Interestingly, the harmony in most human relationships, certainly the social and personal ones, depends on one simple element. It is not about material gifts or even fulfilling needs. You can wreck someone’s world or bring the best out of that person, you can motivate them or entirely kill their self-esteem with this. How you are perceived largely depends on this. It is not about how you look or what all you have. From the greatest to the simplest are often tied to this. Can you guess? I am talking about your speech. The words you pick and the style you choose to deliver them can make all the difference. They determine whether you are loved or hated, accepted or rejected, cared or closeted, shared or shunned.
Your speech can trigger profound emotions not just in humans but in any living creature. The only difference is you may occasionally deceive humans with your false speech, speaking words you never meant, but animals sense your sincerity. When you speak sincere words, kindly and sweetly, the inner you starts to glow, you experience peace. Your relationships automatically improve and you increasingly find yourself surrounded by those who care about you. Primarily because your speech and words can make them feel good, make them feel important, make them feel human, even divine.
Vedic texts categorize all emotions into fundamentally two types, positive and negative. When you trigger a positive emotion in someone, you get a favorable response. Such response strengthens both you and them, it builds your bond; love grows naturally as a result.
The other day, someone, a man in his fifties, visited me from a far off place. It took him three days to reach the ashram. A simple villager from a distant state, he heard from someone about this place and said he could not resist the temptation to come and see me. I met him and he was elated and tears of joy coursed down his cheeks. This was our first meeting. He narrated a story to me that day. As follows:
About thirty years ago, a prominent baba, saint, was visiting a nearby village for a week. Devotees were expected to visit in large numbers so a stage with tents and all was setup. Community fire offerings to the deities and sermons were scheduled. So, this person and his friend got on their tractor. Both were farmers and this was the only vehicle they had other than bicycles. The place was a little too far for paddling so they chose tractor instead. It was a very hot day, as if sun had descended right on earth. After navigating through the traffic, driving on paved and unpaved roads, tiring ninety minutes and several kilometers later, they reached their destination.
It was already midday. Their lips had gone dry and their bodies were singed from the excessive heat. They were longing for water. There was no sign of any water. But, in their hearts, they were happy that soon they would be seeing the saint. They went to the meeting room. A young monk was there, perhaps a disciple of the godman. He seemed to have no connection with anything divine; nothing about him gave the impression that he had anything to do with self-realization or God. Nevertheless, he was robed in saffron, so these guys showed due respect and asked him if they could meet the saint.
“Wait here and I’ll go and inform Baba,” replied he in a cold and indifferent tone.
“Where can we have some water?” this man asked hoping to be pointed to a nearby water source.
“Water? It’s on the other side of the ground. But what if Baba comes now and you are not here. Have it later after his darshan, meeting,” he said completely ignoring their sweaty faces and dehydrated looks.
They sat down and waited. They kept licking their lips but there was no more saliva forming in their mouths. They really needed water. But, they were here to quench their inner thirst they thought. It was not till half an hour later that “Baba” came. They prostrated before him and sought his blessings. The saint asked them all sorts of questions about their domicile, demographics, land ownership, which tractor they drove and the rest of it.
“Baba, how come there’s no one here? It’s supposed to be such a big program!” this man uttered out of complete innocence.
“You think everyone is as stupid and dumb as you to travel in this heat? Are they all idle and redundant like you to come in the middle of the day?” Baba replied in a frustrated and angry tone.
Pin drop silence ensued. All questions about God, all spiritual desires, all madness about self-realization fled their very beings. They looked at each other, bowed before Baba and left promptly.
They got back on their tractor, did not bother to drink water and left that place as quickly as they could. They did not talk even among themselves. They felt hurt and ridiculed. On the way was a lemonade stall, under a tree. They stopped their tractor and got down. It was thirty years ago and living was not so cruelly expensive. The vendor was selling a glass for ten paise (0.002 cents) for plain water with lemon and twenty-five paise (0.005 cents) for lemonade made with ice, sugar, mint, salt and black pepper. They gulped down three glasses each of the latter type. They rested under the shade for half an hour and had another glass of lemonade each. They paid their dues and the vendor smiled. Everyone felt complete. The seller even helped them to restart their tractor which had to be done manually by pulling a cable in one swift jerky movement, like the old-style lawn mowers.
They did not visit another “saint” for many years after that. Verbal offerings of Baba killed their spiritual curiosity.
I grinned, giggled, chuckled, smiled and laughed while I was hearing his story. More at his simplicity and the manner in which he narrated the whole thing; it was situational.
He said, “Only if Baba had uttered some words of love or care, we would have pledged our lives to him.”
He stayed in the ashram for a few days and left peacefully.
His story highlights something profound: before all knowledge, possessions, labels and attainments comes the emotion of love. There are only two ways to express love: with words, and gestures. Generalization aside, everyone is tied to the language. You use words and gestures of love with them and they become yours.
Buddhist texts further expand positive and negative emotions into eight types, four in each category. And four out of those eight depend solely on your speech, articulation, choice of words. I was aiming to cover this in this post but will do so in the next one now.
If you can speak softly, without raising your volume, you can settle even the most violent disagreements, you can get your point across in practically no time. Regardless of how serious, important, grave or complicated the matter, all that is required to speak kindly is mindfulness, a gentle reminder to yourself about how you want to behave. If you decide to practice restraint and kindness of speech, you will experience and spread bliss. You may have nothing material to offer, you surely have words to choose from though. Pick them carefully. Life’s greatest pleasures are in the smallest things, in priceless simple gestures, in sincere words. Express yourself in the kindest possible manner.
Go on! Tell someone today how important they are to you.