VOW OF SILENCE – Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Chances are you visited a Buddhist temple and surprisingly you found some monks silent for your whole stay. Of course, we know that the abode of monks is generally quiet. Nevertheless, some degree of quietness appears to be peculiar. At this time, you may understand that the monks are observing a vow of silence.

There are increasing questions about this vow of silence. Thus, you may want to know if this vow to keep silent is particular to monks only. Or, can everyone partake in the practice? Also, what is the true essence of practicing a vow of silence? And, the effects of keeping or breaking the vow. The questions keep growing as the curiosity and interest of the public moves toward the topic.

In this article, Buddhismzone compiled various questions asked on the topic vow of silence. In addition, we also provided the most suitable answers to these questions. All in the most comprehensive manner.

However, there is a need for you to understand fully why these questions are so. Hence, the need for you to study basically “Why Do Monks Take a Vow of Silence?“. From there we can proceed.


Why Do Monks Take a Vow of Silence?

Buddhist monks may take a vow of silence for a variety of reasons which includes:

  • The need to improve the awareness of the self
  • To keep the mind quieter to subsequently improve their meditation experience
  • Training themselves to listen more than they speak
  • To speak rightly when it is needful they talk
  • Training the new monks into Monastic ways.

The above is a list of the major reasons why Buddhist monks take a vow of silence. However, to know fully in details the true essence of the vow of silence, read more on “Why Do Monks Take a Vow of Silence“.

In general, there are many reasons why Buddhist monks may practice the ritual of a vow of silence. But, to get closer to awakening, a monk needs to be within himself. After all, the Buddha himself was in meditation when he realized the ultimate truth. Thus, the monks in the same path need to observe silence at some point. This is in order to attain enlightenment which is the goal Buddhism. Thus, Silence has the capacity to strengthen spirituality.

Do Monks Talk At All?

The simple answer to this question is YES! Of course, monks do talk. However, it is quite unusual to find monks chattering. That is to say, monks only talk when they deem it very important to do so. Basically, monks believe that careless talks can take one away from mindfulness. As a result, they prefer to keep quiet than say things that are not relevant. This includes even when they are not under a vow of silence.

More so, when monks are in a vow of silence, sometimes, it is not total abstinence from talking. Hence, they can talk at specific times of the day. This is mostly visible when the vow of silence covers only specific times of the day. On the other hand, monks can also talk at specific places in the monastery when in a vow of silence. This is because the vow of silence is location specific. Hence, monks observe the vow of silence at specific places within the monastery.

In addition, a vow of silence can mean no speech for few days stretch. But, it is usually not more than a few days. Hence, the monks can freely talk after the observation. Total or complete abstinence from speeches by the monks is obtainable after all. However, this is rare to find.

Do Nuns Take a Vow of Silence Also?

Surely, in Buddhism, nuns do take vows of silence just as the monks. A vow of silence is a practice linked to monasticism most of the time. And, nuns are part of the Monastic orders. Therefore, they take part in most monastic activities such as vows of silence.

Moreover, nuns also need to develop their spiritual life as they pursue enlightenment. As a result, they engage in the practice of vow of silence to build their mindfulness. Thus, nuns Buddhist nuns take a vow of silence as well.

Is Vow of Silence Meant for the Monastics Only? Or, Can Anyone Take a Vow of Silence?

A vow of silence is a practice for anyone who wishes to be part of it. Hence, if you are willing, you can take a vow of silence. Generally, some Buddhist monasteries offer retreats where a vow of silence is part of the program. Here, laypersons can attend at will and join in the practice.

Also, one does not need to visit a Buddhist monastery to practice a vow of silence. Nor, does he need to be a Buddhist. Taking a vow of silence is personal devotion. As such, it takes a private promise to oneself to remain silent for a period of time. And, subsequently keeping the promise for whatever reason you have made it. Therefore, yes, you can decide to take a vow of silence anytime you wish to.

What is the Purpose of Taking a Vow of Silence as an Ordinary Person?

There are many benefits of taking a vow of silence. Basically, now that you know the reasons on “Why Do Monks Take a Vow of Silence?“. Similar reasons are why one should take a vow of silence. Moreover, most people who go for a vow of silence do so when they need a quiet time for themselves. In other words, the main purpose of taking a vow of silence is to activate the inner peace.

The general purpose of taking a vow of silence is to be present within oneself. And, as a result, attain such a peace of mind devoid of external influences. Moreover, for people who need speech discipline, taking a vow is a way out. The practice can help condition your speech. Subsequently, you can channel your speeches to be more positive than negative.

Can One Write or Use Sign Language When Observing a Vow of Silence?

The truth is, in definition, a vow of silence simply entails cutting off all forms of communication with the outside world. As such, you be within yourself and examine your thoughts. Of course, it is meaningless to stop talking and then start writing down your thoughts.

What is then the benefit of not talking when you can easily write out your thoughts? The aim of the whole practice of vow of silence is defeated. Basically, if you check, the underlying essence of the vow of silence is to communicate more with your own thoughts. As a result, you learn how to control them in order to make better speeches.

When a Buddhist monk observes a vow of silence, he is likely to carry the “khakkhara”. This is a staff made with iron that makes a metallic sound. As a result, his presence is made known. Thus, you can easily know he is not in for any conversation of any sort. In general, a vow of silence is important to avoid distractions. This also includes distractions from wandering thoughts. Hence, to better gain benefits of keeping silent, avoid writing or any communication. Most especially, keep away from the internet and be present within. This may be difficult to observe. But, then, the whole process involves keeping the communication of any kind to the barest minimum.

Can A Vow of Silence Help me Become Quieter In Life?

