the divine word

(cultivating the power of speech in mantra, breath & vibration)

Swami Radha with sitar, India 1955

When we investigate something, we have to start with the basics and move our way up so that we really understand what it means. The Devi of Speech. What do we mean by this? Devi stands for the word power, the power of speech. And before we think about the power of speech, we have to look at the human voice.

The human voice is an instrument, whose impact we should not overlook. There is no musical instrument created that has the same power as the human voice. The way you talk, the way you use your voice and your breath, by saying just one word you can express as many emotions as there are keys on the keyboard of a grand piano. In fact, there is no emotion that you can’t express through your voice; even if you suppress your voice, it comes through your breath.

In the yogic tradition, there is a distinction made between emotions and feelings. Feelings are cultivated emotions. When we cultivate our emotions, they become refined feelings, and we are capable of having a certain warmth in our voice, a certain softness and loving tone. We can kindle hope in another person in the way we say something, express our consideration, our concern. The voice can become very melodious and clear. You can also see the opposite, that when the voice is vibrating with emotions it is anything but steady.

The way in which we use our voice can have tremendous power. We can shake somebody up. And we can also elevate somebody. We can see that the human voice has a range from very low to very high, and vice versa. When we speak, our own voice can tell us where we are, at any given moment.

The human voice is then a bridge between two worlds — not only between your lower nature and your highest nature, but also between a world of chatter and one of utter silence. We can acquire such an absolute silence in the practice of meditation.

When we are in this silence, we can become quite aware of the vibrations of our sound, the sound of our voice. We know when we sigh, we know when we take a deep breath, and we may hear the sound of the heart. We may have an urge to speak, but this great silence embraces us, and we find it superfluous to even say anything silently in our own mind. It’s a beautiful experience. And what Devi of Speech really means suddenly emerges like a very clear-sounding thought. It is also the moment when we don’t feel we want to use our human voice, because our feelings are so refined, so strong, so high, that the tongue remains silent.

If there is no sound produced, you can hear what we will call “the divine word,” or the divine sound. This leads us to mantra. And mantra is really the crown of the Devi of Speech. When chanting the divine word, breath, vibration and rhythm are created intentionally by the use of the voice, and we begin to understand that the mantra is above all the chatter of daily living.

Words and language can be divided into the physical (the way we use language every day) and the metaphysical (which has many dimensions). Mantra is a slight indication of the metaphysical level. And meditation means waiting in silence and emptiness of mind for the answer from the divine forces. Perhaps we can say from the divine within, but there are also other sources of knowledge that can emanate and reach us, if we become receptive to them.

The Devi of Speech as a pathway to liberation can lead you to a higher truth. It can take you from the very day of your birth to what may be your final state of liberation. How would we arrive there? What is the Cosmic Intelligence that has all shapes and all forms and countless names, and has none?

Maybe for now, we can conclude and say, “Our universe is one of language and words.”

A pioneer in bringing yoga to the West, Swami Sivananda Radha is the author of 10 classic books on yoga, including Kundalini Yoga for the West and Hatha Yoga: The Hidden Language. Her teachings focus on developing awareness and quality in life.

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