By Debashish Mukerji
One hour of total silence every single day can change your life. Observe it strictly for 21 days without a break, resisting every temptation to cheat, and it will become a habit. It will make you rich, it will make you successful and it will also leave you at peace with yourself. This is the core of Vijay Eswaran’s successful self-help formula, delivered at over 3,000 meetings and 2,000 closed-door sessions across the world, and now set down in a volume – In the Sphere of Silence.
Eswaran is the first to concede that his mantra is not a new one. "I make no claim to originality," he declared. "The idea is rooted in the ancient Hindu concept of practising mouna." Mahatma Gandhi observed ‘days of silence’ throughout his life. Closer home, Eswaran had his grandfather as model. "As a child I saw my grandfather observing mouna vratam. I picked up elements of the practise without really understanding its depths then," he recalled.
Later, in 1984, while backpacking through Europe on holiday, Eswaran, on an impulse, decided to spend a month working as a lay volunteer at a Franciscan monastery in Italy, an order which forbade speech. "It was difficult, especially when one went to buy provisions for the monastery," he said. "But I really understood the value of silence then."
What exactly is its value? "Our mind has an enormous amount stored inside it, but it all needs to be harnessed properly," explained Eswaran. "Silence enables us to plan our lives: to introspect, to think ahead and to set our goals. It detaches us from the day to day, fixing our attention on the wood instead of the trees." Eswaran’s daily hour of silence is not intended for lazing around: his formula includes strict instructions on exactly how to spend it.
Golden value: Vijay Eswaran
The first 10 minutes should be used to recall the past 24 hours of one’s life to analyse one’s errors and achievements. The next 20 minutes go in planning – setting goals, for the day ahead as well as long-term ones. The following 15 should be devoted to concentrated reading – any serious material will do, but immediately afterwards for five minutes, the book recommends, "We should, putting away the material, try to recall as much as possible of what we have just read." The last 10 minutes are for "a private conversation with God: pray, seek and ask him questions in your heart which need answers. The beautiful thing about this process is that the answers will come to you in some form or another."
Eswaran has been holding his meetings and sessions regularly since 1999 – the sessions are called the Truth Application Process (TAP) – where he elaborates at length on this core message. Each session limits its audience to 40-45 people, and can last three to nine hours. "People have returned to tell me that their lives have been changed by a single such interaction," said Eswaran. "We have a waiting list of 1,800 wanting to attend." Likewise, his talks on the subject to larger audiences have evoked intense emotions. "People have come to me at the end of these talks, wanting to touch my feet," he revealed. "I’ve been amazed by the responses myself!"
In the Sphere of Silence was born when Eswaran decided to publish the notes he used for his lectures and sessions in book form. Launched at the New York Book Expo in June last year, it has sold in lakhs and has been translated into German, Farsi and Bahasa Indonesia, with forewords written by former heads of state in the Philippines and Indonesia. More translations are in the pipeline. "I’ve deliberately kept the book short, and the language as simple as possible," Eswaran maintained, "so that my ideas get across to the maximum number of people."
Eswaran need not have worried. The biggest endorsement for the efficacy of his formula is Eswaran himself. Born in Penang, into a Malaysia based family of Tamil descent, he is, at 45, managing director and CEO of QI, a $700 million worth multinational dealing in e-commerce and related services. Since 1991, Eswaran has been meticulously observing his own hour of silence every day, along with a complete day’s silence once a month. "I can miss anything during the day, but not my hour of silence," he asserted.
However, unlike Gandhi or the ancient sages who inspired him, Eswaran does not believe in austerity or shunning material success, which makes his formula all the more attractive. "There are so many Ph.Ds in finance but how many drive around in Mercedes cars?" he questioned. "They know all about money, but are unable to make it. There are certain attitudes required for success." And this book spells them out.
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