The practice of silence to conquer the restless mind

This teaching is for those who want to conquer the restless mind, but they realize that the mind is so difficult to quiet down, that there will be ceaseless distracting random thoughts occupying the mind, especially whenever they try to sit down quietly limiting the physical movements and refraining the senses from going out chasing after the object of the senses, to train the mind in concentration and meditation.

It’s a common reaction of all the untrained impure minds when the physical body is being restricted from bodily movements and the mental habitual activities is being restricted, there will be random thoughts bubbling up to the surface of the mind. It’s part of the purification process. People should continue the practice by learning how to be aware of all these random thoughts without association, attachment, identification, craving or aversion, judgment and expectation, and allowing all these random pleasant and unpleasant thoughts arising and passing away, to clear up the past accumulated imprints. People expect that when they meditate, the mind will be free from any thoughts, and so, they’ll get very disappointed and demotivated after a few attempts trying to concentrate or meditate, they realize that the modification of the mind is even more agitated and violent whenever they try to concentrate or meditate. And without correct understanding, many people would give up and prefer to just live everyday life as they are, ‘happy happy go lucky’, be good, do good, without the need to deal with the unpleasant behavior of the mind that they don’t like to confront with. And that’s their freedom.

The biggest element in aid to conquer the restless mind is the observation of silence, of seclusion, solitude and renunciation from worldly social relationships, activities and interactions.

Some people think that those who want to conquer the mind should take up the challenge of living and mixing among the society, in order to allow the mind to practice concentration and meditation in everyday life having to deal with all kinds of challenging condition and situation, distractions and disturbance, while learning how to remain equanimous without being affected or determined by all the challenging condition and situation in life, without generating craving towards the pleasant life experiences and without generating aversion towards the unpleasant life experiences. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But what happens? After many years of ‘trying’ to practice yoga and meditation to conquer the restless mind, but the mind is still restless, or even more restless under the influence of ignorance and impurities.

Some even say that it’s very easy to be calm and quiet being in solitude and seclusion without dealing with other beings and worldly affairs. They think that one doesn’t need to deal with pleasantness and unpleasantness, craving and aversion, distractions and disturbance, actions and reactions, when being in solitude and seclusion. What they don’t know is that most minds will runaway from solitude and seclusion after some time, like fish out of water, and the modification of the mind is even more agitated and violent being restricted from worldly social relationships, activities and interactions that keep the mind stimulated, entertained, busy, or restless. That’s why so many people will say that meditation is very difficult, or they can’t meditate, or they don’t like meditation, or they don’t like to observe silence, of solitude and seclusion.

Whether one is surrounded by many other beings and happenings, or one is alone in solitude away from happenings, this mind has to deal with the impermanent and selfless changes of the physical body and the ignorant impure egoistic modification of the mind. Whether the mind is free, or not free, it’s always right here and right now. When the mind practices concentration and meditation, it’s always alone, regardless of whether there are other people around, or not.

Do not blind-believing or blind-following any teachings from anyone or somewhere, including all the teachings here. Contemplate and inquire the truth of all teachings and attain self-realization of the truth of all the teachings via direct experience.

Take note that living in the world and mixing in the society are two completely different things. Geographically and biologically, one will have to and always be living in the world, otherwise, this body will not be able to survive for long, but at the same time, know the importance of observing silence, of maximum solitude and seclusion, renouncing worldly social relationships, activities and interactions, in short, refraining from mixing in the society.

While living in the world, one will still have to deal with the impermanent and selfless condition and situation in the world that is ever challenging, and developing the strength of non-association, non-attachment, non-identification, non-craving, non-aversion, non-judgment and non-expectation, and one learns how to conserve energy and not wasting energy into worldly affairs/activities/interactions that derived from ignorance and egoism, as well as empowering/feeding ignorance and egoism.

Observing maximum solitude and seclusion while living in the world, and renouncing worldly social relationships, activities and interactions doesn’t mean that one is completely isolated from the society and not performing any actions in the world. One can be performing unlimited selfless service in the world to benefit the society efficiently, but being free from mixing, or socializing, or accumulating relationships. One is care-less towards the worldly affairs, but can also be performing actions that benefit the world at the same time. Being compassionate towards all beings doesn’t mean that one has to be in a form of relationship with all beings. One can be kind to others without the need of knowing or contacting with the others. Contemplate on this, and be free to observe silence while living in the world and performing actions in the world.

