So before we enter this mystery, some points have to be understood; otherwise, there will be no entrance.
One is how to listen, because there are different dimensions of listening. You can listen with your intellect, with your reason. Mm? – that is one way of listening to a thing: the most common, the most ordinary and the most shallow – because with reason you are always either in defense or in attack. With reason you are always fighting, so whenever someone tries to understand something through reason he is fighting with the thing. At the most, a very rudimentary understanding is possible, just an acquaintance is possible. The deeper meaning is bound to be missed because the deeper meaning requires a very sympathetic listening.
Reason can never listen with sympathy. It listens with a very argumentative background. It can never listen with love; that is impossible. So listening with reason is good if you are trying to understand mathematics, if you are trying to understand logic, if you are trying to understand any system which is totally rational.
If you listen to poetry with reason, then you will be blind. It is as if one is trying to see with one’s ears or hear with one’s eyes. You cannot understand poetry through reason. So there is a deeper understanding, the second type of understanding, which is not through reason but through love, through feeling, through emotion, through heart.
Reason is always in conflict; reason will not allow anything to pass in easily. Reason must be defeated; only then can something penetrate. It is an armor around the mind; it is a defense method, a defense measure. It is alert every moment that nothing should pass without it being aware, and that nothing should be allowed – unless reason is defeated. And even when reason is defeated the thing is not going to your heart, because in defeat you cannot feel sympathetic.
The second dimension of listening is through heart, through feeling. Someone is listening to music; then no analysis is needed. Of course, if you are a critic, then you will not be able to understand music. You may be able to understand the mathematics, the meter, the language, everything about music – but never music itself; because music cannot be analyzed. It is a whole. It is a totality. If you wait for a single second to analyze it, you have missed much. It is a flowing totality. Of course, paper music can be analyzed, but never real music when it is there, playing. So you cannot stand aloof, you cannot be an observer. You have to be a participant. If you participate, only then do you understand.
So with feeling, the way of understanding is through participation. You cannot be an observer; you cannot stand outside. You cannot make music an object. You have to flow with it, you have to be deeply in love with it. There will be moments when you will not be and only music will be there. Those will be the peaks; those moments will be the moments of music. Then something penetrates to your deeper being. This is a deeper way of listening, but it is still not the deepest.
The first way is through reason – rational; the second is through feeling – emotional; and the third is through being – existential. When you listen through your reason, you are listening through one part of your being. Again, when you listen through your feeling, you are listening through one part of your being. The third, the deepest, the most authentic dimension of listening, is through your totality – body, mind, spirit – as a whole, as a oneness. If you understand this third way of listening, only then will you be able to penetrate the mystery of the Upanishad.
The traditional term for this third listening is “faith”. So we can divide: through reason the method is doubt; through feeling the method is love, sympathy; through being the method is faith, trust – because if we are going into the unknown, how can you doubt? You can doubt the known, but that which is not known at all – how can you doubt it?
Doubt becomes valid if it is concerned with the known. With the unknown, doubt is just impossible. How can you love the unknown? You can love the known. You cannot love the unknown; you cannot create a relationship with the unknown. Relationship is impossible. You cannot relate with it. You can dissolve into it – that is another thing – but you cannot relate with it. You can surrender to the unknown, but you cannot relate to it. And surrender is not a relationship. It is not a relationship at all! It is just dissolving the duality.
So with reason the duality remains: you are in conflict with the other. With love the duality remains: you are in sympathy with the other. But with being the duality dissolves: you are neither in conflict nor in love; you are not related at all. This third is known traditionally as faith, trust – shraddha. As far as the unknown is concerned, faith is the key.
If someone says, “How can I believe” then he misunderstands, then he misses the very point. Faith is not belief. Belief is, again, a rational thing. You can believe; you can disbelieve. You can believe because you have arguments for believing; you can disbelieve because you have arguments for disbelieving. Belief is never deeper than reason. So theists, atheists, believers, nonbelievers, they all belong to the most shallow realm. Faith is not belief, because for the unknown there is no reason for or against. You can neither believe nor disbelieve.
So what remains to be done? You can either be open to it or you can be closed to it. It is not a question of believing or not believing. It is a question of being open or being closed to it. If you trust, then you open. If you distrust, then you remain closed. This is just a key. If you want to open to the unknown, then you will have to be in trust, in faith. If you do not want to be open to it, you can remain closed – but no one is missing except you; no one is at a loss except you. You will remain closed like a seed. When I say it, I mean it.
A seed has to break, has to die; only then is the tree born. But the seed has never known the tree. The dying of the seed can happen only in faith. The tree is unknown, and the seed will never meet the tree. The seed can remain closed in fear – in fear of death. Then the seed will remain a seed and will die ultimately, without being reborn. But if the seed can die in faith that the unknown may be born out of its death. only then does it open. In a way it dies, in a way it is reborn – reborn into greater mysteries, reborn into a richer life. The same is the phenomenon with faith. So it is not belief: never misunderstand it as belief. It is not feeling. It is deeper than both: it is your totality.
So how to listen with one’s totality? With neither reason functioning in antagonism nor feeling functioning in sympathy, but with the totality of one’s being. How can the totality function? Because we know only functions of the parts, we do not know how the totality functions. We know only parts – this part functioning, that part functioning, intellect working, the heart functioning, the legs moving, the eyes seeing. We know only parts functioning. How does the totality function? The totality functions only in a deep passivity. Nothing is active; everything is silent. You are not doing anything. You are just here – just presence – and the doors open. Only then will you be able to understand what the Upanishad’s message is. So your simple presence is needed – no doing on your part, no functioning. That is what is meant by total functioning – just your presence. […]
This is what I mean when I say that if you can listen not with your past, not with your future, but with such a totality that in the present moment only your presence remains; if you can listen silently, passively; if you can just be present here and now; if this very moment is enough – then a different dimension will open. And the Upanishadic message can penetrate only in that dimension.
From The Ultimate Alchemy, V.1, Discourse #1
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For a related post see Become the Listening.