Silence Through Discernment

Andre van Lysebeth

The difficulty in yoga is not to identify with the thoughts, images, memories, etc. that come up into your mind. This requires great vigilance, patience and self-observation. We should always work towards growth in the field of consciousness until we understand that we are not limited by thoughts and images. The personality which is constituted of the body and the psyche, is not our real nature, but only the contents of our consciousness, which is the container. It is good to ask our self: 'Why must the container identify with the contents?'

In reality, it is only a bad habit and ignorance to always identify with the body and thoughts, and it is not at all necessary. Our personality is an emanation of the infinite consciousness of the self, and it is a mistake to identify with the emanation instead of what we are in reality. This is as absurd as it would be for the space to identify with a bird flying through it or a cloud floating there. We are the space and not the cloud!

Yoga shows us the way to find our real nature again by teaching us to be always in the present: present to the body during the practice of asanas, exposing the consciousness to the whole posture, like the air expands in a soap bubble; present to the passage of breath during the practice of yogic respiration; present daring contemplation, without escaping to the memories and thoughts of the past or projections of the future. The point is to be present during each moment of time that is passing, without hooking or stopping those moments. Then life is experienced like a flowing river that never ceases. It is only by accepting the insecurity of this incessant change that we can find security; it is only by dying to the past that we can be born again to the present.

Usually, we escape the present moment because it seems boring, empty and without interest. But by penetrating it, we discover by joy of being, the sweetness of love and peace. Indeed, the present moment is the only real thing. Nobody really lives an instant of the past or future. The past was only present moments and the future will only be present moments. It is the mental whirlwind that camouflages and hides the present. Yoga comes to calm or eliminate this whirlwind in order that the presence of the moment can manifest.

This state of present is translated in us by a calm and silent vigilance, and that is the inner silence we also call contemplation, which brings the adept to self-realization. This inner silence is revealed when we witness the thoughts coming and going. Then this silence gradually envelops the three worlds: gross, subtle and causal. When it penetrates the causal plane, all the desires and attachments are dissolved, and duality ceases to exist.

We should not forget that the emotions are a remnant of the animal in us, and until they can be eliminated or properly understood, they constantly cause us to lose control of ourselves. Yoga helps us to untie this knot of feelings and emotions by teaching us to become more vigilant and to observe ourselves when we speak, act, etc. It is always good to stop for just a moment when we speak, to be conscious of the reason why we speak. It is also good to contemplate the sky, to feel its immensity and be pervaded by its deep calm and silence until we feel free, formless and limitless.

When we live in the present, we stop judging and giving opinions about the various phenomena. We learn to let these forms of life speak, and when we are totally silent then we can be in communion with them. It is not necessary to put labels on other people or to fix limits on what they might be able to accomplish. Our attitude towards them could become an obstacle to their development. We should not imprison others in our own images and preconceived ideas that we have created in the past, but always see everybody as if for the first time.

To destroy the attraction of sense objects and to calm the mind, Shankaracharya, Ramakrishna and others recommended the seekers to think about the suffering that these objects cause us later. They invite us to meditate in the following way: What are the objects of the senses, if not energy, maintained by spirit and light? What attracts us to the objects is this spirit and light. Perceiving them with the senses, we fail to recognise these subtle elements. When a man tries to see the immaterial with his body, he can only find the material, the essence escapes him. It is the soul of a man that attracts others, but he confuses soul and body and this is why his love can never be completely satisfied.

In order to eliminate attachment to the body, some yogis suggest the following line of thought: The body is only composed of bones on which are fixed muscles, blood vessels and nerves, covered with skin. In time, the hair becomes grey and the skin shrivels.. this material body is perishable and in time we must all grow old and die. Material objects cannot give real happiness; they only give very limited sensations. Real happiness is found in the supreme self, where there is peace. To reach this peace, we must meditate and learn to control the mind. To control the mind, we must be aware of what we are doing at all times; of our thoughts, feelings, actions, breathing, and so on.

When we are aware of what we are doing in the present moment, the mind does not wander any more.

You must find again the unity of your being by taking inside what tends to get outside. You must collect all the rays of the mind within and concentrate them. Have discrimination and say: I am not the body, nor the senses, nor the objects, of the senses. I am not the feelings, nor the mind, nor the thoughts passing through the mind. Then who am I? Who is looking through this body? Where do the emotions come from? Who thinks? Who hears the sounds? I am the supreme soul. I am the immortal spirit, neither male nor female. I am that! I am the atman as great as the space, pure, without images, quiet, silent, infinite.

Afterwards, it is good to look at the sky, without thinking, the mind becoming like the space.

Courtesy, Yoga Revue, Belgium