Listen to a voice recording of this talk on SoundCloud here
Is Language Good or Bad?
Is language our gift or is it a curse? Is language a boon or a bane? Is language helping us or hurting us? That’s a fundamental question because somehow we have assumed that language has to be good; language has to be beneficial. It helps us to communicate our ideas; it helps us to connect with people; it expands our understanding of the world and so many other things. But, if you ask a spiritual person, if you ask a meditator, an enlightened person, they will tell you that language is your biggest obstacle. In fact, my entire effort in trying to teach you silence and meditation is to help you go beyond the language that you are stuck with. Your teacher will tell you that you are nothing but your language. If you can manage to keep quiet, absolutely silent, for one minute – if you are able to not use language for one single minute, you will become enlightened.
Just a Minute
The difference between an awakened state, an enlightened state, and a state of eternal confusion and chaos is language. Language would be a beautiful thing if we had control over it. If language controls us, then it is not our gift, but the chains that bind us. We are actually bound by the chains of the language that we use. For a single minute, we cannot be conscious without using language. You might find this surprising, but try it: Just sit in a corner somewhere and close your eyes. Tell yourself for the next one minute – not one hour, not one day, not one year, Just one minute I want to be quiet, I don’t want to say anything. I’m not just talking about verbalizing like saying it aloud, but even internally.
What Controls Your Life
When you sit and try to be completely quiet and thought-free for one minute, you will realize the tremendous hold language has over your life. Language controls you completely. In fact, you are just a puppet of your language. The constant conversation that is happening in your mind is what is deciding your life, not the other way around. You’re not giving instructions to your mind; the mind is giving instructions to you. The mind is creating its own connections. It has its own language. It has its own ideas and expression, and you are the one who is being acted upon. That should scare you! As human beings, we believe deep down that we have control over our lives. We forget about what’s happening around us. We might not have control over somebody else’s life; that is a given, we know that. But, at least we believe that we are in full control of our lives.
Thinking Grooves into our Minds
When we dig a little deeper, we see the reality that we have no control over our lives. It is the mental noise, the voice in our mind that is controlling us, and we have no control over what we tell ourselves. That’s the scary part! Can you consciously dream? No. Dreams happen and you acknowledge it. Can you consciously generate a thought process and hold on to it? You can trigger a thought process, but you can never decide its course. If you think about it, it’s like you have a different range of emotions – happiness, sadness – and let’s say all these emotions have different colors in the form of different colored liquids. What you can do with your mind is simply pour that liquid into the grooves of your mind. The mind has ridges, it has grooves which have been created over days and months and years of continuous conversation. When you pour that, the mind will decide in which direction it should take that liquid; you have no control over it. The mind will move that liquid in the veins of the mind that are already created.
Controlling the Triggers
The only thing you can control is the trigger; that is if you’re fully conscious, if you’re fully aware of what’s happening around you, you will be able to say, “Now this is creating anger in me. This can lead to happiness. This can lead to confusion. This thought process is leading me into uncertainty.” You can acknowledge it, but once it happens in your mind, you are a victim of its processes. Why? Because you don’t have control over your mind.
We can predict nature, we can predict the weather, how animals act, the movement of the planets, our solar system – everything to a certain degree of certainty. You cannot predict what a human being will do in the next moment, because we are totally unpredictable. We are being driven, not by some central ‘all-important force’ that knows what we want, we are actually driven by our language. We are driven by the conversation in our minds. I’m not saying that there is no such central force; in fact, there is. The whole effort of meditation is trying to get to the central force which is responsible for positively controlling our lives; responsible for all the best of things that we are searching for. Instead, we are actually listening to the conversation in our head which has no purpose, no meaning, it is just a repetitive habit.
So, why do we need meditation? Why do we need spirituality? Why do we need a process which is so different from the usual things that we do? Instead of going about our lives in a regular fashion, why do we choose to be silent? Why do we choose to break away from things to sit quiet and put in the effort to meditate? The reason you have to do it is to silence that constant noise in your mind. You have to understand the language of your mind. You have to understand how it is controlling you. Only then would you be able to go beyond it.
For only a single moment, if you can be totally quiet without using any language, you will know that single moment is the door: It is the door to certainty, it is the door to peace, it is the door to all the best of things that you’re searching for. Without that access, we are simply stuck in the world of language. That is why we have such a strong emotional association with language. That is why it is so easy to trigger an individual by simply using language. You don’t have to do anything physical. You can disturb an individual’s mind more using language than any other force because we simply live in the world of words and ideas, and that is our reality. If somebody disturbs our arrangement of ideas, that’s enough to trigger us.