Yes! When you observe a vow of silence accordingly, you are likely to lead a quieter life. And, above all, develop a calmer spirit. However, to get to this point, you have to understand that it is not just about quitting speech. Hence, you need to apply mindfulness techniques too. That is to say, you need to also guard and watch over your thoughts.

Of course, if you can gain control over your thoughts, surely, you will be able to control what you say. Thus, what the mouth says comes from the mind. At this point, meditation and vow of silence met.

The mind easily wanders off. And, there is a need to call it back anytime it does so. To do this requires a strong connection between you and your mind. Therefore, interact with your mind and you will have control over your thoughts. Consequently, you can better go over your thoughts before speaking. That is what living a quieter life is about. Thus, going over your words before letting them out.

A benefit of this is that it helps you speak more positively. As such, you would not hurt the feelings of another with your words.

How Do I Take a Vow of Silence?

A vow of silence begins with a solemn promise to oneself to remain silent. This promise mostly comes with a time frame. That is to say, one has to also pick a time of starting and a time of stopping.

Here are the important steps to taking a vow of silence:


Choose a Time to Start

Mark out a particular time you wish to start the observation. At the time, just stop talking and cease communication of any sort. This includes doing away with the internet and nonverbal means of communication of any sort.

The time you marked out will help you to track the progress of your practice. As such, you can easily determine whether you are achieving your goal or not.

Choose a Suitable Location for Your Best Interest

It is better to stay in a calm environment as you observe your silence. This is especially important for a beginner. Generally, a calm place brings less distraction and more concentration.

You do not have to sit still while observing a vow of silence. Hence, you should be able to continue your physical activities without talking. The essence of the quiet location is to avoid distractions that might make you lose your focus. Or, intensify your urge to talk.

Carefully Watch Your Thoughts

Here, you need to practice a kind of introspection. Stay within yourself and inspect how your thinking and feeling go. Sometimes, it might be that there is someone you just feel like you must talk to. And, the urge to talk to the person is increasing significantly.

Other times, it could just be that you are among those who just cannot stop talking. In other words, they feel that someone needs to hear them out. Or, that they need to prove one point or the other. In any case, just watch your thoughts carefully. This is because you need to understand how your system works.

All these are urges you need to control. However, it might appear quite impossible to do so at first. Of course, your body does not understand the practice you are subjecting it to. As a result, it tries to go against it. This might subsequently cause irritation and discomfort. But, then, do not try to go against your natural self. All you have to do is take deep breaths if the whole thing is trying to frustrate your efforts. More so, remember that you are just meant to observe and not interfere.

Work On Your Inner Silence

While a vow of silence is ceasing physical speech, it is, more importantly, keeping your mind silent. Basically, you do not force your mind to be quiet. Of course, keeping away from communications will eventually lead to a quieter mind.

At this point, you can employ some meditation techniques to help you out. For example, chanting a mantra to calm your inner chatter down. Or, you can apply mindfulness refocusing towards a serene environment. This will help instill peace within your mind.

Another meditation technique is converting your negative energies towards a positive feeling. All these will help to promote your inner peace. Thus, you will develop a better feeling about the practice.

Grow In the Practice

It is very important you understand that your first trial of a vow of silence can be so frustrating. As a result, you need to prepare your mind for it. Never force yourself in any way. If you do, you are only causing an internal battle for yourself.

Give yourself the chance to develop. As such, understand that consistent practice can take you to the natural peace you seek. Moreover, a single practice is not all it takes to get your desired results. This applies to all spheres of life. Therefore, work and grow in practice.

With time, all the frustrating feelings will give way for peace. Hence, you will experience your thoughts flowing without interference. More so, there would not be emotions attached or judgment associated with the thoughts.

Then, you will learn how to better listen. Also, your mindfulness will improve. When you finally get to talk, your speech would be a well-thought-out one.

What Happens If I Break a Vow of Silence?

In actuality, no one will punish you if you fail to uphold your vow of silence except yourself. Therefore, what happens when you break a vow of silence lies in your hands. Of course, this is a promise you made to yourself. Hence, it all revolves around you.

But, then, it is very important that you are not hard on yourself. Or, on the other hand, punish yourself unnecessarily for breaking a vow of silence. All you need is to do is give yourself space and try again. In general, consistency will help you to achieve the results you need.

Moreover, there is no need to punish yourself when you have not achieved your aim of taking the vow. Therefore, just like in meditation, continue trying until you get better.

Why Does Buddhism Give Relevance to Vow of Silence?

Actually, Buddhism encourages more interaction among members. Surely, communication is a way to improve togetherness. Also, it helps to promote communal living which Buddhism is known for. Thus, Buddhists grow and do things together. Even the vow of silence is a practice they do together especially during retreats.

However, Buddhists also believe that silence helps to improve spiritual life. Hence, talking irrelevant things can attract samsara. As a result, Buddhists practice silence to strengthen their spirituality. And, as well as avoid samsara that results from pre-discussed negative actions.

More so, if the monks in the monastery talk freely, chances are they might lose focus of their path toward enlightenment. Therefore, Buddhism equally recognizes silence in their practice.

Note to Take

You can understand the vow of silence more when you find out “Why Monks Take a Vow of Silence“. But, basically, this page answers the questions you are likely to ask when you learn about the vow of silence.

As a piece of advice, a vow of silence has lots of benefits. However, it is important to keep in mind that the best practice is not the longest. Of course, it is not good not to talk for so long. You might develop a speech difficulty when it is that long. As a result, practice limitedly and with caution to enjoy full benefits.

Note also, while you can practice a vow of silence as an individual, it should be in its light sense. You may not be as strict as the monks in the monastery. Or, as well, attend a retreat and practice with the community.