B.P. Wadia wrote a very practical chapter on the importance of speech and silence in the spiritual life in the wonderful book "Living the Life".  We will post the few short paragraphs from this article here and invite comments and questions.


"One, if not the greatest, of evils by which modern society is corrupted, is that of gossip. Injurious speech, or small talk ensouled by the spirit of competition, not only ruins other people's character, but corrupts our own. This is not recognized. Small talk has become and is studied as an art, and the infamy of gossip has emerged as an institution of social amusement. Its infamous nature is forgotten, its dire effects fail to impart their lesson and it has assumed for modern men and women the place of a necessity of life. Social 
avocations in cultured drawing-rooms as also in abusive slums pursue the path of small talk and mean gossip."

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Second Paragraph

The first requirement of the spiritual life is to learn the value of silence. The conservation of spiritual energy demands that the frittering away of soul-forces be stopped. There are very few avenues through which man's divinity goes to waste as through sound and speech. The dirt and dregs of our kamic nature often find their outlet in useless or injurious speech. There is a close connection and more than mere metaphorical analogy in the statement which refers to what is put in the mouth as food and what comes out of it as words. through the process of eating, assimilation of food and elimination of waste product take place; the health of the body improves or suffers with every morsel we take in.One of the main ways of determining the condition of the body is to examine the disposition of the process and product of elimination. Our psychic nature has its own ways of assimilation and elimination, of sustaining itself in good or ill health. One of the modes of elimination is related to the power of speech. 

From the Udanavarga

" He who praises one who ought to be blamed,

And blames one who is worthy of praise,

Brings injury to himself with his mouth;

The contentious will not find happiness."

How might we characterize right speech?

Well you probably know more about Buddhism than I do and how right speech fits into the 8 fold noble path but I would start with nonviolence of speech.  Our words should not harm others.  That might be a good place to start.  And we know in practice that this is extremely difficult because we are so cut off from each other and our power of sympathy and receptiveness is limited.  Knowing what to say and when to say it really requires wisdom.  So non-violence of speech for me is a pretty good place to start.

What do others think?

Yes of course, good point.  Nonviolence of speech is a good way to state it. Like the hippocratic oath, do no harm. Always easier said than done certainly. Which leads us to another aspect of right speech....truthful speech, free of exaggeration and self regard.

Harpocrates  was the Ptolemaic name of the God Horus. He was depicted as a young boy with his finger over his lips and for this reason was considered as the God of Silence. Angerona was a goddess of ancient Rome attributed with the power to release man from sorrow and pain. She was represented with a finger over her lips requiring silence from her devotees. Still in ancient Rome we have the goddess  Dea Tacita also known as 

Also it is said that Pythagoras was taking his new students to observe in silence a statue of the Muse Polyhymnia. The muse was represented with her finger pressing her lips. Iamblichus said that Pythagoras’s students were requested to observe 5 years of silence. This was part of Pythagoras’s moral disciplines, because the capability to be silent was considered as a paragon of self-control. So, silence in the Pythagorean philosophy was considered as a moral discipline. Perhaps this practice aimed to achieve the control of the mind. Silencing the mind as a way of removing conceptual thinking. Language is always linked to concepts and when the mind is silent there is no conceptual thinking, therefore no space for concepts. To achieve this state is also one of the highest goals of Buddhism. 


Most of us have trouble being quiet for 5 minutes little less 5 hours, little less 5 days.... well you get the point.  5 years of silence would be well Herculean.  It is important to remember that he was over seeing a Mystery School, where the level of self-discipline required is (to use another metaphor) Himalayan.

When you say silencing the mind do you mean the kama-manasic mind or higher mind (Buddhi-Manas) also?  Perhaps the first step to awakening Buddhi-Manas is to silence Kama-Manas.

I believe this is a very helpful topic to take into consideration regarding practical, daily life.  

Perhaps, from speech, we can trace back its linage to motive, or rather intention, as these are the very coloring agents behind speech in one sense, that is regarding speech as what we utter vocally to others.  Although, it seems as if it wouldn't matter whether uttered or thought, as nothing- no action- is able to escape the Laws of Karma.  It is interesting, tracing back uttered speech to the very impulse that cause it to come into manifestation.  Perhaps by dwelling on this, it may form somewhat of a meditation regarding the macrocosm and microcosm.   The occult significance of speech, I believe, can be found in most sacred texts; from the Bible, to the Vedas. Speech has a very important place, from the cracking of a manvantaric dawn, to the very impulse of thought, and the very vibrations exchanged between all things.  

A modern physicist, Dale Pond has two very interesting lectures in regards to "Sympathetic Vibratory Physics" which, is in direct relation to Keely's research, and numerous chapters found in the SD.  For those willing to sit through a few hours of very interesting research and discussions you may click these two links;

www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBzLk3jHRic   [part I ]
www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Fuon4admnM   [part II ]

Maybe, in some ways keeping the silence- not so much in regards to spoken speech- but subtle speech or thought, is a form of grace.  To have total control over the mind, I would assume is to have total control over the entire kingdom.

