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Mouna Concept – Greatness And Importance In Hinduism

The English word ‘silence’ has negative connotations. It is considered the opposite of ‘sound’. ‘Mouna’ in Sanskrit is a positive concept. The word Mouna is derived from Muni, just as soukhya (well-being) is derived from sukha (happiness). It is the characteristic of a muni or a sage. It is not physical silence that is referred to but mental silence. A muni is one whose mind is merged in the Self. The speech of a muni is a refraction of his silence. His is not an individual point of view as he speaks from the source of everything, the Self. As he speaks without any sense of doership, what is said by him has neither antecedents nor consequences for him.

Speech springs from silence and sinks back into silence. We all think that we have control over language but in fact language seems to have control over us. We are not sure of what we are likely to say till we have actually said it. Sometimes we are most surprised at what we have said.

Words are symbols and are not things. However beautifully they may describe truth, they are not the truth. One has to go beyond words to understand truth. Words are fingers that point to truth and not truth itself. Language implies a knower and a known, a subject and an object. To realise the state where the subject and the object become one, one has to go beyond words.

The more sensitive we are to the thread of silence, the more alert we shall be to what we would say. But when we are totally bound by the thread of silence, we shall have no desire to say anything. Speech is an advocate of desire. Where there is no desire, there is only silence.

Silence becomes companionable where there is understanding. Greater the understanding, less the need of speech. Where there is perfect understanding, speech is not essential. Silence will do. Communication takes place without the medium of language. Speech distances man from himself. It is silence that brings him to himself. In speech there is ‘otherness’, in Silence there is oneness.

Of speech and silence, Sri Ramana Maharshi says: “Language is only a medium for communicating one’s thoughts to another. It is called in only after thoughts arise. Other thoughts arise after the ‘I’- thought arises and so the ‘I’-thought is the root of all conversation. When one remains without thinking one understands another by means of the universal language of silence.”

“What one fails to know by conversation extending to several years can be known instantly in silence, or in front of silence…Dakshinamurti and his four disciples are a good example of this. This is the highest and most effective language.”

Silence is not inaction, not mere emptiness. It is the basis of everything in the world. However beautiful a house may be, if it does not have doors, windows and rooms, we cannot live in it. Doors, windows and rooms are empty space. It is this empty space that makes the house liveable. In the same way, silence is not just the negation of sound. It is the basis of everything in the universe.

Silence, according to Sri Ramana Maharshi, is inner silence. “The inner silence is self-surrender. And that means living without the sense of the ego.” Silence comes into being when the individual is completely free from ego, when he surrenders himself totally to the Lord; he enjoys freedom where he becomes the captive of the Lord; he becomes a conqueror when he throws away the sword of his will.

Source - Silent Language - by Dr. K. Subrahmanian - The Mountain Path July 2004 Issue page 89 - 92