For the ‘first class’ students of Dhamma, which are very few of them in this world, they don’t need to observe silence, of solitude, seclusion and renunciation from worldly social relationships, activities and interactions, as they are already grounded firmly in Dhamma. They can be mixing in the society like everyone else, behaving like everyone else, but their minds are ever pure and quiet. They don’t need to practice concentration or meditation at all. They are not separated from meditation. There’s no in or out of meditation.

For the other students of Dhamma, which is the majority of us, we do need to observe silence at some stage, of maximum solitude and seclusion, and renounce worldly social relationships, activities and interactions, as whether we are aware or unaware, the mind is constantly absorbing all the inputs of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations and thoughts/imagination/projection/dreams, all the time, unwittingly. All these endless accumulated inputs are the ceaseless random thoughts that bubbling up to the surface of the mind during the practice of concentration and meditation, and many minds that haven’t develop a strong foundation of non-association, non-attachment, non-identification, non-craving, non-aversion, non-judgment and non-expectation will be greatly disturbed, distracted and demotivated by this purification process. And this will never come to an end, unless we start reducing and limiting all these unnecessary mind inputs deriving from all kinds of worldly relationships, activities and interactions.

It’s like someone tries very hard to clean up the rubbish bin, but somehow, rubbish keep pouring into the bin, from someone and somewhere, endlessly. The bin will never be cleaned. The untrained impure egoistic mind is like a rubbish bin, taking in all kinds of rubbish (mind inputs) ceaselessly, unwittingly. And yoga and meditation practice of silence, solitude, seclusion and renunciation, is the most effective and practical way to free the mind from being a rubbish bin, and it’s not about to be a clean rubbish bin, but to realize its nature of namelessness, formlessness and attributelessness, that it is neither a dirty rubbish bin nor a clean rubbish bin.

Perform this test to know how the mind works. Sit down without moving the body and limbs, closing the eyes, and observe the natural breath coming in and going out for a few minutes. Very soon, unwittingly, random thoughts will arise and occupying the mind. And one will realize that all these random bubbling thoughts are the strongest imprints during the day, or from the last few days, or even from weeks/months/years before, or even forgotten.

Even Siddhartha Gautama Buddha and Swami Sivananda also had to retreat from the society to be focusing on their practice for some years in solitude, restraining the modification of the mind and attaining liberation. And then they came back to the society to disseminate the Dhamma to the other suffering minds whom in need of the Dhamma to be free from suffering.

By reducing and limiting the mind inputs not just allowing the mind to be purified effectively, but it also helps to develop a great mental strength that allows the mind to be uninfluenced, unaffected, undisturbed and undetermined by all the names and forms that the mind perceives through the senses. At this stage, the mind is safe and free to be mixing in the society and live everyday life like everyone else, but the mind is ever pure and quiet.

It’s everyone’s freedom for what they want to think and believe, and what they want or don’t want to practice.

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Self-transformation

Self-transformation in the world is about changing the ‘qualities’ of the body and mind (what the mind identifies as ‘I’) from what the worldly thinking and belief categorize as bad, wrong and negative into what the worldly thinking and belief categorize as good, right and positive, in order to enhance one’s self-esteem, self-image, attractiveness, confidence, productivity, knowledge, skill, ability, physical and mental performance, social networking, or success in career, life and relationships, to attain what most people’s thinking and belief categorize as ‘good’, ‘easy’, ‘comfortable’, ‘enjoyable’, ‘successful’, ‘prosperous’, ‘happy’ and ‘meaningful’ life.

Self-transformation in the teachings of yoga is about reforming the thinking pattern of the mind to free the mind from being conditioned by the worldly egoistic thinking and belief that influences how the mind thinks, acts and reacts towards all the mind perception of names and forms, to free the mind from ignorance, egoism, restlessness and impurities, to be free from suffering that exists due to ignorance. Being free from attachment towards qualities of names and forms and being free from identification with the impermanent selfless existence and function of the body and mind as ‘I’, realizing selflessness or ‘I’-lessness, unlimited by any qualities of names and forms.

