Imagination has the power of invocation, lending force to our prayer, arousing and intensifying our will.
Everything that exists, started in the realm of imagination. The words you are reading were imagined, then written down; the chair you are sitting on was imagined, then designed and produced; you imagined yourself eating breakfast this morning, then it happened. Imagination paves the way and sets up reality. So to expedite any of our spiritual goals – from a silent mind, our highest meditation, to our ultimate illumination, liberation and perfection – the simplest, most effective course is to start imagining a silent mind, our highest meditation, start vividly imagining ourselves as illumined, liberated, perfect – here, now.
Unless we actively look for something, we may never see it even though we are right on top of it. Our silent mind, our highest meditation and our ultimate perfection are already within us, hidden largely because we do not seek them. To discover and reveal them we must first believe in them, then imagine them – intensely, fervently and one-pointedly. We then discover that we are not only moving towards illumination – illumination is seeking and beckoning us; indeed is actually running towards us.
While we may start our meditation-journey hoping for some stress-relief or a little inner peace, once we discover that meditation opens the door to the treasure house of ultimate treasures, how and why could we possibly settle for anything less?
As a child eagerly looks forward all year to Christmas, and cannot sleep on Christmas eve for the excitement and anticipation of the moment the presents will be opened around the Christmas tree, so must we imagine, anticipate, invite and invoke our illumination and perfection, the ultimate presents life can bestow.
To become your goal, imagine your goal – eagerly, devotedly, resolutely, constantly.
There once lived a king who loved to entertain and uplift his subjects.
At the heart of his capital city lay the Royal Park, crowning jewel of the kingdom, a beautiful landscaped expanse with playing fields, games areas, a terraced amphitheatre, botanical gardens, a zoo of exotic animals, aviary, herbarium, scented floral walkways, a meditation grove and interconnected ornamental ponds and water features.
At its centre, the king was inspired to create something unique: a glorious white fountain, which would flow from a pond of milk!
Milk was very expensive, so the king brilliantly decreed: since his subjects loved and enjoyed the Royal Park so much, each family would bring one jug of milk to pour into the pond, thus sharing the cost and also the satisfaction and glory of helping create such a masterpiece. A mass public celebration was planned: the pond would be filled throughout the night, and the fountain switched on at dawn to everyone’s collective amazement and delight.
Alas, everyone had the same thought: in the dark, no-one will notice if I bring a jug of water instead of precious milk. In the morning when the ceremonial trumpet sounded, there arose – an insipid plume of plain water.
Instead of festivities and joy, massive disappointment dissipated into sombre reflection.
In our private meditation at home as well as group meditations, it is so easy to feel it will be OK if I offer a token, dilute effort today in lieu of my A-game. No-one will know and no-one will mind…
Yet our own heart always knows, and feels the consequences. If something is worth doing, it is worth doing well. If you want the best result, never offer plain water. Whenever you sit to meditate, strive to always bring your best, full-cream milk.
“It is I who create my happiness By virtue of My constant self-giving.” – Sri Chinmoy
Self-giving is the meeting place of meditation and action, where our inner and our outer life converge. Inner and outer self-giving go together, grow together and flow together. Self-giving in meditation is the best training for action: self-giving in action is the best training for meditation.
Self-giving in meditation must be practised. It starts as an attitude. In business, they say, “to make money, you have to spend money.” Thus is it in meditation, as in life. The more we give, the more – ever more – we receive. Self-giving is a magic wand. As long as we feel we are meditating only for our own immediate wants and needs, our practice remains narrow and unclear: the moment we feel we are meditating for a higher purpose or goal, the moment we feel we are offering our meditation rather than taking from it, our heart instantly expands and with it the horizons, promise and possibilities of our meditation.
Likewise, self-giving in action must be practised. No matter what we are doing, in our work, study, leisure, sports, interactions with others, in all our physical, mental and emotional activities, no matter how important or insignificant, practise giving all of ourselves fully, wholeheartedly and unreservedly, being inside the breath of every moment. To live and act “self-givingly” is to never hold anything back, to be always fully in the moment, in the now. In this way, our actions become an extension of our meditation, and vice versa.
Self-giving is the flow of the river of life; the pulse of action; the heartbeat of progress; the first, last and only requirement of being, doing and becoming; the password to God-realisation.
“My self-giving is my God-becoming.”
– Sri Chinmoy
“There are many questions In my mind. My self-giving is the only real answer.” – Sri Chinmoy
Self-giving is everything: the secret, the answer, the way, the Path, the solution, the throne and the crown, the Master and the disciple, the inception and the completion, the means and the end.
Self-giving is both the foundation and the fruition of meditation: it is the flowering of our life-tree.
