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The Master of Silence

March 14, 2010

Hundreds of people were gathered in an immense meeting hall to hear the words of a famous master who was going to speak about the crucial importance of stillness and silence in the process of awakening.

As so often happens in such a large group, some people were sitting quietly while others were conversing with their neighbors. A few minutes before the talk was to begin, one of those who had been sitting quietly, albeit not very peacefully since his mind was filled with judgments about people speaking “unnecessarily,” thought it best to attempt to quiet the crowd. So he turned to the people sitting near him and told them to please quiet down so that there would be silence in the hall when the master entered. He also told them to pass the message on to those sitting near them.

Within seconds the hall was louder than ever, abuzz with people telling one another to quiet down. At the height of all this commotion The Master of Silence got up from a chair at the very back of the meeting hall, where, unbeknownst to most of the people in the hall, she had been sitting quietly having a conversation with a man sitting next to her, and walked slowly and mostly invisibly to the podium. Busy as most people were with quieting one another, only a few people in the audience noticed, including the moderator of the meeting, who stood up when he saw her coming up the aisle, picked up the microphone, cleared his throat several times, and, asked everyone for silence.

As soon as the room became quiet, the moderator introduced the master, speaking glowingly about her background and many achievements in the spiritual realm. After the introduction, the master, smiling profusely, thanked the moderator for his “splendid introduction.” She then sat in silence for long while.

Finally, looking back and forth at the many expectant faces in front of her, she said, “You know, I was having a wonderful conversation with a man sitting next to me in the back of the room about one of the main obstacles to awakening before you all started telling everyone to quiet down. Would any of you be interesting in knowing which obstacle we were talking about?”

“Yes, yes, yes,” came eager voices from all over the hall.

“We were talking about the belief in our own assumptions, especially the belief that we know what is best in every situation,” the master replied. “Apparently, someone here, assuming that he or she knew what was best for us, played upon your suggestibility and created a chain reaction of unnecessary noise, making it virtually impossible to continue our conversation. Frankly, this showed me that you are probably not yet ready for a real exchange on the importance of stillness and silence in the process of awakening.

I will leave you, however, with one thought: the stillness and silence I was going to discuss here have nothing to do with remaining externally still and silent, although that can often be helpful. Real stillness and silence come from within, from seeing and letting go of all assumptions and expectations and becoming interested is learning and experiencing the truth of the situation in which you find yourself.”

She then got up from her chair on the podium and left the hall. After several minutes, during which no one moved or spoke, people slowly began turning toward one another and discussing silence in real earnest.

Story Copyright 2009-2010 by Dennis Lewis

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