The mark of a good word is that it takes you to silence || Acharya Prashant (2014)

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Question: When I talk about it, it is easy and understandable. But when the real moment comes, every part of the body feels fear. Is talking anymore important for me now? Do I need to be just there and not deviate when the moment comes?

Speaker: What is this thing about ‘talking’?

Listener 1: It strengthens the ego.

Speaker: It’s not the talking or silence that matters. It’s not at all these two actions that matter.

Where are the words coming from?

Listener 1: Outside.

Speaker: Not necessarily. Even writing this question is kind of a talk. Is it not? Even this is talk; just to write it down. There is a talking that just announces yourself to the world, and it is a tool against existence. It’s your weaponry, it’s your ammunition

When you talk, you are shooting yourself upon the world, you are imposing yourself upon the world. There is this particular kind of talk. And then there is another talk. There words come just as you breathe; lyrical, unstoppable, not any different from your being, just as your breathe.

You don’t breathe to scare anybody. Do you? But you often talk to scare people. You don’t breathe to deceive anybody. Do you? You may sometimes in fact stop breathing, to deceive people. That is alright.


But you don’t breathe to deceive people.

Let the words come as the breath comes in and goes out, effortlessly, not as communication, but as being. And it is same with silence. Do you know that in the process of breathing, there is silence involved as well; there is a complete cessation of movement also? There is breath that goes in, and there is breath that goes out, and in between there is silence. So, let there be words and let there be silence, and let these two to be harmonious. When there is a need to talk, talk and when there is no need, just let there be silence.

Mark of a good wordThe mark of a good word is that it feels so much like silence. The mark of a poor and aggressive word is that it takes away the silence.

If the words come from silence, let them come. Don’t be a hindrance. You asked, “Because I am afraid at many instances, what is the point in talking?” What is your assumption here? Your assumption is that only those who are not afraid, are qualified to talk. You are saying that the license of talking comes to those who are not afraid. Using this license, by giving validity to this license, you are saying that talking is something related to other people, that it is something that points to a mind which is very sensitive to its image.

This assumption is good in a sense that I will talk only when I have credentials to talk. But it is not at all good in the ultimate sense. Have you seen those people who when they feel ashamed, or when they feel a sense of guilt, stop talking? Even kids do that.

The kid ran a race and could not win it, and he stopped talking. Why? Because he has fallen in his own eyes. Have you not seen this tendency? This means that the fellow talks out of ego, and now because the ego is hurt, he doesn’t want to talk.

Does that not happen? When the ego is hurt, we don’t want to talk. If you stop talking when the ego is hurt, then what does it tell about the quality of your talk? That it is not worth listening to. It’s better that you stop talking. Because when you will talk, you will talk from the ego. You will use your words as weaponry, you will assault others with your talk. And that’s why you are so careful about words.

Is the river careful about the way it flows? You don’t need to be careful about your words. You don’t need to attach your words to your ego. Let the words flow.

“I will not talk when I am afraid.” And will talk to whom? Others. And all fear comes from others. Don’t you see that this talking and non-talking itself is the fear. “I want to be the one who can talk with his head held high”- that’s probably your ultimate aspiration. “I want to be the one who can live with his head held high.” All that sounds good, but it is not at all good. What do you mean by ‘head held high’? What do you mean by that? What do you mean by this that I will not show my face if I do not succeed? What is all this? “I will not return home if I lose the war.” What is this?

Listeners: Ego.

Speaker: Do not give weightage to all this talk. “Either I win or die”, what is this?

You lost a business deal, or a contract got spoiled. In the evening you find that you are not able to embrace your wife lovingly. What does that mean? That even your love was an expression of ego. “I come to you as a successful man, and I am no more successful, the manhood is gone.” Does that not happen?

(Sarcastically) And the wife will say, “Oh! You are very sensitive. Don’t worry tomorrow something will happen.” And slowly he will be caressed, and then he will come back to life. But this man is idiot, and his wife is a bigger idiot. The wife should realize that all his love making is an aggression upon her.

He is saying, “I am the conqueror of the world during the day, and I am the conqueror of the wife in the night. Because I couldn’t be a conqueror in the day, so I have lost the right to conquer in the night.” You lose your spine, because your spine is your sense of victory. And now you are feeling so bad. And there would be other kind of wives as well. “You lost the contract and yet you are here. Are you shameless? How dare you? Hide in some corner of the house?”

