lie Cioara was an enlightened mystic who did not belong to any lineage. He is unique in a way, in the sense that he lived in almost complete isolation, in Eastern Europe in a communist country, completely oblivious of nonduality, zen etc. Originally a Christian mystic, he practiced a mantra for over 20 years.
One day, he felt an intuitive impulse to drop the mantra, and just practice the silence of the mind, by listening to the noises on the street, in the now. After following this practice for a few years, one morning, as he was waking up from his sleep, he suddenly experienced Enlightenment. His description of meditation is fresh and devoid of any tradition and jargon.
His writings in 16 books describe the experience of meditation and enlightenment, as well as the practice of “Self-knowing” using all-encompassing Attention. Like Ramana Maharshi, Krishnamurti, Ekhart Tolle, his is a simple message of discovering our inner divine nature through the silence of the mind.
The Silence of the Mind is the first in a tetralogy by Ilie Cioara to be published by Obooks. Soon to follow: The Wondrous Journey into the Depth of Our Being, Life is Eternal Newness and I Am Boundlessness
Petrica Verdes (Deva Daan) A translator and a seeker of truth, he has been practicing meditation and living in various meditation communes in Italy, Germany and the UK. Translating Iie Cioara’s work has been a labour of love and a process of spiritual growth.
NDM: Can you please tell me about how you met Ilie Cioara?
Petrica Verdes: In 2002, I came across one of Ilie Cioara’s 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 around the text and I used to meditate with it and carry it with me. To my surprise, after a month, 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.
I remember two anecdotes from this encounter. At one point, he told me a woman had come to him, and she had the gift of reading other people’s thoughts. She came to him for recognition, yet his reply was simple: “Aren’t your thoughts enough, now you want to have other people’s thoughts?”
Another thing he told me during our meeting – the famous saying by Descartes; I think, therefore, I am. Ilie Cioara commented this was one of the stupidest things he had ever heard, because, only when I do not think, I truly Am. This was an deeply untrue statement. A correct statement would be “I think, therefore, I am not”
NDM: So did you meet up with him again?
Petrica Verdes: I only met him once while he was in the body. After a few months I left the country to Italy, to live in a meditation commune there, I had other dreams and ideals. By the time I got round to seeing him again, in 2004, he had passed away.
NDM: Can you please tell me how this man and his book impacted you?
Petrica Verdes: I’ve been reading and re-reading this book for many years. Each reading adds a deeper level of understanding.
This is not a book about meditation, or describing meditation. The book is a meditation in itself. Words are used as a device to transport the reader in a state of meditation.
Ilie Cioara – The Silence of the Mind
To give you a firsthand example, the poem 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.
The book is a journey of self-discovery for the reader. Through these mirror-poems, he is able to see the reality of his being as if in a mirror. The approach of the book is very intuitive and practical, rather than descriptive. He does not explain – he gives the reader an experience, using words. All the verses are followed by explanations in prose.
The book is not necessarily meant to be read from beginning to end. One can carry it in his pocket, open it randomly and read a passage: it will help reconnect with the reality of being. Like looking into a mirror, we are reminded of the original face we had before we were born and after we die.
I had been carrying this book in my pocket for a long time. The particular thing about this book is – usually, enlightened people do not write books – they speak to disciples, and the discourses are written. One feels like one is eavesdropping – the master is speaking to the disciple, and we are listening to this as spectators. Some of it may regard us as well, some of it is specifically directed at that disciple.
Because Ilie Cioara was almost alone, during the communist years, he had to communicate this experience in writing. He is using words directly, as a device for awakening. He is addressing the reader directly, but he is not there to provide information, he is there to awaken.
In a way, this setback has created a unique book. It is not a discourse – the reader can use the book as a device to awaken. And Ilie Cioara is the first to remind the reader:”You don’t need anything outside yourself. Forget the author completely and just stay with the experience of being in the moment. Read the words and transcend them.”
NDM: So as a result of reading this book, did you experience some kind of an awakening your self? If so can you please tell me what this is?
Petrica Verdes: One can read a book, close it and forget about it. Or re-read it again and think: this is a wonderful book, and close it again and forget about it.
