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कृण्वन्तो विश्वमार्यम्


The Vedic philosophy of life lays an emphasis on the power of listening in a human being. In the relevant mantra of the Yajurveda where a devotee prays for longevity and specifically asks for one hundred year's life, he or she asks for various indriyas or faculties to be functional. Of particular relevance to the present topic is this part of the mantra : "shreudiyam sharadah shatam, prabravam sharadah shatam, adeenah syam sharadah shatam". A free rendering into English would be - may I have the listening power for one hundred years, may I possess the faculty of speech for one hundred years, may I NOT be dependant on anyone as long as I live.

It is worth noting that in this prayer for a long and healthy life, listening takes precedence over speaking. Listening to others is of importance,nay of greater importance than speaking. Unless one listens to the other person there will be no dialogue. Imagine the scenario where all human beings are expressing themselves and no one bothers to listen to what others say, it will indeed be a Tower of Babel of the twentyfirst century. It is indeed of great importance for human beings to be patient listeners of the views of fellow human beings,irrespective of sharp differences. After all the differences of various shades and hues may be ironed out by listening to the views of the opposite party.

Indeed cultivating the Art of Listening will bring Peace , be it family forum or an Arab-Israeli forum or a forum of track two diplomacy on the indian sub-continent. The problem today in our human society is that both personal ego and national ego prevent even the intelligentsia from listening intelligently to the viewpoint of our fellow human beings standing on the other side of the fence. Of course, it is not the barbed wire used in the fence that prevents a dialogue but it is the words coming out of the barbed tongues that lay landmines on the path of progress. Under these circumstances listening to words is a remote possibility, what to say of listening to logic.

Cultivating the Art of Listening does not mean that human beings go dumb. Should everyone keep the mouth shut? Certainly not. In this case it will be a dialogue of the dumb. A dialogue of the dumb will be as meaningless as a dialogue of the deaf. t is for this reason that the Yajurveda,from where an excerpt has been taken, encourages human beings to cultivate the Art of Speaking too. One may recall that before the holy Vedas were written on a bhoj patra or later on paper ,the mantras were passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth. The Vedic Samhitas were recited and heard generation after generation, therefore they are called "SHruti" and they were remembered by heart, so the name "Smriti" Of relevance to us at this point of time is the word "Shruti" the knowledge that has been imbibed by listening..This form of listening is possible when there is discipline of mind and body. Many a time we lament our youth going astray but do not make a conscious effort to put them through the mental and physical discipline that is required for acquisition of knowledge.

Forgive me if I jump from the art of listening and the motive of practising it to the realm of martial arts. In the modern warfare too cultivating listening is aided by machines that rank as world class. In the olden days foot soldiers were specially trained to go near the enemy post,lie still like a dead body and collect all kinds of information by listening. On its part the enemy was always out to detect and destroy a listening post. Now the Sonars detect submarines lying still on the ocean bed. Only a correct listening device is required.

Sound of Silence – that oft repeated phrase is quite meaningful. Silence means absolute absence of sound. Sound means that there is no silence. Thus the two antonyms put together make a powerful impact on the listener, if there is a listener around. In good old days students of mass communication were advised to read the programme digest of the BBC radio called Listener. Indeed only a good listener knew all about schedule of broadcast and also concentrate on the sound of the radio to be heard in complete silence all around. Thus an intimate relationship between Sound and Silence is discernible. You cannot appreciate the former in the absence of the latter and vice-versa.

Let us come back to the Art of Listening that was learnt and practised by the Brahmachais of the Gurukulas under the watchful eye of the Acharya. When the shishyas practised Pranav or sounding of AUM, the Acharya closed his eyes and concentrated solely on the NAAD and later on the Brahmanaad. It was bt listening that the Acharya graded his disciples. Similarly, listening played a major role in practising and perfectinf a blind folded shoot called "Shabd-bedhi bar" Since the art of listening was perfected this was by no chance a shot in the dark.
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