Chapter 38: The Authentic Word
Fifteen years ago I was a political militant, and I was trying to change the society by spreading ideas. Failure and frustration brought me to you. Now that your people cannot reach to you, can spreading your ideas and publishing your books and talks be enough to give birth to the new man? Or is there anything else that we can do?
The question is from Avesh. What you were doing before you came to me is not the same as I am asking you to do now. You were working under the same fallacy - that the society can be changed and the individual will change automatically.
You failed, not because you were spreading ideas but because your ideas were based on a fallacy that there exists a society with a soul which can be changed. “Society” is only a collective name. You cannot do anything to it. Whatever has to be done is to be done to the individual. He is the living, understanding part of existence.
So the first thing: when I say, “Let the word be spread,” I am talking about the individuals, not about the society.
In the second place: there is nothing more powerful than the word. It is so powerful that the biblical tradition begins with it. “In the beginning was the word. The word was with God. The word was God.”
I do not agree with the statement, “In the beginning was the word,” but I certainly agree that whoever wrote the biblical passage was immensely aware of the power of the word. He puts it even before God - because after all “God” is a word, and an empty word, with no content. He at least has the insight that the word is so powerful that it should be the beginning of existence.
I cannot agree with the statement because a word needs somebody to understand it, somebody to give it meaning; otherwise it is only a sound. What are words? - sounds to which we have given certain meanings. Meanings are arbitrary, so the same word can mean one thing in one language, another thing in another language, and something still different in another language. A word has no meaning of its own; a word presupposes meaning. So the statement, “In the beginning was the word,” although it is a significant statement recognizing the power of the word, is not factually true.
The Hindu scriptures - not one but one hundred and eight Upanishads - begin with the sound, not with the word. They begin with OM, which is not a word because it means nothing. It has no meaning; it is a deeper insight. “In the beginning” can only be sound, not a word. Sound can become a word when there is somebody to give it a meaning.
But there are Buddhist scriptures which go to the very root of the thing. They say, “In the beginning was silence.”
Silence, sound, word are all connected. Silence is vast like the ocean. It is potential sound; it has not yet manifested itself. It is like music sleeping in the strings of a guitar - some fingers will be needed to wake the music up. Silence is sound, asleep. But in the beginning there can only be silence.