There are two things an individual is normally engaged in; either his body is busy doing something or his mind is engaged in thinking something. Seldom does he remain as ‘himself’, free from all influences. Seldom does he remain in his natural state of peace and happiness. When he remains thoughtless and speechless, he attains his natural state of serenity and peace. This state in which he remains quiet and still, dissolves his mind, remains ‘just being’ is the ideal state that leads him to Self-awareness. Our saints have advised us many ways by which we can reach that state and one way which is simple and needs no special effort is ‘Summa Iru”. It means remaining quiet without either any mental or bodily activity.
Sri Arunagirinathar, experienced the presence of Lord Muruga before him and the word of advice which the Lord conveyed to him was “Summa Iru” (remain quiet). The saint-poet reveals the advice he received from God in his immortal works, “Kandar Anubhuti”. ‘Summa Iru’ is the state in which we merely are as we truly are, devoid of mental or physical activity. It means remaining in the world and yet distancing from it. It means remaining inward, without responding to any external situations. It means remaining silent as silence has the power to silence the mind. It short, it is a state where the individual is all by himself without any internal or external distractions. It is the ideal state where the mind ceases to function, where the body does not make demands, where senses under control and where Consciousness alone prevails. It is an attempt to find peace and happiness that ultimately leads to finding one’s own real identity.
A cultured lady, daughter of a well-known Solicitor of Madras came to Sri Ramanasramam and asked Bhagavan: “What should I do to free myself from thoughts?” Bhagavan said: ‘Summa Iru” (Be still and quiet). Just try and see the result for yourself”. When the mind is still, it stops generating thoughts, thereby creating an ideal environment of peace. In his Aksharamana Malai (36), Bhagavan says: “Oh! Arunachala, you wanted to highlight the importance of remaining quiet without uttering any word. Is it to convey that message you remained quiet without uttering any word? In another verse Bhagavan answers: “Oh Arunachala, you have shown your prowess, bestowed your grace and removed my ignorance. Having done all these wonders, you remained quiet and still, as if you are not the cause for it.” In one of his songs, the enlightened sage, Thayumanavar says: “Oh Lord, “You made me sit quiet. Can there be a greater happiness than this?” (“Soothu Onrum Inri Ennai Summa Irukkavaithai, Ithu Onrum Pothatho Inbam Paraparme”). Arut Prakasa Vallalar said: “I do not know when I would escape myself from the world of Maya and transcend myself to that vast space of happiness; the happiness of remaining quiet. I do not know when that stage would come to me”.
“Summa Iru’ is the state where one reaches the state of stillness. A question would arise whether it is not advocating idleness or running away from duties. An incident happened at Ramanasramam which gave clear answer to this question. A disciple of Mahatma Gandhi came to the Ashram and found an air of inactivity and stillness prevailing there. He asked Bhagavan: “Is it not better that you do some creative work or do some service instead of just sitting there simply.” Bhagavan merely said: “Who said that I am simply sitting here?” Few months later, Gandhiji sent this disciple to assess the progress of a social welfare institution at San Francisco. On entering the Institution, what caught the attention of the disciple was the picture of Bhagavan prominently displayed at the main hall there. When enquired about it, the social worker there replied: “Without this picture, which gives us inspiration, we cannot do the work that we are doing.” In the modern world, one has to shoulder responsibilities at different levels and carry out his duties, where body, mind and intellect come into play. One may take the help of the body, mind and intellect to do his duties but should always be conscious of his natural state which is possible only by remaining free from mental and physical activities. Whenever he is free from his basic duties, he should utilize that occasion for being ‘Summa Iru’, the blissful state of being himself. There are occasions when he travels, waits in the queue or feels the need for ‘entertainments’ and all such occasions should be utilized to remain still and quiet which will pave the way for being ‘himself’. Unlike meditation which requires certain effort, ‘Summa Iruthal’ is a simple and effective method which would elevate him from his body-mind complexities.
Normally, when a person, engaged in serious conversation, is interrupted by the child, he would restrain the child by saying “Summa Iru”. There was an occasion when even a casual mention of the word ‘Summa Iru’ made profound impact on a devotee. Sri Paramahamsa Yogananda sent a young North Indian to Tiiruvannamalai to see Bhagavan and get his advice, if possible. The young man came to Bhagavan, prostrated and sat with an eagerness to grasp every word that came from Bhagavan. As the loving glance of Bhagavan was cast on the youth, Bhagavan’s attendant, who was standing behind, kept muttering something. Bhagavan then told the attendant in Tamil “Summa Iru, oiy!” (keep quiet). Having heard the words “Summa Iru’ from Bhagavan, the young man asked the person nearby what the meaning of those words is. When the person explained that ‘Summa Iru’ means to remain quiet, the youth took this Tamil word as the advice given by Bhagavan to him. After paying obeisance to Bhagavan, he left with the satisfaction of having received a great advice from Bhagavan.
When the mind which is the cause of all obstacles is still and silent, the individual is in his natural state of ‘just being’. There are no external diversions. In his introduction to the Philosophy& Practice of the spiritual teaching of Sri Ramona, Michael James said: “The state of “just being” is one in which our mind does not rise to do, think or know anything and yet it is a state full of consciousness, not of anything else but only of being. It is not an art to be conscious of the self or to be what you are because we are always what we are and there is no special effort needed ‘to be’. It is not an art to remain without doing or thinking anything because we remains so in deep sleep. The art is to remain calm and peaceful without doing or thinking anything and yet retain a clear consciousness of being. This is the state of ever being conscious of the Self, not deterred by any thought.” If one can effortlessly reach that high state of happiness during sleep, he can as well reach that state in the waking state too by being himself and by remaining ‘Summa Iru’.