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The Mirror Of The Self: [07] Moderation In Speech

Published: 23.01.2009
Updated: 27.01.2009

A man indulges in many kinds of activities - eating, drinking, sleeping, walking, etc. A question arises as to which of these activities is the most frequently resorted to. The answer is: speaking. We talk while eating. We talk while walking. We even talk in sleep.

What Is Important Is Moderation In Speech

Talking is probably man's most predominant activity. A man talks when it is necessary; he also indulges in a lot of unnecessary talk. A man speaks when questioned. But there are many who volunteer to speak uninvited. There is no dearth of officious talkers. A man often talks unnecessarily. A fundamental principle of the philosophy of life is control over speech moderation in talking. One should not speak unless it is absolutely necessary. Even when it is necessary to speak, one should exercise modera­tion and talk to the point. The man, who has started talking less, already displays'a deeper understanding of life. A facile talker lives a very superficial life. The speech of one who talks too much, commands little value, whereas the talk of one who speaks little is far more significant.  Let us look at the world of literature. Kalidas spoke little, but until he spoke, King Bhoj fell ungratified. Similarly, Birbal spoke little, but until Birbal spoke, King Akbar would not rest content. People are keen to listen to a man of few words. Nobody shows any eagerness or curiosity to listen to a man who keeps chattering all the day long.

Control over speech is very necessary. It is good to observe silence during the period of sadhana. If complete silence is not possible, one should not at least indulge in unnecessary talk. One should abstain from family gossip and avoid all talk about one's own business or profession. Only then may one explore the depths of meditation.

It is, however, really very difficult to keep silent. When a wave arises in the mind, caught in the flood-tide of the urge to talk, a man cannot contain himself! So the first exercise to practise is - "Do not speak unnecessarily. Do not speak aimlessly. Do not speak too much. Observe complete silence for 1-2 hours in a day!" Such practice of silence is very beneficial for life.

Do Not Speak Uninvited

Of all our daily activities, talking occupies the first place. In this state, it is not possible for everyone to observe complete silence. A question arises as to how and where we start acquiring control over speech. The first maxim for practising control over speech is" I shall not speak uninvited!" The very awakening of such a resolve is a powerful step in the direction of silence. The Indians have a nasty habit of offering unsolicited advice. All kinds of suggestions are heaped on a man who falls ill. The acceptance of all those suggestions is likely to make the patient more ill instead of curing him of his disease. In such a state, the question of a patient's making a complete recovery does notarise. In case some bigwig falls ill, there is an uninterrupted flow of visitors offering unsolicited advice. The cessation of the flow of unsolicited advice would mark the first step in the direction of silence.

Practise Speaking In A Low Voice

The second maxim of exercising control over speech is 'Practise speaking in a low voice!" Talking in a low voice, not loudly. Speaking aloud involves a greater expenditure of energy. Thoughtful people often do not speak too loudly; their talk is patient and peaceful. Speaking slowly constitutes an important step in the practice of silence.

Learn To Say 'No'

The third maxim of exercising control over speech is" - Do not accept each and every demand!" Whenever confronted by a demand for speech, we should exercise discretion. We must consider whether we should fulfil it or not. Is it really necessary? The awakening of such a discriminating consciousness will be a step in the direction of control over speech.

The observation of silence does not merely imply that we should not speak. The real objective Ls that the very requirements of speech are minimised to a point when one does not have to speak at all. Two sadhaks chanced to meet. They sat face to face, without speaking, observing complete silence. Both of them fully realized the ideas of each other.

Lord Mahavir observed silence for 12 ½ years. He observed great moderation in speech. He spoke little. Typical ascetics and those engaged in the practice of jina-like conduct also observe moderation in speech. It is not that they do not speak at all. They do speak, but only when it is absolutely necessary. The Hindi word, 'maun' (meaning silence) signifies minimisation of the very need to speak.

Maintenance Of Emotional Purity

The fourth maxim of exercising control over speech is - maintenance of emotional purity, freedom from all kinds of emo­tional defilements, such as backbiting, hatred or envy. One should not speak of things of which one has no knowledge. People form conjectures without obtaining full information about any­thing and spread rumours altogether contrary to fact. They spread rumours, which make no sense. Renunciation of all emotional defilements is essential for achieving control over speech.

One should not speak without being asked to speak. When asked to speak, one should speak in a low voice, deliberately, discreetly, with a pure heart and mind. When all these conditions are fulfilled, one may be said to have perfected moderation in speaking.

Silence: Different Connotations

Silence has many connotations. In the context of preksha meditation, silence has two meanings: (1) Not to utter any word and (2) total freedom from thought. It is said,

"Not to utter a word is silence; to speak little is also silence; to enter a state transcending thought is inner silence."

There is a Hindi term, 'Kashtha-Maun' ('Extreme Silence'). The culminating point of silence is to make no sign or gesture, to give no hint or indication. In fact, 'Kashtha-Maun' does not connote only that much. That is only its gross meaning. In the language of preksha meditation, inner silence is - to suspend the activities of larynx. No memory, no thought and no imagination. This constitutes the height of silence.
This analysis of silence is not meant only for a sadhak; it is equally beneficial for the common man.

Monkhood: A Philosophy Of Life

The fundamental principles of the philosophy of life needed for success are available in monk-life. In preksha meditation, people are inspired to practise all these principles. Training in preksha meditation is not confined to the practice of meditation alone; it is also the practice of the fundamental principles, which ensure success in life. I believe that the man who comes here to practise preksha meditation, imbibes new way of living. Con­templation and continuous practice of these principles lead to the evolution of a mental culture, serves to increase awareness, and offers an opportunity for a deep understanding of life. By the understanding of life we mean - to come to know oneself, and to know oneself is to come to know life itself. He who has properly understood life, he who has understood himself, may be said to have approached the objective of preksha meditation If our valour and exertion are organised and turned in this direction we shall be undoubtedly successful in opening a new dimension of living.


3rd Edition 1995

Jain Vishva Bharati Institute
Ladnun -341 306 (Rajasthan)

Muni Dhananjay Kumar (Hindi)
Muni Mahendra Kumar (English)

Translated by:
Late Prof. R.K. Seth

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Akbar
  2. Consciousness
  3. Mahavir
  4. Meditation
  5. Preksha
  6. Preksha Meditation
  7. Sadhak
  8. Sadhaks
  9. Sadhana
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