What is self-giving? It is not giving away all our worldly possessions or working only on charitable deeds with no pay or hope of reward. Self-giving is living life fully and utterly, with every breath of our heart for our own highest satisfaction and fulfilment.
Self-giving is not self-sacrifice; it is self-discovery. Self-giving is not renunciation; it is expansion. Self-giving is never a loss; it is the only sure way to ever-increasing gain.
Self-giving is in thought, word, intention and action.
What do we give? Our lower, limited self; our weaknesses, limitations, fears and insecurities; our pride and ignorance; our misconceptions and prejudices; our failures and successes; our sorrows and our joys. What do we receive? Our higher, unlimited self; our ever-expanding and deepening capacities; our ever-transcending illumination, perfection and satisfaction.
Self-giving is constant creation, constant newness, constant discovery, constant growth, constant transcendence. The moment we cease our self-giving is the moment we stagnate. In stagnation we never stand still; we only sink and fall backwards. Self-giving is an unfailing antidote to all negativity – to depression, frustration, anger, confusion, jealousy, insecurity, pride. Self-giving plucks out desire by the roots; transforms addiction to wrong thoughts and bad habits; and supplants sorrow with joy.
Self-giving is its own reward, immediate and complete.
At every moment, in our thoughts, words and deeds, self-giving has to be our immediate, spontaneous, simple choice.
We are within the universe, we house the universe within.
Inspiration and aspiration arise from within, and guide us within. Our Path appears from within, and leads us – within.
We meditate to hear the message from within. From within, we hear the message whispered: “Meditate.”
Within as we go, so we sow; as we sow, so we grow; as we grow, so we flow; as we flow, so we know; as we know, so we glow; as we glow, so we bestow – within…
All our outer thoughts, intentions, actions, reactions, experiences and achievements arise from within. Our entire outer lives are patterned within. The wheel of karma turns from within. Our will is forged, our destiny is mapped, our future sculpted, within.
Within, every question is answered before being asked; within, every problem is solved before being posed.
Everything we are, we are within; everything we have, we have from within.
Within is our dream, our ideal, our real – within is our hope, our promise, our fulfilment.
Within, we transcend the animal; within, we perfect the human; within, we become the divine.
Within, we constantly sing; within, we ceaselessly dance; within, we breathlessly run; within, we eternally fly.
Within is all our love, peace, light, happiness, freedom, fulfilment and all we have ever yearned and searched for.
Within, we cry for God; within, we search for God; within, we remember God; within, we discover God; within, we love God; within, we adore God; within, we worship God; within, we play with God; within, we capture God; within, we realise God.
We are the children, we are the parents, of within.
“The cone of silence” is a figure of speech, denoting an imaginary area, pact or bond wherein certain knowledge is protected, never revealed, from which secrets cannot escape. For this exercise, let’s imagine this cone of silence is absolutely real – yet instead of keeping secrets inside, our cone keeps everything out. It is a cone of brilliant light, so dazzling that one simply cannot see anything beyond it. We are enveloped within our cone: beyond the cone, nothing.
Our cone is an absolute vacuum, an exclusion zone with no atmosphere wherein there physically cannot exist any sound, any vibration, any thought, notion, concept or mental formulation whatsoever. The silence is palpable, impermeable, absolute.
Practise: invoke and sit inside your cone of silence for a few minutes each day, gradually extending the time as you become comfortable and familiar with the sensation. In the beginning it is a strange and foreign feeling, because we are just not used to being in a silent mind. With time and practise, our cone becomes more and more familiar, a welcome relief and refuge. The longer we can spend inside our cone, the deeper the peace, beauty and clarity that are revealed to us from within.
Our cone of silence cleanses our mind and emotions; removes stress, confusion, fear and doubt; clarifies our mental vision; rekindles our aspiration; realigns our purpose and goals; refreshes our enthusiasm; and re-energises our determination. Our cone replenishes and nourishes all our heart’s good qualities – our love, sweetness, compassion, hope, joy, courage and eagerness – and keeps us always young.
With practise and familiarity, your cone of silence becomes your trusted and reliable friend, adviser, saviour, companion and confidant, always on call, ever ready to protect, guide, inspire and illumine you under all circumstances, any time, everywhere.
“God speaks in silence. Also, He interprets His message in silence. So also let us hear and understand God in silence.”
– Sri Chinmoy
“The silence of meditation Is power beyond measure.”
– Sri Chinmoy
To enter into a silent mind is very challenging, for we are used to our minds being constantly engaged. Challenging, yes: impossible, no! We simply have to practise and persist, doggedly, determinedly, eagerly, relentlessly – and patiently.
