Power of words

Power of words

Words can inspire and words can destroy , choose wisely

Robin Sharma

Almost all of the world’s thinkers, philosophers, and Gurus have told us that words have power and to use words wisely, yet we humans have seldom given them due importance. Every religion and belief system in some shape or form has advised us to be cautious of what we speak, especially when we are angry or extremely happy. 

In the Bible, The gospel of John begins with the following verse “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The power of sound and vibrations is what gave birth to our universe, in Hinduism the Omkar naad is said to be the absolute truth.

The effect of sound and words can be seen on water molecules and plants, the structure of water molecules as crystals changes as per the sound exposed. Dr. Emoto, a Japanese scientist has done research on water samples exposed to different words and emotions and was shocked to find that when kind and positive words or music was played the crystals formed beautifully, and when unkind words or distorted music was played the crystals had malformed and shapeless. We are made up of 70% water and yet we walk around claiming “it’s just words and words don’t affect us?”, seriously it is time we took a long hard look at the way we are conducting ourselves as civilized members of the society. See below the video of his research and the water molecule shapes.

All religions also have special prayers before every meal, and it is customary to bless the food or offer it to god first before consuming it, never thought why this exists. Most of the time we reject these as mere rituals but more and more research is coming out to prove that water has memory. Sadhguru also has spoken of the importance of blessing the water we drink, that what carries the energies and intentions of those that hold it.

The other thing I noticed is that, religious leaders and spiritual practitioners refrain from eating outside or at anyone’s house, they have become so sensitive to energies that they need to protect themselves from any negative influence even an out-of-balance thought of the ones cooking and serving the food. We Indians all have a special sentiment that food cooked by a mother is always tastier and it does taste better than any chef, even if you prepare the food with the exact same recipe, the two main ingredients of care and love cannot be replaced. Even recipes cooked with different water sources taste different. I am sharing all of this to remind us that we are 70% water and words spoken and heard have an effect on us whether we notice or not, whether we want to admit it or not. 

I was discussing with a few friends, hailing from various spheres of society and we all seemed to agree that despite being educated so many people are extremely verbally abusive. Especially behind closed doors and towards family members. They justify it by saying they cannot control what they say when they are angry, a convenient excuse. They always expect the victims to forgive and forget because these are mere words. But the wounds they leave behind are deep, and they do not realize that words once spoken remain as energy in the universe. One cannot just forget, they affect the person who spoke them as much as the person they are spoken to. Since the damage is not instant like with a weapon, it is a bit difficult to wrap our heads around it and that is understandable, but we need to start having conversations around this topic more often. 

It is not just about being nice and being civilized, it is beyond that. This topic of the power of words is multifaceted, so I am going to break it down and share examples, bear with me, it will all tie up at the end.

Let me start as usual with a story from our Indian Epic, Ramayana. Lord Rama accepted exile for 14 years because his father had promised his stepmother two boons and she asked for Rama’s exile and her biological son, Bharata to be made the king. Shortly after Lord Rama accepted this exile and left for the forest with his wife, Goddess Sita, and his younger brother Lakshmana, his father passed away of heartbreak. His father felt guilty for having given those boons and could not bear being separated from his beloved son. His stepbrother Bharata was extremely devoted to Lord Rama, the decision of the exile was taken when he was not in the city and was shocked once he came back. He had never wanted the kingdom, all he wanted was to serve his elder brother. He was extremely angry at his mother and soon she realized her mistake. Her anger at her husband had cost her a split in her own family.

The entire kingdom went into mourning. Once they got to know that Bharata wanted to bring back Lord Rama from exile, they decided to join him. Everyone wanted Lord Rama to take over a kingdom that was rightfully his. They tracked him down in the forest of Chitrakoot and went to him to convince him to come back. They laid out an argument that his father who had given the boons was dead and hence there was no need to fulfill them. His stepmother said she did not want those two boons and she takes them back and he should come back home to become the King. Lord Rama listens to all the arguments but refuses to go back. He will return only after the 14 years of exile, not because he was too proud, not because he wanted to torture his stepmother emotionally, but because he wanted us to learn the lesson of the power of words and promises. He said words once spoken remain in this universe. They resound even after the person is no more, they continue to hold power, if he goes back now the words of his father will be disrespected and dharma states that he must complete his father’s promises. Think about this for a few minutes, it may seem like a drastic move to prove a point, and yes it is exactly that. The severity of his decision was to engrave in the minds of people to take their words seriously. This is a great lesson for us to understand the consequences of what we say, his father gave those two boons to his stepmother in a happy and extremely emotional state of mind as she had saved his life in a war. His stepmother, who loved Lord Rama more than her own son, used those two boons when she was extremely angry at his father, the consequence was their son had to live in exile and the entire family went into mourning.

