Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi

In Silence

by Atem S. Ramsundersingh

Energizing Life, Transforming the Self

Silent Desire, Silent Guidance

It was December 1995 when this self surrendered himself to the Masters of the Himalayas at the Swami Rama Ashram in Rishikesh. During the few days of stay at the Ashram with Swami Veda Bharati, a friend of my father before my birth, two things caught my immediate attention and created the desire to walk on the path of yoga meditation: the first was the serenity and silence of Ashram and the Ganges river valley and, the second was a grasp of mantra initiation. The guidance of the Master was aimed at getting me to activate my inner strengths, intuitive powers and action mode from a more comprehensive spiritual foundation, rather than just relying on my physical abilities and false believe that I was already ‘complete’ as a young internationally operating engineer.

Almost two years after my initiation, the inner feeling arose to go into silence for a few days at home. It was a strong inner desire to experience what I saw my Master doing when staying at our home in The Netherlands or in the Ashram in India. He then gave me some instructions, such as the scheduling of the silence, but not to be too harsh for myself as I already was leading a very busy life. He said to be gentle and kind to myself and not to schedule the program as I would be scheduling my office operations. He advised to sleep as much as possible whenever the body would signal so, in particular during the first days, as meditation or silence without proper sleep and rest would not be effective. He advised not to put heavy physical stress on the body during such silence, but to consume little and light ‘sattvic’ foods and drinks, have a notepad to keep track of the emotions and thoughts and do some mental exercises, japas and meditations.

A first two-day silence retreat was held at home in The Netherlands. A wonderful experience! Time went so fast. I slept a lot and was amazed how much the body required. In those years, I hardly slept, as there was a lot of work to be done, both in office and as a volunteer in many organizations. Several Monks from the Tradition, who stayed at our home in The Netherlands, would see that rhythm and would advise this self to rest more to ensure cleansing of the body. Those two days of silence boosted the energy and carried me forward for many months! The desire for more was created.

Silence on the Move

The busy life became more intense. Living in different time zones for my work could only be done successfully by utilizing every single moment in the journey to silence the mind. Waiting at the airport, missing my flights, facing another delay became small ‘retreats of silence’. Such moments would enable this self to re-energize and prepare for meetings, encounters, negotiations and closing deals in several parts of the world. I saw a reduced consumption of wines and foods during my travels. My life-style was indeed changing.

I recall an event where I had to be in Bangkok (Thailand) for a World Bank meeting and to deliver an opening keynote address to our clients from ASEAN countries. I was in Lima (Peru, South America) and had to cross the continents to arrive in time in Asia to rest, get adjusted to the new time zone and engage in the event. All planned properly, but I missed my flight in Lima and had to catch another flight many hours later, messing up all connecting flights and ultimately arriving right on time to walk to the stage and deliver my keynote address. During the flight, I shaved, and got myself into a suit. All colleagues were astonished as there were no signs of fatigue or jetlag; I was fully focused and facilitated the meetings the whole day and even attended the formal dinner in the evening.

It was the Guru’s Grace that guided my little silences during the 36-hours journey, energizing the mind and the body. Not a heroic feeling, but one that made me feel humble as I got convinced from within that the sciences taught by the Himalayan Masters were - and still are - just great!

The desire for more silence increased. Together with our Himalaya group in The Netherlands we initiated one-week silence retreats. While it all came from the inner desire to be in silence, this self became the ‘organizer’ of retreats which served the participants, the Master and the teachers. We selected beautiful monasteries in The Netherlands, but I could not really do my own silence. The rewards, however, were the conversations deep at night with the Master. No sleep, lots of work but no sense of fatigue. Just joy!

Silence in Sacred Places in Asia

Many years had passed. We moved to Washington DC in USA as I got a job with the World Bank Group. No opportunity anymore for my multi-days of silence. Life was busy, many flights from continent to continent. Pleasant encounters with new Souls across the Planet, but no time to have a few days off for my personal silence. The desire magnified. Then, about five years later, we made a move to Asia to join the corporate world. Work pressures in corporate life in Asia were full of challenges in a period of a collapsed global economy and a corrupt environment. Such high pressures could not be managed with the ‘small moments of silence on the move’.  Even the one-day silence sessions at home in Singapore were too short. The Mind needed more in-depth sessions. I knew it had to be at least one week or more. That was not easy to schedule and execute.

Swami Veda Bharati always said in our conversations, that one needs to go into silence before or after an important assignment or a demanding journey. That ‘mantra’ always resonated and guided me to create that moment in my busy schedule and family life.

