Osho on Art of Listening

Osho – Mahavira has described four starting places from which you can reach the other shore. Of these, two can be understood: that of a sadhu and that of a sadhvi, a holy man and a holy woman. The other two seem more difficult: that of a shravaka and shravika. Shravaka means one who has learned the art of listening; he knows how to listen and understands what listening means. And shravika is used for the female.

Mahavira says that there are some who must keep on performing sadhanas in order to arrive. This is necessary for those who are not adept at hearing because if you can listen – totally – there is nothing more to be done to reach the other shore.

These sutras of Nanak depict the glory of shravana, listening, although on the face of it, it seems an exaggeration that everything can be attained merely by listening. We have been listening for infinite births and nothing has happened. It is our experience that no matter how much we hear, we remain the same. Our vessel is greasy; words fall on it but they slide off, leaving us untouched.

If our experience is correct, Nanak is exaggerating. But it is not true; our experience is incorrect, because we have never listened. We have many tricks and devices not to listen.

Let us understand them first. The first trick is: we hear only that which we want to and not what is being said. With great cleverness we hear what lets us remain as we are; nothing goes in which may cause a change in us. This is not only the observation of the sages; scientists who have carried out research on the human mind say that ninety-eight percent of what we hear we do not take in.

We only hear the two percent that fits into our understanding; that which doesn’t, cannot bypass the many obstructions. Anything that synchronizes with your understanding cannot change you. It can only help to reinforce that understanding. Rather than transform you it gives yet more stones and cement to strengthen your foundations.

The Hindu hears only what strengthens his Hindu mind; the Muslim hears only what strengthens the Muslim mind; so also the Sikh, the Christian, the Buddhist. If you listen only to strengthen your own preconceptions, to strengthen your own house, then you will miss hearing completely, for truth has no connection with Hindu or Muslim or Sikh. It has nothing to do with the conditioning of your mind.

Only when you set aside your entire way of thinking will you be able to understand what Nanak means; however, this is a very difficult thing to do, because our concepts are invisible They are microscopic, or as transparent as a wall of glass; they cannot be seen. Unless you knock against them you are not conscious of their existence. You think that there is wide open space ahead, and the sun, moon, and the stars. You are not aware of the transparent wall in between.

Hearing a speaker you tell yourself that he is correct when what he says is consistent with your thoughts. to other things you say that it is not so because it disagrees with your thoughts. So you are not truly listening but only lend your ear to what agrees with you and strengthens your opinion. The rest, that you don’t care about, you ignore and forget.

Even if you do happen to hear something that is contrary to your understanding, you tear it to bits with your reasoning, because one thing you are sure of: whatever matches your thoughts is correct, what doesn’t is incorrect, false. If you have attained truth there is no further need to listen, but you have not attained truth so it is incumbent on you to listen.

How can you still be searching for the truth if you have the idea that you have already attained it? Instead, you have to stand before truth absolutely bare, empty, void, naked. If your scriptures, your beliefs, your doctrines stand in the way you will never be able to listen; whatever falls on your ears will be nothing but the echo of your own concepts and you will hear only your own thoughts throbbing within you. Then Nanak’s words will seem a preposterous exaggeration.

Another way to escape listening is to fall asleep when something significant is being said. This is a trick the mind uses to save itself; it is a very deep process by which, when something is about to touch you, you fall asleep. I was a guest at the house of a very learned pundit. He was well-versed in the Shastras and there was no one to equal him in reading the Ramayana. Thousands of people came to hear him.

We were staying in the same room and as we put off the lights to prepare to sleep, I heard his wife come in. She spoke in a low tone but I could still hear. ”Please say something to Munna. He won’t go to sleep.”

”How will my talking help?” asked the pundit.
”I have seen a number of people falling asleep when you speak at your meetings, so how could a small child resist your words! Come, say a few words to him,” she answered.

People go to religious services only to fall asleep. Even those who suffer from insomnia sleep well in religious meetings. What happens? It’s a trick of your mind. Sleep is like the soldier’s armor; it protects you against all you don’t want to know. So you look as if you are listening, but you are not awake; and without being awake how can you hear?

While talking you are awake; while listening you are not. And this doesn’t happen only at a religious meeting. As soon as another person talks to you, you are no longer alert, but lost in an internal dialogue of your own. While he talks to you, you pretend to be listening, but you are really talking to yourself.

Then to whom do you prefer to listen? Definitely to your own self, because the voice of the other person doesn’t even reach you; your own voice is enough to drown out all the other voices. And then you fall asleep out of boredom with yourself, because what you are saying inside you have said and heard so many times before. Sleep is an escape from the repetitive talk that is going on internally.

He alone is capable of listening who has broken this conversation within. And that is the art of shravana. If the internal dialogue stops even for a moment, you find the whole expanse of space opening within you; all that was as yet unknown begins to be known. You find the boundary of that which was boundless; you become familiar with the unfamiliar. He who was a total stranger, with whom you were not acquainted at all, becomes your very own!

And it all happens so suddenly. The universe is your home! All gurus, all religions aim at one thing only: how to break the constant dialogue within. Whether we call it yoga or meditation or repetition of mantra, the aim is to break the constant internal flow of words in order to create an empty space within. If it happens even for a little while you will understand what Nanak is talking about.

Source: from Osho Book “The True Name, Vol 1”

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