If the mind is surrounded by the company of the worldly minded and constantly receiving all kinds of worldly input and influence of worldly ideas, thinking and belief, and being influence by all the ceaseless trends in the world to make decisions and live life, then it’s very difficult for the mind to practice yoga of the annihilation of ignorance and egoism (even if the mind likes to perform some forms of yoga practice), as the mind will disagree with many of the teachings of yoga that are contradicted with the worldly thinking and belief, and unable to be opened to inquire the truth of something that is unknown to the mind or something that is disagreeable to the mind that is under the influence of the worldly thinking and belief to analyze and judge what is agreeable and disagreeable.

And hence the importance of retreating or moving the mind away from the worldly way of life, behavior, habits, thinking and belief, to renounce worldly inputs and influences, relationships, interactions and activities, to allow the mind to see things beyond the limited worldly thinking and belief that influences the mind to judge everything, act and react, that empowers ignorance, egoism, impurities and restlessness.

Does the mind still think that ‘this’ is something ‘good’, and everyone should do ‘this’, and ‘that’ is something ‘bad’, and everyone shouldn’t do ‘that’? Does the mind still think that “To live a good and meaningful life, I need to be like this and not like that. Other people also need to be like this and not like that to live a good and meaningful life?” Does the mind still amazed by and admire towards someone or something that the mind perceives as amazing, wonderful and meaningful, that the mind would like to be like that someone and to have/experience that something? Does the mind still want to be able to inspire or amaze other people? If the answer is ‘yes’, then this mind is not free, even though this mind only wants to perform ‘good’ actions and doesn’t want to perform ‘bad’ actions, and living everyday life being in certain ways and not being in certain ways, according to what the mind thinks and believes as ‘good and bad’ or ‘meaningfulness and meaninglessness’ based on the worldly thinking and belief about what is ‘good and bad’ or ‘meaningfulness and meaninglessness’.

It’s everyone’s freedom for what they want to do with their life, body and mind, and whether to practice yoga to free the mind from ignorance, or not.

Wise vs intelligent

The minds that are intelligent, upon coming in contact with something, will analyze it based on the accumulated knowledge under the influence of a particular thinking and belief to apply judgment of right or wrong/true or untrue/good or bad/positive or negative, and followed by asserting agreement (towards what is corroborating with the thinking and belief) and disagreement (towards what is contradicting with the thinking and belief), and generating liking, admiration and support towards the agreeable, while generating disliking, disgust and oppose towards the disagreeable. Being attached onto and identifying with the accumulated knowledge or what the mind thinks it knows (even though there are many things are unknown to the mind), the mind doesn’t bother to inquire the truth of something agreeable or disagreeable, that either corroborates or contradicts with the accumulated knowledge under the influence of a particular thinking and belief in the mind.

The minds that are wise, upon coming in contact with something, will be aware of or seeing the thing as it is, without generating liking, admiration and support or disliking, disgust and oppose, being free from agreement and disagreement based on judgment deriving from analysis that is limited by the accumulated knowledge under the influence of a particular thinking and belief. Via insight that is free from attachment or identification towards the accumulated knowledge under the influence of any thinking and belief, the mind is opened to inquire the truth of everything, including what it knows and doesn’t know, whether it is something corroborating or contradicting with the accumulated knowledge under the influence of a particular thinking and belief in the mind.

Being intelligent doesn’t guarantee that the mind is free from ignorance, egoism and impurities, or is free from disturb, restlessness and suffering.

Being wise allows the mind to be free from disturb, restlessness and suffering.

What the mind agrees with or disagrees with, is not necessary the truth or not the truth.

Yoga and meditation practice serves the purpose to transform the egoistic intellectual thinking into selfless intuitive insight, provided if yoga and meditation practice is being performed with the correct understanding and attitude. Otherwise, even after many years of yoga and meditation practice also doesn’t lead the mind into silence or towards liberation from ignorance and suffering, but instead empowering restlessness, egoism and ignorance.

Knowledge, talents and skills

Having some knowledge, talents and skills is very useful and helpful for people to be doing something in life. But it’s okay and one doesn’t need to feel bad about oneself, if one thinks oneself doesn’t have much knowledge, talents or skills to be doing something in life.