You may feel that you are someone important, so your words may not carry that much power, but you would be wrong. It is not you who has the power, words themselves have power whether a person is great or small, young or old, pious or a thief. Wise men speak less but when they do, their energy is so strong that people listen. Many spiritual practices give importance to silence, the 10-day Vipassana meditation camp is solely based on silencing the self and going within, and people have reported remarkable changes in themselves. In India, we do a silent fast called Moun Vrath where you decide not to speak for a day or more.

When we are angry most of the time and we are shouting at people around us constantly, whether at work or at home, when we just do not know how to shut up, it depletes our soul power and harms those around us. We must express ourselves, but learn to do it with grace and poise, especially in anger, when you want to be stern and get your message across. I remember watching a Hindi movie, one of the scenes depicted this so well : There is an orphanage run by a respected retired old man. One day a well-educated & rich couple comes to the orphanage to adopt a child. They look at the children qued up and happen to like one, but as they get to know a bit more, they reject the child and end up insulting the child and the people around. These are clearly arrogant individuals also they are proud of their wealth and status. The founder of the orphanage, the retired old man quietly looks at them and says “Leave”. He does not say anything else, he repeats it once again with a stern voice, “Leave” and the effect is so much more than anything else he could have said, they understand they overstepped and leave. It was nicely captured and guess who played the role of the founder? Amitabh Bacchan, that man’s voice has the depth and poise that can relay a message so subtly yet sternly. There is not always a need to cuss or yell to get your point across, it is more effective when you respect and realize the power of words.

Since the wounds caused by words are not seen and the effects are not immediate, we tend to always underestimate them. In relationships, everything may be forgiven but words and how they made us feel are never forgotten. It is sad to see spouses being so verbally abusive to each other, I have heard way too many real-life experiences and it saddens me. It is alright to disagree, to get angry, to even despise someone for some time but do not use words to hurt someone, these words can cut through the soul and the soul can carry these wounds through lifetimes. When you hurt someone so deep, that affects your soul too and you will have that much more baggage to sort out before you leave this earth. You may or may not believe in curses, but every country has stories, folktales, epics, and mythological tales mentioning curses and how they can affect us. What exactly is a curse? When I thought about it, my definition is when you hurt someone so deeply that their soul is hurt, the pain blinds the person and he/she curses some ill fate on you so that you feel the hurt they feel. Not entirely as revenge, it is deeper than that, revenge is planned and plotted and it feeds the ego, a curse is the spur of the moment words that come from within, these are not calculated and not controlled. The power in a curse is immense because of just this, it comes from deep within, from the source energy from the inner soul. Does that mean it is justified? I do not have an answer for this, I definitely feel we should avoid cursing someone if we are aware of the deep hurt and if we can prevent it. We must evolve to a state where we do not let anything hurt us so deeply that we need to curse. Does it make the curser right and the cursed to be evil? Not at all, Lord Krishna was cursed by Queen Gandhari at the end of Mahabharata and he had to watch the curse pan out in time. One must not give up righteous action for fear of curses, but one must be ready to face the consequences of one’s actions. 

I am sure all of you believe in prayers and blessings and there are countless examples of the miracles of prayers and blessings especially from parents. In the book, Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, there is a chapter on Luther Burbank, a botanist, and horticulturist who developed more than 800 strains and varieties of plants in his career. He created the spineless cacti, cactus without thorns and he said he would talk to the plants and create a vibration of love, and tell the plants there is nothing to fear, they are safe, they don’t need thorns to protect themselves, gradually a thornless variety emerged. Swami Paramahansa Yogananda called Luther burbank his “American Saint”. I remember when I was little, we had many potted plants, roses, and other flowering plants on our terrace. My mother recalls I would talk to the plants, if two roses bloomed in adjacent pots, I would introduce them to each other. It is amazing how much we lose as we are groomed by society, children in their Alpha and Theta brain waves are so connected to energy.

How do we then ensure that we respect words? Does it mean we should be serious and speak little and not crack jokes? Not at all, comedy is required in life to lighten things and laugh out loud. We need to be cognizant that we do not intentionally hurt someone in the name of entertainment. The concept of roasting is cruel, I am not sure who invented it and why it is required for a good laugh, we all have been desensitized to insults wrapped up and served as roasts. Some of the roasts are so dehumanizing I do not understand how society can accept them. It is whether we are too sensitive to teasing or too tough that nothing bothers us, it is not about individual outlooks, it is whether or not we respect ourselves and other humans enough to understand the fine line we cross, it is about core values. The question to ask yourself is, as a person am I ok with insulting another human in the name of comedy? Some of the roasts I have seen in the media are ruthless and so demeaning that they cross the limits of respect all wrapped up under the umbrella of “Creative expression”. You are a human being first, then a member of this society and part of the fabric. Creative expression does not give you a free pass to start tearing up this fabric and in the process harming your own soul with the karma created. There are still many stand-up comedians who can create humor without personally attacking anyone or calling names. I hope you understand that when I say the power of words it applies to every aspect of life.

When we look at Sanskrit mantras, there are so many studies that show the effect of chanting on our minds, it helps calm us and focus better. The sound vibrations of chanting go through each cell of the body, remember we are 70% water. If any of you have experienced a Tibetan singing bowl, you will understand how powerful sound is on physical effects on our bodies. Mantras also create positive vibrations sent out to the universe and collective consciousness. There are spiritual organizations not just within India but in the US too that have commissioned Sanskrit pandits to chant for the collective consciousness, the fire rituals or homas and havans in Hinduism are not just pomp and show, these mantras, when recited in the right meter with the right intention, have the power to spread positivity and help humanity as a whole.

 Even when dealing with animals I have observed that patience and loving words can earn their trust more than punishment and scolding. Getting animals to obey without punishment, for them to be able to trust the handler, voice, tone, and words play a big role. The species that can teach patience are birds. Dogs, and even big cats can be trained by inducing fear, but not birds. Birds are prey animals and are naturally hyper-alert and it is not easy to earn their trust. You cannot hit a bird and make it do your will, they are delicate and hence that will never work. One needs to be patient and persistent, and let the bird trust you, once it does, you can make it do anything. Only kind words, patience and encouragement will help you there. They do not understand human language, but the intentions, vibrations, body language, tone , they read everything.

As an individual, I believe in words, in promises, and in curses as well as blessings. No one is perfect but if we do not try we will not know. Let us practice silence, let us observe our words, let us observe ourselves, for example, the next 24 hrs, make a mental note of what topics you talk/discuss with your friends/family/colleagues through the day. Just observe and make a mental note, you will be shocked with the results. When I did this over a year ago, I realized how much I was complaining. I could not recognize this person. I always thought I was optimistic and happy go-lucky, which is truly how I am, but I couldn’t believe how much I complained through that day. I observed this pattern had been developing over time and that day I decided I will make changes, I will become conscious of what I speak and try to find solutions for my complaints. This is not an easy task and even now I have to remind myself to be conscious but I will get there one day. We are creating our destiny as we live each day and if that day is filled with complaining, whining, cursing, abusing someone else, what destiny are you creating? 

We may be leading simple lives, and what we do day in and day out may seem to be insignificant, yet we carry the power to correct ourselves. To create teams and work cultures at offices that do not need training on respectful communication. We can raise children that understand the importance of their words but this can only be done if we lead by example. A child who sees his father abuse his mother every day, cannot be expected to suddenly respect women. We have become so used to demanding from governments this and that and all kinds of conveniences we do not see the huge responsibility we have as citizens of not just this nation but this world. The power our choices have in changing the course of the world. How wonderful will our countries be if we raise children who will be respectful and responsible adults and contributing citizens of the world?

You can start right now, being conscious of what you speak, even when the person you are dealing with deserves to be in hell, even then how you use your power of speech will decide the strength of your character and in turn, decide the burdens your soul will carry ahead. If we as consumers demand respectful content, the media industry will have to deliver, last 7-8 years I have watched the stories get more and more violent, abusive and the language degrade all in the name of entertainment and I am not saying this sitting on a high horse, I have also watched these series and movies, but now when I look back, being healthy is not limited to the food we consume, a lot has to do with the media we consume. Conscious decisions on watching what is good for my mental and emotional state is a priority rather than just to fit into conversations with peers, this has helped me tremendously. This ties back with the topic of the power of words, our subconscious absorbs like a sponge and we start using words, tones, and attitudes from the media we consume. Have you ever experienced walking out of a movie theatre and all pumped up like that action hero you just watched? Like you too had superpowers? 

In conclusion, words are powerful, what we speak, what we hear, what we repeat, what we normalize, what we impose on our friends and family, and what we select to watch in media everything sculpts our inner environment and decides our destiny. Do the 24-hour observation of what you discuss and talk most about and then make a conscious decision for yourself and for the human collective. Let us clean up our speech not just clean up our physical environment, and watch the changes that happen around us. One person at a time can give birth to an entire revolution.

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