Four Austerities and the Four Liberations
question of mental austerity immediately brings to mind
long meditations leading to control of thought and culminating
in inner silence. This aspect of yogic discipline is too
well known to need dwelling upon. But there is another aspect
of the subject which is usually given less attention, and
that is control of speech. Apart from a very few exceptions,
only absolute silence is set in opposition to loose talk.
And yet it is a far greater and far more fruitful austerity
to control one's speech than to abolish it altogether.
Man is the first animal on earth to be able to use articulate
sounds. Indeed, he is very proud of this capacity and exercises
it without moderation or discernment. The world is deafened
with the sound of his words and sometimes one almost misses
the harmonious silence of the plant kingdom.
Besides, it is a well-known fact that the weaker the mental
power, the greater is the need to use speech. Thus there
are primitive and uneducated people who cannot think at
all unless they speak, and they can be heard muttering sounds
more or less loudly to themselves, because this is the only
way they can follow a train of thought, which would not
be formulated in them but for the spoken word.
are also a great many people, even among those who are educated
but whose mental power is weak, who do not know what they
want to say until they say it. This makes their speech interminable
and tedious. For as they speak, their thought becomes clearer
and more precise, and so they have to repeat the same thing
several times in order to say it more and more exactly.
Some need to prepare beforehand what they have to say, and
splutter when they are obliged to improvise, because they
have not had time to elaborate step by step the exact terms
of what they want to say.
Lastly, there are born orators who are masters of the spoken
word; they spontaneously find all the words they need to
say what they want to say and say it well.
None of this, however, from the point of view of mental
austerity, goes beyond the category of idle talk. For by
idle talk I mean every word that is spoken without being
absolutely indispensable. One may ask, how can one judge?
For this, one must first make a general classification of
the various categories of spoken words.
First, in the physical domain, we have all the words that
are spoken for material reasons. They are by far the most
numerous and most probably also the most useful in ordinary
A constant babble of words seems to be the indispensable
accompaniment to daily work. And yet as soon as one makes
an effort to reduce the noise to a minimum, one realises
that many things are done better and faster in silence and
that this helps to maintain one's inner peace and concentration.
If you are not alone and live with others, cultivate the
habit of not externalising yourself constantly by speaking
aloud, and you will notice that little by little an inner
understanding is established between yourself and others;
you will then be able to communicate among yourselves with
a minimum of words or even without any words at all. This
outer silence is most favourable to inner peace, and with
goodwill and a steadfast aspiration, you will be able to
create a harmonious atmosphere which is very conducive to
In social life, in addition to the words that concern material
life and occupations, there will be those that express sensations,
feelings and emotions. Here the habit of outer silence proves
of valuable help. For when one is assailed by a wave of
sensations or feelings, this habitual silence gives you
time to reflect and, if necessary, to regain possession
of yourself before projecting the sensation or feeling in
words. How many quarrels can be avoided in this way; how
many times one will be saved from one of those psychological
catastrophes which are only too often the result of uncontrolled
Without going to this extreme, one should always control
the words one speaks and never allow one's tongue to be
prompted by a movement of anger, violence or temper. It
is not only the quarrel that is bad in its results, but
the fact of allowing one's tongue to be used to project
bad vibrations into the atmosphere; for nothing is more
contagious than the vibrations of sound, and by giving these
movements a chance to express themselves, one perpetuates
them in oneself and in others.
the most undesirable kinds of idle talk must also be included
everything that is said about others.
Unless you are responsible for certain
people, as a guardian, a teacher or a departmental head,
what others do or do not do is no concern of yours and you
must refrain from talking about them, from giving your opinion
about them and what they do, and from repeating what others
may think or say about them.
It may happen that the very nature of your occupation makes
it your duty to report what is taking place in a particular
department, undertaking or communal work. But then the report
should be confined to the work alone and not touch upon
private matters. And as an absolute rule, it must be wholly
objective. You should not allow any personal reaction, any
preference, any like or dislike to creep in. And above all,
never introduce your own petty personal grudges into the
work that is assigned to you.
