Silence is the language of God

“Silence is the language of God. All else is poor translation.”

Rumi

A while ago I wrote a first little something about the ineffable quality of the divine wondering what I might do with the notion of union with the divine in my own yoga practice. This is uncomfortable territory for me: I was brought up in a god-less vacuum, and religion is a foreign land full of alien concepts and customs, wrapped up in ‘false-friend’ words (words that I think I know the meaning of, but in a religious context often take on more subtle semantic shades that elude me).

But nonetheless I’m intrigued. Where once I felt theologically disenfranchised and reacted with hostility to anything ‘spiritual’, now I just wonder what I might be missing. As well as the divine being un-describable, I suspect it’s like soap in the bathtub — that the harder you quest after it and try to hold onto it, the more it’s likely to slip from your grasp. I sense this. But I’m an analytical kind of girl, and I don’t like uncertainty. Faith? That might work for some, but not for me. Oh, wait — that’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy isn’t it? If I don’t have faith in anything beyond the small self, I’m unlikely to experience it. So what to do?

Just recently I read a lot of blogs of other yogis’ interpretations of the practice of Ishvara pranidhana, I read an amount about the relationship between Patanjali and Samkhya philosophy and tried to get to grips with dualism vs. non-dualism, I’ve talked with an Anglican priest (the closest theologian of any flavour to hand [thank you, B, if you’re reading]) about the idea of a creator god, and I even have a ‘date’ lined up to attend a Compline service when I’m back in UK (which was sold to me as the closest Anglicanism comes to Mindfulness meditation). I suddenly realise that religion is a fascinating topic and weirdly not one that I’ve ever really thought about, despite knowing it’s of immense importance to millions of people around the world in various ways.

So I’ve asked myself why this is important to me now. Of course for me it began with an intellectual enquiry — why does what seems to be the most important niyama for Pantajali mean nothing to me at all? In my limited view right now, I think what Patanjali was getting at, why Ishvara pranidhana is the most direct way to samadhi, is that it’s the simplest (not to be equated with easiest) way to bypass one’s own petty concerns, to lay the ego aside and practice for some reason other than seeking what yoga can do for you as an individual. So really all my intellectualising and agonising about how Ishvara pranidhana might relate to my understanding of the world and what it might offer to me is a spectacular own goal. That’s the very antithesis of the practice!

I’m still undecided whether it really matters what Patanjali intended. But now in the spirit of ‘letting go’ that I’ve been trying to cultivate recently, I’m putting my ‘quest’ gently, quietly to one side and following Rumi in silence. I suspect it’s time to let all these new ideas settle into whatever pattern they will and to stop stirring them round in my mind. I can’t force any kind of belief, I can’t hurry my understanding, and I certainly can’t find ‘the answer’ in any book. All I can do is keep my heart open and see what happens. Which in itself sounds like a form of ‘surrender’ perhaps…

5 thoughts on “Silence is the language of God

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  1. I think that the open heart you refer to is exactly what Patanjali was talking about! With an open heart, God’s love can flow in and through us, and transform the world : )

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  2. Whatever God is will always fail to conform to our necessarily limited conception of God. In the Judaeo-Christian tradition, God reveals God’s name as “I am that I am” – the Hebrew word used has as its root the verb “to be”. God is… “is-ness”, or “being”. Throughout religious history, we have found ways of giving a face and form to what is essentially faceless and formless. This allows our finite mind to latch on to an image of the Divine, and as the mind becomes “eka grata” or “one-pointed”, the conceptual mind “short-circuits” and the aspirant dissolves in an experience of God’s “is-ness”.
    Let’s keep supporting one another on our path to That!
    : )

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  3. very interesting thought. coming to this very new, i was initially really confused by the very different presentation of Patanjali’s Ishvara compared to Krishna in BG. I’m sure these are from different traditions as well as apart in time… Ishvara of PYS seems the ‘faceless and formless’ variety, a much more abstract concept. i find it hard to marry up this abstraction with the notion of devotion. my limitation! but i also suspect western yogis are very synchretic, and take a little from here and a little from there until they make up something that works for them, even if it’s not essentially founded in any traditional text.
    i’ve been wondering a lot (you’ll have noticed!) about how to invite a sense of devotion into my practice. Comparing it with asana practice I learn a lot and am inspired by seeing the physical practice of others around me. of course the essentially invisible spiritual side is harder to get inspiration for – except from within.

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    1. Having been brought up in the Christian tradition, bhakti yoga and karma yoga are familiar practices. Familiar, although not necessarily easy. I remember as a teenager thinking that the more abstract concept of the Hindu Brahman was a lot easier to wrap my mind around, maybe because it didn’t involve the same kind of intimacy/surrender that a devotional practice to Krishna or Christ did. And yet such surrender is ultimately so liberating.

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