There is a saying that words are valuable but silence is
more precious. This saying will always prove true. The more
we understand the meaning of it, the more we realize its truth.
How many times we find during the day that we have said something,
which would have been better left unsaid! How many times we
disturb the peace of our surroundings, without meaning it, by
lack of silence! How often we make our limitations, our narrowness,
our smallness come out, which we would rather have concealed,
because we did not keep silent! How very often, though desiring
to respect others, we cannot manage to do so because we do not
keep silent! And a great danger lies in wait for a man in the
life of this world, the danger of confiding in a person in whom
he did not wish to confide. We run that danger by not keeping
silent. That great interpreter of life, the Persian poet Sadi,
says, 'What value is sense, if it does not come to my rescue
before I utter a word!' This shows us that in spite of whatever
wisdom we may have; we can make a mistake if we have no control
over our words. And we can easily find examples of this truth;
those who talk much have less power than those who talk little.
For a talkative person may not be able to express an idea in
a thousand words which those who are masters of silence express
in one word. Everyone can speak, but not every word has the
same power. Besides, a word says much less than silence can
express. The keynote to harmonious life is silence.
In everyday life we are confronted with a thousand troubles
that we are not always evolved enough to meet, and then only
silence can help us. For if there is any religion, if there
is any practice of religion, it is to have regard for the pleasure
of God by regarding the pleasure of man. The essence of religion
is to understand. And this religion we cannot live without having
power over the word, without having realized the power of silence.
There are so very many occasions when we repent after hurting
friends, which could have been avoided if there had been control
over our words. Silence is the shield of the ignorant and the
protection of the wise. For the ignorant does not prove his
ignorance if he keeps silent, and the wise man does not throw
pearls before swine if he knows the worth of silence.
What gives power over words? What gives the power that can
be attained by silence? The answer is: it is will power which
gives the control over words; it is silence which gives one
the power of silence. It is restlessness when a person speaks
too much. The more words are used to express an idea, the less
powerful they become. It is a great pity that man so often thinks
of saving pennies and never thinks of sparing words. It is like
saving pebbles and throwing away pearls. An Indian poet says,
'Pearl-shell, what gives you your precious contents? Silence;
for years my lips were closed.'
For a moment it is a struggle with oneself; it is controlling
an impulse; but afterwards the same thing becomes a power.
And now coming to the more scientific, metaphysical, explanation
of silence. There is a certain amount of energy spent by words;
and breath, which has to bring new life in the body, is hindered
in its regular rhythm when man speaks all the time. It is not
that a nervous person speaks too much, but much speaking makes
him nervous. Where did the great power attained by Yogis and
faqirs come from? It was gained by having learned and practiced
the art of silence. That is the reason why in the East, in the
houses where faqirs meditated, and even at the court, there
was silence. There were times during different civilizations
of the world when people were taught, whenever they were collected
together for a feast, to keep silence for a certain time. It
is the greatest pity that at this time we have so neglected
that question; we think so little about it. It is a question
which affects health, which touches the soul, the spirit, life.
The more we think about this subject, the more we see that we
are continually involved in a kind of action. Where does it
lead us and what is the result of it? As far as we can see,
it leads us to greater struggle, competition, and disagreeableness.
If we think of the result, we see that it leads us to greater
care, worry, and struggle in life. There is a saying of the
Hindus, 'The more one seeks for happiness, the more unhappiness
one finds.' And the reason is that when happiness is sought
in a wrong direction, it leads to unhappiness. Our experience
in life is sufficient to teach us this, yet life is intoxicating,
it absorbs us in action so that we never stop to think of it.
It seems that the world is awakening to spiritual ideals,
but in spite of this there is more activity; not only outer
activity, but also activity of mind. In reality mankind has
shattered its nerves by the lack of silence, by the over-activity
of body and mind. When the body is resting, man calls it sleep.
But his mind is going on, on the same record as during the day.
In this world of competition every man is a hundred times more
busy than he ever was. Naturally his life needs rest and quietude
and peace more than that of people who live in the forest, who
can call all the time their own. When activity is increased
and the art of silence is lost, then what can we expect?
Where do we learn thoughtfulness? In silence. And where do
we practice patience? In silence. Silence practiced in meditation
is something apart, but silence means that we should consider
every word and every action we do; that is the first lesson
to learn. If there is a meditative person, he has learned to
use that silence naturally in everyday life. The one who has
learned silence in everyday life has already learned to meditate.
Besides a person may have reserved half an hour every day for
meditation, but when there is half an hour of meditation and
twelve or fifteen hours of activity, the activity takes away
all the power of the meditation. Therefore both things must
go together. A person who wishes to learn the art of silence
must decide, however much work he has to do, to keep the thought
of silence in his mind. When one does not consider this, then
one will not reap the full benefit of meditation. It is just
like a person who goes to church once a week and the other six
days he keeps the thought of church as far away as possible.
