Author Topic: Learning to Be Silent  (Read 13904 times)

Jessie Fong

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Learning to Be Silent
« on: July 21, 2012, 11:53:24 AM »
I chanced upon the following Zen story and wondered,if this was akin to a silent retreat, the action of one person triggered off the rest to break their silence.  Kind of domino effect.

Is this a case of not practising awareness?
Where is the group support of helping each other to observe the seven days of silence?
If you were part of such a group, how would you help the others to complete their promise?


Learning to Be Silent

The pupils of the Tendai school used to study meditation before Zen entered Japan. Four of them who were intimate friends promised one another to observe seven days of silence.

On the first day all were silent. Their meditation had begun auspiciously, but when night came and the oil lamps were growing dim one of the pupils could not help exclaiming to a servant: "Fix those lamps."

The second pupils was surprised to hear the first one talk. "We are not supposed to say a word," he remarked.

"You two are stupid. Why did you talk?" asked the third.

"I am the only one who has not talked," concluded the fourth pupil.

bambi

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Re: Learning to Be Silent
« Reply #1 on: July 21, 2012, 12:53:13 PM »
LOL. What a funny story!

Yes, its is definitely practicing mindfulness. How mindful we are with everything around us show us the results of learning and practicing it. For example, practicing not getting angry. I remind myself every time before I open my mouth and say something hurtful and unkind.

They can probably write some notice, paste it around them to remind them if they find it hard. I will use papers, pen, boards and chalks that will definitely help communicate should there be a need to do say something urgent. Before going into retreat, maybe they can have some sort of agreement, eg if someone break the retreat, they have to do multiply and do more or something that will cause them to be reminded.

biggyboy

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Re: Learning to Be Silent
« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2012, 06:12:01 PM »
Hahaha...this reminds me of a camp that I have participated many years ago where 20 participants in all were told not to talk or to break our silence when we were together or in a same room.  Well, at that point of time we do not understand why the Teacher instructed us to do just that when our session ended the first night.  Moreover, 20 of us were all assigned to one big room to rest and sleep!  Well, many of us broke our silence cause when one started it all starts to comment!  This shows how our mind works out of habituation and not discipline enough to do just what our Teacher has instructed! 

To be in such a group support is important.  It is important to have one or few stronger mind member in the group to set example for all to follow.  Alternatively, all could start off to remind each other of not to break silence by carrying a board with them for communication purpose as what was suggested by bambi.


Galen

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Re: Learning to Be Silent
« Reply #3 on: July 21, 2012, 06:37:38 PM »
Surely these 4 people are not aware of what they have started on i.e. silent days. If they are committed, then they should be aware and conscious of their actions. Maybe their habit has been so ingrained in them that they do it automatically and could not control themselves.

They group should help each other by either tapping one each other or putting up signs on the wall to remind each other. If someone breaks their silence, instead of commenting on it, they should just tap and make hand gestures to the person so that they themselves do not break their promise.

I think this story which is light to read but it does impact the reader to be more aware of their actions. Thank you for sharing.

ratanasutra

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Re: Learning to Be Silent
« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2012, 03:36:13 PM »
hehehe... I think this story is reflect our mind that apart from not mind fullness, still have ego want to be right by breaking the agreement to blame other in order to let everyone know that i am the best, how silly is it..

The group support is very importance for all type of practice, if the person is breaking the rule of that particular practice and we know about it but ignore and not mention it, it is same as we support and encourage them to break the rule which cause the damage as the result.




DS Star

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Re: Learning to Be Silent
« Reply #5 on: July 22, 2012, 03:58:07 PM »
This story is really funny yet it is very real...

In our daily lives, we will notice other people's mistakes but not aware of our own mistakes... Our awareness is very much influenced by own ego as well... we are not forgiving when same mistake done by others but when we are the one who did it, we will give ourselves excuses, 'reasons'...

Awareness is actually a reflection of our own mind...

You are awareness. Awareness is another name for you. Since you are awareness there is no need to attain or cultivate it. All that you have to do is to give up being aware of other things, that is of the not-Self. If one gives up being aware of them then pure awareness alone remains, and that is the Self. - Ramana Maharshi

Poonlarp

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Re: Learning to Be Silent
« Reply #6 on: July 22, 2012, 04:25:38 PM »
Thanks Jessie Fong for sharing the story.

