Listening Skills

The Gurmat Wisdom of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) recommends Bhagti as the basis of divine Lifestyle (Gurmukh Lifestyle). In short, Bhagti in Sikhi is to (1) realize or awaken the Wisdom (Giaan) of the SGGS (Giaan Bhagti or Gurmat Bhagti) and Virtues (Rabbi Gun-ਗੁਣ) within, (2) and then live daily life accordingly!

Listening and Bhagti

Listening (hearing) to the Truth is one of the forms of Bhagti. Listening indicates developing a taste for listening to the Truth by which the mind is encouraged to think more often about the divine Qualities so that it becomes a continuous lifestyle.

  • ਹਰਿ ਭਗਤਿ ਦ੍ਰਿੜਾਵੈ ਹਰਿ ਭਗਤਿ ਸੁਣੈ ਤਿਸੁ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਮਿਲੀਐ ॥: One should meet the Satigur who (in the mind of a person) fixes Bhagti (with whom he) listens to Bhagti (with love). (sggs 168).

With an open mind filled with Bhagti, the Gurbani encourages us to develop listening skills. Because, it helps to understand the Gur-Shabad through listening with rapt attention.

  • ਸ੍ਰਵਨ ਸੁਨਨ ਭਗਤਿ ਕਰਨ ਅਨਿਕ ਪਾਤਿਕ ਪੁਨਹਚਰਨ ॥: Listening to (Naam), practicing (this) Bhagti – these are good deeds which make up for the past corrupt deeds. (sggs 1230).

Baabaa Nanak has devoted four stanzas of Japji Sahib to Proper listening (stanzas 8 through 11).

Develop true listening skills

Listening is an art. Volumes have been written on developing effective listening skills, and volumes have been written on how to become a good listener.

The Gurbani guides us in a few words as follows:

  • ਇੰਦ੍ਰੀ ਬਸਿ ਕਰਿ ਸੁਣਹੁ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ॥: By subduing the sensory organs (ਇੰਦ੍ਰਿਆਂ ਨੂੰ ਕਾਬੂ ਵਿਚ ਰੱਖ ਕੇ), listen to the divine Naam (Giaan or Wisdom). (sggs 299).
  • ਸੁਣਿ ਸੁਣਿ ਮੰਨਿ ਵਸਾਈਐ ਬੂਝੈ ਜਨੁ ਕੋਈ ॥: Enshrine (Naam) in mind by repeatedly listening it, but rare is the one who understands it. (sggs 1239).

The Gurbani here clearly tells us that true listening is not just through ears; it is with one’s whole being (Saabat). 

When one listens with the complete involvement of his whole being, then chances are you may appreciate the whole Message!

  • ਸੁਣਿ ਸਬਦੁ ਤੁਮਾਰਾ ਮੇਰਾ ਮਨੁ ਭੀਨਾ ॥: Listening your Shabad (Upadesh, Naam, Giaan or Wisdom...), my mind is soaked (with Naam). (sggs 1117).

Such proper listening then helps one understands what is being said beyond the words that are uttered, followed by application (practice, ਅਮਲ, ਕਮਾਣਾਂ)!

  • ਸੁਨਤ ਕਮਾਵਤ ਹੋਤ ਉਧਾਰ ॥: Deliverance is obtained through listening (Words of the Gurbani…) and acting on them (sggs 295).
  • ਜਿਨੀ ਸੁਣਿ ਕੈ ਮੰਨਿਆ ਤਿਨਾ ਨਿਜ ਘਰਿ ਵਾਸੁ ॥: Those who hear and believe (Naam), become established in their Own Home within (i.e., Mool, Jot Saroop, True Nature, Truth…). (sggs 27).

What prevents mind from rapt listening

The mind – the flow of thoughts – free to escape the senses carries stress, restlessness, illusory realm, waves of Maya, desire for sense-gratification, negativity, Bikaar (i.e., lust, anger, greed, etc.)etc.

Thus, the mind creates havoc through its power of imagination, wandering, imaginary fears of many sorts, exaggeration, concoction, mental dramatization, building castle in the air are due to this power of imagination or fancy.

