The Power of the Word...
The Power of Silence
It is often said that there is great power in the spoken word, but
perhaps there is a far greater power in silence.
The Word... In Chanting, Wazifa and Meditation Practice:
The great power of verbal practices such as chanting or wazifa does not arise solely from the repetition of the words or sounds. While there is power in all forms of vibration, the greatest power of spiritual practices as chanting, wazifa or meditation arises from the moments spent not thinking about the self. The greatest obstacle to spiritual progress is one's own ego, that is, one's excessive concern for one's own self, and every moment spent not thinking of the self is indeed a great step toward spiritual awakening.
Certainly there is great merit in thinking about and being immersed in
the harmonizing influence of inspiring words and sacred sounds, since
such high ideals will help to create great intentions,
but the greatest gift of chanting, wazifa and meditation is to simply
stop thinking about one's own self. When all of that noisy chatter about
one's own opinions, one's own problems, one's own difficulties, and
one's own situation is finally silenced by selflessness, then the
answers and solutions will begin to emerge from the perfect clarity of
silence. Indeed, listening proves to be even more powerful than
speaking. And we discover that the greatest of powers did not arise
from the word, but
rather the greatest of powers has arisen from the unlimited, calm depths of silence.
The Word... In Scripture:
Scripture authors and scripture translators have a very difficult task, and often use words that have multiple interpretations, or use words as metaphors... either of which can lead to multiple interpretations of the text.
For example, in the New Testament, we often find translations such as:
However, as is indicated by the capitalization of Word, we must strive to understand the true meaning of this metaphor. In Greek the text uses the term logos, while the corresponding Aramaic text uses the term miltha. The root of logos points toward two basic meanings: 1) something spoken aloud, or 2) intention, command, declaration, decree. Similarly, the root of miltha points toward two basic meanings: 1) something spoken aloud, or 2) manifestation, cause.
With this understanding, we might recognize the preceding verses as saying:
In a similar manner, the book of Genesis says:
The term translated as said is the Hebrew 'amar which has two basic meanings: 1) something spoken aloud, or 2) command, promise, intention. So, we might translate the verse from Genesis as:
And God Intentded (or Commanded), Let there be light: and there was light
Similarly, the Qur'an says:
In each of these examples, we are clearly being given a metaphor. That is, who would God speak to in order to create something that never before existed? There was no point of speaking aloud, because there was no one to hear.
Therefore, we conclude that such descriptions (which are sometimes interpreted as literally speaking a word) are actually a metaphor descibing an unspoken process whereby intention (or decree), empowered by ability, leads to appropriate action, which finally produces the desired result.
In each of these scriptural examples, there is not
necessarily any spoken word involved, but rather there is a profound intention, which
when supported by ability, allows skillfully directed action to produce
the desired result. Thus, the power is not really in the word,
but rather the power arises from the intention that arises out of calm silence.
Unleashing Creative Power:
When one truly desires to accomplish something, mere repetition of words is unlikely to achieve the desired result. That is, simply repeating the words "I am going to go buy groceries" will not get any groceries. The only way that one will actually go get the groceries is to first have the intention, accompanied by the ability, and then to take the required action to actually buy the groceries.
Human beings have a great deal of creative ability which can be exercised in either the physical realm or in the spiritual realm (with the greatest joys and highest bliss experienced through achievements in the spiritual realms). As in all of the examples above, the first step is sincere intention, or, in other words, a decree founded upon complete certitude. Without such sincere intention there is no deliberate creative power. Wishful thinking is not enough, one must have focused intention and utter certitude of the result. In order to bring the intention into being, one must have the ability, and then one must take the appropriate action. In all deliberate creative acts, these same three elements are required: sincere intention, adequate ability, and appropriate action.
Interestingly, in many cases the most appropriate action will be to
completely stop thinking about how or when or where the desired result
will become manifest, and simply trust that the silent power of
intention has set into motion the best possible process to achieve the
desired result. At that point, just let go, return to the silence of
selflessness, listen for guidance and accept what comes.
Preserving the Power of Intention:
In order to accomplish great works, one must take care to avoid
losing the very power which is needed to bring the result into
manifestation. Often, a great loss of power is caused by talking
about the intention before it has come into being. Words tend to
dissipate power. In order to preserve
the full power of intention, it is often best to keep silent about one's
intention until after the desired result (or perhaps something even
better) has arrived.
Beyond the Words:
Words and sounds can be valuable tools for creating harmony and focusing intention, and therefore one should strive to learn to use words and sounds effectively. But, as with anything that exists only on the surface of life, one must dive deeper to find greater treasures, and beyond the realm of words and sounds one can discover the vastly greater power of silence. Only after one has learned to use words and has experienced the limited power of words is one truly ready to experience and appreciate the unlimited power of silence.
Murshid Samuel Lewis (founder of the Dances of Universal Peace) described some of the virtues of silence as:
A delightful little snippet from Anthony de mello:
The Rule in the monastery was not 'Do not speak", but "Do not speak unless you can improve on the silence."
Anthony de Mello, Taking Flight
Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan said:
And, in closing, as Jalaluddin Rumi said: