Speaking 101


pop-ink-csa-images-man-with-mouth-zipped-shutWhat! Don’t speak?? 

Imagine a doorway that leads to peace and happiness.

To reach it, I go through a tiny hole. This hole  measures less than an inch but it is so flexible that I can enter through it whichever way I want. Then I bounce around a bit for a couple of inches or so in a dark passageway before arriving at the doorway that can lead me to peace and happiness. If I enter through this door the right way, then I can have peace and happiness. Entered the wrong way, only worries, misery, sadness, mental agitations, failures and even death haunt me.

This door is actually in me. It is the doorway to speech, my mouth.

[Image credit]

Words are most powerful. With words, people win wealth, friends and even kingdoms. President Obama came to fame on the back of the words he spoke at the Democratic National Convention and then went on to become the President of USA. Words can make and break relationships. Words can lift a drooping heart, console and encourage. Words can inspire love, generate and spread peace itself. Words are the best life partner I can have. They can also be my worst enemy in life.

The tongue brings prosperity.

The tongue brings friends and relatives.

The tongue brings  bondage.

The tongue can also lead to death

[Jigvaahre vartate Lakshmi, Jigvaahre mitra baandhavaah, Jigvaahre bandhanaa praapti, Jigvaahre maranam dhruvam]  [Sanskrit slokam]

When I want to speak, I push air from the lungs through the vocal cords which is nothing but a bunch of folded muscular tissues.As I breathe, the vocal cords are relaxed and air passes through them easily without producing a sound. But when I want to say a word, muscles in the vocal cords tighten up. Air passing through the tightened vocal cords begins to vibrate, producing a sound. I make vowels and consonants out of this sound by moving my tongue, jaws and lips. The Broca area in my left brain controls these movements. And voila! I then speak words! [see real time MRI video on speech here.]

The word I speak doesn’t stop there. It is then heard.


What I say connects me with myself. If I speak the right word the right way, I can become a better person. And it connects me with others as well. If I speak the right word the right way I can build beautiful bridges of harmony with others. Not only that. It connects me with my environment also. The sound vibrations of my spoken word travel through the air around me, touching and impacting it. They can literally agitate or pacify the environment.

The physical starting point for the word I speak begins in the Broca area of my brain which sends the signal to my lungs to expel air and my vocal cord muscles to contract.


[Speech control centre in brain]

What impels the brain to send out this signal? My mind wanting to speak does that. According to siksha vidya (the sanatana dharma teachings of the science of phonetics ), the self in me (atma – the same entity that operates my reflexive muscles of breathing)  formulates the intention to speak by means of intelligence (buddhi) and inspires my mind to speak. The mind then utilizes the “fire” (the body heat, kayagni) in the body, inspires the brain, sends signals through the nerves, activates the lungs and vocal cord muscles.

The sound that emanates from my vocal cords is divinity itself. Ganesha Atharva Seersham praises the aspect of divinity present in this sound :

“You are the syllables in the four aspects of speech. tvam chatvaari vaak padaani.”


[Image source] 

Para is the word of my conscience. Pasyanti is the word of  my discriminating faculty(buddhi). Madhyama is the word (thought) of my mind. Vaikari is the word from my mouth.

The word I speak and the way I speak it at the grossest level though my mouth are a form of divinity as well. Taitreeya Upanishad teaches this truth.

Now, about the Indweller. Beginning with the upper lip, ending with the lower lip, facilitated by the tongue, speech emerges as the connecting node. This is the Indweller.

athaadhyaatmam| adharaahunuh poorva roopam | uttaraahanuh uttara roopam | vaak sandhih| jigvaa sandhaanam| ityadhyaatmam|| [ Taitreeya upanishad. Sikshavalli 3.7]

That is why what I say and how I say it has so much impact on me as a speaker, and on you as a listener. With due reverence to the divinity present in it, I must speak it as the word of my conscience itself from where it has emerged.

How to do it? Here is Speaking 101 notes from Manu Smriti and Bhagavad Gita


A few years ago in a saree shop in Mylapore, Chennai, a poster at the check out counter caught and held my attention. It  has stayed with me ever since. It read:

The discipline of speaking

Speak the truth. Speak spreading goodness. Speak lovingly. Speak calmly. Speak seeking the welfare of others. Speak in harmony with time and place. Speak thoughtfully. Speak without anger, hatred, prejudice or dislike.

What a fantastic “to do” list I thought as I stepped out of that store.

Speaking less is better than speaking more of course. Keeping quiet is preferable to speaking except when speaking is essential or necessary.

 Keeping quiet is a subject for another post. In the spirit of speaking well: perhaps?


3 thoughts on “Speaking 101

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