maun - मौन

Complete silence.

Even in modern times, a few enlightened masters observe the spiritual practice of maun, or perpetual silence. Many others, though not wholly taciturn, are relatively so. They value silence as the secret to divine communion. Even in their teaching they distrust the medium of words, considering it an indirect and unreliable way of expressing truth, since truth cannot really be understood except by direct experience.

Needless to say, the disciples of such gurus must be spiritually advanced also, else they would be unable to tune in to the master’s wisdom-emanations.

Paramhansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi contains a significant passage about his paramguru, or guru’s guru, Lahiri Mahasaya. Swami Sri Yukteswar, Lahiri’s disciple, told Yogananda, “Even when Lahiri Mahasaya was silent, or when he conversed on other than religious topics, I discovered that he had transmitted to me ineffable knowledge.”

In another passage, Lahiri Mahasaya is quoted directly: “‘Please expound the holy stanzas as the meaning occurs to you.’ The taciturn guru often gave this instruction to a nearby disciple. ‘I will guide your thoughts, that the right interpretation be uttered.’ In this way many of Lahiri Mahasaya’s perceptions came to be recorded, with voluminous commentaries, by various students.”

In ancient times in India, wisdom was normally conveyed by thought-transference. Later, it was committed to memory but not written down, for the record could be preserved more faithfully by the mind than by the written word and subsequent editorial distortion. Only much later, as people’s memory became fallible during the general decline of spiritual awareness, was it necessary to begin committing those teachings to books.

The modern mind considers the ability to read and write one of the chief blessings of civilization. This naive conviction is due to the fact that modern man has lost contact with higher consciousness. Granted, literacy is a step upward for those who, doomed to a life of plodding manual labor, live by their instinctual urges like the lower animals. To judge all history by present-day standards, however, is a mark of our own ignorance. There have been ages, in fact, when people generally lived by intuitive wisdom, and not in primitive ignorance as is presently believed.(1)

  1. The Hindu Way of Awakening, by Swami Kriyananda. Chapter 4, “Symbolism in India.”