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What is a silent mind? || Acharya Prashant, on Raman Maharshi (2017)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
6 min
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“Silence is of four kinds: silence of speech, silence of the eye, silence of the ear, and silence of the mind.

Only the last is pure silence, and is the most important.”

~ Sri Raman Maharishi

Questioner: Acharya Ji, what does Ramana Maharshi mean by these lines? What is silence of the ear?

Acharya Prashant: Silence of speech, silence of eye, silence of ear, and silence of mind. She is asking, “What is silence of the ear?”

Silence of the ear just means that the ear is not too eager to hear, that the ear does not start hearing its own echoes.

All the silences that the Maharshi is talking of, come under one classical term, that is – uprati . ‘ Rati ’ means an attraction, a greed, a reaching out, an association with the external. ‘ Uprati ’ means returning to oneself, being contended in oneself, not being desperately or enthusiastically concerned with the outside.

So what is the quality of an eye that is not in uprati , that is not upram (detached)?

This eye will keep rolling, this eye will keep wandering. Have you seen wandering eyes? Have you? As if the eye is afflicted by lust, as if the eye wants to consume all the objects it is looking at, and hence wants to look at the maximum number of objects. The eye just cannot remain still. Needlessly, purposelessly, like a maniac, it is sometimes sitting on this object, then on that, then on that. And none of the objects that it sits on, satisfies it.

This is an eye that has gone crazy for the outside.

“Can I have a look at this?”

“What is there? I want to look at it.”

“What is hidden there? Show me!”

You are familiar with this eye, are you not? This eye is an eye that Maharshi would call as – ‘not a silent eye’.

Similarly, an ear – “What’s cooking here? What’s the latest gossip there? Who said that? Was that said about me? What is floating in the air these days?” This is a noisy ear. It wants to keep hearing. And if there is nothing to hear, it will keep hearing its own echoes. Hearing has become an obsession with it. It must keep getting its feed from outside. And if no feed arrives, it starts feeling starved.

And then, Maharshi says, “Real Silence is Silence of the mind.”

What is Silence of the mind? Even if the eye does not look at a thousand things, still it will look at a few things. Alright, with the eye you have a particular facility. The facility is that you can close the eyes, maybe not for long, but at least for a few hours you can shut down this entry.

With the ear, even this facility is not available. So even if the ear is not hungry for hearing, still stuff will keep entering it. And all that which enters through the eyes, or the ears, or the other senses, reaches the mind.

What is a Silent mind then? A Silent mind is the one, that does not feel a compulsive, obsessive need to talk to anybody who comes to him.

Please understand this.

A wandering eye, a noisy eye will forcefully pull in objects. Even the objects that are hidden there, this eye will go to them, unearth them, dig them out, and send them to the mind.

An ear obsessed with hearing will keep hearing stuff that it has nothing to do with, like people who are obsessed with news channels, like people who must always have the radio on – something must keep falling on their ears. And if nothing falls on their ear, they become restless.

The question then is – why is Maharshi saying that Silence of mind is higher than the silence of the eye and the ear?

Because even if the eye and the ear are not compulsive about sucking in sensual inputs, still something will reach the mind. The eye might be very silent, but whenever the eye opens, it looks at something. The ear may have no great inclination to hear, but the ear can offer no resistance, something will fall on your eardrums and reach the mind.

A Silent mind is the one, that is not under any internal pressure, any internal compulsion to react to what comes to it. Stuff keeps coming to it, the mind watches the stuff that comes to it. The mind does not feel a necessity to react, or engage, or be attached, or be identified, or do anything with miscellaneous stuff that comes to it.

Stuff has come, the mind says, “Alright you have come, I am inert towards you. I am non-reactive! Coincidentally you came to me, why should I give too much weightage to coincidences?”

“It was just a coincidence that the eye opened in one particular direction and saw a group of people. I didn’t intend to look at them. They don’t mean anything to me. Had I been coincidentally looking in another direction, I wouldn’t have seen them. Now that their image has come to the mind, why should the mind take it as an essential happening? Why should the mind feel as if something very important has come to it? I would rather say nothing has come to me. That which is accidental has so little value.”

That is a Silent mind.

And a Silent mind is the final frontier.

The senses, even if they are uparam , they will still keep allowing stuff in. That’s how they are configured. Even very pure senses – ‘ Nirmal Indriya (Pure senses)’, as the scriptures call them, would still take in some sensual inputs. Finally, the input comes to the mind, and finally, the mind has to dispose everything away.

So the Silence of mind is higher than the silence of the senses.

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