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Ilie Cioara was an enlightened mystic who lived in Eastern Europe. His writings in 16 books describe the experience of meditation and enlightenment, as well as the practice of Self-knowing using all-encompassing Attention. The Silence of the Mind is the first in a tetralogy by Ilie Cioara to be published by OBooks, to be followed by The Wondrous Journey, Life is Eternal Newness and I Am Boundlessness.
Recently, I discussed the life and teachings of Ilie Cioara with the translator of Cioara’s book “Silence of the Mind,” Petrica Verdes.
Yogi Times (YT): Can you say a little bit about Cioara—his background and how he came to be a mystic/teacher?
Petrica Verdes: Until the age of 55, when he experienced enlightenment, he had not written a single page, and never tried to be a teacher. What I find inspiring about him, is that he was just an ordinary man, with a deep longing for the divine, living in very adverse circumstances. His has a unique and very unlikely life story. He belongs to no tradition of enlightenment, such as Zen, nonduality, yoga... He is not part of a lineage, he has no master. He never travelled to India.
Because he lived in almost complete isolation, his words have a freshness and a direct simplicity, devoid of any spiritual jargon. Originally, Ilie Cioara was a Christian mystic, living in the 50s and 60s behind the Iron Curtain, in Bucharest, Eastern Europe, in almost complete isolation from any teachings of enlightenment. Outwardly, he had a job, but inwardly, he spent each breath reciting a mantra, from morning until night, searching for a spiritual merging with the divine that he only intuited at the time. After 20 years practicing this mantra, one day he felt an inner impulse to drop the mantra and just practice the silence of the mind. Watching everything that was happening around him, in the now, with an all-encompassing attention.
In his apartment, he was just listening to the noise of the street, or to silence, without creating any mental comments about what he was perceiving. A few years later, one morning, waking up from his sleep, a surprise event happened. He noticed that his mind had become completely silent, a simple mirror of what was happening in the present. He felt like a man who had been blind from birth, and had just regained his sight after undergoing surgery: everything around him looked as new. A silent mind perceives things as they are.
After a while, he realized that he had experienced liberation, the “shattering” of the ego, or enlightenment. Soon afterwards, he felt the inner impulse to share his experience, using short verses which could give the reader a taste of no-mind. The verses were followed by prose explanations. Most of these writings had to be hidden in the apartment of a friend, until 1990, when the iron curtain fell, so as not to be confiscated by the communist authorities.
YT: How did you first hear of and meet Ilie Cioara?
Petrica Verdes: In 2002, I found one of his books in a bookshop, and I wrote the publisher straight away, asking if they could pass me the address of the author. The book just mesmerized me, I felt an energy surrounding the text and I used to meditate with it and carry it with me. To my surprise, after a few weeks, I received a reply from the editor, with the author’s address and telephone number.
I called him the same day and arranged a meeting with him the next morning. Ilie Cioara’s door was always open to whoever was interested in the truth. He did not ask any questions: you were the one who asked the questions, if you needed to. After a 10 hour train journey, I knocked on his door. The door opened and I was welcomed by the most amazing eyes. I had seen these eyes before, in photos of Ramana Maharshi, Osho, Papaji, Yogananda—yet it was the first time I saw them in real life. In front of me stood a very vital and alive old man, who I thought was around 60 years old. Little did I know at the time that he was 86.
The room was full of an energy which made my mind become silent. He asked me if I had any questions to ask him, but I couldn’t think of anything, my mind was just blank. I just wanted to sit and meditate in his presence, and look into those eyes. He said to me that this had happened to other people as well, and that, if necessary, I needed to write my questions at home, and bring them with me the next time. There was a strong meditative energy in the room. I just wanted to relax into that energy.
YT: How did you become the translator for his books?
Petrica Verdes: The idea came to me in 2006. I was living in the UK and I had one of his books on me. I started reading excerpts in English to a friend and something happened, the idea of translating the book just took over my life. The translation just flowed spontaneously and effortlessly. I could feel Ilie Cioara’s presence. Every morning I started waking up spontaneously around 5am and the words just flowed. I did not have to do a translation, the book just translated itself.
The whole project was my idea and my personal effort. I started contacting many publishers, and finally, I found OBoooks. I had created a facebook page and posted a few quotes from the book. Within 2 months, the page had 3,000 fans. That’s when OBooks accepted to publish the book.
