An Art of Communication in Integral Yoga (talk)

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AuroMaa logo.png “An Art of Communication in Integral Yoga”
by Alok Pandey, 2013 (1:11:23)

An Art of Communication icon.png

Talk given in Greenville, South Carolina, USA.


Before we touch on the issue of ‘communication’, just a few words about the retreat and Sri Aurobindo's Yoga, and taking on to this aspect of the yoga. I somehow feel that these retreats are more like the nature of what is called in India as yagna. They are not platforms for intellectual deliberations on abstruse subjects. Because Yoga is not a thing of the mind, as much as it is a thing of the heart and the soul and the whole being.

We may understand everything about Yoga, about God – know everything that has been written in every book, about the Eternal. And yet we will be very, very, very far from Him. So the purpose of these meetings is that we come together, we share the fire of aspiration, strengthen it, in a collective force-field which is full of invocation towards that light, that grace, that sweetness, that bliss, that peace, which is the source of all things.

Integral Yoga has methods

Second, when we talk about Integral Yoga there's often a misconception that there are very few methods and practices – in fact many people carry this impression, that there are no methods given in Integral Yoga. This misconception comes from two main sources. Having not read Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, is the very first thing (!) – because when we read Mother and Sri Aurobindo, we see so, so many methods and practices, that sometimes one wonders whether a lifetime is enough to even practice one drop or one sentence of what they have said. A simple thing – let's say a very short sentence of the Mother (or half a sentence): “No words – acts.”[1] It's a practice. It's not simply a... it's an invitation. “No words – acts.” Talking of speech, she says, “Speak as little as possible.”[2] It's a paradox, that I have to speak on ‘communication’! So many, so many such writings are full of such practices.

And the second reason why we think there are no methods is because the moment we think of ‘method’, our mind instinctively turns toward something very external, very gross, very visible. Like sitting cross-legged, with spine bamboo-straight, head lifted, two-and-a-half feet above the ground... breathing, posture. All the things that are external. It's actually a sign, when we look for such methods and practices: it's a sign that we as a human race are still too gross, too crude, that we can't understand that a whole lot of practices – in life, as well as in yoga – are subtle, psychological. They are not so much visible. Yoga is not something that is lived only during hours when we sit cross-legged in this asana or that asana. But it is something that goes through the very fabric of our life. Depending on the choices we make, depending on the attitudes we adopt, depending upon the goals we set in front of ourselves – we either open the path of yoga, or we block it. Depending upon the choices we ‘subject ourselves’ to – as the Mother puts it – to one kind of determinisms, or another. And these choices – who makes these choices? It's not something visible.

Sitting in meditation for years and years, Ravana had made his choice. And that choice led to a very strange choice of his meditation: instead of losing the head (symbolizing the limited ego and mental human consciousness), he grew ten heads. Gigantic ego. So a lot depends upon the motive which we put behind our practices, which are very subtle, psychological, unseen; but they are the ones which bring result. You may do everything right outwardly, and yet if our hearts are not yearning with the love for God – there's no thirst inside – then nothing really happens. But one moment of genuine yearning, and a door opens, and we are flooded with a light and a stillness from beyond. Much beyond our comprehension.

And when that happens, then we laugh! We laugh because all that we believed yoga to be – what comes is something much, much more wonderful. No words can describe it. So that's the beauty of yoga: that it's really wonder, because mental consciousness has not tasted it. And the only way to understand what a gulab jamun tastes like (!), is to eat it. We may describe it: it's dark in color, it's round, it's served in a bowl – everything is fine – we can procure it from there; it costs so much... (Gulab jamun by the way is the sweet that we just had.) But we know nothing about it. We need to taste it. And when we taste it, we don't speak about it (!) – we simply say, “I want another.”

That's what happens when people begin to grow in yoga. They crave for God: they want more and more of it. It is so, so tasty! That consciousness tastes so much different than all that we are accustomed to. We are accustomed to bitterness, anger, hatred, jealousies, ambitions, fears, lusts of all kind, agitations... and we give expression to all these things in our life. But once we taste that consciousness, then the best one wants is to remain silent. And all that one feels like telling is, “Please taste it. Don't ask me about it.” (And yet we have to speak about it.)

