Of words and tongues, silence and knowing

Words find you.

A re-reading of a book on yoga pointed me to Ananda Coomaraswamy and from then on it was a cascading into Indian culture and regional literature. I picked up books I had with me for a while and proceeded to get hold of a few more until I was swept away in the sheer volume and brilliance of thought and language. And these are translations in English. It made me want to listen to them in their original, so I found myself listening and watching related works in Malayalam, Kannada, Tamil, Marathi and Hindi. It’s something we take for granted in this country, being conversant in multiple languages. I had never really stopped to consider a proficiency in multiple tongues but that’s something I’ve started to rectify by including more of their flavours in my consumption.

There’s something about regional languages, at once a particular lineage of a family/community tongue as well as a transmission of collective memory of spaces, times, events and associations that come down the ages. A continuum of sounds, unbroken as generations of their vibrations spill from womb to womb until they reach the present individual. I’m reminded of a line from a movie I recently watched, “From the first human hand print on a cave wall, we’re part of something continuous”. And as the species evolves, memories associated with words begin to fade away keeping time with the experience of living changes from one that used to be deeply rooted in the rhythm of the natural world to one where we rearrange time and space. Sangam literature, for example, is rich with descriptions of the landscapes of their action but many of the scenes that come alive in their verses are no longer quite the reference for our expressions of emotions and thoughts.

The need for information is greater than knowledge and so we tend to approach meaning directly when an oblique reaching out and patient receiving would perhaps reveal its meaning in a different, multi-dimensional way. I suppose darsanam that is spoken about is probably a result of something similar. It is something I have observed during time on the mat as I settle into shapes of the body and breath and let the mind expand without resisting. Things express themselves, connections make themselves apparent. The meditations on conjunctions in one of the Upanishads provide a valuable clue in how one might approach this way of knowing, a subjective, experiential one as opposed to an objective one. Over time, much of these intuitive sensations and experiences are validated through an objective exploration.

I’ve often wondered how it might be if we lived in a world without language. Our first expression is sound, the wailing as we enter a world of senses. The same Upanishad begins with a reminder about phonetics and progresses from there on. That’s how language begins for all of us- varna, swara, matraa, balam, saam, santaanah. It is through being washed in sound that we learn language. And silence is probably the most eloquent of all languages. It is in silence that we begin to hear, life pulsating within the body, the songs of the breeze as it moves through trees, bird sounds, the music of waves or the stunning quietude of mountains.

Perhaps, I have broken a magical spell by writing here but it felt like a moment to emerge from a cocoon and fly, if only for a day.

A smattering of current reads that decided to come along for a ride.

8 thoughts on “Of words and tongues, silence and knowing

  1. That’s quite a collection of languages that you follow. My smattering of Tamil is not sufficient to allow me to understand Malayalam and Kannada. But I realize that I can read Dzongkha and Tibetan because of the script. Yes, the relationships between languages here is a wonderful thing to live.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Does information ever becomes knowledge? Or it has to only be experienced to be lived by each cell present in us?

    Sometime back i heard an incident about a servant who was staying with the family for several decades, used to ask guests, whosoever came to the house on demand, to tell him the difference between swar and vyanjan! if anyone who couldn’t answer this was told of not worthy of a ‘human life’.

    I have imagined time and again that South Indians are the most continuous, evolving people with an unbroken history, negligible resistance as compared to Kurukshetra region here in the north, with language going back to almost samskritam period, and much more they can, at least considerably understand Hindi and English; South Indians are a lot expressive and have been the true carriers of dharma as a whole.

    Happy to have been swept by this broken magic spell.

    What is the last book, the black cover?

    Nara x

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Such a lovely meditation, I feel the flow of thoughts coursing through the words placed on the page. I envy the access to languages you have (we have many languages in Canada but the immersive opportunities do not readily exist). I have loved losing myself in spaces where I do not understand the language (like in India) — I only wish I had not come into this desire so late. Of course earlier I would not have been in the position to travel, to visit places where English is not so ubiquitous. I have, however, long loved foreign language films and music. On the occasions when I listen to music when running, I almost always listen to music with lyrics I don’t understand.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I wish you get to travel soon and once again indulge in the sounds and rhythms of music of other lands.
      I love music in other languages too, perhaps not understanding the meanings helps in a better tasting, a bit like how instrumental music speaks.

      Liked by 1 person

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