The silence of the Self is ever there. As long as you run with the running mind
you cannot have it. It is a Supreme peace, immutable like a rock that supports
all your activities, in fact, all movements. It is in this silence that God and the
liberated souls are rooted.
– Ramana Maharshi

A cultured lady, the daughter of a well-known solicitor at Madras asked:

What is one to do to be free of thoughts as advised by you?

Maharshi: Only to remain still. Do it and see.

It is commonly said that if one were to summarise the teachings of Ramana in a few words, it would be, ‘I am that I am’ and ‘be still’ (Summa iruttal). The first is the statement regarding the natural state and the other, ‘being still’, is the method for experiencing and abiding in that state.

Hence, what is the essence of Ramana’s teaching?  ‘Be Silent’, ‘Summa iru’. What did he mean by it?  He meant that one’s thought should be still and not be on the move constantly. What you have to do, you will do. What has to happen, will happen. Instead of filling one’s mind with thoughts which are at cross purposes, one should look for the core of the mind. Bhagavan Ramana has given us the key, as it were, for achieving this – the method of Self-enquiry – ‘Who am I?’

An instructive feature of the Sage is that he teaches more by Silence than by word of mouth. Visitors come to him from far and near with bundles of questions; but when they take their seats in his presence after making due obeisance, they forget to put across their questions; and after a time they find that the questions have evaporated. The would-be questioner either realises that the questions need no answer, or finds the answers in himself. Its language is Silence, not words. This truth is brought home to us by the story of the instruction by Silence, that was vouch safed by God Himself – appearing as Dakshinamurti – to four Sages, named Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana and Sanatkumara. The disciples understood that they had to become silent in speech and thought, in order to find the Truth which is beyond both. They did so and found it. “Silence,” says the Sage, “is the language of the Self, and it is the most perfect teaching. Language is like the glow of the filament in the electric lamp; but Silence is like the current in the wire.”

Although Sri Ramana was happy to give his verbal teachings to anyone who asked for them, he frequently pointed out that his `silent teachings’ were more direct and more powerful. These `silent teachings’ consisted of a spiritual force which seemed to emanate from his form, a force so powerful that he considered it to be the most direct and important aspect of his teachings. Instead of giving out verbal instructions on how to control the mind, he effortlessly emitted a silent power which automatically quietened the minds of everyone in his vicinity. The people who were attuned to this force report that they experienced it as a state of inner peace and wellbeing; in some advanced devotees it even precipitated a direct experience of the Self.

Silence is Truth. Silence is Bliss. Silence is Peace. And hence Silence is Atman. To live this Silence as such is the Goal. It is Moksha. It is the end of the endless cycle of births and deaths. Sri Ramana Maharshi was an embodiment of such a Silence. He was the Silence Itself. Therefore, he did not preach the Silence. Only when one comes back to the ‘noise’ from the Silence can one preach the Silence. How can the Silence preach Itself through Silence?

Swami Tapovan writes – “Nearly thirty-five or forty years ago, I had the good fortune of having the darshan of Maharshi at Tiruvannamalai when he was living there in a cave along with his mother and brother. One mid-day, a young brahmachari at that time, climbed to the cave, saw the Maharshi there and, placing a bunch of bananas at his feet, bowed and sat before him. At the same moment some monkeys jumped on to the scene, scrambled for the fruits and ran away with them.”

“Maharshi looked lovingly into my face. That was all. He spoke but silence not a word passed between us. A supreme, a dynamic and divine Silence prevailed. An hour passed by, all in Silence. He rose for his meals (bhiksha). I too rose from my seat, bowed again and walked down the Hill. The divine Silence sank deeper and deeper into me at each step! Someone came running behind me and pressed me to take some prasad. Thankfully I declined. I was full—full with the Silence. Maharshi called him back and advised him not to press me. Then I left the cave and walked away.”

“Maharshi was an idol of Peace and Silence. It is the first duty of all those who admire and follow him to seek after that Divine Silence. The enquiry into that Divine Silence is but the enquiry ” Who am I?”

Oh, man!  Enquire and be immersed in that inner Silence. Do all works of this world to reach that goal, to attain that Divine Silence. If you have already attained that Silence, do strive for Loka-sangraha (the salvation of the world) if you choose to do so. The ocean’s surface dances in waves, laughs in sparkling foam, roars as its thunderous waves clap and clash! And yet deep in its inner vaults it rests in eternal Silence and peace. Without such a divine and spiritual depth, the works and activities of this universe prove worthless and aimless.

‘Works should be undertaken and pursued to take us ultimately to the workless Abode of Divine Silence and endless Peace.’ This is the secret doctrine of all our Vedas and ancient scriptures.

Sage Ramana in his instruction to F.H.Humphreys communicates –

Do not fix your attention on all these changing things of life, death and phenomena. Do not think of even the actual act of seeing or perceiving them, but only of that which sees all these things — that which is responsible for it all. This will seem nearly impossible at first, but by degrees the result will be felt. It takes years of steady, daily practice, and that is how a Master is made. Give a quarter of an hour a day for this practice. Try to keep the mind unshakably fixed on That which sees. It is inside yourself. Do not expect to find that ‘That’ is something definite on which the mind can be fixed easily; it will not be so. Though it takes years to find that ‘That,’ the result of

this concentration will be seen in four or five months time – in all sorts of unconscious clairvoyance, in peace of mind, in power to deal with troubles, in power all round, always unconscious power.”