Communication between mental beings

It's not easy to speak about these things, because they are subtle things. When we speak about communication, it's a paradox: a paradox because, I think never before in the history of mankind there have been so many means of communication, as in today's times. And perhaps never before in the history of mankind, we have been so far apart from each other. We sit together with not one but two cellphones, sometimes each one with two chips; and we sit together and eat food, but each one is texting, and messaging, and receiving messages; and even if they are not there, there is a distance created between the hearts. And I have a feeling that these many means of communication that we have multiplied, are simply a means to re-create that unity which we have lost. We have lost it because we entered into a mental curve of evolution.

And what does the mind do? It divides. Mind divides, comparison, contrasts – each one of us lives in our own worlds, created by our minds. We don't even realize it: that each of us has a world of our own. And so when two people communicate – why misunderstandings arise? Because there are two different worlds which are being communicated. They don't understand each other. Because we have a mental atmosphere. And why we don't understand each other? Because every word that enters into our zone of hearing comes filtered through a whole layer. Sometimes the layers are very thick and dense. Nothing comes through. Nothing goes through.

That's why very often, we have this common thing in communication problems: “You said this.” “No! But I didn't say this!” Isn't it? A common experience. We have heard something, but it has never been said. Why did we hear it? Because we have our own filters. We have so many filters! Yoga shows us so many filters, masks we wear – and we are born with it: certain masks are given to us at birth. Gift (!). Take a body, and take these masks, free.

Mindsets and filters

For instance, if we are born in a certain culture, religion, in a certain racial milieu, we spontaneously wear those masks through which we see people. It's almost spontaneous: instinctively. And sometimes these masks can go very far! In India for instance, it's customary to regard any person who is wearing a saffron cloth as a holy man. (Unless there is a media exposé about him.) It's a sad thing: we get so far away from truth when we see everything with a mask. And these masks get strengthened as we go through the whole passage of so-called education. And we have mindsets. And in relationships it can be such a big problem: very soon people form a mindset, impatiently. Instead of understanding: within the first day, second day – mindsets are formed. So many times people come and tell me, “You know, very first day, I knew what the person is like.” You'd have to be a yogi – even a yogi can't know this!

And the rest of the time, everything is getting filtered. Take for instance, one assumes a mindset: “Oh, so-and-so is manipulative.” Now, even when the person is well-meaning, genuine, you think that there must be something – he must be manipulative (!). Why? Because I have a ‘mindset’. Or people who are paranoid: anything you may say, they suspect. Because there's a mindset. There's a filter.

Some filters are good, so they hear only beautiful things – that is also not the true communication. Some filters are very dark, so whatever people say, we end up hearing only dark things. That's why if you want to cleanse this mud in the world, we need to only take a bath, for ourselves. Cleanse our eyes. Mud is not outside, it is inside us. And we see in others what we carry deeply inside ourselves. We project onto people our being. And we get that back. So many things!

Communication is meant as a bridge – like at the level of the vital, desire is meant to be a bridge, to once again in Ignorance re-create the unity we have lost. Communication serves two purposes: one is to create a bridge; and second is an instrument of expression. Part of the externalizing mind. But very often, we use this to destroy whatever bridges are there. Two people are wonderfully fine, till they start speaking. The moment they start speaking, with human beings...

The importance of strengthening our instrumental being

So, it's unfortunate that this instrument which has been given to us – very high instrument: it's a new instrument. In Sri Aurobindo's yoga, we have this double movement. It's not enough that we go into the depths of our soul and come in touch with our inner being, and say, “Sivoham, sivoham, satchidananda”... it's not enough. It's only one radiant step. But as Savitri tells us, “Here to fulfil himself was God’s desire.” (p.312). So we have to work upon our instrumental being also. Our mind must have to grow wide and supple; every discussion is an opportunity to grow wide and supple. Our hearts have to grow wide and supple, and full of the nectar of sweetness, of love, of harmony, of beatitude.

Our vital also has to become strong – it's no point calling god's power, “Ya devi sarva bhuteshu shakti rupena samsthita” (we heard that beautiful invocation). But when the Shakti comes our being trembles. Because the vital is not quiet. It is very, very restless and agitated – and when it comes, it breaks. There are people who have broken down, by the descent of the divine Force. There are instances in the Ashram context. Classical case is somebody who wanted to throw the javelin, and he invoked the Mother's force. His javelin record is till date unbroken, it went so far. But in the process, he broke his head. (Not by the javelin, but by the force he pulled to throw the javelin.) Lost his head.

