What's NewLast Updated on 03 December 2013
Prabuddha BharataLatest Issue
Editorial : Who Speaks for You?
In today’s world no one has the time or energy to really hear each other any more. Most people are living their little lives as if it were a bubble. Moreover, in the process we are becoming deaf to ourselves and to nature around us. Everyone wants to be heard, but no one wants to hear others. No one wants to hear the innumerable complaints, generally exaggerated, of pain, frustration, sorrow, anguish, sickness, failed love, and so forth. However, there are genuine voices of hunger, poverty, and illness that mostly go unheard because they are disturbing and uncomfortable. The voices of power, bad leadership, lust, lies, greed, and so on drill their way into our consciousness making us restless and angry, but at the same time we turn away from the voices that speak to us of injustice, abuse, human trafficking, slavery, exploitation, and other evils because it is upsetting. This growing deafness and the despair of people of not being heard can be rectified: if you want to be heard, you have to hear others carefully. Of course, there are a few people who hear their inner voices and reach out to people in distress. They are the real leaders of society, because their voices represent and embody other voices.
Many are not heard even at home. When one is young, parents and teachers speak for you. As you grow older, maybe you wrongly learn that the priests and saints intercede for you. In a globalized economic world, the rich and powerful say they know what you want, but actually they only want your money. Even in a democracy, where citizens have a voice, that voice is too feeble to be heard in the babel of other voices. Politicians and leaders who are supposed to represent the people who voted for them do not speak up for what people want. In countries where there is no democracy, tyrants tell you what is good for you. Either way, the state often comes and tells you to stop shouting. You think you have a voice, an attitude, and an opinion, but your voice is lost in the morass of others’ voices, attitudes, and opinions.
In recent years people have been bypassing many of the huge old political, administrative, social, and financial institutions, and even the biased media, with the help of technology. Technology is empowering and liberating people and has enabled them to speak for themselves. We connect with others through social media sites that are becoming more strident and assertive. But even here, if there is no real constructive social dimension in the message, one’s voice fades into nothingness. The other side of technology engages people in frivolity and meanness, which spreads like wildfire in the cyber world. Then nature’s laws step in and rubbish the whole exercise. Whatever has universal value and voice is helped on by nature; whatever is small and selfish is cast into oblivion.
Humankind has the unique peculiarity of speaking one thing while meaning something else. We also change our opinions so quickly that we speak contradictory things and say different things to different people. If a political or social goal has been reached by a group, it is seenthat many dissenting voices rise again, break the unity, and create confusion. There is no lasting solution or peace when there is dissension, because we are never satisfied. We become united for a while only to fragment again.
Among the more than seven billion human voices, all clamouring to be heard, except for a few genuine human rights organizations, hardly anybody really speaks for you. And in this clamour, the voices of the past, other inhabitants of the earth—millions of species and beings—and the environment have mingled their voices. Are people totally voiceless, sidelined, and ignored? We have to consider that there are other representative voices that one rarely hears audibly. These are the silent voices of your ancestry, race, history, culture, religion, and language. On the individual level one’s character and achievements, which are in most part due to others, speak loudly and distinctly. Listening deep down one can hear the firing of billions of neurons in the brain, which translate into chatter and thoughts in the mind. All these neurons from different brains, human and non-human, create a vast neural network and produce a global mind. Go still deeper to find that the chromosomes and the genes they contain are chemically talking, while creating all life through the power of evolution. These genes also speak of the amazing unity of all life. Moreover, the genes have commandeered billions of bacterial life to inhabit each body. These first life forms also speak through their silent workings.
The whole of nature, insentient and sentient, speaks to us. Similarly, the Milky Way, including billions of other galaxies, speaks of the infinite extension of the universe. Our global voices are mingled with all these voices. One can also include the voices of all the gods and other celestial beings. Who speaks for whom? We all speak the one language of the universe! This language of the universe is unheard because of the individual voices of selfishness and vice. You must be able to listen to the still small inner voice, the voice of conscience, which tells you that unselfishness is more paying, compassion is more paying, and that living a life of smallness is living miserably. This mighty voice of the universe is speaking to us of our own infinitude, which is voiced in an ancient prayer of the Rig Veda: ‘Assemble, speak together; let your minds be all of one accord, as ancient gods unanimous sit down to their appointed share. The place is common, common the assembly, common the mind, so be your thought united. A common purpose do I lay before you, and worship with your general oblation. One and the same be your resolve, and be your minds of one accord. United be the thought of all so that all may happily agree.’
Your life depends on the whole, and until you speak the language of life and the universe, the universe and life will not bother hearing you; if you can speak the language of life, humanity, and the world, you will be heard, for you will then represent the whole. This is the goal of Vedanta, which declares that the one Reality has become many through maya. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad puts this idea forcefully: ‘The worlds reject one who knows them as different from the Atman. The gods reject one who knows them as different from the Atman. Beings reject one who knows them as different from the Atman. All reject one who knows all as different from the Atman. … These worlds, these gods, these beings, and this All are the Atman.’ When you understand this secret, the power of the whole universe will flow through your thoughts, words, and deeds. Your little voice will go and in its stead will arise the voice of infinity. Then you will truly speak and be heard.