Mauna: The State of Silence

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There is a reverential silence that can be felt by everyone in moments of sacredness, moments when the ego is forgotten. Practicing mauna (noble silence) is a way to open ourselves to this sacredness.

Mauna is a Sanskrit word that most succinctly means “silence.” There are many nuances inherent in its meaning and it can be practiced with varying degrees of intensity. Its performance is recommended both in classic yogic texts and in many contemporary contemplative traditions.

The practice of mauna often takes the form of periods of controlled speech. Such sustained silence is considered essential in the Hindu tradition, as the understanding of that which is beyond words can only come from direct experience. According to the Bhagavad Gita, mauna is about training our minds, not just our mouths, to be silent. It is deeply transformative because it helps us quiet our thoughts and, more importantly, acknowledge the background of Stillness that is our Real Nature.

Ramana Maharshi spontaneously spent years in silence, without even knowing about the practice of mauna. His revelation of the ocean of Pure Consciousness naturally caused him to remain silent, and he maintained that silence was his primary and most direct teaching. He described mauna as deeper than merely refraining from talking―it is the peaceful, unmoving, silent state of the Self, beyond all constructs of “noise.”

Mauna is also an important form of tapas (conscious austerity). Swami Sivananda recommended practicing mauna for one or two years—which may seem very far from our current way of thinking and normal degree of involvement in society. However, training ourselves to not speak for one day (or at least half a day) per week is a powerful way to purify the mind and develop a greater awareness of speech.

Describing the benefits of mauna, Swami Sivananda affirmed: “Energy is wasted in idle talking and gossiping. Worldly people do not realize this. Mauna conserves the energy and you can turn out more mental and physical work. By the practice of mauna, the energy of speech is slowly transmuted or sublimated into ojas shakti or spiritual energy.
Mauna develops will-force, curbs the impulse of speech, and gives peace of mind. You will get the power of endurance. You will not tell lies. You will have control over speech.
Mauna is a great help in the observance of truth and control of anger. Emotions are controlled and irritability vanishes. When one is ailing, observance of mauna will give great peace of mind.”

Mauna at Hridaya

The Hridaya Silent Meditation Retreat creates the proper conditions to learn and practice noble, reverential silence. During retreats, all participants observe mauna. This includes refraining not only from speaking but also from gesturing and any other kind of communication. Urgent needs and pertinent questions may be expressed in writing to Hridaya staff.

We also encourage the practice of mauna during Hridaya Yoga Retreat course cycles. At these times, silence is maintained at the Hridaya Yoga Center until 11:30 am. This means that we refrain from unnecessary speaking—teachers may give oral instructions, students may ask questions, and staff members may communicate softly and briefly with each other in order to best serve the community. This practice is meant to reduce purely social interactions and small talk in order to support the stillness of the Center and the depth of Hatha Yoga classes. It also sets a contemplative tone for the day and provides a space for silence to be cultivated by anyone who so chooses.

Of course, there is total freedom to step outside the Center’s grounds to have a conversation. As a community, we only practice mauna in the mornings. However, those who wish to remain in silence for longer periods may request an “In Silence” button from the Registration Kiosk. This button indicates that the wearer is in mauna, and everyone in the community knows to support them by refraining from trying to engage them in conversation.

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