This article is graciously provided for republication by the author, Swami Nityamuktananda Saraswati (Dr. Christa-Maria Herrmann), German by birth, naturalized British, originally studying Theology, her university studies soon expanded to Education, Psychology, Philosophy and Art and Design (Ceramics). Different teaching jobs (in colleges and universities) in various countries followed. At the center of her studies (as well as her teaching) was always the subject of 'Self-awareness'.
There is in mankind a longing, something that has been called a thirst for something higher, for God, the Absolute. The German word for this intense desire is Sehnsucht…it hasncuriously enough the same word in it as Addiction…meaning its pull is so strong it’s like an addiction.
The Greek Philosopher Parmenides talks about it as thumos, which means also the energy of life itself; it’s also referred to as the massed power of our emotional being.
In many traditions this longing, this desire to know God is described; in Sufism, the great Sufi Mystic Hallaj talks of it in the simile of the moth and the flame. The moth sees the flame burning at night in a lantern and filled with an irresistible desire to be united with the flame, plays about the lamp till dawn, then returns to his friends to tell them in the sweetest terms about his experience; but they say: “You don’t look any better for it, your wings are all scorched and ragged.” But the next night, the urge is irresistible in the moth, and again he returns to the Lantern. This time it finds a way in and is united entirely with the beloved flame; indeed it becomes the flame.
There is a power in us, the Udana Prana, that life-force that pulls us up; out of the quagmire of everyday, animalistic life. It is the longing of the human soul for God; for the unexplainable Source from which it stems. It is this drive which makes a human animal into a full human and a saintly being beyond united with the ultimate aim.
This longing is what St. Augustine describes as desiderium and Plotinus as the essence of the nous; the soul-stuff. It is the essence of Michaelangelo’s picture of Adam in the Sistine Chapel. We can talk about it as the longing for “man” to his own wholeness… and since he has his source in the Divine, wholeness can only come from returning to that Divine.
Let us stay with this sense of longing for a moment: It is a power that has its roots inherently in “creation.” Therefore let me make a sweep to creation myths to find out more about it. Most of these can be summarized in the same pattern. There is that which is beyond description, beyond words and concepts; “That” is like a vast womb/ocean of potential. In it everything exists as potential in balance.
For example: the Egyptian myth talks about the vastness as Mother of Creation as an Ocean; in Her inherently was Atum (the male aspect).He existed in Her in total harmony and balance.
Other cultures, such as the Zulu’s of Africa talk of the primordial “ocean of ‘Nothingness’.
Most familiar to most of the readers however might be the beginning of the Old Testament (Judaeo -Christian tradition), where the spirit of Jahwe (HE who cannot be named) as His breath (ruach) flows over the waters. We can also talk about it in scientific lingo of today as the unified field of intelligent energies.
Now this indescribable, incomprehensible “Absolute” includes all and the first that happens… is that polarity arises as the intent to move out of this All-ness, this Totality.
In Indian tradition this is frequently described as Shiva stirring. There is in the Indian tradition the image of Ardhanaishwara, where Shakti are together in stillness as One; then Shiva stirs and/or Shakti moves, leaving the side of her sleeping husband….to do the work of creation (see Amrithanubhava, of Janeshwar)
There is a very clear description of this first stirring, the first intention in the Egyptian myth (mentioned above). Atum contracts and squeezes himself so tight together that he becomes a “bindu”, a miniscule point of intention. We could say, he becomes the concentrated will of Divine Consciousness.
Now we could say: This intention that arises in the total un-describable Potential, as a force, that becomes contracted and directed so that it can catapult itself out of the diffuse existence.
This “catapulting out”, this ejecting – becomes the first movement, the first form of “Divine intention”; it “moves out”, it “expands”.
This corresponds to the Yogic tradition, in as much as it is the first movement into form; the leaving of the source ocean, the leaving of the “union”, that which causes separation of Shiva and Shakti. Once Shakti is woken up and separate from her husband, SHE moves to create the universe.
We could say: first there is the incredible dense, “black whole”, the concentrated potential power, then the Big bang, then the ever expanding changing universe creating/unfolding itself in Space as the world and existence we know.
So, out of Stillness/Nothingness/no form… rises intent and that is followed by movement outwards…which ultimately creates form.
In many traditions this first movement out makes sound, “a sound that travels across the waters”. This sound stemming from the “breath over primeval waters” is perceived by “nothingness”, darkness, the primordial ocean, the pure potential which becomes vibration – vibrating energy that takes shape as word! (and world). That first vibration, that original sound is Aum/Amen.
In the NT (Gospel of St. John) we have: “at the beginning was the word” but the OT was much clearer; at the beginning was the divine Spirit, the divine intention, the divine breath and breathing over the primordial waters… came the word!
Anyway the potential received the vibration of intent and from it results movement which then gives birth to sound/or light. Either, being the result of vibration (electromagnetic waves in modern lingo). With sound comes word, with light comes life.
In some tradition such as in Shintoism (Japan) and Australian Aboriginal lore, this results in the world being created by song, the song of the Divine, which is Intention, which is vibration, which is word that creates. We could summarise that: the wisdom tradition across the world say something like:
At the beginning there is intention which moves and expresses as word; word is sound, is light, (light is vibration just as sound is) – and light is life. As soon as light comes forth there is vital energy of life. And again that checks with most modern science that found the origin of life in the meeting of photons, which carry information. They move and inform – structuring dynamic ever changing patterns, which on the gross level we perceive as trees, plants people!
We could also say, there are two complementary forces working together, coherent energy (undifferentiated love) and information (intention/divine wisdom)…or Brahma (inherent creativity of the boundless consciousness and Saraswati (the ever flowing knowledge, striving for synthesis, creating harmonious forms. The Koogi’s, indigenous people of Columbia, talk about it, as “mind residing within Nature”.
As on this level there is no question of gender; hence we could equally with the Samkhya Philosophy: there is Purusha (the indweller/consciousness) and Prakriti (energy that becomes matter).
There are many versions of this base story; but why do I talk about this in the context of Silence? Because inherently here, there is universal wisdom – about the original, primordial, infinite power – who is Stillness, who is Silence.
Meaning that primordial Source, Womb, God – is Silence!
Total Absolute Silence, which is the same as saying: total fullness, total emptiness; no form, no diversity, no separation! However, our problem is that we cling to words. The Greek Philosopher Dionysius said: “the further one moves from the heart of the Great Mystery the more words are needed.”
This is inherent in the process of creation… the wind/breath/prana that moved out from the Totality – with the intention into form… was the word.
This is our predicament, we seek understanding, we seek knowledge in the confines of the world of words. We are longing /driven to understand to return, but the strange thing is, we seek understanding with words!
We search for that which is beyond, – in the realms of the limiting words.
We search for the unlimited in the limited, because as soon as we use a word…we have excluded all others. Words spoken, written or thought…limit the unlimited.
We might even agree and see this as true for much of worldly existence… however it means what? Looking back over the above, it means: the Source, the womb of our existence is “the unlimited”….the Silence! Our very own existence began in that infinite Silence from there came, via sacred intention, the moving out … energy moving out… as that vibration that I call “my life”. Its roots are vibration moving outward…becoming sound/light/life; my life!
If we look at the process of what we call “creation” through the lens of a slow-motion film, we see a bit more: there is not just intention…. and then form or “word”… but a stage in between. In the “twilight- zone” there is vibration of pure sound, that is not yet limited to meaning!
This is the world of seed-syllables, of mantra sound, of divine sound. From here comes revelation, revealed sound… that has not yet been limited by human minds!
Now see where this cosmic wisdom…takes us, in terms of our selves. As we all know, what is inside is outside, the same laws above and below!
When in us there is the longing / the intention/ the desire awake for that which is beyond us, it is the same pattern/ symmetry/fractal… obeying the same law- the cosmic law…as described in the creation myths, earlier mentioned – for the return journey…the path of dissolution.
There is an awakening in us, that stirs and contracts as a huge longing…. A drive, a desire to move back into that Divine Totality/that Silence!
The longing itself then catapults us back, driving us to reunite with That from which we came, that Totality, That infinite Silence, that all potential.
One of the Masters from which I learned used to say: the very longing in your heart is already none other than this divine power. Remember: the river gushes down to the ocean, however long its journey; the water is seeking the water/the ocean … which is however, no different from itself!
Meaning Silence is our original state of being, before the separating out into the world of limiting words and their children the concepts and ideas, and their grandchildren the dogmas and narrow perceptions.
Before the word becomes narrow/limited – there is a dawn of twilight, where the human word has not entered its fixed state, but where it is still close to the divine vibration, the divine sound…we need to learn to listen to that; it is to this where we direct our attention when we practice Silence.
There is the Christian/Jewish tradition a group of people who specialise in leaving the conceptual, limited world of words behind…they are humble and wait patiently to receive these divine vibration. They are called anawin; feeling themselves to be a servant of God, poor, and empty.(i.e. no own ego- driven perception and understanding) They are not great philosophers and thinkers, they are no scholars, nor do they aim to be, rather they cultivate being simple-minded-people…who’s mind is empty to receive … the revealed wisdom/knowledge.
To become like these is at the root of people taking vows of silence combined with celibacy, poverty, obedience and abandonment of all power…, they cultivate self-less-ness; they are a kind of renunciate – cultivating to have a childlike mind, living in simplicity.
This is behind the message Swami Veda spread during the children’s’ retreat: Seek to remain in childhood with child nature through the whole of life.” – The Su-baala Upanishad (Child Upa.)
This emptiness, this simplicity… is the state we aim to arrive at, when practicing silence; it’snot about the non-use of the tongue and vocal cords, but a state of the mind – a calm mind, a beautiful mind, empty of concepts and thus receptive… to the Divine will, the Divine intention…
With that, we become open to the Grace-bestowing Power; which enables us to “walk” the next distance back to that fullness within ONE… that has no form or shape, but is the original ocean of the mystic waters of totality. It is this, which the Mystics and Sages experience as the ecstatic state of Oneness! Supreme Silence.
Our question: How to let go of the conditionings, the files, the memories, the concepts, the judgements? In the Himalayan Tradition, we use that in -between state, I talked about earlier.
Our busy minds do not simply quieten; the nature of our mind is to fire electrons /sparks, make connections… all the time. One can’t and doesn’t want to make it into a dead pan – that is not the intention….silence is fullness- not death! Fullness of all potential – ! But we want to exclude the constant chatter, the attachment to any rising memory or impression- dispersion. We don’t want the mind to go flat, – but return … to its essence, its home.
In order to channel that process, we learn to concentrate only on one sound, a sacred vibration…we call mantra. Mantra, is a sacred sound that doesn’t un-fold into intellectual concepts, thoughts and ideas – but is a sound-file, even a sound-seed….and often that seed, that vibration, naturally drops back into the source it came from, leaving a simple sensation of vibrating energy… that is the fullness, we call Silence…
May you reach that state where this vibration is completely absorbed again; returned into its source.