A vow of silence is a practice mostly affiliated with monasticism. And, this practice involves the monks and nuns of a monastery making a solemn promise to keep silent. Above all, the monastic orders that observe a vow of silence do so for various reasons.
In Buddhism, Silence is important to strengthen your spirituality. That is to say, it gives you the opportunity to be present within yourself. You will interact with your thoughts. As a result, you will tend to understand yourself the more. Of course, there is a link between silence and inner peace.
“Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise ” is a great book for beginner to read.
Taking a vow of silence does not only take place in religious or spiritual orders. Instead, some secular bodies today adopt the concept. This is especially as a way to protest for a cause. And, this brought about the popularity of the vow of silence.
However, for the course of this page, we are going to focus on the vow of silence as it relates to Buddhism. And, most importantly, why monks take this vow.
Hence, we are looking into the following subheadings:
– Reasons Why Monks Take A Vow Of Silence
– How To Take A Vow Of Silence
When a monk takes a vow of silence, sometimes it does not mean total abstinence from speech. However, it can be for specific times of the day. On the other hand, at specific places in the monastery. Although, it could still go on generally for a few days. In any way, total speech abstinence is rare. But, not impossible though.
Reasons Why Monks Take A Vow Of Silence
There are various reasons why monastic orders observe the vow of silence. Generally, in Buddhism, the practice is “Mauna”. And, the name comes after a sage “Muni” which literally means “the silent one”.
Although, Buddhism encourages interpersonal interaction to maintain togetherness and communal growth. They still give relevance to silence for the following reasons, thus:
To Condition The Mouth To Speak Rightly
Most monks in Buddhism take a vow of silence in order to train themselves in the right speeches. That is to say, they believe that not saying everything that comes to mind will help them keep out harmful words.
As a result, the monks will be able to pick out the words that best suits the moment. That is if it is critically necessary for them to speak. Moreover, in monastic orders, it is better to keep silent than say irrelevant things.
Most importantly, a vow of silence helps to prevent one from hurting others or even himself. That is to say, speaking without care can lead to saying hurtful words. Or, on the same note, words that provoke our thoughts. Basically, this is what the practice of Buddhism is all about. Building self-control in order to promote inner peace and personal happiness.
The monks, therefore, choose to take a vow of silence in order to keep their speeches in check. And, live out an example of the path they teach.
To Develop A Good Listening Skill
Observing a vow of silence leads to promoting listening abilities. That is to say, the monks train themselves through a vow of silence to speak less and listen more. By doing so, they can be able to hear others out. And, help them to grow in the path of enlightenment.
Further, good listening ability marks humility. The Buddhist monks are a humble set of people. As a result, they are always ready to hear you out. And, guide you accordingly. A vow of silence helps them to develop this skill properly.
On the other hand, listening can lead to enhanced sensitivity. Therefore, to develop this quality, monks observe a vow of silence.
To Quieten The Mind
Keeping the mind calm is a major step towards achieving inner peace. For those who meditate, this is their goal. That is, to quieten the mind from wild thoughts. However, this is not an easy task. It is like the nature of the mind to engage in wandering thoughts.
As a result, the Buddhist monks also take a vow of silence to help keep the mind quiet. Thus, when you are in constant interaction with your mind, you can control what you think. This is more like going through your thoughts and not taking any action.
Above all, while observing a vow of silence, a monk does not only stop talking. Instead, he equally watches over the thoughts that go through his mind. He tries to understand where they are coming from. And, how to limit them. This is a meeting point for a vow of silence and meditation.
Moreover, if you can control what you think, you can equally control what you say. In essence, your words are the manifestation of your thinking.
To Avoid Actions That Will Attract Samsara
In Buddhism, Samsara is the continuous cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. And, this cycle goes on till one attains enlightenment. All these are dependent on our actions in our current life. As a result, one must avoid all the actions leading to this ongoing cycle of Samsara.
Hence, the Buddhist monks go for a vow of silence. This is due to the belief that most actions come from the mind. And, discussed before the execution. Most especially, this is the fact for actions carried out by more than one person.
For instance, the alluring effects of the opposite sex. A monk can get attracted to the opposite sex. But, because he is observing a vow of silence, he cannot express it. Consequently, he keeps the thoughts within himself. And, can as well kill it by controlling the mind.
In addition, this goes with every other thought that might cause negative actions. Therefore, while you are able to control your thoughts, you can also control your actions. This makes easier your path towards enlightenment.
A Vow Of Silence Helps To Promote Self-awareness
A monk does not talk with anyone when observing a vow of silence. As a result, he tends to be more conscious of himself. He understands the reality of the world he exists in. And, always keeps himself on guard against any external influence.
A vow of silence will help you to develop self-love. And, loving one’s self will give him the chance to cultivate compassion towards others. Of course, it would be difficult to show love to others when you do not love yourself.
