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Silence

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Silence (mona or tuṇhibhāva) is the quality of being quiet, at peace and without noise. Buddhist psychology sees a direct connection between verbal silence and mental silence. Thus the Buddha said to his monks: ‘When you meet together, either talk about the Dhamma or maintain a noble silence.’ (M.I,161). In a beautiful paean to silence recorded in the Sutta Nipāta he said: ‘Learn this from the waters. In mountain clefts and chasms loud gush the streamlets, but great rivers flow silently. Empty things make a noise while the full is always quiet. The fool is like a half-filled pot; the wise person is like a deep still pool.’ (Sn.720-1).

The Buddha praised in particular the maintenance of a dignified silence in the face of insults and false accusations: ‘Not to react to anger with angry words is to win a battle hard to win. It is to act for one’s own and the other’s welfare, although those who do not know the Dhamma will think you are a fool.’ (S.I,162). As a result of this, the Buddha and his disciples had a reputation for being ‘fond of silence, encouraging silence and speaking in praise of silence’ (D.III,36). It was said of the Buddha that he ‘seeks lodgings in the forest, in the depth of the jungle, in quiet places with little noise, places far from the crowd, undisturbed by people and well suited for solitude.’ (D.III,38).

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