So yoga is not, as it is said, a thing for the weak. It's not something to be taken lightly. Many practices of yoga are simply so that we strengthen our being. For instance, many people get very tired at the end of the day. And they wonder, “why do I get tired?” And you know, good physicians tell them, “Don't worry, it happens to everyone.” But now physicians often tell them that “Look, we need to get though a whole test, for why you're tired.” From thyroid to everything. But I ask a very simple question when somebody says, “Towards the evening I am very tired.” I ask him, “How much do you talk?”

Energy through speech, sight, sound...

Really! Speaking is one means through which we throw out and waste our energy. This body can be seen as an instrument which receives energy, and throws out energy. There are channels by which we receive energy. For instance we hear; through the senses we receive energy (five senses). And the quality of the energy can be very nice, so it'll increase the instrumental personality; or it can be of a very dark kind. Certain music uplifts us. Certain sounds, uplift us. Certain voices, suddenly open a door inside us. And certain other sounds, certain other music, certain other voices – they completely as if limit us, restrict us, make us feel dull, depressed.

I had a professor in psychiatry. And whenever we had a case of mania... mania is a state in which people feel very hyper – their vital is on the high, and it's difficult to maintain it. With medication it takes minimumly two weeks. But our professor was famous for this act (God pardon me for speaking about him) – nice man, but he could turn a manic into depression within one single setting. He had the art of it! Unwittingly. He would ask him such questions, and throw so much vital on him, that the fellow within... by the time he comes out is totally down the other extreme (!).

Speech has a power. Sri Aurobindo says it's a creative power. It can create; it can destroy. It's a tremendous instrument which has been given to us.

Similarly with sight: all the sights we receive can build our inner life, can ruin our inner life. Everything in fact, all these senses, through which we receive and through which we transmit. There's a wonderful instrument, and this instrument has to be developed – this is one instrument (there are other instruments also, but this is one instrument) which can connect the higher and the lower. This is how the Vedic rishis looked upon speech. They saw in speech four layers: two layers were not expressed in normal speech (human instrument is not ready to express those things). The para-vak and the pashyanti-vak. Because the para-vak is a total vision, and speech is always successive: it cannot express. The moment it tries to express, it pulls down things. And the pashyanti-vak, the ‘seeing word’. The seeing intelligence.

There are two levels, which our normal, ordinary speech expresses: the madhyama and the vaikhari (which is crude). But this instrument has to be upgraded. And it can be upgraded. And to upgrade it is not just a training of the vocal cords: it's a training of the heart-muscles. An opening to something higher. There are a number of things, there's a whole world; just working on one single instrument can be a lifetime sadhana.

Becoming more conscious of one's speech

With regard to speech, and with regard to many things in life, I have seen that there are six questions, which if we ask, we will find most of the answers. It applies in science, it applies in medicine, it applies in many fields – speech is no exception to that. Six ‘friendly gentlemen’, who help us in discovering things. And the names of these six friendly gentlemen are: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.

Who speaks? We don't even pause and think. When we are speaking, we can speak from different poises: there are different planes, different parts in us. When we are into an animated discussion, the vital is in front – it's speaking. And when the vital speaks, it's not speech but a hammer. We don't realize that our vital is rushing out (!). The whole energy becomes restless, turbulent. And we either come back from there having a headache, or giving others a headache, or probably both – tired, exhausted, and everything – it is not over: our machine gun has more bullets. So then after moving away we further keep on, moving, discussing: “Look at this person, look at that.” Vital is like that. “Who is speaking?” The vital is speaking.

When the mind speaks, it's different. How about the soul speaking? The Mother tells us that before you speak (such a nice sutra) – before you speak, step back. Pause for awhile. See whether your speech is going to help, or hinder, in the goal you have chosen.

There are words, there are sounds, there are speeches, that help us and help this world, in its growth. Simple example, everyday life: something called a self-fulfilling prophesy. We keep criticizing people, and at the end of the day, they keep justifying our criticism. We don't even realize that we have fed whatever was real or unreal defect in them. Sri Aurobindo says it's no use dwelling on the real or unreal defect of others. Many things we see as defect with regard to ego's reference point may not be a defect at all. For instance a child who tells his parents, “Dad, you're wrong!” Some may think it is a defect; from another standpoint it's truthfulness, straightforwardness, frankness. So, many things we think of as defect are not necessarily a defect.

