Vow of silence

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A vow of silence is usually a religious vow, usually taken in a monastic context, to maintain silence. Known as Mauna in Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism, the practice is integral to many Christian traditions as well. Apart from that it is also followed as a spiritual practice. Pythagoras imposed a strict rule of silence on his disciples; the Vestal virgins also were bound to severe silence for long years. Many similar examples could be quoted.

Religious orders such as the Benedictines have insisted on this as one of the essential rules of their institutes.[1]

In monasteries of many orders there are special places, called the "Regular Places" (church, refectory, dormitory etc.) and particular times, especially the night hours, termed the "Great Silence", wherein speaking is more strictly prohibited. Outside these places and times there are usually accorded "recreations" during which conversation is permitted, governed by rules of charity and moderation, though useless and idle words are universally forbidden in all times and places. Of course in active orders the members speak according to the needs of their various duties.

It was perhaps the Cistercian Order alone that admitted no relaxation from the strict rule of silence,[dubious ] which severity is still maintained amongst the Reformed Cistercians (Trappists) though other contemplative Orders (Carthusians, Carmelites, Camaldolese etc.) are much more strict on this point than those engaged in active works. In order to avoid the necessity of speaking, many orders (Cistercians, Dominicans, Discalced Carmelites etc.) have a certain number of signs, by means of which the religious may have a limited communication with each other for the necessities that are unavoidable.

In the Indian religions religious silence is called Mauna and the name for a sage muni (see, for example Sakyamuni) literally means 'silent one'.

Another vow of silence can be made to express a bold statement. This type may be to speak up controversial issues such as child poverty. An example of is The November 30th Vow of Silence for Free The Children in which students in Canada take a 24 hour vow of silence to speak up against poverty and child labour.

There is also the use of a vow of silence done in order to sharpen other senses, whether they be physical or mental, or to discover certain aspects of oneself.

See also[edit]


Wikisource-logo.svg Obrecht, Edmond (1913). "Silence". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.