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THIS BOOK PRESENTS THE LIFE AND WORK OF LILIAN SILBURN (1908-1993), one of the greatest French Indianists, and a specialist in Kashmir Shaivism, Tantrism and Buddhism.
A philosopher by training, and director of research at the CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research), Lilian Silburn turned to Oriental philosophies very early on. She was one of the first to make known in the West the writings of the Kashmiri mystical philosophers.
She was also a disciple of a great Indian Sufi master, Radha Mohan Lal Adhauliya"Bhai Sahib" with whom she will make many and long stays until his death in 1966.
Composed of a large number of personal writings never published to date, this book presents us with the testimony of an exceptional spiritual and philosophical experience. It also evokes the atmosphere of the life she led near Paris in Le Vésinet after the death of her master ... a simple, active life, devoted to her Work.
Surrounded by friends attracted by her personality and her spiritual "efficiency," Lilian Silburn endeavored to help others discover, within the silence and the most varied forms of ordinary life, the "non-way" which had been revealed to her by her master.
Illustrated with photographs, Lilian Silburn: A Mystical Life contains various testimonies which give a fuller view of this extraordinary personality both a great scholar and a great mystic.
Lilian Silburn was among fifteen mystical women featured at the Musee des Cultures du Monde in Montreal, 2022, entitled, Les Femmes et la Mystique. The Exhibit included Mary Magdalene, Catherine of Siena, Yeshe Tsogyal, Machig Labdrön, Irina Tweedie, Lallā, Teresa of Avila, Lilian Silburn, Kaguna (Inuvialuit shamaness), Clare of Assisi, Mīrābāī, Etty Hillesum, Rābi’a Al-’ Adawiyya, Chiyo-ni, and Sharika Devi.
Endorsements and Praise
The reader has in their hands an exceptional spiritual document describing the mystical experience of a contemporary woman, Lilian Silburn, who, having met and merged with a master in India, then returned to Europe to share the experience of "transmission" from heart to heart.
Exceptional because it is a direct testimony: extracts from Lilian Silburn's diary, and correspondence between her and her guru, which sheds light on their deep relationship, and many photographs.
Exceptional because this book tells us about the experience of deep silence, an ineffable experience, beyond words, but loaded with meaning.
In contrast to the ocean of "spiritual" literature that surrounds us, we finally have the biography of an exceptional contemporary mystic: Lilian Silburn. It is written by a close friend, Jacqueline Chambron, who relied on Lilian's personal archives and the testimonies of those close to her.
Jacqueline Chambron tells us how this intrepid woman traveled alone to India after WWII to seek a Master capable of fulfilling her demanding spiritual quest. Through the Sanskrit texts that she had read as an Indianist philosopher, she knew that it was possible for some masters to transmit grace directly from heart to heart, without resorting to any technique.
This unlikely meeting of two destinies took place in Kanpur, India. The Master was neither Hindu nor Muslim ... this universal path not caring about religions. He immersed Lilian Silburn in the pure mystical experience, without asceticism or technique, as she had wished.
He knew how to go beyond all prejudice to give initiation to a woman, a foreigner moreover. He gave Lilian Silburn a complete mystical training and the charge of transmitting to France what she had received. She dedicated her life to it. Her life is extraordinary. This rare book will fascinate seekers of the absolute.
In the vast heritage of different spiritual paths, there is an essential aspect that is rarely discussed, that of "transmission." The present work bears witness in an extremely vivid way to this very special experience lived by Lilian Silburn (1908-1993) with her Indian Sufi master and transmitted in turn continuously in France.
Beyond a simple testimony, this work evokes the efficiency of Grace transmitted silently from master to master within the uninterrupted lineage of her Guru. The transmission, free from any form teachings, rituals, practices is carried out directly from the master who fills one with Grace to melt the heart and make it suitable "to seize divine impulses on the fly."
Lilian Silburn was a great French scholar concerned with many facets of Indian religion and philosophy. She worked with others in French academic circles such as Louis Renou; and Andre Padoux, a fine Tantric scholar himself, was a student of hers. She was also among the circle of Indian and European students of Swami Lakshman Joo, the last guru in the direct line of descent of the non-dual Kashmir Shaivite philosophers. She was thus a Tantric yogini in her own right, and wrote on and translated many of the essential Shaiva texts into French. It is a fine thing to have this biography.
