Stillness and purpose of life

Last Updated : 19 January 2023, 23:23 IST

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As a first semester law student in the early 2000s, I wasn’t very happy. Our training berated the quality of silence, focusing instead on eloquence, articulation and frequent verbal participation. At 18, I was hardly an expert on anything. I was a learner (just as I am now), constantly reading, listening and trying to understand the world around me. Formulating decided views on momentous issues and articulating them with confidence was beyond my ken. Therefore, I mostly listened quietly, hoping to find truth in stillness.

It was during that time I wrote one of my earliest poems The Death of Silence, which later became a part of an anthology. In the verse, I personified silence as a female mendicant swathed in white robes:
“...Defying incessant chatter / The ascetic’s lips remained sealed / Convinced, words are violators / Assaulting inner peace / Speech – a trespasser / On the waves of personal poetry /Flowing through the clandestine depths of being.”

When I later heard of Vipassana, the Buddhist practice of silence, much of my early beliefs were validated. At the end of 10 days (or several sessions), one realises that everything is ultimate truth, and that “reality” is only a sum total of the stories and context our mind creates. The ego prompts the mind to create an identity based on belief systems, personal preferences and interpretations.

Through silence, we learn that though pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. The practice of Vipassana teaches detachment from physical and emotional pain. Most of the time, it isn’t the pain itself that causes misery, but our involvement with it. A peek into one’s own misery is the actual cause of trauma. Eckhart Tolle’s Stillness Speaks is a treatise on stillness rather than silence. According to Tolle, peace can be found even in the midst of noise if one learns to pay attention to the hush beneath the noise. Nature – a rock, a flower, or a blade of grass – doesn’t scrutinise or judge itself. Nature just is; and therefore, it is serene.

We humans too can cultivate this quality of stillness within ourselves by being amid nature and aligning ourselves to its tranquillity. Also, when we learn to notice the gap between two things –one note of music and another--we learn to instil the quality of stillness in ourselves.

This gap is perhaps where we eventually find our “Ikigai” or “purpose in life.”

Published 19 January 2023, 17:17 IST

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