As by having knowledge, talents and skills also doesn’t guarantee that the mind is free from ignorance and suffering, or is peaceful and be able to forgive and let go something that the mind perceives as ‘wrong’, ‘bad’, or ‘hurtful’. The mind might still be disturbed or determined by all the qualities of names and forms that are impermanent and selfless. Some people even use the knowledge, talents and skills that they have to be doing something that cause damages or harmful effects in the world.

Regardless of whether one is knowledgeable, talented and skillful to be doing something constructive/destructive in life, or not, it’s about whether the mind is or isn’t free from ignorance and egoism, that determines whether the mind will be disturbed or undisturbed by all the mind perceptions of names and forms, and whether the mind will have peace, being free from impurities, restlessness and suffering, or not.

People might have the knowledge, talent, skill or money to build the most beautiful functional house to live in, and people might attain some momentary satisfaction and happy feelings for being able to build a beautiful functional house to live in, but it doesn’t guarantee that the people who build the house and those who live in the house are all free from ignorance, egoism, impurities, restlessness and suffering, or won’t be disturbed by all the perceptions of names and forms, and are peaceful and compassionate and be able to forgive and let go something that the mind perceives as ‘wrong’, ‘bad’ and ‘hurtful’.

Make good use of the knowledge, talents and skills that one have to be doing something constructive in life, if possible, but without attachment and identification towards the knowledge, talents and skills as ‘who I am’, without pride or the sense of superiority, and without being determined by one’s action and the fruit of one’s action coming from the knowledge, talents and skills that one have, to feel meaningful and happy, or not.

Teaching yoga to others and performing one’s self-practice

Yoga teachers who teach yoga to other people must not neglect one’s self-practice.

Usually, one needs to perform one’s practice to attain self-realization, being free from ignorance, egoism, impurities, restlessness and suffering, then naturally, one can disseminate the teachings to others and guide others to perform the practice, which is nothing to do with attending yoga teachers training courses to learn how to teach yoga to other people or attaining yoga teachers training certification to qualify one to teach yoga to other people. And most people who have attended yoga teachers training courses and are teaching yoga classes to other people are not necessarily be free from ignorance, egoism, impurities, restlessness and suffering. As those who are free from ignorance, egoism, impurities, restlessness and suffering, they don’t need to attend ‘yoga teachers training courses’ to learn how to teach yoga, to attain some ‘internationally recognized certificates’ to conduct ‘yoga classes’ for them to disseminate yoga to other beings. And hence, even though one is teaching yoga classes because one has learned some knowledge on the yoga practice and possesses teacher training certification to teach yoga classes, one must take importance in one’s practice, to look after one’s mind, and be persevered and determined to silent the mind, to free the mind from ignorance, egoism, impurities, restlessness and suffering.

Quite many people who teach yoga classes think that they don’t really need to perform their own practice, as they think they have been performing the yoga practice while teaching the many yoga classes for many times/hours everyday. Or, their body and mind are already too exhausted from teaching many classes everyday as well as engaging in many daily worldly activities or social interactions. Yoga teachers need to know how to conserve energy to focus on one’s practice.

When the yoga teachers demonstrating the yoga practice while teaching classes, it’s not the same as performing one’s practice in silence.

When teaching classes, the teachers turning the mind outward paying attention onto teaching others by talking and giving instructions while demonstrating the yoga practice and disseminating the teachings, and are observing or supervising the yoga students’ practice and ‘assessing their performance’. But, yoga practice is nothing to do with ‘good/bad performance’ at all.

During self-practice in silence, the body and mind retreat from worldly affairs, activities and interactions, one is fully immersed and relaxed into the yoga practice and paying full attention onto one’s practice by turning the mind inward, withdrawing the senses from the sense objects, which is what yoga practice is about.

It’s the same for the yoga students. After attending yoga classes following the instructions of the yoga teachers to learn about the yoga teachings and how to perform the yoga practice for some time, one must also develop one’s self-practice in silence, turning the mind inward while immersing and relaxing into the yoga practice, withdrawing the senses from the sense objects, without listening to instructions or looking at the yoga teacher demonstrating the yoga practice, without talking, discussion, debate or asking questions, without judgment or assessment towards the practice, not to say, it’s needless to be assessed by other people towards one’s performance about ‘whether I am good or not good’. Completely unattached towards one’s actions and practice or the result/fruit of actions and practice, just doing one’s best and allowing the result/fruit of actions and practice to be there as it is, which is what yoga practice is about.