In all cases and as a general rule, the less one speaks
of others, even to praise them, the better. It is already
so difficult to know exactly what is happening in oneself—how
know with certainty what is happening in others? So you
must totally abstain from pronouncing upon anybody one of
those final judgments which cannot but be foolish if not
When a thought is expressed in speech, the vibration of
the sound has a considerable power to bring the most material
substance into contact with the thought, thus giving it
a concrete and effective reality. That is why one must never
speak ill of people or things or say things which go against
the progress of the divine realisation in the world. This
is an absolute general rule. And yet it has one exception.
You should not criticise anything unless at the
same time you have the conscious power and active will to
dissolve or transform the movements or things you criticise.
For this conscious power and active will have the capacity
of infusing Matter with the possibility to react and refuse
the bad vibration and ultimately to correct it so that it
becomes impossible for it to go on expressing itself on
the physical plane.
This can be done without risk or danger only by one who
moves in the gnostic realms and possesses in his mental
faculties the light of the spirit and the power of the truth.
He, the divine worker, is free from all preference and all
attachment; he has broken down the limits of his ego and
is now only a perfectly pure and impersonal instrument of
the supramental action upon earth.
There are also all the words that are uttered to express
ideas, opinions, the results of reflection or study. Here
we are in an intellectual domain and we might think that
in this domain men are more reasonable, more self-controlled,
and that the practice of rigorous austerity is less indispensable.
It is nothing of the kind, however, for even here, into
this abode of ideas and knowledge, man has brought the violence
of his convictions, the intolerance of his sectarianism,
the passion of his preferences. Thus, here too, one must
resort to mental austerity and carefully avoid any exchange
of ideas that leads to controversies which are all too often
bitter and nearly always unnecessary, or any clash of opinion
which ends in heated discussions and even quarrels, which
are always the result of some mental narrowness that can
easily be cured when one rises high enough in the mental
For sectarianism becomes impossible when one knows that
any formulated thought is only one way of saying something
which eludes all expression. Every idea contains a little
of the truth or one aspect of the truth. But no idea is
absolutely true in itself.
This sense of the relativity of things is a powerful help
in keeping one's balance and preserving a serene moderation
in one's speech. I once heard an old occultist of some wisdom
say, "Nothing is essentially bad; there are only things
which are not in their place. Put each thing in its true
place and you will have a harmonious world."
And yet, from the point of view of action, the value of
an idea is in proportion to its pragmatic power. It is true
that this power varies a great deal according to the individual
on whom it acts. An idea that has great impelling force
in one individual may have none whatsoever in another. But
the power itself is contagious. Certain ideas are capable
of transforming the world. They are the ones that ought
to be expressed; they are the ruling stars in the firmament
of the spirit that will guide the earth towards its supreme
Lastly, we have all the words that are spoken for the purpose
of teaching. This category ranges from the kindergarten
to the university course, not forgetting all the artistic
and literary creations of mankind that seek to entertain
or instruct. In this domain, everything depends on the worth
of the creation, and the subject is too vast to be dealt
with here. It is a fact that concern about education is
very much in vogue at present and praiseworthy attempts
are being made to make use of new scientific discoveries
in the service of education. But even in this matter, austerity
is demanded from the aspirant towards truth.
It is generally admitted that in the process of education
a certain kind of lighter, more frivolous, more entertaining
productions are necessary to reduce the strain of effort
and give some relaxation to the children and even to adults.
From a certain point of view, this is true; but unfortunately
this concession has served as an excuse to justify a whole
category of things which are nothing but the efflorescence
of all that is vulgar, crude and base in human nature. Its
coarsest instincts, its most depraved taste find in this
concession a good excuse to display and impose themselves
as an inevitable necessity. They are nothing of the kind,
however; one can relax without being dissolute, take rest
without being vulgar, enjoy oneself without allowing the
grosser elements in the nature to rise to the surface. But
from the point of view of austerity, these needs themselves
change their nature; relaxation is transformed into inner
silence, rest into contemplation and enjoyment into bliss.
