Most people are looking for happiness, or want to be happy. Those who are happy, they don’t need to look for happiness, or desire to be happy. When we think and feel we want to be happy, it’s because we are not happy. We are not happy is because we think we are not free. We think we are not free is because ignorance.
Under the influence of ignorance, we think happiness is coming from freedom of thinking, action and speech, and doing what we like to do, be who we want to be, achieve what we want to achieve, receive love and support from other people, be acknowledged and approved by other people, have good health, good livelihood and good living condition, and being with people whom we loved and who love us. But, all these qualities of names and forms will only give us momentary happy feelings that are impermanent. We fall into great misery and painful sorrow when impermanence strikes, when we lose all the good qualities that we think will make us happy, if we are determined by all these names and forms to be who we are, to be happy, or not. It’s not the unconditional happiness that is beyond all the qualities of names and forms, when the mind is free from ignorance and egoism.
When we seek happiness through certain qualities of names and forms that we like and desire, and we will feel happy when we get what we like and want, it doesn’t mean that we won’t experience unhappiness anymore, or we will be free from impurities of anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, dissatisfaction, disappointment, pride, arrogance, feelings of hurt, guilt, regret, fear and worry. By achieving happiness through doing and getting what we like and want doesn’t mean that our surrounding living environment will be free from names and forms that we don’t like and don’t want. And thus our minds are constantly restless being in a mixture state of happiness and unhappiness. There’s no permanent satisfaction. The craving for what we desire and the aversion towards what we don’t desire is what hinders the mind from realizing the unconditional happiness beyond qualities of names and forms.
If we know how to be free from the desire of craving and aversion towards happiness and unhappiness that comes from ignorance and egoism, we will be happy as we are. We do not rely on any qualities of names and forms to be happy, or not. Even when there is restriction or limitation of thinking, action and speech, and we are unable to do what we like to do, unable to be who we want to be and not achieving what we want to achieve, or, we are not receiving love and support from other people, unacknowledged and disapproved by other people, not having good health, good livelihood and good living condition, and not able to be with people whom we loved and who love us, we are still happy as we are. This happiness isn’t determined by or coming from any qualities of names and forms.
Ignorance is not knowing the truth of names and forms.
To free the mind from ignorance, we need to free the mind from impurities. To free the mind from impurities, we need to free the mind from egoism. To free the mind from egoism, we need to free the mind from ignorance, as egoism derives from ignorance. It is a loop that has no beginning or ending.
Due to ignorance and egoism, the ego attached towards the impermanent physical condition and ability, the impermanent states of the mind, likes and dislikes, agreements and disagreements based on certain conditional thinking and belief, knowledge, achievements, possessions, and all kinds of relationships, to be identifying as ‘I’. This ‘I’ is constantly disturbed by the craving and aversion towards all these impermanent qualities of names and forms, and being restless and experience suffering when the craving and aversion is not being gratified the way that it likes it to be. The ego is determined by the gratification of its craving and aversion to be happy, or not. There is no possibility for contentment and peace, due to the truth of impermanence in all the names and forms, as well as this ‘I’ is a false understanding and identification. This constant restlessness hinders the mind to be free from ignorance.
That’s why it’s not an easy task to be free. But, it’s possible if we know how to discipline and purify the mind by restricting the mind activities and quieting the mind by moving the mind away from worldly objects of names and forms, to breakdown this loop of ignorance. And hence, retreat for observing silence exists to help to discipline and purify the mind efficiently.
Retreat for the observation of silence is to disconnect with our worldly life connections, family and friends, social interactions, habits, personal or religious and cultural belief and practice. It doesn’t mean that we abandon our life, family and friends, and our personal or religious and cultural belief and practice, but, it’s to allow our minds to have the opportunity to be free from the contact with the objects of names and forms that are directly and indirectly related to restlessness, distractions, cares and anxieties, and allowing the mind to be opened for contemplation on the truth.
It’s normal that people have fear towards letting go certain religious or non-religious thinking and belief that influence the way of life and conduct, self-image and personal identity. There is fear of the unknown consequences of letting go those thinking and belief. There is fear of exile, criticism and condemn from the ‘group’ that we think we belong to. There is fear of being unaccepted by the society. There is fear of non-existence. The ignorant minds constantly seek recognition, agreement, approval, support and acknowledgement from the society to be who we think we are, or who we want to be. This is one of the obstacles that hinders the mind to see the truth of names and forms as it is.
Those who have gone beyond the idea of ‘I’, or the identification with qualities of names and forms to be identifying as ‘I’, they don’t even attach onto their devotion towards the teachings and practice of yoga to identify oneself as ‘yogi’, not to say to attach onto certain conditional worldly thinking and belief. Meanwhile other beings can have the freedom of thinking to refer or label them as ‘yogi’.
Many people who think they love yoga and practice yoga might think and believe that yoga is to connect with all and everything. We think we need to connect with other people or something that we think is not ‘I’, which are separated from ‘I’, is ignorance. Upon the realization of selflessness and non-separateness, there’s no connection with anything that is not ‘I’, as there’s no ‘I’ that generates separateness. Just like when people think they want to make connection with God, it’s because they think they are something separated from God. Oneness is beyond connection that consists of more than one party.
The essential yoga practice of silence, is to retreat and disconnect the mind from the society and all sorts of worldly life connections and social activities. Retreat from worldly life connections and social activities, and isolation from other people including family and friends, help tremendously to turn the mind inward for self-introspection and self-inquiry to see the truth of names and forms, to be free from ignorance, and thus be free from unhappiness and suffering.
Though freeing the mind from ignorance is the greatest contribution to the society and world peace, the practice of silence in solitude and seclusion might appear to be ‘selfishness’, ‘anti-social’ or ‘abnormal behavior’ by the worldly minded people who attached to worldly life conditioned by certain thinking and beliefs about how human beings should and shouldn’t behave. Most minds would want to runaway after a few days of observing the practice of silence in solitude and seclusion, not to say to be completely cut off from the social world for many years.
In the tradition of yoga, to be isolated from the society and be in seclusion for a long period of time for at least five to six years is a very important observation. One should learn how to be happy and comfortable with oneself in solitude, being isolated from all other beings, before one mixes into the society, or gets involve in any kind of relationships with anyone, without expecting someone or something that is not ‘I’ to make us happy, or give us happiness. Or else we generate so much tension and unhappiness in ourselves and those whom we want to love and be loved.
When one is free from ignorance and egoism, one doesn’t need to be loved, be supported, be acknowledged, be approved, or be connected, to feel meaningful or be happy. One will be free whether being in a relationship, or not. There’s no loneliness. When one knows how to be happy as one is, the society will be benefited tremendously by the existence of this being, without any intention from this being to benefit anyone or anything.
But, many yoga practitioners nowadays who attached strongly to their worldly social life don’t just not interested in observing this traditional practice, but they condemn this practice. And that is their freedom of thinking, action and speech.