My conversations with teachers and co-disciples in the Himalayan Tradition in Singapore and Taiwan helped me to find a sacred location where I could stay for one week. To me a sacred place is like a blanket in which one is wrapped during a silence in which one is vulnerable and goes through unknown terrains of discoveries. The sacred place also serves as a point of reference in the wilderness of thoughts that are unleashed in the first days of such a retreat. It is a point of purification and it helps to focus.

Why not in Rishikesh, India? The answer was simple. Being known in and around  Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama (SRSG) and with the presence of the Master and the teachers, I was not sure whether my silence could really be a silence. To avoid being dragged into meetings and solving problems, I wanted an alternative where I could truly be alone and with no options for distractions.

Finally, the choice was made for the Princess Manohara Center for Buddhism at the foot of the Borobudur Temple in Central Java, Indonesia. Surrounded by beautiful green rice fields, the Borobudur was a silent place. My 2012 silence program included the 04:30 am climb of the temple and breathing the early morning air and enjoying the first rays of sunlight (some call it the ‘Hours of Brahma’), doing the Sun Salutations, followed by a long meditation sit. I would also do a daily walking-japa exercise, i.e. three rounds of walking-japa at each level around the temple, while combining it with the 2-to-1 breathing exercise. Just fantastic. At such a silence retreat, I always aim to study one book from the Himalayan Tradition.

This time, I went through AUM written by Swami Rama, explaining the four stages of consciousness and with some practical exercises too. No emails, no laptop, no mobile phone, no television, no newspapers, no management books, no tourism, no solid foods, just some green tea, juices and light solids in the early days.
I left the place with a deep bow to the Buddha Temple and with a humble feel of gratitude to be privileged to be there and do my silence. The feel of an Ashram.

The 2013 silence was arranged by a co-disciple in Taiwan and my Taiwanese brother who used his influence as a Government Minister to get me inside the Chin-Nan Temple, a 120-year old sacred site on the mountains near Taipei, Taiwan. The Chairman and the Board Members of the Temple welcomed me and they had made arrangements to take care of me, i.e. food, safety and ceremonies.

This self had to explain what silence is, what it does to you, and that I would not need much of food, but all space to meditate and contemplate in and around the temple complex. One week had passed with the speed of a thought. I had focused on Swami Rama’s books: Volumes I & II of the Path of Fire and Light. I left the place with much  love and the good news on my business starting to come in, when I switched on my mobile phone after that one week. Love life!

My 2014 silence has been done at home in Singapore; only two-days, but feeling great! Our home became a temple with several deities such as Shiva, Buddha, Brahma, Saraswati, the Guanyin, Ganesha. The home in which we had thousands of fire offerings on the veranda facing a natural forest. My wife and children, all initiated in the Himalayan Tradition and meditators themselves, understand why silence is important and what blessings they carry to make it happen at home. The silence at home started with a hug to everyone before they were off to school and office. It was great to hear my son (11 years old) saying to me that silence makes my face look more fresh and attracts him to come, hug and touch me all the time. To me it is a distraction and a blessing collapsing at the same time as a reality. Just great!

How does one create the space in office and home? For me it has been the pleasant consequences of seeds planted before, both in the corporate world and with the family. My core team in the office know what to do to ensure business continuity when the ‘CEO does not show up in office the next day’, which means that the governance system (such as rules, procedures, protocols and human talents) in office does not depend solely on you and that the key team carries responsibilities entrusted to them. In the family, one needs to cultivate a culture of silence and joy, such that members support each other for spiritual tasks and assignments. However, for every assignment one must seek the permission, support and blessings of the family. You need to agree with both office and family how to deal with cases of unexpected emergencies in case they occur; then convince and assure them that such emergencies won’t occur, because your silence won’t be disrupted.

Silent Gifts

While not pretending to share with you a complete list of ‘gifts from all my silence retreats’ here are a few ones that are close to me. One can only ‘see’ such gifts when one has been through a period of deep silence. You will see such gifts depending on where you are on the journey. This self offers the list below to the Lineage of Himalayan Masters:

  • Disciplining the Mind: freeing yourself from images, meaningless restrictions and distractions; observing the thoughts of uncertainties, fear, inconveniencies that are not real.

