Knowledge of the supernatural occurs only in silence. And what is experienced in silence, how can that be expressed in speech? Silence and speech are antithetical. When he is experienced within there are no words, only complete silence. How can you find in words what you have known in emptiness? The medium has changed. Emptiness is a different medium altogether – the formless – whereas words have shape and form. How can you give form to what is formless? This has been a problem for all who have known. How can it be expressed? Imagine hearing a beautiful song and trying to explain it to a deaf person.
There is an old Sufi story: A deaf shepherd was grazing his sheep near a mountain. It was afternoon, long past the usual hour his wife brought his lunch and he was very hungry. As she had never been late before he began to worry whether she was taken ill or had met with an accident. The shepherd looked around and saw a woodcutter perched high on a tree. He reached up to him and said, “Brother, would you keep an eye on my lambs? I would like to run home and get my food.”
Now, as it happened, the woodcutter also was deaf. He said, “On your way! I have no time to waste in idle gossip.” The shepherd understood from his gestures that he had agreed to his request. He ran home as fast as he could and returned with his food. He counted his sheep and all was in order. He thought it would be nice to offer a gift to the woodcutter as a gesture of his gratitude and good will. Having a lame sheep which he would have to kill some day, he took it with him to where the woodcutter was.
Now when the woodcutter saw the shepherd with the lame lamb, he cried out in anger, “What? Do you mean to say I made her lame?”
The more the shepherd offered the lamb to him, the louder shouted the woodcutter. Now it happened that a horseback rider who had lost his way came upon the two. He meant to ask them the way but immediately the two of them caught hold of him. As luck would have it, the rider, who also was stone-deaf, had just stolen the horse and was riding away with it. When these two caught hold of him he thought they must be the owners of the horse. Meanwhile the shepherd asked him earnestly to explain to the woodcutter that he was presenting the lamb as a gift to him.
The woodcutter said, “Please tell this man I did not so much as look at his sheep, much less make this one lame!”
The horseman said, “You may take back the horse. I admit my guilt, please forgive me.”
While all this confusion was going on a Sufi fakir happened to pass by. All three rushed at him, caught hold of his clothing and begged him to clear things up for them. The fakir had taken a lifelong vow of silence, and although he understood each of their problems, what was he to do? He looked deep and long into the eyes of the rider, who began to get restless. He thought this man was hypnotizing him. He became so frightened that he jumped on the horse and rode away.
Now the fakir turned and looked piercingly at the shepherd who also felt he was losing consciousness. He quickly gathered his sheep and went on his way. When the fakir turned to the third man, he was equally frightened.