The Sounds of Silence

In the  early 60s Simon and Garfunkel sang: “Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again,
Because a vision … that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence”

What is this sound of silence? Remember the most severe punishment given to man is solitary confinement: where he can talk to no one, and hear no one else. But even that imposed silence has shown great resilience. In school/college I read Papillon, the autobiography of Henri Charriere, who escaped his incarceration in French Guiana. His loneliness and imposed silence actually became his strength. I was so impressed by this story  that I even considered getting a tattoo made of a butterfly (papillon) on my chest. Fortunately tattoo artists were few and far between then. Or take the more recent case of Nelson Mandela. Large parts of his 27 years in prison were spent in solitude and reflection. And whatever that silence spoke to him, made “Madiba” ( Father of the Nation) successfully dismantle apartheid, as the first elected Black President of South Africa. His inspiration? our own Bapu, Father of our Nation, who actively propagated the power of “moun vrat” whether to silence the feuding Congress leaders or to end the religion fired Hindu Muslim riots. Even his policy of non-violence was a silent reply to the violence of the British. Finally the “Empire where the sun ever sets” bowed down. Indeed, so great  is the power of silence!!

My personal brush with the power of silence was when I first enrolled for the Vipassana meditation course of Goenkaji at Igatpuri. Having been a part of a garrulous HR profession, and a successful IR manager of large plants at that, I was curious to explore the power of silence. And  10 days I spent in “arya maun” ( when you walk with your eyes to the ground so that by chance you do not catch some other person’s eye and have a “conversational exchange”…through the medium of eyes! Those 10 days have been the most eloquent period of my life. Going within, exploring oneself, listening to the silence within, and all around you, were spiritually awakening.  At the end of 10 days, you just don’t want it to end. Much like the peace and quietude you feel after an amazing concert. When the silence speaks so much,  words become meaningless.

But then what about the real world? I always wondered how Gandhi must have managed the silences of Kasturba!! Breathes there a husband (or a boy friend) who has not got the “silent treatment” from his significant other and understood the power of silence first hand? It goes somewhat like this: ” What happened?” “Nothing” “But then why are you silent?” (No answer) “If you are feeling something, why don’t you say so?” (Silence) “Would you like to tell me what is wrong?” “Nothing” “Please…will you say what you are thinking?” “There is no point. It is better I remain silent” Tell me truthfully, how often has this dialogue played out in your life? Of course, let us not blame wives and girlfriends alone. Our mothers’ strongest punishment to the family was the same: utilizing the power of silence. So we know the strength of the unspoken word. If you have hurt someone, silence can be their loudest cry. By their silence and ignoring you, they are giving you a signal. Silence can sometimes be so deafeningly loud!

Much later, Garfunkel talking about The Sound of Silence summed up the song’s  meaning as “the inability of people to communicate with each other, not particularly intentionally but especially emotionally, so what you see around you are people unable to love each other.”

Is this not a travesty of justice? People in love should be ebullient and suffused with laughter and good feelings. Their cup should be over flowing, and they should just not have enough time and space, to express their love for one another. But what we actually see and experience is the deafening sound of silence. Is this distance and separation ingrained in the very concept of love? Is it by chance that all “true” love stories are stories of unrequited love? Heer Ranzha; Romeo Juliet; Shirin Farhad are all cases in point.

And yet silence can be healing. It can be empowering. It can be fulfilling. To me, true love is finding that someone with whom you can sit and be silent. Silence is heavenly. Silence is holy. Silence is healing. It is only people who are comfortable with one another, who can sit side by side and be silent. In his characteristic style Woody Allen says “God is silent. Now if only man would shut up!” In speaking about silence, you have already broken it!! Silence is not a weakness : in fact it is a strength. True love and silence are blood brothers & conjoined at the hip at that.

As our dear Gulzar tells us so well: “Pyaar koi bol nahin , pyaar awaaz nahi
Ek khamoshi hai, sunti hai kaha karti hai…
…Sirf ehsaas hai yeh, rooh se mehsoos karo
Pyar ko pyar hi rehne do, koi naam na do” True love by its nature is silent. It speaks a language that is beyond words. It truly imbibes the sounds of silence.

