In today’s world, we tend to value those processes of mind, life and body which focus on the elements of success in the outer life. We educate children to remember facts of the past, to learn basic mathematics, and rules of grammar and spelling. We train students on how to utilize and implement various forms of technology into their lives, or to gain certain practical skills to maintain and install the powers that drive our society and economy. When people are not focused on learning or working, they are encouraged to focus their attention on a variety of forms of entertainment which tend to excite the vital nature and the mind. Quiet time for reflection or meditation is considered to be somewhat unusual or even abnormal for most people in the world. When there is not something going on to stimulate the mind’s activity and the vital energies, people become bored, or agitated, and try to find ways to respond to the lack of focus or activity with various forms of distraction.
For the spiritual seeker, the question is not one of distraction or entertainment, but of creating a means to get in touch with the inner being and to find ways and methods to contact the spiritual force and bring it into the life. Traditionally, this has meant avoiding and suppressing the energies and an attempt is then made to restrain the thoughts, restrain the vital energies and create a one-pointed focus through concentration, meditation, samadhi, or , potentially through a devotional practice, to open the heart and pour the emotional energy in the direction of the Divine, or else, there is a dedication of one’s work to the Divine while the mind and vital energies remain fully engaged.
The idea of silence of the mind as the basis for the realisations of the integral yoga stems from the need to overcome the framework of mind-vital-body and the limitations imposed by remaining bound within that framework. The achievement of the silent mind does not imply any kind of dullness, vacancy or torpor; rather it creates a focused, receptive and responsive state of awareness that can tune, receive and utilize the higher force that is attempting to manifest to transform the being. Neither distraction nor suppression tends to work when the goal is to create such a clear receptive state of awareness. Sri Aurobindo’s key to this is to recognise that these mental ideas and vital impulsions come from outside the being and to simply not accept them when they come. The silent mind provides a basis for both the higher spiritual realisations as well as full action in the world, but without the friction and loss of energy involved in the mental “noise” that permeates the normal existence.
Sri Aurobindo writes: “It is not an undesirable thing for the mind to fall silent, to be free from thoughts and still — for it is oftenest when the mind falls silent that there is the full descent of a wide peace from above and in that wide tranquility the realisation of the silent Self above the mind spreads out in its vastness everywhere. Only, when there is the peace and the mental silence, the vital mind tries to rush in and occupy the place or else the mechanical mind tries to raise up for the same purpose its round of trivial habitual thoughts. What the sadhak has to do is to be careful to reject and hush these outsiders, so that during the meditation at least the peace and quietude of the mind and vital may be complete. This can be done best if you keep a strong and silent will. That will is the will of the Purusha behind the mind; when the mind is at peace, when it is silent one can become aware of the Purusha, silent also, separate from the action of the nature.”
Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 5 Bases of Yoga, Quiet, Calm, Peace and Silence, pp. 118-122