There is an inner state of listening, called Shravana in Vedanta, where the mind is silent, receptive and non-reactive, allowing it to access a higher level of communication and learning.
This meditative of listening called Shravana holds an inner space in which the real meaning of anything said can be revealed. It is an attentive and discerning listening with a mind free of opinions, prejudices and attachments, removing the dense veil of our programmed responses.
Shravana is the basis of true learning and communication on all levels, in which the truth of any statement is revealed, not just outer words. It is the basis of higher education, which is not merely learning words, ideas or numbers but contacting the essence of the cosmic reality within and around us.
Yet few people know how to enter into this profound state of listening, or even know of its existence or value. It is not taught in our schools or so-called institutes of higher learning. This is because our minds are conditioned and we respond to what is said to us according our inherent likes and dislikes, fears or desires, beliefs and opinions. The result of this lack of true listening is mental conflict within and around us, with no one is really listening to each other. Instead people are shouting at each other or creating propaganda to impose their views on others whose own views they have yet to hear.
How to Truly Listen
Without Shravana you cannot really hear or appreciate the sounds of nature. In fact, the deepest level of listening occurs when we are alone in nature, abiding in a state of observation. This leads us to recognizing all of nature as the voice of the universal Self that is our own true nature.
We enter into Shravana to some degree when our minds are calmed by inspirational music or chanting, but that is an initial phase. Only when our minds are inwardly silent can we truly listen or hear the real truth and act according to it. Otherwise our mental noise colors and obscures all that we hear. Without Shravana, deep thinking, contemplation or meditation cannot occur, as our thoughts remain at the surface, reacting mechanically to outer forces without any real internal discernment of our own.
In the Vedantic view, Shravana is the first stage of true knowledge. First we must deeply listen to the teachings with a focused mind and receptive heart. We must let the inner truth that is being taught enter into us, not just get caught up in the net of concepts, terminologies and outer meanings, such as the academic mind easily gets trapped in.
Shravana implies that we are listening to an exposition of inner truth, not simply to information about the external world. This means we must be discerning as to what we are listening to. Whatever we are listening to does imprint our minds and shape our thought and action. If our process of listening is without discernment, steadiness or stillness, we will simply become imprinted by passing external influences and take them uncritically, losing any real judgment of our own.
The Place of Shravana in Vedanta
The Vedantic path to Self-realization begins with Shravana, when we deeply listen to the teachings of the wise sages and the great books of Self-knowledge like the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and Advaitic Shastras, and to Yoga and Vedanta gurus, ancient and modern. This can be done through reading as well as hearing. Reading should also be based upon a deep listening, not just quickly going over a profound text with a distracted mind that is unable to hold any enduring train of thought.
Learn Shravana as the Vedic way of learning and you will be able to hear the OM vibration internally as expanding your awareness beyond time and space.
Such deep listening of Shravana leads to deep thinking or Manana, which is not just thinking about something superficially but contemplating its inner truth and profound correlations, a way of Self-examination.
Such deep thinking or Manana leads to Nididhyasana, which is profound meditation leading to the ultimate truth. Nididhyasana culminates in Nirvikalpa Samadhi when we transcend all the personal thoughts and distractions of the mind.
Remember to truly listen when you are out in nature and all of life will speak to you and relate to you the most essential cosmic truths. Learn to listen not just to what people say but what they mean, and the influences and motivations they may be promoting behind the veil of words designed not to inform or to teach you but to control your mind.
Most importantly, learn to listen what you are saying and the karmic implications of your words, along with the emotions and ideas behind them. Look within and learn to listen to your own thoughts and what they are telling you about your own life and state of awareness. Are your minds full of desires, worries, fear or anger? If you really listen to the disturbances in your mind and see the complications your thoughts are leading you to, that very power of listening to will put an end to them.
Listening connects us to space both within and around us, as sound is the sensory quality that belongs to the element of ether. Listening also requires control of speech. You cannot listen when you are shouting at someone. Control of speech is necessary for control of both mind and prana, and for hearing the mantric vibrations behind the entire universe.
Once you learn Shravana, this Vedic Yoga of listening. Your awareness can expand into space and let the whole of life and consciousness enter into you.
David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri)