Distinguishing Between the Qualities of Quiet, Calm, Peace and Silence in the Integral Yoga

Near the top of the “wish list” for most spiritual aspirants is achieving “peace”. This is generally understood however in a very personal sense to alleviate the turmoil, dissention and conflict that invariably arises in our normal circumstances living in the world. It is rarely appreciated that, as an aspect in the practice of the integral yoga, peace is actually part of the tuning and receptivity effort required to bring about the transformation from the body-life-mind complex to the supramental consciousness. The mental, vital and physical disturbances act as “noise” that tends to distort or block out the “signal” from the higher levels that are attempting to manifest through the seeker. This “noise” keeps us locked into the framework of the lower nature and thus, there is no opening for the higher forces to take charge of the nature and act freely. In order to accomplish this transition, it is imperative that the lower nature become quiet, calm, peaceful and receptive.

Peace does not occur all at once or in all parts of the being simultaneously. There are also stages in the development of peace, which Sri Aurobindo has described as an ascending series of steps starting with “quiet” and concluding with “silence”. The more these stages take over, the more they overcome the normally reactive nature that is always jumping at provocations, responding to pressures, and defending the accepted ideas, opinions, dogmas, vital preferences and desires and physical habits of the being.

This does not imply a total lack of interest in the events of life, or a dull passivity or pressured acquiescence; rather, there can be engagement based, not on the habitual patterns we have developed in the mind-life-body complex, but on the influence and action of the higher powers seeking to manifest, while responding with a wider understanding and a consistent will for the required changes to occur. The foundation for this change is based in peace and the silence of the mind. This silence is something dynamic and powerful, awake, aware, and receptive.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “Quiet is a condition in which there is no restlessness or disturbance. Calm is a still unmoved condition which no disturbance can affect — it is a less negative condition than quiet. Peace is a still more positive condition; it carries with it a sense of settled and harmonious rest and deliverance. Silence is a state in which either there is no movement of the mind or vital or else a great stillness which no surface movement can pierce or alter.”

“The first step is a quiet mind — silence is a further step, but quietude must be there; and by a quiet mind I mean a mental consciousness within which sees thoughts arrive to it and move about but does not itself feel that it is thinking or identifying itself with the thoughts or call them its own. Thoughts, mental movements may pass through it as wayfarers appear and pass from elsewhere through a silent country — the quiet mind observes them or does not care to observe them, but, in either case, does not become active or lose its quietude. Silence is more than quietude; it can be gained by banishing thought altogether from the inner mind keeping it voiceless or quite outside; but more easily it is established by a descent from above — one feels it coming down, entering and occupying or surrounding the personal consciousness which then tends to merge itself in the vast, impersonal silence.”

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