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April 04, 2019 Thursday 10:53:04 AM IST
Those who have ear to hear, They Hear!

More than 99% of the information that reaches human mind reaches either through eyes or through ears. The other three senses, the smell or touch or taste provide only nominal input to the mental processes. What we hear is sound and what we see is light. Both sound and light are but waves.

Sound is a mechanical wave transmitted via compressions and rarefactions in air medium. It is called a longitudinal wave, as the direction of its propagation is in line with the direction of vibrations of particles in the air medium. Sound is made by some mechanical oscillator that is set to vibrate or oscillate. Vibrators or oscillators are thus wave makers. When such an oscillator is coupled to a medium that is able to propagate the energy transferred by the oscillator, mechanical waves are created. Mechanical waves carry forward the mechanical energy from the oscillator. Oscillators spread their energy via waves. That is how we could hear somebody speaking from a distance. One who speaks is an oscillator, the transmitting or speaking oscillator. One who hears is again another oscillator, the receiver or hearing oscillator. The speaking oscillators are made for creating waves and the waves are created for the listening oscillators.  The speaking oscillator is connected to the hearing oscillator via sound waves. Oscillators and waves are made for each other!

A listening oscillator shall have ears that hear. Only then they could capture the signals transmitted from the speaker and have some food for thought. An ear that do not hear is of no use. It would cause starvation with regard to right input to the human brain. It could hamper understanding and learning processes and ultimately slows down enlightenment. A human ear ordinarily hears sound waves of frequencies ranging between 20 Hz to 20000 Hz. Both infra-sounds (below 20 Hz) and ultra-sounds (above 20000 Hz) are not audible to human ears. Even within this range, hearing depends on the way in which the ear could resonate with the incoming sound waves.

It is not just humans that hear! Every living being with an ear to hear, obviously hear. In fact, some of them are better than humans themselves in this regard. Dogs hear up to an upper frequency limit of about 100000 Hz! So do dolphins and bats. Humans cannot technically hear sounds of such high frequency. These beings could even warn humans on emergence of such high frequency sounds, originating either from the epicenter of an earthquake or associated with an erupting volcano, and help humans to escape. Technically, any elastic body, which can respond to a mechanical wave, is a listening oscillator. They pick up sound of lower frequencies too, which appears to human ears as noise.

Your eyes are great perceivers. Light waves that carry information to the eyes is part of the broad electromagnetic spectrum. Light waves may emerge from the natural sources like stars or from some artificial sources. Electromagnetic waves proceed from the heart of the matter, and carry its signature along. According to the modern theories, light is produced by the de-excitation of nucleons, electrons, atoms or molecules from a higher energy state to a lower one. Visible light is caused by electronic transitions, suggests the quantum theory due to Max Planck. Visible light imparts us the sensation of seeing. Human eyes can respond to a narrow spectrum of the frequencies, the rainbow spectrum, ranging from violet to red, the so called VIBGYOR. The frequencies of visible light range between 430-770 Terahertz. Human eyes do not respond to either infrared or ultraviolet frequencies.

Both our hearing and seeing are further limited by the responses of our ear towards the audible sound and that of our eyes towards the visible light. The responses are maximum at resonant frequencies, when the frequency of the respective wave and that of the listening/seeing oscillator matches. The resonant frequencies, on the other hand, depend radically on the resistive forces or damping forces acting on the listening oscillator. If there are no resistive forces acting on the listener oscillator, that oscillator is called a simple harmonic oscillator. A simple harmonic oscillator resonates with an incident wave at its natural frequency. Natural frequency of any oscillator is the maximum frequency at which a given oscillator can oscillate. Interestingly, at the natural frequency, a simple harmonic oscillator could receive infinite amount of power transferred from the wave. This would, in effect, shatter the listening oscillator. In other words, a most sensitive listener is condemned to lose own identity and would become one with the wave or the message. Ordinary listening oscillators will have some inertia, which helps them from breaking down during the process of listening. They also get the maximum power transferred from the wave/signal, at resonant frequencies. On the other extreme, if the damping forces acting on the given listener oscillator is very high, the listener fails to provide any kind of response to the signal and produces a flat resonance.