Rather than merely reading the book, it is the daily practice of what is described in the book, that simple attention to the present moment that changed my life. It is a daily practice, wherever I am, in whatever circumstances, from early morning until late in the night, to just watch the mind and do not buy into its games and most of all, do not give it any energy. Mind exists because we give it energy, because we believe in it. If we disidentify with it, if we detach from it – its energy supply is cut off. It cannot exist without us. And the reverse is also the case – we cannot exist without the mind. When the mind is not – we stop existing as an “ego” entity.
This is why it is in our best interest to keep the mind going. This is how we can also continue to exist, with our dreams, ideals, aspirations – all these are fuel to our “ego” identity.
So the ego pretends – I want to be rid of the mind – but in fact, “ego” and mind are in a deep partnership. You watch the mind, but you don’t want to disappear as an entity. You want the mind to disappear, without realizing that – with the disappearance of the mind, you will also disappear.
So we give the mind energy, because the mind allows us to exist as an individuality. We pretend we meditate, this is a game that every meditator plays with himself. We don’t want to disappear. There is still something unaccomplished, something we long for, something we need to achieve, we have not let go and just be in the present moment.
Ilie Cioara – Creation is Eternal Freshness
So this is one thing to be remembered, by not giving energy to the mind, you also cut off the energy invested in the “ego” identity. Accept death as an “ego” because sooner or later this is the end result of meditation. This is what I learned by practicing Ilie Cioara’s teachings.
It’s years of observation of one’s thoughts that finally bring an awakening, without needing to do something in particular, just a simple observation. It is not cheap. The mind is lives upon lives of living in ignorance, a huge deposit of unconscious mechanical impulses which does not go away so easily.
Whenever I read the book, I find a deeper dimension of myself. It’s one of those books that can be re-read, time and again, because it is mystical. It does not give you knowledge, it gives you an experience, using poetry. But the practice is not confined to the book, the book is just an indicator sign.
As translator, reading or translating the book is like a satsang with Ilie Cioara, it is a process of growth, being in the energy of an enlightened being. Each enlightened being that lived on this earth is alive in the infinite dimension, and one can come into contact with that infinite energy. Buddha is present in the Buddha statue. Jesus is present in the communion. Other enlightened masters are present in a photo. So from this point of view, the fact of translating, reading, re-reading the book, day after day, has been an individual process of growth and deepening of meditation that goes beyond knowledge. Reading and re-reading, one goes beyond words. But that has been my individual journey, each person has his own journey, his own enlightened masters that light one’s path.
NDM: Ok, your description daily practice sounds like Buddhist vipassana. Buddha first developed this method 2,500 years ago. Is his method any different from vipassana is what I’m asking?
Petrica Verdes: No, it is not vipassana. Vipassana is still a technique – you follow the breath going in, going out, going in, going out. It is a method.
Ilie Cioara’s practice (and he describes it better in his own words, but I will try sum it up) is not about watching a particular thing. You watch whatever is going on inside of you, thoughts, emotions, sensations, and you also watch what is going on outside of you, whatever “is” in the present. He calls it an “all-encompassing Attention”.
In the end inner-outer become one movement. There is no more inner and outer. It is difficult to describe, it is an experience. In the end the meditator transcends into the infinite dimension, when the “ego” is no more – you become infinite, beyond body, beyond mind, beyond emotions.
Of course it is difficult in the beginning; one starts with watching the mind, or the breath, but as watching deepens, as you go deeper in watching, this watching becomes all-encompassing, spontaneously, no need to force it. Start with watching and this watching will slowly expand. Do not get fixated on an object, such as the breath.
In one sense, vipassana has something in common with it – the act of watching. Watching the breath in this case. But as the experience deepens, watching becomes without object and effortless – you just watch whatever is, in the present, inside and outside. In the end watching dissolves into itself, and with the phenomenon of enlightenment – you disappear as “ego” and you are a pure silent effortless consciousness – who can still use the mind, who can still inhabit a body – but you are infinite, limitless, in the infinite dimension. The barrier or the illusion of the ego has disappeared.
When the body dies, you say good bye to your dwelling, but you continue to exist, nevertheless, nothing is taken away.
However, Ilie Cioara’s practice is not new. It is an old practice, expressed in a new form.
NDM: When you say “When the mind is not – we stop existing as an “ego” entity. “
Ilie Cioara – The Power of Emptiness
Petrica Verdes: Yes. but that happens every night in deep sleep, but let me ask you his question, why is it that when we wake up from deep sleep we are still sleep, sleepwalking during the day and do not know what we are?