But when we dwell upon these defects, we don't help – we hinder. We hinder. We always talk about ‘doing God's work,’ ‘doing Mother's work,’ but what do we do when we constantly bring out the negative side of people? Everybody has a shadow. So who speaks? It's very important to see that. Does our ego speak? Because when the ego speaks, everything is going to be destroyed. Or something else which speaks: something deep, something which is always turned towards the light, which wants the world to progress, ourselves to progress. Not to pull down people. And these things are so subtle, so subtle! All of us feel, “yes, others do it – not us.”

And Mother goes to what extent, in the Ashram. Sometimes when she would give interviews to people... you know outside, people like anywhere else are gossiping – it's the same stuff. And they're talking about that person, this person, that person, that person... And then they would even quarrel, oblivious of the Divine which is seated inside. So one day the Mother gave... you know, she would have conversations, but this conversation was just this much – like a concentrated dose of medicine. And she said, “I would like you to meditate on this today.” And what was the conversation? She titled it: “On the harm done by incontinence of speech.” On the harm done by incontinence of speech.

Let's see if I have the full passage, because I just chanced upon this. If it is... yes – look at her words:

“Very often I have told you that every word spoken uselessly is dangerous chatter.”[3]

Every word spoken uselessly.

“... But here, the situation has reached the very limit — there are things which have been said, said over and over again, repeated by all those who have tried to perfect humanity, unfortunately without much result — it is a question of malicious gossip...”

When two people get together, “A” and “B”, the best – you know, what they enjoy most – is talking about “C”. And almost invariably, in ungenerous terms. Not realizing that when “C” and “B” meet, they will talk about “A”. And when “A” and “C” will meet, they will talk about “B” – in the same ungenerous terms. Because, as it is said, paranindaga ras. It's like, there are some people who say, “We never take alcohol!” and they feel very good about it. But they enjoy the alcoholic, heady wine of paraninda (परनिंदा ). It is a much worse thing. Alcohol is safer. This is much worse.

Alcohol destroys only you; but this destroys not only you, your body, your soul – it destroys others also. Because it does that harm. Incontinence of speech. So she says:

“...of malicious gossip, of slander, of that pleasure taken in speaking ill of others.”

A perverse kind of pleasure. The ego feels that it becomes great because it speaks ill of others. It can go to absurd levels. At one place Sri Aurobindo says: people think that by talking about, you know, Swami Vivekananda, who was let's say prone to anger – he said they think that simply because they can speak about Swami Vivekananda's anger, they are half as great as him!

So they take a pleasure – there are some people who always find that little thing... I was very surprised, there was a person who said, “You know, I was on the verge of taking Ramana Maharshi as my master.” So I asked him, “Why, what happened?” I thought maybe he would say, you know, “No, I realized that my path is transformation and this does not fulfill my soul's quest.” But what he said absolutely shook me out of my wits (!) – he said, “No, but then I saw that he's picking his nose.”

A man goes to see a yogi of that stature, and ends up only seeing the nose? This is human nature.

Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Amitabh Bachchan's father, went to Pondicherry. And what did he see? That Mother had a flu. So he concluded that, “I don't know, she's divine so she should not be having a flu.” But then very strangely he makes a very interesting observation: he said, “Maybe somehow, something was there, because I got rid of my cold.”

Actually he gave away the answer without realizing it! He didn't say that, “She took upon herself the burden of people,” – that's beyond his comprehension. But almost his soul knew (!). Here was a soul which stepped out and told him something, but the mind mistranslated. It's a classic example of how a soul revelation can get clouded in the mind. He saw a truth, but the mind could not really receive it in the right way.

“Anyone who indulges in this kind of incontinence debases his consciousness...”

See, the practice of Integral Yoga. People ask, “What should we do?” And immediately they want to know: how to meditate. How to meditate if our mind is full of all this? The mind has to be first disabused. We can't meditate after drinking country liquor. It has to be out of the system, the poison, this poison, to allow us to meditate. We sit to meditate, and the mind gets restless, turbulent – why? Because these things are not worked upon. That's why Kabir says in a very nice couplet: “Sadho sahaj Samadhi bhali” (साधो, सहज समाधि भली). “True meditation is that which is spontaneous.” The Mother says that. It is spontaneous. It is not dependent on anything external. Because nature has become quiet. And it can meditate anywhere.

