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Hear the Unheard

Looks can be deceiving, and often far from the full story. It is said that one who laughs too much, even at small and insignificant things, may well be harboring dissatisfaction and sorrow within. A person who feels impelled to keep talking and communicating, could be experiencing loneliness and lack of meaningful camaraderie. The insensitivity and harshness that individuals exhibit, is likely connected to an internal weakness and existential insecurity. Some people seem to be compulsive critics and chronic faultfinders – there is a good chance that they are suffering from spiritual stagnation and a lack of personal growth. Interesting and revealing. Instead of reacting to people’s words and acts, it helps to invest some time and energy in understanding what’s behind it. We must venture into the invisible world in order to hear the unheard.

Back in the third century A.D., King Ts’ao sent his son, Prince T’ai, to learn leadership lessons under the great master Pan Ku. Upon arrival, the master sent him alone to the Ming-Li Forest, instructing him to return and describe the sounds of the tropics. When Prince T’ai returned, he began his description. “Master”, said the prince, “I could hear the cuckoos sing, the leaves rustle, the hummingbirds hum, the crickets chirp, the grass blow, the bees buzz, and the wind whisper and holler.” Wholly unimpressed, the master sent him back to the forest and told him to stay there for a year!

For days and nights on end, the young prince sat alone in the forest listening. But he heard no sounds other than those he had already heard. Then one morning, as the prince sat silently beneath the trees, he started to discern faint sounds unlike those he had ever heard before. The more acutely he listened, the clearer the sounds became. A feeling of enlightenment enveloped the boy. “These must be the sounds the master wished me to discern,” he reflected. When prince T’ai returned to the temple, the master asked him what more he had heard.“Master,” responded the prince reverently,” when I listened most closely, I could hear the unheard – the sound of flowers opening, the sound of the sun warming the earth, and the sound of the grass drinking the morning dew.” The master nodded approvingly. “To hear the unheard,” remarked Pan Ku, “is a necessary discipline to be a good ruler.”

Powerful and poignant. Deepening our spiritual consciousness empowers us to read the hidden story. Otherwise, we hear but don’t really hear. TheBhagavata Purana also talks of one who sees but doesn’t really see (pasyan api na pasyati). We must listen closely to people’s hearts, hearing their feelings uncommunicated, pains unexpressed, and complaints not spoken of. Relationships break down when we mechanically react to someone else’s superficial words and instinctive actions. We must penetrate beyond so we can ascertain the true opinions, feelings and desires of the people we relate to. Then we achieve substantial growth and make real progress.

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