Monday, October 23, 2006

The Forms of Sanskrit Technology: Upanishad 3

More and more the art of listening is lost to us in the modern age. Everywhere, it seems, we are assaulted by noise and overwhelmed by information begging for our attention. Silence is the rarest of all commodities in the world today.

Without silence, it is impossible to listen properly. Because of all the noise, our brains run on automatic, sifting through all the cacophony and selectively hearing what we most want to hear. And usually, what we want to hear is negative. Gossip. Bad news about someone or someplace. Or bad things other people think about us.

Have you noticed that someone can tell you "I love you" 1000 times, but if they ever in a moment of anger say, "I hate you" you'll never forget that?

In order to hear the sweet truth, it requires more silence. All of the Upanishads were composed by sages who spent many, many years living in forests and basking in silent being. When you become more silent, your hearing becomes more and more refined. You no longer hear the surface-level words, but can perceive the feeling behind them. With more silence, your brain seeks to cling to the truth instead of negative words. It shuts everything out that isn't true, that doesn't spread waves of peace and happiness, and that doesn't elevate you to the highest.

Only with real listening can you perceive the truth. This is why the Vedas are called "that which is heard" or "shruti." The ancient rishis or "seers" in their deep state of silence heard the subtle rhythms and melodies of nature from within their own selves. When they sang those same songs, they noticed a profound upwelling of peace and happiness arising in their surroundings.

Later, forest-dwelling sages contemplated these same sounds in their silent, meditative state. When they had fully listened, they expressed their understandings of truth as the Upanishads. This is why another word for Upanishad is "Vedanta" or the "End of the Veda" or the "Culmination of True Listening."

Once knowledge has been truly heard, then one must integrate that into ordinary life. That's why the Guru tells the disciple to return to the world once he's fully listened to everything that is essential to know to live a fully spiritual life.

And so, after so many years listening intently to my Guru, I could hear his words "Katy, go!" not as an insult or a rejection, but a blessing.