as shrewd as serpents," Jesus warned the disciples. Therefore, avoid arguments and verbal traps. Keep answers to two or three words, even to the extreme of being evasive. Specimens are: "Perhaps," "A hard problem," "Yes," "No," "I do not know." Do not make statements on your own initiative--better to be silent, refer questioner to others as authorities, such as "Professor X" or "His Holiness the X."
Out of that grave silence there will come to his mind the declaration of truth. And out of that in turn will come his argument with others about it.
In keeping silent about his spiritual status and inner activities, he is not trying to be wilfully obscurantist but is rather imitating the mode of being he finds in the Overself. For what could be more hidden, more elusive than that?
It is not advisable to break the stillness in order to give inner help to other persons. Such an activity should be reserved for a special time. One should not disturb the benediction of one's own stillness, one's own being alone with God, for any reason of this kind.
Many persons in different parts of the world and in different centuries have had glimpses of that other order of being which is their highest source, but how few are those who have succeeded in establishing themselves in continuous communion with that higher order, how rare is the feat? And who, having established himself therein, can find enough words to express what he now perceives and experiences? Words fall back; this is a plane not for them: this is a vast universal silence impregnated with consciousness which swallows every individualized being, for individuality cannot exist there. The established man can turn to it in this great silence and must himself remain silent to do it the honour it deserves. All language is so limited that it must seem blasphemy when put side by side with this awed reverent stillness which is the proper form of worship here.
Truth lies hidden in silence. Reveal it--and falsehood will creep in, withering the golden image. Communication by speech or paper was not necessary.
The complete silence which he finds in the centre of his being cannot be conveyed in words to others without passing into the intellect, which originates and arranges them. But to do this is to leave that centre, to desert that silence, and to step down to an altogether lower level.
No one has ever brought a full report when he emerged from tunnelling in that mystic silence, and no one can.
The deeper he penetrates into this inner being, the more will he feel inclined to keep the development quite secret. It is becoming too holy to be talked about.
We are vocally benumbed on entering the presence of embodied spiritual attainment, for the intellect is silent and abashed at feeling so acutely its own inferiority, its own futility. And it is the intellect in which we mostly live, not the intuition.
He carries his secret as a woman carries her unborn child. Its importance is supreme.
The Chinese Master Ekai (thirteenth century) wrote: "Words cannot describe everything. The heart's message cannot be communicated in words."
There are some inner experiences which seem too holy to be talked about in public, too intimate even to be talked about with intimate friends, too mysterious to be mentioned to anyone else except a student or a teacher who has passed through similar experiences himself.
Is it not strange that the highest experience of an inner nature open to man is a completely secret one, a fully hushed one, and almost an indefinable one? Looking back upon it afterwards, knowing how profoundly beautiful and deeply moving it was at the time, he will find it difficult to speak about it to others.
Thoughts can be put into words, spoken and written; but the truth about Reality must remain unworded, unspoken, and unwritten. All statements about it which the intellect can grasp are merely symbolic--just clues, hints. Only in the great stillness can it be known, understood.
At this point, communication by words must stop: the seer lapses into himself, into his own silent experience of the Ineffable where there is no second person.
It is this inner work in the Silence which reaches the deepest level and in the end achieves the greatest effects. The world does not understand this, and hence its noisy and superficial activities which have produced the chaos and disorder of our times.
How extraordinary is this stillness that it can convey meaning without making use of words! For the communication is made through feeling, not through intellect. But inevitably, when the stillness ends, the mind begins to work, and the intellect begins to work upon the experience and translates it into words.
When the Great Peace is felt and thoughts utterly stilled, there are two possible but different mistakes which he may make. One is to start analysing what is happening. If he wishes to do this either to instruct intellect or to communicate it to others, he must wait until it is no more and for a day longer. Otherwise he cuts it short or diminishes its quality, besides losing the secondary benefits of its afterglow. Nor do words give it to others at the time of its presence, for it gives itself, silently.
The reason why this silent, inward, and pictureless initiation in the stillness is so much more powerful ultimately, is that it reaches the man himself, whereas all other kinds reach only his instruments or vehicles or bodies.
Truth may be written or spoken, preached or printed, but its most lasting expression and communication is transmitted through the deepest silence to the deepest nature in man.
The Notebooks are copyright © 1984-1989, The Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation.