There’s a story of a Bengali man who liked to talk a lot. One day he said to a young man, “My boy, are you married?” And the young man said, “What do you mean, am I married? I’m married to your own daughter!”
“Oh, yes, yes. I know that. I just wanted something to say and couldn’t think of anything else.”
Well, when you’re so busy wanting something to say, even if it makes no sense, then you’re not going to hear what’s going on in life.
Why most people don’t listen
Most people talk from their own reality, their own point of view. They’re always talking about what they think, what you ought to do, and why can’t you see their point of view? They don’t even communicate.
They’re like people living on two distant islands shouting at each other. No matter how long they shout, the islands remain separated and they can’t hear each other.
When a person has achieved a certain level of maturity, he is able to listen to others. He is able to absorb what they’re saying and relate it to what he already understands, and often come up with new insights.
A consciousness of inner silence
The more deeply you meditate, the more you lose the worldly habit of “small talk,” of talking just to have something to say. Having felt God’s presence in the silence within, you see all things, and all people everywhere, as opportunities for communing with that Presence without.
When you speak, it’s from a consciousness of inner silence. You refrain from speaking when speech is likely to become chatter.
We saw this in Rajarsi Janakananda, Yogananda’s chief disciple and successor. He was humble, completely dispassionate, always centered in the Self within. He took almost no interest in small talk.
Though a self-made man of considerable worldly means, he referred hardly ever to his outer life. For all we heard from him personally, he might have been a man of few achievements.
Virtually his sole topics of conversation were God, Guru, and meditation. His mind was always focused inwardly on God.
Yogananda’s habitual silence
Yogananda placed great importance on silence. Disciples working around him were permitted to speak only when necessary. “Silence is the altar of God,” he often told us. He said that only in silence can you really feel God’s presence.
I once told him I was having trouble calming my breath in meditation. “That,” he replied, “is because you used to talk a lot. The influence has carried over.” Gradually, inspired by his example, I learned to speak less, and to listen more to God’s soundless whispers in my soul.
Listening is receptivity
Listening involves a mental attitude of receptivity. The great scientists, to a large extent, are yogis—because they listen. They don’t try to create what the world ought to be. They try to observe what it really is. A true yogi is even better than that. A true yogi calms his mind and simply perceives.
This is the secret of human living, also. If you want to know what the world is, you’ve got to calm your mind. You can’t be making a loud noise all the time. The more quiet you are, the more ready you are to listen.
Yoga helps people to eliminate the agitation in their own minds and, in the calmness that ensues, to begin to perceive the higher realities in the world around them. This is what Yogananda came to teach us. He came to teach us how to meditate, and how to listen—how to listen, first of all, to God, not with the ear only, but with our entire being.
The sound of God’s voice
God has a sound. It’s not as if He were up there speaking in the clouds, but there is an AUM sound, the infinite vibration of universe. We are all are part of that sound. But because most people haven’t learned to listen, they are deaf to the symphony of sounds in the world around them.
If you go to a quiet place in the countryside where there’s complete silence, behind that silence you can sometimes hear a sound—a soft hum or a gentle murmur like the whisper of wind in the trees, sometimes a deep roar. The sound emerges from no discernible point in space but seems, rather, to come from everywhere.
If you could eliminate every sound of the world around you, you would still hear that sound. It underlies everything. By closing your ears and listening quietly in deep meditation, you can begin to hear that sound.
The most important teaching of yoga
The most important teaching in yoga is to attune to that AUM sound. As you commune with AUM, you begin to perceive that there are many different levels of reality, of which we are all a part. You begin to understand your connection to all life.
By communing more deeply with AUM, you become conscious of God as the underlying reality of everything in existence. You enter into the stream of vibration that proceeded out from Spirit and that merges back into Spirit at creation’s end.
God’s voice is silence. If you really want to commune with Him, it must be done first in the silence of your own mind, and then in the silence of the Infinite. In that silence, you will hear the voice of the Infinite booming with the great power of AUM all through creation.