Self-control over speech

During meditation, our consciousness gains contact with the Superconscient realms and becomes filled with calmness and power.  This power acquired through meditation must be retained as much as possible in order to successfully transform our consciousness.  The power dissipates into the external world if we engage in fruitless conversation.   Therefore, economy of speech is a sine qua non for success on the spiritual path.   These are some  observations on the talking habit distilled from the advice that Sri Aurobindo gave to his disciples (see Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga – III: Transformation of the Physical – IX).

In order to understand the problem, one must first make an inventory of our personality to distinguish between the speech which is necessary from the speech which is not necessary.  These are some of our unwanted speech habits:

  1. Talking without reflection: Loose conversation often becomes the habit.  We may reflexively crack jokes and make petty remarks to bring levity to the environment.  This is always a mistake.  The aim of Yoga is to speak from reticence and from the Highest Consciousness.
  2. Desire to gossip :  For instance, we spend our time discussing, “He is like this; she is like that” and so on.    One may notice that such conversation evokes a feeling of gladness but such joys are petty and short-lived.  What we must aim for instead is the  calmness and wideness which comes from living in the greater flow of Light.
  3. Talking in order to unburden strong emotions:  When we are overwhelmed by sudden joy, anger or sadness, we immediately want to share it with someone.  This is a sign of a weakness because our vital (life-force) is unable to contain powerful emotions and respond appropriately.  In the spiritual path, the body consciousness has to be become like a dam over a mighty river which holds the flow and releases the waters only when necessary.
  4. Love of talking/Desire to avoid loneliness: We enjoy conversation because during talking, there is an exchange of vital energy (centered around the region of the heart) and this energy exchange evokes a feeling of joy and fullness in life.   Talking is fueled by a desire to escape from loneliness and need for security.
  5. Thinking after the conversation:  We may have the habit of thinking about the conversation after talking.  (“Did I say the right thing?  Oh, I  should have said this when he said that!”)  This needless reflection, according to Sri Aurobindo, is the working of the physical mind. (the physical mind is that part of us which is tied up in perpetuating our little habits.   For more on that, see Constitution)
  6. Use of foul language (Lalochezia in medical terms): Foul language brings a feeling of empowerment and a release from the stress and frustrations of life. However, we seldom realize that every foul word which leaves our mouth reinforces the negative habits in our subconscious and such habits prove difficult to overcome  later on.
  7. Ranting :  A clear mind and calm heart is often lacking amongst people in the world.   Most often, what we find is some slip into irrationality which gives rise to the general habit of criticism − mostly ignorant criticism of others − mixed with all sorts of imaginations, inferences, exaggerations, false interpretations, even gross inventions.

Sri Aurobindo said that absolute silence (mauna) and looseness of talk are two extremes which can be avoided.  What is required is moderation and awareness of speech so as to gain control over the habit of talking.  Control over speech can be gained by developing the state of witness-consciousness as described in this post –  (How to cultivate the state of Witness-consciousness).  One of the things I found useful was to center the awareness on the throat and upper chest region during meditations since this is the region from which all speech issues.  During early stages of meditation, this area feels heavy but later on, it begins to feel lighter as our consciousness becomes purified and we regain control over speech.

In a letter to a disciple, Sri Aurobindo outlined the psychic self-control that is desirable for those on the spiritual path :

  1. Not to allow the impulse of speech to assert itself too much or say anything without reflection, but to speak always with a conscious control and only what is necessary and helpful.
  2. To avoid all debate, dispute or too animated discussion and simply say what has to be said and leave it there.  There should also be no insistence that you are right and the others wrong, but what is said should only be thrown in as a contribution to the consideration of the truth of the matter.
  3. To keep the tone of speech and the wording very quiet and calm and uninsistent.
  4. Not to mind at all if others are heated and dispute, but remain quiet and undisturbed and yourself speak only what can help things to be smooth again.
  5. If there is gossip about others and harsh criticism (especially about sadhaks/spiritual aspirants), not to join − for these things are helpful in no way and only lower the consciousness from its higher level.
  6. To avoid all that would hurt or wound others.

Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga – III: Transformation of the Physical – IX

All these problems of needless talking are subsumed when we reach Self-realization because then our words begin to emerge from deepest reticence and the richest silence as outlined in the article on Para Vak.

Related Posts

  1. Mother Mirra Alfassa on Austerity of Speech.
  2. Epistemology of perception
  3. How does a Guru act?
  4. Vedic Vak: illustration of Para Vak
  5. Types of meditation
  6. Illustrating Integral Psychology using the Gita
  7. How to eat like a Yogi
  8. Vedic Vak: four levels of sound
  9. How to develop intuition
  10. Explaining out-of-body and near-death experiences

18 thoughts on “Self-control over speech

  1. Aravind D

    A very well written article again. The differnt types of talking habits you depicted above illustrate that most of the time our talking is unnecessary.

    To talk in moderation with awareness is certainly a very important part of the sadhana and a very tough one too.

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  5. Sandeep Post author

    Now technology can help you control your talking habit !

    Japanese researchers build a gun capable of stopping speakers in mid-sentence.

    Today, Kazutaka Kurihara at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tskuba and Koji Tsukada at Ochanomizu University, both in Japan, present a radical solution: a speech-jamming device that forces recalcitrant speakers into submission.

    The idea is simple. Psychologists have known for some years that it is almost impossible to speak when your words are replayed to you with a delay of a fraction of a second.

    Kurihara and Tsukada have simply built a handheld device consisting of a microphone and a speaker that does just that: it records a person’s voice and replays it to them with a delay of about 0.2 seconds. The microphone and speaker are directional so the device can be aimed at a speaker from a distance, like a gun

    Read more @

  6. Samir

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the incessant playback of it’s own habitual thought formations had a similar effect on the mind 🙂

    1. Sandeep Post author

      That’s a clever analogy! If that worked, the purpose of Creation would be defeated because the outgoing movement of consciousness (pravritti) would remain severely stunted 🙂

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  10. Sandeep Post author

    Great satirical article in the Onion on how people talk in general

    Group Of Friends Engage In Passionate, Incoherent Discussion About Current Events

    SACRAMENTO, CA—Sharing their thoughts and opinions on a wide variety of topics and hot-button issues, five friends eating dinner at Tapper’s Bar and Grill Wednesday had a lengthy, animated, and utterly incoherent discussion about current events, sources confirmed.

    In spite of numerous loud proclamations made by the individuals and several lively back-and-forth dialogues, witnesses confirmed that at no point during the impassioned 45-minute conversation did any member of the group make a single fully informed or well-reasoned statement about politics, economics, foreign affairs, or social matters.

    Read more @,33500/

  11. mwb6119

    Be careful always to keep
    the living Presence and Protection
    around you when you speak to people
    and speak as little as possible.
    The Mother
    ref. Words Of The Mother, vol.14, p.222

  12. mike

    l’m not sure how we can keep the Living Presence around us [possibly remembering SA and M], but l know how difficult it is to keep my mouth shut sometimes lol. And if l’m in the company of certain worldly ppl [not their fault, of course] they tend to drag me down – l’ve disassociated myself from a lot of ppl these days, so l don’t have to speak much – the thoughts are still harassing me though lol….

    1. mwb6119

      Mike said: “but l know how difficult it is to keep my mouth shut sometimes lol”

      Well, I’m naturally introverted (passed on from my father). And here I live in a predominately socially-extroverted culture here in the US, where I am constantly reprimanded about being too quiet or withdrawn, or non-assertive (and introversion here is almost considered a mental illness). And how I am constantly told to “speak up,” “yell,” “shout it out,” it’s really quite annoying. So, I appreciate Mother’s words here. …And it is hard to know exactly what she is saying, to whom, the actual circumstances, etc. In my case she may have something quite different to say. 🙂

      1. Mark

        Be careful always to keep
        the living Presence and Protection
        around you when you speak to people
        and speak as little as possible.

        The Mother

        ref. Words Of The Mother, vol.14, p.222

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