Ramana Maharshi On Silence

Maurice Frydman, who edited and compiled Nisargadatta Maharaj’s Marathi satsang recordings into ‘I Am That’, was also a devotee of Ramana Maharshi. Some of his dialogues with the Maharshi are available in a slim book called ‘Maharshi’s Gospel’. I found out about this book recently and quickly bought myself a copy. Take a look at the following excerpt about solitude and silence and see if you find it interesting.


Devotee: Is solitude necessary for a sannyasin?

Maharshi: Solitude is in the mind of a man. One might be in the thick of the world and yet maintain perfect serenity of mind; such a person is always in solitude. Another may stay in the forest, but still be unable to control his mind. He cannot be said to be in solitude. Solitude is an attitude of the mind; a man attached to the things of life cannot get solitude, wherever he may be. A detached man is always in solitude.

D: What is mauna?

M: That state which transcends speech and thought is mauna; it is meditation without mental activity. Subjugation of the mind is meditation; deep meditation is eternal speech. Silence is ever- speaking; it is the perennial flow of ‘language’. It is interrupted by speaking; for words obstruct this mute ‘language’. Lectures may entertain individuals for hours without improving them. Silence, on the other hand, is permanent and benefits the whole of humanity. By silence, eloquence is meant. Oral lectures are not so eloquent as silence. Silence is unceasing eloquence. It is the best language.

There is a state when words cease and silence prevails.

D: How then can we communicate our thoughts to one another?

M: That becomes necessary if the sense of duality exists . . .

D: Why does not Bhagavan go about and preach the Truth to the people at large?

M: How do you know I am not doing it? Does preaching consist in mounting a platform and haranguing the people around? Preaching is simple communication of knowledge; it can really be done in silence only. What do you think of a man who listens to a sermon for an hour and goes away without having been impressed by it so as to change his life? Compare him with another, who sits in a holy presence and goes away after sometime with his outlook on life totally changed. Which is the better, to preach loudly without effect or to sit silently sending out inner force?

Again, how does speech arise? There is abstract knowledge, whence arises the ego, which in turn gives rise to thought, and thought to the spoken word. So the word is the great-grandson of the original source. If the word can produce effect, judge for yourself, how much more powerful must be the preaching through silence! But people do not understand this simple, bare truth, the truth of their everyday, ever-present, eternal experience. This truth is that of the Self. Is there anyone unaware of the Self? But they do not like even to hear of this truth . . .

Who Am I?

Sri Ramana Maharshi, in 1902, wrote out the answers to some questions asked by a disciple seeking spiritual guidance. These questions and answers, collected together as ‘Nan Yaar?’ or ”Who Am I?’, give a short introduction to self-enquiry as a path to liberation. The 8 page PDF of ‘Who Am I?’ is available here. The following excerpts may encourage you to read the full document.

Excerpt 1:

Q. What is the path of inquiry for understanding the nature of the mind?

A. That which rises as ‘I’ in this body is the mind. If one inquires as to where in the body the thought ‘I’ rises first, one would discover that it rises in the heart. That is the place of the mind’s origin. Even if one thinks constantly ‘I’ ‘I’, one will be led to that place. Of all the thoughts that arise in the mind, the ‘I’ thought is the first. It is only after the rise of this that the other thoughts arise. It is after the appearance of the first personal pronoun that the second and third personal pronouns appear; without the first personal pronoun there will not be the second and third. By the inquiry ‘Who am I?’ the mind will become quiet. The thought ‘who am I?’ will destroy all other thoughts, and like the stick used for stirring the burning fire, it will itself in the end get destroyed. Then, there will arise Self-realization.

Excerpt 2:

Q. What is happiness?

A. Happiness is the very nature of the Self; happiness and the Self are not different. There is no happiness in any object of the world. We imagine through our ignorance that we derive happiness from objects. When the mind goes out, it experiences misery. In truth, when its desires are fulfilled, it returns to its own place and enjoys the happiness that is the Self. Similarly, in the states of sleep, samadhi and fainting, and when the object desired is obtained or the object disliked is removed, the mind becomes inward-turned, and enjoys pure Self-Happiness. Thus the mind moves without rest alternately going out of the Self and returning to it. Under the tree the shade is pleasant; out in the open the heat is scorching. A person who has been going about in the sun feels cool when he reaches the shade. Someone who keeps on going from the shade into the sun and then back into the shade is a fool. A wise man stays permanently in the shade. Similarly, the mind of the one who knows the truth does not leave Brahman. The mind of the ignorant, on the contrary, revolves in the world, feeling miserable, and for a little time returns to Brahman to experience happiness. In fact, what is called the world is only thought. When the world disappears, i.e. when there is no thought, the mind experiences happiness; and when the world appears, it goes through misery.