“One who is equal to friends and enemies, who is equipoised in honor and dishonor, heat and cold, happiness and distress, fame and infamy, who is always free from contamination, always silent and satisfied with anything, who doesn't care for any residence, who is fixed in knowledge and engaged in devotional service, is very dear to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.18-19)
samaḥ śatrau ca mitre ca
santuṣṭo yena kenacit
bhaktimān me priyo naraḥ
Friend-One: I’ve got a few questions about silence.
Friend-Two: People told you that you talk too much again? I knew I wasn’t the only one [smiling].
F1: Very funny. No, I mean in terms of spiritual life.
F2: I think I know where you’re going with this one. It’s pretty easy to explain, but let’s see if I’m right first.
F1: Okay, you have many people who take vows of silence. And you see this across the different faiths.
F2: Like the Buddhist monks and such?
F1: Or even Christians too. And isn’t there something in Hinduism called the mauna vrata?
F2: Yeah. People go off to the mountains and live in seclusion. If anyone else should happen to come by, they don’t speak at all. Prahlada Maharaja has an interesting take on that.
F1: Oh yeah?
F2: When addressing the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His incarnation of Narasimhadeva, Prahlada said that he would rather speak the glories of the Lord and liberate others in the process than remain silent [Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.9.44].
F1: Okay, so I guess that begins to answer my question. Prahlada was a child, though, so what could he possibly know? [sarcasm]
F2: That is the power of bhakti-yoga. It works at any age. Prahlada actually got full wisdom while within the womb. He didn’t need to sit under a tree. He didn’t have to spend a lifetime in tapasya, or penance, in order to reach a higher state. He got everything he needed within the womb while hearing from the enlightened Narada Muni.
F1: Have you ever heard the expression that talking is silver and silence is gold?
F2: Yes. It has validity in a lot of circumstances. Even Shri Krishna has several times said that a true hero does not speak much. Such a person is confident in their abilities, and they carry out their duties with detachment. If they are free of doubts, what need is there to boast?
F1: Right. So that’s one in favor of silence. But what about the other viewpoint, the one that criticizes silence? If a person aspiring for success in spiritual life takes a vow of silence, isn’t that a good thing? They’re not bothering anybody. They’re making advancement. What am I missing?
F2: It’s good only if they are prone to speaking too much nonsense. I’m sure you’ve been in those situations. You’re with someone who can’t stop talking. And what they’re telling you has no value, either.
F1: Some would say I am that person [laughing].
F2: Some, but certainly not me [smiling].
F1: So if you don’t blabber on and on about trivial topics, there is no need to be silent?
F2: Think of it this way. Shri Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita says that someone who is always silent is very dear to Him. Silence is included in the list of qualities that make a person dear to Krishna.
F1: Okay, and there can’t be a higher authority than Krishna. He is the Supreme God, the detail behind what so many others only know as an abstract.
F2: Correct. But how did we find out that someone who is always silent is dear to Krishna?
F1: Umm, you just told me.
F2: No, silly, how did anyone find out?
F1: Krishna said it.
F2: Exactly! You can’t say something if you’re remaining silent. After hearing this from Krishna, did Arjuna never speak again?
F1: No, he certainly spoke. He did not take a vow of silence.
F2: So you have to apply common sense. Someone who is always silent in regards to speaking nonsense is very dear to Krishna. If you see your child about to do something dangerous, are you going to keep quiet? If you see money fall out of someone’s pocket, should you keep your mouth shut? Will that be considered pious?
F1: I see what you’re saying.
F2: His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada says that one should speak only essential things, and the most essential topic is the Supreme Lord. When glorifying God, there is no need to be silent. Vedic literature is voluminous for this very reason. Sages of the past, who did not speak nonsense, spoke so much about God that we can’t consume everything they said in a single lifetime.
F1: This is starting to make sense. That’s why Prahlada didn’t want to keep quiet. He would rather put his speaking ability to good use.
F2: That’s what separates bhakti-yoga from other disciplines of spirituality. You can use anything that you have for advancing in the spiritual consciousness. If you can speak, put it to good use. If you know that God is great, there is no need to remain silent about it. If you know that He is attractive, kind, merciful, knowledgeable and always living in the heart as the Supersoul, tell those who are interested.
Like parrot with perpetually moving beaks,
Silence recommended for one who too much speaks.
Dear to Krishna this making,
This knowledge from Bhagavad-gita taking.
But this fact from Lord Himself indeed,
Means that for speaking also a need.
Like Prahlada glories of Krishna share,
Speak so that others to become aware.