Silence (Mauna): a Jain View
The following text comprises chapter 7 of a little book by Shri Atmanandji titled "Aspirant's Guide (Sadhak and Sathi)," translated from Gujarti. The entire book is available on the web at http://www.ibiblio.org/jainism/database/BOOK/sadhak.doc
Silence is abandonment of speech, conversation etc. with a right knowledge and spiritual advancement in view. This is a very important part of spiritual progress. It is being analyzed here, not only in its conventional meaning, but in a very wide perspective, so as to be useful to the aspirant.
Silence is resorted for enhancement to meditate on the doctrines heard from great preceptors or received from the study of scriptures. Sadhakas (aspirants) of all stages can cultivate it according to their own capabilities. Sadhakas in the elementary and middle stages should resort to as much control of speech as possible, so that much physical and mental energy gets accumulated. This accumulated energy can now be advantageously applied for the purposes of self-study and self analysis. The success in sadhana [i.e., spiritual practice] can thus be accomplished more speedily by using this spared energy for spiritual progress which might have been otherwise wasted in mundane pursuits of happiness.
Good use of power of speech
Only the human soul can acquire the capacity of such intricate and highly disciplined and balanced speech. No other creature or being has the power of such highly developed speech. Such a power of speech as this which has been acquired by good deeds of past (punya), should be so well utilized as to be conducive to the welfare of one's own self as well as of others.
If we are not in a position to help those suffering from various causes like diseases, distress, pangs of separation from kith and kin or such other calamities, we could at least heartily console them by soft, soothing, beneficial and pleasing words. Such an excellent and remarkable use of the power of speech can be rightly designated as "silence," since such a use of speech is not for less important purposes, but for benevolence of everyone concerned.
Abandonment of pointless talkativeness
We come across many people in society who are talkative. It is always wise not to initiate talk which is not conducive to our betterment, or any noble purpose. Criticizing others, using abusive words, indulging in idle or wicked talk, uttering words that offend and hurt others, busying oneself in self praise -- all these mean sheer waste of our power of speech. Persons endowed with a sense of discrimination should abandon this with conscious effort.
Success of silence
Since ancient time, silence is worshipped as an important component of spiritual discipline. Initially, the practice of this virtue may commence with some three hours of silence at noon time, say on Sunday or any other suitable day. This practice may be enhanced by routines, the vow daily from 8.00 p.m. to 8.00 a.m. the next day. During these hours, the exceptions could be made for prayers, uttering a hymn of praise for adoration of God.
The vow of continuous silence for three to seven days is very helpful during the course of intensive meditation and scripture writing. Thus is practiced the vow of silence by different aspirants, according to their circumstances and the various stages of their spiritual advancements.
Only through deep contemplation and the practice of silence, is it possible to become a genuine ascetic (monk). Spiritual progress (samadhi) is attained only by right restraint on speech and breaking through the chain of indecisions and doubts. Advanced aspirants should therefore, constantly praise self-steadiness (Atma-sthirata) together with silence during meditation.
Lord Mahavira, after the renunciation of the worldly life, observed silence for twelve and a half years. Mahatma Gandhi used to observe silence on every Monday. Yogi Shri Maharshi Aurbindo observed silence for seventeen years. Ramana Maharshi very often inspired those desirous of self-knowledge to search after "Who am I?" in a state of silence. He too passed much of his time in a state of silence. The immense utility of the practice of silence is thus witnessed in the lives of all these great men.
In the present days, many monks resort to the practice of silence from evening to sunrise.
On the basis of factual evidence mentioned above, now the aspirant who has essentially understood the rarity, utility, and excellence of good speech will certainly embark upon the genuine practice of silence or only the scrupulous use of his speech. Through the medium of this practice, energy of the soul that was so far being externally wasted, is now fruitfully utilized in accomplishing control of the senses and the mind.
This self-control will substantially contribute towards success in various stages of concentration of the mind by making it introvert and steady and eventually culminating in the highest transcendental meditation or a thoughtless state (Nirvikalpa Samadhi).