We should always check our motivation for every word we speak. Buddhism is not just about praying and following all the stated rules; it's how about how much you apply compassion and wisdom to our life.

When there's necessary to speak, when our words might save or help somebody, we should always speak for the sake of benefiting another beings. If we speak to put down other people, to protect ourselves so we don't get into trouble; then we better be silent.

I think the 4th pupil almost can make it, but to let others know that he is the one who is better, this has already brought him down to the lowest spiritual level among all the pupils.

Midakpa

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Re: Learning to Be Silent
« Reply #7 on: July 22, 2012, 04:33:38 PM »
The aim of embarking on a silent retreat is to curb idle chatter or what is referred to sometimes as "unprofitable talk". Idle talk prevents one from being mindful.   

There is a list of idle talk in the Digha Nikaya, iii, 36-7. It is the story of the Band of Six who had the habit of rising up in the night before dawn and donning wooden slippers, parade up and down in the open air, chattering in shrill loud tones, hawking and spitting, and talking all manner of idle babble, such as: talk about kings and robbers and ministers of state; talk about armies and of fear, tales of fights; talk about food, drink, clothes, beds, lodgings, flower-garlands, scents, kinsfolk, and carriages; about villages, suburbs, towns, provinces, women, and soldiers; gossip of the streets and wells, and tales of ghosts; all sorts of talk; about the world and the Ocean; of things existent and non-existent. And while so doing they trampled to death all sorts of insects. Moreover, they distracted the brethren from their meditation.

(N.B. The Band of Six were later expelled from the Order)

The antidote to idle chatter is of course "right talk" or the Aryan Speech. The Aryan is "a wise man, fain of speech, He knows the proper time, and speech concerned with righteousness and practice of right talk."
(Anguttara Nikaya, i, 199)

To counter idle chatter, one can go on a silent retreat, or better still, practice "the Aryan Silence". The Aryan silence is a method to suppress discursive thought. It is "a state of internal calm of heart, concentrated on its object, born of mental balance, a state of zest and ease".

dondrup

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Re: Learning to Be Silent
« Reply #8 on: July 22, 2012, 05:01:44 PM »
These four students have broken the fundamental rule of observing silence i.e. not to speak!  These students are also not maintaining their mindfulness and concentration of their minds.  The first student was distracted by the broken lamp whereas the other three were completely not mindful of their reactions.  If I was part of this group, I will make sure I do not talk at all during the 7-day retreat no matter what happens.  I will wear a big tag on my shirt to inform and remind others that I am in silent-retreat and request others to abide by all the agreed boundaries and rules.  Others must not to speak to us during our retreat. There are exceptions to the rule when the situations demand us to speak up.

jessicajameson

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Re: Learning to Be Silent
« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2012, 07:20:04 PM »
Learning to Be Silent

On the first day all were silent. Their meditation had begun auspiciously, but when night came and the oil lamps were growing dim one of the pupils could not help exclaiming to a servant: "Fix those lamps."

The second pupils was surprised to hear the first one talk. "We are not supposed to say a word," he remarked.

"You two are stupid. Why did you talk?" asked the third.

"I am the only one who has not talked," concluded the fourth pupil.


They all spoke on impulse. The 1st can't help but order people around, the 2nd was silly to provide a vocal remark instead of gesturing, the 3rd is arrogant and want to scold others, the 4th is egotistical and wanted recognition.

Illustrates how each of us keeps one another in this cyclic existence. In a group of "weak-minded" people, one brings down one another. It is a good example as to why if one wants to practice Buddhism, it is "easier" to do so in the monastery or a Dharma center.

Like trying to kick off a drug habit is easier to do so in a rehab facility than being surrounded by fellow drug addicts.

Thanks for the story Jessie Fong! :)

pgdharma

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Re: Learning to Be Silent
« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2012, 02:54:26 PM »
Haha this story may sound funny, but it is true how our mind works. It reflects on how well we can be mindful.  Speech and action arise from thought so we should be mindful and aware to watch our thoughts.