YT: Is there a specific teaching that impacted you or changed the way you live your life?
Petrica Verdes: Ilie Cioara’s teaching is very simple: just watch the mind, emotions, any movement of the fictitious self, and as the mind becomes quiet, the blissful, divine essence of your being is revealed. No need for masters, methods, techniques or rituals. In fact, any methods or rituals originate from and create a mental pattern, further strengthening the fiction and the prison of the ego. Our divine nature is infinite, boundless, blissful—and it cannot be attained through any efforts of the mind or of the “ego”. If I had to sum his teaching in one sentence, it would be: when the mind is silent our inner divinity is revealed.
I had been practicing many meditation techniques, before I began to practice witnessing my thoughts. It is a practice that can be done in any circumstances, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Remembering not to give energy to the mind, knowing that when the mind is resting, a higher energy takes over, and it guides us through flashes of intuitive understanding. We just “see” something and understand it profoundly, intuitively, without needing to filter any knowledge through the mind. This practice has become part of my life. It is a great gift to understand that truth is very simple. Applying it is more difficult, but this apparent difficulty is easily overcome with a little persistence and thirst for the divine.
YT: How can a person put Cioara’s teachings into practice? (In other words, what are the practical day-to-day actions a person can take?)
Petrica Verdes: Simple watching. Remembering to witness the mind, that you are not the mind. It sounds too simple to be true, but it really works. We are all One. Truth is One. What can be more simple than this.
The mind tends to create divisions, techniques, esoteric knowledge, but truth is very, very simple. All is One. We have fallen into the trap of believing that we are our mind, or our body, or our emotions, with all the respective baggage – our mental identity, our fears, possessions, etc. In fact, we are Oneness, our essence is one with the Great Boundless Whole.
We are trapped in the shell of the mind. How do you become liberated? It is simple, just get out of this shell. By witnessing the mind – we realize we are not the mind. We detach from the mind. We spontaneously get out of the prison of the mind. Even though it seems too simple to be true, it actually works. From the moment you wake up in the morning, until you fall asleep at night, realize you are not the mind. Just witness it. Whatever you do, whichever the circumstance.
You get up, go to the bathroom to brush your teeth – this witnessing continues. You get dressed to go to work, witnessing is there, in the background. You get in the car and start driving, you keep on witnessing. This witnessing is a miracle. It does not seem like it at first glance. The word “witnessing” is not very appealing, it is a bit dry. Yet it holds the key to all the mysteries of existence. Witnessing cannot be understood by the mind. Witnessing unfolds in its eternal mystery. It needs to be practiced, it is an experience.
YT: What’s the message of Cioara’s book, “The Silence of the Mind?” How will reading it change or affect a person’s life?
The Silence of the Mind is a unique book in the sense that it is not an explanation or description of meditation. Cioara tries to give the reader a direct taste of the space of no-mind. Words are a device, an instrument the author uses in order to transport the reader beyond the mind. The book itself is a meditation, it can be used as a device to go deeper into silence. It is also journey of self-exploration for the reader. By reading it directly, without any mental comments, the reader can directly experience the space of meditation.
To give you an example, one of my favorite poems:
The Power of Emptiness
The mind is completely silent, we are attentive - a clear consciousness,
All meanings, boundaries disappear - us and the Infinite are "One";
Practically we have a new mind, always fresh.
Being in the pause, I become infinite!
It separates two worlds. I leave the limited world
And enter Boundlessness, through total melting;
The whole being is calm - a constant sparkle.
There is no time, no space - just everlasting Eternity;
I move in direct contact with life, in a permanent present.
I am Pure Energy, without motivations,
The simplicity of existence integrates us completely.
This book was not written with an attempt to give you any knowledge, but rather to make you drop all knowledge. It tries to give you a direct experience of who you truly are. It is not meant to be read from beginning to end. Just open it randomly, and you will find a passage that speaks to you.
In the chaos of our daily life, opening the book for a moment and reading and experiencing a passage will reconnect you with who you really are. The book carries the fragrance and the mystery of the beyond. It is an invitation for the reader to go beyond their mind and experience this reality for himself.
Read an excerpt by Ilie Cioara