Maunam is the attribute of a Muni. But the ordinary meaning of this word is silence. Our Dharma Sastras have prescribed the observance of maunam (मौनम्) on various occasions. We are asked to observe maunam when taking food. In this context, maunam means only non-speaking (silence). Controlling the urge to speak is one among the many steps leading us to our spiritual goal.
Those in charge of the administration of education in this State are having under consideration the question of commencing the day’s work in schools with prayer. As the students are drawn from different denominations, one difficulty confronting the authorities is to find a prayer acceptable to all denominations. Besides that in the higher rungs of the administrative hierarchy, there are some who have no faith in God, and to whom prayer is something which goes against their conscience. So, it has become difficult to take any decision in the matter. As the propaganda of certain parties is beginning to poison young minds, the Government is anxious to do something to retrieve the situation. So, it appears to have hit upon a compromise, and there is a proposal to assemble all the children and make them observe silent prayer for two or three minutes before the commencement of the day’s work.
Maunam is an important method of worshipping God. Maunam in this context does not mean merely silence. It is also the process of keeping the mind free of all thoughts. It implies that we should keep all our senses under perfect control, so that during the period of silence, the limbs may not move even involuntarily. Such a maunam will enable the divine spark within every one of us to become active in its progress towards the realization of the Paramaatma. The waves of thoughts that continuously rise and fall in our minds keep the all-pervading Atma hidden from us. Once the flow of thoughts is checked, the Atma begins to function. This kind of maunam is also an attribute of a muni. That is why we have been enjoined not to think for a while every day – tooshneem kinchit achintayan तूष्णीम् किञ्चिन्तयन्.Therefore, the decision of the Government in favor of observing silent prayer, though a compromise, is really a step in the right direction and a blessing in disguise.
This practice of maunam need not be confined to students alone. All of us are students all our life. If we do not make a conscious effort to practice maunam, to keep all thoughts away, we will regret later for having lived a purposeless life. From “no thought”, we can develop the practice of “God thought”, thinking of God. We can repeat the name of God and also concentrate our mind on the Divine Mother, or Lakshmi Narayana, or Uma-Maheswara. A person who has fallen into bad company has to seek the help of a policeman to free himself from that association. Once he is assured that his former evil associates will no longer trouble him, he can discontinue the police protection. Similarly, we seek the grace of one or the other manifestation of the Supreme Being to purge our hearts of all impurities, so that the Atma within us can easily realize the Formless and All-pervading God. Good association leads to “no association”, which in its turn leads to realization of the Ultimate Truth or the Supreme Bliss. Thereafter the Atma is freed from further births. That is the import of the following Bhaja Govindam verse:
सत्सङ्गत्वे निस्सङ्गत्वम् निस्सङ्गत्वे निर्मोहत्वम् ।
निर्मोहत्वे निश्चलत्वम् निश्चलत्वे जीवन्मुक्ति: ॥
Sat-sangatve nissangatvam, nissangatve nirmohatvam;
Nirmohatve nischala tattvam, nischala tattve jeevan muktih.
When we associate ourselves with the Sat, the identification of the “I” with this human frame will cease, and the “I” in each of us will get identified ultimately with the Brahmam. The “I” feeling will persist only so long as we regard ourselves as something separate from “He”; it will get itself obliterated with the dawn of the consciousness of the Oneness of God.
April 28, 1958