Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Humility as a Verb

How Do I Listen?

Do I
Listen to others?
As if everyone were my Master
Speaking to me

- Hafiz (14th Century Sufi Poet) 

This weekend at the 24 Hour Kirtan in New Vrindavan, I learned that one facet of humility boils down to a verb.


No, not hear. Listen. I have realized that it is impossible to be proud and to listen. Listening is a verb of the heart - it means that I set aside my own life, my own chatter, and my own ideas to look into another's eyes and absorb what he or she says. There is no agenda, no plan.

Just listen.

So at noon on October 30th, I took a vow of silence. I chose to set aside my life, my chatter, and my own ideas for 24 hours to look into the eyes of the holy name with no agenda and no plan. I opened my ears to hear.

Many kirtaniyas stepped up to the microphone to sing the holy name. I slowly set aside my inner music critic. Hour after hour passed and the holy name began to circle around and around in my head until it became the only sound I could feel - even the words to the mantra began to roll across my mind's eye.

In the early evening, I remembered the Hafiz poem, and it began to echo in the halls of my strangely quiet mind. Each kirtan became transformed, as if each devotee who sang truly was my beloved master, and each mantra was the last words he or she would ever say. Each kirtan rested like a jewel upon the thread of the holy name.

I was disarmed by surprise. I rarely ever feel such unconditional acceptance.

I began to listen to devotees even as they spoke to each other at lunch, or when they walked down the halls. I found Krishna in every word, even if that wasn't the intention. At times I wanted to walk up to someone, anyone, and beg, "Please, tell me your realization. Please tell me about the holy name, please tell me anything,"

When the clock struck noon on October 31st and the kirtans came to a tumultuous close, I slipped away from the templeroom and avoided crowds. Soon, too soon, the quiet of my mind would slip away, too, like water cupped in my hand.

Maybe if I pray enough, I can listen with my heart beyond 24 hours... beyond one week... beyond years... decades...

...Or maybe I will leave this world tomorrow. Then I pray to listen to my master of the holy name when I speak my own cherished last words.

"Silence means don't talk nonsense. Whenever you speak, you speak about Krishna. That is real silence."
Srila Prabhupada, Vrindavan 1974

1 comment:

Alpha108 said...

That was so nice and thought provoking. Thanks to your post, today is going to be a fresh opportunity for me to clean up the line of communication with God to give Him my undivided attention and listen carefully to Him.
Speak, Lord, in the stillness, while I wait on Thee;
Hushed my heart to listen, in expectancy.

Om Shanti

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