There is a book, I am not too sure if there is an english translation as of yet, but at any rate, it is titled "Sphotavâda of Nâges'abhatta" ( स्फोटवादः नागेशभट्टविरिचत​ः ), as it discusses this topic, which I suppose might not be considered practical to everyone, however, practical is a term that I believe regards to the individuals position in life.
There is a preface in English which is quite good, all the rest is in sanskrit;


thank you for all this.

One thing I find interesting and helpful is the deliberation required in being part of an online discussion group.  There are many things about it that I find troubling, like the lack of tone of voice or body language in communication.  But the one thing that is really good training, at least for me, is it invites us to be deliberate.  To think before you speak if you will.  At least you have the incentive and opportunity to pause before you hit the send button and reflect,"Is this what I want to say, Is this helpful, Is this clear etc.  What if I could exercise the same degree of deliberation in my daily communications with the people around me? How much better off would all those people be?  What if like a singer I was concerned about how I said it and how it "sounded" in addition to the words I choose.  Kristan's comments urged me to think in this direction.

What role does silence play in right speech?

This was first send to a different forum.

 Comment by Margreet Buitenhuis 20 hours ago

In addition to the great comments on the power of speech

, the following is also interesting to ponder over:

Let us use with care those living messengers called words.

—W. Q. Judge

Careless, loose and inordinate speech is a characteristic of our extrovert and restless civilization. We do not understand the value of deliberate and careful speech because we are ignorant of the source of this precious faculty and totally unaware of the power of the spoken word. Our speech is too often impulsive and hence thoughtless and meaningless.

Much of the confusion and turmoil of our world today is reflected in our irresponsible use of speech. But the reverse is equally true: our foolish and wrong use of words adds to the prevailing confusion and is a major factor in creating tensions and bringing about misunderstandings. We are often divided today through words. If we could purify and control our speech we would tone up our moral fiber, improve our character, and thus become better able to seek for the solutions of the numerous problems we are facing.

All who dream of a better world should watch words, which anon save us and anon damn us. But for anyone aspiring to live the spiritual life control of speech is a sine qua non,and all the Great Ones have enjoined the purification and restraint of speech.

 (The Light of Asia)

To speak is to act; for speech is an avenue of action. Wise people discipline themselves, and such self-discipline includes the control of speech. Says Lord Buddha:

Let a man be watchful of speech-irritation. Let him control his speech. Abandoning the sins of speech let him practice virtue with his speech. (Dhammapada, XVII, 12)

Well controlled indeed are the wise; they have mastery over body, tongue, and mind. (Ibid., XVII, 14)

In the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna describes thus the mortifications (tapas) of speech:

Gentle speech which causes no anxiety, which is truthful and friendly, and diligence in the reading of the Scriptures, are said to be austerities of speech. (XVII, 15)

In any action five agents are necessary, declares Krishna, for its accomplishment. "These are the substratum, the agent, the various sorts of organs, the various and distinct movements, and, with these, as fifth, the presiding deities." (XVIII, 14)

But what is speech? Speech is the use of words as audible symbols to establish communication with our fellow beings. Speech is a prerogative of man and is rooted in his own latent divinity. Words are the outward human symbols of "eternal Thought in the Eternal Mind." Thus the metaphysical counterpart or divine prototype of human speech isVach, or the Verbum, the Voice and Word, the creative Logos. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John, I, 1)

When we speak we are using a creative energy whose origin is truly divine. And hence to misuse or abuse or even use vainly this gift "from above" is to desecrate it—the sin against the Holy Ghost.

Thus words are instinct with a life of their own, a life which continues after we, their progenitors, have begotten them and sent them out into the world. How wise the injunction of the old precept which states: "Watch thy tongue; out of it are the issues of Life"!

Indeed, life and death can both come from words; for words are builders and also destroyers. Words can unite and also divide; words can heal, but also wound; words can bless and curse; reconcile or antagonize; enlighten or delude and mislead; reveal or hide.

Yes, the spoken word is a great magician. Let us endeavor to heed the word of wisdom and to learn "to use with care those living messengers called words."

This is an interesting subject in light of the Charlie Hebdo crisis that happened in France.  The paragraph, "Indeed, life and death can both come from words; for words are builders and also destroyers. Words can unite and also divide; words can heal, but also wound; words can bless and curse; reconcile or antagonize; enlighten or delude and mislead; reveal or hide,"  says it all.  Though, one could also ask when should we not be silent?  Sometimes we should speak up and say what we feel, what we believe, etc...  We should always be free to speak or write, Theosophy is grounded on this human right, freedom of thought, freedom of speech.  Yet with all freedoms comes responsibility, as Theosophy also points out, and consequences.  As a practical question, how does everyone think Theosophy applies to situations like Charlie Hebdo?

The silence and self-discipline of deliberate speech is a self chosen practice. It is intended to promote non-violence of mind and kindness of heart.  When people seek to silence others rather than monitor themselves they are walking  backwards I believe.

You are right, these are free speech issues.  If you are forced to be quiet from the outside there is no free speech.

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Permalink Reply by barbaram on January 11, 2015 at 6:39pm

Don't you think it depends on the purpose of the silence?  Speech are embodied thoughts;  we can be totally silent but if our minds keep running wild or entertain unhealthy thoughts, little good would come out of it.  Those who are telepathic can hear thoughts without any utterance.   Thoughts are the roots and speech is one of the means to deliver them.   We can imagine that someday we may not need to communicate through audible sounds like the way we do now.        

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on January 11, 2015 at 7:59pm

So are you saying that silence is more than merely not speaking out loud?

Permalink Reply by Peter on January 12, 2015 at 11:26am

I think Barbara raises a valuable point with regards to considering 'the purpose of the silence'. 

By silence we often mean ‘restraint of speech’, which is something that may help us to be mindful of why and when (if at all) we need to speak out. This can help us be more mindful of our intentions, reactions, deliberations (as Gerry has pointed out so well) and so on.  It may also help us to become more aware of the effects of our speech - on others, on ourselves and the general atmosphere we create with the spoken word.   It would appear that restraint of speech is an action that needs an intention or purpose of its own if we are to make meaningful use of it.  

Is restraint of speech necessarily a good thing? It seems to depend on context. Too often people sit on negative thoughts and feelings that might be better expressed.  When such thoughts and feelings are left unexpressed they often lead to deepening resentment on the 'inside' while one is silent and apparently calm on the 'outside' - until there is an outburst of some kind or another. For many of us learning how to communicate openly and constructively may be as important, if not more so, than learning how to be silent.  We see the importance of right speech in the many passages that Magreet has shared with us in her post, above.

To share our troubles, difficulties and/or traumatic experiences with another who knows how to listen can be very releasing and healing - at least potentially.  There’s something about the quality of listening that seems important here.  True listening - rather than just hearing - comes out of a state of ‘silence’ and receptivity to the other.  It allows the person speaking to have the space to listen to their own story, to hear for the first time, perhaps, the felt-meaning carried by their own words.  As we listen and share in such a way it often happens that the underlying Silence in which such sharing takes place reveals a healing potency of its own which can lift us beyond words, beyond the limited circumstances in which we found ourselves.

Being silent isn’t Silence.  Silence is Presence; a potency in its own right.  It doesn’t belong to anyone. It appears to be ever present - our minds are often just too busy tohear it.  Like the space in which all forms come and go, Silence is that from which all sounds and utterances (verbal or mental) arise and then fall back.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on January 13, 2015 at 10:26am

What wonderful points you make here Peter.  Your thoughts led me to think of how silence and listening are intertwined.  Listening is an active rather than a passive condition.  Listening requires us to silence our own thoughts to give full attention to the words and expressions of our friend and fellow human being.  I wonder if meditation, in some way, could be characterized as intense listening?

"Silence thy thoughts and fix thy whole attention on thy Master whom yet thou dost not see, but whom thou feelest."   -The Voice of the Silence

Permalink Reply by Peter on January 14, 2015 at 6:12am

Hi Grace - yes, I would say that listening is at least a meditative state.  It incorporates attending, a term I find more descriptive of the process than, say, concentration. The latter term can conjure up the image of a rather rigid or fixed state of awareness. 

Attending has a fluidity and receptivity about it in which we can listen or sense into  what is both said and left unspoken.  As this becomes established a more contemplative process may unfold in which levels of meaning open up and unfold within the field of attention. . . and beneath, or rather penetrating all this, we may yet discover a Silence, a presence, which is itself pregnant with meaning: meaning-full. We may only be touched by the hem of its garment, and it may well defy any articulation or attempts to describe what it is or what it contains. 

From my own experience, thoughts fall away as a result of the process of attending, of listening, rather than the reverse.  If I find myself struggling to silence my thoughts, I am usually not listening to the other but preoccupied with myself.  I think the same goes for the more formal process of meditation.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on January 27, 2015 at 11:05am

Lovely thoughts all of these.  It gives me the impression of a boat on the water, perhaps  coursing along a river or stream, following and attending without strain. But with focus of attention included.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on February 26, 2015 at 5:55am

The idea of listening as part of the embrace of silence reminds one of the phrase in theosophical literature, "buddhi whispering to manas".