The kid comes back from the school and his report card says, “Poor result.” And what do you tell him? That he is not qualified to play that day. What are you telling him? Look at the message that you are giving him. That conquering the world is important.

Speaker: We used the word ‘ammunition’. We have been taught to use words as ammunition. That’s why in constitution there is the right to speech, but the right to love, not the right to breathe, not the right to see. Speaking is so important.

“I must speak my mind.” Everybody will say, “Speak.” Nobody will say, “Live your life.’ Do you see the difference between these two approaches, ‘speaking your mind’ and ‘living your life’? Why ‘speaking your mind’ is so important? What is this special thing about ‘speaking’? Because your words are missiles. You can hurt others with your words.

Speak and speak shamelessly, there is nothing wrong about it. Be the most wretched man, tremble in fear, and then go and deliver a session on ‘fearlessness’. There is nothing wrong with it. Do that absolutely shamelessly, and smile. “I am so afraid and yet I am speaking on ‘fearlessness’.” That would be most truthful word you would have ever spoken, the most truthful word.

And who can speak on fear more truthfully than the man who is afraid. Who can tell about cancer more truthfully than the man who has it. You want to know about cancer? Go to the cancer patient. He will tell you what cancer is. “Don’t ask the carpenter that how iron tastes. Rather ask that horse who has it in his mouth.” So, speak.

Listener 3: Why does it happen that the action is substituted by a lot of talking? I have found that before a situation comes, there is a lot of thinking, a lot of preparation and a lot of analysis involved, that I will do this, I will do that. I have observed that I replace action with talking. Why does it happen? Why do we talk and not just act?

Speaker: I have a counter question. Would you speak the same words, had these people not been here? Ask yourself honestly. Would you be using the same words, had this hall been vacant and there was nobody except you and me?

Words are ammunition. Even now, ask yourself, “Is all this not coming out of concern for image? Am I not especially excited when something is said to me in front of others, as compared to when it is said to me in isolation?

Listener 3: I have written this question, using the same words, in my diary also.

Speaker: These words? They are not in the diary. These words which are being said right now. If these people were not around, this expression will be totally different. And I know that expression. I have seen that expression. Right now this expression is not for me, but for all these people sitting here.

Words are ammunition with which others are targeted. You are not speaking, you are targeting. And it’s not only here, it is the way we live, each one of us. This was not said to me. This was more said to everybody else, so that an image can be maintained, and that is the root cause of fear; others. The very need to impress others, the very need to have an image, that is the root cause of fear.

And in this moment you have totally forgotten that you are speaking to me and who I am. Others have become important. Had you been speaking to me, the expression would have been totally different. Had it been only between two of us, the expression would have been so different. And you know that expression. Right? You are the one who says that. Just because of others everything changes, and that is fear.

The man who is image conscious is a man who is afraid all the time. Afraid of strangers? You don’t know who all are sitting here, they might be coming here for the first time. There is no reason to be afraid. Had you been with me, with nobody else around, would the same expression be on your face? And the more we see the difference, the more we realize the centre from which we operate; fear.

There is a particular scene in fountainhead. In this scene, Dominic is with Keating, and it is a rare moment of honesty. Dominic is almost about to express love in that moment. In this moment Keating is innocent, clear, and tactless. Just when the two are about to come close, the telephone rings. Now Keating is gone. The moment there is the third person, the society in between, Keating is gone, the innocence is gone. The moment there is the third person, you are gone. Finished.

The moment you find that there are other people in the room, you need to put up an act. The moment you find that there are other people looking at you, you need to wear a mask, a mask of strength. The moment you find that somebody has giggled on that question related to you, you need to react. That person may not even know that the question was asked by you, but you feel offended.

The moment there is the third person, your senses get alert. The third person is not at all important. Ignore him or love him but don’t get alerted by him. “I am all, I am everything so I can ignore anybody.” Or love him, “I am nobody.” Either ignore fully or love fully, but don’t make a monster out of the third person.

I am warning once again. This concern about what others are thinking of me, is a deep disease. This will make you incapable of love, and this will always keep you alerted, and this alertness is a kind of tension. You will always be tensed. “What is somebody thinking? What is happening to my image?”

