Mauni amavasya is observed on the “No Moon day” in Magha Month (January – February) as the most auspicious day during Kumbh Mela to perform ritual bath (mental detoxification). The word Mauni and Mauna is derived from ‘muni’, which means a spiritual performer who practices silence as a part of his daily spiritual rituals.
In all religious spiritual traditions whether Christian, Hindu, Islamic or Buddhist, the voluntary act of non-speaking is an integral part of religion, being practiced in the form of silent retreats, vows of silence or silent prayer. According to Hinduism, ‘Mauna’ (silence) is one of the most important aspects of spiritual discipline and symbolizes a state of oneness with the Self. It gives an opportunity to introspect and initiate a dialogue within oneself.
Mauna is described by Adi Shankaracharya as one of the three essential attributes of a Sanyasi along with balya or childlike state and panditya or wisdom. Both Acharya Vinoba Bhave and Mahatma Gandhi observed periods of silence in their spiritual practice . Vinoba Bhave even observed a year long silence in the year 1974-75. According to Ramana Maharshi, mauna is a state beyond speech and thought, it is “living without the ego-sense”. He made silence the medium of spiritual instruction.
Mauna is not different from the classic definition of Yoga as given in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras: “Yogas citta vritti nirodha” – “Yoga is the cessation of mental fluctuations”
However one has to distinguish between the spiritual discipline of consciously observing silence and muteness due to indifference, shyness, anger or simply a bad mood. Mauns is spiritually motivated silence and can be “ Vak Mauna” which is to renounce the use of the organs of speech or “kashta mauna”, which means to not only abstain from oral speech but to also avoid communication through written messages, gestures like nodding or shaking the head and so on.
In seven spiritual laws of success Deepak Chopra writes that practicing silence means making a commitment to take a certain amount of time to simply ‘Be’ and periodically withdrawing from the activity of speech. It also involves periodically withdrawing from external stimuli such as watching television, listening to the radio, or reading the book.
“ When you go into this experience of silence, initially your internal dialogue may becomes even more turbulent and you may feel an intense need to say things. But as you stay with the experience, the internal dialogue beings to quieten. And soon the silence becomes profound. Then, as the internal dialogue quietens, you begin to experience the stillness of the field of pure potentiality. At this time in silence one can introduce a faint impulse of intention in this field, and the creation of your desire will come about spontaneously”.
“ Imagine throwing a little stone into a still pond and watching it ripple. Then, after a while, when the ripple settle down, perhaps you throw another little stone. That’s exactly what you do when you go into the field of pure silence and introduce your intention. In this silence, even the faintest intention will ripple across the underlying ground of universal consciousness, which connects everything with everything else. But, if you do not experience stillness in consciousness, if your mind is like a turbulent ocean, you could throw the empire state Building into it, and you wouldn’t notice a thing.” Says Deepak Chopra.
Both Bhagwad Gita and Bible gives importance to silence and austerity if mind. In the bible is the expression, “Be still, and know that I am God.” In Geeta Krishna also describes silence as himself and says “ 10.38: Among all means of suppressing lawlessness I am punishment, and of those who seek victory I am morality. Of secret things I am silence, and of the wise I am the wisdom.”
Apart from silence practising meditation, non-judgment and spending time with the nature, one can access the state of pure potentiality. Silence is the great teacher, and to learn its lessons you must pay attention to it.
In periods other than silence one must learn to observe austerity of speech which Krishna in Bhagvad Geeta describes as “17.15: Austerity of speech consists in speaking words that are truthful, pleasing, beneficial, and not agitating to others, and also in regularly reciting Vedic literature.”
What are different types of silence?
Ans: Silence is not just “not speaking for some time” but also speaking less. As per Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, one should be careful in his thoughts, speech and action. Gautam Buddha wrote extensively about austerity of speech and said speaking less means not to speak a lie, not to speak evil and not to speak when not required. He said whenever speaking, ask yourself three questions – is it the Truth? Is it necessary? Is it kind and if the answer to any one of them is no, don’t speak.
What should one do while observing silence?
Ans: While observing silence, one has many alternatives. First is to get absorb oneself in some work like reading, watching TV etc. This is like concentrating on the present. Second alternative which is recommended by Deepak Chopra in his book “Seven Spiritual Laws of Success”, is to observe the nature like the sounds of birds, waterfall or the wind etc. The third alternative is to close your eyes and concentrate on your thoughts and the self. All these can be used initially to improve one’s concentration and later to shift to actual meditation. As per vedic philosophy, silence conserves energy. It sharpens concentration power.
How long can one do practice of silence?
Ans: It may be for few minutes or few hours. Deepak Chopra recommends 20 minutes of silence everyday. Hindu mythology recommends one day of silence on Mauni Amavasya in the month of Magh. The only example of one year silence was by Acharya Vinoba Bhave in the year 74-75.
Why mauna vrat is done in Amavasya and not in Poornima?
Ans: In Amavasya, the fluctuations in mind are less compared to Poornima as per the moon cycle.
Why on Amavasya, pitra dosh ceremonies are held?
Ans: Full moon is a day of positive thoughts and new moon and Amavasya is the day for negative thoughts. Pitra dosh or attachment disorders are more likely to happen on Amavasya day than on full moon or Poornima day. Pitra dosh may present with depression or anxiety. All the rituals related to pitra dosh are helpful in the treatment of depression like eating sesame seeds, donating sesame seeds (if eaten in excess sesame can be harmful), worshiping cow (as per Ayurveda cow milk is good for depression), taking early morning bath, exposure to daylight and sunbath (ritual is to do surya jal pooja near a river in the early morning sun).
In pitra dosh Krishna is worshipped. Krishna is a sign of thinking positive and gain vigour to face the challenges. The blue colour indicates vastness and yellow indicates vigour. Thinking of Krishna gives strength to tackle depression. In the evening of Mauni Amavasya Shri Hari Krishna Jap is done.