Permalink Reply by Jeffrey Smart on January 18, 2015 at 5:28am

I like your comment, "Being silent isn’t Silence.  Silence is Presence; a potency in its own right.  It doesn’t belong to anyone. It appears to be ever present - our minds are often just too busy to hear it.  Like the space in which all forms come and go, Silence is that from which all sounds and utterances (verbal or mental) arise and then fall back".  As an addiction counselor and a mental health counseling student my training and practice has its basis in just the Silence and Presence you speak of.  When I listen to a client I do just that, listen without judging, without presumptions.  And I feel honored, honored that someone is sharing their story with me, honored that I am present and able to listen to their story.  Thanks for sharing your comment with us.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on January 21, 2015 at 8:48pm

Might we say that silence is a profound state of calmness perhaps?

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on February 26, 2015 at 5:57am

You might say it is an important meditative practice to unite ones sense of being or self with the Silence.  To see them as the same.

Permalink Reply by Debashree Das on January 11, 2015 at 7:52am

A spiritual Native American writer named Ohiyesa:

"We believe profoundly in silence–the sign of a perfect equilibrium. Silence is the absolute poise or balance of body, mind, and spirit. Those who can preserve their selfhood ever calm and unshaken by the storms of existence–not a leaf, as it were, astir on the tree; not a ripple upon the shining pool–those, in the mind of the person of nature, possess the ideal attitude and conduct of life. If you ask us, “What is silence?” we will answer, “It is the Great Mystery. The holy silence is God’s voice.” If you ask, “What are the fruits of silence?” we will answer, “They are self-control, true courage or endurance, patience, dignity, and reverence. Silence is the cornerstone of character.”

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on January 11, 2015 at 7:58pm

Very beautiful.  What role does silence play in self-control, courage, endurance and the other virtues?  Why is silence the cornerstone of character?

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Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on January 13, 2015 at 10:29am

Silence implies depth.  Silence, real silence, is a turning inward and a reaching for the highest within us.  All the virtues come from our highest nature.  When the lower nature is obedient (think silent) the higher nature can flow through.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on January 21, 2015 at 8:54pm

What does it mean to make the lower nature obedient?  And what role does silence play in the process?

Permalink Reply by barbaram on January 25, 2015 at 3:29pm

Last year when I stayed at Green Gulch, a Zen community in the Bay Area, everyone observed silence for 15 minutes at the beginning of every meal, then an avalanche of conversations succeeded that filled the entire room.   It was quite a powerful practice when there are so many people in a room not speaking.  Everyone intentionally stopped their normal flow of outgoing exchanges and come together. 

I assume the purpose of this practice is to become aware of one's thoughts or feelings or actions or simply use the time to commune with one's higher self.  There are many levels of silence.  If one can stop  chattering with oneself continually, about trivial things like what to eat tomorrow, who to call, where to go, how to dress, etc. etc. etc. or flitting from one idea to another, reminiscing about yesterday, pining for tomorrow, then one may attain the stillness within and in this state of depth, one gains the ability to be receptive of the finer forces in life and to those around us.   Silence then is nothing more but an outer expression of the inner stillness where the forces of kama wane and the mind is focused and, in this state of quietness, one discovers profound peace. 

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on January 27, 2015 at 11:15am

Emerson  called what you describe here as "the wise silence."

Permalink Reply by Laura on January 19, 2015 at 5:39am
That is very helpful. We achieve such states infrequently but through effort and self examination, checked by karma we can strengthen the True Position.
Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on January 11, 2015 at 8:20pm

Next Paragraph;

In spiritual growth, learning and listening go together. They precede teaching and speaking. In ancient India, the moment the seeker of the peace of wisdom resolved to follow in the footsteps of the guru, the pupil gained the name of Shravaka, a listener. The ancient Greeks named him Akoustikos. He was not even permitted to ask questions; bija-sutras, seed-thoughts, were given him to ponder over and understand to the best of his ability. These thoughts were intended as purificatory food that, if adequately assimilated, would cleanse his kamic nature; not only remove the accumulated poisons of the past but reveal to the pupil the correct alchemical process of transforming within his own constitution passion into compassion, lust into love, and antipathy into sympathy. Once started on this highway, he was ready to become an exerciser, a positive doer, Shramana, the Asketos of the Greeks.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on January 17, 2015 at 3:00pm

Next Paragraph:

Our modern Theosophical student has not fully recognized the occult significance of silence. A vow of silence does not mean to become mute and not to speak at all. It consists in: (1) self-imposition of periodic silence; (2) not indulging at any time in injurious and untruthful speech; (3) not giving way to useless speech; (4) not asking questions on philosophy or practice till what has already been taught or is before us is fully scanned and thoroughly looked into from the point of view of our particular questions; (5) not indulging in ahankaric speech, i.e., not making statements about the Divine Self or Ego in terms of our kamic or lower nature; (6) not indulging in injurious speech regarding our lower nature, our own faults and weaknesses, lest by speaking of them we lend them the strength that ensues from the power of speech; (7) not to speak even that that is true unless at proper times, to proper people, and under proper circumstances.

