Questions and Answers by Thich Nhat Hanh

The Benefits of Silence

Q: Could tell us about the benefits of silence and how we could bring that home with us from this retreat?

A:Many of us have realized in the last few days that silence can be enjoyable. We realize that there are many things that we do not have to say, and that then we can reserve the time and energy to do other things that can help us to look more deeply into ourselves and things around us.

If you are pushed by your habit energy to say something, don't say it. Instead, take a notebook and write it down. A day or two later, read what you wrote, and you might find out that it would have been an awful thing to say. So slowly you become master of yourself, and you know what to say and what not to say.

I remember one time I proposed to a sister that she practice silence. She was an elder nun and she had a few negative seeds in her that prevented her from being happy. She was just a little bit too hard on the other sisters. I proposed to her that she was a very talented person, very skillful in many things, and she could make many people happy if only she knew how to be silent and to say only things that needed to be said.

I proposed to her that she use only three sentences for three months. She could repeat these three sentences as many times as she wanted(laughter) and I told her that if she practiced that for a week, she would feel happiness right away. The first sentence was, "Dear sister,is there anything I can do to help you?" (laughter) The second sentence was, "Did you like what I did to help you?" The third was, "Would you have any suggestion that I can do it better?" (laughter) If she could say that, she would make many people happy and the happiness would go back to herself very quickly.

In the family we can practice silence. We can ask the other members of the family to agree that we will practice silence for three days or for a week. It is very beneficial. There will be a transformation after the period of practicing silence.