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Those who want to silence the mind will keep wanting || (2016)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
6 min
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Questioner: Acharya Ji, how to attain stillness of the mind?

Acharya Prashant: ‘Stilling the mind’, or ‘stopping the mind’ are very popular and lucrative catchphrases. There is a small problem. The problem is – for the mind, everything is a verb. Everything is a verb. Everything denotes action. So when the mind says, “Stop”, even that means – ‘do’ the act of stopping.

Mind only knows movement. Mind does not know anything called ‘stillness’, or ‘stopping’. So, we may find it tempting to talk of stopping the mind, but the moment you say, “Stop the mind”, you have started a new action.

Do you get this?

The moment you say, “Stop the mind”, you have just started a new action. Now it doesn’t matter whether you want to make the mind ‘do’ something, or whether you want to make the mind come to a pause, essentially you are doing the same thing. You are ‘doing’. Essentially you are doing the same thing, which is that you are ‘doing’.

In making the mind run to a particular place, you are ‘doing’ the running. In making the mind stop, you are ‘doing’ the stopping. So, this stopping is no stopping. And hence all attempts of stopping the mind, or stilling the mind, are necessarily going to go waste.

For the mind, even ‘silence’ is something, even ’emptiness’ is something. Even ‘nothing’ is something. So, language is not very useful here. Language may lure us into believing that we are stopping the mind, but all that we are doing is that we are still ‘doing’.

That is why methods that aim at stopping the mind, tricks, techniques, that all fail. Because they are all actions. And no action is going to lead to non-action.

It is not possible to run harder, to stop. Yes, you may get exhausted and fall down, but the tendency to run will remain.

It is possible to keep chanting a particular phrase for hours and hours, for many years. And that may make the mind so exhausted and bored that when you enter that activity repeatedly, it just stands in one place out of frustration and boredom. But that does not mean that its tendency to run around has stopped.

The moment it gains favorable conditions, it will again start running. That is why the effects of traditional meditation do not last. That is why you have to repeat the practice over and over, and again and again.

One must ask a basic question, “What kind of peace it is that comes and goes? Is it peace at all?” That which comes and goes necessarily has to be a movement, a wave, an action. Only ‘something’ can rise and fall.

How can Peace rise and fall? Peace, by definition, is an absence, a nothingness. If you have to exert yourself again and again, in order to retain your Peace, it only proves that it is not Peace at all.

It is some kind of enforced silencing of the mind, like kids that hush down on seeing the teacher. Would you call that silence? That is mere temporary wordlessness. Out goes the teacher, and out goes the so-called silence.

Do you get this?

So, first of all, one has to drop this belief in one’s capacity to silence the mind, or even in the concept of a ‘silent mind’.

There is nothing called ‘a silent mind’. There is something called ‘Silence’, which is beyond something-ness, which is an absolute, which cannot be used as an adjective to describe something else. You cannot have a ‘silent mind’. Mind, when silent, dissolves in the Silence. All that remains is – Silence.

What do you mean by ‘a silent mind’ then?

But we want to believe, and we have a stake in believing that just as we, the ego-sense, try to control its destiny through a thousand ways, through ten kinds of efforts, through multiple attempts arising from doership, it would also attempt to, and succeed in controlling the mind, or silencing the mind.

What is the mind? Some kind of an object? Who would control the mind? Who are you who would whip the mind in submission, or trap it, or seduce it, or counsel it? Who are you, who is stalking? When you say, “I will silence the mind”, who is this ‘I’? So, even after silence, this ‘I’ would remain. What kind of silence is this?

Is it not obvious?

Silence and Mysticism, Spirituality and Mysticism, they are one. They go together. And Mysticism is about being comfortable with the unknown. Not having that urge to be in control; not trying to be a master of your destiny.

“I do not know whether the mind can be silent, I do not know whether any method will succeed. I do not know whether there is this thing called ‘Silence’. But I will honestly know that which is in the purview of knowledge. I will know that which can be known. And beyond that, I will not venture. It is not my province. Why should I dare enter forbidden areas?”

“And it is not even about forbidden. It is not as if I have the capacity to enter it, and I have been just outlawed from there. I do not even have the capacity to enter it. I do not even have the capacity to imagine entering there. I do not even know what lies there. I do not even know whether actually there is any place called ‘there’.”

This, crudely, is the beginning of Mysticism. There, you do not claim to be knowledgeable. There, you do not claim to be the doer or the master. There – you just submit yourself.

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