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on January 27, 2015 at 6:22am

Silence, it is said, to be regarded as the first step towards yoga.  Stated in both the Kathopanisad and Sankaracaryas Vivekacudamani, along with various other texts, this position, I believe is quite important.

 I will share sloka 370 of Vivekacudamani in both Sanskrit and English translation.  The reason of the Sanskrit translation, if any care to see it, is because of some suggestive word usage (which I believe to be interesting).;

वाचं नियच्छात्मनि तं निय्च्छ  |
    बुद्धौ धियं यच्छ च बुद्धिसाक्षिणि ||
तं चापि पूर्णात्मनि निर्विकल्पे  |
    विलाप्य शान्ति परमां भजस्व  || 370 ||
" control the speech in the mind; control that in the intellect; control  the intellect in the witness of the intellect; merging that again in the infinite Purnatman, attain supreme peace. "

H.H. Sri Candrasekhara Bharati III writes a commentary regarding this stating one should; "Give up all speech activity; in the beginning remain purely in the region of the mind.  When silence becomes as strong as in the case of animals, restrain the mind in its twin aspects of determination and doubt in buddhi characterized only by firm conviction.... That silent intellect should be merged in the caitanya limited by buddhi; destroy the upadhi of the buddhi and restrain it in the pure cognition which is the witness consciousness, saksi-caitanya."

We may see how important the control and restraint of speech is, and even more important, how intimately connected it is with the mind.  If we consider any outward activity to be the result of causes on the inner/subtle plane, whether one were to think of it as the region of the mind etc., one might come to see that speech, both verbal and non-verbal (thought), may act as somewhat as a vehicle for designated results to manifest, or rather a tether, binding our mind to the 'external' world of sensation.  However way one decided to view it, I like to think of speech/thought/vibration, (all being synonymous) as somewhat of a envelope containing seeds of karma to enter the kshetra, or field.  This topic defiantly has a metaphysical/occult side, in my opinion, speech might have various meanings.

There is a fine poem by Sir Edward Dyer, "My Mind to Me a Kingdom is"  that is coming to my mind regarding this topic.

Permalink Reply by barbaram on January 31, 2015 at 7:21pm

Hi Kristan:

Thank you for the post.  There is undeniably a close relationship between the functions of the mind and speech.  It is interesting to learn the different methods of controlling the mind as the one you mentioned in your message. 

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on February 3, 2015 at 10:58am

You might even say that Right Speech starts with the desire to be more benevolent towards our fellow man.  If the desire is there then we generate the effort to craft our words and our tone.

Permalink Reply by Laura on January 19, 2015 at 5:34am
The above contemplation of silence is very helpful, this position of silence requires discipline and reflection on what is Real.
Humanity could really use the above right now. We could say THINK.

Say only what is True
Say only what is Helpful
Say only what is Inspiring
Say only what is Necessary
And say only what is Kind.

The world would be a lot quieter if we took this position of self discipline.
Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on January 21, 2015 at 8:52pm

Laura, I think what you have here is very important and meaningful.  Let me play the devil's advocate and ask:  Are there not times, like when a student is getting a paper reviewed by his or her teacher, when  what needs to be said is critical and not necessarily inspiring?

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on January 21, 2015 at 8:36pm

Continuing on:

While this sevenfold exercise is practiced, secrecy has to he observed about it. To refer to or speak about the exercise we have undertaken and are practicing is to vitiate it altogether and make it worse than useless. Such an indulgence gives birth to conceit and enhances it where it already exists. We need secrecy and silence. Contemplation on their kinship should precede the sevenfold exercise.

There is a general desire ”to sit for meditation and to practice yoga,” but this first rule, this primary regulation, is found irksome and its desirability questioned. No doubt, it is difficult, well nigh impossible, for the moderns to attain this control over speech; but if not fully and wholly at least partly and partially it can be and should be practiced.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on January 21, 2015 at 10:07pm

From the Zen tradition here in Japan we read:

  1. damaru: not speaking or saying in the conventional sense;
  2. chin-moku: sinking into silence, a pensive opting for silence ("with an inkling of the absolute silence of infinite openness";
  3. moku: the Buddhist term for silence as such. "The idea is silently to enter the absolute realm of infinite silence which is not disturbed by speaking and cannot be broken, but rather endows speaking with a depth of meaning."

These three terms equate to philosophical equivalents: 1) silence as non-speaking, 2) pensive silence, and 3) absolute silence.

I do not claim to understand the Zen tradition but silence is a key component to be sure.  The concept of the Void, akin to silence, is a large part of Buddhist metaphysics.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on January 26, 2015 at 12:11am

Next Paragraph

Deliberate speech will be the first result. It will not be rooted in Kama-passion, but in Buddhi-compassion. There are two types of criticism: one is faultfinding; the other is perception of virtue in meritorious expressions as also the perception of virtue behind vice, demerit, and weakness. The deceit of the dice is Sri Krishna, and the power to perceive that comes from the second type of criticism. The first is criticism by words of Kama; the second is by words of understanding. The first is on the plane of words; the second on the plane of ideas. The first is of head learning; the second of soul-wisdom. The firstpraises or condemns the lower nature; the second imports into it the strength of the higher, causing readjustment. The first has behind it the superior spirit of teaching; the second the sublime spirit of learning and propagating that which is learnt.

