Saturday, 10 February 2018

The silent retreat

Four monks decided to meditate silently without speaking for two weeks. They began with enthusiasm and no one said a word the whole day.

By nightfall of the first day, the candle began to flicker and then went out. The first monk blurted out, "Oh, no! The candle is out." The second monk said, "Hey! We are not supposed to speak!" The third monk said in an irritated voice, "What is this? Why did you two break the silence?" The fourth monk smiled and said, "Wow! I'm the only one who hasn't spoken."

Reflection:
Each monk broke the silence for a different reason, each of which is a common stumbling block in our inner journey. The first monk got distracted by one aspect of his experience (the candle) and forgot what was more important - the practice of witnessing without reacting. The second monk was more worried about others following the rules than in actually practicing himself. The third monk let his anger towards the first two monks affect him. And the fourth monk lost his way because of pride. 

Why did the fourth monk speak at all? He could have simply maintained his silence and he would have been successful in his endeavor. But if he had, chances are, the other three might have continued to argue and not even noticed his silence. Some people are like this. Their motto is "If I'm doing something good, but no one notices, I might as well not be doing it at all." They believe that the reward is not in the effort, but in the recognition.

There is a beautiful quote, "It is the prudence​ of knowledge to speak; it is the privilege of wisdom to listen." As we learn to truly listen, witness and observe without impulsively reacting with distraction, judgement, anger and pride, then we understand the true meaning of silence. 

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