Mother says, “of course you can meditate even on the battlefield!” This is true meditation. Undisturbed in the midst of noise. Simply because, inside has become quiet. So this practice helps us towards that. If we do this, meditation will be spontaneous – we don't have to teach meditation. If we have emptied our mind and heart of all this poison drought, then amrit will show itself. Because finding the Divine is actually like uncovering it: it's not ‘finding’ in the sense that we have to do something. We have to undo something.

So this undoing; and on debasing our consciousness, Mother says something very, very strong:

“...and when to this incontinence is added the habit of vulgar quarrelling, expressed in coarse language, then that amounts to suicide, spiritual suicide within oneself.”

We talk about practice – lifetime of practice. Quarreling, in coarse language, vulgar language? We want to be candidates of that great journey. Here we stand: Mother is showing us a mirror. Here we stand – “Here, child, first practice this small thing. Don't criticize. Don't get into quarrels. Don't start observing defects. Don't be vulgar in language, course in language. And then the Divine will manifest. But if you do that, it's spiritual suicide.”


So what is the content of our speech? That is the other thing – very important. There are two sides: sound and the words. Sound is as important as the words. And another very good practice, simple practice, which the Mother speaks and at times we are going to witness – it's going to become more and more important – and that is truth-speaking. The Mother and Sri Aurobindo both have emphasized on it. And they say truth-speaking not only in speech, but in writing.

Of course, there are times when one is not conscious. One had thought it was like this, and one has written or spoken. But there are times when one is conscious. And if we observe very carefully: between the thought and the word, something intervenes and gently twists. (I don't know how often we have observed it.) Very gently. It is the devil at play. Devil – what does devil do? It picks up the scripture, and gives a little twist to it. And it changes the sense, in the mind of the hearer. It is called ‘twisting’. Mother says the action of falsehood is to twist truth – it is not ‘untruth’ in that sense, but it twists. And in that twisting, very often half the tale... you know, very often someone will come and say, “How my partner is horrible!”, and everything. Now as a psychiatrist I have learned never to go by one-sided... but there are people who are carried away by that. “Oh, really? He/she is so bad? So horrible? Oh my god, really!” They start giving sympathy and everything. If only they could once ask the other person, they may get such a different picture (!), that they may be lost and confused, as to what is the truth.

A magic formula

It's not easy to know truth. And yet whatever we know, we should speak truth. Satyam vada, priyam vada. And Mother says in the age that we are entering, only truth can save us – truth in thought, truth in feelings, truth in speech, truth in action. It's a practice of a lifetime. We talk about practice of integral yoga: let's practice over the next three days – no, three hours – let's speak only truth. With minimum wastage of words. See how often we'll have to restrain ourselves.

Almost one would feel like speaking, and then something will say, “no, no, we have thought of practicing three hours.” Maybe half and hour. That would be fair enough. That we will speak only truth, only the necessary words. And we will see how much energy we gain. A lot of diseases... doctor's don't speak about it – actually, they don't know, it's not their fault. And of course they have to... drug companies, they also have to, you know, they have children to grow up, so... We should be kind and compassionate towards doctors and drug companies also.

If they give a simple formula: “learn to reduce incontinence of speech, and therefore gather energy for action” – then what will happen to the whole vitamin pill industry? So we should have compassion. (Laughter)

But really, it's a simple practice – you can do it! You can do it tomorrow and see what happens. If you are suddenly feeling tired, sit quietly. Don't indulge in any conversation. Sit quietly, gather the energies, gather, gather, gather... as they say like a tortoise, going inside its shell. And one can call for peace, light, joy, strength. Within 20 minutes, 15 minutes, 10 minutes – up again.

Speech is creative

So this speech is an externalizing instrument. And we should be very careful, because this can be uplifted, to what extent – speech is creative. Sri Aurobindo says it's a creative word. It can bring, it can actually create things for us. Even thoughts can create. So very often when doctors prognosticate, doctors very often say: “Oh, I think his days are numbered.” So best is to ask the doctor, “Can you, sir, predict your own death? Then don't, please, predict anybody else's.” Because speech is creative. It has a power to create circumstances. It can go inside our mind and plays like a gramaphone record – we don't realize.