Permalink Reply by Catherine Austin on January 26, 2015 at 10:05pm

Having the perception of virtue behind vice, demerit and weakness - what a fabulous ability to have. hard won, by much discipline.

Hi Gerry, long time passes between comments :-) Sometimes the bar seems very high... it is wonderful that we have lives in which to develop.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on January 27, 2015 at 11:17am

Yes Catherine, we all ought to be looking for the good in each other, the seed of virtue, the potential that lies above and sometimes just out or reach but yet present.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on February 4, 2015 at 10:34am

How different would be the world if even in some measure the power of this practice went into the doings of our civilization! Reviewers and critics would then not look for points to condemn, but for beauty, goodness, and worth in the books they review. In all affairs of thought, feeling, and action our tendency is to look for our thoughts repeated, our feelings reproduced, and our actions imitated. We regard ourselves as the model for all examination. We are the pattern whereby right and wrong is to be determined. Such an attitude is not blatantly expressed, but veils itself in a subtle form of humility, which is mock modesty.

Permalink Reply by Peter on February 5, 2015 at 7:08am

Gerry, would you mind giving us some examples of what you're thinking of here:

"In all affairs of thought, feeling, and action our tendency is to look for our thoughts repeated, our feelings reproduced, and our actions imitated. We regard ourselves as the model for all examination. We are the pattern whereby right and wrong is to be determined. Such an attitude is not blatantly expressed, but veils itself in a subtle form of humility, which is mock modesty."

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on February 5, 2015 at 4:32pm

Paul Simon wrote in his song The Boxer: " A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest."   A great example is American politics and Fox News in my opinion.  People will tune in and ignore all information other that what comes from this one source because they want to hear their opinions reflected back to them and do not want to hear contrary opinions.  I think it is a tendency of the lower mind to edit out what is "not-self" ( little s).  The Dalai Lama is famous for seeking out people who think differently than himself to try and expand his horizons.

Permalink Reply by barbaram on February 7, 2015 at 5:42pm

What is stated above is true, but there is a law operating, other than one's ego, that makes us like to hear an affirmation of our own opinions and beliefs, and this is the law of affinity.  We are drawn to people who have similar values and ideas and this tendency could make us shallow and narrow-minded.  Agreeably, it is good to reach out to those who think differently  but we should recognize the underlying forces as well.     

Permalink Reply by Peter on February 9, 2015 at 5:35am

Gerry and Barbara - good points.  I guess we all have that tendency to hear what we want to hear, just as Paul Simon writes (one of my old favourites).  I also like the way Anais Nin expresses it, namely, that we see things not as they are but as we are.

That said, isn't it natural for us to be drawn towards or to seek out those of a similar mind or nature. It's what we do as students of theosophy.  I imagine that critics of theosophy or of HPB may well perceive us as 'hearing what we want to hear while disregarding the rest.'  It's a criticism that can be levelled at just about any group, perhaps because its something that affects us all.

I would think that the law of affinity, that Barbara rightly refers to, operates at all levels of our nature - hence it has both positive and negative consequences.  We may be drawn towards what is beneficial as well what is detrimental to our well being.    Likewise, we may benefit a great deal from the support of a peer group while at the same time the collective views of the  group may limit, blinker us or simply prevent genuine and challenging enquiry/change.

Gerry raises a good point in an earlier message above about reviewers or critics so often condemning rather than looking for that which needs affirming. Such negativity is rather tiresome if not debilitating for all concerned (probably for the the critic too).  I also wonder if there is a danger of going too far the other way in our 'affirming', to the extent that we end up placating each other's egos, making sure that our egos aren't hurt or offended & so on. 

I suspect the reality is that we are just complex beings in a world of many levels, complex relationships, demands and duties, and that spiritual development is far more complex than it appears.  Perhaps we try too hard to simplify and generalise what we need to learn, the attitudes we should develop and the actions needed to tread the path.  While such simplifications can inspire us and even guide us at times, there is also the danger that the spiritual truths that we really need to question and fully explore get turned instead into slogans to repeat or just pin to the wall.

Permalink Reply by Margreet Buitenhuis on February 10, 2015 at 9:56am

Thank you all for sharing your insights, it for sure makes me look at my own affinities and my attachments to them, it is indeed very complex for we have set so many lives in motion in so many directions and the suggestions for overcoming all this are only signposts to be applied to the best of our ability, there is a saying "When we know better we do better."

