The Voice of the Silence 7 (Verses 80-89)

John Algeo – USA


Silence

In its final verses, the first fragment returns explicitly to the theme of the eight stages of Yoga (as set forth, for example, in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali). The second verse referred to the necessity of learning the nature of dharana (concentration) if one wishes to hear the Voice of the Silence. Now in verse 87, we arrive at dharana, thus rounding out the first fragment of The Voice. The remaining verses of the first chapter treat the last two stages of the yogic process, dhyana and samadhi.

The verses commented on in this installment are the following: [80] The light from the ONE Master, the one unfading golden light of Spirit, shoots its effulgent beams on the disciple from the very first. Its rays thread through the thick dark clouds of matter. [81] Now here, now there, these rays illumine it, like sun-sparks light the earth through the thick foliage of the jungle growth. But, O disciple, unless the flesh is passive, head cool, the soul as firm and pure as flaming diamond, the radiance will not reach the chamber, its sunlight will not warm the heart, nor will the mystic sounds of the Akashic heights 35 reach the ear, however eager, at the initial stage. [82] Unless thou hearest, thou canst not see. [83] Unless thou seest thou canst not hear. To hear and see this is the second stage. .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   . [84] When the disciple sees and hears, and when he smells and tastes, eyes closed, ears shut, with mouth and nostrils stopped; when the four senses blend and ready are to pass into the fifth, that of the inner touch—then into stage the fourth he hath passed on. [85] And in the fifth, O slayer of thy thoughts, all these again have to be killed beyond reanimation. 36 [86] Withhold thy mind from all external objects, all external sights. Withhold internal images, lest on thy soul-light a dark shadow they should cast. [87] Thou art now in Dharana, 37 the sixth stage. [88] When thou hast passed into the seventh, O happy one, thou shalt perceive no more the sacred Three, 38 for thou shalt have become that Three thyself. Thyself and mind, like twins upon a line, the star which is thy goal burns overhead 39 The Three that dwell in glory and in bliss ineffable, now in the world of Maya have lost their names. They have become one star, the fire that burns but scorches not, that fire which is the upadhi 40 of the Flame. [89] And this, O Yogi of success, is what men call Dhyana, 41 the right precursor of Samadhi. 42

Verse 80 makes two especially noteworthy points. One is that there is only one Master, and that Master is not a human or even superhuman guru outside ourselves. It is rather the inner “light of Spirit.” To say that there is only one, inner Master is not to deny the existence of beings whose evolution has carried them so far beyond the human level that they are properly regarded as superhuman. It is to deny that any such guru or master can teach us what we need to know. As fragment 3 tells us, “The Teacher can but point the way.” We have to walk it ourselves; no one else can walk it for us. We have to learn for ourselves; no one else can teach us.

The other noteworthy point in verse 80 is that the light of the Spirit is shining on us “from the very first.” It is always there, always available. We are like Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion in Oz; we already have what we are looking for. As T. S. Eliot wrote in his poem “Little Gidding”: “We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.” Nirvana and samsara, heaven and hell, are the same place. They differ only according to the way we look at them. Enlightenment is not the kindling of a new light; it is opening our eyes to the ever-present light.

Although the light is always present, verse 81 reminds us that our perception of it is spotty. We see it as sparks of sunlight through thick jungle foliage — intermittently, fragmentedly, partially: “now here, now there.” In his poem “Burnt Norton,” T. S. Eliot describes hearing the mysterious voices of children in a garden (the garden of our innocence, the garden of the child state we have lost and must recover of verse 79 of The Voice): “There rises the hidden laughter / Of children in the foliage / Quick now, here, now, always —.” And he says that we flee that laughter because “human kind cannot bear very much reality.”

The term “the chamber” (which the sunlight has to reach) refers to what is identified in note 23 as “The inner chamber of the heart, called in Sanskrit Brahma-pura.” The note to “the mystic sounds of the Akashic heights” identifies them: “Note 35. These mystic sounds or the melody heard by the ascetic at the beginning of his cycle of meditation called anahatashabda by the Yogis.” The anahata is the fourth of the chakras, the one at the heart, and the word means “unstruck”; shabda means “sound,” so the combination refers to the unstruck sound produced in the heart. It is one of the four states or types of sound, the one immediately above gross physical sound. It is the first of the states of inner sound. Physical sound is produced by striking one implement against another. In meditation, we cease to listen to physical “struck” sounds and begin to hear the unstruck sound.

At the first stage, which is one of moral purification, the stage in which we practice the abstentions and make sure that our conduct is correct, we must attend to our relationship with the world — that is what the first stage is about. And so in it, we cannot expect to see the sun-sparks with our heart or to hear the unstruck sound.

In the classical Mysteries, the first stage was that of the mystes, which means literally “one who has closed the eyes, ears, and mouth.” Those in the first stage of the Mysteries were not permitted to speak. But in the second stage they could begin to do so. The second stage was that of the epoptes, meaning literally, “one who beholds.” Those were, respectively, the lesser and greater Mysteries of Greece.

Similarly, in the tradition of classical Yoga, the second stage is one in which one practices certain positive actions. In the first stage one abstains; in the second, one engages. As verses 82 and 83 conclude: “To hear and see, this is the second stage.”