No Disturbance Without Peace
Reality is something else. In reality, we are so much more than our words, we are so much more than just the language that we’ve been using. In reality, we are the stillness and the silence that accommodates these words, that accommodates language. Without silence, there cannot be sound. Without stillness, there cannot be movement. If there is disturbance, know that there is peace that is accommodating the disturbance. If there was no peace, if there was only disturbance, then you would not even know how to recognize that disturbance. There are moments when you are peaceful, there are moments when you are silent, and there are moments when you are still. That is what keeps pushing you to experience those moments more and more. Whether you articulate it or not, whether you consciously express it or not, you are obviously searching for silence – inner silence.
Because we are never silent, we are always talking to ourselves, we are always telling something to ourselves, and that is where our neuron associations are being built. That is where our habits are being created. That is where the foundation of our emotions are being created. Our fears, our frustrations, our understanding of the world – everything is created in those silent conversations. When you speak, you are only expressing what was already there. When you are actually using words and you are speaking out loud, you’re not creating anything. You’re just bringing out whatever that’s already there in your mind. When you are quiet, when you’re just taking a walk, doing nothing, those are the moments when what you call you, that identity called you is being shaped. From the outside, you are silent the majority of the time; when you sleep you are silent, when you are sitting in front of the computer you’re silent. Only when you’re interacting with people, when you have to get certain things done, when you feel like sharing something, do you speak. Otherwise, you are entertaining yourself all the time by talking to yourself, criticizing, arguing, complaining, cracking jokes. You do this all the time on the inside, and that is why even when there are no people around you, you are still sane, you’ve not gone mad.
You have created these multiple personalities, these multiple voices with whom you can have your conversations, fight with, or you can even cry without any external input. You can just close your eyes, keep talking to yourself, and at the end of the conversation, you can actually cry. The source of it is right there. All you need to do is bring out a painful memory, start having a conversation with it, starting interacting with it, and you will cry. It’s the same with laughter; if you want to laugh, just access a nice, wonderful memory, a joke or whatever you would like.
The point I’m trying to make is that you are noisy. Inside, there is no silence. You are constantly talking to yourself. From the outside it might appear like you are quiet, but on the inside you are constantly engaging with your mind. If you don’t pay attention to this, how would you be able to gain control over your life? Just imagine that there are five or six people living in your house, and they are having a conversation. For some reason, you cannot understand the conversation. They are speaking in some gibberish language. When you look at them, you can see that there’s something suspicious. The way they look at you is suspicious. They are looking at you and they’re talking to themselves. How would you feel? Would you feel comfortable? Would you say, “No, it’s just them. I don’t have to be worried about it.” But they’re looking at you and they’re talking.
This disturbs you. It’s the same with our minds. Our mind is looking at us and having its own conversation. It’s creating its own judgments about who we are. Your mind is secretly conspiring against you. If you don’t pay attention to it, then at some point in time, all the conspiring will turn into some action. Once your mind reaches a certain point it says, Okay I have enough information to conclude something. It will conclude you are useless, and because this thought process has been going on in your mind for such a long time, what if in a single moment you just accept that, “Oh yes, I’m useless. Yes, I’m dumb. My IQ is -10.” These are totally arbitrary ideas that have no basis in reality. It’s just your mind’s voice.
Stop Searching, just be Quiet
Your personality can never be defined by your mind, but that’s exactly what we do. We let our minds decide our personalities. We let our minds decide our strengths and weaknesses, whatever they might be. Eventually, we let our minds completely control our lives. And then, we worry about our personal identity, finding enlightenment, when everything is right here. Whatever it is you’re searching for is already here; it’s just blocked by this constant conversation of the mind.
So, what is language? Language is pain. Language is your enemy. You have to accept it. It has its uses though, when you are using it, when you are in control of it. When language is controlling you, there is no bigger bondage, because there’s no way to put your hand inside your head and grab it and throw it out. It permeates you fully. It’s so subtle, that even for you to recognize that constant language, takes some effort. That is why meditation is a challenge; it’s not easy. People find it hard to meditate, because What is it that I am trying to fight against? Who is my enemy here? What am I trying to gain control over? It’s language.
Choosing when to Speak (and not)
Learning how to be above and beyond language, learning how to be quiet, that’s the greatest trick of life. You can crack that code. The day you are able to get to that point where you can choose when to speak and when not to speak internally – not outside. Outside of course, we have control; we can we can decide whether we want to say something or not. Well, maybe not everybody, but a majority of them. When we are in a nice, peaceful, state of mind, we can control what we say on the outside, but the bigger challenge is: Can we control what we tell ourselves inside? An even bigger challenge is: Can we not say anything? Nothing. Not even say, “I’m quiet now.” That is language. When you tell yourself you are silent, you are not silent. When you tell yourself you’re peaceful, you’re not peaceful.
When there is nothing but the absence of sound, absence of conversation, absence of language – Do you want to know what bliss is? Do you want to know what enlightenment is? Do you want to know what eternity is? Do you want to know what life is? Do you want to know where you have come from, where you are going? Do you want to know the secret of life? Become silent. As long as you’re noisy, you’re only listening to the language that is introduced to you by society, by the people around you. To listen to your own inner voice you have to become silent.
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