Chapter 5: The Art of Listening
“How will my talking help?” asked the pundit.
“I have seen a number of people falling asleep when you speak at your meetings, so how could a small child resist your words! Come, say a few words to him,” she answered.
People go to religious services only to fall asleep. Even those who suffer from insomnia sleep well in religious meetings. What happens? It’s a trick of your mind. Sleep is like the soldier’s armor; it protects you against all you don’t want to know. So you look as if you are listening, but you are not awake; and without being awake how can you hear?
While talking you are awake; while listening you are not. And this doesn’t happen only at a religious meeting. As soon as another person talks to you, you are no longer alert, but lost in an internal dialogue of your own. While he talks to you, you pretend to be listening, but you are really talking to yourself. Then to whom do you prefer to listen? Definitely to your own self, because the voice of the other person doesn’t even reach you; your own voice is enough to drown out all the other voices. And then you fall asleep out of boredom with yourself, because what you are saying inside you have said and heard so many times before. Sleep is an escape from the repetitive talk that is going on internally.
He alone is capable of listening who has broken this conversation within. And that is the art of shravana. If the internal dialogue stops even for a moment, you find the whole expanse of space opening within you; all that was as yet unknown begins to be known. You find the boundary of that which was boundless; you become familiar with the unfamiliar. He who was a total stranger, with whom you were not acquainted at all, becomes your very own! And it all happens so suddenly. The universe is your home!
All gurus, all religions aim at one thing only: how to break the constant dialogue within. Whether we call it yoga or meditation or repetition of mantra, the aim is to break the constant internal flow of words in order to create an empty space within. If it happens even for a little while you will understand what Nanak is talking about.
Through listening occult powers and saintliness are gained,
Heaven and earth are made stable,
And the world and lower worlds revolve.
Through listening death does not touch.
Nanak says, Through listening devotees attain bliss,
And sin and sorrow are destroyed.