On vak shakti…

Had a short discussion on vāk shakti today.

There have been a lot of things said about good speech, but the first phrase that comes to mind is Kabir’s famous doha – बोली एक अनमोल है, जो कोई भी बोले जानि । हिये तराजू तौलि के, तब मुख बाहर आनि।। – words are priceless, and so weigh your words well, before you speak.

Our ancestors placed a lot of importance on speech. They identified four levels of speech – Vaikhari, the lowest level, the spoken word and the outward expression of speech, Madhyama, the thoughts held in our mind, Pashyanti, or knowledge acquired without the adulteration of sight and reasoning, and Para-Vak, the highest form of sound.

In the modern world, people usually stop at Madhyama vak, or thoughts that are a factor of what we see and hear.

Some of these thoughts we express as Vaikhari, others we hold back. But even the thought held back has manifested, and so has a subtle effect on us and others.

Humility and good speech are the true markers of a good human being. Anything else is pretentious. Remember the old adage – people may forget what you say, but will never forget how you make them feel. And words have that effect – they can make you feel happy, or sad, angry or calm…

And so choose your words well. Why choose to speak harshly, when you can speak sweetly,

There is always an alternative. Wisdom is in weighing one’s words, understanding the implications, and then speaking.

Higher wisdom is in weighing thoughts, understanding the implications, and then thinking.

अनुद्वेगकरं वाक्यं सत्यं प्रियहितं च यत् |
स्वाध्यायाभ्यसनं चैव वाङ्मयं तप उच्यते || 15||

anudvega-karaṁ vākyaṁ satyaṁ priya-hitaṁ cha yat
svādhyāyābhyasanaṁ chaiva vāṅ-mayaṁ tapa uchyate

Words that do not cause distress, are truthful, inoffensive, and beneficial, as well as the regular self-introspection—these are declared as the austerity of speech.

Srimad Bhagvad Gita 17.15

मननत् त्रायते इति मंत्र:

Mananat trayate iti mantrahIt means that by repetition (mananat) of which, you overcome or are protected from troubles/cycle of births and deaths (trayate), it is (iti) called Mantra.

man is contemplation and tra is liberation – mantra brings liberation through reflection, and the same happens when one reflects on the sound of the breath.

Pundit Vamadeva Shastri (David Frawley) has written an excellent book on Mantra Yoga, and it’s subtleties. He speaks about the energies of a mantra, that depend on three factors:

Sound – The effect of the mantra relates to the nature of it’s sound, in it’s different vowels and consonants and the particularities of it’s pronunciation. Each sound has a certain quality that reflects the potential meaning that it can serve as a vehicle for. This is the ‘body‘ of the mantra.

Pranic Factor – This effect of the mantra depends on how the sound is made. The same sound can be made with more or less force, intensity, velocity or Prana, which will naturally alter it’s energy, meaning and impact. This is how the mantra is aligned with the breath, and is the ‘Prana‘ or ‘life-force’ of the mantra.

Mental Factor – This effect of the mantra depends upon how we energise it with thought, meaning, intention and emotion. This is the ‘mind and heart‘ of the mantra.

For example, take the AUM mantra. The sound factor relates to the (correct) pronunciation of “A”, “U”, and “M”, and in the correct ratio, without which, this just becomes a collection of mixed sounds. The panic factor takes into consideration the energy of the vibrations felt in the different parts of the body when reciting AUM. The mental factor, that is most important, takes into consideration your focus on intention and the surrender to the meaning of the AUM mantra.

A lot of yoga trainers take mantra japa classes, without taking these factors into consideration. A mantra pronounced incorrectly is not a mantra – it remains a sound that is unable to manifest anything useful. Yes, you may still get some lung exercise, but you didn’t come for just that, did you?

तस्य वाचकः प्रणवः 

tasya vācakaḥ praṇavaḥ 

Patanjali Yoga Sutras

The word for HIS being is OM.

पिताहमस्य जगतो माता धाता पितामह: ।
वेद्यं पवित्रम् ॐकार ऋक् साम यजुरेव च ॥ १७ ॥

pitāham asya jagato
mātā dhātā pitāmahaḥ
vedyaṁ pavitram oṁ-kāra
ṛk sāma yajur eva ca

Bhagavad Gīta 9.17

I am the father of this universe, the mother, the support and the grandsire. I am the object of knowledge, the purifier and the syllable Oṁ. I am also the Ṛg, the Sāma and the Yajur Vedas.

 ॐ मणिपद्मे हूँ


Auṃ maṇi padme hūṃ

in Mahayana Buddhism

ੴ, ਇੱਕ ਓਅੰਕਾਰ

Ik Onkar