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on February 11, 2015 at 5:06pm

Good point.  And the main idea is to try.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Alex Papandakis on February 15, 2015 at 1:03pm

I am not sure what this has to say about the Vow of Silence but I think the point Peter makes here is interesting.  We are indeed drawn to like minded people and this can be both good or bad it seems to me. Rather than thinking of gravitating to people who hold the same views we might also consider being drawn to people who are seeking and searching or to people who are comfortable in their positions and have no interest in changing.  The first leads to open-minded discussion, the second to the hearing our thoughts repeated back to us variety.

Permalink Reply by barbaram on February 15, 2015 at 6:23pm

And maybe, the focus is not on who we associate with, but on how we relate to others, whether with those who are like-minded or those with different opinions.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on February 15, 2015 at 10:31pm

And how we relate to each other is revealed by how we use speech.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on February 11, 2015 at 5:04pm

Next Paragraph

How different would be the world if even in some measure the power of this practice went into the doings of our civilization! Reviewers and critics would then not look for points to condemn, but for beauty, goodness, and worth in the books they review. In all affairs of thought, feeling, and action our tendency is to look for our thoughts repeated, our feelings reproduced, and our actions imitated. We regard ourselves as the model for all examination. We are the pattern whereby right and wrong is to be determined. Such an attitude is not blatantly expressed, but veils itself in a subtle form of humility, which is mock modesty.

Permalink Reply by Peter on February 12, 2015 at 3:05pm

Gerry, this is the same paragraph you posted on February 4th, only it looked like it was your own thoughts at that time, hence my question, "Gerry, would you mind giving us some examples of what you're thinking of here,' which you kindly answered.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on February 12, 2015 at 6:30pm

I was enjoying being mistaken for a B.P. Wadia for a while.  I thought I would bask in his glow a bit and see how it felt.  Now that the jig is up I am back to being ordinary old me.  But it was a fun ride.  It gave me a chance to enjoy the adulation and the humiliation all at the same time.  All joking aside I thought it was just a typo, so I figured it was an open question for anyone to answer.

I did not know how much of this article we were going to cover when we started.  So I grabbed that quote to start with.  Once things started going I could see it would be worthwhile to do the whole article.  There is only one paragraph left which I will post soon.

All the best to you and everyone else who have been commenting here.  Many thanks.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on February 13, 2015 at 10:30am

It is nice that you have come back down to earth with the rest of us mere mortals.  This has been a great discussion and an important one.  Our voice is an instrument that we can use to bless or curse not only other people but all the elementals that surround us.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on February 19, 2015 at 11:20pm

Last Paragraph

There are a hundred who plunge into the waters of the ocean for pleasure or profit to only one who dives for the pearl of great price. The latter does his work in the secrecy of silence. His art in the ocean is of a different kind from that of the ordinary swimmer. Those who are in search of the pearl of wisdom must acquire the strength of muscle, the control of breath, and the finesse of stroke necessary against the stormy billows of this ocean of Samsara. These lie securely hidden in the Power of Silence. They must invoke that power, not by a pledge to some other being, but by a vow silently sung and silently registered in the sanctuary of the Heart. Thus, the path begins in silence and secrecy and ends in the hearing and the chanting of the Soundless Sound.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on February 20, 2015 at 10:54pm

Why does the lower mind or kama-manas abhor silence?

Permalink Reply by Peter on February 21, 2015 at 12:29am

Does the lower mind or kama-manas actually abhor silence?  Perhaps some aspects do while other aspects don't? Would it help to say a bit more as to what is your line of thinking of here, Gerry?

At a more general level would we say that activity abhors rest or that sound abhors silence?

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on February 21, 2015 at 8:57am

"Why does the lower mind or kama-manas abhor silence?"

First, I believe one must figure out if anything, being a product of Nature, can possibly "abhor" something else, especially silence, which I would assume to be viewed as synonymous with space. 

One way I see this is that the mind- in all of its variations (high and low)- exists in the field of silence, just as all objects or musical notes exist, or, are rather presented in the field of space.  Perhaps, what Gerry is referring to is the personality which "abhors" the wide expanse of undefined, unbound, unconditioned, soundless, silence, thus doing everything in its power to organize, polarize, and crystallize emotions, beliefs, and differences to its very last moments of activity, as the ceasement of said activity may be akin to personal death in some respects.  But again, I wonder if "abhors" is the appropriate word to use; "to regard with extreme repugnance or aversion; detest utterly; loathe; abominate" seems quite harsh that you should think the mind would have this type of relationship with silence, as the mind, as far as I know, isn't able to develop aversion or attraction with out the help of the ego, or personality in which these influences originate.  Is the ego/personality limed to kama-manas only? I'm under impression that it is not. 

So perhaps the question is, why does the personality and ego develop and aversion to an undefined and unqualified state... Fear and fear alone would be my guess.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on February 21, 2015 at 10:59am

Maybe you are right.  Perhaps "abhor" is too strong a word, perhaps too dramatic.  My apologies.  How about "resists" maybe even "fears"?

