In the old days in China when there were processions to receive gods and deities, there were always a few muscular men carrying signs that read "retreat" and "silence" to tell passers-by not to make any noise or cause any disturbance.
With modern civilization, there is always an emphasis on being soft-spoken in public, paying much attention to the importance of silence in our living space. When flying on airplanes or riding on trains, we notice whether the cabins or compartments are quiet or not. There are even signs in certain public places calling for "silence" so that people will keep their noise level to a minimum. During the performance of a movie or a show, the audience is expected to keep quiet. People exploring the great outdoors are not necessarily in pursuit of beautiful scenery, but looking for an escape from the hustle-bustle of city life. They want to stay away from noise and indulge themselves in the peace and quiet of nature.
Modern people are pursuing quietude and even silence as desirable qualities of life. As part of modern civilization, we should behave as such. When we are attending public functions, meetings, or lectures, we should refrain from moving around or chatting with those sitting next to us. We should remain quiet because it is basic courtesy and respect for the speaker. At meetings, no matter who is speaking, we should also pay full attention instead of talking or whispering.
Some people find the Chinese lacking in public courtesy. In formal banquet halls, where there is designated seating, they like to walk back and forth, greeting one another, talking, and laughing. They are not quiet at all. No wonder other people in the world criticize the Chinese as being the least quiet because it appears that anywhere they go, they are talking or being noisy. With children in the family, parents need to go somewhere outside their homes for a quiet place to study or write a report. It seems that everywhere in the Chinese society one finds noise, noise, and noise! Silence is so hard to come by!
A group of people was visiting a famous Buddhist temple in the mountains, but some of them were playing music on a boom box they had with them. The temple's workers went up to them and advised, "Friends, aren't you here for some peace and quiet? Instead, you play music to tranquilize yourselves even in a place like this. Without a moment of quiet, how can your wisdom develop?"
It is so true! Even Confucianism teaches, "Knowing when to cease, we can be calm; from calmness we gain quietude, and from quietude there is peace. With peace we can contemplate, and from contemplation we can achieve." Without silence, how can there be peace? With silence we can go deep and far. Buddhism also emphasizes quietude and serenity. With quietude, we have the Chan mind, making it easy to communicate and be one with the saints and sages. Tranquility and silence are a state of Nirvana, and only silence is the greatest enjoyment!