Thursday, 2 January 2014

It is only in the depths of silence that the voice of God is heard - experience of Amitabh Das Gupta

The depths of silence
Clearly shows that an enforced quiet
is different from 'silence'...

There is something very powerful and magical about refraining from speech and maintaining silence. Every spiritual master has, in one way or the other, exhorted on silence. My master and best friend, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba or Swami as we lovingly call Him, is no exception to this. In fact, He says that it is ONLY in the depths of silence that one can hear the voice of God. And when one maintains silence, Swami says that he/she come under the ‘Sai-lens’!

Silence, in its perfection refers to the thoughtless state of the mind - a state when everything is is still in perfect serenity. The mind is often likened to a crystal-clear pool of water in which ripples arise every time a pebble called thought is dropped. When there are absolutely no pebbles being dropped, the waters are so still and clear that one may even miss its very presence! So too, when there are no thoughts, the mind too seems to vanish into non-existence. Swami explains the same concept with the famous example of the threads and cloth. Mind, He says, is the cloth made up of the threads called thoughts. Pull out all the threads, one-by-one, and sure enough, there will be no cloth. Eliminate thoughts and the mind is eliminated!

However, this internal silence is not so easily attainable. One has to be in absolute equanimity, equipoise and peace to ensure that no thoughts arise in one’s being. Helping the aspirant in the path Divine, Swami advises external silence as a precursor to true silence/internal silence. By restraining from speech, one is definitely able to reduce the number of ‘pebbles’ that strike against the bobbing ‘waters’ of the mind. Swami says,

“Before you speak, think:
1. Is it necessary?
2. Is it true?
3. Will it hurt anyone?
4. Will it improve upon the silence?”

Reading and thinking about the above questions make it clear that Swami considers silence as a better option to speech in many cases. No wonder that the a wise Swiss/German Inscription says,
Sprechen ist silbern, Schweigen ist golden
Speech is silver, Silence is golden. Speech is of time, Silence is of eternity.

It was with great nostalgia that Amitabh Das Gupta recollected a lesson in silence that he will never forget for lifetimes.
“More than anything else, Swami taught me that silence is very rewarding - even the external silence itself. It gives you the experience where you can actually ‘hear’ the voice of God because it takes you close to God or rather, gets God close to you.”

That introduction definitely had me interested and Amitabh Das Gupta, who is nicknamed Dasta, began his beautiful story.

Another lovely student-story. Amitabh Das Gupta with his Swami in Kodaikanal. 

Resolution as New Year approaches

It was the December of 1993. An eventful year was coming to a close and Dasta was keen to sign off the final year of his school days with something memorable and momentous. He was in XII grade and Swami had been speaking to him off and on. Most of the times, it had been advice and even reprimands to reduce his talk and keep silence (Mounam). Having received so much from Swami, Dasta wanted to express his gratitude to Him. But keeping silent was definitely not his cup of tea. First of all, he loved talking and was incessant in his communication with friends. Added to this, he was unable to perceive any benefit in keeping silent. How was he to adopt the practice of mounam all of a sudden?

The ancient wise people of India recognised the fact that man needs an incentive for any effort he makes. They decided to make use of this even in spiritual pursuit. Thus, every single Stotram (song of praise and worship for the Lord), Ashtakam (set of eight verses in praise of a deity) or any other prayerful composition has at its end, what is called the Phalashruti (benefits of hearing). This is the final stanza which states the benefits that would accrue to a person who hears the composition regularly. Now that is incentive-based encouragement - rewarding a good deed which in this case is listening to the glories and stories of God.

Dasta too needed some incentive to silence his tongue which seemed to have an infinite capacity to flex itself in company of others. He decided that he would decide upon the incentive himself and Swami better reward him with it if He was keen that he keep Mounam. Thinking really hard to come up with something really preposterous (so that Swami would fail in giving him that incentive and he cannot be blamed for giving up the practice of Mounam), Dasta held a picture of Swami and said,
“Swami, since you have repeatedly told me to keep silent, I shall keep Mounam for the next 15 days. It is a very challenging proposition for me and so, if I succeed in it, you must give me a ride in your car! If you fail to do so, I shall consider this Mounam as something that is no good for me!”