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by barbaram on February 21, 2015 at 2:05pm

It may help if we understand the nature of kama-manas, which, I believe has a close connection with the senses.  The mind utilizes the five sense organs as its extension to learn about the outside world, and thus it is natural for it to turn outward.  The mind continually registers activities from the outside world and translating them into images, and this makes up our basic reality.  The personality also craves for sentiency, which strengthens the mind's outgoing tendency.  Until we attenuate kama and consciously reverse this process, it will be hard for the personality to appreciate the silence between the activities.     

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on March 5, 2015 at 11:38pm

How does one begin to reverse the polarity of craving for sensation? Is it suffering and pain or compassion and kindness that spur us on? Maybe both?

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on February 20, 2015 at 10:55pm

What is the relationship between the study of metaphysics and the appreciation of silence?

Permalink Reply by Peter on February 21, 2015 at 6:03am

Again..what lines are you thinking along here, Gerry. If you wouldn't mind sharing a little more as to what is behind your question it might help us (the reader) to explore along with you.  Thanks in advance.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on February 21, 2015 at 11:03am

It seems to me that there must be some connection or relationship between  developing a deeper metaphysical foundation in one's thinking, call it gaining strength in the power of abstraction AND the what you might call the poetic sense, or mystical/intuitional appreciation of silence which is so critical for meditation and turning inward.  I wanted to explore that relationship with this question.  Does that help?

Permalink Reply by Peter on February 22, 2015 at 12:39pm

Yes, that's a good question, Gerry.  I wonder if we can ever really have a feel for the 'metaphysical' if that poetic sense is missing?  Without the poetic sense, we may simply turn ourselves into clever logicians or magicians with words.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by an appreciation of silence?  Do you mean an appreciation of its deeper importance or by "appreciation' do you refer to a direct experience?  Perhaps you mean both, or more than both, or something other?

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on February 22, 2015 at 3:35pm

 Perhaps all of the above.  It seems that the deeper we get into the practice of meditation and contemplation the more we are "drawn" to the Silence, have a desire perhaps to bask in it.  What do others think?

Permalink Reply by Peter on February 22, 2015 at 4:45pm

That 'desire to bask in the Silence', Gerry. Indeed. I wonder if this relates to your earlier question, "Why does the lower mind or kama-manas abhor silence?"  For it seems that even the personal consciousness longs for something beyond itself, something that transcends its own limited vision and endless striving for a happiness which is always out of reach.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on February 26, 2015 at 6:04am

The basking in the Silence idea, which is very beautiful, reminds one of embrace of the Void which is a part of the Buddhist canon. The No-thing could be correlated with both Silence, the One, and Silence. The student empties one sense of self into That.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on March 5, 2015 at 11:42pm

There is the notion of the student trying to elevate his or her ethical sensitivity to the level of one metaphysical imagination.  The two must happen in tandem for real spiritual growth.  This seems to make sense to me.  One without the other leads to problems.

Permalink Reply by Samantha Province on February 22, 2015 at 3:54pm

I believe the earnest study of metaphysics should lead to a deep conviction of what is true and beautiful and a reordering of values. Aristotle pointed out that no one does evil for the sake of evil; rather everyone is seeking after a real or perceived good. When we develop real insight into the nature of things through philosophical study, we start to see that the fruitless activities that we thought were good do not have truth as their basis and that they benefit neither ourselves nor others. Thus a greater appreciation of silence is developed.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on February 26, 2015 at 6:00am

Good point Samantha.  Metaphysics gives us a rational basis for ethics because the theosophical system begins and ends with Unity, radical Unity.  No separateness is real merely illusory.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on March 5, 2015 at 11:43pm

But alas, how do we come to the problem of the armchair philosopher? All talk and no action.

Permalink Reply by Jeffrey Smart on March 7, 2015 at 5:35am

That's what we have the Nexus for, now we can put our thoughts into words and action :).

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on March 7, 2015 at 11:43am

Point well taken.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on March 7, 2015 at 5:06pm

From the Voice of the Silence

Learn that no efforts, not the smallest—whether in right or wrong direction—can vanish from the world of causes. E’en wasted smoke remains not traceless. ‘A harsh word uttered in past lives is not destroyed, but ever comes again.’ The pepper plant will not give birth to roses, nor the sweet jessamine’s silver star to thorn or thistle turn.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on March 8, 2015 at 2:08pm

This idea sure makes one want to pause before speaking.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on March 7, 2015 at 5:06pm

From the Gita

Gentle speech which causes no anxiety, which is truthful and friendly, and diligence in the reading of the Scriptures, and said to be austerities of speech.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on March 7, 2015 at 5:07pm

From Light on the Path

Speech comes only with knowledge. Attain to knowledge and you will attain to speech.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on March 8, 2015 at 2:09pm

What does this mean? I am not sure I understand this one from Light on the Path?  Can someone offer and explanation?