Today, our digital landscape is expanding rapidly while the natural environment disappears. The creation, dissemination and exchange of ideas across the world is instant. We are constantly in communication with persons from our personal, professional and digital circles. There is pressure to engage in dialogue and to have an opinion about the trending topic. Information is commodified. While the time to pause, reflect and consider barely exists.
In this article, I hope to share with you the value of mauna (silence) and its necessary place in any intentional and sincere practice. If your goal is true seeing, Presence to be with what is, and meaningful and compassionate relationships, the practice of mauna is for you.
The practice begins with refraining from audible speech. During periods of silence, you have the opportunity to observe the character and quality of your mind. By refraining from speech you create space to witness your internal dialogue and the long-held assumptions that you project onto reality; the filters by which you perceive and experience the world.
Silence is the antidote to the the energy created by speech. The energy is the bond between the mind and the world that the mind projects and experiences as “external”. This is actually what is referred to as samsara, the cycle of suffering, created by a lack of recognition of what truly is.
Indian thought is elegantly expressed two ways: in their metaphysics and in their myth. The power of silence to weaken this bond is beautifully demonstrated in their creation story.
It begins with Brahman, who emerges from inside a lotus flower that’s sprung from the navel of a sleeping Narayana. It is through the character of Brahman that Narayana begins to dream the universe into existence. Overwhelmed by the task of creation, he asks the dreamer to provide him with a helper so that he may clearly discern the task. Heeding his plea, Sarasvati appears alongside of Brahman, and through her wisdom, expressed in her speech, universe upon universe is made manifest, exhibiting the very beauty, harmony, and intelligence of her maker. Upon the completion of her first act of creation, Sarasvati withdraws into Brahman, living as his creative energy. She takes on two more forms, where she inhabits this earth on the tips tongues of the sincere and wise, and as a river.
Vedic and Tantric Yoga recognize energy as the form of the Divine or Ultimate Reality. They experienced the natural world and its phenomenon as the body of Shakti or energy, the creative, Self-conscious aspect of Ultimate Reality. And they understood that through Her fundamental manifestation in the universe as Para Vak, she was the power that either bound us to the world or liberated us.
In the writings that instruct on Yoga, the mind is referred to as Mind-Brahman because it is imbued with the same creative power that birthed the universe. Brahman, as the story suggests, is the generative force behind the cosmos, of all the realms, seen and unseen, gross and subtle. And it is in the mind that Brahman persists, where it continues its joyful manifestation, through the power of speech.
Speech binds us because it is a function of the ahamkara or the ego, the faculty of the mind that experiences duality and separation. Modern language is symbolic of objects experienced as individual and separated in this world. Each time we express from this level, we reinforce our identification with ahamkara. It is through the outward flow of the energy of speech, whether it is internalized (mental) or audible, that we remain bound to maya or the perception of objects as having boundaries, thus rendering them distinct and measurable.
The restraint from speech is one of the most effective practices for cultivating the values that pave the way for the aspirant. Humility, patience, compassion and commitment to truth is a direct consequence of mauna.
It is the perception of separation that breeds the impulse to control others and the events of our lives. The very urge to “have the last word” is an impulse of the ego. When the ego dissolves, the need to be right gives way for the truth—the unity between you, I, and all that is. Repeated practice of mauna connects us to the power of our higher faculties including the wisdom of our hearts. In the space of mauna, we are able to develop our capacity to hear; silence allows us to be receptive to the words of others. It creates an opportunity to deepen our understanding, compassion and connection with one another, making for meaningful and fulfilling relationships.
Silence also creates space for true rest. When we commit to silence, we give the signal to the body to replenish its vital energies, allowing it to move according to its natural intelligence. Through silence, we develop our ability to hear and feel the wisdom that already and has always been alive within. With this experience we are able to renounce the false sense of self as the doer and approach the state of vairagya, the blissful state of surrender. From periods of silence we come away with new found confidence, clarity and purpose in our lives having intimately connected with the very force and source of life. We become more attuned with what really is, the truth of our Being, wherein everything we could ever need lies.
Through the values cultivated by restraint from speech, true mauna, arises.
Mauna is the radiant peace when one looks upon the ever-changing world without disturbance. Established in the realization of the Self, you are unperturbed by the fluctuations of the world and the mind.
From this place of Shakti or power, we reclaim the very creative power of our mind and our speech, allowing us to create the kind of reality that is a reflection of the peace we have realized and are established in. Our thoughts and the words and actions they generate carry a magnitude and gravity that brings about healing, peace, and Self-recognition in others.