THE END OF THE WORLD
Born from an imaginary and unfolded by the compulsive elucubration of a story, the world resorbs in the extra-sensory presentiment of the silence and tranquillity of the formless.
by Pierre Wittmann
As I mainly studied spirituality in English, some concepts are linked for me to English words, and I have difficulty finding a French equivalent that expresses the same connotation. For example, the word ‘stillness'. When I tried to translate it into French, the dictionary gave me four words: immobility, calmness, tranquillity, silence. These four words, which are not synonyms – except perhaps calmness and tranquillity, whose meanings are very close – describe different aspects that I perceive in the meaning of stillness. The notion of stillness refers, in particular, to the meditative experience and applies to the different levels of body, speech and mind. The stillness of the body is immobility; that of speech, silence; and that of the mind, calmness or tranquillity.
I love consulting my numerous dictionaries, in particular the Robert Dictionary, to find the precise meaning of words, their synonyms and their antonyms, their etymological roots, as well as examples of their use and the quotes that accompany them. For calmness, I find: “1. State of immobility of the atmosphere, of the sea. 2. State of what doesn't change suddenly or radically; impression of rest that results from it”. For tranquillity: “1. State that is steady, constant, or modified regularly and slowly. 2. Moral stability, tranquil state (tranquil meaning here: ‘experiencing a feeling of security, of peace'); order, peace in human relations, in a society”.
It seems therefore that calmness indicates an impression of rest, and tranquillity a feeling of peace. Among the synonyms for calmness and tranquillity, those that are part of the meaning that I give to ‘stillness' are: peace, serenity, rest, quietude, impassiveness, equanimity, stability, balance.
Ayya Khema, who was my meditation master until her death in 1997, spoke of the search for the “stillpoint”, for the point of immobility, of calmness, of tranquillity, of silence, inside oneself, in the deepest part of the heart. This point is not only the centre of our being, but the centre of the world, of the universe that surrounds us – this illusory projection of our conceptual and dualistic mind. The stillpoint, like the hub of a wheel, is immobile, and the ten thousand things of samsara, of conditioned existence, turn tirelessly around it.
To find this tranquil point is to escape from the infernal round of birth, suffering, death and rebirth. It is also the point of equanimity, where all that happens in the world – happiness and misfortune, pleasure and pain, hope and fear, gain and loss, success and failure – no longer disrupts our inner calm. Here, worldly phenomena are perceived for what they really are: illusions, mirages, dreams… a movie without end, full of sparkling colours, varied landscapes, passions, intrigues and romances, projected onto the screen of our conceptual mind. The stillpoint, on the other hand, is when the movie has disappeared, leaving the empty and luminous screen of our awakened mind.
On the path of meditation, one meets the tranquillity of equanimity in the fourth absorption, when the subtle and decreasing agitation of the characteristics of the first three absorptions – beatitude, joy and contentment – have been completely quieted, and the mind has found again a state of stillness, like water in a deep well.
The Sound of Silence
by Pierre Wittmann
Silence has always been one of my deepest spiritual experiences, in particular during meditation retreats when one remains for ten, fifteen days or more, without speaking, and also without writing or reading. To speak provokes strong mental and emotional turbulence. In silence, this turbulence subsides, as the waves on the surface of a lake; and the mind calms, becomes still. To find inner silence is one of the great benefits of meditation.
In worldly life, the mind is always active. Thoughts and emotions constantly follow each other twenty-four hours out of twenty-four. The consciousness of dreams follows the consciousness of wakefulness. The silence from thoughts is peace, void, rest. To speak requires a lot of energy. In silence, we can use this energy for concentration and contemplation; then we only need a few hours of sleep. The artist uses the energy of silence to create. This energy fortifies and regenerates our body and our mind. It not only rests our mind, but all of our cells.
After one comes out of ten days of silence, one realises the stressful influence of noise, as when one comes back to the city after a stay in the mountains, in the countryside or at the sea. To live in a calm and silent place, especially at night, is a great privilege, and has a very beneficial effect on our physical and mental health. But the greatest benefit is inner silence. It is independent of outer silence. It is a state that one cultivates, in particular through meditation. It enables one, even in the middle of the biggest tumult, to return to a haven of silence and peace inside one's heart.
The most troubling tumult is often not the outer noise, but our own thoughts. It is their unceasing chatter that it is necessary to learn to quiet. In the void that then occurs, one hears the sound of silence, the music of the angels, an ethereal vibration that comes from another dimension. It is the sound of our essence, of our soul, of our multi-dimensional being. Silence is the link that allows us to remember, to find again who we are, and to rejoin our true abode…
The Nature of Mind
by Pierre Wittmann
We all have a certain idea of the nature of reality. We are taught that the universe, and its creation – some billions of years ago – began as a big explosion, the big bang. Then we are told of its evolution, from an atom of hydrogen – formed of a proton of positive charge and an electron of negative charge, the origin of duality – to the complexity of the human brain, the seat of intelligence that human beings are so proud of that they imagine it is the climax of all creation. This latter, however, comes under serious doubt when one sees the use that they make of their intelligence.