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” Buddha

As in the case of these four pupils, they have broken their silent retreat as they couldn’t control their mind and their ego.  If the first pupil is aware that they were not supposed to talk, she could have showed some signs /gestures to highlight the dimness. Another alternative is to write on a piece of paper.  The second one is as unmindful as the first one, the third one is arrogant and the fourth one is the silliest of all due to her ego.

so_003

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Re: Learning to Be Silent
« Reply #11 on: July 27, 2012, 03:55:22 AM »
Thank you for sharing the story. Being in a silent retreat is not easy but if with stable/control conscious mind one can keep silent for sometime even when people starts to irritates me.

Sometimes after every prayer I try not to speak for like 5 minutes and stretch as much up to 30 minutes or longer not to talk. But I also notice altho I don't talk my mind at times is talking. Like why this person do like this or that ... something that may have irritate me or distract me and I started talking... I'll try to do this as often as an exercise. Is also to learn how to listen to others. Sometimes I talk non stop but these days I just pause so that someone else can talk. Talk to benefit rather then talk to hurt or rubbish talk. If I got nothing to say I just keep quiet but at times it is mistaken as a way of getting back. So sometimes I'm confused too when that happens. But I'm sure there are reason there for every happenings maybe I just have not grasp the reason for it.

For those of you out there doing silent retreat happy retreat.

Manjushri

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Re: Learning to Be Silent
« Reply #12 on: July 28, 2012, 04:42:35 PM »
A complete lack of concentration and awareness, and an act of impulse to react back. Shows how fast we jump on one another, and our need to have our say to get recognized. I like Jessica Jameson's analogy, it is so true!

They had to make a point hence broke their silence, but little did they realise that by staying silent, it would've been most powerful. Opening our mouth is so second nature and taken for granted, and this story totally highlights that nothing pleasant comes from our speech most of the time. It shows that the silent retreat was not taken seriously by the 4 parties, and how we can influence each other to something negative all the time. That's why we never improve, because most individuals operate from the basis of 'I'. If I were part of the group, I would've most probably opened my mouth too and go "SHHHH", which would mean that I've broken my retreat too. 

I think for us, the best measure would acutally be to put tape across our mouth, so that it REMINDS us that we are on silent retreat even if we wanted to speak. We too often forget what we ought to do.

fruven

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Re: Learning to Be Silent
« Reply #13 on: July 29, 2012, 08:16:39 PM »
I chanced upon the following Zen story and wondered,if this was akin to a silent retreat, the action of one person triggered off the rest to break their silence.  Kind of domino effect.

Is this a case of not practising awareness?
Where is the group support of helping each other to observe the seven days of silence?
If you were part of such a group, how would you help the others to complete their promise?


Learning to Be Silent

The pupils of the Tendai school used to study meditation before Zen entered Japan. Four of them who were intimate friends promised one another to observe seven days of silence.

On the first day all were silent. Their meditation had begun auspiciously, but when night came and the oil lamps were growing dim one of the pupils could not help exclaiming to a servant: "Fix those lamps."

The second pupils was surprised to hear the first one talk. "We are not supposed to say a word," he remarked.

"You two are stupid. Why did you talk?" asked the third.

"I am the only one who has not talked," concluded the fourth pupil.


Hahaha  ;D

The first pupil feels the need to alert someone to fix the lamp. The others should be silent. The motivation of second, third, and fourth of retreat are not for themselves. Second and third could have controlling behaviour where 'I want everyone to be the same as me', and the fourth is 'I am better than you guys'.

buddhalovely

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Re: Learning to Be Silent
« Reply #14 on: August 03, 2012, 08:13:48 AM »
You can only truly help others when you have become the master of your mind, free of false illusions. Many people feel that just because they have the urge to help they are able to help. Unless you really know what your true identity is, which is not your ego, you will only be trying to offer help from something that is  an illusion.

The beauty of proper meditation is that it helps you create immense distance in your inner space. It gives you perspective, your level of consciousness changes. It helps you create distance between your thoughts and the witness who watches your thoughts.