A very devout Persian king was asked by his Prime Minister,
'You are spending most of the night in meditation and all day
long you work. How can that go on?' The Shah said, 'During the
night I pursue God; during the day God follows me.' It is the
same with silence: he who seeks silence is followed by silence.
So it is with all things we wish for, when we seek after them
sufficiently, they follow us in time by themselves.
There are many who do not mind if they hurt anyone as long
as they think they have told the truth. They feel so justified
that they do not care if the other one cries or laughs. There
is, however, a difference between fact and truth. Fact is that
which can be spoken of; truth is that which cannot be put into
words. The claim, 'I tell the truth,' falls flat when the difference
is realized between fact and truth. People discuss dogmas, beliefs,
and moral principles, as they know them. But there comes a time
in a man's life when he has touched truth of which he cannot
speak in words; and at that time all dispute, discussion, argument
ends. It is then that the man says: 'If you have done wrong
or if I have done wrong, it does not matter. What I want just
now is to right the wrong.' There comes a time when the continual
question which arises in the active mind: what is what and which
is which? comes to an end, for the answer rises from the soul
and is received in silence.
The general attitude of man is that of listening to all that
comes from outside; and not only are the ears open to the external
world, but even the heart is attached to the ears. The heart
which is listening to the voices coming from the external world
should turn its back on all that comes from there, and wait
patiently until it becomes capable of hearing the voice from
There is an audible voice and an inaudible voice, from the
living and from those who are not living, from all life. What
man can say in words always expresses little. Can one speak
about gratefulness, about devotion, about admiration? Never,
there will always be a lack of words. Every deep feeling has
its own voice; it cannot be expressed in outer words. This voice
comes from every soul; every soul is only audible to the heart.
And how is the heart prepared? Through silence.
We need not be surprised that some have sought the mountains
and the forest, and preferred the wilderness to the comforts
of worldly life. They sought something valuable. They have passed
on something of the experience gained by their sacrifice. But
it is not necessary to follow them to the forest or to the cave
of the mountain. One can learn that art of silence everywhere;
throughout a busy life one can maintain silence.
Silence is something which consciously or unconsciously we
are seeking every moment of our lives. We are seeking silence
and running away from it, both at the same time. Where is the
word of God heard? In silence. The seers, the saints, the sages,
the prophets, the masters, they have heard that voice which
comes from within by making themselves silent. I do not mean
by this that because one has silence one will be spoken to;
I mean that once one is silent one will hear the word, which
is constantly coming from within. When the mind has been made
still, a person also communicates with everyone he meets. He
does not need many words: when the glance meets he understands.
Two persons may talk and discuss all their lives and yet never
understand one another. Two others with still minds look at
one another and in one moment a communication is established
Where do the differences between people come from? From within.
From their activity. And how does agreement come? By the stillness
of the mind. It is noise which hinders a voice that we hear
from a distance, and it is the troubled waters of a pool which
hinder us seeing our own image reflected in the water. When
the water is still it takes a clear reflection; and when our
atmosphere is still then we hear that voice which is constantly
coming to the heart of every person. We are looking for guidance,
we all of us search for truth; we search for the mystery. The
mystery is in ourselves; the guidance is in our own souls.
Very often one meets a person whose contact makes one restless,
nervous. The reason is that that person is not restful, not
tranquil, and it is not easy to remain calm and to keep one's
tranquility in the presence of a restless, agitated person.
The teaching of Christ is, 'Resist not evil,' and that means,
'Respond not to the troubled condition of a restless person.'
It is just like partaking of the fire which will burn one.
The way to develop the power in oneself to withstand all
disturbing influences in everyday life is to quiet oneself by
means of concentration. Our mind is like a boat in the water,
moved by the waves and influenced by the wind. The waves are
our own emotions and passions, thoughts and imagination; and
the wind is the outer influences which we have to cope with.
In order to stop the boat one should have an anchor, an anchor
to make the boat lie still. Now this anchor is the object we
concentrate upon; if it is heavy and weighty then it will stop
the boat, but if this anchor is light the boat will continue
to move and not be still, for it is partly in the water, and
partly in the air.
But in this way we only control the boat; utilizing the boat
is another question again. The boat is not made to remain motionless;
it is made for a purpose. All of us do not seem to know this,
but finally this boat has to be made to go from one port to
another. And for the boat to be able to sail, various conditions
must be fulfilled; for instance, that it is not more heavily
laden than its capacity. Thus our heart should not be heavily
laden with the things that we attach ourselves to, because then
the boat will not float. Also the boat should not be tied to
this one port, for then it is held back and will not go to the
port for which it is bound.
Furthermore, the boat must have that responsiveness to the
wind which will take it to that port; and this is the feeling
a soul gets from the spiritual side of life. That feeling, that
wind, helps one to go forward to the port for which we are all
bound. Once it is fully concentrated, the mind should become
like a compass in a boat, always pointing in the same direction.
A man whose interest takes a thousand different directions is
not ready to travel in this boat. It is the man who has one
thing in his mind, and who considers all other things secondary,
who can travel from this port to the other. This is the journey
which is called mysticism.