NDM: Also how do we wake up exactly? Can you please tell me the process of how this works?
Petrica Verdes: Deep sleep is deep unconsciousness. During deep sleep, we completely lose consciousness of who we are – it is very different from the state of transcending the “ego” entity.
It would be a different matter if we were conscious during deep sleep. The body is asleep, yet you are conscious of it, and awake. This is the experience of turyia, the fourth state of consciousness.
I remember a story about Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido. He used to encourage his students to catch him unaware, whatever time, day or night, and to try to hit him with a staff. No one succeeded.
One of his students recalls waking up in the middle of the night, getting his staff and going to Ueshiba’s room, where he was sleeping. As he was about to hit him, Ueshiba’s eyes opened and he said “You aren’t going to hit your master, are you?”
Morihei Ueshiba was enlightened, and he had the experience of being aware, awake 24 hours a day, even during deep sleep. No one could catch him unaware.
So during the day we are in a state of unconsciousness, and during deep sleep we fall into an even deeper state of unconsciousness.
The experience of ceasing to exist as an ego entity is an oceanic experience. You become the ocean of consciousness, even if you keep living in a body, this is just a temporary abode for you.
Many masters have described the experience of awakening, enlightenment. In fact, descriptions do not help. It is an experience that needs to be experienced. You need to go through it.
In order to learn what love is, you need to go through the experience. No descriptions of love can help. Only after you fall in love with a woman or a man, then you will know what love is.
It is the same with awakening. You put all your energy into awakening. You will discover what it is when you experience it. There is no way to learn it from descriptions.
Transcending the “ego” is a mystery which needs to be experienced. There are many masters who have offered many descriptions of it. Descriptions are a hindrance because you already create an idea about it, so that prior idea becomes an obstacle.
In the Zen tradition nothing is said about enlightenment. People do zazen, and when someone gets it, he packs his meditation mat and goes away to teach. Or maybe he receives a slap from the master, as recognition. They laugh together, because he has got it. Someone else has not got it yet, but it is just a matter of time. He will only find it by himself, through experience.
NDM:Also when you say” We pretend we meditate, this is a game that every meditator plays with himself. We don’t want to disappear.’ Do you feel that traditional meditation doesn’t work? That it’s just a game of sorts?
Petrica Verdes: What I meant is we simply need to be aware of this game. Any meditation works if the person is sincere.
It is natural. In the beginning stages, the ego has a lot of energy, so it is the “ego” who wants to become enlightened, the “ego” meditates, the “ego” wants to be liberated. But it is just a natural stage. Everyone goes through this.
As the ego starts to weaken, as its energies weaken, we become more silent; quiet naturally, a new dimension opens. We realize the “ego” is the very problem, the very obstacle separating us from the ocean of existence. And this separation is just imaginary. We are never really separate. The fish is always in the ocean.
So meditation touches a new dimension – the ego starts to dissolve, there are short moments of union with the whole.
But these are just natural stages in meditation, what I meant is we need to simply become aware of this game, stop chasing one’s tail – and a new dimension opens.
Also when you say “Each enlightened being that lived on this earth is alive in the infinite dimension, and one can come into contact with that infinite energy. Buddha is present in the Buddha statue. Jesus is present in the communion. Other enlightened masters are present in a photo.”
NDM: What do your mean by this exactly? How is Jesus present in communion for example. How can a person who was executed two thousand years ago be in a piece of wafer bread today? Do you mean in an imaginary way of some kind, as a belief? The same applies to Buddha. How is Siddhārtha Gautama who was cremated and turned into ash or someone else like this who was buried and consumed by maggots be in a statue which is made out of stone?
Petrica Verdes: Buddha’s body was cremated, but Buddha was not the body. An enlightened person lives in a dimension beyond time and space. He is the ocean of consciousness, and the ocean itself is timeless and spaceless, it is beyond form.
Yet the enlightened person is very much alive, even after the death of the body, nothing changes. He belongs to the infinite, timeless dimension. Words are too poor to describe this.
Nevertheless, one can feel this. If someone is a devotee, or aware enough, you can feel Osho’s energy in a photo.