You will not allow yourself to be relaxed. You will not be yourself. There will always be some kind of a burden. “What is the other thinking of me?” What fun it would be to really know what the other person is thinking of you? First thing- you won’t really come to know. Second- even if you come to know, yet you remain seated at your position and not get be disturbed; non-duality in duality.

“Looking at somebody’s face, it has become clear that what he is thinking, yet I do not allow that to influence me.” Don’t you think it would be great fun if this happens? But we fail on both the fronts. First of all, we fail to read what the others might be thinking. You can’t read others’ thoughts, if your own mind is cluttered.

“I can fully understand that right now you are hating me. But, it’s alright. I can fully understand that right now you are thinking me to be mean and small, yet I am at a position that I cannot be shaken up. ” Won’t that be great fun?

Listener 1: It would be great fun.

Speaker: The leaf there is moving around in wind and dancing. What has it to do with you? Somebody is thinking something, what does that have to do with you? You are breathing, and in the process of breathing you are snoring. What does that have to do with me?

Your mind is full of hate, it’s alright. What does that have to do with me? I understand that hating is the function of mind, mind can hate. Hate is there. It’s alright. It is there.

Listener 4: All that starts happening when we have an expectation that somebody should respect me in a particular way.

Speaker: All that starts happening whenSilence I am insecure, when I think that my being depends upon your perception. When my being does not depend on others’ perception, then its great fun.

Listener 4: Its a kind of mental illness when we are dependent on others, that what others think about me.

Speaker: Are we not doing this all the time, each one of us? If you want to check that, go to the facts. Look at the language in which you would write an email, look at the way you dress up when you move out of the house, look at what you wear and what you do not wear and the kind of things that you carry when you are out of your house. Go to the facts, check the facts, and the facts will bring you to the truth.

Listener 5: You won’t sit same way if somebody were looking at you.

Speaker: Yes. That’s a good way. If you are travelling alone in a metro coach, would you sit in the same way as you sit in the presence of other people. What happens when there are other people present in the coach?

Listener 3: We become more conscious.

Speaker: We become more conscious. Even the way of speaking changes dramatically. The body-language, the expression on the face, everything totally changes. The words change. You become a new person. That’s a very nice way of saying it. You are now a new person.

I am talking to her when nobody else is in the room, but as soon as a third person enters, the way of talking changes. Is she is really sensitive, she will say that the conversation needs to stop, because I am not talking to the same man anymore. You are gone.” The man I was talking to is already gone, so how can I talk to you?”

Listener 4: That is why people cannot come close.

Speaker: Is there anything that does not change on the arrival of the third?

Listener 4: Can it revert to the point when it changed?

Speaker: Yes. You are talking to a close friend, the friend may abuse you while talking. You feel no need to react then. But if the same friend abuses you in front of a crowd, then you will catch his throat.

So the great friend does not remain a great friend in front of the crowd. The teacher does not remain a teacher in front of the crowd.

Listener 3: It is said that a wife is the one who knows how to behave when in crowd and how to behave when alone. So the norm has already been set.

Speaker: See, the day you find that while talking to your wife even if four-five people come in and you do not even realize that others are around, then you understand that the mind is pure. But we are not like that. The moment anybody enters, we become alert. Everything changes.

When the mind is pure, it may happen that you are talking to your wife and you don’t even realize that somebody has entered the room. Mind doesn’t make an issue and of it that somebody is there. It is not important at all to the mind. And when this starts happening, then you understand that something important has happened to you.

Listener 2: If I realize that whatever I am going to speak, there is some foolishness in it, should I still continue to speak?

Speaker: You are the one in whose mind that thought is arising, you are the one that is deciding it is foolish. From the same mind how can an answer come? Either crush it, or let it flow. But don’t let it go round and round.

If it is coming to an end, let it come to an end. If it becomes unbearable to hold it, then speak it out and let things happen. There is no third way. Either it comes to an end, that the thought is no more bothering you, or if it becomes so intense that you can’t bear it, then speak it out.

– Excerpts from Clarity Session held at Advait Sthal. Edited for clarity.

Watch the session at: The mark of a good word is that it takes you to silence

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  1. From the very beginning we have been taught to speak. All emphasis has been on speaking. But how misleading was that. Alas! we only learnt to live in noise.

    Now I realize, why it still always felt as something is missing. We really have been taught to use words as ammunition only.

    Thank you for bringing such clarity.


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