Just as there can be something deeply consoling about contact with nature there is something about silence as a response at a time of crisis. The kind of silence I mean is the minute of silence observed on memorial days to honour the dead. Such silence has tremendous power, gravitas. To me there is something very beautiful about such silence, a tremendous peace. I can want it to last forever. Yet more than this, much more to me, there is also something deep down that knows that this silence – only this silence – can actually last forever.
To me this is the great turning point. This is the truth; and seeing this truth – out of the darkness comes light. So, I do not look at this moment for a sign of hope, for a fresh beginning. I have my hope and my fresh beginning already in the silence. And this silence is right there seeing the truth also of the suffering, not looking somewhere else and as such has true love and compassion. To me this is also a love that at such a time is truly consoling to others, a love that is just, simply, ready with the tissues. To me such love is a response that has both wisdom and compassion; to me this is the love of the Buddha – love on the path to liberation.
This silence is a love that is not looking for answers or for hope when there is none. What hope is there for a body that is dying? There is none. There is hope only for the spirit and only for the spirit that can let go of the body, not for the spirit that holds on with hope. So this is a love that does not let us down at the crucial moment, the time of real crisis. We have found a refuge for ourselves and can be a refuge to others.
I can also think that, if there was nothing more that could be done for me, I would be happy to die alone in such silence in order to be able to connect with this refuge, to go with it. To give someone a single room in their last days, to allow for such solitude, is in fact the guideline given to the National Health Service in England for the care of a dying Buddhist by the Buddhist Hospice Trust. So please, no chanting, no serenades or lullabies when my time comes, thanks anyway. Silence is golden.
And, in the meantime, many of us are living in isolation, in the solitude of the corona lock down. If we can keep our spirits up we have the perfect opportunity to meditate and prepare ourselves to meet such a solitary death, training ourselves to stay with the silence, to see that the body is not us and let it go. Then we will not only have courage to face the future, we can die any time we like. In fact we can be dying all the time into that glorious silence. We can be dying to ourselves every day, as we live and love. This is letting go.
I offer this for your reflection