Interview with Swami Veda Bharati about the 2013 vow of silence. The interview was taken by Daniele Belloni, founder-director of a Centre of Himalayan Yoga near Milan, Italy, together with his wife, Susi Stefanini who equally shares this work of teaching. The interview took place at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama, Rishikesh on 14th March 2012.
Q. Swamiji, can you explain the reason for taking the five year vow of silence?
(1) I have been travelling, teaching lecturing for the last fifty-five years, I started in February 1947, and it is time for me to close my mouth. I have said enough, and it is all recorded. We have 5000 hours of recordings, we have 45.000 pages of transcripts and Swami Ritavan will tell you where they are. So there is enough said, enough spoken.
(2) Then silence conserves both physical and spiritual energy. I'm taking this vow at the age of 80 years, and it is time to conserve the energy. When we speak we spend an enormous amount of energy: every word we speak is several breaths. When you say: "I love you" you have used three breaths. If you put your hand in front of your mouth, you will feel three puffs of air. So you have used three breaths from your life long allowance. So just the conservation of energy becomes important at certain points in life and then using that energy more spiritually.
(3) Third, for someone who is dedicated to a life of meditation, what we call antar-mukha, turning all the senses inwards, is most important. To give oneself the opportunity to turn all the senses inwards, so we close our eyes, we still our hands, we still our body, and we close our speech. But it cannot be done without an emotional peace within oneself. I have no struggle with that part, fortunately, by Guru's grace, so I can then use that conserved energy for my inwards spiritual breakthroughs.
(4) Then the other reason is that I need to spend time in undisturbed writing. There is some work that has yet to be done. That is another additional reason.
(5) My body is not well and does not have the strength to continue to speak. But the most important part is my next breakthrough in my meditation. I am still working on the art of dying. I do not know, well I have a rough idea, of how many years I have. This period of silence, by conserving my breath, will prolong my years of life. It's a secret many people do not know. And then it will give me more chance to write, to meditate, and serve at a subtler level.
(6) When I depart I want to go by the path that the Upanishads call "Surya-bhedana", bursting through the solar gate, and I am still working on that part of meditation.
(7) People say: "Well, what happens to those who are seeking continued teaching?". There are enough teachers in the Tradition now who are travelling, who have done much sadhana, who are guiding that level of people.
(8) Not many people realize that teaching in silence is much more powerful than teaching in words. The great yogis have often taken this kind of a vow of silence. My earliest experience was when I was perhaps six or seven years old and a yogi was walking down the mountains. We lived in the foothills of the Himalayas, in a city called Dehradun where I was born. So a neighbor of ours was accompanying this swami whose luminous face I can almost see even now from that childhood.
The neighbor said that he has just met this swamiji the roadside. "He's just coming down from the Himalayas and he has not spoken a word for the last twenty-five years". And that remained the lasting impression from the childhood. I always harboured that ambition. Everybody has ambitions. Somebody has ambition to be a great soldier, a great commander, a great writer. Now my ambition is being fulfilled. To be a silent swami. I have a friend swami who has an ashram about two hours drive from our ashram, by the river Yamuna, on the other side, also in the foothills. He has not spoken a word for the last twenty-seven years. His teaching continues. People gather around this swami, they ask questions, he answers them in writing. Well I have done enough writing, but every now and then, maybe once a year, I will announce a course and I will use a combination of ancient silence with modern science, and have a computer screen on the wall and do some teaching by typing on my computer. That is because I do not have the ability to transmit a whole lecture directly into the minds.
(9) My one thought at present is, it is not completely decided, that at the end of five years I will give one lecture (or may be a few) and then go back to another five years of silence. It is a thought at the moment but we will see how things are at that time.
These are the reasons for my taking the vow of silence. Wish me success, thank you.
Q. Swamiji, may I ask why do you want to die in the Surya-bhedana way?
A. Why do I want to die in the Surya-bhedana way? There is no other way to die!
Q. People don't die in this way...
A. Dying means taking oneself out of this prison, carefully and gently. It is like asking a prisoner: "Why do you want to leave the prison?". But I don't want to leave the prison by jumping over the walls, or breaking through the windows. I want to leave the prison through the main gate, the main gate through which the kundalini-shakti empowers us. So when the yogis die they take the path of their prana, through the kundalini path, and pass through a point of light, and burst through it. I have seen my master lead one old lady through actual process of death, in Minneapolis. The mother of Swami Nijananda, who was then Dr. Whitacre, a well known psychiatrist of the city. My guru Swami Rama invited me to witness her death. She was a very dedicated, devoted, advanced meditator. She lay there in her bed and Swami Rama said: "I will now help her to go out. Just put your hand on her fontanella, where the two bones are joined". When I put my hand he said: "I will now take her away". And the bones parted under my hand. I could feel... Then she closed her eyes forever. And was at peace. My Master's orders are, among his other commands and blessings, then when you sit down like this, he demonstrated, sitting straight in the asana, when you sit down like this and say: "I will now leave the body", that day you will leave the body. I do not know if it was a prediction, if it was a blessing, or it was a command. Whichever one It was I want it to come true.
Q. Why is it so important for your students to be present at the ashram in March 2013 while you will take your vow of silence?
A. I felt that someone whom they regard as a teacher is entering into silence will be a source of instruction for them. And there is also a desire to give one final instruction before I get into silence. But the most important is whatever they would learn from it. Plus those who come to do a period of silence here they know how effective this place is. This place is charged with that silence and peace. So when I get into silence from 10th March 2013 over one hundred-fifty people are staying here to do nine days of silence. Can you imagine the five-acre ground with one hundred-fifty people for nine days in total silence? It will further charge this ashram and that charge will enter their own minds, pranas and souls. That is one small explanation.
Q. Swamiji, what will be your last word before you enter in silence?
A. I don't know what my last word will be before I enter into silence! I never know. At that moment whatever the Guru wants to say he will say it. He doesn't tell me, he really doesn't tell me beforehand. When I lecture he doesn't tell me what I'm going to say. I just sit down there, he says it and people give me credit.