Silence

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Silence (tuõhi) 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 Nipata 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).

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