Meera, an Indian mystic woman, lived 4.500 years after Krishna’s death, yet she was a devotee of Krishna. She saw him, she danced with him, she felt his energy. Time and space are irrelevant.
An enlightened being lives in the infinite dimension – he is one with the infinity of the cosmos. He is beyond form. Yet, one can feel this person as energy.
Ilie Cioara – Listening and Watching
With modern mystics, if someone focuses on a picture of Ramana Maharshi, or Anandamayi, or Ramakrishna, one can feel an energy enveloping us, as if in an embrace. This has been experienced by many people. The enlightened person who is not in the body is not limited by time and space. It is a satsang.
In the past, when there were no photos, enlightened masters left their disciples certain symbols and rituals by which they could be contacted.
Jesus says – if three gather in my name, I will also be here.
Now this can be interpreted mystically. The three are the body, mind and spirit. When the three are one, I will also be here.
Baptism is one of such rituals. Communion is another. In the last supper, when he gives them the bread and the wine, and says “Eat this bread, this is my body. Drink this wine, this is my blood.” He leaves them a symbol, a means to connect with them when he is no longer in the body, yet he is still present in the infinite dimension.
Each enlightened person of antiquity left a key, a means to contact him. Nowadays, if there is a photo, there is no need for such key.
The same with the Buddha statues. Genuine Buddha statues were created by people who were in a state of meditation – and the statue has a quality of meditation. No one knows what Gautam Buddha looked like, and no one cares. It’s only appearance, form.
When a sculptor, in a deep state of meditation, creates a statue of Buddha, if someone meditates in front of that statue, he will come into contact with Buddha. This does not happen with all Buddha statues, unless they are created from a state of meditation.
Buddha is not in a statue, it does not matter what the statue is made of. Buddha is energy, and the statue is just a trigger, like a telephone, by which you contact the boundless, infinite, ocean of consciousness that is Buddha.
If someone from the middle ages came and saw people speaking on the phone, he would think they are mad. Why are they speaking to this small box? What is the point? This small box made of wires and copper and buttons!? Yet the person is not speaking to the phone, he is speaking to a real person, who is at the other end of the phone.
Similarly, if a person meditates with a Buddha statue, people think he is mad. How is Buddha in a statue made of stone? He is not in the statue – the statue is just a trigger.
Stone is a very primitive material. Nowadays there are photos. The photo is like a cellphone for contacting enlightened beings. Gurdjieff, Ramana Maharshi, Osho, Lahiri Mahasaya, Ramakrishna, Ma Anandamayi. Just sit in meditation, in full awareness, and look at the photo. Ramakrishna will be here, Osho will be here. Not Ramakrishna’s body, which was eaten by maggots. He was never the body. The body was just form, a temporary abode for the universal boundless spirit.
NDM: When you say a photo is for contacting enlightened beings. What do you contact exactly? Do you mean like their spirit, soul or their ghost of some sort?
For example can you contact Buddha’s spirit or his soul? Also what about looking into their eyes. For example if I were to stare at Ramana’s or Papaji or Gangaji or Moojis eyes, could I get direct transmission from them? Is this an esoteric eye method of some kind?
Petrica Verdes: There is nothing esoteric about it. Enlightened people are always available, Krishna is always available, Jesus is always available, Osho is always available.
We are just not aware enough to feel this. The more we grow in awareness, when we wake up, we simply see, that from the picture, an energy envelops us.
They are always available, only we are not available to them. We are in the mind. We live and dream in the mind.
When we get out of the mind, we see that they were always there. In a photo, looking into someone’s eyes.
The key is awareness… the more we are aware, the more we tune into their level of consciousness. The world is full of masters, but everyone has his eyes closed.
They have transcended the ego, they have entered into the infinite, timeless dimension. They exist as infinite energy, boundless, without form. In a dimension beyond space and time. In the eternal now.
There is no technique involved. The more we live in the now, in the same dimension they live in, the more aware we are to their presence.
Time does not make any difference in this dimension. Thousands of years have passed, Krishna is still alive as boundless energy in the timeless dimension.
A thing to be remembered is that we are also the same boundless energy. Only we have identified with a body, with a mind, we have created our own limits, in the form of the “ego” shell. But essentially, we are also boundless energy.