Having made his stance clear to Swami, Dasta prepared himself for the toughest challenge till date in his life - to maintain Mounam for 15 days! That experience would tell him whether it was worth it to have ‘silence’ as part of his New Year resolution.

A commendable effort with minor violations

It was with superhuman efforts that Dasta kept up his end of the ‘deal’ which he had brokered with Swami. A week seemed like almost half a year when it came to keeping silence. Somehow Dasta maintained silence till the morning of Christmas. On the morning of December 25th, in a state of divine thrill after the beautiful ‘Balcony Darshan’, Dasta found himself indulging in excited talk with all his friends. By the time he realized that he had violated his promise, it was too late. He felt disappointed that his week-long effort had gone waste. However he told himself,
“It was a mistake that I spoke today. Having kept Mounam for a week, I shall continue with it for another week as promised. I know it is not my ‘stipulated’ 15 days, but it is definitely my best efforts.”

Subplots in the story

The Lord is an expert in ‘blessing’ two ‘birds’ in one stroke. Dasta did not have the slightest idea that a Divine plan had been set in motion wherein the Lord had decided to bless three ‘birds’! Dasta’s classmate, Pavan, had been sick for almost ten days now. Such had been the virulence of the illness that the doctors had confined him within the walls of the Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital. He had not gone to school or hostel. More devastatingly, he had not been allowed to go for darshan as well. That hurt him a lot.

As New Year’s day approached, Pavan sat on the hospital bed, tears coursing down his cheeks. He prayed,
“Swami, what an unfortunate soul am I that I am starting the new year without seeing you though I am in Puttaparthi and I am a student. This must be the result of my sins accumulated over several births! I cannot think of starting the new year without seeing you... Please do something. Let the doctors declare me fit for at least one darshan.”
With huge blobs of tears dropping on the sheets, Pavan let his eyes complete the communication which his heart had started with the Lord.

Dasta knew about the illness of this boy but had no idea about his miserable plight. That was when, one day, Swami told him,
“Go to the hospital. There is a sick boy there whom I have to visit.”
Dasta did as he was told without the slightest idea that Pavan’s heart would explode with joy and fulfillment when he came to know about Swami’s proposed visit. In a few minutes, the familiar silver Benz car drove into the General Hospital premises. Out stepped the Lord and He walked up the stairs to where Pavan was. Ah! What a sight it was! All of Pavan’s pining and pain seemed akin to the struggle the river goes through before meeting with the ocean. Swami spent ten minutes with Pavan before walking out of the ward.

A doctor walked up to Swami and requested Him to bless a girl who had been very sick. Swami agreed instantly. It almost seemed like Swami had already decided to go to the girl as well. Now this was the second ‘bird’ receiving blessings. The girl had woken up that morning and narrated her dream to her parents.
“Swami told me to be ready for He will come to bless me today.”
The incredulous parents had thought that sickness had played tricks with their daughter’s mind. But now, they rubbed their eyes in disbelief to make sure that they were not playing tricks on their minds! Swami stepped into the girl’s ward and reinforced her faith in Him by blessing her and speaking loving words of consolation. A twinkle in the eyes of the devotee and the Lord  indicated the inner understanding that existed between them!  Swami then walked out of this ward and had to pass through the maternity ward on His way to the hospital exit.

Swami has His own Divine ways of blessing many 'birds' with one 'stone'! :)
The third bird is blessed

He turned and looked at Dasta and said,
“Come, follow me.”
It was with his eyes on the floor and heart filled with embarrassment that Dasta walked across the maternity ward along with Swami. In a few moments, they were out of the hospital. Swami sat in His car and looking at Dasta said,
“Cmon. Get into the car.”