Which is why Jalaluddin Rumi  said: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”                                                                                                 So be silent. Enjoy and revel in silence. Let silence engulf you and take you beyond.

Come, let us jointly immerse into the sounds of silence: vikas


30 Replies to “The Sounds of Silence”

  1. Great blog on sounds of silence. Have understood the term silence is golden through your blog. Keep writing and enlightening!!! Love you always Rupesh


    1. Rupesh thanks for your encouragement. blogging is a recent hobby which has really grown on me. I am happy that people are following me and accepting my points of view. I am happy my friend


  2. Very nice and beautifully written…
    … great thought-provoking read…
    Sorry for reading late, but thanks for sharing… 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼


  3. Harshad: yes that inner place is indeed as firm and solid as Dhruva bal discovered. We must learn to tap into silence for our own good. The joy of silence is there for us to experience. Still we prefer the hustle and bustle and the sheer noise of our external lives and do not want to be antarabhimukh. Here is hoping we all discover that inner peace and silence soon


  4. Vikas dada
    You spoke very aptly on silence
    I always feel its the only divine feeling and in the womb of silence you can expirience the presence of god and reveal yourself
    In this zone of silence only you talk a lot
    Thanks for once again reminding to go back to your own and private place in the galaxy like the one discovered by dhruva bal .


    1. Nikhil great learning for today Listen & Silent. Will remember that
      In all our trg programs we tell we are taught how to talk write act but we are never taught how to listen. Today your comment made me realize that we are taught to make noise or talk and still never taught to be silent. I fact silence appears as a punishment for a child. We need to change the mind set


  5. Well written sir..have always felt that the power of silence overpowers even the most garrulous soul. There’s so much one can earn and learn from the power of silence.


  6. Brilliant, Vikas. That Simon and Garfunkel song even today evokes an emotional response and the one from Khamoshi too.

    I too did the Vipassana meditation some 20 years back in Igatpuri and felt so very light at the end. That actually gave me a reason to believe that if I continued it for some more days I would actually be able to levitate.

    Unfortunately we have become a noisy society and we need to rediscover the power of silence. Being introverted, not difficult for me but I dare say that at home, I have got into trouble because of the same.


    1. Thanks VJ your words of encouragement mean a lot to me.
      Vipassana is really powerful and I sought it out as I read somewhere that Anu Aga found the strength to bear the loss of her husband and her son within days of one another by following Vipassana.
      We all are searching in our own manner the path of silence from the noise and clutter that surrounds us.


  7. Brilliantly captured all the nuances of Silence weaving threads of history, literature, music and real life experiences.
    I express my view on silence by quoting two of my favorites by two famous men: “Every word has consequences. Every silence too.” by Jean Paul Satre and the other by the Greek Philosopher Xenocrates whom I quote “I have often regretted my speech, never my Silence.”


    1. Deepa I did think of using the quote about regretting the speech,but then decided it had became too long already. So thought that silence would be better than more words.
      I have now come to realize that life is one long search for that “perfect silence” where the soul lies down in the grass. To quote Simon and Garfunkel song again: “And in the naked light I saw
      Ten thousand people, maybe more
      People talking without speaking,
      People hearing without listening,
      People writing songs that voices never share
      And no one dare
      Disturb the sound of silence”
      My hope and dream is really what Rumi has described : finding that space and time where silence is more than golden as you share it with someone who is not like the 000s of other .”… people bowed and prayed
      To the neon god they made”
      Hope i reach there in this life


    1. Well said Nilambari. Unfortunately we spend a lot of time in superficial matters and posturing rather than going deeper.
      Had read a joke once : In a group it is better to remain silent and let people wonder whether you are a fool: rather than to open your moth and remove all doubt!!


  8. In the shades of silence the one I like the most is that captured in Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata…..for that defines its essence for the living, for all else are a simulation.

    A piece well written and one covering an important subject though!


    1. Preeti thanks for your comment. Have not had the privilege of reading Max E. But simulation may be strong word. t always believe everyone’s reality is ….well real. For them it is what they are living and need to carry forward.
      Thanks for reading the article and your words of praise
      Will try and read Desiderata and get a new perspective


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