“I have given you this teaching in the same words as the Master gives to intimate chelas. From now onwards, let your whole thought in meditation be not on the act of seeing, nor on what you see, but immovably on That which Sees.”

That which sees is the Self – the Consciousness, having its prime characteristics of silence and unconditional love and as the Sage teaches, it is to be known and consciously realised.

Sage Ramana has given very precise and deep answers to queries put to him by devotees about Silence. In the following communications from the Sage, D stands for the devotee, and M stands for Sage Ramana Maharshi

The sage used the word ‘silence’ to indicate that the Self was a silent thought-free state of undisturbed peace and total stillness. This is exactly what the simple Consciousness, the Self to which the body-mind apparatus functions is to be realised.

D: You sometimes say the Self is silence. Why is this?

M: For those who live in Self as the beauty devoid of thought, there is nothing which should be thought of. That which should be adhered to is only the experience of silence, because in that supreme state nothing exists to be attained other than oneself.

D: What is mouna (silence)?

M: That state which transcends speech and thought is mouna. That which is, is mouna. How can mouna be explained in words?  Sages say that the state in which the thought ‘I’ (the ego) does not rise even in the least, alone is Self (swarupa) which is silence (mouna). That silent Self alone is God; Self alone is the jiva (individual soul). Self alone is this ancient world. All other knowledge are only petty and trivial knowledge; the experience of silence alone is the real and perfect knowledge. Know that the many objective differences are not real but are mere superimpositions on Self, which is the form of true knowledge.

The pure state of being attached to grace [Self], which is devoid of any attachment, alone is one’s own state of silence, which is devoid of any other thing. Know that one’s ever abiding as that silence, having experienced it as it is, alone is true mental worship (manasika-puja). Know that the performance of the unceasing, true and natural worship in which the mind is submissively established as the one Self, having installed the Lord on the Heart throne, is silence, the best of all forms of worship. Silence, which is devoid of the assertive ego, alone is liberation. The evil forgetfulness of Self which causes one to slip down from that silence, alone is non-devotion (vibhakti). Know that abiding as that silence with the mind subsided as non-different from Self, is the truth of Siva bhakti (devotion to God). When one has completely surrendered oneself at the feet of Siva, thereby becoming of the nature of the Self, the resulting abundant peace, in which there is not even the least room within the Heart for one to make any complaint about one’s defects and deficiencies, alone is the nature of supreme devotion. One’s thus becoming a slave to the Lord and one’s remaining quiet and silent, devoid even of the egotistical thought `I am his slave’, is Self abidance, and this is the supreme knowledge.

D: How does this silent power work?

M: Language is only a medium for communicating one’s thoughts to another. It is called in only after thoughts arise. Other thoughts arise after the `I’-thought rises and so the `I’-thought is the root of all conversation. When one remains without thinking one understands another by means of the universal language of silence. Silence is ever-speaking. It is a perennial flow of language which is interrupted by speaking. These words I am speaking obstruct that mute language. For example, there is electricity flowing in a wire. With resistance to its passage, it glows as a lamp or revolves as a fan. In the wire it remains as electric energy. Similarly, also, silence is the eternal flow of language, obstructed by words. What one fails to know by conversation extending to several years can be known instantly in silence, or in front of silence – Dakshinamurti and his four disciples are a good example of this. This is the highest and most effective language.

D: Sri Bhagavan’s silence is itself a powerful force. It brings about a certain peace of mind in us.

M: Silence is never-ending speech. Vocal speech obstructs the other speech of silence.

In silence one is in intimate contact with the surroundings. The silence of Dakshinamurti removed the doubts of the four sages. Mouna vyakhya prakatita tattvam means the truth expounded by silence. Silence is said to be exposition. Silence is so potent. For vocal speech, organs of speech are necessary and they precede speech. But the other speech lies even beyond thought. It is in short transcendent speech or unspoken words (para vak).

D:  Can everyone benefit from this silence?

M: Silence is the true upadesa (spiritual instruction). It is the perfect upadesa. It is suited only for the most advanced seeker. The others are unable to draw full inspiration from it. Therefore, they require words to explain the truth. But truth is beyond words. It does not admit of explanation. All that it is possible to do is to indicate it.

D:  Can the Guru’s silence bring about realization if the disciple makes no effort?

M: In the proximity of a great master, the vasanas (habits of the mind) cease to be active, the mind becomes still and samadhi (direct experience of the Self) results. Thus, the disciple gains true knowledge and right experience in the presence of the master. To remain unshaken in it, further efforts are necessary. Eventually the disciple will know it to be his real being and will thus be liberated even while alive.

Sri Muruganar’s Guru Vachaka Kovai conveys the essence of this method of Silence in the following –