His 15 days of Mounam were complete but then, had he not violated his silence on Christmas day? Had Swami decided to forgive that lapse to confer this huge blessing on him? Even as he thought thus, Sri V.K.Narasimhan, the fantastic editor of Sanathana Sarathi, rushed to the car. Dasta realized that Swami was calling Sri Narasimhan.
“Sit in the front”, Swami told the editor. Then, He looked at Dasta and said,
“You get into the back seat.”

Dasta could not believe his ears. This was the Phalashruti that he had sought! Swami said,
“I want to take you for a drive.”
Oh my god! That means Swami listens even when one talks to His photograph! This was the predominant thought in an otherwise stunned Dasta’s mind. Swami told the driver to head towards the Super Speciality Hospital.
“I will show you my big hospital.”
The 5 kilometer drive was an unforgettable for Dasta. Swami spoke several things with him like a friend and the venerable Narasimhan added more humor to the conversation in his inimitable style. Since this was an unscheduled visit, the massive main doors to the hospital central dome area were closed. Swami said with a measure of false sorrow,
“Let’s go back. The doors are not open.”

It became evident to Datsa that this whole thing was Swami’s setup for giving him a ride. The Super Specialty Hospital visit was merely an excuse. Not wanting to adhere to silence, Dasta had thought of taking the Lord for a ride by seeking a reward  which he was sure that Swami would not be able to deliver. Even when he had decided to take the Lord for a ride, Swami had taken him for an actual ride!


Dasta’s attitude towards silence has undergone a dramatic transformation since then. So deep is his commitment towards silence that it required some prying to actually have him open up on this incident as well! Again, it happened with Swami’s prodding.

In a few days after the ride of his life, Dasta was asked by Swami to give a speech. He had flatly refused, not having the courage to speak and feeling that he was a ‘nobody’ to speak. 20 years later, on the eve of the Alumni Meet on 1st January 2014, he sat reminiscing that car ride with Swami. Somehow the memory of him refusing to speak also popped up. At the precise moment, a coordinator for the January 1st programme walks up to him. It is 8:30pm and he says,
“Amitabh! There is a slight problem. The announcement today after bhajans was that there is a speech in the morning tomorrow. That announcement was a mistake as we have no speakers. Can you speak?”

Ah! The Lord’s timing! So perfect it was that Dasta agreed on the spot, not wanting to repeat his disobedience of Swami 20 years back. The coordinator also realized that there is nothing like a ‘mistake’ when it comes to the Lord!

Dasta definitely broke his silence about this episode. He also speaks and shares about Swami. However, he now maintains the deeper inner silence. A silence that keeps him serene and joyful amidst all the uncertainties of life.

“Keeping the physical silence is definitely the first step towards inculcating the actual silence - a silence in which the voice of God is heard always. I am blessed to have learn’t this from Swami who actually rewarded me with a ride and divine talk for 5-10 minutes before dropping me at my hostel. My silence had actually made me ‘listen to God’s voice’ in His Benz car for a full 10 minutes!”

Rewarded by the Lord for his silence!

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  1. Sairam Aravind
    Oh what a beautiful and inspiring story to keep silent and get benefits from Swami !
    DEfinitely going to narrate this in my bal vikas classes
    Thanks and God bless you for all your blogs

    1. Thank you. Share it with as many as possible.... especially the kids. :)

      May Swami's blessings always be with you.

  2. M stunned into silence!! ;-) jai sai ram

  3. Stunned into silence! The lord took him for a Ride...literally ;-) awsom grafic n caption :)

  4. What a story for 2014. It appears that this year should be a start for all of us to reach eternal silence.

  5. Simply Amazing and Inspiring !!!

  6. Truly inspiring and an arousing message for the New Year! Thanks Brother for sharing this in your own unique and beautiful style.This story also reveals the amazing fact that Swami is the "sai"lent listener when spoken to His picture. Revelations on the inner and outer silence is SUPERB!!

  7. Thank you Aravind for the beautiful stories that you share. It's always a delight reading your simple yet effective articles. It makes me feel closer to our God.

  8. Thanks a lot for sharing this wonderful experience.

  9. Karuna Maya Sai. Very inspiring. Thanks for sharing this. Sairam.


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