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Volume XIV - The Smiling Forehead

Part II - The Deeper Side of Life

Chapter IV
The Gift of Eloquence

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'. 1 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 God within.

1) The verse Zaban-i shirin mulk-i girin may be a verbal form of  bā zabāne širin mulk rā migirid where migirid - migirin - girin is from the root giriftan, meaning: to take, to seize, to conquer .

checked 08-Nov-2006