This belief and this model of the universe are based on science, which is one insidious way of keeping people in ignorance of their true nature in order to easily manipulate them. Reality, as perceived by the sages, shows us that the truth is precisely the opposite of scientific theories. The supreme intelligence, or primordial wisdom, is at the origin – it even precedes all idea of origin – and is empty of all dualistic or conceptual reference. It is. It is that which generates duality and the ten thousand material things, which are only its grossest manifestations.
Human intelligence has presently stagnated at the level of these dense manifestations, which seems like a mindless state of ignorance. Rare are those who have awakened from this torpor to discern the true nature of reality: clear, pure and benevolent. Yet, this luminous nature exists in each of us, and in all things. It has always existed and will always exist, because it is beyond the illusion of linear time. It is the true nature of mind.
The nature of mind is our spiritual essence, linked to the primordial and unlimited wisdom of emptiness. In opposition, our ordinary mind is linked to the limited intelligence of our material brain. The clarity of the nature of mind is veiled, however, by the dualistic and conceptual perception of the ordinary mind. Ignorance, or illusion, is to take this perception, that consists of all objects and phenomena that our senses perceive – the world in which we live – for absolute reality.
The world is only a relative reality, a playful and illusory manifestation produced by absolute reality, emptiness, that is the womb of potentiality of all manifestations. The world we perceive as if it were real and solid is only a dream projected like holographic pictures by our mind. We identify with these pictures and we suffer from the desires and fears that they awaken in us. We don't realise their ephemeral and changing nature. They are elusive, and yet we constantly try to grasp them. Thus we create for ourselves a world of stress and frustration, instead of remaining in the peace, the silence and the light of the uncreated…
by Pierre Wittmann
Wonder is an emotion produced by a perception accompanied by astonishment and admiration. Wonder provokes a deep feeling of joy. It is the heart that perceives, and not the mind. There is no judgment, concept, or duality in wonder. It is a warm emotion, spontaneously produced by the spectacle that is offered to our senses. Without preconceived ideas, without reference to past experiences, the perception is completely pure, new, innocent, authentic. Children often wonder at what they discover for the first time. Adults wonder with more difficulty, because they have already seen everything; they are blasé. They have expectations, requirements, prejudices, and they are easily disappointed.
Wonder requires a little effort, we must deserve it. We have to forget everything that we have already seen or experienced and change our way of perceiving, cast a new glance at things, or lend them another ear. In daily life, we rarely perceive things as they are. Our mind, once it has recognised something, covers it automatically with a conceptual label that doesn't correspond to reality, and classifies it without a moment's hesitation. The heart doesn't intervene in this process, which is why there is no wonder. But when we manage to disconnect the mind and perceive with the heart, a completely different picture appears.
I am very sensitive to the wonder that accompanies visual images because I am a painter, but wonder is not limited to the sense of sight. We can wonder at all the objects of the senses – sounds, odours, tastes, physical sensations and ideas. The mind too, in spite of its tendencies to logic and reason, can come out of its coldness and have emotions, for example, when it has a brilliant idea. Actually, all perceptions of the senses and all ideas are brilliant and wonderful. They are magical and miraculous, when we take the time to really perceive them, which means to be present to our perceptions.
The simple fact of perceiving, seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, touching, having ideas — and being conscious of these perceptions — is a cause for wonder. The difficulty is to remain in the present moment and to be attentive to these perceptions. If we make the effort to really look at something, even something that we see every day, we will realise that we may never have truly seen it. What we usually perceive is an approximate and stereotyped mental image, but not reality.
Direct perception shows us all the details of the object, its individuality, its changing appearance, and also its immutable essence. The separation between the object and the observer disappears, and we become this object, because we are part of the same omnipresent whole. At the same time as we perceive objects, we perceive ourselves, we discover our true nature, who we really are. We discover the world, the universe, life… and this realisation is a wonder. In front of this vision, joy sweeps through us and carries us to another level of consciousness, to another dimension, where all is beauty, purity, harmony, love.
All phenomena respond to an immutable order, to a perfect and undeniable intention. The ancient traditions speak of the realm of pure perceptions. What prevents us from staying there permanently? Merely our way of perceiving. The dualistic and conceptual perception of the mind leads us to judge reality and to want to manipulate it so that it conforms to our desires, instead of accepting it as it is. This is the cause of frustration, greed, aversion and of all our problems and our suffering. The pure perception of the heart, on the other hand, enables us to accept things as they are with wonder, joy and gratitude. It is the source of peace, contentment and kindliness. It is our choice…
These texts are chapters from Pierre Wittmann's book, A Guide to Happiness for the Third Millennium.