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Mystic Mantra: The art of listening

Swami Tejomayananda, head of Chinmaya Mission Worldwide, is an orator, poet, singer, composer and storyteller. To find out more about Chinmaya Mission and Swamiji, visit www.chinmayamission.com
Published : Oct 6, 2017, 6:22 am IST
Updated : Oct 6, 2017, 6:23 am IST

True listening becomes possible when we love something and there is an eagerness to know about it.

Lord Krishna
 Lord Krishna

Listening (sravana) is a means of gaining knowledge — right knowledge that is free from all doubts and errors. Often, we think we know something, but have actually not understood it completely; sometimes, we assume we have understood it, but our knowledge is erroneous; still at other times, we are convinced of its validity, even though we may mistake a thing for something entirely different. A pertinent example in Vedanta is of the rope being mistaken for a snake; the person concerned is absolutely certain, without any doubt, that he or she is seeing a snake. But that does not make it true. What’s more, we attend and listen to numerous lectures, but cannot even remember what they were about.

Therefore, sravana is a means of knowledge — provided we listen properly. Listening is with the ear, the organ of hearing; but that is not enough. Most problems, in relationships and so on, arise because we do not pay attention to the other person. The normal tendency is to keep on interrupting; we prefer to talk rather than listen. It is extremely important to keep an open mind and listen alertly

In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna instructs Arjuna on the art of listening. He declares, “Listen with your mind absorbed in Me; it should be in love with Me.” If we wish to study a subject, we must love it. If there is no love, there will be no attentiveness or joy. Very often, people complain of lack of concentration; they do not realise that the fundamental problem is lack of sufficient love. We all have concentration, but only for that which we love — be it money, sports, movies, gossip… Love is the essential ingredient. True listening becomes possible when we love something and there is an eagerness to know about it.

We must have total absorption in whatever we listen and understand. Once I met a university professor of philosophy. He was well-versed in many schools of Eastern philosophy, but his mind was restless and not immersed in any of them. He was constantly worried about his promotion and publishing various papers to become famous.

That is why Sri Krishna instructs Arjuna to listen to Him with love, with all his heart and soul. The very aim of a human birth is to become one with Him. The Lord asserts, “Be ready to do whatever is required to gain this Knowledge. Then, you will understand My teaching. It will be correct and complete.”

Hence, the first steps are a readiness to learn and a readiness to listen. The next step is to reflect on what is heard and undertake the spiritual practices required to gain and abide in this priceless knowledge.

Tags: bhagavad gita, sravana, sri krishna