The practice of silence is thus of invaluable assistance in the experiment of internal conversation of the self with one's true self.
Glory of silence
- Speech is great, but silence is greater still. Silence is the holy temple of our divine thoughts. If speech is silver, silence is gold, if speech is human, silence is divine.
- Silence is the best and the most unique art of conversation.
- Silence is the best speech. If you must speak, speak the minimum. Do not
speak two words, if one is enough.
- The ego gets wiped out in the state of silence. Once this happens, who
will speak and who will ponder? (all duals have disappeared).
- Silence is an excellent means for self-betterment, but only rarely does one of us make good use of it.
Living examples of silence:
A Jain monk Lalluji Swami was one of the foremost of the devotees of Shrimad Rajchandra. He was the founder of Shrimad Rajchandra Ashram at Agas near Anand in the state of Gujarat, India.
He passed the four months of the rainy season in 1893 at Bombay in order to have close contact with his spiritual teacher Shrimad Rajchandra. Shrimad Rajchandra prescribed the reading and study of the verses of "Samadhi- Shataka." On the first page of the book Shrimand wrote the famous mantra: "The jiva (soul) attains to supreme knowledge (Kevala-jinana) when one is merged in the nature of Atma (soul)."
When the four months of the rainy season was nearly over, Shri Lalluji Swami submitted, "I have no interest in external things. When shall I attain to the stage of being identified with the self?"
Shrimad replied, "You require me to preach you."
Lulluji submitted, "Then please preach."
In reply Shrimad Rajchandra remained silent. He thus preached silence. It was with this preaching that Shri Lalluji Swami went to another city Surat from Bombay. He observed silence for three years. In this observance of silence, the only exceptions were necessary conversation with other monks and spiritual discourses with Shrimad. Shri Lalluji Swami very often stated in his sermons that this observance of silence was of immense benefit to him.
Mahatma Gambhirnath was a Bengali scholar and saint of the nineteenth century who settled in Himalayas for his spiritual uplift (sadhna). Once Mahatma Gambhirnath was seated in meditation in the peaceful atmosphere of Himalayas, some Bengali gentlemen visited him just with the idea of his darshan (visionary insight) and to have the benefit of noble company.
They sat for a while and then humbly requested the Mahatma to deliver some preaching, for the uplift of their souls. The visitors submitted that they had come from far off distances and would feel unhappy if a sermon were not delivered. The Mahatma [only] said, "Observe and ponder."
Meeting with genuine Mahatmas has one great reward. It is to fill to the brim of our hearts with their holy, simple, happy personality. Their silence asks us to open our internal eyes and devotedly to have darshan of atma (soul), the God in this temple of the body. Thus silence consists of the purport of countless scriptures.
The railway train was running at full speed from Calcutta to Delhi. In one compartment, two British passengers were talking in English. Pointing at one monk (sadhu), traveling in the same compartment, one British passenger was telling the other, "Look, what a deception! With such youthful age, healthy body, and full capacity to work, this man became monk to get free food and to loiter anywhere. There are thousands of such monks in this country and people feed them in blind faith."
Criticism of this sort went on for a long time, but the monk sitting on the opposite seat was pondering deeply with a calm posture. When the train arrived at one station and halted, the station master saw the monk, bowed down before him and asked in English, "What can I do in your service, sir?"
The monk answered in English, "One glass of water will be enough. I want nothing else."
The two British passengers observed that the monk spoke in such pure English. They felt surprised. They never knew that the sanyasi was educated. They had abused the monk so much and still there was not a word by way of reaction. His posture was the same, full of happiness as before.
The passengers inquired of him, "Well sir, why did you not react to our criticism?"
He replied, "Brothers, I remain engrossed only in the thoughts of my life's work. I do not enter into any kind of disputes."
The peaceful posture and sadhana of the vow of silence brought about a lot of regard on part of those two British passengers.
This sanyasi was Swami Vivekananda, the chief disciple of the great monk Shri Ramkrishna Paramhans. He was a great social and religious leader of the nineteenth century. He became famous for his unique speech in the World Religions Conference in 1893 in Chicago, U.S.A.