This, in turn, brings happiness. And, most of all a feeling of peace and self-satisfaction. This helps to bring one closer to enlightenment.
Therefore, the Buddhist monks take a vow of silence to train themselves towards becoming aware of their real nature. Subsequently, they improve the internal relationship between the mind and the body.
To Train Novice Monks In The Monastic Ways
Sometimes Buddhists adopt the technique of vow of silence to teach new monks. And, this practice comes as a means of resisting actions that may attract Samsara. Also, they learn to always maintain the noble silence of the monastery. Thereby, diligently following their duties and obligations.
In addition, a monastery is a place that is notable for its quietness and tranquil nature. As a result, new monks have to learn how to maintain this age-long habit. And, taking a vow of silence is a way to train both the mind and the body towards quietness.
Most importantly, there is a need for the monastery to be calm all the time. This is to avoid unnecessary chatter which can lead to distraction. Moreover, noise one should know that meditation is always going on in the monastery. Therefore, with a vow of silence, you would not disturb anyone else or even yourself. Especially, when you need to focus.
When one takes a vow of silence he is most likely to develop strong willpower. And, most importantly, he will observe the truth always. This is because he goes over what he has to say before speaking. That is if it is absolutely necessary that he speaks.
When a Buddhist monk is observing a vow of silence, he is likely to carry around the khakkhara. This is an iron staff that usually creates a metallic sound. And, the noise announces their presence especially when they seek alms. Also, the rattle sound of the staff helps to scare animals away as the monk approached.
How To Take A Vow Of Silence
Taking a vow of silence involves making a solemn promise. However, the promise could just be a determination of your mind. We have seen the reasons why monks take a vow of silence. And, you may consider taking a vow of silence. Since, of course, the practice is not only for monks.
Therefore, you can follow these few steps to help you out. Thus:
Mark A Time And Just Stop Talking
This is the basic step to start with. It is important to mark the time which your vow of silence started. This is to keep track of your progress. Moreover, your silence does not only mean keeping your mouth shut. Instead, it also involves staying out of the internet, and other nonverbal communication forms.
Simply quit any interaction with other people. Instead, be with yourself and focus within. If you feel that moving around will distract you, choose a rather quiet location and stay there. The most important thing is that you resist the urge to talk.
Observe Your Thoughts
This is a careful inspection of your own thoughts and feelings. That is to say, engaging in a kind of introspection. Check whether you are getting an urge to talk to someone that you think you cannot resist.
There is a need to know whether you are suffering from the obsession to speak. Of course, a lot of people cannot manage not being heard for some time. They always want to make one point or another. And, rant about so many things every time.
Trying to suppress the urge can be quite frustrating. This is because you are subjecting your body to a practice that it is not familiar with. As a result, the body will try to resist you. In addition, you may experience anger and emotional irritation.
Do not however try to fight yourself. Instead, simply observe your thoughts. And, take deep breaths when the process becomes too frustrating.
Develop Inner Silence
Keeping your mind silent is the most important part of taking a vow of silence. Withholding your speech progressively will eventually bring about the silence of the mind. That is to say, your mind will become quiet when you stay out of all communications. Both verbal and nonverbal.
On the other hand, some meditative measures can help you quieten your mind. For example, when the noise becomes too loud, you may decide to chant a mantra. Or, try to refocus your mind to a serene environment that can make you feel at peace. You can listen to some quiet and peaceful music to help your inner silence
Above all, you can convert the negative energy resulting from anger to positive energy. After these meditation techniques, you will feel much better. And most importantly, experience a feeling of peace and calm.
Give Yourself A Chance To Grow
A vow of silence is not to be forced. And, when you force it, you will end up in a battle with your mind. Moreover, just like the first time in everything, your first trial of a vow of silence can be frustrating.
However, when you continue to try, natural peace will arise within you. Hence, you will be able to experience a continuous wave of thoughts without interference. As a result, there would be no emotions attached to the thoughts. Neither will there be judgment passed.
Most importantly, the frustrations will disappear. You will tend to be mindful of your actions. And, you will develop a good listening skill. All these will help you immensely towards controlling your speech.
Lastly, true peace will reign in your mind.
A vow of silence is significant in the practice of Buddhism. Also, we have gone through the reasons why a Buddhist monk may take a vow of silence. However, taking a vow of silence is not its strict sense. That is to say, they engage in the act when necessary. Usually, it may not last too long.
Just like every other thing in life, too much of silence is not good. If you do not talk for too long, you may even lose your speech.
Therefore, while you choose to go for a vow of silence, do it reasonably. And, enjoy the benefits. If you have any related question about Vow Of Silence, you may want to know: VOW OF SILENCE – Frequently Asked Questions and Answers