A Quaker Silence


I went to Quaker meeting for worship today on Easter Sunday. We sit in silence for an hour, and if anyone is moved to speak they do so. The idea is that it is the Silence that speaks, not the ego, Silence being that ever-present Presence, also known as God (or whatever other word you want to use).

‘Not by reading do you get the truth. Be quiet, that is truth. Be still, that is God.’
from Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi, ch. 100

If you have ever sat for an extended time in silence, and allowed thoughts to drop away by themselves, then what you are left with is a sense of being, or what is.  There is no sense of doing, only being. There is no sense of trying to become anything or be anything, only Being manifesting itself spontaneously.

‘Your duty is to be and not to be this or that. “I am that I am” sums up the whole truth. The method is summed up in “Be Still”.’
from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk no. 363

Conceptually you could say that in this Being everything comes and goes, and the Beingness remains unchanged amidst all that changes. There is that sense of Silent Unchanging Presence which encompasses all movement and happening, and these moving-happenings are ‘made’ out of Silence. This is just a way of putting into words what it is actually like when thoughts have subsided and reality is no longer being filtered. When we are in direct contact with reality, we realise there is only reality without the ‘me’.

‘What does “stillness” mean? It means “destroy yourself”…Give up the notion that “I am so and so”.’
from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk no. 363

This Silence has nothing to do with the ‘me’. The ‘me’ is one of the happenings that occurs in the Silence. When not labelled, there is no ‘me’, only being and happening, and these are not two separate things. It is one Being-Happening. Stillness and movement entwined, wedded together, seemingly different but actually inseparable. This is the mythological marriage of the male and female principle, the Shiva (Stillness) and Shakti (Movement or Energy).

But remember, this is all putting into words something which can easily be felt. How? Just be still. Let thoughts subside by themselves, naturally. The concepts are not that important in the end. More important is to have real experience of what the words are pointing to.

The Silence is actually always here, and always has been here, as the background of our experience. Only because we are obsessed with the particulars of our experience is the practice of being still required to reacquaint ourselves with the unchanging background of Silence. When we lose touch with this still essence of our being we feel isolated and unfulfilled. When we re-connect with it, we start to feel whole again, fulfilled, and if we allow it in, it consumes us completely, ridding us of all illusory beliefs and the suffering that accompanies them.

If there is a goal to be reached, it cannot be permanent. The goal must already be there.
from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk 146

Self-realisation is nothing other than Silence itself. It is not a knowledge to be gained – in the absence of all knowledge and thought self-realisation is there (it is also there with thoughts and knowledge being present). All knowledge that can be gained can also be lost, and knowledge is always subject to doubt which means it is intrinsically insecure. Knowledge is often a tool for the ego by which it is able to continue itself by fooling itself into thinking that it knows something.

Only that which never changes and is already always here, that Silence-Being, is never in doubt and cannot be doubted. It is the very sense of existence itself, the mirror-like ‘substance’ in which the entirely of our life experience appears and disappears in.

Q. What is wisdom-insight (jnana-drsti)?
A. Remaining quiet is what is called wisdom-insight
Ramana Maharshi from Who am I

So, be still, allow thoughts to subside by themselves, and rest in that sense of being-presence which has the nature of peace and love. Maybe, who knows, in that Silence realisation will occur. Even if it does not, no bother, just stay with it, allow it to reveal itself to you in its own time. Have faith in the Silence, the sense of Being or ‘I Am’.

When Quakers sit together, they call it Meeting for Worship. This is the true worship, is it not? Being in the presence of God, allowing God’s presence to bathe us and fill us up.

“In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
Proverbs 3:6

Acknowledging Him in all His Glory, having faith in Him, resting in Him, allowing Him to transform us and shape us, allowing him to sweep us away so that all that is left is Him. Praise the Lord by being Still and resting in his Silent Presence. Hallelujah! (And Happy Easter!)

5 thoughts on “A Quaker Silence

  1. Hi Tom

    All knowledge that can be gained can also be lost, and knowledge is always subject to doubt which means it is intrinsically insecure.

    In my understanding silence can embrace avidya as well as vidya. JUst to be silent is no sign of understanding and the knowledge we gain with the help of scriptures and a teacher and are supported by experience will not be lost but rather are a constant background flow of our knowing that we are just uncreated ordinary awareness.

    Am i missing something here??

    HAri om


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Pujan, that’s a wonderful question and you raise some really good points. It sounds like you are coming at it from a vedanta point of view, specifically a shankara type view?? (Apologies if I’m wrong)

    Silence can definitely embrace both vidya (knowledge/understanding) and avidya (ignorance). In my view, ignorance is thinking ‘I am the doer’. The knowledge ‘I am uncreated ordinary awareness’ is the antidote to this ‘I am the doer’ notion.

    Once this ignorance is rooted out, then both these concepts disappear. This is the revelation of non-duality and has been explained in various vedanta texts (eg. shankara’s atma bodha verse 5). What remains cannot be put into words and the thought ‘I am awareness’ is also seen to be untrue and indeed unnecessary. This is the true Vidya, not the relative vidya which is the thought ‘I am awareness’ or something similar.

    This is but one way of seeing through the doer-illusion. Another way is to keep quiet but remain aware. Then it can become obvious that the doer is an illusion as our natural intelligence sees the doer does not exist.

    Thereafter silence and noise make no difference, both are ok.

    There are other ways too, I explain some of them here: https://tomdas.com/2016/01/09/the-highest-spiritual-teachings-self-knowledge-and-generating-peace/


  3. My dear Mum was a Quaker Elder. One day, she called and asked me if I’d be completing my Master’s (in Psychology). Although I wanted to continue, I told Mum that it was expensive and I was seeing if I could get enough money together. In her usual manner, she said, ‘God will provide’. That very morning I received a fax offering me work in Jordan for the exact sum on the Bursar’s bill. I rang my Mum and she responded by saying God had provided! I joked and said – Allah in this case. Mother was wise. At the time, of this conversation, she knew I was a frequent visitor at a Buddhist Monastery. In her mind, Silence was Meditation. Simple! To my remark about Allah she said – ‘He is one and the same darling. He is one and the same’. Such a pity that this is not a generally held view – that we are all from the same source and all going home to that source. Be still and know that I am Go(o)d.


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