The harmony in most human relationships depends on one simple element. With this element, you can wreck someone’s world or bring the best out of that person; you can motivate them or kill their self-esteem. How you are perceived largely depends on it and it is not about how you look or what you own. From the greatest to the simplest are often tied to it.
It is your speech. The words you pick and the style you choose to deliver them can make all the difference. They determine whether you love or hate, accept or reject, share or shun.
Your speech can trigger profound emotions not just in humans, but in any living creature. 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 ace. 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 categorise all emotions fundamentally into two types: positive and negative. When you trigger a positive emotion in someone, you get a favourable response. Such responses strengthen both you and them, they build your bond. As a result, love grows naturally.
The baba who lost followers due to his harsh words
The other day, a man in his 50s 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 the place and said he could not resist the temptation to come and see me. I met him and he was elated. He had tears of joy rolling down his cheeks. This was our first meeting. He narrated a story to me.
About 30 years ago, a renowned saint was visiting a nearby village for a week. Devotees were expected to visit in large numbers so a stage with tents was setup. Community fire offerings to the deities and sermons were scheduled. So this person and his friend got on their tractor to visit the saint. Both were farmers and this was the only vehicle they had besides their bicycles. The place was a little too far for paddling so they chose the tractor instead. It was a very hot day, as if the sun had descended on earth. After navigating through the traffic, driving on paved and unpaved roads, a tiring 90 minutes and several kilometres later, they reached their destination.
It was already midday. Their lips were parched and their bodies singed from excessive heat. They longed for water. In their hearts, however, they were happy that soon they would be seeing the saint. They went to the meeting room, where a young monk, perhaps a disciple of the godman, was present. He seemed to have no connection with anything divine; nothing about him gave the impression that he had anything to do with self-realisation or God. Nevertheless, he was robed in saffron, so the farmers showed due respect and asked him if they could meet the saint.
“Wait here and I will go and inform Baba,” he replied in a cold and indifferent tone.
“Where can we have some water?” the man asked hoping to be pointed to a nearby water source.
“Water? It is on the other side of the ground. But what if Baba comes now and you are not here? Have it later after his darshan,” he rebuked, completely ignoring their sweaty faces and dehydrated looks.
The thirst continued
The farmers 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 reflected. After half-an-hour Baba appeared.
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 is no one here? It is supposed to be such a big event,” the man uttered out of complete innocence.
“You think everyone is as stupid and dumb as you are 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-realisation fled their very beings. They looked at each other, bowed before the holy man and left promptly.
They got on their tractor, did not bother to drink water and left that place as quickly as they could. On their way, the duo didn’t even talk to each other. They felt hurt and ridiculed. They stopped their tractor at a lemonade stall under a tree and got down.
It was 30 years ago and living was not so cruelly expensive.
They gulped down three glasses each of tasty lemonade and rested under the shade for half-an-hour and then had another glass each. They paid their dues and the vendor smiled. Everyone felt complete. The vendor 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.
Two ways to express love
I chuckled while hearing the simple villager’s story, more at his simplicity and the manner in which the farmer narrated the whole thing; it was situational. He said, “Only if that 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. Generalisation 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, and choice of words. 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 practise restraint and kindness in 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 and in sincere words. Express yourself in the kindest possible manner.
Tell someone today how important they are to you.