    Our rational mind is looking for one direction, while our inner voice or the Eternal Force is pushing us into another direction; one that resonates harmoniously with the deepest layers of consciousness. Follow that. Do not hide. It is not about losing track. It is about transitioning and embracing the new directions. Embrace and move.
  • Don’t do what you don’t want to do. Your ‘want’ should be followed by the desire to attain your goal or path in life. Don’t allow yourself to be hurt or to cripple your internal strengths and create your own barriers or obstacles. Remove and move.
  • Dreams could provide some information about yourself. Prophetic dreams give you directions, if you recognize it in the silence. But, as Swami Rama says, better not to waste your time with dreams; instead, meditate and have no dreams!
  • The Borobudur Temple is a place where several forces of nature connect: volcanos, lighting, rains, earthquakes and human attacks. Because of its rock-solid inner strengths, its beautiful, poetic, harmonious surrounding of land and mountain-scapes, all Manifests of God, the Temple survived centuries of forces! If the Borobudur Temple could withstand such forces of nature and stay firm, who are we humans to give up simple challenges in life with so much support around us from family, friends and even the ‘unknown’ forces?
  • The assignment of life will be full of challenges and obstacles (known and unknown) and surprises (positive and negative). Deal with it from the space of inner silence.
  • As Tulsidas said: “Pray first to the Devil, that which creates the obstacle, and then bow for it”.
  • You will lose your way. You will have lost your counts, hesitate, not believe whether you have finished a milestone or past a station. You will be confused, get a ‘déjà vu’. You will return, inspect, verify and then move on whether with or without any expectations. Just keep moving.  (An experience also gained when walking around the Borobudur layer to layer and the Labyrinth inside the Cathedral of Chartres in France together with Swami Veda Bharati).
  • You will see the next stages in the journey. You will get excited, but avoid being reckless to go quickly without accomplishing what you do right now and right here. It gives hope to see what’s next, even though you know that the new turn in life will be manifested to you with its own new characteristics, good and bad.
  • From time to time, take a pause and look aside, look backward (as I was taught when climbing mountain walls in the Alps) to see the perspectives of the past and the adjacent. It serves as a reference. Nothing more.
  • Don’t always push or press for change to ‘painful levels’. Also accept how others play the game of life no matter how that would be against your own standards. No need to tolerate bad behavior. Just wait for the right moment to make change happen.
  • Imagining an event in the future from a deep silence and backing it up with full mental support increases the probability for such an event to ‘collapse’ as a reality. Your future is there. Find it with the ‘sattvic’ viewer, create it, and make it happen. Efforts go with it.
  • You learn, because you commit mistakes. You learn because you learn to forgive yourself. Work with determination. When all your human efforts are exhausted and, the desire is strong, then dawns the Divine or Grace.
  • It is not about speed or competition, but about completion of a wonderful journey.
  • Don’t make your ‘sadhana’ or divine intention or action in life a punishment or something boring or sad. Make it a celebration. Life is joyful!
  • In Meditation, no emergency will arise forcing you to come out. The Guru guides.
  • In accepting new assignments in life and working with new people, allow yourself to do your due diligence first on all key aspects. Do not simply trust ‘spirituality’ as a reason, because your Ego might be in your way to give you a false feeling of authenticity. Go into silence before the assignment and follow that advice from the inner voice. Then make it happen and accept the consequences of that move.
  • Cutting the ties with ‘tamasic’ or negative emotions (certainly when they are bigger than your sattvic potentials) will enable you to stop your positive energy or prana within from being sucked out. Only then you will be able to turn inward and rebuild your inner strengths. Meditation, Japa assignments, good sleep (and passionate sex) and sattvic foods and drink surrounded by good friends and family help you to recover from such a tamasic experience.
  • When one is on a pilgrimage, anyone will offer her/his help to you. No need to worry. Just be awake and alert, calm from within. That’s when a stewardess will bring you peanuts and snacks filled in a bag for your journey. When the weather in the mountains suddenly change and it becomes cold, windy and rainy, that’s when someone comes to you from nowhere and offers you her jacket. Such care makes your eyes fill with tears and makes you feel humble. In Sudan (Africa), rural people treat ‘strangers’ with all respect and by serving them the best of food and water, because they do believe that ‘serving a stranger’ is like ‘serving a messenger of God’.
  • As Swami Rama said: don’t waste your time sleeping. Humans only need 3-4 hours of sleep; use the remaining parts of the day to serve others in the journey or serve the Universe. Just do your yoga nidra, 61-points relaxation and your meditations.

Silence, started for me as an incidental desire, but has reached a stage of a ‘vow’ to do my personal retreat at least once every year for a minimum of 2-7 days and around Chinese New Year when movements are naturally still. Silence has become a life-style to re-invent the self by discovering The Self.


Atem S. Ramsundersingh

Co-Founder, CEO and Member of the Board of Directors of WEnergy Global Pte. Ltd., Singapore

Director in the Boards of several Public listed and non-listed Companies in Singapore

Former Senior Manager with the World Bank in Washington DC (USA)

Former Program Director with the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water and Environment in Delft (The Netherlands)

Former Vice-President AHYMSIN

Chief Project Engineer Planning & Construction of Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama (SRSG)




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