Silence and Its Many Concepts


Dr. Ravi P. Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

Silence–this is a common word in a school to make students to not make noise. A more affirmative expression could be Shut up or Keep your mouths closed. 

Sometimes, a simple sign   — putting a finger on one’s lips gives the same message in a polite manner.

With one’s lips closed the obvious result is one cannot eat or drink anything.

Another outcome of closed lips is a sense of quietness and peace. With lips closed, since one cannot speak or eat, one can think — and sometimes think deeply. One can have both positive and negative thoughts — positive for one’s friends or well wishers and negative for the other people — one’s competitors or those whom one dislikes.

Meditation is an art or skill that some people can practice. This term means to think at depth on some issue in order to try to make one’s minds free from any troublesome thoughts. This gives some sort of rest to one’s minds and may enable the person to think deeply on some issues or problems. We all know the discovery of gravitation by Isaac Newton, the British scientist who on seeing objects fall to the ground wondered what was pulling these objects downwards. The object could be fruit from some trees or a ball or any object thrown upwards by a person.

Newton’s thoughts on such phenomena helped him to come up with the idea of gravity and the theory of gravitation. Perhaps he did not clarify that the speed with which an object falls downwards depends on what is pulling it downwards— in this case, the Earth. We now know that a similar act would take place on the surface of the Moon but the falling speed would be slower because of the Moon being lighter in weight than the Earth.

Many people especially the Buddhists know and practice the concept of Meditation — sitting quietly and thinking about some issue and its consequences. While the subject of Buddhism is complex, it is based on some broad principles — avoiding attachment to mundane items, thoughts and actions. How to overcome the sorrow and grief by meditation and quiet reflection on the problems that afflict mankind is one of the core concerns of Buddhism.

The main belief of Buddhism is that there is suffering in this world that is accentuated by our attachment to different desires and ideas. Although this attachment may be transient, it causes pain and sorrow. Lord Buddha while meditating under a tree about 2000 years ago in a region presently between India and Nepal suggested some broad ways of overcoming sorrow through meditation and tranquility.

It should be emphasised that he had been a Prince himself and had a family of his own. He renounced everything before he started meditating and his counsels are not just theoretical but based on a personal effort at overcoming attachment and pettiness.

The world today is complex — larger number of people and different ideologies at play — democracy, socialism, communalism, fundamentalism, etc. We also depend largely  on science and technology but also have to face up to the wide disparities — economic, social, cultural among people . The effect of social media on our lives is quite visible. How to maintain our poise and equanimity is a difficult concept. Meditation is essential under these circumstances to come up with balanced ways of behaviour and life.

I had started with the concept of silence and avoidance of noise. This has been developed into the ideas of meditation and seeking of peace and tranquility. The complex world we inhabit makes our efforts difficult but still essential. I am not suggesting that there is only one way but we have to try to attain our goals with unstinting effort. Meditation is a recourse that helps us all and is an essential component of Buddhism. Let us try to attain peace and joy in this manner.

If someone has other means of obtaining peace and joy let those means be practiced, but please let us know about it on the discussion below.


Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 31 Oct 2022.

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