Saying that my Guru, Baba Hari Dass, is “a man of few words” is a monumental understatement. The few words he “says” are written on a small chalkboard. Babaji has taken the “vox mauna”-a vow of silence and hasn’t spoken for well over 50 years. Whenever I mention this to my students, the reaction is always the same; faces filled with complete disbelief; foreheads scrunched into ? marks; and then the inevitable question- “BUT WHY?!” (I would imagine he is asked that question as many times as a vegan is asked-“But how do you get your protein?!”)
Ask Babaji himself, and you will be met with his sense of humor- “So I don’t yell at everyone!” I can’t begin to tell you how many crazy scenarios my fellow students came up with in order to coerce Babaji into saying he would speak under “these” circumstances. But he always managed to find another answer to the dilemma.
Where to us it seems like a complete impossibility to maintain for any length of time, the silence is a means to quiet the mind. To get rid of all the many unproductive thoughts and develop a peace inside that will in turn bring peace to society as a whole. Babaji explains it as his way of finding peace amidst a chaotic world.
Constant chatter keeps us in a superficial world where we allow ourselves to detour around unpleasant situations. We cover up what we don’t want to delve into, and avoid having to look inside (or outside) to meet reality head on….just another means of distraction. How many of us like to talk just to hear ourselves talk? Or feel the need to have our opinion heard above all others because ours is the “right” one? Might I suggest Ego anyone? Silence is a means of letting that go and expressing humility.
Speaking uses up a lot of energy. Traditional yogins want to preserve as much energy as possible so that every conceivable smidgen can be used to help them reach moksha- or enlightenment. Some traditionalists believe the goal of yoga itself is silence and that silence equates to Samadhi(the highest level of the 8 limb yogic path). Behind all the noise and sounds is silence-one’s innermost soul. Babaji is silent to find his inner Self, to connect with God.
So do I think we should all take the vox mauna(which still sounds to me like some kind of a Star Trek Vulcan ritual that Mr. Spock would take)? Absolutely not. But it certainly wouldn’t hurt each and every one of us to let go of our ego and find some time to go into silence. To listen to others; to listen to ourselves. To learn to know one’s self and let go of illusion, to understand who we really are and to find our dharma-our reason for being here at this time.