I think some people have experienced it: what happens when somebody has told us something which is... not good? Even good things. So there are neurons in the brain which are called ‘mirror neurons’. And then like a record they keep playing. So [Hindi]. But he has set the record going.

There are studies that when people go to a hospital, and with a set of patients they found that when people come and meet them, just for 5 minutes, and say nice things – the prognosis improves very much. Why does it improve in those 5 minutes? What have they done? Whatever they have said, some nice things – “Don't worry, you'll be fine.” – that keeps playing for another 90 minutes. And puts the brain in a very positive state.

So in the brain there is a little gramaphone, there is a little recording device – and unfortunately it plays both, negative as well as positive things. So speech is creative: this is a capacity of speech. That sometimes we can help people simply by its power.

When a physician was asked, “How come you do the same thing that we all do, but your patients improve much faster?” So he had this one single advice, he said, “I say something to my patient,”... you see, speech is not just verbal – we think it's what we say, but a lot of communication is an invisible transaction of thoughts. Of consciousness. All communication is an act of consciousness, and speech is only one instrument. Very often we say one thing, but inside there is another consciousness, and it causes problems. So this doctor says, “When I stand before a patient, all that I say inwardly is...” (I'll say it in Hindi, and then I'll translate, because it has a flavor) “[Hindi]”. “O supreme Divine, Thou who art full of light and beauty and bliss, what kind of mask of illness are you wearing?” And it helps. Because deep inside the soul listens, and it shakes itself. It's like telling someone, “What? It's a prison in which you've trapped yourself!” It's a creative power; and if we can really make this instrument perfect – it's a whole process of sadhana, all this: by continence of speech, by right expression, by invoking the Divine so that our speech can be full of peace and light.

This can become so powerful, that we have simply to say, “So be it,” and it will be. That's the power of the gods.

At one place Mother says: those who practice truth, whatever they say – that begins to happen. That turns out to be truth. Why? Because they have cultivated this power. It's a power which can do things, because they have practiced truth. One single practice.

So what is it that we are communicating? Are we communicating something true? Are we communicating something false? Something which may debase, something which may degrade? So this way, this instrumental personality begins to improve how we communicate – not just by words: by thoughts, feelings. Not only with human beings; communication is something which is with the whole universe. And half the art of communication is, paradoxically, in the art of listening.

The art of listening

So, very often, again as a counselor people often ask, “What do you do?” So I tell them, “More important is what I do not do.” “So what you ‘do not do’?” “What people rush to do.” What do people rush to do? To give advice. Don't give advice. Very often we do not know what is good for people. But listen to them. If they have spoken out – released their energies – they will get the light from inside. It's so commonly that I have seen: after there's a catharsis, the light springs from inside.

So listening is an art. We don't listen. Have you seen that before people have finished their sentence, the other person is rushing to speak? We don't know how to listen. So there's a total disruption of communication. And both are thinking that they know what's going on in the other person's mind.

So art of listening is part of communication. Listening not only to human beings: listening to our own soul, listening to silence, listening to everything that is around. It speaks. The Mother speaks about listening to the cherry blossom tree, listening to the vegetables, listening to the plants, to the flowers. And they speak – they want to tell us something. But we don't listen. So communication is a two-way process. Very often we just speak, and that's it – we don't wait to listen to the person.

And we do the same thing with God. We have a list of prayers, and we tell God; and after we have finished, we become restless, and we come out. And God keeps calling – “But listen! Listen to me! What...” “No, no, no, sir, I have to go to another god, because I'm not sure you will listen to me or not, so I have Siddhivinayak and Durga Devi and Kali Mata...” and at every possible temple, some god will at least listen. But we don't have time to really listen what god is trying to tell us. Just listening to this inner voice is also part of the communication. We listen to it, we can help others listen to it. It's so subtle.

