The Role of Listening in Meditation

In the practice of meditation, listening plays a significant role. It encompasses both listening to the words of the teacher and the act of “just listening.” When a teacher speaks during meditation, their intention is not to engage your intellectual or rational mind in a conventional communication. Instead, their purpose is unique – to create moments of silence. The words themselves are not of utmost importance; it is the spaces between the words that hold the primary significance. This technique serves as a means to offer you a glimpse into the experience of meditation. Once you realize that it is possible for your mind to be silent, you have already made great progress towards connecting with your true essence.

Many people in the world believe that achieving a state of mental silence is impossible. Due to this belief, they never attempt to cultivate such stillness. My fundamental motivation for speaking is to provide people with a taste of meditation. I could continue speaking indefinitely; the content of my words is irrelevant. What truly matters is that I offer you opportunities to experience silence, which can initially be challenging to attain on your own. I cannot force you to be silent, but I can create a conducive environment where silence emerges naturally. As I speak, there will be moments when, in the midst of a sentence, instead of continuing with another word, I leave a silent gap. Your mind, anticipating the next word, becomes still in order to catch any potential message. What else can the mind do in such a situation? If you knew in advance when I would be silent, you might engage in your own internal dialogue during those moments. However, because the silence arises unexpectedly, your mind naturally falls into silence as well.

If this were a conventional oratory situation, the frequent pauses in speech would be criticized. It would imply that the speaker is unprepared or lacks a reliable memory. However, because this is not a typical oratory setting, such concerns are irrelevant. My focus is solely on you, the listener. This approach applies not only to those present in this gathering but also to individuals listening to the recording or watching the video anywhere in the world. They, too, will experience the same silence. My success is not measured by convincing you of anything; rather, it lies in providing you with a genuine taste of meditation. This taste instills confidence within you, assuring you that meditation is not a mere concept but a tangible reality. It demonstrates that you possess the capability to experience it and that no special qualifications are necessary.

When you listen meditatively, your understanding deepens. Conversely, when you listen with concentration, your focus is on acquiring knowledge. Concentration is a pathway to knowledge; it involves being tense and eager to learn and absorb information. On the other hand, meditation requires a relaxed and open state of being. Meditative listening is not driven by a desire to accumulate knowledge; instead, it aims to understand. These two modes of listening are distinct. If your intention is to know, you will find yourself attempting to memorize what is being said. Deep down, you repeat the words, taking mental notes. You strive to etch them into your memory, fearing that you might forget. This approach leads to the accumulation of knowledge. However, the same information could have been approached differently – as a means of unlearning and understanding. In this case, you would simply listen without the need to store the information in your memory. It would be akin to listening to music, the chirping of birds, the rustling of wind through trees, or the sound of water in a waterfall. There is no need to remember; the act of listening itself is beautiful, ecstatic, and blissful. Listen to meditation teachings meditatively, not with concentration.

In most educational institutions, concentration is emphasized because the goal is to memorize. However, in meditation, the goal is not to accumulate knowledge but to unlearn and let go. Listen silently, without concern that you might forget. There is no need to remember everything; only that which is unnecessary needs to be remembered. By letting go of the need to accumulate knowledge, you open yourself up to a profound experience of meditation.