Ajahn Brahm's Retreat Discussion about how to quite the mind
Understanding what I mean by silence.
So as I am speaking, some of you
have heard this before but please
don’t interrupt and spoil it for other people
because as I’m speaking I’m going to
ask you also not just to listen to what I’m saying
but to listen to the reaction in your mind
what’s happening inside of you
as I’m speaking because
as I’m talking you will begin
In those spaces
what was going on
in your mind?
there it was again, you were silent.
You were aware
without a thought going on in your head.
That’s why it’s a very skillful reflective trick.
Now is the first time many people have realised,
oh, I can be silent.
There it is again.
And somehow or other
you know there is so much freedom and meaning
to be found in that silence.
So by giving you a taste of that silence
now you understand its value.
Now you have to increase
its length of time.
So you are more and more and more
It’s lovely isn’t it?
So once you start to value the silence
and take the value off the thinking
you find that there’ll be many many
more moments of silence
throughout your day.
Silence will grow on you, literally.
Until you-know, you only think when you really have to
and when you don’t, you won’t.
The related technique which helps
you remain silent
is actually doing what we call little mantras.
A mantra is a group of words you
say to yourself over and over and over.
It’s what the Buddha said in the Sabbasava Sutta [?]
of like substitution, substituting one thing for another
So the thinking goes on and on and on,
so you want to substitute a thought,
yes this is a thought, a mantra,
which you say to yourself but a very simple thought.
Instead of having the thoughts go all over the place
take one set of words, a mantra,
a thought, and keep repeating it again and again and again
because it blocks out the other thoughts.
Now many of the mantras which I heard
as a young monk, yeah they didn’t really work
and one of the reasons why they didn’t work was
because of the way it was used.
It’s not just repeating the mantra over and over and over again.
It’s important if you’re using mantras to make the mind silent,
to put spaces between the words.
Now there are many many different mantras
and I’ll just mention the one I was talking
about last time I was overseas,
the old Tibetan mantra,
the old “om mani padmi hum” mantra
which I thought was the most famous, I knew that as a kid.
So you can use that if you like.
If you’re a die-hard Theravada you can use sort-of the
“Namo Buddhaya”, that’s the Indonesian greeting.
Na-mo Budd-haya. That means homage to the Buddha.
Or, I don’t know, you can make up your own mantras
if you like, but the important thing, that’s just the Theravadan,
Namo Buddhaya say, if you’re doing
mantra remember to put spaces between the syllables.
If it’s om mani padmi hum – om
because the spaces are more important than the words.
If you’re very restless, and thinking alot,
lots of things worrying about, close up those spaces,
But as you settle down, increase the spaces.
And the more you quieten down,
the more you lengthen the spaces between those words.
Until those spaces get so long
you don’t need to say the words anymore.
It’s a way of learning how to be silent inside.
How to stop this terrible thinking mind.
And if you ever get upset, angry, anxious or whatever
you’ll always find that there are so many thoughts
going on in your head and it’s great to find this
circuit-breaker, this switch, you can just switch to
try and stop all these crazy thoughts, and that’s
one thing you can do. Get your mantra, if you’re getting
really crazy – om mani padmi hum, om mani padmi hum, om mani padmi hum,
om mani padmi hum, om mani padmi hum, om mani padmi hum,
It’s like going down the gears in a car
whose breaks have failed. It works.
So – that’s how you can learn
how to be quieter by using that little technique.
You can make up your own mantra, most important
part is putting spaces between the words.
And getting to know that silence,
getting to respect it, getting to value it,
and after you value it, it grows.
Now there’s also the problem which I mentioned last night
in brief which is an important part of meditation
it’s an important part of the spiritual path – fear.
You know it’s amazing how many people are afraid of silence.
When we first came over here to this part of the bush
we had this beautiful land opposite where our monastery now stands,
it’s very quiet.
And sometimes we had visitors coming in
and as soon as they came in they raised their voice.
They spoke louder than necessary
and I’ve seen that many times in quiet parts of the world
people actually raise their voice or are almost shouting.
And I was really wondering – what is the psychological
they don’t need to speak so loud.
And after a little consideration you realise that
the silence was so threatening to them, they needed to destroy it
with loud talking, more than is necessary.
Because silence is a bit scary if you’re not used to it.
So to understand how to overcome the
different fears which happen in meditation
I say in every level, every stage of meditation,
I describe there are three levels
and this is a wonderful little insight in