Adventures in Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy and science of spirit. We are one you and I; are you curious why?..


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Be Still and Know Me

Hari OM
'Text-days' are for delving into the words and theory of Advaita Vedanta.

We now explore the Sri Adi Shankara text, "SadaachaaraH". To obtain your own copy, click here.

It has been said that silence is golden and that meditation is the ultimate spiritual practice. Now Adi Shankaraachaarya gives us a shloka which not only confirms this widely accepted fact but hints to something beyond.

maEn< SvaXyyn< Xyan< Xyey< äüanuicNtnm!,
}aneneit tyae> sMyi¦;exaÄÅvdzRnm!,.14.
Maunam svaadhyayanam dhyaanam dhyeyam brahmaanuchintanam,
Jnaaneneti tayoH samyannishedhaat-tattva-darshanam ||14||
Silence is the study of the scriptures. Meditation is the continuous thinking of Brahman which is to be meditated upon.
The complete negation of both (study and contemplation) by Knowledge is the vision of Truth.

Here is the echo of the same voice which states in the Vivekachudamani, shloka 59, "The study of the Scriptures is useless so long as the highest Truth is unknown, and it is equally useless when the highest Truth has already been known."

First, though, we must make ourselves silent. Not only in our outward, verbal usage. That sound we utter is actually the end product of activity within us. Once a thought enters our mind and it is recognised as a 'sound byte', the mind collates other thoughts and puts them together to create the order 'speak'. To not make that final utterance is to exercise giraa maunam - verbal silence. Who among has not been told at some point in our lives that we need to 'think before we speak', or - more harshly - to hold our tongue? It is a well-known social tenet that it can be best to hold our peace rather than cause problems in the family or community. Certainly, if we wish to end disputes of any kind, the first place to start is to end the utterances of verbal 'spears'.

However, merely shutting up does not mean we are silent. Generally, the mind is still racing with internal noise. We need to learn to quieten that also. We can make a sankalpa (vow) to not talk during meals, or before reaching work in the morning, or that on Sundays there will be no verbal communication. In doing this, we find there is a need to focus on the tasks before us to maintain that silence. We have to cut away all extraneous distraction.

This is why the Guru is suggesting the reading of scripture as a tool of silence. To obtain the maximum benefit of that reading - to 'study' - is to focus and not permit distraction. We must immerse ourselves in the words and ponder their meaning. Not just dictionary translation or etymology, but the essence of intent behind them. The individual words put together in such a way, create something greater than their single meaning. This is what is to occupy our minds and keep us silent. Then, in meditation, our contemplation can be upon the words we have been studying and filtering them, ruminating upon them, juggling them to see what else might be found about that Ultimate Truth known as Brahman. The hint here is that at all times when not occupied with the study, one's mind ought to be taken up with this one subject. By first reading, then dwelling upon thoughts of Brahman, we can bring in the highest level of inner silence and raise our Consciousness to the Ultimate Truth.

If we have applied ourselves fully, we will 'Realise' and then the tools are no longer required. By reading and by contemplation we ought to be able to negate all theory and replace it with fact. Knowledge will replace doubt, query, ignorance. That Knowledge is available only to those who can become truly silent, who can excel in contemplation and who can meditate in the fullest, truest way, which is to silence the mind and simply exist in the Knowledge, "Aham Brahmasmi"… 'I am Brahman'.

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Hari OM
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