So when our boundless energy meets an enlightened person’s boundless energy, it helps the “ego” to dissolve. You surrender to this boundless energy and you have the courage to let go of limitations, allow this boundless energy to envelop you into boundlessness, like when the ocean flows into a dam and tears it down. This dam is the “ego”.
NDM: When you say” Many masters have described the experience of awakening, enlightenment. In fact, descriptions do not help. It is an experience that needs to be experienced. You need to go through it. ” How can I experience this? Is this something you can give me or transmit to me?
Petrica Verdes: There are many methods and techniques of meditation. The essential ingredient is the sincerity of the person, and the thirst for truth, otherwise one plays with meditation, postponing endlessly: Sometime, in another life, it will happen to me. I am just a poor mortal, not like the great enlightened beings that lived on this planet.
In fact, there is no difference between you and Osho, Krishnamurti, Ramana Maharshi. You have the same potential – only you are under the domination of the mind. The mind creates dreams, and you are daydreaming continuously. Everything they have, you also have. In fact, you are already in It. Only you are daydreaming, you live in a dream. To put it more clearly: you live in the mind. All thoughts are dreams.
So the mind is the only problem that needs to be addressed. When the mind is no more, or better, when the mind is completely silent, and it only comes into action when you want it to come into action – in that moment you see reality as it is and you realize you are already in It.
The only problem are the dreams of the mind. Papaji, the enlightened being who originated the neo-nonduality trend, had only one teaching. Be silent. Let the mind be silent. This is it. Many Papaji disciples forget this. How many non-duality teachers have a truly silent mind?
When the mind is silent all is revealed. Truth is simple intellectually; it is immensely difficult in practice.
Witnessing is the key. Witnessing, watching, you detach from the mind, you give it less and less energy. You are the mind. The mind is an extension of you.
The mind exists because you have so much energy invested in it. Stop investing energy in it and it will wither away. Just watch, constant watchfulness.
There are many teachers who describe witnessing, watchfulness. Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now is a good example. Osho has many books on it. Ilie Cioara describes the same. It’s the same thing, explained from every angle.
The important thing is to practice it, to explore it within us. To start with a practice and explore our inner being. It is a space where only we can enter.
Truth is simple, very simple. Most mystics were not intellectuals; they were simple people who walked the path. Practice is all. It is an inner exploration and there are no maps, because all is One, how can you map the One ocean of consciousness?
NDM: Also what do you mean by experience of turiya , the fourth state of consciousness. How can I “experience” this as you say?
Petrica Verdes: Turiya is the end of meditation. When the shell of the ego is broken and you become the infinite ocean of consciousness, beyond time and space, that is turiya.
It is practically the state of enlightenment, liberation etc. A state of permanent awakening, beyond time and space. It is a mysterious state, impossible to describe. It is impossible to understand with the mind because it is a state beyond mind.
It is the end of the road. The beginning of the road is witnessing, watchfulness. When the witness dissolves into itself, and you become limitless, spontaneously, effortlessly conscious, this is turiya. But turyia just happens, it cannot be achieved or attained. If you simply prepare the ground, by giving less and less energy to the mind, witnessing the mind – one day, the mind is so silent that boom, something happens, the witness dissolves into the limitless.
NDM: How would someone know if they were enlightened or not? Is there a test someone would take?
Petrica Verdes: I would say a good test is: when you go to sleep, if you lose consciousness during deep sleep, then you are not enlightened yet.
Who we really are is eternally awake and conscious. If you go to sleep, and the body falls asleep, but there is something in you that continues to be awake and aware of your surroundings, even during deep sleep, 24 hours a day, you are It.
NDM: When you speak about meditation, what kind of meditation are you speaking of?
Petrica Verdes: There are many techniques of meditation. The state of meditation is one.
There are many types of meditation because there are many divisions of the mind. But meditation is beyond mind – so it is beyond types. It just is.
The funny thing is, there are therapists who invent new meditations, CD guided meditations, trademarked meditations, only adding a new division and increasing the confusion.
Meditation is beyond techniques, labels, types, divisions, tradition. It is being one with the ocean of alive consciousness. We begin by having short glimpses of oneness.
Any technique is ultimately a burden, because it belongs to the mind. But some people need techniques. Even when practicing a technique, the important thing to remember is that meditation is beyond techniques and that sooner or later, the technique will need to be dropped.
Ultimately, even witnessing is a technique which will ultimately be dropped.