WHEN WE consider the four kingdoms – the mineral, vegetable,
animal kingdoms and mankind – we see that not man alone
but also every other being has the gift of expression. The
rock expresses least and we feel least for it; we strike
it and break it and quarry it. We make use of it in every
way and we do not sympathize with it at all, because it
does not speak to us; it tells us very little. We sympathize
much more with the plant. We love it, we give it water,
we tend it, and because it has more expression we care more
for it. Among the stones there are some that speak more
to us; the diamond, the ruby, the emerald we prize very
much. We pay thousands of pounds for them; we are glad to
have them, to wear them.
The animal has much more the gift of expression than
the plant or the rock, and we feel that animals are much
nearer to us. The dog by wagging his tail, by jumping about,
by every movement says, 'I love you', and we care much more
for him. We do not want the plant on the chair next to us,
but if the dog sits on the chair it is all right. The cat
has no words, but by its voice it speaks to us. All the
poets of the East have spoken of the nightingale because
of its voice, its expression. There are many birds in the
forests of which we never think because they have no voice,
but the song-birds we all know and we like to have a parrot
because it speaks. Allah has made man the khalifa, the chief
of creation for this one thing, his tongue: man alone has
the gift of eloquence.
Among men we see that some are like the rock, others
like the plant or like the animal and some have the human
quality. The man who is like a rock has not much expression;
he has no magnetism. He has only that which is in his appearance,
just like the stones have, the emerald, the ruby; when that
appearance is gone nothing is left. The man who is like
a plant has no intelligence, only some feeling, some personality.
Either is there some fragrance of the personality, some
beauty, or he is like a thorn, or there is poison. When
man is like an animal he has feelings, passions, but he
cannot give them expression. Only that man is a human being
who has the gift of expression, who speaks out what he feels.
The gift of eloquence is called by the Hindus Vak Devi,
the goddess of speech. They have distinguished three sorts
of beings, Rakshasa, the monster, he who is without speech
and without feeling, Manushya, the man who has feeling but
lacks expression, and Devata the godlike man, he who has
eloquence. It is his eloquence alone that makes him godlike.
The word was in the beginning before the creation of
man. Neither the rock, nor the plant, nor the animal could
speak out that word which was from the beginning. It is
only man who expresses it; he gives expression to that which
existed first. When he expresses it he becomes the pen of
the divine Being. Therefore in him the creation is perfected
and he is the highest of all beings.
To speak and by speech to hurt, to wound the heart, the
feelings of another, is the misuse of eloquence. There is
a Persian verse, 'Zaban-i shirin mulk-i girin. A
sweet tongue wins the world'.
The tongue, like a sword, has two aspects: it wins and it
slays. A sharp tongue kills and a sweet tongue conquers
the world. The same idea is expressed in the Gospels, 'Blessed
are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth'.
The world is like a dome in which whatever is spoken
comes back to us. If we say, 'How beautiful', 'how beautiful'
comes back to us. If we say, 'You stupid', the echo comes
back, 'you stupid'. A man may think, 'I have so many servants,
I am such a great person, I shall say what I please'. But
some day the echo of his bad words will come back to him.
Sometimes a person does not wish to speak badly to his
friend so as to hurt him, but without wishing to speak badly,
he does so, because his mind is full of the bad impressions
he has stored there. Therefore we should store up only good
impressions, and not keep the others with us, that only
good may come from us.
There are two ways of speaking on a subject. Before speaking
a person may ponder upon a subject and then speak with all
the reasonings that come to him. This is parrot-speech;
he repeats what he has learned, as the parrot says some
words because he has been taught them.
The store of eloquence, knowledge, is always ready within,
and the other way of speaking is to depend upon that store,
that knowledge. Then the tongue speaks out what is always
there in readiness; the knowledge, eloquence, is always
there but it is shut off from us. In order to open up that
knowledge an arrow is needed. The arrow is the deep feeling
that pierces through to that knowledge. If we see a crooked
person walking in the street it is very easy to laugh; it
is so absurd. But a little feeling will produce pity, and
a deep feeling will bring the expression of pity and compassion.
Why do Hindus call eloquence devi? Why goddess, why not
god? Because the speaker is responsive to the creator, the