This book plunges us into the heart of the most beautiful and deepest adventure there is, through the life and personal writings of Lilian Silburn. Animated since adolescence by a strong aspiration towards the absolute, she first became, at a young age, a brilliant Sanskritist whose qualities aroused the admiration of her masters and her peers. Her work in translating treatises on Kashmir Shaivism, led her to India where she traveled in an adventurous and precarious way in search of living traces of this tradition. The anecdotes, extracts from personal notes, and the descriptions offered to us by Jacqueline Chambron, who was one of Lilian Silburn's closest friends since her return to France, helps us discover in a fascinating way the incredible depth of Lilian's leap into pure interiority and a life devoted to mysticism.
A magnificent book on Lilian Silburn ... so little known, even forgotten. Very little information exists on this exceptional person (this Master!!). This book is a real gift for anyone interested in Indian mysticism. An easy to read book, with many extracts from correspondence with her guru ... a fundamental testimony. Those who are English speakers will complete this reading with the book of Irina Tweedie (Daughter of Fire) who was the other great Western disciple of Radha Mohan Lal.
About the Author
JACQUELINE CHAMBRON, who was a professor of classical letters, met Lilian Silburn in 1965. She was one of her very close friends and assisted her among other things in materializing some of her work. It is to Jacqueline that Lilian Silburn entrusted the personal documents, diaries, correspondence, and various notes, which are the source material for this work.
Jacqueline was born in 1926 at the foot of the extinct volcanoes of Auvergne, France in Aurillac, her father’s country. When she was six years old, her family moved to Agen on the banks of the Garonne, her mother's country. She lived there until the age of eighteen, even during the war. This city was spared the horrors of the bombings. However, a strong friendship with an Israelite high school classmate introduced her to the barbarity of anti-Semitic persecution.
At the age of fifteen she was initiated into the mysticism of Saint John of the Cross by a Discalced Carmelite monk, a discovery which will remain important, but which locked her into an ideal of renouncement little suited to the vitality of a fifteen-year-old girl.
At eighteen she left home to study, which led her to discover Paris in the intellectual ferment of the post-war years. She was fortunate enough to live in community houses where communist and catholic student couples lived together. It was a rich and eventful period.
After her marriage, two successive pregnancies made it difficult for her to complete her studies. Once she finally graduated, she experienced the joy of teaching, which had been her dream since childhood.
Her husband, having completed his medical studies, moved the family to Toulouse where the fourth child was born. There she heard about Lilian Silburn for the first time and, thanks to an appointment teaching in a local high school, she was able to move to Le Vésinet, and afterwards lived in Lilian's wake.
Motivated by Lilian, she wrote several articles published in the Hermès review:
Since LiIian Silburn's death, Jacqueline has continued living in Le Vésinet, surrounded by a few friends. Over the years, she has organized a series of trips with some of them: first to India, where they prayed, filled with gratitude, on the graves of the masters of the lineage of Radha Mohan. Later to Iran, in the footsteps of Bistami, Kharakhani, Ruzbehan, Omar Khayyam.... And finally to Uzbekistan where they venerated the tomb of Naqshband in Bukhara.
Jacqueline wrote and compiled this book, anxious to preserve the account of Lilian's experience as faithfully as possible, and also to describe the living effects of direct transmission through her.
It's a mystical path and not a religion; it doesn't require any conversion, any belief, not even faith in God, but thanks to the Guru we are more and more immersed in a life imbued with the divine presence. Mysticism without esotericism, as everything can be revealed to the disciple, but we don't talk about colors to a blind person.… (p. 325)
When I came to India two years ago, I had very little hope of finding a Guru, for I not only expected perfection and greatness, but I asked for someone who was above all religions and creeds, who was not a philosopher, not a vedāntin who admired Buddha and Jesus Christ as I did because of their universal love. I wanted that my guide had renounced everything though he would be living in the world. He must have no prejudices concerning purifications, food, be above all kind of rituals and idol worship. But how to find such a man in India! I wanted also what Trika philosophy named Samādhi in the world: unmīlana samādhi, ecstasies with opened eyes.… (p. 58)
In the morning I was swimming in the middle of the Ganga. Then all desire of swimming left me and I was drifting away in the strong current. Then I became aware for the first time of my life that the water was flowing and it seemed strange to me. Only afterwards I understood that from that moment I was myself flowing no more. I could reach the wood on the bank of the Ganga but was unable to dress. I tried to comb my hair and broke the comb in a desperate effort. Afterwards I remained for hours without moving, with a piece of comb in my hand, half-naked, and wondering, wondering, in that new śānti, and the sweetness of the contact with my own self was such that I lost consciousness of everything else. (pp. 61-62)
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