The Word of Silence 

By Thich nu Minh Tam 

When Pontius Pilate asks Jesus, “What is Truth?” Jesus remained silent.Not only that, the story says that when Pontius Pilate asked the question, “What is Truth?” he did not wait to listen for answer.He left the room and went away.This is very strange. Pontius Pilate also thinks that there cannot be an answer for it, so he did not wait for the answer.Jesus remained silent because he also knows it cannot be answered.

But these two understandings are not the same, because two persons are diametrically opposite.Pontius Pilate thinks that it cannot be answered because there is no truth; Jesus remained silent not because there is no truth, but because the truth is so vast, it is not definable.So no answer is possible, hence Jesus remained silent.But if you look at it with deep sympathy, if you look into the silence of Jesus, you will have an answer.Silence is the answer and the Word is the sacrifice of Silence. Truth is no more truth if it can express by words.The self-immolation of silence brings about the word.Silence no longer exists when the word appears.

Jesus is saying, “Be silent, as I am silent, and you will know”- not saying it in words.It is a gesture, it is very, very Zen-like.Go into the question “What is Truth?” as well as “Who is God?”.These questions are significant, they are arising in your heart: “What is Truth?Who is God?” – a desire to know that which is, is arising.Don’t push it aside, go into it.And don’t try to answer it, because you don’t know the answer.

 So keep quiet, be silent.

Word of Silence does not mean Word about silence, but the Silence that is in every word.It does not mean the silent word,but the silence’s word, the silence that is in every word, the word made of silence.As the Satapatha Brahmana (II, 2,2, 20), an Indian ritual text, says: “Worship is, above all, truthfullness.” Truth is worship.Silence is not the simple negation of words; it is not a question of keeping silence but if you can discover Silence, you can realize what is Truth and who is God, or what is God.

Another point that I am attracted to is the polarities.

As Panikkar writes: “Man would not be man if there were no woman, and vice versa.God would be no God if there were no creatures, and vice versa.Goodness would not be such if evil were not its possibility, and vice versa.Freedom would be an empty concept if there were not necessity, and vice versa.Salvation would be meaningless if the opposite possibility were not a real one.”These polarities are not independent, nor even interdependent, but intradependent.

I have heard a story:

“ There is a priest who is running to a church for a coming mess.On the way, he comes across a poor and wounded man who is lying painfully on ground.That man looks very dirty, vicious, and badly wounded.The priest hesitates a moment, he feels pity for a man, but there are many people who are waiting for him to begin an important mess.The priest finally leaves that poor guy and runs towards the church.But that man suddenly shouts: “Hey, Father, how can you leave me here?Where are you going without me?” The Priest, so astonished, turns back.The man says to him: “Come over here, man, and look closely onto me.”The priest comes closer and suddenly he cries; oh, man, that is the face of the Evil.He remembers exactly that face, he has seen it everywhere in the churches, on streets, into people . . . even into him.The Evil laughs ironically and viciously: “Yes, it’s Me! Goodness is present because worseness is here. You are in presence because here I am. The churches stand because of the Evil. If there is no more evil, who needs you, who needs to go to church?”

That’s right. Everything in this world is dependent on each other. Good and bad, right versus wrong, evil against goodness, violence fights peace, etc. Buddha, Jesus Christ, God, Yaweh . . . still exist because life still is full of suffering.If there is no more suffering, all divine existences disappear.

Everywhere, opposites are meeting.In you, birth and death are meeting.Everywhere, opposites are meeting - day and night, summer and winter, man and woman, youth and old age, beauty and ugliness, body and soul, the world and God – all are opposites.This is a symphony of the opposites.Opposites are not only meeting but creating a great symphony – only opposites can create a symphony .The whole of life and the whole existence consists of polar opposites , but only on the surface are they different.These opposites are like my two hands:I can oppose them with each other. I can manage a kind of conflict, a fight between them, but my left hand and my right hand are both my hands.Within me, they are one.That is exactly the case.There is no worry anymore.Life is death, death is life.And there is no fear if we can realize the truth of these polarities.