Just Listen!

Many people wish to lead a balanced spiritual life by nurturing divine thoughts. The intent is excellent. But, practically speaking, how easy is it to actually focus the mind on spiritual matters? Honestly… not that easy, right?
Consider this: our minds have been accustomed to dwelling on worldly matters for millions and millions of janmas (births). How then—all of a sudden in this birth—can we easily focus the mind towards spirituality? It certainly isn’t a simple task!
When we make the mistake of taking a step in the wrong direction, away from dharma and spirituality, we are most often aware of it. In fact, we are almost always aware of any mistake that we commit in life. Yet we are unable to avoid it because it has become habitual. It’s like watching ourselves fall, yet be unable to pull ourselves back up.
Yes, habits are indeed that powerful! How do we break free from such a dead weight of ‘dead’ habits? Is there a way? Is there light in the end of the seemingly endless dark tunnel?
Just listen!
When we read about the beauty of the snow-capped Himalayas in a travel magazine we feel like visiting the Himalayas. When we see the picture of a gorgeous dress in a shopping catalog, we crave that dress. When we read about the thrill of riding the steepest roller coaster in the world, it fires the adventurous spirit in us. But what if we hear the vivid descriptions, not from a book, but from a friend who actually climbed the Himalayan heights, who is actually wearing that beautiful dress, or has actually experienced that spine-chilling roller-coaster ride? Now the desire is deeper, much deeper, right? So the answer is clear.
Just listen!
Constantly listening to spiritual matters and about the lives of Mahatmas is the simplest way to break free. But is it enough to listen just once? We forget about the Himalayas once we get back to the mundane reality of our lives. But in the case of spirituality, that is the true reality that we cannot afford to forget. It is not enough to read or hear about spirituality just once because the mind will indulge in sattvic (good) thoughts for a while and run back to worldly affairs at the slightest chance. So what should we do?
Just listen repeatedly!
We need to constantly listen to spiritual matters till the mind dwells on nothing but pure harmonious (saatvic) thoughts. Shravanam (listening) is one of the nine forms of Bhakti. We even have a shining example in King Parikshit who attained Moksha by doing only shravanam. We know, in our hearts, that listening to one who speaks superfluous worldly gossip is wrong. But in the same vein, failing to listen to one who speaks healthy spiritual matters is worse. God has bestowed on us the power of hearing and speech, just so that we will constantly hear and speak about Him and attain Him.
What an easy path this is, to inner transformation and spiritual awakening!

(Based on Sri Swamiji’s article in Tamil, Madhuramurali magazine, August 1995)