Excerpts from talks given by Vimala Thakar at Dalhousie in 1988
What is silence?
When a person gets acquainted with the structure, the mechanism and the mode and functioning of thought, when the person has perceived and understood the built-in limitations of the thought structure, the person may at the end of such observation arrive at the realization that the movement of thought which is the movement of the total human past has no relevance as far as the exploration of the infinite, the unnameable, the limitless is concerned. So there is no attachment left in the person’s consciousness towards the past. No sense of security is felt in the movement of thought. It is felt to be a limitation and therefore it becomes possible for the person to let the whole movement of thought come to an end. To allow the thought structure to discontinue its movement, to go into abeyance, to go into non-action.
The ending of the movement of thought is the content of silence. Please do see that silence is not the absence of noise. On the physical level when you move away from a very noisy crowded place to a quiet place like Dalhousie you say there is silence. Because there is no crowd, no noise, the senses register the absence of noise and crowdedness as silence. This is not what we mean by the word “silence”.
You may live alone, but this does not mean that you are living in solitude. Solitude is not living physically in a solitary place and silence is not the absence of speech.
If a person crosses the frontiers of thought movement, then he or she can may find him/herself in a state of consciousness where thought moves not, where thought has come to a standstill. All the measurements, not only of time and space, but all of the measurements disappear completely.
The dimension of silence
In the dimension of silence, the movement of thought goes on but it doesn’t create the illusion of a thinker. What does this mean? This means that when your eyes are open, in the waking state as it is called, the sensations are received by the sense organs. The sensations are received, the electrical impulses generated by the sensations are created, the stimulation of the electrical impulse and the recognition of those sensations according to previous knowledge and experience takes place. It is an involuntary cerebral activity like involuntary breathing in and out. A tree is not mistaken for a horse. The reception of the sensation and the interpretation of the objects surrounding you takes place without the interpreter. The movement of thought goes on without the thinker. There is no psychological recording, there is no psychological registering, there is no centre to say, “I like this or I dislike that, I prefer this and I have a hatred for that.”
So there is the involuntary cerebral activity without the psychological recording or registering. It is only when it is psychologically registered that we call it an experience which conditions you. The movement of thought, the movement of knowledge goes on in the body like the movement of breath, or blood. The blood circulation goes on, you don’t say, “I’m passing it on now from the heart to the rest of the body.” You don’t say that. You may take a meal but you don’t sit there and say, “I’m going to digest all the food.” The digestion of the food is the movement of your totality in operation, not of your ego. You don’t grow the nails on your fingers or the hair on your head. The growing takes place without any grower. That is how the energy of life moves.
The absence of the knower, the thinker, the experiencer, the centre, is the essential part of what we call silence. It does not mean that the knower, the thinker, the experiencer was absent yesterday and today the centre has come back. It is not the interval between two movements of experiencing or two movements of thought. It is a dimension. Once it is there, it is there. And because there is no centre, no knower, no experiencer we call it emptiness.
Emptiness does not involve the destruction of knowledge. It doesn’t imply destruction of all the knowledge, experience, the conditioning. Why should conditionings be destroyed? They are the content of civilization. Through education you also condition. Through conditioning you sophisticate, you refine and you make it more sensitive. Music is a kind of conditioning of the sound energy. What is wrong in that? So emptiness does not imply destruction of what is.
Living with silence
When the state of silence enfolds you, takes you in its embrace, the touch is felt to be very pleasant in the beginning. That state is something new, the silence is unprecedented. The first thing that happens is that the experience of the emptiness gets converted into an experience. The “I” jumps in, for it has not been destroyed, so it jumps back and says, “My goodness, there is nothing to name, to identify, to accept or reject. There is nothing for me to experience. It’s all bare. It’s all empty. So from the non-movement, there is a temporary reversal. The “I” wants to measure and evaluate that state of emptiness. It wants to label it, recognise it, weight it up and determine what it is and where it leads to. Maybe it doesn’t go as far as to say, “What am I going to get out of it?” It has gone beyond that state of bargaining, of wanting to own or possess. That’s been left behind. But still there is this desire to name and to identify. But silence cannot be named or categorized. What label can you attach to emptiness? At best you can say, “No thing there. Nobodyness.”
The person has to be comfortable to stay in that dimension, where there is nothing to be known, nothing to be experienced, to be named or identified. The centre has to be with itself. It cannot be converted into an experience. It may feel pleasant but then the feeling of pleasantness may recede because in emptiness there is no stimulation. The person is used to stimulation. New sensations, things to be named, identified, experienced, accepted, rejected, evaluated, chosen, acquired, owned, renounced etc. That is the stuff of life. But now in emptiness, there is nothing to be done. So you have to stick with it. Be in the state of “I don’t know anything.” Where can you move in the emptiness? There’s no direction to go.
The awakening of the inner energies
If that is sustained, being merged in the emptiness, then you get reduced to no-thingness. It is life without direction. Life without movement. Without thought. If this is sustained, then any tension of feeling lost disappears and there is then total relaxation. Then the unknown, the unconditioned energies concealed in the emptiness of space begin to operate. When this emptiness is sustained and the relaxation is there the unconditioned energies begin to manifest first on the physical level.
It is not yet the cosmic energies. It is the healing energies contained in the body that begin to manifest first. The healing energy begins to heal the body and you feel a strange energy that is not glandular, muscular etc. but is from emptiness. You know there are different energies, thought energy and the energy contained in the atom. But then there is energy contained in emptiness, in space, in silence. It has not yet been measured. The energy of the proton, the electron etc. has been utilized, tapped and channelled. But here we are talking about the energy of silence. The healing energy.
It is not yet the cosmic energy. It is the energy of relaxation. So the person feels always joyful in the dimension of emptiness. The person no longer feels lost. There is no feeling anymore of isolation and the senses do not feel starved without the thinking always going on. So there is the feeling of company within. How to put it? It is a companionship of an energy on the physical and physiological level. When the body along with its neuro-chemical structure is filled with the sense of healing, sense of relaxation, and does not require anything from outside for the sustenance of joy and relaxation, then silence or emptiness is ripe.
The cosmic energy
It is out of the centre-free state of joy, relaxation and healing that the cosmic energy emerges. In this dimension there is the sense of belonging to the entire cosmos. You belong to the trees, to the birds, the animals. There is a sense of relationship. There is a sense of companionship with the whole cosmos. A sense of companionship with the darkness of night and the light of day.
So the person gets filled with love and compassion. The cosmic energy manifests itself through love and compassion. And wherever there is love, there is intelligence. The energy of intelligence, the energy of love, it has nothing to do with the total human past. It is an independent energy. So your being gets filled with a new kind of intelligence. The whole cosmos is your abode and everything existing in it is your fellow being. So when love visits you and envelops you, that is perhaps an indication that the cosmic energy is starting to permeate your being.
It permeates your thoughts, your knowledge and all your conditionings. The permeation of your conditioned being by that unconditioned energy is called transformation. Physically, biologically there is an individual but inside that individual there is only the ongoing permeation of cosmic energy. There is no centre. There is a person without personality. There is an individual without identity. It’s not easy to recognize such a person.