Each of the three fragments of The Voice of the Silence is itself fragmentary. Between verses 83 and 84 in fragment 1, there is a series of dots across the page. These suggest an ellipsis or omission, and indeed there is no mention of the third stage. Instead verse 84 makes a brief allusion to the fourth stage. It is said to result when the student can see with eyes closed, hear with ears shut, taste with mouth stopped, and smell with nostrils stopped — when those four senses have been united and merged with the fifth sense of “inner touch.” This refers to the harmonizing and interiorizing of all our senses.

In classical Yoga, stages three and four deal with the postures of yoga (asana) and with the control (or “slaying”) of the breath (pranayama). That is, they concern techniques of yoga which are reputed to develop certain siddhis. HPB was leery of both the siddhis (she certainly knew their dangers) and yoga techniques for developing them; she expressed a preference for developing the higher moral powers rather than the lower phenomenal ones. It is perhaps likely that at this point in The Voice she chose to omit some material from her source that she thought inappropriate for readers of this work.

Verse 85 alludes to the fifth stage, that of pratyahara, which was treated earlier in this fragment, not by name but descriptively in verses 3-5, with their counsel to “slay” the mind, “the great Slayer of the Real,” a theme repeated in verse 85, which is addressed to the “slayer of thy thoughts.” Pratyahara literally means “gathering toward oneself” (John Grimes, A Concise Dictionary of Indian Philosophy: Sanskrit Terms Defined in English, rev. ed., Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996).

The fifth stage is also suggested later by an allusion to the turtle withdrawing into its shell (a symbol of pratyahara). Pratyahara is a necessary stage in yogic development, but to become stuck in it is to withdraw wholly from the world. As the second fragment of The Voice, “The Two Paths,” makes clear, withdrawal from the world is not the end that is urged in this book.

Later in this fragment, pratyahara is referred to by name in note 41 as “a preliminary training.” It is a transitional stage, not the goal of Yoga. And so it too is only alluded to in verse 85 as preliminary to the more important later stages. Note 36 continues the coordination of the stages with the senses suggested in verses 82-84. With this coordination one might also compare the idea from The Secret Doctrine that our senses are developed one after another during the seven great stages of evolutionary history: “Note 36. This means that in the sixth stage of development, which in the occult system is Dharana, every sense as an individual faculty has to be “killed” (or paralyzed on this plane), passing into and merging with the seventh sense, the most spiritual.

The sixth stage of dharana is defined by note 37, which refers to note 3 in verse 2: “Note 37. Dharana is the intense and perfect concentration of the mind upon some one interior object, accompanied by complete abstraction from everything pertaining to the external universe, or the world of the senses.”

The seventh stage of dhyana, meditation or contemplation, is described in verses 88 and 89. It is a state of wholeness, of unified being, which HPB represents by certain numerical symbols that she is reluctant to explicate in detail. Concerning the “sacred three,” which those in the seventh stage no longer perceive because they have become identical with them, she says: “Note 38. Every stage of development in Raja Yoga is symbolized by a geometrical figure. This one is the sacred Triangle, and precedes Dharana. The Δ is the sign of the high chelas, while another kind of triangle is that of high Initiates. It is the symbol ‘I’ discoursed upon by Buddha and used by him as a symbol of the embodied form of Thatagata when released from the three methods of the prajnya. Once the preliminary and lower stages passed, the disciple sees no more the Δ but the — abbreviation of the — full Septenary. Its true form is not given here, as it is almost sure to be pounced upon by some charlatans and — desecrated in its use for fraudulent purposes.”

The three that form the triangle may be the higher triad of principles, atma-buddhi-manas. Or perhaps the triangle may be thought of as the whole united being. Then, the first two would be the personality (“thyself”) and the individuality (“mind”), which are “like twins upon a line” because the former is generated by the latter. The third would then be the monad (“the star”). For us to identify with the monad is our goal of life; that is the process of initiation, commented upon in note 39: “Note 39. The star that burns overhead is the ‘star of initiation.’ The caste mark of Shaivas, or devotees of the sect of Shiva, the great patron of all Yogis, is a black round spot, the symbol of the sun now, perhaps, but that of the Star of Initiation, in Occultism, in days of old.

When personality, individuality, and monad are so unified, they are perfect expressions or vehicles of the One Life, the One Self, the “flame,” complete union with which is impossible in the relative world of maya. With that unification, the separate unit has realized its oneness with its source. The unified monad recognizes that it is an expression of the one life: “Note 40. The basis (upadhi) of the ever unreachable Flame, so long as the ascetic is still in this life.

Verse 89 sums up what has been said so far and looks ahead to the final verses of the fragment, dealing with the eighth stage, that of samadhi. Its notees also comment on stages seven and eight: “Note 41. Dhyana is the last stage before the final on this earth unless one becomes a full Mahatma. As said already, in this state the Raja Yogi is yet spiritually conscious of Self, and the working of his higher principles. One step more, and he will be on the plane beyond the seventh (or fourth according to some schools). These, after the practice of Pratyahara — a preliminary training, in order to control one’s mind and thoughts — count Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi and embrace the three under the generic name of Samyama.

The last three stages of Yoga, known collectively as Samyama, are those that develop the highest siddhis. It is only in the state of samadhi (in which everything is together) that the highest siddhis can be fully practiced: “Note 42. Samadhi is the state in which the ascetic loses the consciousness of every individuality including his own. He becomes — the ALL.

MEDITATION.

Visualize a triangle. You are outside, above, or beneath the figure. You are looking at it. Now imagine yourself to be moving toward, then into the triangle. You merge with it. In that unified state, the triangle no longer exists as an object; you do not see it; you are not aware of it as something apart from you, for you and it are one.

To be continued

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