This generally recognised need for entertainment, slackening
of effort and more or less long and total forgetfulness
of the aim of life and the purpose of existence should not
be considered as something altogether natural and indispensable,
but as a weakness to which one yields because of lack of
intensity in the aspiration, because of instability in the
will, because of ignorance, unconsciousness and sloth. Do
not justify these movements and you will soon realise that
they are unnecessary; there will even come a time when they
become repugnant and unacceptable to you. Then the greater
part of human creation, which is ostensibly entertaining
but in reality debasing, will lose its support and cease
to be encouraged.
However, one should not think that the value of spoken words
depends on the nature of the subject of conversation. One
can talk idly on spiritual matters just as much as on any
other, and this kind of idle talk may well be one of the
most dangerous. For example, the neophyte is always very
eager to share with others the little he has learnt. But
as he advances on the path, he becomes more and more aware
that he does not know very much and that before trying to
instruct others, he must be very sure of the value of what
he knows, until he finally becomes wise and realises that
many hours of silent concentration are needed to be able
to speak usefully for a few minutes. Moreover, where inner
life and spiritual effort are concerned, the use of speech
should be subjected to a still more stringent rule and nothing
should be said unless it is absolutely indispensable.
It is a well-known fact that one must never speak of one's
spiritual experiences if one does not want to see vanishing
in a flash the energy accumulated in the experience, which
was meant to hasten one's progress. The only exception which
can be made to the rule is with regard to one's guru, when
one wants to receive some explanation or teaching from him
concerning the content and meaning of one's experience.
Indeed, one can speak about these things without danger
only to one's guru, for only the guru is able by his knowledge
to use the elements of the experience for your own good,
as steps towards new ascents.
It is true that the guru himself is subject to the same
rule of silence with regard to what concerns him personally.
In Nature everything is in movement; thus, whatever does
not move forward is bound to fall back. The guru must progress
even as his disciples do, although his progress may not
be on the same plane. And for him too, to speak about his
experiences is not favourable: the greater part of the dynamic
force for progress contained in the experience evaporates
if it is put into words. But on the other hand, by explaining
his experiences to his disciples, he greatly helps their
understanding and consequently their progress. It is for
him in his wisdom to know to what extent he can and ought
to sacrifice the one to the other. It goes without saying
that no boasting or vainglory should enter into his account,
for the slightest vanity would make him no longer a guru
but an imposter.
As for the disciple, I would tell him: "In all cases,
be faithful to your guru whoever he is; he will lead you
as far as you can go. But if you have the good fortune to
have the Divine as your guru, there will be no limit to
Nevertheless, even the Divine, when incarnate on earth,
is subject to the same law of progress. His instrument of
manifestation, the physical being he has assumed, should
be in a constant state of progress, and the law of his personal
self-expression is in a way linked to the general law of
earthly progress. Thus, even the embodied god cannot be
perfect on earth until men are ready to understand and accept
perfection. That day will come when everything that is now
done out of a sense of duty towards the Divine will be done
out of love for Him. Progress will be a joy instead of being
an effort and often even a struggle. Or, more exactly, progress
will be made in joy, with the full adherence of the whole
being, instead of by coercing the resistance of the ego,
which entails great effort and sometimes even great suffering.
In conclusion, I would say this: if you want your speech
to express the truth and thus acquire the power of the Word,
never think out beforehand what you want to say, do not
decide what is a good or bad thing to say, do not calculate
the effect of what you are going to say. Be silent in mind
and remain unwavering in the true attitude of constant aspiration
towards the All-Wisdom, the All-Knowledge, the All-Consciousness.
Then, if your aspiration is sincere, if it is not a veil
for your ambition to do well and to succeed, if it is pure,
spontaneous and integral, you will then be able to speak
very simply, to say the words that ought to be said, neither
more nor less, and they will have a creative power.
- The Mother