The Attitude of Silence

I went to Bhagavan’s sannidhi (presence) at 3 o’clock this afternoon and joined the group of people around him in their discussions. Bhagavan casually remarked that Adi Sankara wrote “Dakshinamurthy Stotram” in three parts and said, “Sri Sankara felt like singing in praise of Sri Dakshinamurthy but then, Dakshinamurthy being the embodiment of silence, the problem was how to describe silence. He therefore analysed the three attributes of silence, namely, Srishti (creation) Sthithi (preservation) and Laya (dissolution) and thus offered his salutations to Dakshinamurthy. Dakshinamurthy is the embodiment of these three attributes which do not have any discernible characteristics or distinguishing marks. How else can silence be eulogised?”

Taking up the thread of the conversation a devotee said, “Dandapani Swami told us several years back that on a Mahasivarathri day [Great Night of Siva] devotees gathered around Bhagavan saying, ‘Bhagavan must explain to us today the meaning of “Dakshinamurthy Ashtakam” (Eight Slokas in Praise of Dakshinamurthy). Bhagavan however, sat in silence, smiling. After waiting for some time the devotees went away feeling that, by his continued silence, Bhagavan had taught them that silence alone was the true meaning of those slokas. Is that a fact?”

Bhagavan (with a smile): “Yes. That is true.”

I (with some surprise): “So that means Bhagavan gave a silent commentary?”

Bhagavan: “Yes. It was a silent commentary.”

Another devotee: “Mouna means abiding in the Self, isn’t it?”

Bhagavan: “Yes. That is so. Without abiding in the Self, how could it be mouna (silence)?”

Devotee: “That is just what I am asking. Would it be mouna if one were to completely refrain from speech without at the same time having an awareness of the Self and abiding therein?”

Bhagavan: “How could real mouna be achieved? Some people say that they are observing mouna by keeping their mouths shut but at the same time they go on writing something or other on bits of paper or on a slate. Is not that another form of activity of the mind?”

Another devotee: “Is there then no benefit at all in refraining from speech?”

Bhagavan: “A person may refrain from speech in order to avoid the obstacles of the outer world, but he should not consider that to be an end in itself. True Silence is really endless speech; there is no such thing as attaining it because it is always present. All you have to do is to remove the worldly cobwebs that enshroud it; there is no question of attaining it.”

While we were thus engaged in discussions, someone said that a broadcasting company was thinking of recording Bhagavan’s voice. Bhagavan laughed and said, “Oho! You don’t say so! But my voice is Silence, isn’t it? How can they record Silence? That which Is, is Silence. Who could record it?”

The devotees sat quiet, exchanging glances and there was absolute silence in the hall. Bhagavan, the embodiment of Dakshinamurthy, sat in the Attitude of Silence (mouna mudra) facing southwards. That living image, his body, was radiant with the Light of the Self. Today is indeed a memorable day.

Letters from Sri Ramanashramam (136)

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