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            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:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  (John 1:1)

or

And the Word was made flesh  (John 1:14)

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 the beginning was the Intention, and the Intention was with God, and the Intention was God. 

and

And the Intention was made flesh 

 

In a similar manner, the book of Genesis says:

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light  (Genesis 1:3)

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:

To Him is due the primal origin of the heavens and the earth; when He decreeth a matter He saith to it: "Be"; and it is. (al-baqarah 2:117)
 

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.


The Power of Silence:

Murshid Samuel Lewis (founder of the Dances of Universal Peace) described some of the virtues of silence as:

The truth is in silence and not in the languages which are men’s creations.

All the sounds proceed from the Silence.

Silence is always the source of perfection.

The Infinite is expressed through Silence. 

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:


The mystic realizes the power of the word, and at the same time the splendor of silence. The word can do so much, but even more can be accomplished by silence. Great phenomena are produced by the mystics, who know the power of the word, and how to use it. But, even greater miracles are performed by them through the splendor of their silence.

        from The Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan, Volume XI, Vision of the Mystic
 

Someone from the audience asked Murshid after his lecture on the power of the word, "Which is the best word?" Murshid replied: "Silence."

       from Biography of Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan, Anecdotes
 

When the lips are closed, then the heart begins to speak; when the heart is silent, then the soul blazes up, bursting into flame, and this illuminates the whole of life.

        from The Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan, Volume X,  Repose


The keynote to harmonious life is silence. In everyday life we are confronted with a thousand troubles that we are not always evolved enough to meet, and then only silence can help us. For if there is any religion, if there is any practice of religion, it is to have regard for the pleasure of God by regarding the pleasure of man. The essence of religion is to understand. And this religion we cannot live without having power over the word, without having realized the power of silence.

        from The Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan, Volume IV,  Mental Purification


Every activity which we call 'life' has sprung from a source that is silent, and will always be silent; and every activity, however different in aspect, peculiar to itself, and unlike others in its effect, is still the activity of a tiny part of that life which is as wide as the ocean. Call it world, universe, nation, country, race, community, one individual, or only a particle, an atom – its activity, its energy springs in each case from one inseparable and eternal silent aspect of life. And it has not only sprung from it, but it also resolves itself into it. One throws a pebble into the water, water that is still and calm. There comes an activity, it comes for one moment, and then it vanishes. Into what does it vanish? It vanishes into the same silence in which the water was before. Water is a substance that is active by nature, and the silence, the stillness, the calmness that it shows is just the original state, the effect of its original source. This means that the natural inclination of every thing and every being is silence, because it has come from silence, and yet it is active, because it is activity that produces activity; and its end is silence.

        from The Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan, Volume VII, Silent Life

 

And, in closing, as Jalaluddin Rumi said:

   A Great Silence overcomes me,
   and I wonder why I ever thought
               to use language.

 

with love,
    wahiduddin

31-Jul-2006