MAUN VRAT – VOW OF SILENCE
By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
Arya Vanprastha Ashram, Rojad, Gujarat is a reputed place where men and women in the third phase of life -50 to 75 years- get peace of mind. Both internal and external tranquility is the hallmark of the hallowed place. Swami Satyapati Maharaj is the presiding sanyasi of both the Ashram and the Mahvidyalaya. The day to day administration and Vedic teachings are done by two separate executive Acharyas. My wife, Sudha and I landed there to live in the spiritual environment for a few days in a kutiya observing Ashram Maryada in all respects.
Satyavrat and his wife, Pratibha had spoken highly of the Ashram and on a flying visit earlier we were impressed.
Acharya Gyaneshwar Arya is the spiritual guide now since Swami Satyapati Ji is presently not in the pink of health. His sermons on Vedic topics were indeed interesting and transmitted a lot of knowledge. He asked me to deputise for him off and on in delivering short sermons when he was away organizing a seminar-cum-exhibition on Agnihotra. Indeed it enhanced my knowledge too.
One fine afternoon after lunch, Sudha chose to rehearse a Gujarati hymn along with two other ladies. As the rehearsal was in full swing, the pitch of their voice crossed the crescendo and could be heard in other kutiyas of sadhaks and sadhikas. Apparently they felt disturbed. Came a brahmachari with a message from the Acharya and submitted politely: “ Mata ji, yeh MAUN ka samay hai, sangeet abhyas ka nahin.” There was a pindrop silence thereafter.
The Ashram lays a lot of emphasis on observing perfect silence at designated periods and then Maun means Maun.
The importance of Maun in an Ashram set me thinking. On going through the pages of scriptures of various religions, I found that most of the sanyasis, ascetics, Mahatmas had laid an emphasis on Maun for spiritual upliftment. Vedic Dharm, Christianity, Jainism, Buddhism and various offshoots of the major religions advised their followers to observe Maun or silence periodically to conserve energy, prevent noise pollution, go into meditation or deep thought to attain freedom from cycle of birth, death and rebirth. MOKSHA is the aim of all spiritual exercises and observing Maun Vrat is a step in that direction.
The concept of Maun Vrat sailed the seven seas and became popular beyond the shores of India. Maun Vrat contributes to spiritual growth. If one is hurt physically, mentally or spiritually, Maun has the power to heal. Healing through silence became a household word in many parts of the continent of Europe. Pythagoras, a great Greek philosopher, had imposed a strict rule of silence on his disciples. The rule was indeed observed both in letter and spirit.
The Military in different countries too observes vow of silence ceremonially and routinely. In the Academies the young cadets under training are under strict instructions to observe “Quiet Period” in the afternoon immediately after lunch. It helps digest food and gives time to impressionable minds to imbibe what was taught in the morning.
When homage is paid to the brave dead of a regiment who laid down his life for defence of the motherland, a two-minute silence is observed after laying of the wreath, after the last note of the Last Post is sounded by the ceremonial bugler. Heads bow down, barrel of the rifle touches the boot and the atmosphere is solemn and silent. The heads rise after two minutes silence with the sounding of Rouse by the bugler. Maun Shraddhanjali or silent homage is paid to the dead and departed by members of the family, society and the community. Perfect silence denotes importance of homage paid to the soldier or the civilian who laid down his life for the country.
A Ved mantra also enjoins on us to listen first and then speak. Unless there is silence, how can one listen to what is being spoken. “ Shreuniyam sharadah shatam, prabravam sharadah shatam” thus enjoins the mantra.
Silence brings serenity and eliminates tension from life. Cases of road rage will, ipso facto, be minimized if the involved persons are not angrily vociferous but observe silence to analyse the cause and effect and bury the hatchet.
Shall we take a vow of silence or observe Maun Vrat as per schedule for spiritual progress.