When to speak and where to speak

Then, another important thing in communication is when to speak and where to speak. This is a very common, simple thing (it may sound so). When to speak. In the Gita it is said that the tap of vani, you know – it's a whole tapasya of speech. And in the tapasya of speech, one of the things is, you must know when and where. Time and space are so important considerations in anything. There is something which has a great effect when spoken at the right time. And when it is spoken at a wrong time, it has just the opposite effect. So when two people are quarreling, or one person is very angry, and the other person says, “You know, you're getting very angry and it's not good; Mother has said don't get so angry, it's spiritual suicide.” (Laughing) And the person says, “Oh, you are teaching me! I know. You better think about it yourself!” So what was the effect? – it's counterproductive. Wait for awhile. Don't let the Divine come into our disputes. When things are quiet, then we go and say, “Don't you think that we can express it in a better way? Don't you think that when we were fighting it was like animals? It is not what Mother expects of us.” Then the other person listens. And we can probably just give a nice, warm gesture – a sweet little embrace – and then communicate. So that there's a feeling of acceptance.

So there's a time when we need to communicate. Where to communicate – in front of others? Very often, I have seen grown-up people do this: treating their grown-up children as if they're little babies. Babies don't like that – they react sharply. “Can't do that!” They take it that it's infringing upon... and they have their own sensitivities. We have our own, they have their own. So we should be very careful where we are communicating. The occasion may not be right.

I learned this very... we all learn it – I read in a book of child upbringing that “I thought I knew everything about bringing up a child until I had my own.” So I went through a similar experience, that I thought I've done my MD in psychiatry, and I thought I knew all about child psychology. Till one day, when my son had his own friend and I was very happy about it; and I spoke to my friend on the phone, “You know, his friend...” and he was there. A young boy. And with me there was no problem when he would discuss it. And he suddenly felt very bad about it, that I spoke – why did I speak about his friend, to a dear friend of mind who he also knew? And I said, “But you know so-and-so!” And he said, “No but why did you speak?” Then I realized that, no – everyone has his own sensibilities. And it was a mistake.

There are things which are not to be spoken about just anywhere. There's a place for something. And for everything there is a place. In yogic parlance we use the word __. It's to know where to speak, when to speak, how to speak, what to speak – and why. Why am I speaking? Very often people speak to prove a point. To prove that I am one-up. Nobody in this world has ever accepted another person's point of view. People unnecessarily blame women; men are as stupid, it's just that poor women get branded. Has any man accepted that he is a... because a woman is telling him that “you may be wrong.” No man accepts, “I am wrong.” He may say this more out of fun, but never in his heart he accepts (!). But as I said, women get branded.

All human beings, if we try to push a point, if we try to insist, prove a point, by debate, discussions, arguments – it doesn't help. Nobody changes by that. Nobody has ever in this world changed by such advices. It is the most useless, fruitless effort that human beings engage into.

In the morning I think I shared this little anecdote; I'll tell it here also. When someone asked Mother, “I see these two people speaking in the Ashram courtyard and I don't like it – should I tell them?” Mother says that “Well, if you tell them, it may help them – may. If you don't tell, it will help you.” (Laughter) It will help you. It may help them.

The yogic method of dealing with difficulties

You know, we live in this illusion, that others are our subjects. Who must listen to us. Who must change because I am telling him things. But what happens is people get into a harder and harder shell. If you keep pointing out a mistake, people become more and more defiant: “How dare you tell me. You think I am wrong?” And there is revolt, especially in adolescence. But if you keep pointing to the beautiful side, and don't touch on the – there's negative in everyone – don't keep insisting upon that; after awhile, as the light grows, the darkness will recede. In yoga this is the manner we follow. In yoga we don't keep struggling with our difficulties. Sri Aurobindo said it's a method: yogic method of dealing with difficulties is don't struggle with the difficulties. But offer it to the Light, and keep calling the light and peace from above. After awhile the difficulties automatically recede, because the inner being grows; and when it grows, automatically it has the power.

All authentic change is from within outwards. Any changes from external pressure will break down at the first possible opportunity. And the whole trick is to grow in the inner being, to create this inner bond. To let the heart speak. Heart seldom speaks in today's time, because number one we don't develop it at all; through the process of education we stifle it: “It's not good. Emotions are bad, bad, bad...” And this alone, that left side – as that joke is there, that “we have two sides of the brain, the left and the right; and the left has nothing right in it, and the right has nothing left in it.”