To begin with, since our mind feels the need to be engaged, engage it in a creative visualisation exercise where we imagine ourselves somewhere absolutely silent, and become one with the scene. Here are 4 such scenarios:
1) sitting in meditation, focus for a few minutes on your breathing, slowing and calming the breath as you bring all your attention to its wondrous rhythm. Now see in front of you the vast ocean. Admire its immensity; appreciate its stupendous power. Feel the ocean is drawing you to it, into it, down into its depths, embracing and enfolding you lovingly, tenderly, safely in its secret heart of hearts. Immerse yourself in wrapt awe in the silence, deeper even than the vast ocean itself…
2) you are on the summit of the highest mountain. Below, seemingly the entire world stretches out, above only the infinite blue. The day is still; nothing lives here, nothing stirs. The silence is absolute…
3) you are a seed under the ground. Your entire universe is wrapped up inside you, self-contained. Everything – shape, growth, light, even sound – are all in potential, nothing is yet formed. You are wrapped in complete and perfect silence…
4) you are in the core of the sun. The sheer intensity, immensity, clarity and enormity are all-engulfing. Thought, concept, sound, desire and distraction have no admittance here. Silence reigns supreme…
Silence doesn’t depend on time or space. Within silence, time ceases and space dissolves. To own silence is to command time and space. Silence is eternal, indivisible and indestructible. Silence is the infinite field of the universe, the canvass of creation, the stage of the cosmic play, the source of sound, action and evolution. Everything flows from silence and everything flows eventually back into silence. Silence envelops all, encompasses all, embraces all, knows all and owns all. Without silence, nothing can exist, nothing can be done and nothing can become.
Silence knows no fear because silence has nothing to lose. Silence knows no doubt, no insecurity, hesitation, pretension or falsehood.
We are used to seeing and experiencing the world from its externals, its events, happenings and circumstances. To enter into silence is to experience the world from the inside, to enter into the source and cause of all effects.
We are used to everything being relative. Silence is absolute. Silence is the Beyond and the Beyond is silence. To enter into silence is to come home, finally, fully and eternally.
Silence houses all possibilities and all outcomes. To enter into silence is to grasp the steering wheel of destiny.
“In the Beginning was the Word” … and before the beginning, is Silence.
Silence embodies the universe; silence embodies us … and we embody silence.
“Meditation is silence, energising and fulfilling. Silence is the eloquent expression of the inexpressible.”
– Sri Chinmoy
“Silence, the mystic birthplace of the soul.”
– Sri Aurobindo
When we speak of silence in meditation, we speak not of outer silence, the absence of sound; but the inner silence, the absence of thought and desire. This inner silence is the womb and cradle of our meditation and all spiritual progress.
We are not accustomed to inner silence. Our minds and emotions are in such constant movement and chaos, it is very difficult to conceive of, let alone achieve, inner silence. Our identities are so enmeshed in our matrix of thoughts, phobias, desires, prejudices and preconceived ideas that we simply cannot imagine ourselves existing without them: our mind therefore fears silence as it fears its own extinction.
How then to achieve, how to become inner silence?
To merely want silence is not enough; we have to treasure it as our only need. We must yearn for silence the way we yearn to be with our beloved. We must cry for silence the way we would thirst for water after days in the desert. We must strive for silence the way we would strive in an Olympic gold medal playoff. We must fight for silence the way we would fight for our life. We must cherish silence the way we cherish our own child…
… because silence is the Source: silence embodies every answer, every solution, every resolution, every fulfilment, every satisfaction, every victory; all love, all knowledge, all beauty, all perfection, all happiness, all wisdom and all bliss. Silence is not only golden: silence is all colours, all forms, all music, all art, all science, all learning, all spirituality, all aspiration and all realisation. Silence is all, and all is in silence.
We are accustomed to the notion that progress is the outcome of learning. In our outer lives, learning and education are fundamental values, cherished personal goals, pillars of civilisation, bedrock of our society, culture and economy.
Yet in the spiritual life, learning is virtually useless: far more precious and pressing urgent, is unlearning.
Acquiring knowledge is a function of the mind. The more we learn, the more baggage our minds accumulate: ideas, notions, concepts, methods, theories, beliefs, ideals, prejudices and judgements. All this baggage combines and recombines to inform our world-view and our self-view. The more laden our mind with thoughts, the more cluttered with concepts, the more our mind’s sprawling contents and processes dominate and captivate our consciousness. There is simply no room or bandwidth to see or feel beyond our mental behemoth; the mind subsumes our concept of self and assumes stewardship of our identity. We think and act as though we are the mind. Thus, living as a lie, spiritually we die.
Lacking the heart’s capacity for love, identification and oneness, our minds sit apart from reality, seeking to know and control through analysis and guesswork. We build, project and inhabit models or constructs of reality – informed guesses, inherently false and flimsy. The mind is a hoarder of falsehoods and champion of ignorance – our mentality, once fancying we walked on a flat earth, is today greedier than ever for illusion, delusion and confusion-profusion.
