On Silence and Stories

My dear friend Swami Omkarananda recently asked “What happens when we throw out the story line playing in the mind, in the absence of the inner narrative rambeling on and on…..in that silence who are we?”

The silence he speaks of is the meaning of “Mu” and “one hand clapping” in Zen, and also of my own answer, silently throwing open the arms to embrace all of the universe.  These are spontaneous expressions of insight.  Liberation speaks itself into truth through spontaneity.

Being able to generate and recall narratives helped human beings survive and was therefore selected for by evolution. Stories can concentrate a great deal of information in a single, brief, easy to remember unit.  They help us cope with the universe, they can delight us, make us suffer, generate any spiritual state we can imagine, and provide infinite ways of approaching any issue through new layers and perspectives. And yet, they must be seen as what they are: stories generated by the mind.

Given the pervasive value of narratives for human life, it is unsurprising that our brains have been biologically (and culturally) conditioned to cultivate such stories about our ‘self’ too. But to really taste that reality that does not arise or subside, that is not dependent on any way of thinking or story, one has to look at that silence, awareness, or awakeness that is there before any story arises, while it is arising, and after it has ended.  To taste that, no story is needed, no concept is needed, no teaching is needed. In fact, all stories, concepts, and teachings must be temporarily put aside to taste that reality.

When we put down all stories and concepts, even for a flickering instant, and taste the reality of who we are and what this universe is, the whole world opens up. The mind deeply plunges into silence, there is a great feeling of expansion and silent awe, and there is a sense of perfect peace and perfect contentment.  Put down all stories even for a second and dive deeply into your nature in this moment and all will be transformed.


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