Let us, for example, consider the listening power of the FM radio. We know that the electromagnetic signals sent by the service provider of the FM radio (say Radio Mango at 91.9 MHz) exists in the air all the time. However, FM radio gets connected to the Radio Mango, if the receiver of the FM radio is tuned to 91.9 MHz. So is the case with a mobile phone, which respond to the microwave frequencies. If there is a frequency match, the mobile phone rings.

The Parable of the Sower

Here I am reminded of the words of Jesus of Nazareth reported in his Gospels (Mark 4:1-20). It speaks of a sower, who ventured to sow seeds. As he sowed, seeds fell on all sorts of lands, on a beaten path, over rocky field and over the bushes. At the end of the day, only those fell on prepared grounds yielded some produce, be it thirtyfold, sixtyfold or hundredfold.

I used to think, how crazy or at least inexperienced the sower should be, if the seeds fall at places other than the prepared field! However, it is indicated that the sower is none other than God and the seed is His Word! This would mean that even the most perfect sower is not in a position to ensure the yield! Even God cannot help an obstinate hearer! The reason is simple. The yield of hearing depends purely on the hearer! In this sense, the parable may have to be renamed as the Parable of the Soils! Those who have ear to hear, they alone hear!

Prophets as refined hearers

The book of Exodus describes how Prophet Moses emerged out of the presence of God on the Mountain of Sinai with a radiant face, as a result of intimate communication between him and God: “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him” (Exodus 34: 29-30).

Perfect hearing of God transformed the radiance of Moses’ face!

Poets as sensitive hearers

Rabindranath Tagore’s response to the monsoon rain is remarkable. He writes:

“MY HEART, like a peacock on a rainy day,

spreads its plumes tinged with rapturous colours of thoughts,

and in its ecstasy seeks some vision in the sky,

with a longing for one whom it does not know.

My heart dances.  (The English Writings of Rabindranath Tagore: Poems 20)


For Tagore, the monsoon brings ecstasy. So was the case with many a poet, who perfectly resonated with the cosmic events. They are listeners with least inertia and they hear more than any ordinary hearer.


Saints as ecstatic hearers

Gian Lorenzo Bernini has eternalized the ecstasy of St. Theresa of Avila in the Cornaro Chapel, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome. It epitomizes her vision of an angel, which brought her great joy enshrined in inordinate agony.


“Beside me, on the left, appeared an angel in bodily form.... He was not tall but short, and very beautiful; and his face was so aflame that he appeared to be one of the highest rank of angels, who seem to be all on fire.... In his hands I saw a great golden spear, and at the iron tip there appeared to be a point of fire. This he plunged into my heart several times so that it penetrated to my entrails. When he pulled it out, I felt that he took them with it, and left me utterly consumed by the great love of God. The pain was so severe that it made me utter several moans. The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one cannot possibly wish it to cease, nor is one's soul content with anything but God. This is not a physical but a spiritual pain, though the body has some share in it, even a considerable share.” (Excerpts from The Life of Saint Teresa of Ávila by Herself by Teresa of Ávila)

Awesome mystical response given by a saint towards a supernatural vision!

Mystics as simple seers

One of India’s paramount mystics, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, had occasional strokes of ecstatic experiences. In the following write-up, Paramahamsa describes his first mystic experience ever.


“One day in June or July, when I was six or seven years old, I was walking along a narrow path separating paddy fields, eating some of the puffed rice which I was carrying in a basket. Looking up at the sky I saw a beautiful sombre thunder cloud. As it spread rapidly enveloping the whole sky, a flock of snow-white cranes flew overhead across it. It presented such a beautiful contrast that my mind wandered to far-off regions. Lost to outward sense, I fell down, and the puffed rice was scattered in all directions. Some people found me in that plight and carried me home in their arms. That was the first time I completely lost consciousness in ecstasy”. (A Short Life of Sri Ramakrishna, 2010, by Swami Tejasananda) 

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was so overwhelmed by the sight of white cranes, which merged him with what he perceived, himself completely vanished in the process. A simple listener and a simple seer. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God (Mathew 5:8).

The poets, prophets, mystics and saints have developed great ability to resonate with the phenomena and get access to the heart of the matter often in the deep forgetfulness of the self. They were the hearers par excellence!

Dr. Varghese Panthalookaran

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