All our minds’ cherished truths and isms are so many relative falsehoods: all are barriers to spiritual progress, self-discovery and fulfilment, to be discarded, overcome – unlearned.
As a snake must shed its own skin, its very identity in order to grow, so must we “unlearn” all we believe we know about the world and ourselves, to discover and become who we truly are.
Every question is the child of its answer. As every sight, sound and fragrance can be traced to a source, so every problem leads inevitably to its own source, its solution.
We are faced with countless questions and endless problems; our very existence presents as an unanswerable question, an insoluble problem. Yet all answers, all solutions, are already within us. If we cannot find them it is because we are not looking in the right place, or in the right way. Questions come from all around us: our outer world is the problem. Their answers are found within: our inner world is the solution.
Questions are indissolubly linked to their answers, as smoke and fire. Problems are intrinsically connected to their solutions by invisible, homing thread, as a migrating bird will return inevitably to its unseen birth-nest on the far side of the world. Each question is the echo of its answer, each problem the reflection of its solution.
We cannot see an object in dense fog, because of the fog. Peering at the object will not make it any clearer. Similarly, thinking, worrying about or dwelling on a problem cannot reveal its solution. The only way to see material objects through dense fog is to clear the fog: then the objects are self-evident. The only way to perceive truth through an obfuscating mind is to empty the mind – to meditate. Then the truth – which was always there – stands “clear as day” before us.
To “meditate on a problem” is a contradiction in terms. To ponder a problem only lends it more credibility and strength. Meditation only reveals solutions. Put aside your problem and meditate in silence. Then allow the solution to present itself in its own charming way, in its own sweet time.
If someone comes to the door of my home, I choose whether or not to welcome them: if they are a friend, I may invite them in; if a stranger, especially if dirty, crazy or aggressive, I refuse them entry.
Yet most of us leave our mental and emotional doors wide open, allowing free access to whatever thoughts, desires, feelings, concepts and prejudices appear, be they positive or negative, friendly or hostile, regardless of the consequences.
This mental open door policy is akin to having an open sewer flowing through our living room. We allow, and even welcome negative thoughts, feelings and emotions to flow freely through the living room of our mind, from where their poisonous vapours spread through the whole house of our being. These mental and emotional pollutants are absolutely as lethal to our consciousness as the germs and viruses we strive so hard to avoid.
Mental and emotional hygiene must be sought and practised routinely with the discipline and rigour we apply to physical hygiene. Just as it is far better to protect ourselves against the invasion of malicious viruses, rather than have to cure a disease once it’s taken hold of us; so is it far better to guard against the intrusion of harmful thoughts and feelings than to have to wrestle with the monsters of mental turmoil and emotional upheaval which feed, incite and inflate the grievous error of ignorance running rampant through the wreckage of our happiness.
Wanting to clean up and discipline our minds by keeping out unwanted thoughts, distractions and desires is one thing: being able to do so is another.
Fortunately there is a way to gain control and release the transformative power of purity in our mind and emotions: practise concentration and meditation, daily.
Imagine the whole stream of thoughts is being projected onto a screen and you are merely an observer, watching them pass by. They are not yours, and you are not theirs. Feel your own existence, happy and complete, separate and independent from what is happening on the screen.
Like sushi on a sushi train, thoughts are passing by and it is up to you to select the ones you like. Select only the positive; absolutely reject the negative. You will be the winner.
With practise, it becomes easy to discriminate between positive and negative thoughts. Positive thoughts open our hearts; negative thoughts close our minds. Positive thoughts uplift and expand us, make us greater; negative thoughts bring us down and reduce us, make us smaller. Positive thoughts put wings on our shoulders; negative thoughts put lead weights on our feet. Positive thoughts nourish our beautiful smile; negative thoughts fuel our furrowed brow and dark frown. Positive thoughts free us; negative thoughts imprison and control us. Positive thoughts give to us and inspire us to give freely; negative thoughts take from us and incite us to take obsessively. Positive thoughts ennoble us; negative thoughts demean us. Positive thoughts serve us; negative thoughts enslave us.
Frequently throughout the day, pause whatever you are doing, and consciously observe the flow of thoughts: at this moment, are you entertaining positive or negative thoughts? Whenever you find they are negative, even slightly so, don’t hesitate: kick them aside ruthlessly before they take hold of you. When they are positive, embrace and expand them gratefully.
Vividly recall your morning meditation. Breathe in all its peace, light, beauty and happiness. In this way your meditation will remain alive the whole day through and protect you from destructive thoughts, your worst enemy.