The enlightened sage Papaji would often begin his satsangs by softly saying, “Keep quiet,” which was usually followed by nervous laughter from attendees. Papaji would make this gentle suggestion so that others could find, or notice, the quiet beneath their busy minds. When there is complete silence, when the mind has settled into a thoughtless state, the world opens with a sense of wonder, discovery, and bliss. This is of great benefit to anyone who simply wants to be calmer, less stressed, healthier, or filled with greater mental clarity.
A New World Emerges From Silence
To find silence, the egoic self must be quiet. Krishnamurti said that in total silence, the mind comes upon the eternal. There are countless ways people have found to uncover the ever-present silence — meditation, communion with nature, ritual, dance, art, service to others, and any other endeavor through which the sense of self disappears.
Famed psychologist Abraham Maslow called the (at least momentary) disappearance of the sense of self the peak experience. Maslow noticed his undergraduates at Brandeis University unknowingly described their peak-experiences “in language of rapture similar to those of famous spiritual teachers. From this, he concluded that we do not have to be great religious mystics have an epiphany, and it is unnecessary to be a monk, to sit at the feet of a yogi, or to reach a high level of meditation to have this exhilarating experience. The great lesson from the true mystics, Maslow said, is that the sacred is in the ordinary and may be found in one’s daily life.
Philosopher Henry David Thoreau, who discovered an eternal beauty beyond the senses in his forays into nature, wrote, “Silence is the universal refuge, a balm to our every chagrin, and our inviolable asylum, where no indignity can assail, no personality can disturb us.”
So, too, have we seen remarkable developments and inventions emerge out of the silence of a still mind. By removing his thoughts from his work, Thomas Edison often awoke from a nap with a new invention. Albert Einstein would take long walks to get his mind off of physics, only to have a solution appear to him out of the ether. And, one evening, while focusing on his drive home in the cold rain, the great physicist Leonard Suskind stopped at a traffic light only to have an entire equation suddenly come to him. With his finger, Suskind wrote an entire mathematical equation on the inside of his foggy, humid windshield.
Finding Silence Without Effort
Paradoxically, the mind cannot still itself; and it takes effort for the mind to try to be quiet — but effort is a tool of the mind. The mind realizes silence through observation — just seeing what is present without judging, criticizing, concentrating, focusing, analyzing, or commenting. In this choiceless awareness, without preference or image-making, the mind is quiet, and that which has always been there — an infinite, silent stillness that comprises you and all else — becomes known.
Where There Is No Mind, There Is Silence
Beyond all of the practical things that come out of a respite from the egoic sense of self, mystics have long taught that a quiet mind is the route to enlightenment. Ramana Maharshi, sage of Arunachala, said that the Self — the totality of what one is — is like a pearl. “To find it you must dive deep down into the silence, deeper and ever deeper, until it is reached.”
When the mind is quiet, discoveries can be made that can improve your life, health, relationships, nature, and humanity. There are many ways to go about finding the silence, including yoga, meditation, long walks, communing with nature, or enquiring into your own existence. Chinese Chan Master Shen-hui said, “Seeing into nothingness is the true seeing and eternal seeing.” Out of this seeing arises everything in waves of newness and wonder.