Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan

The power of silence (2)
Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan


The present condition of the world and of humanity has reached a state where there seems to be no limit to activity. Machinery is used in life every day for man's convenience and comfort, so the life of man has become more mechanical. It seems that at the present time very few in the world realize that beside food and water man needs something else, of which his soul is the receptacle, something which is indeed more for his life than material food and drink. It is the divine substance, that substance which is all over, which is in space, everywhere, all-pervading. But human nature is such that it gives greater importance to things man needs in life which are man-made, to jewels and gems, than to pure water and the air that are needed for life and cost nothing. The divine Spirit, which is the very essence of the whole creation and which is most needed to nourish the soul, is found everywhere. A natural life allows man to receive unconsciously in his soul, in his spirit, that divine Spirit, but the life that we see today is far from nature. People are living in large towns, like pigeons in pigeon-holes, instead of living in large spaces. Besides this the restlessness of life has increased so much that there are many who have to work from morning till evening. Others who are not obliged to work also take the habit of working all the time. Without working they cannot feel rested.


Then man takes the habit of talking; he is never tired of it. If he cannot talk life seems monotonous. In time this becomes a kind of passion and his only relief he finds in talking. He finds a subject to talk on, and if there is no subject then there is gossip. Sometimes one meets very amusing examples of this, for instance by stimulating the conversation of somebody very fond of talking just by one word and then being quiet; or by taking the same point of view of a person, not giving him the trouble of disputing the question. But such a person is never pleased, he is sorry, because he expected a contrary point of view, so that he could argue for the sake of arguing. Such people will always take a contrary point of view, whether they believe in it or not. Very often a person takes the habit of wanting to talk; whether you say something to which he agrees or not, he always wants to say something in order to talk a little more.


In the Bible one reads the words of Christ against 'vain repetitions'. If one understands the meaning rightly, it means sparing words. Often two friends, who really love each other, cannot continue their friendship because of argument and misunderstanding. And how often a tendency to talk gives a kind of superficiality to the character, as when people at a party talk on subjects of no importance, of no use to anyone.


Another thing to consider is that with those we meet in life, those whom we know and those who are strangers to us, we do not always know how far they are developed, so we do not know what we can say and what we must not say. Life in the world is intoxicating, and in the course of conversation people become enthusiastic and say things of which they feel afterwards that they should not have said them. A talkative person can tell another his secrets without knowing it, and then he repents. Self-discipline is the main lesson one has to learn in order to attain mastery, and for this one must practise silence.


There are so few in the world who really understand and know the value of the breath one breathes. One does not only breathe air, but with every breath one takes one breathes the fine properties of the air which are radiance or divine essence. When a person speaks, he speaks at the expense of that light which he collects through the breath. You will always find a talkative person weak of nerves, irritable. He makes others irritable, restless. Often a person, entering a room without saying one word, upsets everyone sitting there. What is the reason? That person does not hold himself in hand. When he does not control his nerves, he is upset inwardly, and the influence of his vibrations spreads around, making the whole atmosphere nervous. It is strange, but at the same time true, that there is a great progress in the medical world and a greater increase in diseases. From a physical point of view one sees that nervousness is a common disease; so nobody observes it, notices it as a disease, but there are many diseases in the world which come from nervousness.


In ancient times it was the work of religion to teach concentration, prayer, meditation, and in that way silence was taught. Now things are different. The habit of taking a retreat seems to have vanished. Man works all day and when he comes home in the evening he rests in an armchair and thinks of his work. He is never really quiet. No doubt, activity is a sign of life, but silence is life itself.


You have perhaps heard of Yogis in the East who lived very long. They lived retired and their souls became nourished, they retained their youth longer than others. The Arabs, whatever they may be doing in their profession, in their everyday life, pray five times a day, and all the energy spent in working is given back to them. In the language of the Hindus breath is called prana, the very life. Every word one speaks robs one of that very life which is the most important part in one's being. The wise of all ages have considered sparing of words the wisest thing. In the ancient religion of the Christians the monks used to have their retreat, their silence, and in the silence they heard the Voice of God.


According to the spiritual point of view man is expressive and also receptive. He cannot express, if he has not received. Before man stand two worlds to receive from: one which is before him, and one of which he does not know. For the ordinary man that other world does not exist. The believer has read in the Scriptures and has heard that there are two worlds, and he believes that it is so and that one day he will experience the other world. But in order to know the other world one need not wait till the coming of death. It is manifest, not when the eyes and the heart are still open to the world outside, but when the eyes and the heart are closed to this world. This can be accomplished by silence. But if the nerves are restless, if one is always active and there is no stillness in the heart, how can the peace of the inner world becomes manifest to humanity? The difficulty today is that everybody is interested in learning spiritual things from books, while it would be better to learn from one's self. Silence is natural to man, but as he has been accustomed to activity, it has become different from his nature. Therefore, the manner of silence is learned by mystics. The process of obtaining that power which is the peace of the inner world is called concentration, meditation or any other name, such as Yoga. The more one realizes the value of that peace which is life itself and all happiness, the more one sees how much less important other things are compared to that ideal state.


The difficulty today is not that man does not wish to attain to peace or to develop a faculty of intuition, but that he cannot keep silence. If there were an advertisement that an eternal peace could be easily given, many people would come. You might say, "Has man lost his power of persevering?" No, that is not so. He works for his daily bread, because he is sure of his wages, but when he embarks for an unknown destiny he doubts, and after having taken a few steps he doubts again and asks, "Shall I go back?" What is lacking is faith. Without faith, whatever be his object, whatever be his enterprise, material or spiritual, he cannot accomplish it.


Spiritual attainment is much less difficult than material attainment, because it is within man himself. He has not to pursue it, it is not far from his reach. If there is any difficulty it is only lack of faith.




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