The Four Types of Silence

Posted on August 14, 2012

Our thoughts are almost continuously restless. This is the nature of the thinking mind. It is seeking, restlessly, for relief from its self-created tensions, for its essential enlightenment, for the peace of the heart. This seeking is in itself a sign of our coming awakening.

Behind the stream of thoughts, our inborn intuitive intelligence, the higher mind, is waiting to be discovered. It is consciousness of pristine clarity, able to discern what is true and what is false, and ultimately able to recognize its own enlightenment.

This higher mind is pure and ever undisturbed. Its nature is peace. Through daily sadhana (spiritual practice), the judging, worrying, suffering mind becomes transparent to its own wisdom, its essential enlightened nature.

Clarity of mind is like the vast sky, limitless and unobstructed. Clouds of thoughts and stressful emotions drift through at times, but the sky doesn’t mind. To enjoy this pristine nature of mind, we can cultivate four successive stages of silence.

1. Silence of Speech

The first silence is control of speech. It comes from the effort to restrain angry, hurtful, and insulting speech as well as from the wisdom of knowing when to speak and when it is better to stay silent.

It is about restraining the impulse to let our thoughts run out through the mouth; it’s about being aware of the impact of your words on others and the cultivation of kindness in speech.

Consciously containing speech, and perhaps practicing silence (mauna) on certain days, is a potent practice of managing energy. It can make us aware of just how turbulent our thinking is, and control it. It has been said that “silence is golden,” because of the immense value or inner awareness.

2. Silence of the Senses

The second type of silence is withdrawal of the senses. Known as pratyahara in yogic language, you may experience it as a distinct sensation during meditation. At first your mind is busy with its worldly concerns, but you sit still, not feeding its outward movement. After a while there is a distinct shift when the mind lets go of its outer focus and turns inward. It feels peaceful and self-contained.

Withdrawal of the senses can come in less noticeable ways and allow you to be more present and self-aware. It naturally happens every time you go to sleep.

Developing the Silence of the Senses is essential for overcoming the distractive tendency of the mind.

3. Statue-like Silence

The third type of silence is known as statue-like silence. It comes in deeper states of absorption, when you temporarily abandon all effort of concentration in meditation, when the mind becomes still and you exist for a while in the still space between thoughts.

Deeply rejuvenating, inspiring and relaxing, these moments of profound inner stillness are a taste of the lower levels of samadhi (super-consciousness). They are direct insights into increasing levels of freedom, deeply nurturing and profound. They are however only temporary; you return again to the outwardly focused and often distracted mind.

Effort is required to experience any of these three states of silence, because in all of them the outward-moving force of the mind is being restrained. Like stepping-stones into increasing levels of peace, they lead us eventually beyond all effort into:

4. The Silence of Sleepless Sleep

This is the silence of the intuitive intelligence of the Self, the vast ocean of consciousness, recognizing itself in all things. It is the mind of oneness and unlimited, divine bliss.

This sublime state is natural, spontaneous, and completely effortless. It is the “peace that passes all understanding.” It comes as we develop the realization of the unreality of all passing phenomena, and with the intuitive insight into the reality of the soul.

When the mind is filled with impressions of the profound meditation of the Self, the desires and aversions of the ego are gradually replaced by pure thought-waves. The ego becomes transparent and the mind clear.

Through this process, a yogi experiences the boundless freedom of the inner Self. He does not depend on anything external for his happiness. He is no longer conditioned by outer events and circumstances. He is like someone who awakens and is no longer upset by the contents of his dream.

While normal sleep gives us a moment of freedom from the mind and its problems, the sleepless sleep permanently transcends all worries of the mind. Great clarity and peace replace the tensions of “I” and of “mine.” Even while awake and active, such a sage is ever immersed in his peace.

When this silence attains its fullness, it is known as turya, the state beyond waking, dream and deep sleep. In this state the yogi’s consciousness has shifted from identity with the body-bound ego to oneness with the vast ocean of Self. The entire world, along with our body and personality, is a small wave on the surface of this limitless ocean. It is ever undisturbed by the movement of the waves on the surface. It is unchangeable and immortal.

The supreme Silence of Sleepless Sleep arises in a state of super-consciousness that needs no external support, but can embrace all things with absolute love and compassion. This state of peace is the true home of all souls.


with love,

Ram Giri
and the Skills for Awakening team


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One Response to “The Four Types of Silence”

  1. Zen Presence
    Aug 22, 2012

    Very straight forward and inormative. Thank you


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