In turn, all this prevent the mind from true listening.

  • ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹਿਆ ਵੇਖਣੁ ਸੁਨਣੁ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥: This mind is infatuated by Maya so much so, that it can not see and hear (Rabb). (sggs 83).
  • ਅਵਰਿ ਪੰਚ ਹਮ ਏਕ ਜਨਾ ਕਿਉ ਰਾਖਉ ਘਰ ਬਾਰੁ ਮਨਾ ॥ ਮਾਰਹਿ ਲੂਟਹਿ ਨੀਤ ਨੀਤ ਕਿਸੁ ਆਗੈ ਕਰੀ ਪੁਕਾਰ ਜਨਾ ॥੧॥ ਸ੍ਰੀ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮਾ ਉਚਰੁ ਮਨਾ ॥ ਆਗੈ ਜਮ ਦਲੁ ਬਿਖਮੁ ਘਨਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: O my mind! They are five (lust, anger, greed, etc.). I am but all alone. How can I protect my hearth and home (within, i.e., Virtues, Wisdom, good thoughts…). They daily kill and plunder (my Virtues, Wisdom, good thoughts…). Unto whom can I complain? (O my mind!) Utter the Naam of Raam; (because, stood) before you is (this) awful terrible, and numerous band of Jamm (i.e., lust, anger, greed, etc.). ||1||Pause|| (sggs 155).

In nutshell, the Gurbani urges us to empty or free our mind of demands of our defiled senses.

In other words, when the mind is free of the push and pull of the senses, listening then just happens!

Listening or reading the Gurbani is a mean, not the end!

Therefore, listening alone or hearing alone is not enough. After thorough understanding, it has to be followed by assimilation of what has been heard or read — fully practiced, implemented, lived in daily life, acted on, ਅਮਲ, ਕਮਾਈ, ‘ਸੁਣਿ ਮੰਨੇ’, ‘ਸੁਨਤ ਕਮਾਵਤ’). Otherwise, any listening or reading will create spiritual or ritual (Karamkaand) indigestion!

  • ਸੁਨਿ ਉਪਦੇਸੁ ਹਿਰਦੈ ਬਸਾਵਹੁ ॥: After listening to the Upadesh, enshrine it in the Heart (sggs 293).
  • ਸੁਣਿ ਸਿਖਿਐ ਸਾਦੁ ਨ ਆਇਓ ਜਿਚਰੁ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸਬਦਿ ਨ ਲਾਗੈ ॥: Hearing the Teaching (of the Shabad…), one does not appreciate or relish (that Teaching) so long — by becoming the Gurmukh — he is not affixed to the Shabad (i.e., so long that Teaching of the Shabad is not assimilated and lived…).(sggs 590).

In nutshell, without practiced, implemented, or application (ਅਮਲ, ਕਮਾਈ), the following edict of the Gurbani will apply to us:

  • ਗਲੀ ਅਸੀ ਚੰਗੀਆ ਆਚਾਰੀ ਬੁਰੀਆਹ ॥ ਮਨਹੁ ਕੁਸੁਧਾ ਕਾਲੀਆ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਚਿਟਵੀਆਹ ॥ ਰੀਸਾ ਕਰਿਹ ਤਿਨਾੜੀਆ ਜੋ ਸੇਵਹਿ ਦਰੁ ਖੜੀਆਹ ॥: We are good at talking, but our conduct is bad (ਮਾੜਾ ਚਾਲ-ਚਲਣ ਜਾਂ ਆਚਰਨ…). Mentally, we are impure and filthy, but outwardly, we appear pure and clean. (However) We imitate those (Bhagat) who are established at the (Divine) Door. (sggs 85).
  • ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਸੁਨਿ ਕਛੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਨ ਉਪਜਿਓ ਪਸੁ ਜਿਉ ਉਦਰੁ ਭਰਉ ॥: Listening to the Gurmat (Shabad-Giaan, Teaching of the Gurbani, etc.), (if) no Spiritual Wisdom (understanding of the Spiritual Life…) wells up within; (then it would be) like a beast (routinely) filling its belly (sggs 685).

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