Chapter 5: The Art of Listening
There are those who miss the point and believe that the man actually turned to ashes and Nanak brought him back to life, but this is a foolish interpretation. Internally, however, the annihilation and creation did take place. The fakir was capable of listening. When you develop the art of listening then it is not me you will hear. I am an excuse. The guru is just an excuse. Then you will be adept at hearing the breeze as it passes through the trees; in the silence of solitude you will hear the Omkar, the basis of all life. And in the resonance of Omkar you shall find that everything depends on the void. The rivers flow in the void, the ocean becomes one with it. When you close your eyes you will hear your heartbeat and also the faint sound of the blood flowing, and you will know that you are not these; you are also the observer, the witness. Then death cannot touch you.
For those who have mastered the art of shravana there is nothing more to know. All existence comes into being through shravana. All existence happens through the void; and when you are listening, the stamp of the void falls on you. Then the void vibrates in you and that is the basic resonance of existence - it is the basic unit.
By shravana death cannot touch you. Once you know the art of listening, where is death? Because the listener attains the knowledge of the witness. Right now you think and think, and then listen. The thinker will die because he belongs to the flesh. The day you listen without thinking you will become the witness. Then I shall be speaking, your head will be hearing, and there will be a third within you who will simply watch that listening taking place. When this happens a new element begins to unfold within you, the beginning of crystallization of the witness; and there is no death for the witness.
Therefore Nanak says that through shravana death does not touch. It is through listening that the devotee achieves permanent happiness; it is through shravana that suffering and sin are destroyed.
How is this internal dialogue to be broken? How can you become silent? How can the clouds be made to disperse so that the clear skies can be seen? This is what the process is all about. When someone is speaking, there is no need for you to keep on talking. You can be silent, but this habit dies hard, so you go on and on, talking away.
I asked a little boy, “Has your little sister started talking?” He said, “Talking? And how! It’s so long since she started to talk that now she won’t stop. Now we are all busy trying to keep her quiet.”
When you came into this world you were silent. Do you want to be talking away all the time till you leave it? Then you will miss life and even deny yourself the supreme touch, the supreme bliss of death. You entered this world in silence; prepare to leave it in silence, too. Talking is for in-between, and only in the mundane life is it useful, in relating to another person.
When sitting by yourself it is madness to talk since silence is the process by which we relate to our own self. If silent you will find it difficult to keep up outside relationships; if you talk, it will be difficult to relate to yourself. Talking is a bridge that is connecting us to others; silence is a bridge that connects us with our self. Somewhere, somehow, you err in your selection of the means.