So we have stopped feeling, we have stopped communicating from the heart. The result is disruption, and to now overcome that disruption, such complicated tools that sometime you wonder: one drop next, or to a wrong person, and it can create havoc. Whereas the heart can heal; it can heal many things. Provided we try to bring that authentic love once again in our life. So many things that we have to learn as a human race, about everything. Small things like speech. So let this become an instrument as much sharing in the divine perfection as everything else. It is an instrument given to us – spoken speech as well as written speech – to express the higher realms, higher sphere. But to do that, the activity of the lower must be stilled. If we keep using this instrument to project the lower nature, then it cannot become an instrument for the higher things. It must become quiet. We must deliberately stop ourselves – force ourselves – whenever this instrument is being used to project vibrations which are not good. And then open this, offer this instrument to the light, to truth, to peace, to sweetness, to ananda – so that this can become an instrument of the divine perfection.

Psychic self-control in the midst of discussion

Let me close with a letter of Sri Aurobindo, and then we can have questions and answers. It is one of the most beautiful letters, and for a long time I had put it, just to practice it. It's from one of his letters:

“The psychic self-control that is desirable ... in the midst of discussion would mean among other things:
(1) Not to allow the impulse of speech to assert itself too much or say anything without reflection, but to speak always with a conscious control and only what is necessary and helpful.
(2) To avoid all debate, dispute or too animated discussion and simply say what has to be said and leave it there. There should also be no insistence that you are right and the others wrong...”

...Common problem. Universal disease: “I have to be right.” Why? Well, God knows why. (Laughing) For some mysterious reason, I am always right! Mysterious reason. There is no reason to it. It is the most illogical absurdity in which we indulge. Only truth-consciousness can be always right; all others have a margin of error. And it's a healthy thing to remember, that whatever I may be thinking or speaking, there may be a margin of error in that. It's a very healthy corrective to the ego. At least some margin we should keep, so that we can progress. Because if I am always right, then there is no scope left to progress.

If the Divine wants to change us, he will find a consciousness which says, “I'm right!” Which means, “I don't need to change.” But when we say, “Well, this is how I think, but maybe...” – then, another truth may dawn upon us. And the Mother says there's a really good method to make the mind wide and supple: to set a thesis, to put an antithesis and then to find a synthesis.

And a time comes, at least in yoga, when one discovers that all that one says and finds is true – its opposite is also true. It's a very, very humbling experience. That all that one says is true, its opposite is also true.

It continues:

“...but what is said should only be thrown in as a contribution to the consideration of the truth of the matter. [...]
(3) To keep the tone of speech and the wording very quiet and calm and uninsistent.

Because as we have seen, there are two sides of speech: sound and word. And sound is even more important than word. Because we react to sound, rather than to the word. The word comes later.

“(4) Not to mind at all if others are heated and dispute, but remain quiet and undisturbed and yourself speak only what can help things to be smooth again.

When someone asked the Mother, “When people insult you, what should you do?” Mother said, “A true child of mine can never feel insulted.” It's only the ego that feels insulted. It's the ego-personality that feels insulted. So if others are insulting, yes, it may be painful – step inside. Let that wave pass. Not to get caught up in that moment. Human opinions are opinions of ignorance. Nobody is living in truth. If somebody says “you are useless,” it doesn't mean we are useless and we start wearing sackcloths. And start listening to ___ ghazals.

You may think that I am ignorant – fine. No news! It's a known fact. If somebody thinks one is useless, one doesn't become useless. What matters is the Divine's opinion of us. And fortunately the Divine has no opinions. He simply sees, and does. And loves. He does not even judge. He sees, and does what needs to be done, and he loves.

“(5) If there is gossip...

(This is very difficult, but most necessary.)

“... If there is gossip about others and harsh criticism (especially about sadhaks), not to join — for these things are helpful in no way and only lower the consciousness from its higher level.

If there are things being spoken ill about others, not to join into it. And finally:

“(6) To avoid...

What a simple thing that Sri Aurobindo is telling us! :

“... To avoid... all that would hurt or wound others.”[4]

This is an instrument to bridge. Not to break the bridges. All that would hurt. How much we hurt and wound through speech! Sometimes one feels that a physical slap is much less harmful. Its effect lasts only for a few minutes. But the effect of words, harsh words? It continues to. It's like an arrow that pierces and bleeds inside.

So there are so many things, simply about one thing in our life, and that is speech. And if we can practice it: as they say to talk as little as possible, to conserve energy – then how much our life would change. Just one little practice.

I'll rest my speech for the moment. (But not for any questions. If there are questions we can have, or any observations, most welcome.)

See also