value of silence

Seek silence

Dada JP Vaswani refers to the teachings of Socrates to explain the value of silence.

We live in a world where everyone talks far too much. We talk excessively in public and in private. As a wise man put it, “Men seem to feel the need to cloak and excuse their imperfections and wrong deeds in a mass of prattle.” We need to devote a few minutes each day to the healing, soothing, purifying influence of silence.

Socrates counselled his disciples to keep their mouths shut—and speak only when absolutely necessary. “O wise one, how may we know when it is right to speak?” they asked him. “Open your mouths to speak only after you have asked yourself three questions, and received an affirmative answer to each of the three,” replied Socrates. What are the three questions?

The first question we must ask ourselves before we speak is—is it true? If we are not sure about the veracity of what we are saying, it is better that we do not utter a word. When we utter words carelessly, we ourselves become transmitters of untruth.

The second question to ask is—is it pleasant? Many are the empty remarks and vain statements that people make in idleness to hurt others. It is better that these unpleasant words remain unspoken. The third question according to Socrates is—is it useful? Is our statement going to benefit the listener? Will our words bring comfort to someone? Are we likely to help someone with what we say? Only in that case should we go ahead and speak.

In silence, we can feel our prayers reach Him and in perfectly held silence we may even hear His answers to our prayers.

An Eastern account of Jesus attributes the following statement to him, “A day will come when you will have to render account for every idle word you have spoken.” We will all do well to remember this; we must pay—not merely for an untrue word, not merely for a bitter word, but for every idle word we have uttered.

Is it true? Is it pleasant? Is it useful? These are the three questions we must ask ourselves before we speak. Let silence be the law of our life. For silence hurts no one; if you have something to say that is better than silence, then speak those words freely; otherwise, remain silent. If only we could collect all the useless, idle, hurtful words we utter, they would form a veritable mountain of words.

Silence is relaxation for the mind. Even rest is relaxation for the body. It should be our earnest effort, at least once a day, to escape from the stress, strain, tension, and turmoil of life, and practise absolute silence. We can easily give up mindless activities like watching TV or gossiping with friends, to devote to the practise of silence.

Silence helps us commune with the inner-self. Silence enables us to discipline our petty, calculating intellect. Silence takes us closer to God. In silence, we can feel our prayers reach Him and in perfectly held silence we may even hear His answers to our prayers.

As I said earlier, I call my habitual hours of silence, my “daily appointment with God.” It is vital that we cultivate the healing habit of silence in this age of noise and ceaseless activity. In fact, the great need of modern man is silence. To help us to avoid stress and tension, the noted psychologist, Deborah Bright, recommends what she calls PQT—Personal Quiet Time—of twenty minutes, twice a day.




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